In October 2019, I wrote The Hardest Part of Writing.
There will be two more posts about writing this week.
Rainbow flowers float,
On a blue pond in sunshine,
Embrace life fully.
This is a work of fiction.
By the time the others returned, it was time for Andy to take Steven and Dan back to their cabin for one last night.
The rest of us walked over to Emily and Andy’s camp site and the older kids and I helped to put up Emily’s tent.
Once that was done, we said goodnight and went back to our camp site. I fell asleep right away, and I think the others did, too.
The next morning, I heard voices and got up to investigate.
“Good morning!” Andy said. “I stayed up after the boys went to bed and packed everything so we could leave as soon as we woke up.”
Dan rubbed his eyes and said, “Yeah, he made us get up super early.”
“Yes, I did. I would have gone to our camp site, but I was afraid it might scare Emily if she was just waking up, and I didn’t want to call her.”
“You might have scared Grandma,” Sammy said. I hadn’t noticed him come out of the boys’ tent.
“I’m not scared,” I said.
Eventually, we made our way to the other camp site and found Emily just coming out of the tent with Sienna and Berkeley.
“Sleeping in a tent is so weird,” Sienna said. “It took me forever to fall asleep. I could feel the ground under me.”
“You’ll get used to it,” Curly said.
“Can you teach me how to build a fire?” Dan asked me.
“Yes. I’ll show your dad first though, and Emily.”
“Would you like to go first?” Andy asked Emily.
“Oh, no thanks.”
I showed Andy how to make a fire. He was a quick learner, and it was soon burning brightly.
Once we’d eaten breakfast, Freckles said, “Whose turn is it?”
“Whose turn for what?” Dan asked.
“Helping Grandma with the dishes.”
“Helping with dishes?” Emily said. “I like the sound of this. Please tell me, how do you get them to wash dishes?”
“I have a rule about it, but in return for good behavior, I pay them.”
“I don’t have any money,” Sienna said. “Mom, if I help wash the dishes, how much will you pay me?”
Emily looked at me questioningly.
“I pay based on their ages. You’re nine, right?”
“If you were helping me, I’d pay you $12.50 each time you helped wash or dry the dishes. Maybe combine your dishes and cooking so you don’t end up using as much.”
“How much would Dan make?” Andy asked.
“Same as Freckles, so $15 for helping. For children under six, I suggest $2.50 per job.” I smiled at Steven and Beerkeley.
Andy looked at all the dishes and said, “I think we need at least two or three people to wash and dry all these.” I nodded.
“I think it’s my turn,” Curly said. “Lydia’s next after me.”
“Oh, I don’t think Freckles had his turn either,” i said. “We ended up having that huge breakfast and there was no way he could have washed all that.”
“Oh yeah,” Curly said. “How about me and Freckles and Lydia show everybody else how it’s done!”
“I wanna help,” Sienna said.
“Me too,” Dan said.
Curly looked at the stacks of dishes and said, “Okay, I can sort of like, not boss you around or anything, but like, do what Grandma does.” He looked at me. “Is that okay?”
“Yes. I trust you not to be bossy.” He smiled and went to get the washtub.
When Emily saw it, she said, “Oops, I did’t think to bring one of those. I don’t think I even have one.”
“We’d better go into the city and buy one,” Andy said.
“Sorry about that,” I said. “I completely forgot you’d need one.”
“The water’s kind of hot,” Curly said. “I’ll pour it in, and then we can add some cold.”
I watched as Curly did a stellar job of directing his team. Freckles washed, Sienna rinsed, Lydia dried, and Dan put the dishes where they belonged.
“You guys are amazing,” Emily said.
“Totally,” Andy said.
“When do I get my paycheck?” Sienna asked.
“If you want an actual check, you’ll have to wait until we’re home.”
“But I want my money now!”
Lydia looked shocked.
“I think you might have forgotten a word there Sienna,” I said, when Emily didn’t say anything.
“What word?” Sienna asked.
“Please,” Lydia whispered.
“Oh yeah. I want my money now please!”
Emily fished in her purse and paid Sienna. Andy paid Dan, and I made a note to myself to pay Curly, Freckles, and Lydia later.
“We need to chop firewood today,” I said. “Who’s ready to go?”
