venerdì 2 dicembre 2022

The Bridge to Fairy Land

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write on the theme “trying something new.”

This week’s contribution comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara is currently in Berlin, Germany, doing her best to catch up with semi-abandoned writing projects. Her YA novel “Mi chiamo Elisa” (My name is Elisa) was published in Italy by “Le Mezzelane Casa Editrice” in September 2020 and recently in Turkey with the title “Benim adım Elisa”. Her children’s book “Şebnem ve Schrödinger’in Kedisi” (Chiara and Schrödinger’s cat) was published this year in Turkey by Sia Kitap and in Italy with the title: “Chiara e il Gatto di Schrödinger”.

 

The Bridge to Fairy Land

(an “Inn at the End of Dreams” story)

by Chiara De Giorgi

 

Photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash

You know how it is when you have a bad day, don’t you? Whatever you try to do, will be a fiasco.

You wake up feeling like strawberry jam for breakfast? Strawberry will be the only jam missing from the pantry. And you’ll spill your latte, too. On your favourite skirt. And you’ll rip your tights because there is a nail that sticks out just a bit on the stairs. And so on.

 

I was spending my Winter holidays at my grandparents’ inn and, after the nail on the stairs thing, I let out a frustrated groan.

“What is it, darling?” my grandmother wanted to know.

The chain of annoying things that had been happening all morning suddenly felt so stupid, that I was ashamed of myself. I mean, with all the real problems that there are in the world and all that.

“Nothing”, I grumbled.

However, the day did not get any better. On the contrary. After lunch, I wanted to help my grandparents clear the driveway from the snow. The handle of the snow shovel snapped in my hand, I slipped on the ice, fell, and got a blue-coloured bruise on my backside. A bunch of middle-schoolers were busy building a family of Snowmen and burst out laughing. How humiliating.

I went back inside, my grandmother gave me a cup of hot tea, and – do I have to tell you? – I burned my tongue. After that, I locked myself up in my room and texted my best friend, but she didn’t reply to my messages even if I could see she was online. What was it with the world and everything?

I was feeling increasingly restless, but I was wary of engaging in any activity, for fear of the consequences. What could I do? I remembered some characters in the movies, who pressed their faces into a pillow and screamed. It seemed to help them so I decided to give the pillow a try. It didn’t really help, especially because Lucy the cat had apparently recently slept on that pillow, so I ended up with a mouthful of cat fur.  After that, I was too tired to even think. I lay on the bed, with my eyes fixed on the ceiling.

Maybe I could go for a walk, I thought after a while. A nice, slow walk in the snow.

And so I did. I started walking aimlessly on the Eastern Road, the one that leads to The Realm of Fairy Tales. I had no particular reason to go that way, I just did.

The path was covered with soft snow, that glistened in the pale sunlight of that wintry afternoon and crunched under my boots. The branches of the trees on both sides of the path were covered with minute icicles. It was a peaceful, postcard-perfect landscape and I soon felt calmer. I took a deep breath, I lifted my scarf a little and let the fresh air fill my nostrils.

I had never ventured more than a few steps along that road, so I was surprised at how soon I reached the bridge to Fairy Land. There, I had to stop. It is not wise, for a human, to cross that bridge unaccompanied. And even in that case, you need to be very careful. Fairy tale characters are ambiguous little fellows, you can never be sure they mean what they say. And you can never be sure of what you see and hear, either. It’s a tricky place.

So, I stood on the bridge and looked down. The brook was covered by a thin sheet of ice, under which I could see the water flowing. The sight mesmerised me and I did not notice the fairy who approached me silently, until she jingled the little bells that adorned her beret.

“Hay there”, she called. “Having a bad day, are we?”

I shrugged. “How would you know?”

“I’m a fairy”, she replied. As if that should explain anything.

She came up and stopped next to me, then she leaned over the bridge railing to look down.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it”, she said. It was not a question, so I did not answer. “This brook is born in Fairy Land”, she added. God, she really wanted to make conversation, didn’t she?

“If you drink just a sip of that water, do you know what happens?” she said.

I turned my head to look at her. She had a friendly smile and eyes that sparkled with amusement.

“You get an entire free day for yourself”, she went on. “An extra twenty-four hours to do anything you want. Like, I mean, anything. You know what they say: what happens in free day, stays in free day.”

