And it's a good one! Lynn Parson over at Parsons' Posts is hosting a contest on her blog. She is offering a $40 gift certificate good for use in any of CSN's more than 200 online stores! The contest runs until Monday, July 12th, and you can enter every day to increase your chances of winning. Visit her here: Parson's Posts
Rose shuffled into the kitchen. She wore her favorite pink floral house dress and fuzzy slippers. Her thin white hair was tightly wound around big plastic rollers. Her eye caught a small movement from the wire cage in the corner by the table.
"Good morning, Polly," she said.
"Squawk! Good morning, Polly," repeated the bird inside the cage. He was still a beautiful thing, green with light blue around his eyes and just a touch of gray at the tips of his wings. He hopped from his perch to the swing and swayed gently to and fro. He didn't seem to like like moving too fast these days, either.
"I think I need a cuppa joe to get going today," she said.
"Cuppa joe, cuppa joe."
"These old bones are getting rusty." She moved to the cupboard and pulled out an stained, chipped mug. She reached for the coffee pot and poured.
"Sandy's coming over today," she said, with a sideways glance at the swinging parrot. "I know you don't like Sandy much, but she's a real sweetheart, Polly, I swear she is."
"Sweetheart, sweetheart," Polly mimicked, followed by a whistle.
You know she just wants your money, don't you?
"Now, Polly, don't you go putting thoughts in my head like that. I told you, she's not like that. She's a real sweet girl."
"Sweetheart, sweetheart," Polly said again, with another whistle.
If you were honest, you would admit I'm right. I'm always right. I was right about Sam, wasn't I?
"Well, yes, I guess you were right about Sam, Polly. And I thank you for it, too," she said.
"Thank you, squawk."
"I never would have known about all that money he was squirreling away in that other account if it weren't for you."
"Thank you, thank you, squawk." The swing slowed to a halt, and Polly jumped to floor of her cage and waddled right up to the bars.
And I was right about Henry, too, wasn't I?
"Yes, yes, I reckon you were, Polly. Imagine, taking an insurance policy out on me that was worth four times what his was," she said, shaking her head. "Still, I think you must be wrong about Sandy. She just seems so kind to me."
We'll see, won't we, Rosie? We always do. We'll see if there's a reason for her kindness that has nothing to do with being a sweetheart.
"Now you're just making fun of me, Polly. That's not nice." She turned and dumped her mug into the sink, coffee spilling on the back splash. She shuffled out of the kitchen to her room to get ready for her visitor.
Rose and Sandy sat at the table, laughing and catching up.
"It sure cheers me up when you come to visit, Sandy," Rose said. She looked over at the bird cage and raised her chin a bit.
"I love it, too, Grandma," Sandy said. She reached into her purse and pulled out some papers that were folded. "I do have a little bit of business I need to discuss with you, though."
Ah, here it comes.
Rose glared at the cage, but the bird remained silent and still.
"Grandma, I wanted you to know that I'm going to be taking care of you from now on." She smoothed the pages out on the table. "You don't have to worry about bills and pensions and all that sort of thing. I talked to a judge this week, and he agreed to give me power of attorney for you."
"Sweetheart, sweetheart, squawk." Polly fluffed her wings out.
"Oh, now, that's not necessary, honey. I can take care of myself," Rose said.
"Well, it's already done, Grandma. See? That's what these papers are about. I'll be taking care of your finances from now on."
Rose stood up and walked to the counter where she had a batch of scones waiting. She opened the fridge and took out a jar of freezer jam.
"Well, we'll worry about that later, sweetheart," Rose said.
"Grandma, this isn't strawberry jam, is it? You know I'm allergic to strawberries," Sandy said.
"No, no, dear. Just some raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries in there. It turned out just right, too, if I do say so myself." She slathered a scone with jam, set it on a plate, and handed it to her granddaughter.
Sandy took a bite.
"Mmmm, this is just how mom used to make it," she said. "I don't suppose she got her recipe from you, did she?"
