Short Short Story: Unraveling #Mondayblogs

Following is a bit of short of fiction that was published last year in The Paperbook Collective (Issue 7).  The issue itself is available here.  It contains plenty of good fiction, poetry, and photography for your reading pleasure.
***

Maggie tossed the gray mess to the empty spot beside her. She rubbed at her eyes, crushing the tiny bits of “sleep” that had crusted in the corners. Her OttLite floor lamp, tall, skinny and utilitarian, hung over her, shining a pool of white light on her hair which made the auburn and gray strands pop. She sat up straight and pulled her thick unruly hair away from her face, winding it into a knot at the base of her neck. Times like these, she thought, she was grateful that her hair was wiry enough to hold together without pins. That knot, as variegated as her favorite skein of yarn, would stay at the base of her neck throughout the night and perhaps even into the next day.  She reached for the clump of lacy gray alpaca yarn that she had just tossed aside. The wooden needles clicked together, still sheathed in the stitches of the “shrug” she had been knitting. Maggie wanted to shrug at the idea of knitting a shrug. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. She had drooled over the picture of the sweater in the catalogue, a bolero style with a paneled back that curved at the sides. It looked simple yet elegant. Much the way Maggie wished her life was.

Maggie had the simple part down pat. She lived with her cousin, who was more introverted than she and thus the perfect roommate. She had inherited her house and only had to pay taxes, no mortgage. She managed a yarn store that had already been in business for twenty years and had devoted customers when she took it over. There was very little effort she needed to make to get through her days. Her life was very simple. But there was no elegance.

Maggie knew that the lacy lightweight shrug would turn into a frumpy cocoon the minute she put it on. Everything did. She had a thick mane of hair she couldn’t control, a pear-shaped body that no clothing designer cared to design clothes for, feet that had gotten wider over the years, and she was a klutz. She could not chew gum and walk at the same time. She had to use the wall whenever she attempted Tree pose in her yoga classes. And she was lonely. Loneliness felt very inelegant to Maggie. Loneliness was simple but there was no style to it, no way to make it appear refined.

When Bobby, her husband, was still alive, she had knitted scores of hats, scarves, socks, and sweaters for him. Although she was already a fast knitter, she had wanted to be even faster to ensure that he always had an ample supply of woolen garments to see him through their long, cold winters. So she learned to knit the Continental style, with the casting yarn on her left hand and picked up with the right-hand needle. The Continental style also looked more elegant.

The problem, she thought, as she looked critically at the knitted fabric that hung lifelessly from her needles, the problem was the purling. She hadn’t gotten the hang of purling in the Continental way. For twenty-five years, she had knitted American style, using her right hand to throw, or loop, the yarn over the right-hand needle. With the Continental style, she ran a greater risk of dropping stitches since she was now “picking” them instead of throwing them. And once Bobby was gone, she hadn’t needed to knit fast anymore. Her knitting slowed as her world contracted to this small spot on her couch, where she tried to knit for herself.

The longer she sat there and fussed over the shrug that was actually almost complete, the more she worried. Could she unlearn the Continental? She wanted to ask Bobby, but he wasn’t there. He wasn’t even a ghost in her house, since they had been living in a small apartment the day he died. Maggie turned to the empty spot at the other end of the couch. She imagined that it would have been his spot. She could almost see his thin frame propped up with throw pillows, his long legs stretched out on the ottoman. He would be sipping hot tea, and he would offer to read to her while she knitted. She stared, forcing his image to come into focus. Was he actually looking at her now?

Maggie’s hands moved slowly, sliding the stitches off the thin needles. She wrapped the loose yarn around her fingers. She kept staring at that dark empty spot as she started to unravel.

***

A Brief “Happy Dance” Break from the Author of Clemency, A Novel in Progress

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

Enuf said.  Happy Turkey Day or Tofurkey Day, everyone!

I finished at 50,132 words.  Thanks to everyone who hung in there with me!  And thanks to the team at NaNoWriMo!

And, yeah, I’m getting me one of these:

nano_14_winnershirt_detail_closeup

 

 

A Word from the Author of Clemency, A Novel in Progress

Hey, everybody, I feel like I’ve been so deep in NaNoWriMo land and posting the progress of my WIP, Clemency, that you all may have forgotten what I look like.

