Buckwold House

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

Photo credit: J Hardy Carroll

With thanks to our gentle and diplomatic Friday Fictioneers host Rochelle Wisoff–Fields, and to J Hardy Carroll for the © photo that’s prompting us to spin our yarns this week.

Buckwold House

We’ll have to appropriate it. We can’t have this monstrosity spoiling our new subdivision.”

“Does the owner say why she won’t sell?”

“Sentimental reasons. Years back Buckwold House was a rehab hospital for war veterans. She nursed here, met her sweetheart, but he never recovered enough to leave the place. I gather she visited him faithfully until the day he died. Later she inherited a bundle and bought the property. She’s been here ever since — refusing all offers.”

“Well, you can’t fight City Hall.”

Next day’s news headline read: “Buckwold House spinster dies of heart failure.”

The battle was over.

Notoriety

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Submitting this little tale with special thanks to our kind Friday Fictioneers host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for this week’s prompt.

NOTORIETY

There. I’ve Photo-Shopped dear Uncle Elbert out of this crazy prank. Shame to lose that smug grin of his, but my folks insisted.

Imagine Elbert besmirching the family name by taking up robbing banks! And Grandpa’s bank first of all, adding insult to injury. Dad says when Elbert’s career was terminated one fateful day, Grandpa refused to attend the funeral.

So I’ve successfully deleted Elbert from the family photos, but you know what must have Grandpa turning over in his grave? At family gatherings the great-grands mention him being a successful banker. But they talk about Uncle Elbert for hours.

Winnie’s Views

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot. This photo has been donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only and must not be used for any other purpose without express permission of the owner.

My contribution this week to Friday Fictioneers, a group graciously hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, open for anyone who wishes to contribute a hundred-word story in response to the prompt picture.

Winnie’s View

Winnie frowned. “Deplorable view.”

“You didn’t want a spectacular view. You asked for the cheapest room,” Raylene reminded her. “Anyway, we’re not staring out that window all day, we’re touring historic Tallahassee. We’ll see gorgeous views aplenty.”

“That travel agent said it never snows in Florida and the day we arrive they get snow squalls. False advertising. However will we manage?”

“We’re used to snow. What a pretty orchid!”

Winnie sniffed. “Plain white. Goes with the cheapest room, likely.”

“Come, let’s order our breakfast. Don’t want to keep the others waiting.”

“It’s starting to drizzle. Wish I’d brought my umbrella.”

A Counselor’s Toughest Job

Her eyes still fixed on the computer screen, Barb frowned and reached for the jangling phone. She had to leave for her meeting in half an hour and this was the third phone call. When would she ever get their monthly budget laid out if people kept interrupting her.

She glanced at the Caller ID screen, then sat up straight in her chair. The County Police wouldn’t be calling to pass the time of day. She pressed the Talk button, averting her eyes from the distracting screen. “Hey, Tammy. What’s up?”

“We need your counseling skills, Barb. A 19-year-old girl went missing from River Bend College yesterday. One of the teachers says she saw this girl walking in the parking lot around 11:30 am, likely going to her car, but she hasn’t made it home. Her family’s contacted everyone she knows and no one’s seen her. Now they’re frantic.”

“I would be, too. Any leads?”

“Not yet, but we’ve got a number of officers out searching the local hangouts around town, vacant lots, the side roads, abandoned buildings. And we’ve notified the boys from Forestry in case she’s wandered into the national park and gotten stranded.”

Barb raised her eyebrows. “Stranded?”

“That’s the word we’re using now. We can always hope she’s lost herself somewhere, or has holed up with a friend. But the family could really use your counseling skills right now. Will you talk to them, go over the “what ifs”? Try to keep them upbeat and hopeful, but prepare them…just in case…” Tammy’s words trailed off.

She voiced our worst fears. “There are fifty-four paroled sex offenders classed as “apt to re-offend” within a two-hundred mile radius of RBC and we’ve got officers checking on them all.”

Barb grimaced as she thought of her own children going to and from school every day. “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Let me grab a pen and jot down the address.”

She shut down her accounting program. Her family budget woes had just evaporated.

Gone Someday

The Boat Builder’s Escape

Matt stuck the small painted boat under his t-shirt so no one could see it and ran the five blocks to the 20th Street bridge. He was hoping Mom wouldn’t happen to come looking for him. He knew he’d get a good smack upside the head if she didn’t find him busy with the job she’d given him.