“Really?” I said, using a tone that I hoped would convey all my utter dis-interest. Apparently, it did not.

“Yes!” she said enthusiastically. “Like, for real!” And then, after a one-second pause, she added: “It could compensate you for your bad day, you know. A way to even the score.”

“Even the score with what?”

She shrugged. “Life, I guess.”

Somewhere behind us, a snow-owl hooted. I went back to watching the brook.

“Hey, what would you do, if you had a free day?” she asked.

I sighed. I wasn’t in the mood for conversation, and I wasn’t in the mood for imagining a perfect day, so I replied with sarcasm.

“Well, since a free day is a fantastic thing, I guess it would be worth it to fill it with equally fantastic activities. Riding a unicorn, flying to the Moon, becoming a mermaid…”

She laughed and clapped her hands.

“That’s the spirit! I like it! Come with me!”

She ran down to the brook’s edge and beckoned me to follow. Reluctantly, I joined her.

She broke the thin sheet of ice that covered the brook and collected some water with her hands, then offered it to me.

“Here! Drink! You have to take it from a fairy”, she explained.

You should always be cautious with fairies, especially when they offer you food or drinks. However, I was in a sort of self-destructive mode and I was convinced that on that particular day things could not, statistically speaking, go worse. So I drank from her hands.

 

It took me quite a while to go back to the Inn, and that’s how I met Ian the werewolf. He came to rescue me: a mermaid riding a unicorn on the Moon.

 

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 

mercoledì 30 novembre 2022

Still Waters Run Deep

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: trying something new; real or fictionalized.

 

This week’s story was written by Phil Yeats. In September, 2021, he published The Souring Seas, the first volume in a precautionary tale about the hazards of ignoring human-induced climate change. The second volume, Building Houses of Cards, appeared in May 2022. Book three should be out soon. For information about these books, visit his website–https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com/

 

Still Waters Run Deep

by Phil Yeats

 

Our neighbour, Marcus Grant, was a single guy, late twenties, or early thirties, and strange. Not weird, but colourless, like you might imagine for an actor playing a robot. He was pleasant when anyone met him on the street. He answered questions in a serious, factual way, but he said nothing insightful, and revealed nothing about himself. And one more thing. He was completely incurious about me or anyone else.

He owned a tiny one and a half story house with only seven hundred and fifty square feet of living space. It also had an unfinished but low-ceilinged basement. The ground floor had a kitchen, an entry hall with stairs to the second floor, and a bathroom across the front. A large open-plan great room overlooked the back garden. Its two bedrooms were upstairs.

His property was triangular, only twenty feet wide at the street, but a more standard sixty feet wide at the back. The modest footprint of the twenty by twenty-four-foot house gave the well-manicured lawns and gardens a spacious feel. Since moving in four years earlier, he’d added a large vegetable garden across the rear.

Every weekday morning, he left home at 7:45, dressed in a white shirt, grey business suit, and black shoes. His attire never varied, except for the addition of a grey overcoat in cold weather. He always carried a black umbrella when he walked from his house to the nearby subway station. Four days a week, he returned at 5:45 in the afternoon. On Wednesdays he arrived home a little later, between 6 and 6:15, carrying two large reusable grocery store bags.

On weekends and holidays, he worked in his garden. None of the neighbours could remember a single time he varied from this routine. He’d never taken a vacation, and seldom left his property other than his weekday trips to the subway station, and everyone assumed, an office somewhere downtown.

Everything changed two weeks ago on Thursday afternoon. At 5:45, he walked up our path. I opened the door before he knocked.

“I’m going away for two weeks starting Saturday. Would you or Tom empty my mail box once or twice and keep an eye on things?” He handed me a key. “In case you need inside.”

“Of course,” I replied as I accepted the key. I could hardly refuse. He looked after our place whenever we went away. I was honoured to return the favour.

He waved and departed, one of his normal minimal conversations. They accomplished their goals, but never allowed time for chitchat.

On Saturday afternoon, he left his place before noon, an unusual occurrence, but not unprecedented, and returned in the late afternoon, driving a car. That was definitely a first.

“That’s an electric vehicle,” Tom, who was standing next to me at our front window, said.

“Like one of those Elon Musk Teslas?” I replied. Our road had two hybrids, but no EVs.

“Think so. It looks like a Model 3 sedan, but it could be another make.”