“Me,” Curly said.
“Me too,” Freckles and Dan said at the same time.
“I don’t understand,” Sienna said. “Are you chopping down trees? That’s not good for the like, environment or something.”
“We need to, otherwise we can’t build any more fires,” I said. “I think the people in charge would like to answer your question about the environment, so please come with us.”
Sienna looked uncertainly at her mom, who nodded.
“Can I come?” Andy asked.
“Yes, everyone can come.”
Emily glanced at Berkeley, who was running around in the grass with Steven, pretending he was some kind of prehistoric monster.
“The boys can come and sit with one of us while the rest are working,” I said.
“Sounds like a plan,” Andy said. He and Emily called the boys over.
“We want to play,” Steven said.
I smiled at the two boys and said, “You can. We’re going to a big park, and you can play while we chop firewood.”
They liked that idea, and soon, we were on our way.
Part 12 will be posted on Friday, October 2.
I’ve been talking a lot about free fiction lately, but I’ve neglected to write “About the Story” blurbs for most of the pieces I’ve posted.
To correct that oversight, here they are.
Once you find one you like the sound of, click the link above to be taken to the page with links to all my free fiction. Some of the stories are still in progress or haven’t started yet.
Rita is faced with a choice: give up the job she hates and head into the unknown, or continue in the certainty that she will be both miserable and able to pay her bills.
The gods are angry, and everyone in the city must flee down the mountain to escape the dark tide, a roiling cloud that comes from the ground and destroys everything it meets. Find out what happens when one man chooses something that is precious to him over safety.
It’s summertime, and a grandmother takes her four grandchildren camping. The grandkids are part of a blended family, and don’t always get along. Their lives are about to get a whole lot more complicated, the stakes a lot higher, and the danger a lot greater than tripping over tree roots.
Someone has invented a time machine, and has seen a terrifying glimpse of the future. With help from her complicated family, she must stop a second civil war from being unleashed upon her beloved country.
A ruthless man will stop at nothing to discover a way to bring the nation to its knees before him.
Billy’s nineteen, afraid of the dark, and struggling to complete his first year of college.
His adoptive mom has just had a baby, and his adoptive dad can think only of his new daughter.
Lockdown is the tale of a son who must try to keep his family fed, together, and — alive.
Alexis has just graduated from high school and is having a hard time deciding what she wants to study at college.
All that becomes a lot less important when her aunt, the only parent she’s ever known, dies suddenly at the age of fifty-eight.
Deep in a basement, a group of wildly intelligent siblings open the door between life as we know it, and life as they imagine it.
When two universes meet, will the very laws of physics and chemistry change?
Can people in our world learn to do magic?
Can people and monsters in the other learn how to survive in ours?
Alexis and her friends must fight to restore order, and if they can, to decide who should exist — and where.
This is a work of fiction.
I look more closely and see that their window is covered with something black. Then I see some yellow. I stare at it. The yellow smiley faces where Victoria’s eyes should be. My heart leaps. She’s staring out at me. Nothing moves. The rubber mask is too flat. There are no contours behind it. She’s using it to cover the window. It’s time for me to go inside. I inch to my right.
I hear a faint sound, and as I move, it gets louder. Is it Mona? I go even closer. I stand eye to eye with Victoria’s mask. There’s a tiny gap between the edge of the mask and the window frame.
“You know you want to.” It takes me a second to realize that it’s Victoria who’s speaking. She sounds like someone in a porn movie. Don’t ask how I know.
I hear Mom’s voice, but it’s too soft for me to make out the words. She sounds sick.
“You’ll feel so much better afterwards,” Victoria says. Her tone is probably meant to be reassuring, but there’s a false undercurrent. “After the first sip, you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to Heaven.”
“I don’t want to feel like I’m dying,” Mom says.
“Let me try to put it another way. You’ll feel like . . . like the rest of the world is unimportant.”
A sip of what? Wine? Some kind of medicine? Some kind of drug?
Mom whispers something.
“Awww.” Victoria’s voice is gluey sweet, like a thousand pounds of caramel eaten all at once. “I was just a teeny bit scared too, but everything will be ay okay.”
Mom says something.
