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.

More Weather Woes

hurricane

The next morning did not look promising for our two foiled tourists. Raylene and Winnie stood by the window frowning as they watched the advancing storm drench the city.

“I don’t wish for the wind, but we could use some heavy rains like this back home,” Raylene commented as another gray cloud dropped yet more water on the streets below. “It would do the crops a world of good.”

“Don’t be silly, Raylene. If we got a rain like this back in Moose Knee it would flatten all the crops for a thousand miles around.”

“Not if it came at the right time, like in March before the farmers started seeding.”

“If it came in March, it’d freeze and the whole country would be one big skating rink.”

“I suppose,” Raylene admitted. “And we’d never want a wind like this.” They watched as another branch fell from one of the trees in the park beside them.

“I declare! They must not use enough fertilizer around those trees if the branches break so easily,” said Winnie. “I’m going to mention that to the Manager next time I see him.”

“Remember, this is a hurricane. It would take an amazing tree to stand up in this gale — and we’ll see a lot higher wind yet before the day is out. The Manager said the hurricane may knock out our power and we’ll be without until they get the generator running.”

“He’d better give us a discount for that.”

Raylene rolled her eyes. “It’ll only be for fifteen minutes or so.”

“ ‘Every penny counts,’ is what I always say.”

Right then the phone rang. Raylene picked up the receiver and recognized her daughter Naomi’s voice.

“Hi, Mom. How are you two managing down there? We hear Hurricane Celestine is moving into that part of Florida.”

“We’re watching its arrival right now.”

“And how’s Cousin ‘Thistle’ enjoying herself? She hasn’t blown away yet?”

Raylene sighed. “I wish…”

“Well, you knew…”

“I’d hoped…”

“For a miracle?”

“I guess.”

“Dream on! Cousin Winnie will never change. She delights in disaster.”

“But I thought…”

Winnie interrupted. “I wish; I hoped; I guess; I thought. Are you paying by the word? Long distance rates are too high for that kind of babbling. Say something sensible or hang up.”

“Cousin Winnie thinks we’re babbling and I should hang up,” Raylene told her daughter. “I guess neither of us are feeling very cheerful this morning. We may spend the whole day in this room watching the rain fall.”

“Poor Mom. I’ll have your martyr pin ready when you get home. Would you like it engraved? How about Semper fidelis or Veni, vidi, vici Florida?

“Maybe just Mea culpa.”

Naomi laughed. “Bye, Mom. Have a great time — once the storm is over.”

Raylene said goodbye and turned to her cousin Winnie. “Come on. Let’s go down to the lobby and see what everybody else is doing. We can’t just sit here and ooze gloom all day long.”

Winnie’s face brightened. “Maybe we can have tea with that nice widower from Hershey, Pennsylvania. Love his accent — I could listen to him all day!”

Raylene smiled. Miracles do still happen, she thought as went to her room to grab her purse.

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.

O Molly, I’ll Never Forget!

Hello Everyone,

It’s been awhile. For those of you who don’t follow my main blog, I had my first round of chemo-therapy April 11th & 12th. Each day involved about six hours hooked up to IV. You can read about it here. By now I think I’ve mostly recovered; this week I’m starting to feel more energy and tackle more household tasks.

I may not be doing a lot of fiction stories for awhile, but I still get the urge be-times. Yesterday morning I wrote this scrap of poetry just for fun:

Molly O’Haggerty O’Rourke
my colleen from county o’ Cork
Oh, I’ll soon be sailing
and she’ll soon be wailing
My fortune I seek in New York.

Says Molly O’Haggerty O’Rourke,
“Your colleen from county of Cork
sure, you’ll be forgettin’
as soon as you’re settin’
your eyes on the girls of New York”

I says to her, “Love, don’t be clowned—
a truer love never was found.
I’ll send for you, sweetheart;
sure, we’ll make a new start
and light up the streets of York town.

John and the Jogger

Here’s a little story I wrote one day, a writing exercise in which we were to describe a person gazing off the Brooklyn Bridge, watching the sun rise over NYC.

John loved the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the East River. He’d walk there in the morning when it was still dark so he could see the city in first light. Often he would see others there who were walking and enjoying the city as well.

He was close to Squibb Park one morning when someone came up behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and saw a pretty blond lady jogger overtaking him. She sideswiped him in passing and John lost his balance. He landed on his right arm and one knee.

