giovedì 17 gennaio 2019

The Mailboxes Thief


Welcome to The Spot Writers.
This month’s prompt is to write a story using the following five words: tables, swimming pool, pavement, trees, mailboxes.
This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has a lot of fun.

The Mailboxes Thief
by Chiara De Giorgi

I first heard of the mailboxes thief at my friend Joan’s place.

It was a lazy sunny afternoon, and we were both dozing on her brand new deck chairs by the swimming pool. Her neighbors were on holidays, and we were enjoying the sun and the silence.
From time to time I opened my eyes behind my sunglasses and took a look at the clouds, apparently the only things that attempted to move and change. They were few, tiny and scattered. They hardly moved, to tell the truth, but they slowly changed shape, stretched or just dispersed. There was no wind, so the trees surrounding Joan’s garden were still and silent. It was so warm, even the birds seemed to have gone to sleep.
I dipped one hand in the water and scratched my nose with the other. I was thinking maybe we should chat and gossip a little bit, just to give a purpose to the afternoon, when I heard a noise coming from behind the high fence. Something was scraping against the pavement just outside Joan’s property.
I lifted my head and noticed that Joan was doing the same. Of course, that was going to be the highlight of our afternoon.
“What’s this noise?” I asked.
Joan put a finger on her lips and got up from her chair. She quickly tied her sarong around her hips and gestured to me to do the same.
I followed her to where she kept a couple small tables and a few piled chairs, which we climbed in order to see behind the fence: a man was dragging a brilliant red mailbox, still attached to its pole. He was tall and sturdy, he wore a worn-out baseball cap and overalls but no shirt – it was hot, after all. He walked slowly, with an intent look on his face.
I turned to Joan and mouthed: “What’s he doing?”
She smiled and motioned me to jump down the table.
We went back to the pool and stood under the beach umbrella while Joan poured some lemonade into two tall glasses.
“He’s the mailboxes thief”, she explained after a long sip.
“The mailboxes thief?” I repeated, perplexed.
She nodded. “He’s well known, especially in this part of the town. Have you never heard of him?”
“Not at all!” I cried, sitting down. “Tell me everything!”
She sighed and sat next to me.
“There’s not much to say, really. He steals mailboxes from unattended properties.”
“So why aren’t we calling the police?”
She smiled. “Because no one wants him arrested.”
I laughed. “And why not? Is he paying all the bills he finds?”
“Much better. He swaps mailboxes.”
I still did not understand why people were protecting this guy.
“Okay, that’s enough. Spill! Now!”
“He swaps mailboxes and people get in touch with one another in order to retrieve their mail. It’s as easy as that. The interesting thing is, the thief picks and chooses which mailbox to swap with which one. And most often than not, the encounter with your, let’s say, swap-partner, is life changing.”
“How so?”
She shrugged.
“Some meet their future husband or wife, others find a business partner. There was a woman who wished she could learn how to play the violin but couldn’t afford to take lessons. She met a sad and retired violin teacher who was glad to teach her for free. Someone was about to be evicted and found a couple who were looking for a house sitter. A single dad who had recently moved in the area met an unemployed teacher who agreed to take care of his two little kids. And so on, I could go on forever. In the neighborhood everyone keeps track, and everyone secretly hopes the mailboxes thief will hit them.”
“Yes, it sounds amazing. I’ll make no secret of it: I wish the mailboxes thief stole my mailbox!”
Joan laughed. “And so do I, believe me. I don’t even know who I’d wish I met, I just wish for a life changing experience.”
We both sighed a dreamy sigh, and soon it was time for me to go home.

I’ve been hoping that the mailboxes thief would come and get my mailbox since that afternoon, but so far this has not happened. I’m seriously considering moving to Joan’s neighborhood, to make things easier for him.
Would you like to know who I wish he swapped my mailbox with? I thought hard about this question, and at last I know.
I wish he swapped my mailbox with his own.


