Ponderings from a Procrastinating Prognosticator

Archive for November, 2011

SHORT STORY: THE CROSSWORD PUZZLE

Posted by samatwitch on November 29, 2011

I wrote this for a local newspaper contest, where you had to include the words I put in the first sentence.  The whole thing came to me as I was at work and when I finished for the day, I sat down at the computer and typed it out in about half an hour.  I knew it wasn’t really the type of story the contest liked, but I entered it anyway and after the contest, I entered it into a national short story contest where it made it to the finals.  The first judge really liked it; the second not so much. 😉

THE CROSSWORD PUZZLE

“I had no idea the capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbataar.  Did you, Dave?”

When she didn’t receive an answer, Claire looked up from the large atlas she was consulting to find the last two letters for the crossword puzzle she was working on.  She could just see the top of Dave’s straight brown hair as he slouched on the sofa watching another car race on TV.

“Dave, did you hear me?  Did you know the capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbataar?

A grunt that sounded vaguely affirmative answered her this time.  Claire tucked her long blonde hair behind her ear and studied the atlas once more.

“How on earth did you know that?”

“I must have read it somewhere,” came the mumbled reply.

“But where?  I don’t remember ever reading anything about Mongolia since whatever we took in geography in school and I certainly don’t remember the capital.”

“What difference does it make where I read it?”  Dave was clearly impatient.
“I’m just curious.  You know how exotic places fascinate me.”

“Nothing exotic about Mongolia.  It’s cold and dry and barren – very unfriendly.” Dave spoke absently, his concentration on the coloured blurs that were the race cars.  “ At least that’s what I’ve heard,”  he tacked on.

Curious, Claire stared at him.  “You sound as if you’ve been there.”

Another mumble from the couch.

Claire got up from the table and walked around the couch to plant herself firmly in front of Dave.

“Claire, move, I can’t see the race.  They’re down to the last 20 laps.”

“I don’t care about the stupid race.  I want to know why you never told me you’d been to Mongolia.”

“I didn’t say that I had.”

“You practically did.  Have you been to Mongolia?”

“Yes, if you must know, I have.  Now will you move so I can see the end of the race.”

“No.”  Claire stood firm.  “I want to know why you never told me you’d been to Mongolia.”

“It never came up.  Now will you please move?”

“What do you mean, it never came up?  We’ve known each other five years, we’ve lived together for four, you know how much I want to travel to foreign countries and you never once told me you’d been to Mongolia?”  Claire’s voice rose with her agitation.  “How could you not tell me?”

“Could we discuss this later?  I want to see the end of the race.”  Dave leaned around Claire trying to get a glimpse of the TV.

“No, we can’t discuss it later.  It’s already later.  I can’t believe you never told me this.  What else haven’t you told me?  Where else have you been?  And why is it such a big secret?”

“Look, I haven’t told you everything I did in the 30-odd years before we met and I don’t expect you to tell me everything, either.  I don’t see what the big deal is.  There’s nothing special about Mongolia.”

“Then why you were there?”

“Okay, if you let me watch the end of this race, I’ll tell you later.  In the meantime, you should calm down.  It’s no big deal.”

“Fine.  Watch the end of the damn  race.  I’ll be in the bedroom when it’s finished.”  Claire stomped out of the room and slammed the bedroom door behind her.

Dave’s eyes narrowed as he watched her leave.  He thought hard for a moment, nodded, then went back to watching the race.

Ten minutes later, the race ended.  Dave sat for a few more minutes, considering how to appease Claire’s curiosity and anger.  The anger he could deal with – he’d dealt with it before.  But her curiosity was something else.  There wasn’t really anything he was able to tell her that would satisfy her and she would just keep nagging at him until he slipped up somehow.  Look at how much trouble he was already in, just because he hadn’t paid enough attention when she had been talking to him.  He knew better than to let his guard down like that.

Dave heard the bedroom door open.  He turned off the TV and glanced down the hall.

“Claire,” he called, “how about I fix you a special drink before we talk?  Maybe it will relax you and we can talk calmly about this.”

“I’m perfectly calm,”  Claire said indignantly.  “I just don’t understand why you never thought to tell me that you’d been to an exotic country like Mongolia.”

“I keep telling you – there’s nothing exotic about Mongolia.  It was cold, that’s all.”

“Dave, “ Claire said with exaggerated patience, “I find anywhere outside North America exciting.  And Mongolia: Genghis Khan, nomads, the steppes, caught between Russia and China.  How can that not be exotic?”

“See, you know more about it that I do.  There isn’t anything I can tell you that you can’t find out in books or on the Internet.”