"I reckon she did, actually," Rose said. She smiled as Sandy licked her fingers.
Sandy's breathing became labored. She grasped at her throat. She looked at her grandmother with puzzled eyes that grew wide with panic.
"Grandma?" she whispered, wheezing louder now. She was unable to say more. Her face took on a pale hue, tinged with an increasing blue.
"Sweetheart, sweetheart, squawk."
She waited until Sandy was unconscious and unmoving. She reached for the phone and dialed 911.
You said you could take care of yourself.
Today's prompt: Include a telepathic parrot in your story. To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.
A sweet and tender sob wafted through the open window. The child outside cried softly. This wasn't the loud and angry wails of a baby without words expressing his displeasure over hunger, boredom, or a messy diaper. Nor was it the egotistical toddler's cry of frustration that the world refused to cater to her demands. This was a haunting, knowing cry, the kind a grown up would cry if he hadn't learned to bury the sadness of life under forced optimism, biting sarcasm, or feigned indifference.
He sat in the bolted down, hard back orange chair watching his clothes tumble behind the glass door. They chased each other as though bewitched, forced into a never ending circular game of tag. The buzzer sounded, the spell broke, and they fell limply to the bottom of the canister as it came to a slow stop. He opened the door and swept the still hot clothes into the basket he held beneath them. He walked over to the folding table and dumped the clothes out once again. He began folding them quickly to make sure they didn't wrinkle, just as his mother had taught him before sending him off to a far away school.
The door chime sounded, and he looked up just in time to see her struggling through the door. She had a laundry basket balanced on her hip, and she dragged a full duffel bag behind her. He dropped his gaze quickly as she walked past him towards the washing machines. Her back to him, he was safe again to watch her as she pulled clothes from the bag and stuffed them in a machine.
She was pretty. Her soft brown hair was pulled up in a high pony tail, exposing a graceful neck. She was dressed, well, for the laundromat, in an oversized t-shirt and pair of shorts. Her legs were long and tanned. He looked away again quickly when she turned around to reach for the laundry detergent. He didn't want her to catch him staring at her butt. He did manage to catch a glimpse of her face, though, and he could tell she wasn't wearing any make up, just a hint of lip gloss. He liked that. She turned back to the machine and measured out a cup of blue liquid. He noticed her hands were delicate with long slender fingers.
She shut the lid and punched in the required four quarters. She grabbed a book from her basket and looked around for an empty chair. It was then that she glanced his way and caught him staring at her.
He caught his breath. Their eyes were held together by a tenuous silver thread that was a moment. Other moments arrived and took their place in line, waiting to occur: a greeting, a joke, a walk home, a first date, a first kiss, a revelation, an engagement, a marriage, a baby and another, a life together, a happily every after.
A blush rose from his neck to cover his face in crimson. He tore his eyes from hers just as the corners of her mouth began to lift into a smile. The silver thread was broken. The possibilities dissipated like a tiny wisp of smoke.
He shoved the remainder of his clothes into his basket, scooped up his detergent and dryer sheets, and stumbled out through the laundromat door. He kept his head lowered as he fumbled for his keys. He drove away, cursing himself for being so stupid.
The prompt today is: A signal is misinterpreted... Funny, because I misinterpreted the prompt and thought it said: A signal is missed... Anyway, I think my entry works either way. Kind of. If you would like to play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.
Outliers was our book club selection for the month of May.
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell challenges the idea of the self-made man. He claims that superstars don't succeed merely by hard work and determination, but rather "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot."
Let's be honest. The main question in the back of my mind as I read this book was "What are my chances of becoming an outlier (aka superstar) in my chosen field of writing?" Here are the advantages and disadvantages that I face, according to Mr. Gladwell.
My birthday is in early February (+). I've loved writing all my life, and I have the poetry, journals, essays, and creative writing class grades to prove it. I believe that over the years of my life, I have probably racked up over 10,000 hours of writing practice (+). My IQ is above the threshold for "genius," but not necessarily off the charts (+). I don't have the work ethic of a rice farmer (-). I come from a poor background (-). I'm at the tail end of the Baby Boom generation (-). And finally, we are probably looking at a very consequential change in the way literature is published and distributed, and I am in a position to take advantage of that change (+). Conclusion? Meh. Maybe.