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sabato 12 gennaio 2019

Il Libro della Notte, Vito Ditaranto


IL LIBRO DELLA NOTTE di Vito Ditaranto

Vito e Andrea non sono solo due sedicenni, amici e compagni di scuola. Insieme seguono infatti le indicazioni dell'Oracolo, che li invia in missione nello spaziotempo, alla ricerca di un libro molto speciale: il Libro della Notte. 
Recuperare quel libro è cruciale per mantenere l'equilibrio tra le forze del Bene e quelle del Male, impersonate da una strega antichissima, la Janara. 
Come veri e propri cercatori di tesori, i due ragazzi seguono le tracce della Janara attraverso il tempo e lo spazio, spostandosi tra un cimitero romano, una sinagoga di Praga, il castello del temibile conte Vlad Dracul e l'Irlanda delle Banshee. Dovranno fare i conti con le pericolose creature che combattono a fianco della strega, ma una inaspettata presenza li sorprederà di volta in volta, aiutandoli e rivelando preziose verità. 

I protagonisti di questo libro affrontano con coraggio e lealtà imprese che sembrano più grandi di loro. Nel corso della loro missione impareranno a gestire e vincere le loro paure, e una volta liberi saranno in grado di apprezzare la vita, i suoi doni e le sue meraviglie, ma non solo: la loro più grande scoperta sarà l'amore che trascende lo spazio e il tempo, che permette di sentirsi sicuri e saldi, che dona speranza, ma che al tempo stesso richiede grande coraggio. A volte, per un bene superiore, è necessario rinunciare a qualcosa, o abbandonare qualcuno, ma i legami dell'amore sono più forti di tutto. 
Un libro che alle avventure fantastiche unisce riflessioni su questioni che ogni adolescente si pone, e insegna che l'immaginazione non solo può portare lontano, ma può anche insegnare a conoscere se stessi e le persone che ci stanno vicine. 

Compra l'e-book o la versione cartacea  sul negozio online de Le Mezzelane Casa Editrice.

         



giovedì 10 gennaio 2019

Pool Party


Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story using the following five words: tables, swimming pool, pavement, trees, mailboxes.

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. In December, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback formats.



Pool Party
by Phil Yeats

Michael watched his little sister from the front steps of their suburban bungalow. The Junior Achievement wunderkind at her middle school was selling lemonade at two tables perched beside the pavement.
He noticed her unusual clumsiness, dropping coins and spilling lemonade as she fidgeted while serving her customers from beneath the shade of their cut-leaf maple trees. When she sat down and squeezed her knees together, he twigged. His money-grubbing little sister needed the bathroom, but she was unwilling to risk losing a sale while away from her perch.
Perfect, Michael thought as he rushed down the steps. He could accomplish his goal while helping his annoying little sister. That would totally shock her.
It worked perfectly. Sis was effusive with her thanks as she rushed away before she peed her pants. Michael was sitting there doing his Good Samaritan schtick when Jessica sauntered by on her way to Tuesday afternoon practice at the Y’s swimming pool.
Jessica stopped just as he hoped she would. “Your little sister’s employing you as a barista?”
“She had an embarrassing, um, personal problem, so I’m holding the fort.”
“But you’ll be free at four?”
He laughed. “Hope I’ll be done in ten minutes.”
“Good, you can join us at the pool. We’re getting together for a little relaxation after practice.”
“During the late afternoon open swim?”
“Yup. Pool party, then we have sodas and snacks.”
Michael shook his head. “Pool parties aren’t my thing.”
“Why not? We’re not all championship swimmers.”
He paused, thinking his avoidance of swimming-related activities was common knowledge but didn’t give it the serious consideration it deserved. “I don’t even own trunks.”
She grinned, and he realized he’d fallen straight into her trap. “New policy resurrected from the 1950s. Swim trunks are optional for guys.”
“No way. Those naked swimming at YMCA stories are grossly exaggerated urban myths.”
“Oh, they’re true enough. You’ll find plenty of evidence on the web, and our Y is resurrecting it.”
Again, Michael shook his head. “But those Ys were male only. Ours is a combined YM and YW with a common pool, and you’re talking about co-ed activities, aren’t you?”
“You’ll see. The official send-off for this wonderful idea of CFNM swimming at the Y is this Friday. I’ve sent you a personal invitation. Check your snail mail. It’ll be there.”
Michael played the trump card from his brilliant plan without considering how Jessica’d shanghaied his agenda. “I have a far superior idea. How about we attend Fiddlestix’s Friday night concert?”
She clapped her hands together. “The amphitheatre, so the concert starts at eight?” He nodded, and she continued. “Perfect. You can let it all hang out at the pool in the afternoon and we can attend the concert together in the evening.”
She skipped down the street before Michael could reply. She’d skewered him with her latest scheme and left him no escape route if he wanted her to attend the concert.
He turned, wondering what happened to his sister. He no longer had time to sit here minding her stupid lemonade stand.
After she reappeared wearing a different pair of shorts, Michael rushed to the box office. While waiting for his concert tickets, he texted his friend Jared’s mother. She worked at the Y, so she would have the scoop on Jessica’s crazy event. On the way home, he tackled the community mailboxes at the end of their street. He whipped open their box and extracted a letter with the combined YMYWCA logo on the envelope. The formal invitation confirmed what Jessie told him.
He should have known she wasn’t joking. They’d been close friends through grade twelve and planned to attend the same university. They constantly teased and challenged each other, but his insecurity kept their relationship on a mostly Platonic level despite her frequent attempts to up the intensity.
Friday afternoon’s pool party was bound to destroy their carefully crafted balance, but Michael had a strange premonition Jessica would find it harder than he did.