“How can you say that?”  Claire burst out.  “You were there.  You must remember something about the way the country smelled, what their food was like, what the people were like – if they were friendly or hostile.  I can’t learn that from books or the Internet.  Were you in the country or did you get to any cities?”

“What difference does it make?  I wasn’t even there very long.  Just in and out in a few days.”

“Well, what were you doing there?  If it was so ordinary and forgettable, why were you even there in the first place?”

That was the question Dave had dreaded.  Now what could he say?  Claire wasn’t one to stand for evasions.  She’d just keep asking questions until he gave in.

“Oh, I just wanted to see what it was like.”  Dave was deliberately offhand, hoping Claire would stop asking questions before she got into big trouble.  No such luck.

“And what was it like?”

“I told you!  It was cold and dry and barren.”

“There must have been something else.”  Claire was clearly exasperated with him but wouldn’t give up.  “Why would you go halfway around the world to a country like Mongolia for no reason?”

“I didn’t need a reason.  I just wanted to travel to another country.  It’s not a crime, you know.”

“I never said it was…”

“Well, you’re making me feel like a criminal.”  Taking the offensive was usually a good strategy.  Not this time.

“Don’t be silly.  I just want to know all the details.  Did you travel alone?”

“What difference does it make?  Can’t you let it be?  It was no big deal.”

“It is a big deal.  You’ve been keeping this a secret from me for years and I want to know why.”

“Fine.  I was in the USSR and figured while I was there, I’d wander into Mongolia to see what it was like.  I didn’t like it and I didn’t stay.  End of story.”  Dave hoped that would be the end of it.  He was running out of patience and ideas.

“What were you doing in the USSR?  It must have been a few years ago, if it was still the USSR.”  Claire was trying make sense of the whole conversation, but the more Dave told her, the less she felt she knew – of his experiences and of him.

“It was.  I was there because my family is originally from northern Russia.”  It wouldn’t hurt to give her that much.  After all, almost everyone in this country came from somewhere else.

“Northern Russia!  Do you mean Siberia?”  Claire was even more astounded.

“Yeah, somewhere around there.”  He shrugged carelessly.  “I was younger and thought it would be interesting to see where my family came from and while I was there I went to Mongolia.  Are you satisfied now?”

“No, I’m not.  Everything you say just makes me more curious.”  Dave had been afraid of that.

“Dave, I’ve asked you about your family and all you say is that they’re all dead.  You never mentioned where they were from or that you had been to Russia to find your roots.  Whenever I asked you where you got your dark eyes and high cheekbones, you just shrugged it off.  It’s obvious they come from your Slavic heritage.  Why the big mystery?”

Dave rolled his eyes.  “There is no mystery.  I just don’t like to talk about myself or my family.  It was fine with you yesterday, why can’t it be fine today?”

Claire just stared at him.  “I just don’t understand why there is all this secrecy between us.  It’s not like you were a spy or something.”  A brief flicker in his eyes made Claire gasp.  “That’s it, isn’t it?  You were a spy.”  She looked at him in shock and disbelief, as she sank into a kitchen chair.

“For Pete’s sake, Claire, don’t get carried away.  Why would you think I was a spy?”  Dave was becoming desperate.

“It’s the only thing that makes any sense:  why you never told me your family was from Russia, or that you’d been to Mongolia.  You were sent there, weren’t you?  That’s why you were there and never talk about it.”  All the pieces seemed to be coming together, yet the whole picture remained unbelievable.  She was an ordinary person, Dave was an ordinary person – a bit secretive, maybe – but he had a normal job, worked out regularly, went to the movies and loved car racing.  How could he possibly be a spy?

Dave could see the wheels turning in Claire’s head and knew what her next question would be – which side was he on?  He watched her silently for a minute, then made his decision.

“Why don’t I make you some special herbal tea I have?  It was the one thing I did like about Mongolia and I had some shipped in.  It will calm you down and then, if you promise not to tell anyone – and I mean anyone – I’ll tell you the whole story.”

Claire just nodded.  She was still trying to assimilate what she knew already and wasn’t sure if she was prepared for more, but if he was willing to tell her, she would listen.

While Dave filled the kettle and plugged it in, Claire continued to sit in stunned silence, staring at the man in front of her who had suddenly become a complete stranger.  Everything she thought she knew about him was now suspect.

Dave glanced at Claire as he reached behind the seldom used glasses on the top shelf for a small bag of herbal leaves.  He added a few to the teapot, paused and added a few more.  “It’s a long time since I’ve made this mixture, so I hope it turns out.”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” Claire roused herself to say.  “What is it?”

