Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hot Chocolate

        The doorbell rang. Maudie was startled by the sound. How long had it been since any one had rung that bell?

It took a moment for her to pull herself from the chair. Stiff knees and aching hips slowed her progress. She shuffled painfully to the door, pulled the dusty curtain aside to peek out.

A boy of about ten or eleven, stood on the front stoop. His jeans were tucked into red vinyl boots. The collar of the puffy coat he wore framed cold reddened cheeks. He held a snow shovel.

Maudie sighed and opened the door slightly. “What you want, boy?”, she asked in a voice rough from disuse.

The boy looked up at her and smiled hopefully. “Shovel your walk ma’am? Only ten dollars.”

“I ain’t goin’ no where, boy. No need to shovel, it’ll just snow again anyway,” she started to shut the door.

“Please! How ‘bout if it snows again before Christmas , I’ll come back and shovel it again. For free.”

“And why would you do that?”

“Cause your’s is the only place left to shovel. And I only need ten more dollars to get my Ma’s Christmas present,” he flashed another hopeful grin.

Maudie hesitated, then gave in, “Alright boy, but it snows again, you better be here. And for ten dollars, I want you to shovel around to the back door too!”

“Yes ma’am! Thank you, an’ if it snows again, I’ll be back. Promise!” he jumped off the step and started shoveling.

Maudie shut the door and shivered from the cold. She looked back at her comfy chair, then decided to get something warm to drink. She shuffled to the kitchen to brew a cup of tea.

She peered out the kitchen window to see whether the young boy had given up yet. He’d cleared the walk in front of the house and was almost to the stoop again. His breath blowing out in frosty clouds.

She turned to the cupboard for her tea tin. But can of cocoa powder caught her eye.

She heated milk, cocoa, and sugar in an old pot, the spoon she stirred with scraping the bottom in time the the shovel scraping the walk. She poured the chocolate into a mug when the boy knocked on the back door.

She opened the door, “All done then, son?”

“Yes ma’am,” he puffed, “the whole walk. You wanna come look?”

“No, I’ll just have to trust you. Knock that snow off your boots and come in.” She started for the front room and her pocketbook, then stopped. She pulled a second mug from the cupboard and filled it with the rest of the hot chocolate. “Sit here and warm yourself, I’ll be right back with your pay.”

She came back and sat across from him, taking a sip from her own mug. “You got a good present picked out for your Ma?”

“Yes ma’am, a pretty scarf in her favorite color. With butterflies on it.”

“Sounds like a good choice.” She handed him three five dollar bills as he finished his cocoa.

“Ma’am, I only need ten dol…”

Maudie shook her head, “you just remember your promise, boy.” Then she shooed him out the door.

As ran excitedly toward the street, he turned and waved, “Thank you, ma’am!”
She watched him disappear from sight, a rare smile lifting the corners of her mouth.

Then the snow began to fall.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Party Shop Talk

Dottie Scribbles arrived at the Official Muse's Winter Solstice Party just a little late.  She hadn't been sure she wanted to join her peers this year.  Her assignment had put her in less than a joyous mood.  But she pasted a smile on her face and began to mingle.

She greeted warmly those she knew and nodded to those she only knew by reputation. After she had helped herself to some liquid holiday cheer, she found a quiet spot to observe and eavesdrop.

Inkly Noteson was in cheerful conversation with Pensy Paige.  "We are being published this year!  My charge has done such a wonderful job with my input.  He's been a true pleasure to work with!" Inkly said.

"My assignment was so awesome this year as well," replied Pensy.  "She never argued or wavered at all.  She was absolutely perfect.  I'm sure we'll get a contract soon."

Dottie sighed inwardly.  If only she had been so lucky.  She wasn't sure who she had pissed off, but she was sure someone was giggling hysterically at her misfortune.

"Dottie!  How are you honey?"  Great, Pensy had seen her.  "How's that "work in progress going?"

Dottie smiled bravely, "Not as well as I'd hoped by this time, Pensy.  The powers that be gave me a novice with her own ideas.  She whines about my lack of help, then pops about the page with crap totally outside the guidelines I give her."

"Oh dear, that is too bad."  Pensy was trying hard not to look pleased, she'd always felt Dottie had stolen one of her best shots at publication eons ago with that playwright, Shakespeare.

"Yeah, well I had to take some time off, she had me so stressed.  I came back and you wouldn't believe the hell I got."  Dottie grabbed another glass from a tray that floated by. "She has, like three different stories going.  None of 'em are worth a shit, and every time I give her a prompt, she scowls and bitches about my lack of understanding."

Pensy nodded with false sympathy.  "That must be just awful for you. Have you tried write blocking her?"

"Yeah, and then she wrote this whiny blog post about me leaving her abandoned."

"Wow, what a bitch."  Pensy was almost starting to feel true pity for Dottie.

"You wouldn't believe!"  Another glass had found it's way to Dottie's hand.

"Well, you could request reassignment, couldn't you?  I mean, you've proven yourself over the years." And then some, thought Pensy to herself.  Dottie had always come through with her past clients.

"I've asked more than once.  They just keep ign..."  Dottie was interrupted by a hand on her shoulder.  She turned to find herself face to face with Thalia, one of her bosses.

"Sometimes, Dottie, one must work a little harder.  Not all of your charges are Will Shakespeare or Stephanie Meyer,"  she said.

"But, Thalia, this one is never go..."  Dottie began.

Thalia looked at the young muse sadly.  When had they all become so obsessed with publicity.

