Tag Archives: RB wood

SCENE FROM A BAR ~ My story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

Congratulations to author, R.B. Wood on his 60th episode of the Wordcount Podcast! 

You can hear me read this story on: Episode #60 of R.B. Wood’s THE WORD COUNT PODCAST.

The prompt asked that we use 3 words in the story:

Charming | Key | Computer

STORY INSPIRATION: I never frequented bars in my single days, but on occasion when I dine out alone, I enjoy sitting at the bar. It’s a great place to “people watch.”

~ eden

* * * *

I hate this place, too noisy, too busy, yet my geeky brother-in-law insisted it was the best bar in town. He should know, he said. He used to work here before he moved on to better things.

In every corner, people are talking fast, acting smart. I feel out of place even though I’ve been here before, but at the time, I knew exactly what I wanted. Today, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

The place caters to all types, though a woman with a halter top that barely covers her ample breasts seems out of place. I was once her age. I probably looked as silly as she does in that get-up, but like her, I must have feigned obliviousness. A twenty-something is now chatting her up, and they’re both laughing. Another man approaches them and asks a question before he moves on. This man is older, full beard, seems a lot more aware. He walks with purpose and his eyes dart across the room behind his Buddy Holly glasses.

Hipster, I think to myself.

A woman catches his eye. She is completely different from halter top girl. Well dressed in a suit and sophisticated, she looks like a banker or a lawyer. You can tell she’s serious too. She knows exactly what she wants and has no time to fool around. I wish I was in her shoes. When the hipster approaches her, they exchange a few words and he is definitely interested. He nods quickly and gestures for her to follow him. They move toward one of the many busy tables occupied by patrons. There is only one free seat and she takes it, setting her briefcase by her feet. They start talking for a bit before she pulls out her cell phone and shows him something on the screen. He gesticulates with his hands, then touches his ear like he’s playing a game of charades. I almost burst out laughing.

Three words.

First word.

Sounds like.

Bird.

Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

Wait, now he’s sticking up his index finger while he says “Just a minute, I’ll be right back.”

“Sure,” she says and returns her gaze to her cell, swiping the screen back and forth. She seems content to wait.

My imagination is active today. I must be bored or nervous or both. I’m waiting for my man to return. Unlike the hipster servicing the businesswoman, my guy isn’t quite as committed or attentive to me. He excused himself fifteen minutes ago and has not returned. For the brief time after I shared my story when I sat down in front of him, he nodded and his eyes lit up. He asked a couple of key questions before stepping away.

I want to remain hopeful. That’s all I can do.

“Miss Hermeez?”

I swing around in my chair to face the man pulling up a seat in front of me. His main features are a jutting chin covered in peach fuzz and pretentious wire-rimmed glasses atop a Roman nose. He wants to look older than he is, but it’s not working—not on me anyway.

“Oh … hi, you’re back.” A sigh of relief escapes my lips. “Actually, the “H” is not pronounced.”

“Huh?” He looks at me like I have a third eye.

“My name is Hermes. The ‘H’ is silent. It’s French, like the designer.”

He stiffens his back and takes a deep breath. His vacant eyes tell me he’s never heard of Hermes.

“All righty then,” he says and continues in a robotic tone, “Miss ah … Miss ahhh … Air Meez.”

I decide against correcting him again. Charming, he is not.

So, here I am at the Apple Store genius bar, and across from me is Billy, who can’t even say my name properly. He’s obviously no genius. If he were, I wouldn’t still be sitting here.

“I’m afraid your laptop is now a boat anchor,” Billy says. “There’s nothing we can do. I hope you had everything backed up to an external hard drive.”

I bite down on my lower lip, and the room begins to spin. I see hipster dude walk out from behind the genius bar carrying a box. It looks like the latest iPhone. A wall of colorful accessories expands and contracts like it’s about to explode. The noise inside the store turns to a dead silence. I’m drowning in perspiration. It dots my back and rises to the surface of my forehead, then begins dripping down my face.

If Steve Jobs were still alive …

“Miss?” Billy says.

His voice snaps me back to attention.

“Are you all right?” He suddenly looks concerned.

“No … no, I’m not!” The sound of the room is reawakened by my voice. “This isn’t just my computer, it’s my life. If you’re going to give me bad news, you can’t say it like that. A little small talk at least, but this …”

Billy dips his fuzzy chin, and I half expect something snarky to come out of his over-entitled millennial mouth.

“Yes, Miss Hermes. I’m sorry to be so blunt. I just thought you would want to know. Did you …?” He drops his gaze again. “Were you able to save everything before your computer shut down?”

I swallow hard, shake my head slowly and feel tears welling in my eyes. Billy looks horrified and squirms in his seat. He jumps up, almost knocking his chair over.

“I’m going to call my manager,” he says. “I want a second opinion.” He holds up his palms toward me as if to say Hang tight, help is on the way!

Before I can say another word, he’s run off.

I pull myself together. I’ve never been fond of bars, especially genius bars.

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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Comfortably Numb ~ My story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #59 of R.B. Wood’s THE WORD COUNT PODCAST.

The prompt asked that we use 3 words in the story:

NEWSPAPER | CIGARETTE | SCOTCH

NOTE: This story is excerpted and rewritten from a longer one, which I wrote earlier this year. It is partly inspired by a friend going through a difficult life change, and of course, by Pink Floyd.

~ eden

* * * *

I’ve let go of so much. The kids are gone, moved away to University. They don’t need me anymore. My husband, Mike, still works. Someone has to pay the bills. He doesn’t need me either, but he puts up with me. I suppose it’s better than being alone, but my guess is it’s only marginally better for him. We navigate around each other without saying much. It’s not comfortable, but somehow we put up with each other. Complacency settles in after nearly thirty years of marriage, and with it, a dull ache fills my days.

It wasn’t always this way, but I remember exactly when everything changed. Six months ago, I picked up the Sunday New York Times like I did every week and read another study about climate change. I was a concerned citizen most of the time, but that day I thought: Why the hell should I care anymore? I’ll be long gone when the earth blows up. Even my grandchildren’s children won’t be around.