“Ouch,” he grunted, rubbing his elbow.

The woman stopped and jogged in place as she asked if he was okay.

Now what do I do, he asked himself. Then his ego kicked in. He jumped to his feet and gave her a serious push. Caught off balance, she went over backwards and landed on her fanny. She sat there for a moment looking so shocked John almost laughed out loud.

“I’m so sorry,” he shouted, faking contrition. “How could I be so careless?”

Her face registered a flash of anger, then she leaned back and laughed. “Touché.”

John reached out a hand and helped the lady to her feet. “How can I make up for my rudeness?” he asked. “Can I buy you a coffee as an atonement?”

“You are funny,” she said. “Okay, I’m sorry. How be I buy you the coffee — to make up for my carelessness.”

“Well, I didn’t have to retaliate,” John admitted. “My male ego took over, I guess.”

She grinned. “Terrible fault. That’s good for a muffin.”

“Okay. You buy the coffee, I’ll throw in the muffins, and our egos should both recover nicely. What’s your name, by the way”

Of Daily Prompts and A Wedding Gown

Some thoughts on the repetitious Word Press Daily Prompts

This morning I read Linda’s post and decided to mull the matter over on my own writing blog. I do agree with Linda: the promise of “A new prompt every day” isn’t being fulfilled. I wonder if they made this commitment before they started the project and the “carrying out” has proved unworkable? Or they feel blogger participation doesn’t warrant continuing? When so many million people blog, the daily prompts only attracted 50 or so.

Mrs AngloSwiss says she asked Ben H about why are there no new prompts. “He answered me and said there are no intentions of putting up new prompts. It seems that the veteran posters, like me, are now few and far between.”

Now, Word Press does give us the option of another prompt — in fact you can keep on clicking to see half a dozen options. I’ve checked them out and they’re all ones I’ve seen before, too. But if I choose one of these alternatives, then I’m doing a different prompt from everyone else that day. Then why not write about a different topic altogether, one that means something to me?

Perhaps the folks at WP see prompts as a kind of training wheels: once you’ve done them all you should know how to blog and can do your own thing. And actually, when I go back and try to click on the responses posted a couple of years ago, I find a lot of sites have been deleted. Easy to start; hard to stay the course.

Whatever the reason, like yourself, I’m a bit disappointed even if I haven’t been able to do the prompt every day. Just for the fun of it, I’ve started writing my own inspirations: “Writing prompts for Readers and Writers.” Maybe someday when I get enough I’ll post them. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten enthused about doing short stories — as have other bloggers. Here’s a 100-word story I wrote yesterday. Please critique!

I have a happy ending in mind for this sad scene — but that’s another 100 words.

THE WEDDING DRESS

With a heavy heart Jasmin pulled open the bridal salon door and stepped inside.

The salesgirl hurried over to her. “Miss Turanich! Glad you’ve come in. We were wondering if, in all the rush, you were forgetting your dress still needs to be fitted. We don’t want to leave the alterations too long.”

Jasmin sighed. “Hardly. But there’s been another alteration…” She dabbed the corner of one eye with a soggy tissue as she watched the clerk’s face fill with dismay.

“I was hoping, since my wedding gown hasn’t been altered yet… if I could still…um… get a refund?”

A Vintage Year — Book Review

Last week I received a free copy of A Vintage Year by Kate Preston, with the promise that I’d review it and give my honest opinion of this book. So here it is:

Through the main character, former tennis star Harris Tucker, the reader gets a look at the immoral, self-centered world of a celebrity athlete. He’s portrayed as a careless playboy pursuing the pleasures of the flesh— seemingly well indulged in this by many attractive women. But as the story opens he botches an important game and his politically-aspiring mother, disgraced by his fiasco on the tennis court, disowns him. Then his accountant and best friend shuts off his allowance until he learns to curb his wild spending.

In Laura Bollier the reader sees the struggles of a young divorcee tackling both the hard work and planning necessary to keep the family’s grape-growing business solvent and the parenting responsibilities of a single mother. On a dare she offers Harris a week of work, an action that gets her some flak from her family. He may be clueless, but he’s desperate enough to stick it out.