I waved, but if Marcus noticed me as he disappeared inside his house, he didn’t respond.

Sunday morning, he loaded his shiny new Tesla with two suitcases and drove off.

 

On Saturday afternoon two weeks later, the metallic blue Tesla swung into Marcus Grant’s driveway. I picked up his mail and hurried over to welcome him home.

He noticed me as he emerged from the sleek little sedan. “Yo there, Mrs. Johnstone. I see you have my mail.” He gestured toward a young woman standing on the other side of the car. “This is my wife, Olivia. We’ve had a wonderful week, driving from her family home in Nova Scotia.”

I was floored, and it probably showed. New car, new wife—his brief vacation must have been their honeymoon trip.

 

*****

The Spot Writers – Our members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com/

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 

martedì 29 novembre 2022

Never, Never. Never!!!

Welcome to The Spot Writers.

Along with several short story collections and books of poetry, Cathy has published two novels: WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, and MISTER WOLFE, the darkly dark sequel/stand-alone novel. She has also written two volumes of grief poetry in memory of her son Matthew that she hopes might help other grieving parents: MY HEART IS BROKEN and BROKEN HEARTS CAN’T ALWAYS BE FIXED.

This month’s prompt: trying something new; real or fictionalized.

Cathy continues with Melvin (soon to be a novel at this rate!), who decides to get a dog...

 

***

Never, Never. Never!!!

by Catherine A. MacKenzie

 

“I think we need a dog,” Melvin said, eyeing his wife across the table, knowing she’d flip.

Marie dropped her fork onto her dinner plate, chipping the china. “What? A dog?”

“Yup.” Melvin shoved another forkful of beef stroganoff into his mouth and chewed. Chewed. And chewed. “Not quite as tender as I like, Marie.” He paused with his chewing. “I think my teeth are loose.”

“Don’t change the subject, Melvin. You know I hate dogs. The drool. Sniffing at my crotch. Fur everywhere.”

“It’s hair, Marie. Some dogs have hair, not fur. And if we get a dog with hair, it won’t shed.”

Marie picked up her fork and poked at the beef. “There’s dogs that don’t shed?”

“There are.”

“Nope. I still don’t want an animal in the house. Pets are too much work.”

“But William would love a dog.”

“Good thing he’s at Freddie’s tonight. If he were here, he’d be on your side, clamouring for one. But please tell me you wouldn’t have brought it up if he was here. That would’ve been unconscionable on your part.”

“See! You know I’m right.”

“But I live here, too, Melvin. I have rights. I hate dogs. You know that. You knew that when we married. And thanks for ignoring my comment.”

“Nothin’ to say, Marie. Two against one. Nothin’ else for me to say.”

 

***

 

The next day, Melvin and William brought home a puppy.

“Mom!” William screeched before his father closed the door. “Come see.”

Marie, expressionless, appeared from the kitchen.

“This is Puddles, Marie. He’s a poodle. Eight months old. Ain’t he adorable?”

“What?”

“We talked about a puppy, remember?”

“Yes, but we never agreed. And eight months old? I thought you were getting a puppy.”

“He is a puppy, Mom. They’re puppies until they’re a year—if we can believe Google, that is.”

“But... Puppies are supposed to be eight weeks old when you bring them home, not eight months. And he’s sooooo big.”

Melvin scratched his chin. “Yeah, well... I got a deal on him. Someone turned him in at Pet Village down on Main Street. Kinda like Value Village, I guess. Deals at every turn.”

“Turned him in? Who ‘turns in’ a puppy?”

“Guess they didn’t want him. I dunno. He was only a hundred bucks. Better than two thousand at the breeders. And he’s fully trained, too. Knows rules and—”

William set the cream-coloured pup with the tightly curled, matted hair on the foyer floor.

Puddles promptly produced a puddle.

And then a poop.

“Melvin. Look at that!” 

“Sweet, eh, Marie?”  

“Mom, isn’t he adorable?”

Marie flailed her arms. “He just peed. Does no one see that? Pooped, too!”

William raced away and returned with a towel.

Marie flailed her arms again. “Not my good kitchen towel, William. My best friend gave me that.”

“Oh, Marie, it’s just pee,” Melvin said. “That’s why I bought you that washer and dryer set, remember? The very one you wanted. I’m sure dogs don’t have any more germs than humans.”

“But I don’t want to dry dishes with a towel that’s had pee on it.”