In that same paper, another article praised the benefits of alcohol and how previous studies had been overly cautious. In fact, scientists now encouraged drinking for middle-aged adults. Three to four glasses a day—beer, wine, liquor—it didn’t matter. Good for the heart and an excellent way to relieve stress. Next thing you know, they’ll be touting cigarettes as the new health fad!

I threw the newspaper across the room.

Garbage! All of it, garbage! I couldn’t believe anything anymore.

Something in me must have snapped because nothing was the same after that.

I was not the same.

*   *   *   *

Hunger wakes me up, but I don’t get out of bed immediately. After drifting in and out of sleep for what seems like hours, I make my way downstairs. It’s already close to noon.

Dishes and a frying pan balance precariously atop the counter next to an empty sink—Mike’s bacon and eggs from last night’s dinner, his cereal from this morning.

The kitchen is in need of a thorough cleaning. Why my husband does not load the dishwasher is beyond me. The appliance does not exist for him. It’s the same with the laundry. He must think clean underwear and shirts just magically appear in his closet. I resent picking up after him, but he’s right about one thing—it’s me who has changed, not him.

I have not wanted to do anything in months. Even the thought of a few household chores hollows me. My brain feels pickled. Most days, I walk around sweaty and lethargic.

The light on the home phone blinks red. It’s been blinking for weeks now. I know the messages are for me, but I don’t want to listen to them. I wish people would stop worrying about me. I don’t dare turn on my computer. The thought of unanswered e-mails in my inbox makes my stomach lurch.

Something burbles to life and I spin in its direction. My feet shuffle in a robotic motion to find the source. The buzz continues, and I register it’s coming from my purse. I snatch the bag off the dining room table and empty its contents on the floor. My cell phone vibrates on the ceramic tile like a small, frightened animal. I grab it in a panic.

“Hello, hello.”

“When did you get up?” says the voice on the other end of the line. Mike’s words jolt me to attention.

“Right after you left for work.” I’m on the defensive already.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure, why?”

A pause. “I called earlier, that’s why.”

“Well … I must have been in the washroom, didn’t hear the phone.” I wonder if my friendly housewife voice fools him. “Did you want something?”

“Yes,” he barks. “Iron a few shirts for me. I need them for meetings this week.”

Please would be nice, I think to myself.

Mike’s words pinch, but I keep my thoughts to myself and somehow manage a cheerful, “Yeah, sure.” That’s how we talk to each other—no nuanced arguments, no fine points to be made.

I hang up and rage nudges up my stomach. It lodges in my chest like indigestion.

“How dare he talk to me that way?” I mutter to myself. Now I have to clean the house and iron. I loathe ironing.

*   *   *   *

It’s Mike’s night out with the boys, and I manage to throw together a dinner of lasagna (from frozen of course) along with a salad (out a bag). He doesn’t seem to care. His mind is on watching the game and drinking with his friends anyway.

Now that he’s gone, I plod to the kitchen and crack an entire tray of ice cubes into the sink. I scoop up a handful, drop them into a tall glass of white wine, and gulp until the cold freezes my brain.

I’ve become an impressive drunk in that way where no one suspects I’m drinking.

My doctor prescribed antidepressants for me. They must be working, as I’m more productive now. I’m cooking again, and the house is clean. I even managed to respond to a few phone messages, and the other day, I fired up my computer. When I saw more than 300 emails in my inbox, I shut it down. Responding to emails would have to wait.

Playing around with what my doctor recommended has been tricky, but it’s one of the few things I do to empower myself. Instead of one pill with food, I take half a pill with a shot of Scotch. Yeah, the alcohol is a no-no, but … I seem to be okay so far.

I even had sex with my husband last night. Afterward, he flopped off me like a giant walrus, a fat limb-less torso. The only thing missing were the tusks. I didn’t enjoy it, but he must have. He seems nicer to me today than he’s been in a while.

As for me, I don’t feel much anymore. Numbness replaces the dull ache. It’s comforting really, much like a warm, cozy blanket.

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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95 Days ~ My story for @RBwood’s Sizzlin’ Summer #WordCountPodcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #58 of R.B. Wood’s THE WORD COUNT PODCAST.

The prompt asked that we use the phrase:

“I was enjoying the summer holiday when…” 

I was in NYC when I wrote the majority of this story, sitting in Bryant Park with the sun in my face. I love the city, and no matter how long I stay, it’s not long enough.

The story is somewhat of a lament for how quickly time passes, especially in the city that never sleeps.

* * * *

I was enjoying the summer holiday when he showed up.

Well, he showed up would not be totally accurate.

He may have been a she, and neither really showed up in the traditional sense. I never saw a face or heard a voice. Like I said—it wasn’t a traditional relationship, and I knew that from the start. That was the allure, I suppose, but now that it’s over, the hard work begins.

I’m rambling, and I’m sorry if this comes off nonsensical. Some days, I feel like what happened was all in my imagination. Maybe I created the whole thing. It’s hard to know anymore. I only know I’m left wanting, though richer for the experience.

Let me take a step back to the beginning of summer when this all started. It was the oddest of meetings, and my heart was open, as it normally is. I’ve always considered that to be a strength, not a weakness. Despite growing more cautious over the years, I was never one to shy away from a mystery.

I’m a sucker for words. That’s why I chose to become a writer. My life is an open book in many ways, but I was stuck. Call it writer’s block or lack of inspiration. Call it a muse on vacation. Whatever it was, I was haunted that I might never write again.

I use words to expose who I am and to entice potential readers to connect to me. Though I’m aware I make myself a target for some odd people, I’ve never had any problems. With the amount of time I spend online, it’s inevitable to run into my share of … shall we say … eccentric people. The thing is, they don’t scare me. I’m good at weaning out the cons from the authentic.

And yet, I didn’t see this one coming.

I received the first poem on June 20th. I remember it well because it was a balmy evening—the beginning of summer. I was sitting at an outdoor café when a young boy approached me.

“Are you Julia?” he said.

I did not know him, thought it was too late for a boy of his age to be out on his own. “Yes, I am, and who are you?” I looked into his bright, blue eyes and immediately felt an odd familiarity. Was he the son of a friend?

“I have a something for you,” he said, handing me an envelope before he turned to walk away.

I searched for an adult near him and saw none. “Wait!” I said, staring at the non-descript paper in my hand. “Who is this from? Who are you?”