Photo on 11-23-14 at 1.58 PM

Yes, I now have blue hair as well as pink.  In the right light, my husband says I look patriotic.  It’s just a streak of blue, but it goes well with my favorite bathrobe, don’t you think?  Oh, and this is what my hair looks like when I don’t use a flat iron.  Kind of all over the place.  Amazing how much work I have to put into my appearance just to be able to leave the house.

Okay, enough about my hair (although it is my favorite subject).  The point of this post is to let all my steadfast readers of Clemency–all five of you–know that the last chapter will be posted on December 2.  And, yes, all will be revealed for those of you who keep insisting that Mrs. Whitebread is guilty.  She’s guilty, but …  enough said.

A word of warning:  You may feel like you’ve missed something once you get to the end.  And, yes, indeed, you will have missed quite a bit because I am not posting the whole novel on my blog.  Yup, whole chapters are being left out.  Why?  Here are my excuses reasons:

  • I didn’t want this WIP to go on indefinitely. I have other things I want to write about beside the novel that threatens to go forever.
  • I’ve tried to keep the posts to 1,000 words or less, but obviously (that is, if you’ve been reading), that’s been near to impossible.
  • Even more truthfully, posting these chapters have seriously cut into my writing time, more than I thought it would.

So I went ahead and wrote the ending, put it up on the scheduler and then just filled in with what I think are the most crucial chapters.

So in the remaining chapters, if you are reading along and find yourself exclaiming, “WTF. When did that happen?,” just know that it’s not you, it’s me, it’s the work in progress.  Besides, if I posted the whole novel, would there be any reason for anyone to buy it if and when it gets published?  “But, Marie,” you cry, “you’re giving away the killer’s identity!”  Yeah, so?  Some readers (myself included) don’t mind knowing the end as long as we have fun getting there (especially if your idea of fun is reading about people being tortured and killed).

Also, after Clemency has been raked over the coals by a series of revisions and an editor or two, the writing should be much better and, who knows, the killer’s identity might even change.  It would be just like me to do something like that.

I hope you enjoy the remaining posts on Clemency.  Looking forward to seeing you all on the other side.

P.S.  I’m past the 40,000 mark in NaNoWri as of this moment. Still a ways to go but I can almost taste the sweet finish.

Experimental Poem/Prose: Bonita’s Song

This “experimental” “poem” (feel like I should put both words separated in quotes because I rarely write like this) was previously published on The Community Storyboard.

* * *

She called me her little Puerto Rican.

I was too young to remember, she said.

 Not until I was an adult,

and she lay on her bed, her white hair spread like a fan on the pillow,

her wrinkled, spotted hands folded on her chest,

her opaque eyes fixed on the bluebird outside her window.

(more…)

Short short story: Sunday Dinner

This short short story was originally published on The Community Storyboard in May 2013.  With some minor revisions, I’m reprinting it here. 

Sunday Dinner

The child’s cry pierced my ears, and I thanked God again that I was too blind to see her tear-soaked red face.  Every Sunday they put me through this.  As an old woman, a matriarch, I’m supposed to be grateful.  And I cope well enough with the cacophony of patent leather shoes and Buster Browns tripping across my wood floors.  I cope with the sting and stench of my son-in-law’s cigar smoke, fighting for attention with the sour aroma of sauerkraut and kielbasa, my shoulders  constantly pressed and rubbed as if I needed a reminder that it’s another Sunday dinner with all my children and their children. (more…)

The Knitter and Mashed Potatoes

This short story was inspired by a post on Jill Weatherholt‘s blog:  http://jillweatherholt.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/is-that-really-true/.  If you haven’t visited Jill’s blog yet, you should do so.  Like me, Jill is a writer who has to juggle a full-time job with her passion for writing.  Her posts are always entertaining, thoughtful, and generate a lot of comments.  And, apparently, they can also be the inspiration for a short story.

***

English: A small plate with a serving of mashe...