“It’s pee, Marie, not poison. I’m sure you’ve peed on towels at one point. And I’m sure you’ve washed and used them again.”

“Yeah, Mom, it’s just pee,” William said as he mopped up the mess.

 

***

 

A week passed. Marie was no happier. She’d never ever wanted a pet (which she’d stated numerous times; in fact, this had been stated in Melvin’s and hers marriage contract).

Puddles continually produced puddles and poop, wherever and whenever he so desired. Neither her son nor her husband seemed interested—or competent—in training the creature. Puddles (obviously an alpha!) had taken over the house. Toys everywhere. Scratching the furniture. Jumping on the furniture. Throwing up on the furniture, not to mention the usual pee and poop on the furniture. Even biting Marie at every opportunity.

“Puddles hates me,” she’d said on numerous occasions.

After two weeks, three, four...

She was fed up to her chin.

“Enough of this crap—literally crap,” she mumbled.

The next day, a Saturday afternoon, four weeks to the day that Puddles joined the family, Melvin and William readied to leave for Canadian Tire to pick up new wiper blades.

“Take Puddles,” Marie said. “Canadian Tire allows pets.”

“Oh, Marie, no. He might have to pee or poop. Better to leave him here.”

After Melvin’s car revved and roared down the driveway, Marie found an appropriately sized box.

 

***

 

Three hours later, Melvin and William returned from their Canadian Tire excursion.

An hour later, William asked about Puddles. (Melvin had never noticed the pup was missing.)

“Get your father,” Marie said.

“Dad!” William yelled. “Mom wants you.”

“William! I could’ve done that myself!”

“Done what, Mom?”

Marie shoved her hands into her apron pockets. Safer there than on someone’s neck.

No, she had more restraint than that. She withdrew her scabbed and bite-bitten hands. Rubbed her eyes. She was so tired. Getting up every two or three hours to take Puddles to potty had added years to her face.

Wasn’t a nice thing she’d done, but she’d had enough. Couldn’t handle any more “dog.”

Melvin appeared from the basement. “What’s up?”

“Can’t find Puddles, Dad. Mom said to call you.”

Melvin scanned the kitchen. Cocked his head (presumably to discern a bark or a moan, neither of which materialized). “Marie, what’s going on?”

Marie pointed to the table. “Guys, sit down.”

“Mom?”

“Marie?”

William and Melvin spoke in unison.

“I have some bad news. And I’m terribly sorry.”

William and Melvin stood. “What’s the bad news?” (Again in unison.)

“Puddles. It—he—ran out the door when I was taking the compost out. I tried to find him, I really did. But...” She covered her eyes and sobbed.

“Mom!”

“Marie!”

“I’m so sorry. Maybe you guys can find him.” She pointed at the door. “It hasn’t been that long.”

William’s big blue eyes lit up as if they were fluorescent bulbs. “Dad, let’s go.”

Marie detested the “look” her husband sent her. If eye-daggers could kill...

When the door slammed behind them, she dried her eyes and puttered to the kitchen. She poured herself a large glass of red wine and a large glass of white (couldn’t decide which she wanted) and sat at the table. While gazing out the window, she smiled.

 

***

 

“Marie! Marie! Look at this.”

“Wha—what?” Marie opened one eye and glanced at the nightstand. She could barely lick her lips; her mouth seemed full of cobwebs. But best night’s sleep she’d had in a month. “Melvin, it’s three in the morning. Is there a fire or something? I’m sure not. Gah, go back to sleep.”

“Marie, it’s Puddles.”

She rubbed her eyes, feeling crusties in the corners.

“It’s Puddles, Marie. Look.”

“Puddles? Where—”

“He’s here.” Melvin thrust out his phone. “Look. At the SPCA. On their website. See his pic? He’s available for adoption. He’s ours! Our dog! What the hell, right? Someone must’ve found him and took him there.”

Marie’s stomach lurched. “No! Really? You sure?”

“It’s him. Look at the bit of black on his right ear. See it?” He didn’t wait for a response. “First thing in the morning, I’ll run in and get him back. That’ll stop our moping and mourning.”

