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Fog

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.”

Postcards

“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”

Tomorrow

“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”

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.”

Stalking

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.

“What?”

“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.

Rain

This week’s Indie Ink Writing Challenge was a good one for me; I love this subject.

I challenged The Onion, who did a nice job on her challenge, and my challenge this week comes from Jan. “Rain. What does it do to you? Write about a memory or a story that involves some powerful emotions and rain.” I amended it slightly because there isn’t one specific story to tell, but there are several small vignettes.


When it is raining outside, when it is pouring down and thundering through the sky, I sleep better than any other night. Even if it is just a light rain, the water pattering on the roof and the windows lulls me to sleep and holds me there all night until I wake, rested. I don’t always sleep very well, so when the rain comes it is a boon.

I sometimes sit outside and watch the rain fall on the plants that need it so much here. There is little rain, so it feels like the plants expand to catch all they can when it does come. I’m probably anthropomorphizing, but I can live with that.

I grew up in a place where it rained fairly often. It was generally a warm rain, so, when we were very little, our mother would let us go outside in almost no clothes and play in the puddles in the backyard. I would turn my face up and catch rain on my tongue, feeling it sliding over my face and into my hair. When we came inside, she would dry us off, tell us to get dressed, and sometimes, if we were lucky, she would make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I still love that as a meal.

I used to ride to school in the rain. I would take off my glasses and just go, everything in my backpack bagged so it wouldn’t get wet, no worries. I felt free, speeding down hills and meandering up them. I could ignore the traffic more easily because of the sound of the rain. I would get to school soggy and dripping, but the pool had warm showers after swimming practice anyway, so by the time I went to class I was warm and happy.

When I separated my shoulder and was impatient for it to heal, the rain would calm me enough that I could sit and read for hours. Some days I would pace, wanting to be moving more than I could, but rainy days I could settle and be glad that my arm had a chance to heal without more damage.

Rain brings me peace. Rain helps me remember spring, something in short supply in the desert. Rain keeps me from feeling lost and alone. Hot chocolate or cider when the day outside is dark and dripping feels cozy and comforting. Sometimes, on very bad days (of which there have been a few lately), a hard rain will come to the desert, and I will go out and stand under our huge maple tree, letting the rain pour down from the sky and pound all of my pain into the ground. I can feel my muscles relax as the water soaks me to the skin. I need the rain to be happy, I think, and sometimes I miss it a lot living here. Someday I will go back to a rainy place and I will remember more of why I love it.

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.