Too late.

He weaved his small body between tables of the crowded café and disappeared into the night. I got up to look for him, astonished that I lost sight of him so quickly. I asked patrons nearby at the edge of the restaurant where he went, but no one could give me a definitive answer.

That first poem read:

Summer is officially begun

So this will be my number one

I spread love and hope and grace

No matter the time or place

Do not seek to find the answers

In life we are but mere dancers

We jump, we twirl, we bow

The time to live is now

 

And so it began …

 

Poems showed up mysteriously for me daily after that. The language was never aggressive. The writer wasn’t the best poet but he wasn’t the worst. I say he, but it could’ve been a she. I just don’t know. At times, the poems rhymed, but most of them did not. Many of them were just a few lines. The only thing they had in common was each one was numbered.

Strangers delivered many of the envelopes, and none of these so-called couriers ever disclosed information about the sender. I found some poems left for me at my place of work. Only one was found at my house. It scared me, even though I suspect this person had been tracking my whereabouts from the start.

When I found the letter in my home mailbox, my mind immediately conjured up the negative, but I rationalized if he or she wanted to harm me, they would have done so by now.

The next day, as I sat in the park desperately trying to kick start my manuscript, a stranger delivered an envelope to me. I had grown accustomed to this crazy, strange occurrence. I simply accepted the envelope and said, “Thank you.”

It was a peaceful afternoon, and aside from a few kids running in the distance, the park was quiet. A cool breeze replaced the humidity in the air. I tore open the envelope to read poem number ninety-five.

As a new season begins

An old one must end

Ninety-five days

From Solstice to Equinox

Summer is closing

And so must I

May my last words

Be the start of your next ones

A slow smile of realization crossed my face. I picked up my pen and stared at the blank lines on my notepad, determined to break through.

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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PUPPY LOVE ~ A story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #56 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we write a story based on three words:

Cat | Dawn | Flower

I couldn’t come up with a cat story, so I did a different take on the prompt. It’s partly inspired by real events and my own mixed feelings about owning a pet.

*  *  *  *

In my haste out the door, I almost tripped over the white furball just outside my front step. Button eyes stared up at me as if to say: What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you.

A dog, or more accurately—a puppy, its fur looked fresh and cottony-soft.

I knelt down to it with the instinct of someone who appeared comfortable with animals, but I wasn’t. I never had a pet as a kid. Now living on my own, more than a few friends had advised me to get a cat or a dog. I never wanted the responsibility.

The small dog seemed harmless and docile. It pushed its head against my palm affectionately when I pet it. Pretty darn cute. It wasn’t a stray. That much, I could see. No tags, no collar, but someone had to be looking for it.

I almost forgot the reason I opened the door, headed for my morning jog. I stepped outside to see if the dog’s owner was near by. Maybe he got away during his walk. The street was empty. No surprise. Dawn on a Saturday was usually too early for my neighborhood.

When I swung back toward my apartment, the dog boldly walked through the open door.

“Hey!” I cried out. It stopped and turned to face me, his head tilted to one side. Something in me melted. I wasn’t going to make my morning run.

My friend, Doug knew all about dogs, having owned different breeds over the years. He dropped by immediately when I called him.

“Great temperament,” he said, crouched on the floor with the dog in his lap. “It’s a male, and he’s a Westie, a breed from Scotland.”

I smiled as the dog jumped out of Doug’s lap and pranced around my apartment like he owned it. “I don’t know where he’s from, but he’s full of confidence for a little guy.”

“Here’s some food for him.” Doug handed me a large plastic bag filled with kibble. “I’m guessing he’s no more than three months.”

I sighed. “What should I do? I can’t keep keep him.”

Doug pushed himself off the floor. “I’ll call my vet. He can check if there’s a microchip. In the meantime, create some posters for the neighborhood. He’s a beautiful animal, someone’s bound to miss him.” He handed me a roll of plastic bags.

“What’s this?”

“Poo bags. You’re going to need them,” he said.

***

The vet found no microchip but said the dog was otherwise healthy and happy. I stuck up posters around the neighborhood and placed an ad in the “Found” section of the online local paper. I even scoured the Internet for announcements of missing dogs but found none that matched the puppy now making himself at home in my apartment. It felt odd to share the space with another living creature, but here he was. Out of some need to give him an identity, even a temporary one, I called him Scottie—an unimaginative but safe name until his owner came for him.

Scottie never barked, and in many ways, behaved more like an independent cat. He snuggled beside me on the couch when I watched TV, his little body warming me like an electric blanket. He let me know when he needed to go outside to do his business. He was the perfect pet really, one I wished I’d had as a kid. I decided if no one came to claim him after ten days, I might consider adopting him.

The morning before my self-imposed deadline date, I received a call from someone claiming to be the owner of Scottie. The man spoke enthusiastically about the dog, described his appearance perfectly. He said his young daughter had left the door open one night and the dog must have slipped out. I told him to come by in the early evening to pick up Scottie, citing errands I had to run during the day. I lied. When I hung up the phone, my throat burned. How the heck did I become so attached to this animal in less than two weeks? I crouched on the floor and Scottie jumped around me playfully, his cue for me to pick him up. I hugged him to me and felt tears sting my eyes. The wetness rolled down my cheeks onto the soft curls of Scottie’s head.

***

My last moments with Scottie were bittersweet. When a little girl of about seven entered my apartment with her father, her face lit up and the dog ran to her. She squealed and the puppy squealed louder. Her joy only cranked up the excitement for both of them. The dog belonged to her. There was no question about it. My own feelings that Scottie might miss me, even just a little, faded immediately.

“Looks like he’s happy to see you,” I said to the girl. “What’s his name?”

With glassy eyes and a wet face where the dog had licked her, she looked up at me, “Flower,” she said.

Flower?

“Oh …” I tried not to sound judgmental. “What an unusual name.”

The father took me aside. “Yeah, it’s not a great name,” he said, “but she wanted to name it after a dandelion because of his fluffiness, only she can’t say the word dandelion.” He shrugged. “We definitely have to come up with a better name.”