Seeing no one else around, the eight-year-old boy hurried to the middle and the bridge and pulled out the boat he’d made. He looked down at the stream not far below. Spring flood waters had swelled the narrow river and were hurrying it along to the forks where it would join another a hundred miles away.

He took a last look at the boat he’d made. Okay, it was nothing special, but he’d shaped and painted it himself. He’d screwed a metal plate on the bottom to keep it right-side up and painted a sailor on the deck. Now he gazed soberly at the little sailor’s face. “I can’t go off and see the world, but you can.” He held the boat over the rail of the bridge and dropped it into the water. As he watched the current carry it away, he murmured, “I can’t run away, but you can.”

He turned around and trudged back home, hoping there might be something in the house to eat.

He slipped into the kitchen quietly so his mother wouldn’t hear him and opened a few cupboard doors, looking for some cereal or a piece of bread to ease his hunger pangs. He was peering into the fridge when his mother suddenly grabbed his arm in a painful grip and yanked him away.

“There you are, you lazy little brat. Where’ve you been? You were supposed to clean up the garage and when I looked you were nowhere to be seen. And where did those paint cans come from? Have you been messing around with paint? All I need for you to get your clothes all splattered.”

“I’m starving, Mom. Just let me grab something to eat and I’ll go clean up.”

She gave him a good shake. “I’ll starve you, you empty-headed little loafer!” She threw him against the side door. “Now get back out there and Do something!”

boy-in-small-boatMatt’s eyes filled with tears as he walked back to the garage. The pain deep inside threatened to choke him. But then he thought of his little boat and smiled. It had gotten away. Someday he would, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Since the Daily Press prompt for today is someday, I thought I’d repost this small fiction story. It was originally posted October 29, 2016

Jack Miner’s Discovery

rail-yard-ceayr3
Photo courtesy C E Ayr

Friday Fictioneers — for details about this group, see Rochelle’s blog.

My response to this photo may be WAY off from the general scene. However, I did see a Canadian grain hopper car in this picture, which reminded me of an incident Jack Miner related in his book, Jack Miner and the Birds, copyright 1923. Read this book years ago, so am retelling the episode as I remember it.

Solomon says, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard…” One could also take a tip from these ambitious field mice.

In the northern Ontario woods Jack and his fellow hunters made camp one autumn afternoon. Needing firewood, they felled a towering dead pine. Halfway up the trunk they discovered a field mouse nest with a quart of wheat cached inside.

Puzzled, Jack set down his axe and looked around. Where on earth… Ah!

Several miles north they’d seen rails. Grain cars from the prairies, carrying wheat bound for Thunder Bay terminals, bumped over rough spots. Kernels sifted through cracks, falling onto the tracks. These industrious mice were making that trip day after day, stocking their larder for the winter ahead.

Partners In Crime

Written originally for Friday Fictioneers and posted on christinegoodnough.com

“I hid it in the old mill,” his note read. “Found a crack upstairs near that huge cog. No ‘eyes’ to watch me.”

She searched desperately, sensing her time running out. Rotten luck that the old lady recognized him in the lineup, but at least he’d managed to stash her wallet before they arrested him for assault.

Examining the floor and walls for a crevice big enough to hide a wallet, yet small enough to conceal one, she jumped when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs.

One of the curators appeared. “Lost your way, miss? We locked up fifteen minutes ago. Sorry, I thought everyone was out.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning Wanda was standing at the museum doors five minutes before the place opened. As soon as the curator unlocked them she stepped inside, ready with her story.

“I … I must have dropped my cell phone here yesterday. I was walking around up by that big wheel and… and I took it out to check the time.” Wanda took a deep breath, hoping her nervousness wouldn’t give her away.

“I was sure I… had just…put it back in its special pocket and…and I…it must have slid out somehow. I didn’t have it when I got home. I’d like to…to just run up and look around. I’m sure it’s…

Wanda froze as her cell phone, from its usually pocket in her purse, started playing the tune to “Somebody’s Fool.” She turned a bright pink, silently berating herself. Why didn’t I think this might happen?

The curator looked at her in surprise. “It appears…”

“Oh, no. Not really,” she gasped. “I…like…uh… I borrowed my friend’s phone. Like, just in case I needed to call…uh… In case I didn’t find my wallet and…you know…needed stop credit cards…”

“I’m sorry. I’m not getting this. Did you lose your wallet, too?”