English: A small plate with a serving of mashed potatoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another off-white, brown speckled clump fell beside Emily.  She had been dozing.  Well, really she had been sleeping.  Sleeping for six days as she did every week.  The soft thud of the odd clump was enough to rouse her, and she stirred in her rocking chair, her hands folded in her lap.  She stretched, raising her arms straight up and then out like wings.  Her back crackled as each vertebrate popped into life.  She gazed down at the unsightly lump beside her chair and smiled.  It was Sunday.  Sunday dinner to be exact, and she could knit. (more…)

Too Late for Tomorrow — Response to CSB Writing Prompt

In response to this week’s Community Storyboard writing prompt, Tomorrow, I wrote a short story that you can read here.  In the story, the characters are imaginary, but the memories, the places, and the flood are real.  The following pictures are of my childhood home which was damaged in the flood and is now condemned.  Fortunately, my mother had moved out of the house a few years before and it was only being rented, or so I understand since it was deeded to a family member and I had nothing more to do with it once my mother left.

My family home is on the right.  View from across the road.

My family home is on the right. View from across the road.

A sidewalk lamp, no longer needed.

A sidewalk lamp, no longer needed.

Not the best greeting when you want to visit your old home.

Not the best greeting when you want to visit your old home.

IMG_0020_4

The once entrance to the porch and the house proper.

Once the entrance to the porch and the house proper.

Our neighbor's house, showing how high the muddy water rose.

Our neighbor’s house, showing how high the muddy water rose.

The side of our neighbor's house.  Yup, that's a hot tub on the deck.

The side of our neighbor’s house. Yup, that’s a hot tub on the deck.

The following YouTube video will give you a good idea of the magnitude of the flood.  The bridge featured in the video (which was being painted when the waters rose) was one that I traveled many times a day for many years.

Related stories:

http://online.wsj.com/article/APc8bfa72960604d0bb80ba7bafe318f8f.html

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2819995/posts

http://www.leaderherald.com/page/content.detail/id/539971/Residents-told-to-evacuate-along-Mohawk-River–Schoharie-Creek.html?nav=5011

I Am a Debut Writer on We Poets Show It!

I’m very honored to have a story published on We Poets Show It:  http://wepoetsshowit.com/2013/10/31/debut-writer-love-letter-to-a-young-man-in-a-foreign-land-by-marie-ann-bailey/  Like so many of my story or poetry ideas, this one just slowly emerged and then wouldn’t leave my head until I wrote it down.  How I came about to write it reminded me that my writing muse is like Nature:  she dictates when, where, how I will express myself, much like Nature will determine when, where, and how a farmer can grow his crop.  This is probably one reason I have such a hard time with writing prompts.  The more I want to do them, the more my muse recedes into shadows.

This particular story, “Love Letter to a Young Man in a Foreign Land,” is special to me because it’s part fiction, part fact.  It evokes for me the pain and doubt I actually felt back then, and that I’m relieved to no longer feel, unless I’m writing about it.  Please follow the link over to We Poets Show It and let me know there what you think of my little story.

A Date with a Druid, Part 2

Previously . . .
The Druid picked up the bouquet of roses and held them out to her. “Has your lover ever given you flowers as beautiful as these? Has his lips burned a kiss onto your hand, as I have. Oh, yes, dear lady, I felt you shiver with that kiss.”

Mary took another gulp of wine. She was going to have to have a long talk with 1WriteWay, her author. She studied her glass, wondering why it was empty so quickly and, more importantly, how to extricate herself from this large, overbearing, egotistical hunk of a man . . .

“Come, my lady – don’t tell me you haven’t wondered what it’s like to live outside the lines your writer has given you.”

He gestured to the gentleman behind the bar for another round. Mary twisted herself around to shake her head at the man but he was already gone. Damn. She turned back to D. He was still talking. Well, he certainly enjoyed the sound of his own voice, didn’t he? Too bad she did, too.

“She doesn’t give me – I mean, she’s very good at interpreting my story–”

“Don’t you want to feel for yourself? Feel alive in ways no one else can possibly imagine?”

Mary had a hot denial at the ready but paused. She lifted the new glass of Chardonnay and eyed D over the rim. He had a point.

But he was far too pleased with himself to give in.

She touched her lips to the glass – just a small taste this time. Her cheeks were already flushed with the heat of the alcohol and it would not do to let that heat encourage those ridiculously blue eyes any further than she already had.

“I suppose you can help me do that, then?”

A slow, wicked smile spread over the man’s face and his eyes drifted to her lips. A cool tingle of wine still lingered there and Mary resisted the urge to lick them.

This was not fair. What was it about Druids that made them special? Was it magic? 1WriteWay should have warned her to brush up on her history before allowing this date to happen. And that A – she had a lot to answer for, letting this man loose.