I smiled and watched his daughter play with her puppy, then something hit me. The dog was leaving, but I wanted him to leave with a small piece of me. In a hushed tone to the father, I said, “I called him Scottie for the time he was with me. He seemed to like it. Maybe that’s an option.” When the dog heard me say his name, he perked up his ears and barked before running to me.

“Wow, he does seem to respond to that name,” said the father. He looked over to his daughter. “Sweetheart, how about calling him Scottie?”

“I like the name,” she said in a high-pitched voice.

***

Scottie returned to his rightful owner, and my space was returned to me. While watching TV later that night, I instinctively placed a hand on where the puppy had taken his place beside me. The chair seemed almost too big without him now. A thought of getting a dog crossed my mind, but it was a fleeting thought. For more than a week, I took care of a puppy. I even got to name him and did a good deed by reuniting him with his owner. I had been a dog-sitter, and that was more than enough … for now.

Have you ever had a pet? Any strange pet names? Feel free to leave a comment or ask me a question. I’d love to hear from you.

~eden

**

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THE RUNNER ~ A story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #55 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we write a story based on three words:

Dog | Wheelchair | Addiction

This was a tough one for me because the three words seemed unrelated. The idea finally came to me when talking with a friend who is an avid runner.

*  *  *  *

The man breathed heavily when he came to a halt. He removed his gloves and wiped the sweat from his face, plucked the water bottle from his backpack and drank half the Gatorade inside. A vast sky of crimson hues swirled above him, interrupted only by a ribbon of yellow that disappeared beyond the horizon. It was a perfect sunset. Only the muffled noise of distant traffic penetrated the quiet until a loud bark broke the calm.

He clenched his jaw when the dog continued yelping. A dog had changed his life five years ago, and each time he heard one barking, his back stiffened. He tucked his chin into his chest and tried to relieve the tension pressing against his spine.

The rain had stopped, but he was still soaked. Even though the downpour lasted less than a minute, his nylon jersey clung to his torso like static.

He was at the mid-point of his five-mile run, having stopped several times already to take a break. It had taken him a long time to build up his stamina again. He used to run fifteen miles without any problem. Now, everything was difficult where it once seemed effortless. He closed his eyes and felt his thighs tightening, burning from the run. How was this possible? He let out a heavy sigh before opening his eyes. The sensations below his waist disappeared when he peered at his body trapped in the wheelchair.

No legs. Both amputated six inches below his hips.

Phantom limbs, his doctor said. Because he had been a runner all his life, his muscle memory was better than that of other amputees who had lost their legs.

A runner, ha!

He could hardly call himself that anymore, could he?

Running was his obsession at one time. Similar to a drug addiction, he needed a hit of it everyday. He fed off the adrenaline, the pounding in his chest, the sound of his feet hitting the ground. Right before he lost his legs, he was training for his third New York City Marathon.

Now, when he tells his wife he wants to go for a run, she helps him pack up his wheelchair in the van, and they drive to one of several starting points. She picks him up a couple of hours later when he calls her.

Run. What a joke, but what else could he call it?

The same high pitch he heard earlier cut the silence again.

Damn dog.

The barking persisted and grew louder. The sky darkened and heavy raindrops thrummed against the metal of his wheelchair. It must have camouflaged the sound of fast-running paws. He didn’t see the shaggy mutt until it leapt on top of him.

A young female in jogging gear came running behind the dog. “Chester, come back here!”

The furry creature pranced on where his lap should have been.

“Chester, off!” The woman yanked the dog by his collar away from the wheelchair. She immediately clicked a leash on him and tightened her hold. The dog had little room to move from her side. “I am so sorry. He got away from me down in the valley. Are you all right?”

The man looked up at her face. Her big blue eyes opened wide, a furrow in between her brow. Rain ran down her cheeks and made her appear as if she was crying, but she wasn’t.

“I’m fine,” he said. He brushed off the mud tracks on his jersey from the dog’s paws. “He’s a feisty one, you should keep him on a leash out here.”

She shushed Chester when he barked again. “I know. He’s still a puppy, too much energy … I took him off leash to let him run some of it off, but I didn’t expect him to get away from me.” She hesitated and her face changed. “Are you okay? I mean … will you be all right to get home?”

He recognized the look, an expression of someone who knew she could walk away, but was hesitant to do so because he obviously could not. It was sympathy. He didn’t want it, didn’t need it, but had learned to accept it. He likened it to the brief interaction one makes before throwing a few coins in a beggar’s cup. The act of charity makes it easier to keep going.

“I’ll be fine,” he said, releasing her of her guilt.

“Okay.” She smiled and loosened her grip on the leash. Chester took a few steps toward him before she pulled him back. “Sorry again about … you know, Chester jumping on you.”

He nodded and watched her jog down the valley. Even under loose track pants, he could tell she had strong, muscular legs—runner’s legs, like he once had before the accident. Chester reminded him a bit of that dog—the one he swerved to avoid hitting on that two-lane country road.

The dog survived.

The driver of the truck he collided with also survived.

The only thing that didn’t make it—his legs.

Has an animal ever crossed your path while you were driving? How did you react? Feel free to leave a comment or ask me a question. I’d love to hear from you.

~eden

**

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THE LETTER ~ A story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #54 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we write a story based on three words:

Chocolate | Lust | Thorns

Since it was around Valentine’s Day when we received the prompt, my story touches on love … sort of.😉

*  *  *  *

Dear Adam,

I want to offer you an apology for my behavior the past two weeks. I know most women would’ve jumped at the chance to go with you to some romantic spot for Valentine’s Day. Your invitation caught me off guard.

I panicked.

Instead of graciously accepting your gift, I stopped accepting anything from you, including your calls and texts.

Let me start by saying, you’ve been patient. You’ve followed my lead, and from our first date more than six months ago, I’ve led you to my door but never through it. It must have crossed your mind why a thirty-year-old woman would seem so … puritan. Yet, you never asked, so I never felt the need to explain.

I care about you, Adam, very much, and you have a right to know why I ended our relationship so abruptly. This letter is further evidence that I lack the courage to even pick up the phone and call you. I’m taking the coward’s way out, but I hope you will understand.

Valentine’s Day is a dreaded day for me, but by design or by coincidence, I’ve managed to avoid the holiday for years. When I couldn’t avoid it with you, I had to retreat.