“I don’t know for sure.  I was given the ingredients and told how to make it, but I haven’t actually had it myself.  I did see it’s calming effects on others, however.”

“I don’t know if I need to be calmed.  I seem to be very calm,” Claire stated.

“Yes, you are now, but I want you calm when I tell you the whole story.”  As he talked, Dave reached into the cabinet under the sink and pulled out a small packet of dried herbs.

“Where on earth did you get that?” asked Claire.

“I had it sent to me recently.  I didn’t want you to use it accidentally.  It’s expensive and it doesn’t taste good unless mixed with the first herbs.  I thought that was the safest place to put it.”

“Meaning, I never go under the sink to get cleaning supplies,” Claire said sarcastically.

“No, I didn’t mean that,” Dave assured her.

“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?  I clean the bathroom in exchange for you cleaning the kitchen.  Works for me.”  Claire was returning to her usual feisty self.

“And it works for me.  We have a good arrangement.  I don’t like to think of anything upsetting that.”

“Is that all you can think of – upsetting our ‘arrangement’?”  Claire was back.  “I thought we lived together because we cared about each other.  I didn’t realize it was just a convenient arrangement.  Maybe you’re hiding from something or someone.”  Her voice took on an accusatory tone.

Dave didn’t answer until he had poured a cup of the steaming brew for Claire and put it in front of her.

“Here, drink that while I’m telling you the whole story.”  He poured a cup for himself and sat down across the table from her.  He watched as she took a sip.  “What do you think, Claire?  The next hot product on the market?”
“It’s not bad.”  Claire sounded surprised.  “Very light, but with a different fragrance. ”  She took another sip, then looked at him expectantly.  “So, what’s the story?  Are you a spy?”

Dave watched her carefully before replying.  “You must promise not to tell anyone anything I tell you.  Not only your life and mine could be in danger, but many others as well.”

“Aren’t you being just a little melodramatic, Dave?  After all, you’ve been living here for several years and nothing unusual has ever occurred – not that I’ve known about anyway.  Although, given the current circumstances, I may not be the best judge.”  Claire took another sip.

“No, you’re right, Claire, nothing unusual has happened in the last few years, and I’d like it to stay that way.  I’m not what you would call retired, it’s more like I’m inactive at the moment.  With the political situation such as it is in Europe and Asia, they don’t need me and my talents right now.”

“Who’s they and what are your talents?”

“They are the KGB or perhaps I should say the former KGB.  They’re not really gone, just gone underground.  And my talents are that I can speak Russian fluently and pass as a citizen of Russia or many other Slavic countries.  I can slip in and out and plant rumours that can bring down governments or stir up turmoil.  By the time I went to Mongolia, however, the people had already decided to become a democracy.  Tired of being pushed around by the USSR and China, I guess.”

While he was talking, Dave watched Claire closely.  The tea seemed to be working.  Her breathing had slowed and her whole body was lax.

“I was sent to the States to be educated, so I could pass as an American.  That way no one ever questioned why I turned up where I did.”  He paused and watched dispassionately as Claire slumped to the table, a final look of surprise on her face.  Noting the unfinished crossword puzzle, he reached over her lifeless body to fill in the final two letters.

“I’m sorry, Claire.  You should never have found out that the capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbataar.”

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Posted in Writing - Short Stories | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

RECIPE – ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE SPICY SOUR SOUP WITH GARLIC

Posted by samatwitch on November 28, 2011

Since I’ve had two requests (well, one request and one demand!) for this recipe, I will hereby share it with you.  Those of you who have my recipe book, it’s on page 38. 

ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE SPICY SOUR SOUP WITH GARLIC

My neighbours fed me this soup a couple of times for supper and I found it so delicious I asked for the recipe and gave copies to several people who had heard me rave about it.  I’ve made it myself, although being the carnivore that I am, I added leftover frozen turkey to what was originally a vegan recipe.  On the other hand, I also added grated tofu, so that should count for something.  The soup takes a bit of time and effort to make, but it’s worth it – it’s a great tasting hearty soup and it freezes well.

4 large potatoes
1 large can black beans
¼ cup olive oil
2 heaping tsp minced garlic
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp curry
1 can white kernel corn
1 can chopped tomatoes (or equivalent fresh)
2 Tbsp hot sauce

Cook potatoes in several cups of water until done.  Drain, reserving 2 cups of the liquid.  Drain black beans, reserving liquid.  Place black beans and potatoes in a blender with a small amount of water and puree.  Mix puree and reserved liquid in large Dutch oven and simmer over low heat.  While this is simmering, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil in large frying pan, until lightly brown.  Slowly add vinegar and curry and continue cooking for 15 minutes.  Add onion/vinegar mixture to puree and continue simmering.  Add carrots, corn, tomatoes and hot sauce and cook over low heat for another 30 to 45 minutes.