If you are familiar with vineyards, and especially wine production in CA, you will find those details more interesting than I did. I felt the book slowed down in the middle as the writer took time to describe regional vine culture and wine festivals.

I found the story is well told, the plot believable, the characters well fleshed out. Most of the story moved along well. However, the relationship between Harris and Laura is a long, drawn out affair more off than on. And I did feel Harris’s mother’s “Wicked Witch of the West” role was sometimes overplayed. It’s a totally secular story; there are no religious references in it at all.

It seems the editor and writer got tired partway through the book. It could use one more editorial polishing, especially the last third. Language got a little coarser in the tense spots toward the end, too. There are typos, missing words, wrong verb tenses and such that an editor should have caught.

In places the personal pronouns are confusing; in a few spots the POV switches abruptly from one character to another, sometimes in the middle of a paragraph, and the reader is left to guess where exactly the break comes. There were places where the writer “showed” us but then told us anyway — and places where we were just told. Over all it was an interesting story.

Sometimes You Hit A Homer

Gord and I had just finished shooing a few last gawkers away from the crash site when a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out and walked toward us, an inquisitive look on her face.

Gord rolled his eyes heavenward. “Whenever there’s a crime everyone and his pup wants to see the blood,” he grumbled.

I winked at my fellow officer. “I don’t see any pup. Just a nice looking lady.”

“Well, you deal with her, Mike. Tell her, ‘Sorry. No bodies today’.” He turned to talk with the tow truck driver and the two of them walked away.

As I watched the woman coming toward me, I guessed her to be in her late-twenties. Not pretty, exactly, but neat. Sandy blond hair fastened behind her head with a clip. Her outfit, a soft green skirt and matching flowered top, coordinated nicely.

Amanda always liked color-coordinated outfits. A twinge of grief hit me. Poets probably call this feeling “bittersweet.” Sweet memory; bitter grief. Co-ordinated sentiments?

This lady didn’t look like your usual crime-scene spectator. Did she have some business here? Neighbors had told us the owners were away on vacation so perhaps this was some friend or relative checking up on things.

She watched the tow truck driver haul away the car the young hoods had totaled, then she turned to me. “What happened, Officer?”

“We’re still investigating, ma’am, but it appears a couple of teen boys held up a gas station and tore off when police tried to stop them. They lost control making a turn, spun out, and hit this garage.”

She frowned. “I hope they weren’t killed!”

“No, just stunned a bit. They ran when our officers got here, but they’re in custody now.”

“Well, I’m sorry they crashed, but at least they’ll get the chance to think it over.”

“Yeah. Probably for six months or so.” I noticed her different accent. Out of state. “And what brings you here this morning, ma’am?”

“My friend asked me to meet her here. I wonder if she knows about this? She didn’t say anything when I talked to her earlier.”

“Your friend?”

“Brianne Rancourt. She’s been house-sitting for these folks while they’re on holidays.”

“Ah. We’ll need to talk to her.”

“We planned to meet here, check on the place, then do lunch. Shall I call her, sir?” She turned her huge peepers on me — nice denim blue ones — and my pulse did a quick double blip.

I took a deep breath. “Uh… Just give me her number and I’ll get the investigating officer to contact her.” I grabbed my notebook and she rattled off the pertinent info, then waited as I relayed it to headquarters.

She eyed the damage. “Brianne will be so shocked. She’s been house-sitting here for the past two weeks and never had any trouble. I feel sorry for the owners, coming home to this.”

Her tone, soft and gentle now, reminded me of the folks at my wife’s funeral. They’d give me a hug or pat me on the shoulder as they filed past, murmuring, “I’m so sorry, Mike.” Or they’d look at my kids and say, “This is so sad!”

I jerked my mind back to the present. “How long have you known Ms Rancourt?”

“Only ten days, actually. My Aunt lives here in Houston. She had a bad fall and broke her hip, so I took time off work and drove down from Great Falls to help her out. I met Brianne at the hospital; her aunt’s on the same ward.”

“Great Falls, Montana? Ah! That explains your accent.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Actually, we don’t have an accent. It’s you Texans that talk funny.” I chuckled at the way she drawled this last sentence.

I flipped to a new page in my notebook. “I should take down your name and number as well, ma’am.”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Really? But it’s purely coincidence that I’m here now, sir.”