I celebrated Valentine’s Day for the last time seven years ago. He was much older than me, unlike anyone I’d ever met—well traveled, confident, a little dangerous. He excited me, and I looked forward to how we would spend Valentine’s together.

On that day, he made a special request of me—a gesture that would show my love for him, he said. I was reluctant at first. I didn’t know him all that well, but he had showered me with champagne, chocolates, and a dozen of the most amazing long stem red roses I’d ever seen. I thought it only fair to give him what he wanted, so I allowed him to tie me up.

Not long after, I discovered his true intentions, but it was too late. The more I screamed and begged him to stop, the more I fueled his lust. The cost of love, he said, was not the price of candies and flowers. True love had to be measured by different commodities—commitment, strength, sacrifice. How else could I value him if there was no risk involved?

I told him I wasn’t willing to pay the price for him, but it didn’t matter. He was determined I would learn to enjoy the pain.

I did not. I passed out from it.

By the time I awoke, he was gone, but not before he left his mark. I never saw him again. I assume it was because I failed his test.

You did me a favor, Adam. You forced me to confront the scars of my past. The problem is my scars are real, not just metaphorical. I am, forever, damaged goods.

I have enjoyed every moment with you. I wish it could have ended differently.

With affection,

Brenda

* * * *

 

“How does that feel?”

She sighed, “It feels good, like a feather. I love how gently you touch me.”

I stared at Brenda’s well-formed back as she sprawled on her stomach, naked but for the white sheet that wrapped around one of her calves. Her loose, chestnut hair framed her face, which was turned away from me.

I continued to kiss below her neck and felt the ridges against my lips. She stiffened and then relaxed. I brushed my lips over the raised, carved letter on her back—the letter S.

He had taken his time cutting into Brenda’s flesh, the letter etched from the thorns of the roses he had bought her that Valentine’s Day. The cuts were deep, the design ornate. The pain must have been excruciating.

I closed my eyes to suppress my anger.

“Adam?” Brenda turned to her side and propped her head on her elbow facing me.

“Yes, my love.”

“Thank you for being so persistent, for not giving up on me.” She dropped her gaze and picked at imaginary lint.

I tilted my head and forced her to look at me. “What that monster did to you was not your fault. You didn’t ask for the scar on your back.”

Brenda stared at me with glassy eyes. “It’s been two months since you walked back into my life, and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have you. It’s just that …” Her face, hidden in shadow, turned a deeper shade of pink.

“What?” I asked. “You can tell me anything, you know that.”

She cleared her throat. “Okay … why haven’t you asked me what the S stands for? You must be curious.”

Brenda was right. I was curious. I had almost asked her the first time I saw the well-formed letter. It spanned the entirety of her back from the base of her neck to her tailbone. What once must have been a blood-red scar had now faded to purplish-pink, several shades darker than her skin. Brenda said she could not remember how long he cut into her before she fainted. I suspect she must have struggled for the top half of the S. Parts of it had healed as jagged clutters and bumps, contrasting the smoother curve at the bottom.

My guess was the letter stood for the initial of the man who did this to her. A narcissist—Steve or Sam or some other shitty name. Or maybe it was the symbol of a serpent or something else, who knows? The man was a sadist, a psychopath. Would I even be able to make sense of it if I knew?

“Adam, are you okay?”

Brenda’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts, and just like that, I found my answer. “I know what the S stands for,” I said.

She took a quick breath and her eyes widened. “You do?”

“Yes,” I said, in a confident manner. I cupped her cheeks in my hands. “It stands for … sweetheart … which is what you are to me.”

A look of relief washed over Brenda’s face. It confirmed I had made the right decision. She had never wanted to tell me what the letter stood for, and I, never needed to know. 

Do you have any scars you wish to share? Feel free to leave a comment or question. I’d love to hear from you.

~eden

**

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I Just Want to Be Your Everything ~ A story for @RBwood’s #WordCountPodcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #53 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we write a story based on:

Celebrity Death, a Fan’s Perspective

Here is a story about a celebrity from my past. I hope you enjoy. 

*  *  *  *

When I was twelve, I stuck his poster on the ceiling above my bed. There was no place for it anywhere else in my room. Pictures of other teen idols already plastered every inch of the walls.

I sent for his poster via mail, no Internet in those days. I remember slipping twenty dollars into the envelope with the order form. I even wrapped construction paper around the bill so it wouldn’t be visible through the envelope. As a member of this musician’s exclusive fan club, I was one of the few given a chance to buy his limited edition poster. That’s how it was sold to me anyway. When I look back, twenty dollars was a lot to spend on something so trivial, but I had wanted it—badly.

The poster took exactly fourteen days to arrive. I remember this because it was the first of February when I mailed away for it. For two weeks, I must have listened to his album a hundred times while kissing his face on the cover even more times than that.

When I came home that Valentine’s Day from school, my mother both informed and chided me. She had a skill for doing that.

“I put some parcels in your room,” she said, as she paused while stir-frying beef and bok choy in the wok. The entire apartment smelled of garlic. “I hope you’re not wasting money on silly things.”

I made a face. “No, Mom. I’m ordering books and records, that’s all.”

I subscribed to both Columbia House Records and Columbia House Books. Membership consisted of paying a penny for a dozen albums and books, followed by a two-year contract to buy more books and albums at regular prices. I can’t remember how many more I had to buy, but it was worth it in the end. I loved getting mail, and Columbia House ensured I received something regularly.

Mom shook her head and returned to her cooking. “Oh … and there was a cardboard tube that came too. Your brother wanted to play with it, so I gave it to him.”

I don’t remember what else she said after that, if anything. I ran to my brother’s room and found the door closed. Unusual, since he didn’t normally close the door.

“Ha, ho, ha, ho, hiiii yah!” Sounds came from inside his bedroom, my brother’s voice.

I swung open the door to see my ten-year brother, clad in an undershirt and shorts, jumping on his bed with the tube.

He stopped in the middle of a kick and stood firm on the bed. Blood rushed to my face when I met his eyes.

“Give me that!” I lunged for him, but he leapt back like a Ninja.

“No!” he said and jerked the tube behind his back. “Mom said I could have it.”