“But—but... Maybe you should leave him there. Might be a better home out there for him than ours. He was quite a handful, you know. And it—he—didn’t really like me...” She silently prayed to God. Any god. Help me, please... She’d done the right thing by dropping him off at the SPCA. (Anonymously, of course, wearing a black hoodie and large dark sunglasses. After making eye contact with one of the staff through the window and motioning for him to come to the door, she’d sprinted back to the car she’d parked three blocks away, tossing the sunglasses and Melvin’s old hoodie into a clump of bushes.)

Dear Lord, give me one break. Please!

“Gotta get there first thing, Marie, or he’ll be gone. Probably a line-up right now for him. Such a sweet feller...miss him sooooo much...unbelievable our luck, eh?”

She lay back on the bed, wishing she could take the pillow from beneath her head and smother herself—or her husband. (Either one; she wasn’t fussy.)

“You gonna come with?” Melvin asked.

Marie rolled over. She hated how he continually omitted the “me” or the “us.” Not correct English; then again, what did she expect?

She faced the wall, unable to see it in the dark, but it was a shade of green. A putrid green. She grasped her feather-filled pillow. Placed it over her head. No one could suffocate self with a stupid pillow; suicide didn’t work as easily as that. No, I’m not gonna go with.

“Night, Melvin,” she mumbled, hoping he heard. No matter if he didn’t. He was such a duffus he’d never clue in no matter which way was right or left, up or down, in or out.

She closed her eyes. Could still breathe despite the pillow over her face. Waited for the nightmares sure to come.

 

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 


giovedì 17 novembre 2022

Fear of Flossing

 Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write on the theme “trying something new.” This week’s poem comes to us from Val Muller, author of the kidlit mystery series Corgi Capers. This poem may or may not have been written in the dentists’ waiting room.

 

Fear of Flossing

by Val Muller



It started with a play,
A simple one-act she read during grad school:
A full-grown woman, the anti-hero,
Seated in a dentist's chair,
Revealing deep fears of mortality
Through a discussion of teeth.

The notable imagery:
Protagonist's teeth disintegrating into powder,
The sands of time,
And some bizarre music.

"Oversimplified," she decided, an astute grad student,
Well-qualified to criticize the play.

"Obtuse.
"I could write it better.
"No one in real life is that crazy," she thought--
Smugly, smug like the young;
Life had not yet knocked her down a peg
Or seven.

Then:
Two babies who never slept.
Entire months--years?--of her life
Lost to the fog of sleep deprivation.
And clenching teeth.

The moment surreal, more so than the play.
No, not more so.
Just like in the play.
Flossing one night,
A *clink* in the sink.
A chip of a tooth.
Hysterical laughter.
Maniacal, almost. 

"I thought I was awake," 
She mumbled to her husband.
"Turns out this is one of those dreams, 
The ones where your teeth fall out. A lucid one."


Her husband did not laugh.
He was not asleep.
Neither was she. 
Life had knocked her down a peg.

She called the dentist.

Skip ahead: two kids later,
Three chipped teeth (mostly fillings, but still).
Sitting in the dentist chair 
Like a middle-aged female protagonist, 
Trying to explain her fear of flossing 
To a bright-eyed hygienist.


"I associate flossing 
With my teeth coming out," she said.
“Doesn’t everyone have dreams
Where their teeth fall out,
Dreams that represent our 
Powerlessness against time,
That sort of thing?”

“I don’t,” the hygienist said. 
Then he called in the dentist
For a lesson on flossing
And its importance
And the fact that flossing
Had nothing to do 
With the teeth that the babies cracked,
The teeth that would have plunked 
Onto a plate, or into a pool,
Or down a shower drain,
If they hadn’t clinked in the sink.

“You need to floss,” the dentist said,
Sending her out the door
With threats of gum disease
And crowns 
(But not diamonds or royalty).

So she programmed her alarm.
Every night it would ring,
And she would face her fear
And floss--
That was the plan.

The time came. 
The alarm rang.
Two children inquired.
They wanted to floss, too,
Just like Mommy.

So up they went,
To the bathroom,
Past the clink sink.
The minty thread 
passed between teeth--

Uneventfully.

She studied her eyes in the mirror,
Eyes wide with fear,
Fingers careful not to pull too hard,
But these teeth were not going anywhere.

“Lookameflossing,” a child crowed.
“Am I doing a good job?”

The woman maintained eye contact
With her own self in the mirror
As she replied.
“You are, my dear,” she said,
Proud of the start of her new habit,
Her new self.
“You’re doing a fantastic job.”

 

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/