"Dottie, and you too, Pensy.  Sometimes, it's not about being published, or being the next Mark Twain."  She sighed as she saw the confusion in their eyes.

"Sometimes it's just about the wish to Write."

I hope I didn't step to far out of the box with this one. 
"The holiday season is in full swing. Thanksgiving leftovers should be gone by now, and trees are lighting up houses all over the place (or will be soon). Chances are you have some holiday activities coming as well. Some you look forward to, some you do not. Thus the inspiration for this week’s prompt.
Take it either direction, but let’s have those holiday office party stories (outside the office is fine also.) There’s a certain level of cheer or disgust that comes with the conversations during these gatherings. Make us feel it."

Story Dam


Write on Edge: RemembeRED
Today we’re trying a little something different. Are you ready? Your word is below. Take the next ten minutes to write about the first single memory that word calls up. Focus on the emotions and the experience, spend ten minutes really exploring that memory. Then wrap it up, publish, and come back to link up.
RemembeRED, Write on Edge, Memoir writing prompt


I felt it in my stomach.

The two younger cats were showing undue curiosity about the space on the other side of my end table.  I got up to see what had grabbed their attention.

My oldest, Cat, Herself, Mistress of All She Surveys, was lying on the floor on her side.  Her front legs outstretched, claws scrabbling for purchase on the wood floor.  Her hind legs drawn against her body, not moving.

I touched her gently, she made no sound, didn't acknowledge my presence.  I carefully picked her up, something she despises.  I sat with her in my lap.  She finally looked at me, stood and leapt lightly to the floor again.

She stayed on her feet, though her backside swayed  with each step.  I followed her to the next room.  She jumped to the kitchen counter easily.

Crisis averted?

I don't know.  She is fifteen years old.  I know our time left is short.

I'll be watching her closely.

The next crash will be the breaking of my heart...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Postcard

He stood in the rain watching the house. He’d been standing there for hours. She knew she should ask him inside. But, she could think of no reason to do so. They had nothing to say to each other.

She pulled the red and gold brocade drapes aside to look again. Still there. She shook her head, causing the golden bells woven into her hair to jingle softly. She absently reached up to still them. The drapery dropped back, and she went back to the postcard she’d been reading.

Dearest Miss MacClarren,
I got your letter last Thursday. As you know, I operate a small eating place, so I can’t see how that could be of any interest to you. You make no mention of needing recipes, so I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “my abilities”. I think you may have confused me with someone else.
When you were here last year you asked about dreams. I know I told you I sometimes have odd dreams, but then I’m just a silly country woman. You shouldn’t think anymore of it.
The weather here is very nice just now. Maybe if you visit come to America again, you can stop by. I’d like that. You were very nice to talk to. I hope you are doing well.
                                                                                                      Bertie Harrison, May 1902
                                                                                                       Renewal, Nebraska, United States

She  called for her aide, “Henri, I need you to make some travel arrangements for me. I wish to go to America again.” 

Henri was used to his employers whims, he simply asked, “and when should we expect your return, madame?”

“I don’t know this time, Henri. I think this will be a longer trip than usual. It may be several years. I will see to it you are all taken care of. And, of course, you will see to it my home is cared for as well, yes?
“Of course, madame. You can place your trust in me,” Henri lifted his chin in pride. “What about the young man outside? Shall I have him removed?”

                                         * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The housekeeper had let the rain soaked man into the foyer. As he stood dripping on the floor, Anne Marie MacClarren greeted him coolly.

“Michael, you are wet. Why do you do this?”

“I am wet because you have been ignoring me, Anne Marie. I have written. You do not answer my letters. I have knocked on your door. You leave me standing on your steps. I thought if I stood in front of your window in the rain, you might finally feel some pity and let me in. And it seems to have worked.” 

“I have no pity for you. If you wish to stand in the rain, that is your choice.” Anne Marie said. “I only let you in because I am leaving. You may dry yourself, and then go home.”

“Leaving? Off on another hunt? What mythical creature are you after now?” he asked. “Anne Marie, when will you stop this foolishness and see that you need to settle down?”

Anne Marie was sorry she’d let him in. She should just have left and waved on her way by. “Michael, I have told you, more than once, I have no interest in ‘settling down’. Not with you, not with anyone. I have my work, and my freedom.” His shoulders slumped, she took a breath and continued. “You are a nice boy, go find a nice girl. I’m not what you're looking for.” She walked away before he could say anything else.

                                        * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It had been many years since she’d had such a determined suitor. She had chosen a good time to leave. He had become a nuisance and would be perpetually underfoot if she stayed much longer. She would miss this house, it was unlikely she would ever return to it. But, it wasn’t the first home she had left behind.

She packed the few things she would need for her trip to Renewal. After she found a place to stay there, she would write to Henri  with instructions for her belongings. Henri had been a faithful servant for a long time. He’d do as she asked. Perhaps she would just give the house to him. Her thoughts wandered in this way for a while before returning to the reason for her trip.

The postcard from America, with it’s hand painted picture of a mountain lake. She chuckled, there was no lake, or mountain near Renewal, Nebraska, United States. Only flat land and woods. And Bertie Harrison.

And Bertie Harrison had dreams. Strange dreams of monsters and magic. Bertie Harrison needed someone to protect her when the creatures of those dreams came to find her. Someone who had years of experience hunting those creatures.

                                  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Written for the Puzzle Piece photo prompt for Story Dam.  I think i'm way over the word limit, the story just wanted to keep going.  This is a back story to one of my nano characters
Puzzle piece promptStory Dam