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venerdì 4 gennaio 2019

New Year’s Resolution


Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story using the following five words: tables, swimming pool, pavement, trees, mailboxes.

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, with elements of suspense, mystery, romance, and family relationships, is available from her locally or on Amazon.

***
New Year’s Resolution
by Cathy MacKenzie

The whoosh of the wind almost knocked Callie to the ground. She was aware the winter wind was in a rage but hadn’t expected it to be this bad. She managed to stand and struggled back to the motel room. Thankfully, the porch extended the length of the motel units, with the two ends enclosed, so she could easily open the door and get in out of the cold.
She looked out the window. The mailbox across the road had blown off its pole and lay on the pavement, waiting for disaster from an oncoming vehicle. She pictured hers and Dan’s house and hoped the flimsy plexiglass around the swimming pool remained intact. Nearby trees would wreak disaster, too, should one of them topple. Would Dan bother checking, or would he be luxuriating in the man cave, cut off from the world’s realities?
She should have stayed home rather than running off like a spoiled brat, especially on New Year’s Day. But would it be too much for her husband to pay attention to her once in a while? Seemed all Dan wanted to do was watch television. He was a movie freak but would watch movies over and over, not realizing he’d already seen them. Two minutes into a movie and Callie recognized a repeat.
Did he even know she wasn’t at home? Several times over the past six months, she’d left the house in the afternoon and gone to the mall. He’d still be sitting in front of the boob tube when she returned, none the wiser. She snickered. Boob tube? How apropos.
This time, though, she’d been gone three days. She had every intention of returning home. In fact, she’d already decided to return the following day. Four nights would be enough to jolt her husband back to reality. He’d have missed her so terribly that he would never again ignore her—but if he wanted her home, why hadn’t he telephoned or texted? She had checked her phone every hour. Nothing. Playing hard to get, no doubt. They’d played silly games in the past.
She yanked the dingy drapes across the window, plopped to the queen-sized bed, and flicked on the television.
The next day, she checked out, cringing at the bill for a second until realizing the money would be well spent if some sense had been knocked into her husband.
She sped home, anticipation coursing through her loins. She had missed him terribly. The feeling would be mutual; she was certain of it.
She pulled into the snow-covered driveway and parked behind his truck. She unlocked the side door, jumping at the shrill beeping. Though they’d cancelled the alarm system, the deafening noise would be enough to scare away even a fearless robber.
She dropped her purse on the counter and flung her coat at the kitchen stool.
She glanced around the kitchen, noting the clean table and empty sink. If he’d cooked, which he must have if he’d wanted to eat, he had cleaned his mess. Score one!
She ambled down the hall. Quiet. Too quiet. Where was he?
Despite the sun shining through the living room windows, the ceiling light glowed at the top of the stairs going to the basement.
She stopped. That noise. Was someone down there with him? 
She shuddered. What if he was angry? What if he never talked to her again? What if he wanted a divorce?
Had she gone too far?
The voices ceased and music blasted, the tell-tale sound of the television. She relaxed. Dan liked the volume loud. But at ten in the morning? She smiled. Definitely bored. A good sign.
Soundlessly, careful to hold onto the railing, she descended the carpeted staircase.
He was sitting on the couch when she reached the bottom. Thank God he was alone. If he’d had another woman, she didn’t know what she would do. Serve her right, though, for trying to teach him a lesson. She regretted her actions, but she’d make it up to him. A New Year’s resolution formed in her head.
“Hi, honey. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
As usual when he was pissed off, he ignored her and continued to stare at the screen.
She crept toward him. “I’m sorry. I just felt like I needed to teach you a lesson. I wanted you to miss me. I wanted to feel needed.”
She sat beside him and grasped his arm. “I was wrong, though. I shouldn’t have gone this far.”
She leaned over to kiss him. Her lips grazed his cheek.
“Honey? Dan?”
His blood pressure machine perched precariously on the armrest. After suffering a heart attack a few years previously, he religiously—and fanatically—checked his pressure.
She touched his face, and his head plopped toward his shoulder. The blood pressure machine fell to the floor.