“Mom!” I screamed as loudly as I could. “Jimmy won’t give me back my tube. It’s mine!”

We breathed hard staring at one another while we waited for her answer.

“Work it out,” she said finally, “or I’ll confiscate it.”

I had to get the cylinder out of my brother’s hands before he destroyed what was inside. Even as I fumed, I knew I had to remain calm. Jimmy jumped off the bed with the three-foot tube in hand.

“Who are you supposed to be anyway?” I asked.

“Fu Sheng,” he said, rubbing his nose as he offered a disdainful snort.

Fu Sheng was my brother’s hero—a martial arts film star.

“I see.” I slanted my head and squinted at him. “I don’t think Fu Sheng ever used a sword.”

“I don’t care,” he said. He eyed me with defiance and a firm grip on the makeshift weapon.

I took a deep breath as I envisioned grabbing the tube from him and whacking him on the head with it. I didn’t do it though, knowing the consequences would not be worth it. Instead, I had to do some heavy bargaining. My brother, to this day, is a steely negotiator, and he doesn’t compromise.

By the time I left his room with the poster, he had the tube, half my weekly allowance, and my word to do his share of the dishes for the remainder of the month.

It didn’t matter though. All was forgotten once I was inside my room. I knelt down and placed the poster on the floor. Two hardcover books secured the top corners as I gingerly unrolled the paper toward me. Made of shiny silver foil, I knew this would be my most prized poster yet. Etched into the surface was a black outline of my teen idol.

In black marker, he wrote “To my biggest fan. With love.” He signed his name in an illegible scrawl. My heart thumped. Though no colour reflected in the mirror-like surface of the poster, I knew I was blushing.

* * *

Ten years later, my teenage crush, Andy Gibb, died at the age of thirty. He was a talented musician and songwriter whose debut album, Flowing Rivers, spawned two number one hits:  “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water.”

Andy was the youngest of the Gibb brothers, better known as the Bee Gees.

I don’t know what became of that poster of Andy Gibb, but for as long as I was in that room until I moved away for University, he had a place on the ceiling above my bed and in my heart.

Do you remember a celebrity death that affected you? Feel free to leave a comment or question.

Thank you so much for reading.

~eden

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GRANDFATHER KNOWS BEST ~ My story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast #Halloween

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #51 (Halloween edition) of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we write a ghost story.

*  *  *  *

Katy called me a week before Halloween and asked if she could come by to treat or treat in our neighborhood. She had not set foot in our home for over a year. She had also not spoken to her father in just as long. Their once happy daddy-daughter relationship ended that previous Halloween night. Her phone call surprised me and gave me hope that reconciliation might be possible. She must have heard the concern in my voice.

“You know your father will be here, Katy. I wish the two of you would—”

“Mom,” she said, “I don’t want to talk about Dad. I know he’ll be there, but I’m coming to see you. Jacob misses you.”

I sighed at the mention of our four-year-old grandson, whom Bill had not seen in over a year because Katy forbade it. She was angry with him, and I guess she had every right to be. I had visited our daughter but chose to keep it a secret from my husband. It would have only rubbed salt in the wound for him to know what he was missing. Unfortunately, a slip in the bathtub threw out my back. I hobbled around the house, unable to do much let alone drive the two hours to visit Katy and Jacob. Maybe that was why she wanted to make the trip.