Makes about 12 bowls.  Extra soup can be frozen for several months.

Posted in Food, Recipe | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

HOW I CAME TO LIKE SOUP

Posted by samatwitch on November 25, 2011

Growing up I was not fond of soup.  We had Campbell’s Cream soups on occasion – or tomato, which always seemed to burn my throat – and my mother would make turkey soup after Easter, Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  (We went to friends for Christmas dinner and then their whole family came to our home for New Year’s dinner.)  She also would make vegetable beef soup on occasion.  The latter two were okay, but soup for soup’s sake was not for me.

After my parents retired in the southern part of the province, their garden was able to grow vegetables that were not so successful where I grew up and Mum started making all kinds of soups from scratch.  She finally learned not to serve them when I was visiting because I still didn’t like them.

Some years later, after my mother died and my Dad came to live in a care home in my city, I had lunch with him at least once a week, for thirteen years, and every day the care home served soup at lunch.  Occasionally I would have a bowl – if it wasn’t a cream soup or related to clams or mushrooms – but I finally just politely declined.

Oh, I made turkey broth to freeze after holiday dinners and a couple of times when I had dental work I used Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup as a base, adding steamed broccoli or cauliflower, dry mustard, milk and more cheese and then pureeing so I could get protein and vegetables when I couldn’t chew, but I still didn’t like soup as a dish, unless it was a really good wonton soup.

My neighbours across the street once made me an Absolutely Incredible Spicy Sour Soup with Garlic – originally vegan but I always add chicken or turkey – which I did make once or twice.  Thick and delicious, it also freezes well.

Then, a few years ago I had a garden by my apartment and had an over abundance of zucchini and many tomatoes. We also grew onions, garlic and basil, among other things (such as turnips, peas, snow peas, carrots and beets).  Trying to find a recipe where I could use the zucchini and tomatoes together, I came across one for a soup.  It sounded good.  (I don’t know why since I’m not fond of zucchini on its own and as I mentioned, tomato soup always stung my throat.)  I decided to try it.

It was delicious! I gave some to my neighbour who shared the garden and who is involved in writing for restaurant magazines and he loved it.  I’ve shared the recipe with others and everyone seems to enjoy it.  Of course, even with all the changes I’ve made to the original recipe over the years, it probably has never tasted as good as the first time when all the ingredients came out of my own garden, but it is still my favourite soup and I usually make it several times a year.

Suddenly I was looking for soup recipes everywhere: online, in my many cookbooks, in magazines, from friends.  I make curried carrot soup, roasted curried butternut squash soup, black bean soup, Tex-Mex soup – I’ve even made gazpacho a couple of times.  I still don’t like mushrooms (my friends call me anti-fungi!) or seafood in my soup unless it is Chinese hot and sour, but I have soup recipes bursting out of my recipe box, crying out to be the next one to be made.   What has happened to me and where will it all end??

 

 

Posted in Food, Personal | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

GIVING THANKS

Posted by samatwitch on November 23, 2011

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US and most of my online friends are getting ready to celebrate with family, friends, food, football or some combination.

In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October (second Monday) and it seems to me to be much more low-key, although I’ve always loved it.  The smell of turkey roasting, friends gathered around the table mentioning those things for which they are grateful, and turkey and vegetable leftovers for the next week brings many good thoughts and memories.  Turkey soup, too, if I’m energetic enough.

This year I went to friends for the annual dinner – although they gave me a plate of leftovers so it wasn’t a completely turkey-free week.  We had a lovely dinner as usual and wonderful company and although I missed my usual dinner, it was very nice not to have to cook, especially since some of my regular friends wouldn’t have been there anyway.

I didn’t really take the time  then to list things for which I am grateful, so I’m going to take this opportunity to do so.