The temperature in the room shot up ten degrees. Maybe twenty. She gave herself a good mental slap, took another deep breath, and tried to save face. “Oh, dear. Now I’m getting mixed up. No, It was my phone, not my wallet. I’ll just be a minute looking for it.”

The curator eyed her a moment, looking as stern as the ancient mill owners whose portraits hung on the wall. Maybe he wondered if it was safe to allow her around those huge gears alone. Finally he nodded. “Go ahead. If you were standing on the landing maybe the sweeper found it last night. I’ll check in the office.”

“Oh, thank you so much.” Wanda turned and wasted no time getting up the stairs. Frantically she scanned the walls and the big wheel.

Thank goodness this part doesn’t have any security cameras, she thought. Not like the main lobby. I guess that’s why Nick stashed it here. A minute later she spotted something dark in a crack.

She was reaching for it when the curator appeared at the top of the stairs. “I had a thought, miss.” “If you use your friend’s phone and dial your own number your phone will ring and you’ll find it in a jiff.”

Wanda gritted her teeth. Isn’t it wonderful how helpful people could be when you wanted them to just beat it and leave you alone? But the museum curator stood there waiting for her to try out his bright idea, so what could she do? On an impulse, she dialed Nick’s number, knowing he was in jail and couldn’t answer.

“Hi. Sorry Nick isn’t home right now.” The voice definitely belonged to some young female. “I’ll be seeing him shortly. Can I take a message?”

“Hello? Who is this?” Nick’s going to hear about this chick answering his phone, Wanda thought. And what does she mean about seeing him shortly? Is she going to visit him in jail?

“My name’s Emmy. I’m Nick’s…um…friend. Can I ask who’s calling?”

“This is Wanda.”

“Wanda?”

“Nick’s girlfriend, Wanda.” She clenched her fists. Nick is definitely going to answer some questions when I see him again.

Aware that the curator was frowning at her, she whispered, “Sorry. I pushed the wrong redial. On my friend’s phone,” she added. He didn’t look impressed.

Emmy seemed to be in shock. “Nick’s…uh…girlfriend?”

“Nick’s fiancée.” Wanda almost shouted it into the phone. “He has mentioned me, surely.”

The curator rolled his eyes and headed down the stairs.

“No!” Wanda caught the sizzle in Emmy’s voice. “He never told me about you at all. Honest. The cheating rat!”

“You got that right.” Wanda jabbed the OFF button and stuffed the phone in her pocket. Just wait til I get my hands on you, Nick. You’re toast!

Quickly Wanda grabbed for the wallet. Nick had told her the old lady had just cashed her pension check, so likely there’d be a couple hundred dollars in her purse. She kind of felt sorry for the woman, a senior and all, but she needed the money herself. Badly. Her rent was due tomorrow. She sighed. What a life!

Once outside, she found a bench in a secluded spot and opened the wallet. “Two five dollar bills. That’s all! All this mess for two measly fives,” she squawked. She fumed for a moment, then pondered her options.

I’ve had it, she decided. I really was a fool to get mixed up with all this. Nick is history. She grabbed her cell phone and pushed a button.

The voice at the other end said a hesitant “Hello?”

“Hi, Mom. I’ve just learned a really important lesson in life.”

“Oh? And that is…?”

“Crime doesn’t pay. And being with Nick really doesn’t pay. I’m through with Nick and his wild schemes.”

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear you say that. We’ve been praying you’d come to your senses and see him for what he is.”

“Mom… Do you think you and Dad could…would…let me move back home for a few months. Just until I get my life straightened around?”

“Oh, Wanda. Yes. We’ll gladly help you. Just come anytime you’re ready.”

Thanks so much, Mom. See you in a bit.”

Wanda hung up and searched through the stolen wallet for ID. She had one important stop to make before she headed home.

Job Satisfaction

Thanksgiving Day:

Along with the other men in the family, Conlin headed for the living room after the feast. With a deep sigh of contentment, he plopped into his recliner as his brothers and brother-in-law began discussing the perks of their respective jobs. Phil, his younger brother, had been promoted to district manager back in August and chattered enthusiastically about his new position.

Conlin could have put in a few comments about his own job — he was happy enough doing what he did in Human Resources and could tell a few tales out of school — but today he didn’t feel much like talking. Maybe he was too full of turkey and trimmings?