“Remember Mona,” Victoria says. There’s an edge to her voice, as if she’s desperate for Mom to do whatever she’s asking her to do. “Come here, Karen. Come into my arms.”
My heart is racing and I feel sick, but my brain is telling me to leap through the window, grab Victoria, and throw her out of the house by the nearest exit, because if I don’t, she’s going to rape Mom. If Mom doesn’t do what she says, she’ll hurt Mona, and I can’t allow either of those things to happen.
“We have a problem,” Victoria says. Her voice is now guttural, and I really wish this wasn’t happening.
I take a couple of steps toward the back door. I hear a cough and something flies past my head and hits the neighbors’ house.
What was that?
I take a few steps to my left and put my elbow through the window. I grab the ledge and pull myself up. I jump down and land on the floor.
Victoria’s holding her mask in front of her face with one hand, and a long knife in the other.
Why the mask? She can’t hurt me with it. Must be some reason she wants it.
I tear the mask out of her hand and toss it out of the broken window.
Victoria turns around and runs for the bedroom door. It’s covered in black rubber, and I’ve got to stop her. She gets there first, but her suit seems to be stuck. She hisses like an angry cat and I trip her. She still has the knife but can cut only my shoe before I get between her and her suit.
I look at her. She’s completely naked.
She lets go of the knife, and I don’t think she wants to fight anymore.
“Billy?” It’s Mom.
I don’t know what to say to her. I keep looking at Victoria, sitting there on the floor, with sunlight streaming through the broken window. Her hair is brown, and so are her eyes. Her lips are very red but the rest of her skin is quite pale. At her throat, there are two red wounds.
“Give me my cover,” she says.
Her voice is quiet but commanding.
“Billy,” Mom says.
I press my back against the door and stand firm. I don’t speak.
Victoria starts to look like she’s drying out. Locks of hair fall to the floor, as if the rays of sun touching them were some kind of cosmic chemotherapy treatment. Her ears dry up and come off like mutant prunes. I wonder if she can still hear, but I don’t want to say anything. Before she became what she is, she was one of God’s babies.
Her eyes bore into mine like hard, aged raisins, but I don’t look away.
It doen’t take long for her arms and legs to dry up and fall to pieces.
I hear cracking sounds and watch her ribs breaking apart.
Her heart, or what I think was once that, is gray.
I look up at her face, and her eyes are still burning with awareness and probably pain. I almost wish I’d let her have her suit.
Finally, when there’s just some of her head left, her eyes go out. She’s free.
“Rest in peace,” I say.
“Billy,” Mom says.
“Did she do anything to Mona?”
“No, just . . . just to me.”
“What did she do to you?” But as soon as I’ve asked the question, I know. In my mind, I see a spot of red on a shirt collar. “You don’t have to answer that. Dad and me will take you and Mona to the hospital.”
It takes me a few minutes, but I finally pry the suit off the door. Victoria must have used some kind of sealent to secure it around the edges. Thank goodness she did a bad job at the window, or I probably never would have heard her talking to Mom.
Dad wants to call an ambulance, but I don’t want people coming into our house and asking questions about the mess in their room. He finally agrees to take Mona to the car while I help Mom. Dad tries to sit in the driver’s seat, but he looks half asleep, and the last thing we need is an accident.
“I’ll drive,” I say.
“I can drive,” he says.
“I know, but I’d like to do it.” He shrugs.
“It’s too late anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
“I haven’t heard Mona cry. She’s dead.”
How can he say that with Mom right there?
I don’t have anything to say, so I put my foot down and the car moves.
The emergency room is almost empty. Dad carries Mona and I practically carry Mom.
Dad walks up to a woman at the desk but doesn’t speak when she asks about the baby.
“Hi,” I say. “Mom and Mona need help. I think Mom’s lost a lot of blood.”
Dad won’t let me come with them.
“No, this is only family. Get a cab somewhere.”
He turns his back on me and leaves me standing there, hurting more than any wound Victoria’s knife could have caused.
I sit down on a plastic chair and cry harder than I’ve ever cried in my life.
A nurse asks if she can help, but I shake my head.
I’ll find out if Mom and Mona will be okay, and then I’ll leave.
A while later, a man in his forties comes up to me.