  • I’m grateful for old friends who have known me since I was born that I still spend time with
  • I’m grateful for new friends that I’ve met online – many of whom I have now met and spent time with in person
  • I’m grateful that I was born in a country of which I am (usually) quite proud
  • I’m grateful that my mother was a very strong woman who brought my sister and me up to be anything we wanted and gave us opportunities and experiences far beyond her limited financial resources
  • I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to pay that back in some little measure at the end of her life
  • I’m grateful that, after being a widow for almost 16 years, she fell in love and married one of the finest men anyone could ever meet and so very grateful that I acquired not just a “DAD” but a whole other family, thanks to my sister-in-law and her generosity in sharing her family
  • I’m grateful that my sister and I are much closer now and forever grateful that she kept me in the forefront of my nephews’ lives even though we lived miles apart
  • I’m grateful that I have a job, a place to live and a furry companion – not necessarily in that order 😀
  • I’m grateful for the friends who help me out with things that are more difficult for me to do, so that I can continue to entertain friends and family in my home
  • Most of all, I am grateful to Joss Whedon, from whom has come pretty much everything good that’s happened in the last nine years, starting with the freedom to feel, to fall in love, to continue meeting new friends and having new and exciting adventures.  Who knew that, not only would I be comfortable standing in front of 200 people at our local CSTS event which I organise, but look forward to it – and raise money each year!  Life is good.

So I raise a glass (in my case water) to Joss Whedon and all those whom I have met because of him, whether in person or online (or both),  who are celebrating Thanksgiving this week.  May your day – and rest of the year – be filled with love, friendship, joy and laughter.

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SHORT STORY: APRIL’S BIG ADVENTURE

Posted by samatwitch on November 22, 2011

Another story written for our geek group. I can’t remember what words we had to use in this one.  (Edit: A friend on Twitter just reminded me that we had to use the words April, Fool and include a bird.)

APRIL’S BIG ADVENTURE

April looked down at her black and white outfit with pleasure. She knew she looked fine, indeed. Her feet tapped excitedly as she made her way to the large flat rock overlooking the Atlantic ocean where she was to meet Julius. The ocean was mostly calm today, stretching navy blue as far as she could see, where it met the lighter blue of the sky. Blue was April’s favourite colour. Today would be a wonderful day for swimming.

As she drew closer to the meeting spot, April could see that Julius wasn’t there yet. No matter, she was early and she was just glad that none of their other friends were there. They couldn’t seem to go anywhere these days without a crowd of others with them. She liked Julie and Janon and all the others, but sometimes she just wanted to be alone with Julius – and today looked as if it could be the day!

Excitement hurried her steps and she stumbled a little on a small rock in her path. As she righted herself, April heard a faint humming. It didn’t sound familiar and she looked all around her to see what could be making the noise. She didn’t see anything, but the humming, although still soft, appeared to be approaching.

Finally she looked up and saw something in the sky. The sun was still so bright she couldn’t make out what it was but it looked round and shiny, with the sun glinting off the exterior. As the object came nearer, April became afraid, looking around frantically for the friends she had wished elsewhere. Where was Julius? Where were all her friends when she needed them?

The large object was now hovering directly overhead and making a loud throbbing noise. April wished she could fly – or even run away – but she couldn’t get her legs to work. A door opened in the side of the round object and two very large creatures came down as if floating and landed right beside her. April opened her mouth but no sound came out. Instead, sound came out of their mouths – or what she thought must be mouths. They were just slits in the flat faces of these creatures. Their eyes were set back in their heads and they seemed to have some sort of feathers around their faces. She didn’t understand their language and when she was finally able to squeak out a word or two, it was obvious they didn’t understand hers.

As the huge beings approached her, April tried to run, but they were too fast for her. One of the beings reached out with fur-covered paws and picked her up, carrying her up to its face. The fear of being eaten alive was too much for April and she passed out.

When she woke up, April was lying on her back on what appeared to be a bare slab in a large cave with light everywhere. She looked around and saw all kinds of items she couldn’t identify. Everything was shiny and hurt her eyes. She tried to get up but there was a belt around her stomach, keeping her in place and there seemed to be something around one of her legs. She looked over the side of the rock and saw that it was a long way down to the bottom of the cave. How was she ever going to get away from these monsters? True, they hadn’t eaten her alive – yet, but maybe they were keeping her to feed their young.

A noise from the cave entrance distracted her. One of the creatures approached, but this one did not have feathers around its face or fur on its paws. It spoke to her, but April still did not understand the language. The creature approached and April tried to shrink closer to the rock, but it came right up to her and did something to the belt to loosen it, then helped April stand up. It gently stroked her before poking and prodding her a bit. It wasn’t painful, but she wasn’t used to anything touching her like that! She tried to squirm free, but the paw holding her was firm.

After a few moments, with the creature speaking to her all the time, in what she realised was a soothing tone, she was lifted from the table and carried over to a smaller cave, with walls that were barely there. April didn’t want to go in the smaller cave, but she had no choice. Once inside, the creature did something behind her and when she turned around she discovered there was now a wall where she had entered!

The creature picked up the cave April was in and carried her along narrower caves until it reached one where there were two of the feather and fur creatures. She was handed to one of them and it carried her outside into the cold air. There was the large round shiny object she had seen from the rock what felt like days ago. How long had she been gone? Had Julius been looking for her? What about her parents, her friends? Were they alright?