No, that wasn’t the whole picture. At the moment Conlin was sated physically and more or less content with his life, his home, his job. Yet he sensed a void but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He brushed the feeling aside, flipped up his footrest and leaned back. Totally comfortable now, he listened to the others until their voices became a fading drone and his eyes closed.

In a dream he saw a long road that stretched before him as far as he could see, with neither curve or hill to vary the route. My path through life, he thought, nice and easy.

Too easy. Same old, mile after mile, day after day.

Next he was running on a treadmill, round and round, like the gerbils he and his boys had watched at the pet store. They made that wheel spin, but they got nowhere. What a life! Anything would be better than this, he thought. Suddenly he spotted an open door on the side of cage. Yes! He jumped up, grabbed the frame and threw himself through the door. Then he was free falling… The sensation made him jerk.

Phil’s voice penetrated his dream. “Dozing off, brother? Too much food?”

Conlin lowered the footrest. “I guess so. Had a dream — you know those ones where you feel yourself falling?”

“Yeah. Wonder what causes those?”

Conlin was awake now, listening to the conversation, but the dream remained in the back of his mind. He saw himself trudging along the road, then running in the treadmill, going round and round, getting nowhere. Did the dream mean anything? Was his subconscious mind trying to send him a message?

Two days later:

Conlin drove his son to the hardware store the Saturday after Thanksgiving so Tyson could pick up paint and nails to finish his birdhouse. As he stood beside the hardware store counter waiting for Tyson to collect everything he needed, another fellow came along and set four identical light fixtures on the counter.

Conlin nudged his arm. “Hey, Larry. Good to see you. What are you up to?”

The man turned toward him. “Conlin, old buddy. How are you?”

“I’m good. And yourself? Are you doing some renovations at your place?”

“Actually, these are going to be for our new club house. A couple of other guys and I have been concerned about the youth in the low-rent housing in the next subdivision. They have no place to hang out, and you know how it is…a lot of single moms…very few male mentors…drug peddlers and gangs looking for recruits. We figure the boys might need a hand if they’re going to stay out of trouble, maybe a supervised place where they can go after school.”

“Sounds like quite an undertaking.”

“Maybe. We can’t save the world, but we decided to do what we could and half a dozen other guys have offered some volunteer time every week. So we chipped in and got us a small abandoned garage on a paved lot. We’ll fix it up, maybe put up some hoops for basketball, that kind of thing. A lot of these boys have been shifted around from school to school, too, and need help with the basic subjects. Come to think of it, you were always a whiz at school. Maybe you’d be willing to put in a few hours now and then?”

Conlin hesitated. It seemed like a worthwhile project — and it would definitely be a new adventure for him. “Tell you what. I’ll come around and have a look at what you’re doing, then we’ll see.”

Almost a year later:

Conlin’s stomach growled as he leaned over the boy studying the textbook. He glanced at his watch. Supper should have been half an hour ago — no wonder he was hungry.

When his stomach growled again, Manny looked up and grinned. “Better fill it up soon, Mr C, or it’s gonna eat ya alive.”

Conlin mussed the lad’s hair and grinned. “I’ll survive somehow. You’re almost done, Manny. Just finish this page and I’ll drive you home.”

“Sure.” Manny got busy on the last few math problems and five minutes later closed his textbook. “All done.”

“Great, buddy! Let’s go home.”

“Thanks for staying and helping me, Mr C. I really appreciate this,” the boy said as he opened the car door.

Conlin climbed behind the wheel. “Glad to do it. You’re worth it, you know.” Manny gave him a huge smile in response.

As he drove Manny home he remembered. “Hey! Thanksgiving is next week. Is your family doing anything special?”

“Maybe going to my grandma’s,” the boy replied. “I hope so, anyway. She knows how to make great mashed potatoes and gravy. Mom’s are always lumpy and her gravy’s like glue.”

“If that doesn’t work out, let me know. Your family’s welcome to join us.” He gave Manny a big wink. “My wife makes good mashed potatoes and gravy, too.”

Conlin dropped Manny off and headed for his own home. His stomach growled again as he turned the next corner. His mind went back to last Thanksgiving Day, to the void he’d felt and the dream he’d had. He may have the same day job, but he’d escaped the treadmill. Yeah, he thought, glancing at his watch again, I may be late for supper sometimes, but life’s a lot more satisfying now.

Word Press Daily prompt: Sated

Back in the Saddle Again

Hi Everyone!