“I’m Dr. Sampson. Mona’s going to be fine.”
“Thank you. How’s Mom?”
“I’ll ask the doctor caring for her to come and talk to you.”
“Thank you,” I say again.
“You’re welcome. Would you like to hear more about Mona?”
“Sure, if you have time.”
“I do. She’s lost a lot of weight, but with feeding and hydration, she’ll make a full recovery.”
A few minutes later, another doctor comes to see me. She’s about thirty-five, and doesn’t smile.
“Your mom needs a blood transfusion, but there’s a problem.”
“We’re out of O negative blood.”
“We don’t have any blood that matches her blood type.”
“Your father isn’t a match.”
“He isn’t my father.”
“I’m adopted. It’s probably not allowed, but can I be a match for Mom?”
“It’s not likely, but we can check.”
They take a tube of blood and I go back to the waiting room.
The doctor comes to find me. Instead of standing like before, she sits down beside me. She looks professional in her white coat, but I notice that her hands are shaking.
Poor Mom must have died while she was waiting for blood.
Tears start to fall from my eyes and roll down my cheeks.
“Don’t cry. You’re a match. Will you donate blood for your mom? I sure hope so. I saw your labs. Your blood is beautiful.”
“D-donate b-blood? Y-yes.”
I donate as much as they’ll let me and eat the snack provided. The juice is nice and refreshing, and I’m growing bold. I ask if I can see Mona. To heck with Dad.
A nurse shows me into a room.
Mom’s lying in the bed, with a bag of what looks like blood hanging from a pole at her side.
Dad’s sitting in the only chair looking out the window, and there’s a crib on the other side of the bed.
“Who’s that?” Dad asks.
“It’s Billy. I just want to see Mona once, and then I’ll leave.”
Mom opens her eyes and looks at me.
“Why would you leave?” Her voice is a little bit quiet, but nowhere near as faint as before.
“I told him to,” Dad says.
“Because I lost my job, forgot to buy food, and didn’t protect you or Mona.”
“Well then, you’d better apologize to Billy,” Mom says. She points to the bag of blood. “He’s my son. Always.”
“You’re right,” Dad says. “Billy, I’m sorry. Please stay, and then come home with us.”
“There isn’t enough room, but I’m renting a house. If you want, we can all live there. Remember those watercolors you gave me?” I walk over to the crib.
“Watercolors?” Dad says.
“Yes,” Mom says. “I remember.”
I look down at my baby sister.
“I started painting and I posted a scan on the Internet.”
“Somebody commissioned illustrations for a book and I’ve already been paid some of the money.”
I reach for Mona’s small, white hand.
“I don’t know when, but Dad, maybe you can go to college and get a marketing degree.”
My fingers touch Mona’s.
“But what about your college?” Dad asks.
“I don’t want to continue. I prefer painting.”
“But you can’t make a living by painting.”
“Mona thinks I can. She’s squeezing my fingers. Wow, she’s strong.”
“I agree with you and Mona,” Mom says. “If painting’s what you love, and you’re being paid to do it, then for Heaven’s sake, paint!”
A nurse walks in.
“It’s time to feed Mona.”
“Should I leave?” I ask.
“You’re her brother, right?”
“I’ll show you how to give her a bottle.”
Less than a minute later, I’m holding my little sister in my arms.
This is the end of the story.
For more free fiction, please visit this page.
I’ve used writing prompts on a lot of Thursdays.
Time flies, and I didn’t manage to write anything for today, so I thought I’d share the Writing Prompt Thursday category page.
While you’re browsing and reading those posts, please like, comment, and share them.
“There’s nothing I can say, a total eclipse of the heart.” Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of the Heart
Being a published Author was like that for me. I didn’t really know what to say. Go me? I rock? Those were all things I could have said, but I didn’t have any words, and didn’t know how I felt.
When I pressed that great big Approve button, I needed another project. I don’t like it when things are finished. I’m happy my book is out, but I need to write another one. Just like in the song, I think writers probably feel different every time we “turn around.” I suppose it’s good for creativity, but can be a bit of a roller-coaster ride. I hope it won’t stop you from writing a book. Grab your keyboard or a pen, “and we’ll only be making it right.” (It took all my willpower not to misquote and put “write!”)