April felt herself being lifted in the shiny object and then a very loud noise startled her so much that the passed out again. This time when she woke up, she thought only a few minutes had gone by. The loud noise was now a steady throbbing and she had the sensation of flying. Once again her cage was lifted, but gently so she only rocked slightly within it and the creature holding her spoke. Its paw pointed to her and then gestured to the clear wall of the machine. April looked where the paw pointed and felt as if she were flying far above the ocean. This was what she had dreamed of all her life, to fly high above the water, soaring and dipping. Her heart swelled with happiness in spite of her fear and then the machine they were in started to drop. Now she could see darker objects in the water. They dropped lower and she saw that the objects were rocks – her rocks – where she lived with her family and friends, but none of them were there.

Just then, she felt a bump and the noise got louder as the wall of the machine opened. The creature lifted her in the cave and carried her to the rocks some distance away. There he opened the wall so she could get out. April stumbled a little, she was in such a hurry to get away before the creature changed its mind and took her away again.

The creature took a few long strides and got back into the noisy machine, which lifted into the air. April stared up at the shiny object, remembering the sensation of flying she had had.

The noise faded into the distance and so did the object. Soon there was nothing to see or hear but the sound of the ocean. Sliding down one of the rocks, April fell and hit her head.

She woke up surrounded by her friends and family, all chattering to her, asking her where she had been. She didn’t know what to answer. How could they understand when she didn’t?

None of them had heard any loud noises or seen any shiny objects. They said she must have had a dream when she hit her head. Slowly she walked back with them.

Later than night, April stood alone on a rock, looking at the stars. She thought about her experience that day but now it all seemed kind of fuzzy. Had she really been flying?

“Don’t be a fool,” April told herself, “of course it was all a dream. Everyone knows that Atlantic puffins don’t fly all that well at all.” Then she looked down at the band around her leg and wondered.

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GRIEF – Part 1

Posted by samatwitch on November 19, 2011

Some of my writing is very personal – especially ones I’ve written about death. This is a poem I wrote after my mother died which I entered in international poetry contest and for which I won an Honourable Mention.

TEARS

Tears,
Wet, salty,
Running down my face,
Silently, leaving red eyes,
Puffy.

Some people can cry quietly,
Delicately, even daintily.

Not me.
Even as a child,
Just being close to tears
Would leave my cheeks red & blotchy,
My eyes swollen,
My nose plugged up.

I cry easily over little things –
An ad on TV, a family reuniting,
A lost cat –
But other times I hold the tears in
Until finally they gush out in a torrent
Of unstoppable weeping,
Loud sobs wracking my body until I am exhausted.

I cried for several days for each of my cats –
Miss Molly who was killed by a car,
Matilda who was killed by a racoon,
and most of all for my oldest cat, Samantha.
I cried when I made the decision
To have her put to sleep,
And I cried until she died in my arms.
Sometimes I still cry for the loss
Of my twenty-two year companion.

After my mother’s memorial service,
I didn’t cry for her for three years.
Not until my favourite uncle,
My mother’s youngest brother,
Also died of cancer.

Then one night, I was listening
To my tape of Les Miserables
Before I went to sleep.
When Fantine sang her death song,
I started to cry and couldn’t stop.

I cried for the loss of my mother,
For the loss of my uncle,
For the grandchildren my mother
Would never see.
I cried for my loneliness and fear
That I would always be alone,
Never having someone to share my joy and pain with.

In my dreams I would shout angrily
At my mother,
Going through all the aspects of grieving
That I did not – and could not –
Allow myself to do while she was dying.

During that time, she told me I was her rock,
The one person who would not fall apart on her.
And I fulfilled my purpose,
Sharing intimate moments
In the darkness of the night.
Not true darkness, for it is never truly dark
In a hospital,
And never truly quiet.

There are always noises to be heard,
Some identifiable –
The soft padding as a nurse walks by,
The squeaky wheel on the meds tray,
The ding of a patient’s call button,
The muted ringing of the phone at the nurses’ station.

Then there are the unidentified noises –
Strange creaks and groans,
Swishes, thumps and bangs,
As I lay on the narrow cot,
Trying not to move,
Trying not to make my own noise –
That loud crackling of the plastic cover
On the hospital’s mattress pad –
While I lay awake,
Trying not to think
Of what life would be like when this was over,
And succeeding only because it was
The only option.