After I hung up the phone, I wondered if I had made the right decision, but what could I do? My husband was tortured over what had happened, but I had to believe that a visit from his daughter and grandson would somehow heal the hurt. Because Katy initiated it, perhaps she was ready to forgive him.

~~~

When I told Bill about Katy coming over with Jacob, he did not say a word. I thought it meant he might make himself scarce during their visit or he would choose to leave the house altogether. I really did not know how he would react. I suppose I didn’t expect him to stay, but he did. The awkward reunion with him and our daughter was short-lived. Jacob broke the ice by running into Bill’s arms when he kneeled down to greet him.

“Grandpa!” he screamed.

Bill’s eyes welled with tears as he picked up the small boy and hugged him tightly. Jacob squirmed and giggled, brushed his small hands over his grandfather’s mess of silver hair. When Bill loosened his grip, Jacob stared into his eyes, “Grandpa, why are you crying?”

“I’m just so happy to see you.” Bill’s voice cracked. “You are such a big, handsome boy now.”

“And you have a white beard!” Jacob said, running his hands over Bill’s face.

Katy stepped forward and scooped her son out of his grandfather’s arms. “Now, now,” she said, “make sure you say hello to Grandma too.”

As I hugged and kissed Jacob, half my attention fell upon the other two people in the room. Father and daughter exchanged cool words, but the greeting was civil. Katy may not have been ready to forgive yet, but my heart beat quickly at the possibility that things could only get better. At least they were talking.

That afternoon, I made a special meal for Halloween before darkness set in, things I knew a little boy would love—severed finger hotdogs and bloodshot eyeball cookies. Jacob squealed at the sight of the chocolate Halloween brownies shaped like mice. I used strands of licorice for the tails and almond slivers for the ears. Red candy pieces made up the eyes. “I love these, Grandma!” He grabbed two mice, one in each hand.

“Jacob!” Katy said with feigned exasperation. “Take one at a time please. You can’t fit both of them in your mouth, sweetheart.”

Jacob offered a tiny smile. “They’re not both for me, Mama. One is for Tyler. I want him to have a chocolate mouse too.”

I gasped at the mention of Tyler, a name neither Bill nor I had spoken since he died a year ago—in our home. Though the accusation was never made, I knew Katy blamed her father for Tyler’s death. I suppose I did too. Tyler was born less than five minutes after Jacob; they were identical twins. The baby gate Bill had secured at the top of the basement stairs had somehow come undone. Tyler fell down the wooden flight of steps. Bill was the only one with them at the time. When he yelled Jacob’s name, Katy and I had rushed into the room. Jacob would surely have fallen down the stairs too if Bill had not grabbed him.

I saw my daughter’s eyes widen as she pulled her son close to her. “Jacob, what … what are you saying? Tyler is gone.”

“No, he’s not Mama.” Jacob’s high-pitched voice suddenly took on a deeper tone. “He’s here. He’s talking to me.”

I could tell Katy was trying to maintain calm even as she stuttered to find the right words. “Sweetheart …,” she said to her son, “Tyler is not here. It’s not possible—”

“Yes it is! Yes it is!” Jacob stomped his feet and threw his chocolate brownies on the floor. His angelic nature of minutes ago took a quick turn.

I looked to my daughter who stared back at me with her mouth open. She lifted her shoulders and turned up her palms in disbelief. No matter how much Katy tried to cajole her son, he kept talking to his little brother.

“Tyler. I’m sorry,” he said. “Come back, please come back …”

Katy shook her son by the shoulders. “Jacob … it’s okay, everything will be okay.”

But Jacob was not listening to her. “I’m sorry, Tyler,” he said, “I’m sorry I opened the gate and pushed you down the stairs … Come back … please come back.”

As Jacob sobbed, his words sucked the oxygen out of the air. I looked to my husband whose face turned white with an expression I had never seen. Was it dread, or was it relief that a secret he had kept to protect his grandson was now revealed by a ghost?

 

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

If you want to learn of upcoming releases and specials, please sign up for my newsletter.

~eden

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50 and SINGLE ~ My story for @RBwood’s 50th episode of the Word Count Podcast

50 and single

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #50 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

This milestone episode asked that we use the word FIFTY in our story and provide a photo with FIFTY in the image. The above was mine … a tongue-in-cheek snapshot of being 50 and single.

Hope you enjoy the story! 

* * * *

The year I turned fifty saw me single again after I buried my husband. Thomas had been sick for some time. Still, when he died … I almost expected the heavens to open up or trumpets to play, but nothing happened. There was no fanfare. It was like any other day, only the world was now less one wealthy, abusive man.

I sat with a tissue in hand at my doctor’s office, my first visit since Thomas’s funeral.

“It’s natural to want to withdraw, Kadin,” Dr. Bill Wood said to me. “You were married for over ten years. That’s a long time to be with someone.”

I dabbed my cheeks while sniffling, took a breath. “Thomas was not in good health … still … sixty-five is too young to die.” Dr. Wood looked at me with sad eyes and a thin-lipped smile. He pitied me, but that was okay. I wanted him to pity me.

“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “You may feel lost for the next little while, but please don’t let this set you back. You’ve come so far, Kadin.”

I nodded slowly, curled in my lips to stifle a whimper. The truth was I wasn’t lost, but my shrink didn’t need to know that. If anything, I was relieved. Dr. Wood was partially right though. Losing Thomas was like losing a limb, only not my limb. Thomas’s death had freed me from his hands around my neck—a fear that used to wake me up at nights gasping from a tightening in my throat. Now, I was able to breathe again.

At the insistence of my good friend, Cameron, I had started seeing Dr. Wood a year ago for my anxiety. It was the best thing I ever did. It gave me somewhere to go every Tuesday and Thursday morning. After only our second meeting, Dr. Wood wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants, which I promptly filled. Eventually, our twice-weekly routine helped put my life in perspective. It gave me a purpose.

Within six months of seeing the good doctor, I had a drawer full of pill bottles. He had changed the prescription several times at my urging, each time increasing the strength of the dose. He even combined a couple of different meds—Celexa, Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin. I had them all, but I needed something else. I complained of side effects like nausea and loss of concentration. He tried hard to get me the right combination of meds, but remained perplexed that I wasn’t getting better. What clinched it was when I told him my husband did not like my decreasing sex drive from the drugs. That’s when he prescribed Sinequan.

“I’m very surprised you’re doing so well on this new medication, Kadin. I hardly ever prescribe Sinequan anymore,” he had said.

“Oh, why is that?” I had infused an innocent lilt into my voice, something I did often when I spoke to him.

“It’s one of the oldest anti-depressants,” he said in his usual professorial tone. “It has more side effects than the newer ones, but you seem to be faring well with it. No heart palpitations or dizziness?”

“None, whatsoever, doctor. I feel better than I have in a long time.”

That was three months ago when Thomas was still alive.

How time flies.

You see, I know a few things about drugs, but I never spoke about it to Dr. Wood. Sinequan, which he prescribed, is not recommended for someone with a heart problem. I didn’t have a heart problem, but I also never took it. Actually, I never took any of the drugs he prescribed, but I filled them because I wanted him to keep renewing my prescription.

In meeting Dr. Wood, I found the perfect solution to relieve the source of my anxiety.

Poor Thomas, born with a heart murmur, which in itself wasn’t dangerous, but he did have an underlying heart problem, which he neglected. Stress from his business, a bad diet, and lack of exercise made him a walking heart attack. Only … knowing how stubborn a man he was, he could’ve easily been walking another ten, maybe twenty years. I couldn’t wait for that, but I could wait for a year under the guise of needing therapy. I could wait for Thomas to ingest the pills I crushed and fed into his meals, and I definitely could wait when I saw the effects of the drugs working on him.