***

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domenica 30 dicembre 2018

What Elves Do After Christmas


Welcome to the Spot Writers. In our last prompt for 2018, we had to use the following words in a story: stables, swimming pool, pavement, trees, mailboxes. Today’s prompt comes to us from Val Muller, author of the YA novel The Girl Who Flew Away and The Scarred Letter, a modernization of Hawthorne’s masterpiece.

What Elves Do After Christmas

by Val Muller

Most of the elves were at the festival. They’d be there a week longer—every year, the festival ran from Santa’s return until January 6. It was a time to celebrate, to burn off the adrenaline of the Christmas rush. Hot chocolate spiked with crème de cacao and harder stuff, too; candy cane casserole, gingerbread mansions. The feasting hall boasted a swimming pool filled with marshmallows. And, oh, the reindeer games!

For most elves, Christmas was life. It was their only purpose, and Santa’s insistence on waiting until January 7 to begin planning for next year left many elves feeling glum. Which is why, decades ago, the festival was established. It gave the elves purpose while Santa rested and recovered on his yearly stay-cation with Mrs. Claus. For elves, otherwise, two weeks of idle time would be a prison sentence.

It was existentialism, really. But only Ronnie knew it. He was the only one who used his vacation days to read. Or think. It wasn’t even New Years, and he’d already gotten through Hamlet, The Life of Pi, The Stranger, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead—for good measure. Together, the works had wracked his brain. He planned to tackle some Kafka next, and read The Myth of Sisyphus before being summoned back to work.

He’d read enough to know the elves had become defined as what they did every day, 353 days a year. They were cogs in the Christmas Machine.

The arctic sun rose as high as it was going to, and Ronnie took advantage of the midnight darkness to take a walk. The roads of the North Pole were paved, but the festival meant no one was available to plow, so the pavement remained covered in drifts of snow. Colored light strings showed the way to the Grand Hall, their incandescent bulbs melting some of the snow and causing icicles to form on the wire.

Ronnie passed several mounds—the huge mailboxes, now empty and covered in snow, that would fill in the later part of the year with letters from children asking for sleds and snow globes and dolls and technology.

As he trekked away from the Christmas village, the trees shrouded the perpetual darkness, their piney arms bending in defeat. Ronnie had seen a television show once—televisions played nonstop in the workshops, blasting Christmas movies and TV specials 24/7. It had been about an elf who wanted to be a dentist. Everyone acted like it was the most absurd desire in the world, to want to shake off the mortal coils of toy-dom.

But standing in the twilight snowdrifts and looking back at the colored lighting running up to the Grand Hall, and the gaudy lighting it threw up into the sky, Ronnie could understand that. All year, he had been in charge of placing computer chips. Almost all toys had them nowadays. His name seemed superfluous, even. Ronnie? Why call him Ronnie? He might as well be Chip-Placer. Or maybe give him a serial number. That’s all he was. A cog in a machine.

But what was the alternative, he wondered as he looked over the winter wasteland. Where could he go? Who would employ an elf other than Santa? Humans were known to be prejudiced against the pointed-eared little people. Ay, there’s the rub.

What lay beyond the North Pole? What fate awaited him if he were to leave?

*
The faint echo of a drunken Christmas carol wafted toward the stables as Ronnie opened the door. The stables were maintained by a skeleton crew these few weeks, so the reindeer remained fed as they recovered from their Herculean ordeal. A pile of curly-toed shoes peeked out from the hay, and the snoring of drunken elves suggested the reindeers’ keepers were well-provided for during the festivities.

Ronnie selected one of the reindeer overlooked for Santa’s sleigh ride this year. One of the Dashers, a young one, seemed especially restless. Maybe he, too, wanted to leave this place. So Ronnie saddled him up and left the stables. The gaudy lights of the Christmas village disappeared into nothingness as he rose toward the moon and toward his future.

He could be anything, now. Anything at all. Even a dentist.

***

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