“Not magic, my lady – just several centuries of watching man’s progress and interaction with one another.”

“Oh.” Mary frowned. Had she said that out loud? She didn’t remember speaking. No more Chardonnay. “You know, you’re making this very difficult for me.”

“And what could I do to make it better for you? I do only wish to please.”

“Why is it when you say that, it sounds so . . . so . . . naughty?”

“Only if you wish it so, my lady.”

“Why, I  – Oh for heaven’s sake, put on a shirt.”

The Druid burst out laughing and Mary covered her cheeks with her hands. Her face was burning.

“Alas, all I have is a rag from my days as a pirate – I did not wish to embarrass you with my poor wardrobe.”

“Pirate?” Mary fanned her cheeks. Visions of swashbuckling heroes flickered through her mind.

No. No swashbuckling. No pillaging of her honor. No. No. No. Overbearing, that’s what he was. Overbearing, egotistical and . . . and . . . deeply affecting . . . No!

Mary gave herself a mental shake. Chauvinistic. Yes, that was it.

Perhaps his naked torso was better. “Maybe, um, you could just button up your coat,” she muttered.

“As my lady desires.”

“And stop with that – my lady this, my desires that. My name is Mary, and I would prefer you use it.”

D bowed his head. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought he was laughing silently. His eyes were far too merry for him not to be. Honestly, this was just too much.

“And what’s this about not wishing to embarrass me? Quite frankly D, I think you’re enjoying my discomfort far too much. My God, if Randy ever said—What? Why are you laughing?”

“Your lover’s name is Randy?”

“Yes?”

D was giggling into his stout. Giggling.

Druids shouldn’t giggle, Mary thought as she sipped her Chardonnay.

“I’m sorry, my lady – much of my life was spent in the British Isles,” he said. He was gulping at the air, trying to catch his breath.

“What does that have to do with it?”

“Oh well, it’s just that – excuse me – the word ‘randy’—“

God, he was snorting now. Mary rolled her eyes.

“The word ‘randy’ is slang for – for–” The Druid took a deep breath and managed to compose himself. He arched an eyebrow at her but the effect was lost in his ruddy face and the tears that were still coursing down his cheeks. “For the sexually excited – well, for you, my lady.”

His smile turned into a leer and he reached for her hand again.

“Why, you conceited pig! You are the worst kind of – of man!”

Mary yanked her hand from his heated paw and bolted from her seat with enough force to rock the chair on two legs. D stared up at her and she thought she caught a glimmer of surprise in his face before the mask of suave confidence smoothed his features.

“I am the only kind of man—“

Before he could even finish the sentence, Mary smashed the bouquet of roses in his face and stomped to the door. Of all the—1WriteWay owed her for this, that was for damn certain.

But even as she reached the door, the Druid’s words echoed in her head. “Don’t tell me you haven’t wondered what it’s like to live outside the lines.” She paused, her hand wrapped around the handle. She did wonder.

Against her better judgment, Mary spared the Druid a glance over her shoulder.

Oh, for the love of—not only had the waitress rushed to his aid, but D was also smiling graciously at the barman as he stooped to clear the scattered rose petals. As she watched, D turned those deep bedroom eyes on the girl until she twirled her hair.

Honestly. Man or woman, it didn’t matter to that randy—Mary caught herself and grinned. It was funny – somewhat. Perhaps she should go home and teach Randy what his name really meant.

***

And this concludes A Date With a Druid.  The D/A Dialogues and 1WriteWay hope you enjoyed this as much as we did!

A Date with the Druid, Part 1

After much discussion, A of The D/A Dialogues and 1WriteWay (yours truly) decided to let their characters, D and Mary, meet for a date.  For those readers new to this blog or The D/A Dialogues, Mary is a contemporary woman in a series about three widowed cousins who start a private investigation firm.  D is a 1300-year-old Druid. 

This is Part 1 of A Date with the Druid.

***

Mary stood in front of the dark wooden door.  The glass inset was opaque and tinted green so she couldn’t see through to the interior of the pub.  She took a deep breath, pulled her mirror out of her Louis Vuitton knock-off wallet purse, and took one last look at herself.  The streetlamp behind her set a halo about her short salt-and-pepper hair.  Her face was in shadow.  She sighed.