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SHORT STORY: FROG FOR RENT

Posted by samatwitch on November 17, 2011

A Sci-Fi fan group I belong to occasionally has writing challenges.  The first one was that it had to be less than 500 words (mine is 499!) and include the phrase, “Frog for Rent”.  This was my entry, which had to be read aloud, of course.  It’s actually meant to be part of a longer story – a young children’s book perhaps – which I had started as an assignment in my Kids’ Lit class a number of years ago.

 

FROG FOR RENT

“Frog for Rent?”  Brenna read the sign aloud.  “Why would anyone want to rent a frog?”

“There are lots of reasons,” an indignant voice said from near her right foot.

“Such as?”  she inquired, looking down at the large green frog.

“Such as wanting a translator or guide in the Enchanted Swamp.”

“I have Samantha,” Brenna indicated the long-haired tabby strolling out from behind a nearby bush.  “Samantha can speak and understand most languages in the Enchanted Swamp.  I also have a map to guide me.”

“Well, what about finding a prince?” the frog asked.  “I can identify any frogs who are really princes so you don’t have to go around kissing every frog you find.”

“I’m already a princess,” replied Brenna, “why would I need to find a prince?”

The frog looked shocked.  “Not want to find a prince?” he sputtered, “But, but, everyone wants to find a prince!”

“I don’t,” stated Brenna firmly.  “I’m on a quest to find my best friend Trevor and a prince would just get in the way.”

“But a prince could help protect you from dragons,” protested the frog.

“Nonsense!  My mother’s best friend is a dragon; perhaps you know her?  Her name is Desmerelda.”

“Never heard of her,”  the frog almost barked.  “Whoever heard of a dragon being friends with a human queen.  Your mother is a human, isn’t she?” the frog asked suspiciously.

“Oh, yes,” assured Brenna, “my mother is quite human.  She and Desmerelda became friends when they both went to Royal School.  Desmerelda is Empress of the Dragonhood now.  I’m surprised you haven’t heard of her.”

“I don’t keep track of things outside of the Enchanted Swamp,” huffed the frog.  “I have enough to do with what’s going on in my world without worrying about others.”

“Really? What do you do?” Brenna asked with interest.

“Well, I keep the fly population down and I check the stability of lily pads and take part in the Frog Chorus.  We have a concert coming up next week if you’re going to be in the area,” the frog said proudly.

“That does sound as if it would keep you busy,” Brenna remarked.  “What kind of music do you sing?”

“Hip hop, of course.”

“Oh, of course.”  Brenna smiled.  “And you still have time to rent yourself out as a guide.”

“I like to keep busy and I can use the coins.  I’m courting Miss Amelia Mouse,” the frog admitted shyly, “and we’re saving up for a lovely home by the water.”

“Congratulations, Mr. Frog,” Brenna said as she reached down to shake his front leg, “I hope you will be very happy together.”

“Thank you.  You can call me Rupert.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Rupert, I’m Brenna.  And you’ve met Samantha.” The cat stopped cleaning her face and studied the frog intently.

Rupert cleared his throat nervously.  “Since you don’t need me, I’ll be going.”

“Good-bye, Rupert.”  With that, Brenna and Samantha turned back to the path through the Enchanted Swamp.

 

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DINOSAURS

Posted by samatwitch on November 16, 2011

Now that I’ve started on posting my writing, I can’t seem to stop! The vote for today was for poetry and animals, so here are a couple of poems I wrote about dinosaurs.  As you can tell, they were written for very young children.

 

 THE PURPLE STEGOSAURUS

A purple stegosaurus
Came to ask me out to tea
I said, “No, thank you.”
But I said it prettily.

“Why not,” asked he,
“What can the matter be?”
I answered, “I’m afraid
That I may be your tea.”

“Nonsense,” said he,
“I’d never eat the person I take out.
Besides, you’re much too large for me
To get my mouth about.

“Grasses are my favorite food,
And sometimes leaves from trees.
If you have vegetables for my plate,
I’d love to have some, please.”

“If that’s the case, you’re welcome here,
Pray enter in my home,
We’ll have lettuce and green onions,
For dessert a honeycomb.”

 

APATOSAURUS MOTHER

If you knew an Apatosaurus,
You could play all kinds of games.
She would keep you safe from bullies,
And you could maybe change her name.

Brontosaurus was what she was called
Many years ago,
And even though her head is bald
Her pace was kind of slow.

But wouldn’t she have made a terrific slide,
Or maybe a roller coaster?
From the top of her head to the tip of her tail,
When you finished, you’d want to toast her.

The family traveled far and wide,
And you could do that, too.
When enemies came, the children would hide.
They knew exactly what to do.