I put on my best stern-cop frown, avoiding those curious blue eyes. “Perhaps we’ll need to contact you for some reason.”

“Okay. I’m Shannon Ryan. As I said, I live in Great Falls. Age thirty-one — in case you need that, too.” I couldn’t miss the hint of teasing in her voice.

I grinned. “I admire your honesty, ma’am. Most women I know stop at twenty-nine.” That made her smile.

Amanda had always joked that she was going to quit counting birthdays when she hit thirty. I’d laughed and told her I’d just have to grow old all by myself then. Those words came back to haunt me now. We never dreamed she wouldn’t live to see thirty; we never foresaw a fatal aneurysm snatching her away from me and the kids.

I focused on my notebook. “Married or single?” Police records didn’t require that, but hey. We can do things different here in Texas, right?

“I’m a widow.”

That got my attention. “I’m sorry to hear that. For long?”

She sighed. “It’s been ten years for me. And Brianne was widowed two years ago. I guess that’s why we hit it off so well when we met. We can commiserate.”

My brain did the math. “You must have been married real young then?”

“Yeah. I was seventeen when we got married; Brad was eighteen. Young and foolish, folks said, but we were very much in love. He was killed in a car accident on his way home from work one night. Four sweet years — far too short.” She blinked back some tears.

I nodded sympathetically. “I hear you, ma’am. I lost my wife four months ago. Feels like our time together was far too short, too.”

“My condolences,” she murmured. “Those first few months alone are a long, hard walk.”

“You’ve never remarried? Not currently, uh, involved?” Man, you’re nervy, Mike, I chided myself. But I had to ask.

“No.” She hesitated a moment. “I was engaged briefly three years ago, but that really blew up in my face. I run a daycare and it turned out he had an agenda. An ‘unnatural interest’ in children. I’ll admit a few red flags did pop up, but I so much wanted a home and family of my own that I reasoned them away.”

“The snake!” I spat the word out, thinking of my own innocent kids.

“Yeah. How could I have not seen it? And the scandal when he was arrested really sank me. Headlines like: ‘Day care operator’s fiancé arrested for trafficking in kiddie porn’ and ‘Police investigate pedophile’s involvement with day care owner.’ I’d never left him alone with any of the kids in my care — I testified to that in court — but my business was toast. I had to sell my house and start up elsewhere.”

I gritted my teeth. “I know what I’d like to do with someone like that!”

“So I’m sure you can understand why I try not to think about marriage anymore. I’m scared to hope again for fear it’ll be ‘Three strikes, you’re out’.” She smiled then, but the tears made her eyes glisten.

She shook her head and fixed her eyes on the garage. “Anyway, this isn’t all about me, so I’d better get on my way.” She turned and walked toward her car.

Should I just let her go? Something about this lady impressed me. She’d been through the mill and could still smile. I could use someone like that in my life — someone who’d understand.

A nagging voice piped up. It’s too soon to get involved, Mike. Just drop it!

Yeah, too soon. Yet I was so lonely! The emptiness had set in as soon as the last relative left. Every day my house felt empty: the loving greetings, the noisy meals together, the hugs and kisses were all gone. Every night my bed felt lonelier.

What will people think? They’ll say you didn’t love Amanda much if you find someone else so soon.

Stuff it, I retorted. I need someone. The kids need a mother. I’ve prayed God would send me someone who’ll love my kids. And if this is my someone, I’m not letting her walk away.

“Shannon, wait…” I called. She stopped and turned around.

“I’ve been thinking — since you’re down here alone and don’t know the city, perhaps you might, uh, like an unofficial police escort? Maybe for some shopping or sightseeing? And there are some really neat cruises in the Gulf you might want to take in while you’re here.”

She was quiet for a moment. Wrestling with her own nagging voices, most likely.

“Don’t give up on finding love,” I encouraged her. “After all, not everybody strikes out. Sometimes you hit a homer on the third swing.”

Something seemed to click and her face broke into a beautiful smile. “You know,” she said, “a police escort might not be such a bad idea. Might save me from some other slippery snakes. Yeah, I’d like to look around this town more, with a little help. Since you’re offering.”

Her smile seemed to bring the sunshine into my world again. I held out my hand. “My name’s Mike Andrews, by the way. And I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old who’d be glad to spend time with someone who likes children.”