As you will know if you visit my main site, Christine’s Collection, I started chemo-therapy in April to treat my leukemia. I had my last treatment Sept 9th, almost two months ago. My oncologist is quite pleased at how I responded to the treatment; they feel there are almost no cancerous lymphocytes left and I should have about five years before they build up and become a serious problem again.

So many things fall behind when you aren’t feeling well. then when life starts to return to normal you tray to catch up on the house-cleaning and other pressing stuff. So I’ve left this blog inactive, but it’s time to get back to writing and posting here. Actually I have done a few fiction tales on my main blog and will re-post them here in case you don’t follow Christine’s Collection.

Another thing that’s stimulated my urge to write fiction is sitting in on Jerry Jenkins’ writing classes. Last month my husband joined the Jerry Jenkins Writing Guild and we’ve both been watching the webinars on how to produce quality writing. I’ve learned a lot from his “How to Become A Ferocious Self-Editor” sessions. “Ferocious” is the perfect description as he puts some writer’s first page through his Manuscript Repair and Revision.

Anyway, a few days ago I did an exercise for The Write Practice, then posted it on Christine Composes. You can read it here: Metaphors — Prose & Haiku

Wishing everyone a lovely week. For those of us who live in free countries, let’s not forget on Nov 11th to pause a moment and give thanks for the peace we enjoy and the personal freedoms we have. No, life isn’t perfect, but folks of past generations have sacrificed so much — even their lives — so we can have it this good.

You Can’t Borrow Love

“Something old and something new,” Marielle said as she did up the buttons on the bodice of her gown. “But everything I have on is new. I just can’t think of anything old to add.”

“Well, I can,” said her mother, pulling a small bag out of her pocket. “I brought along one of my grandma’s broaches. Let me pin it right here at your shoulder.”

“Now I need something borrowed and something blue.”

“Something borrowed….that’s your groom,” said Treena.

Marielle heard her mother gasp and saw the glare of reproof she shot at Treena. Her sister had been trying for a humorous note, but there was an unmistakable jab to her words.

Marielle sighed. She supposed Treena was only echoing what everyone was thinking. Marielle lifted her chin in defiance against the gossips. Okay. So she had caught Kirk on the rebound. Renee had dumped him for another, richer, better-looking guy. But Marielle had always liked Kirk and she’d made herself available when he needed a shoulder to cry on. Before long he was returning her affections, then he proposed.

Marielle’s mind went back to the evening she & Kirk announced their engagement to her family. Treena had been sour from the get-go. She’d been less than forthcoming with her congrats and after he’d gone home, Treena had come to her room to talk her out of her plans.

“Can’t you see the obvious, sis? Kirk has been hurt and he may be doing this to spite Renee, but I’m sure he still has feelings for her — if he’d just admit it.”

“So what? I’m going to make Kirk so happy he’ll forget Renee even exists. I love Kirk.”

“Love him as a sweetheart, or love him as a pet project?”

Marielle had scowled at her sister and shooed her out of the bedroom. No one was going to rain on her parade.

She straightened her train and brushed Treena’s snippy remark aside. What happened before doesn’t matter, she told herself for the nth time. I’m going to make Kirk so happy. I’m going to love him so much he’ll forget any feelings he ever had for Renee.

“I borrowed my bridesmaid’s toe ring. And my corsage has a blue ribbon around it. So I’m all set. Let’s be off.”

The next half hour whizzed by and she was climbing out of the car at the church. Next thing she was walking up the aisle to take her place by her groom. Kirk wore a big happy smile as he turned to watch her approach. Perhaps it looked a little forced, a little too bright, but Marielle was confident that his joys would soon be as real as hers.

A couple of hours later they were standing beside the reception table receiving congratulations from an elderly family friend when, out of the corner of her eye, Marielle saw Renee approach. She was alone. What happened to Mr Rich Hunk, Marielle wondered.

Renee paused not far away and glanced toward Kirk, a look of regret on her face. Marielle glanced at Kirk and saw the expression reflected on his face as he returned Renee’s gaze. Then Kirk turned to her again.

She saw a quick flash of dismay in his eyes, then his too-bright smile fell in place again. But in that brief unguarded glance, Marielle recognized the truth.

She’d just make the biggest mistake of her life. You really can’t borrow love.

~~~

I read an account one day of a young girl, about seventeen, who convinced herself that she should marry a young man so she’d have a home for herself and her orphaned siblings. However, at their reception she realized that she’d made an awful mistake, that all her hopes were misplaced. I was trying to capture that feeling in my story.