With 80 vertebrae in their tails,
They used them like a whip,
But also as a counterbalance,
When the leaves of trees they’d strip.

So she could be your greatest friend,
The biggest one you know,
And you could travel safely
While you grow and grow and grow.

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Short Story

Posted by samatwitch on November 15, 2011

I recently have been encouraged to post some of my writing where it can be read so I’m taking the ‘dare’.

I don’t normally write – or read – short stories, as I find I can’t get as deep into characters as I like, but I have written several for contests or challenges. Here’s one I wrote several years ago for a Writer’s Digest contest.

THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT

I glanced left and right, then took a first cautious step into the wide open field. What was it about the dark that seemed to change even familiar places into potentially menacing ones? During the day, the empty field with the high grass didn’t seem so big or so threatening. The grass was green and fresh-smelling and when the sun was shining, it was one of my favourite areas to spend time. But tonight this same field stretched endlessly before me, the safety of my home on the other side invisible in the dark.

I knew I should have left the neighbour’s barn dance earlier, but I was having so much fun with my friends. The food was good, with several different types of cheeses I had never tasted before, served with bread and crackers, followed by crumb cake and tarts, and chocolate that melted in one’s mouth. And the music! It was all I could do to sit still until I was asked to dance. My toes kept tapping in time to the beat (I have very good rhythm).

But now the music was over, the food was gone and my friends had scattered to their own homes, leaving me to cross the field alone. Bravely, I took another step into the high grass, which was so tall and thick that I couldn’t see above it. Surely it was safe. I had walked and run through this field many times. It was my neighbourhood and I knew it well. Nevertheless, a feeling of dread came over me. I froze in place. Was that breathing I heard? Was there someone or something behind me?

I looked over my shoulder, but could see nothing but shadows, as there were in front of me. I tried to tell myself it was imagination working overtime, but I wasn’t very convincing. Slowly, I started walking again, picking up speed as I became convinced that something was following me. If I turned around quickly, I could see the grass move behind me – but it might be the late evening breeze. Any sounds I could hear over my own pounding heart could be attributed to normal nocturnal activities. Why then this feeling of dread?

I looked to my left and right. How much farther did I have to go? There – up ahead on the right – what were those darker shadows silhouetted against the starlight? Could my pursuer have passed me and now was waiting for me to come to him? My heart lurched within me, then went back to its quickened rhythm as I realized it was just the stand of birch trees that marked the halfway point across the field. How absurd, I told myself, I’ve been out after dark by myself before and have come home safely. There was no reason to think I wouldn’t do the same this time.

I paused to calm myself, and in the silence between one breath and the next, I heard it. From somewhere close behind me came the faint but unmistakable sound of breathing. The hairs on the back of my neck – and everywhere else on my body – stood up, and I started to run, dodging in and out of the grass. The wind whistled in my ears as I sped around a large rock. I knew that rock. I was getting close to home. But would I make it? I risked a glance behind me.

He was keeping pace with me, but his breathing was almost normal, while mine was so ragged, I wasn’t sure where my next breath was coming from. My heart felt as if it would burst through my skin at any moment and my skin was cold and clammy. My next glance revealed him even closer. My fright became panic and in my panic, I tripped over a tree root which had been left behind when they cleared the field. Head over heels, I tumbled down the slope on the other side, coming to rest at the base of another large rock.

It was big enough to hide me from my pursuer, at least momentarily, and I took advantage of the respite to catch my breath. I was small and fast, but he was big and just as fast. I risked a peek from behind the rock. He was standing by the old root, looking around in what appeared to be a puzzled manner. Maybe he hadn’t seen me fall down the hill and thought I was hiding in the grass near the root.

I watched for a moment as he circled the area, head down. When he looked in the opposite direction, I darted out from the protection of my rock and fled towards home. He must have seen me from the corner of his eye, because once again he was chasing me, and this time he meant to catch me. I wasn’t sure what he wanted from me, but all of my senses were telling me I was in danger.

I ran as fast as I could, not daring to glance back at my pursuer, but putting all my strength into making the last distance home. He was no longer making any attempt to be quiet, but ran swiftly through the tall grass, gaining on me the longer we ran. As my home came into sight at the end of the field, my body stirred to even greater lengths. Just a few more feet and I would be safe. I felt his breath hot on my neck and I demanded more from my body than I had ever had occasion to do before. He was so close, I could feel him gathering himself to pounce.

Just as he leaped for me, I darted into the mouse hole that was my home. And as my family gathered around to welcome my safe return, I remembered the 11th Commandment of the field mouse: Thou shalt not tempt the neighbour’s cat by roaming into his territory when he is outside.

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