“Well, I promised her one date,” she muttered to herself as she clasped the door handle.  “One date … with a Druid.”  Mary pulled at the door, releasing heat scented with body odor and beer.  She wrinkled her nose and walked in.

The pub was lively, with nearly every round table filled with people eating, drinking and talking, seemingly all at once.  The bar before her was lined with every manner of backs and butts.  Most of those at the bar were focused on the soccer game playing out on a telly stuck high up in a corner.  The hazy yellow light of the dirty overhead lamps cast everyone and everything in a dull glow.  It seemed that no one had noticed her walking in, and yet she felt eyes on her.

Off to her left, there was a sense of someone watching.  She turned and there, in a corner, sitting alone but for a bouquet of red and white roses and a pint of dark ale, was he.  The Druid.  The … man … that Mary had agreed to meet.  He stood up as Mary approached the table.  Oh my, she thought, he’s taller than I imagined.

His hair was long and dark and, to her relief, he wore clothes, a long dark coat and pants.  Mary had only seen the drawing of the Druid on The D/A Dialogues and had been anxious that he would show up dressed, or undressed rather, pretty much as he was in the drawing.

d-as-imaged-by-green-embersThe Druid looked down at Mary and smiled, his dark eyes peering into her blue.  Mary felt her knees ready to buckle.

“Hi! You must be D!”  Mary knew her voice was a bit too loud as she thrust her hand out in front of her.

The Druid’s smile deepened.  He took her hand but instead of shaking it, as he knew Mary expected him to, he gently turned it and kissed the top.  Her skin was cool, no doubt from the chilly night air outside the pub, but his lips were warm.  Mary shivered slightly with the kiss and firmly but slowly withdrew her hand.

D pulled a chair out for her and, with a slight nervous laugh, Mary sat down. God, I’m acting like a schoolgirl, she thought as the Druid took a seat to her right.

“What would you have to drink, my lady?”  He still had that all-knowing smile, as if he could read her thoughts.  Mary started to feel annoyed.  She was in love with Randy.  No Druid, no matter how tall, dark and well-muscled, could interfere with that.  Not to mention that he was much too old for her, several centuries too old.

“A glass of Chardonnay, thank you.”  She smiled back at him, revealing her perfect white teeth.  The Druid snapped his fingers, ordered another pint for himself, the Chardonnay for Mary when the server came.  Then he leaned in.

“I’ve heard so much about you.  You are more beautiful than my imagination allowed.  You remind me of a wench … I mean, a woman I knew, oh, a couple of centuries ago.  She was feisty, very independent.  But she could not resist me.”  He gave her a large smile, revealing his perfect white teeth.  Mary bristled.

“Really, I … is that a compliment, somehow?”

“Oh, indeed, my good lady.  Ah, here are our drinks.”  He paused to attend to the bill, and Mary was relieved that he wasn’t running a tab.  She didn’t want to have to deal with a drunk Druid.

“So how is it a compliment? I mean, really, we’ve only just met and yet you imply that I will not be able to resist you.”

The Druid leaned back in his chair, his dark woolen coat falling open, revealing his broad, toned, naked chest.  Mary grabbed her Chardonnay and took a big gulp.  I love Randy, I love Randy, she started chanting in her head.

“The only woman I know that has so far resisted me is A, and I believe that’s simply because I live in her head.  One cannot have an affair with a figment of one’s imagination. However …”  The Druid leaned forward and grabbed Mary’s hand.  “However, since we are both figments of imagination …”

Mary pulled her hand away so abruptly that she almost knocked her wine over.

“Nevertheless,” she said as she tried to steady her breathing.  “I am in love with someone.  I am not about to cheat on him.”

The Druid picked up the bouquet of roses and held them out to her.  “Has your lover ever given you flowers as beautiful as these?  Has his lips burned a kiss onto your hand, as I have?  Oh, yes, dear lady, I felt you shiver with that kiss.”

Mary took another gulp of wine.  She was going to have to have a long talk with 1WriteWay, her author.  She studied her glass, wondering why it was empty so quickly and, more importantly, how to extricate herself from this large, overbearing, egotistical hunk of a man.

To be continued …

***

Will Mary yield to the … charms (?) of the Druid?  Will the Druid find himself with wilted roses and a glass of Chardonnay thrown in his face?  Will either character ever speak to their authors again?  Let us know what you think, dear Reader.  Where should this story go?

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