One thing that I wish he would have explored more is the effect of high individualism in American culture. Perhaps he avoided that discussion on purpose. If he were to find that Americans were actually using hard work and determination to rise above their beginnings, then that might throw a wrench in his theories. And after all, we don't all necessarily aspire to become outliers, do we? I don't need to be a superstar. I'll settle for becoming a very successful author. I'm determined to do so, and I plan on working very hard to achieve it.
Amelie became an adult when she was seven years old. That's also when her daddy died and her mommy stopped being a mom.
The thing she remembered most about the day of the funeral was all the people. There were people to help her into her best church dress. There were people to pull her hair back into a bow and curl the ends into lovely little ringlets. There were people with their arms around her mother. There were people who took her hand in theirs and led her first to the church, then to the cemetery, then back home. There were people coming through the front door of their house bringing casseroles and cookies and pies. And after that day, there were no more people.
She had woken up the next day expecting everything to be normal. But it wasn't. Her mother did not get out of bed. She did not shower. She did not make breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner.
She took advantage of it, of course. She spent the whole day in her jammies. She watched cartoons until the grown up shows came on, and then she watched videos. She dug through the leftovers from all those people the day before, eating cookies and pie and very little casserole.
Sammy and Delilah didn't fare so well. They were just little, and they really needed their mom. Sammy was stinky before cartoons were up, and he spent most of the day crying at their mother's bedroom door. Delilah fell off the chair while climbing onto the table to reach the food. Amelie felt sorry for her, so she shared her cookies with her to make her feel better.
By nighttime, their mother still had not come out of her room. Amelie opened the door and peeked inside. It was dark. The large mound of her mother's body lay curled in a ball under the covers. Panic suddenly gripped her heart as she thought maybe her mom was dead, too. She tiptoed quietly up to the bed and poked the blanketed lump.
The lump moved and a muffled groan rose from the bed. Amelie sighed her relief.
"Are you getting up, Mom?"
She waited a long time, but her mother didn't answer. She quietly backed out of the room and closed the door again.
She walked into the kitchen and found one of Sammy's bottles in the dishwasher. She filled it with milk and brought it to him. She had him lie down. She found a clean diaper in his bedroom. She took a washcloth from the bathroom and soaked it in the sink. It trailed water as she made her way back to her brother.
"Don't wiggle," she said, but she needn't have worried. He sucked furiously at his bottle and his weary eyelids drooped. His breath came in quivering gasps.
She pulled off his dirty pajama pants and tentatively pulled the diaper away from his body. She washed and washed and washed his little bottom until it was pink and clean. There were sores starting, so she left him for a minute to run to his room for the baby powder. She came back and poured a whole bunch on him. She unfolded the diaper and scrutinized it carefully. She tucked it under his bum and fastened the tapes around his waist. It was a little loose, the first time. If he had gotten up and moved around at all, it would have fallen off. Instead, he let her pick him up and carry him to his crib where she lay him down to sleep.
She helped Delilah go potty and put clean pajamas on her. She tucked her into bed and sang a song to her, one that their mom had sung to her when she was little. She kissed her goodnight.
She brushed her teeth and climbed into her own bed. She was too tired to stay up past her bedtime. She snuggled under the covers and dreamed, for the last time, of chasing butterflies and swinging so high in the sky she was sure she could touch the clouds.
Today's prompt: A coming of age tale. To play along, visit Write Anything's [Fiction] Friday.
Rachelle Gardner has a great post on creating a one sentence summary for your novel, including a contest for the best five summaries that are submitted.
Here's my entry:
Jane, the perfect wife and mother, receives an anonymous note from a stranger that leads her on a wild adventure that makes her question if perfection is what she really wants after all.
What do you think? Does it make you want to read the book?