She reached out and shook my hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mike. And I do like children. In fact I always wanted house full.”

I gave her my biggest smile. “I’m with you on that one.”

Aprosopol Romance

Today’s WP Prompt says to create a new word and explain its meaning. Here’s mine:

Aprosopol

I find that in most romance novels nowadays the main characters are aprosopol.

Prosopol is a Greek word meaning respect, as in “to have respect for someone.” Hence, aprosopol means without respect or no respect.

You could say contemporary romances are contramorous. The Latin word contra means against and amor means love.

I haven’t read so many contemporary romance novels in my life, but lately have investigated this genre again via e-books and I have been quite disappointed.

It seems to me that in years gone by the male MC and female MC met and usually fell in love — or at least into like. Even where they didn’t always see eye to eye they often had a certain basic respect for one another. There was usually some hope of them actually coming to terms by the last chapter.

Modern day romances tend to be so formulaic; I think most of us could write one in our sleep. Male MC meets female MC and detests her. Blah! He’d never marry this woman; she’s haughty, impulsive, headstrong, emotional. She won’t listen to his common-sense approach at all. NO WAY will he ever get involved with her!

And/or female MC meets male MC and loathes the man. He’s arrogant, unreasonable, unpredictable, insufferable. NO WAY is she ever going to be interested in him. So Chapter Two starts out with him spitting nails at her and she spits them right back at him. Lots of glaring, head tossing, fuming, insulting.

For the first few chapters every meeting they have serves to reinforce each one’s negative opinion of the other. However, somewhere near the end of chapter Two you get some physical attractions kicking in:
A) He’s thinking, “I want nothing to do with her, even if she’s knock-down drop-dead gorgeous.”
B) She’s thinking, “I’m keeping my distance from this ruggedly handsome hunk even if his physique sends hot flashes through my system.”

So they continue to spit nails at each other for another several chapters, but by now every second page mentions how he’s struggling to resist his attraction to her and/or she’s fighting the fascination she has with him. At this point it seems to be all sex appeal; they still manifest little respect for each other — but the world is turning.

Two thirds of the way through the novel either he gets himself into some sort of predicament or she does. He rides out with the posse and gets winged by the bad guys, or she falls in the river and needs to be rescued. His ship sinks and she must alert the authorities, or he’s in jail and/or about to be lynched for some false charge and she must step forward to plead his case even if she detests him. Or maybe she is at the mercy of some villain or gossip and he must rescue her/offer her refuge/marry her even if he’s averse to doing so.

In the end they get it together somewhat grudgingly, yet with promise of lots of steamy snuggles to come. (Though in some books these start to appear about Chapter three already!) So the theme actually seems more like “lust conquers all” than “love conquers all.” You just wonder if they are really going to live happily ever after when they detested each other so thoroughly at the outset.

I contrast this with the Biblical story of Ruth, where two people who admired and respected each other worked together on behalf of a destitute widow. And in doing so they found love for each other. Here I see so much better prospects for a true “Happily ever after.”

Anyway, I’ve managed to invent a new word for the Daily Prompt — and write my rant about contemporary romance — all in one post.

The Heart Mender; A Great Read

I just finished reading a terrific book and would like to tell you about it, in case you’re searching for a great read. It’s called The Heart Mender, written by Andy Andrews, a NY Times Best-Selling Author.

What happens when an old cape myrtle tree dies on the Alabama coast? Well, the owner of the property, writer Andy Andrews, chops it down because the tree is next to his house and its wood contains highly flammable oils. Then when he chops it down, his wife urges him to dig it up. And when his shovel hits something metallic — a gallon-size can — nestled among the tree roots…

One of the greatest joys a writer can have is to uncover something amazing, something perturbing, something that points to a story. Something he just can’t leave alone; he has to find out the facts. In the case of this particular writer, he digs and digs until he uncovers the whole amazing account.

What happens when a bitter young widow whose husband was killed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid in England meets a member of Hitler’s navy? What does she do when she stumbles onto a wounded German submarine officer on the beach in Alabama? She punches him in the face. Doesn’t matter if he’s been shot and is now half-dead. She punches him again and again, until she’s exhausted.

And thus begins this fascinating tale of forgiveness and second chances. For more details, see:
http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Mender-Story-Second-Chances/dp/078523229X/