I was turning fifty. It was time for me to start the second half of my life, and I really didn’t want Thomas as my husband anymore.

Luckily for me, the drugs helped.

😉 If you have read my book, Stranger at Sunset with Dr. Kate Hampton, then the above story may have a twisted and familiar feel to it.😉

As I work on A Fragile Truce, the next book with the good doctor, I’d recommend you take a moment and add your name to my mailing listI’ll be offering specials and freebies targeted to those on the list.

As always, my sincere thanks for reading, and comments and feedback are always welcome.

eden

xox

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Help author @RBwood celebrate his 50th Word Count Podcast – JOIN IN!

50 wcpc

So … I’ve had the very good fortune of writing and reading for R.B. (Richard) Wood’s podcast for numerous episodes. It’s been a terrific way to hone my writing skills, and I’ve met wonderful authors in the process.

Now, the Word Count Podcast is celebrating its 50th episode! Here are its stats so far!

242 original stories

73 distinct authors

90,000 downloads

You can be part of this historical 50th episode by writing for it. There is still time, as I’m plotting my story as I type this. The deadline for the submission is Sept 4th, and it will be available to download on Sept 12, 2015—five years to the date that Richard released Episode ONE!

The theme is simple:  “50.” 

Just do it! What do you have to lose? It’s a GREAT way to get exposure for your writing.

Learn more here and be sure to connect to Richard too. He is SO COOL, and he will make your story shine!

Website | Twitter @rbwood | Facebook *

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Author @RBWood has a new story in TALES OF MAGIC AND MISERY

Dark urban fantasy author and good friend, R.B. Wood, (Richard, whom I adore) has a new short story in a book recently published.

He is also the creator and host of The WORD COUNT PODCAST, a show I participate in regularly.

Tales of Magic and Misery is affiliated with Ragnarok Publications, who will publish Richard’s Arcana Chronicles series. Its co-owner and editor-in-chief Tim Marquitz authored this book with numerous other writers, RB included. If you want to learn more, visit Richard’s blog post here.

R.B is also the author of The Prodigal’s Foole, available from Amazon. Many of his fans have been waiting for the sequel, so I know he’s just teasing us with his latest story, but hey … he’s worth waiting for.😉

In the meantime, pick up your copy of Tales of Magic and Misery and enjoy!

tales of magic and misery

Buy from Amazon

Tales of Magic and Misery features 19 short stories spanning Tim’s career and includes stories in the Demon Squad world plus early works of horror and dark fantasy. Also included are several rare stories as well as one unreleased and a two-chapter sneak preview of the forthcoming Tales of the Prodigy novel and the first chapter of Clandestine Daze, Eyes Deep.

As a bonus, Tales of Magic and Misery will include stories from a number of other authors, giving readers a peek into new worlds. Alongside a never before released story by C.L. Werner ToMM includes: Armand Rosamilia, Nathaniel Connors, Adrian Collins, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, R.B. Wood, N.X. Sharps, Daniel Weaver, Amanda Shore, Glenn Hefley, Chris Garrett, GR Matthews, and J. Cameron McClain.

Connect with R.B. Wood

RB wood white hat

Website | Twitter @rbwood | Facebook

Amazon Author page

R. B. Wood is a technology consultant and a writer of Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction and quite frankly anything else that strikes his fancy. His first novel, The Prodigal’s Foole, was released to critical acclaim in 2012. Mr. Wood is currently working on the second book of his Arcana Chronicles series, multiple short stories, a graphic novel and a science fiction trilogy that he dusts off every few years. Along with his writing passion, R. B. is host of The Word Count Podcast – a show that features talent from all around the globe reading original flash-fiction stories.

R. B. currently lives in Boston with his partner, Tina, two cats and various other critters that visit from time to time.

RB was originally interviewed on my blog Oct 30, 2011.

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DOWN ON LUCK ~ My story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #48 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we use THREE words in our stories: 

Train | Blink | Dark

*  *  *  *

I walked into the subway station en route to an Economics class. It was the final year of my undergraduate program, and I was barely scraping by in the course. With ticket in hand, I approached the subway booth. It was empty. I looked around, no one directly behind me. Without a further moment’s hesitation, I made a motion of dropping the ticket into the holder but held on to it, pushed through the turnstile, and quickened my pace. I half-expected someone to yell after me but heard only the pounding of my runners down the steps. It was such a silly thing. I got away without paying a measly fare. Things like that never happened to me, but for some reason, my mother’s voice echoed inside my head.

“Today’s your lucky day,” I heard her say.

I knew luck had nothing to do with it. The clerk had probably gone for a coffee or stepped out for a pee break. Despite it, my mother’s words bounced around in my head. Like most Chinese women of her generation, superstition often disguised itself as wise sayings, which then translated to proverbial truths. If my mother had her way, she’d be forcing me to buy a lottery ticket—as if getting away without paying should be rewarded with more money. The logic never made much sense to me.

While waiting for the train, a large, disheveled woman walked by me reeking of urine. She appeared disoriented and unsteady on her feet. I held a finger under my nose and stepped away from her. As she staggered away, I inched to the edge of the platform and peered into the dark tunnel. It was two in the afternoon, and I knew the subway was not running per its rush hour schedule. A tiny light inside hinted at a train about two stops away, but it wasn’t moving. I glanced at my watch and cursed under my breath. If I didn’t board that train soon, I’d be late for class—again.

As I was about to step back, a disturbance arose several feet beside me. I turned and saw a man in his twenties leap onto the track. Bystanders on the platform screamed in horror. I was shocked to think that someone so young might want to die this way, and then I quickly realized my mistake. The man had jumped in to help the smelly woman who had just passed me. She had fallen and appeared unconscious, sprawled face down on the tracks. Indeed, she was dead weight as the man tried to raise her. The commotion attracted more people. A group of teenage girls ran by me, filming the incident on their cell phones. Several people on the platform knelt to help the rescuer below. Others yelled suggestions to him for how to lift the woman, but no one else was jumping in. After several unsuccessful tries, the young man hoisted the woman to her feet until several passengers grabbed her. One man almost fell in trying to help. While the commuters struggled to pull her up, I heard the distant rumble of a train.

With the woman now out of harm’s way, the man in the tracks spun around toward the sound and the light in the tunnel.

The cell phone teenagers screamed the obvious, “The train’s coming!”

Squealing wheels pierced through the mayhem. I met the eyes of the Good Samaritan, dared not blink. In the next second, he flung himself toward the platform like an epileptic high jumper. Despite his ungraceful move, a burly man snatched him by the collar and one of his sleeves. Another grabbed his dangling legs and pulled him in. All three fell backward onto the platform as the train screeched to a halt just a few feet from where the man was seconds ago.

I stayed behind after the incident and stood near the young hero. He looked a bit shaken and scruffy, but overall, seemed fine. He smiled at commuters who patted him on the back or wanted to shake his hand. Two attendants from Emergency Medical Services came with a stretcher and carried the injured woman away. Someone in the crowd said they had seen her before, a homeless person who sometimes came into the subway begging for money. I imagined she had gotten in for free just like me, and she almost died because of it.

Later that evening, I spoke to my mother about the subway incident. We rarely got into intellectual debates, but somehow the experience touched me in a way I could not explain. How did a tiny piece of good luck for me end up being so bad?

“Not bad luck,” my mother said in her heavy Chinese accent. “It is all good luck.”

“How can you say that?” I asked. “It was horrible even though nobody died.”

“This is what I mean,” she said. “Both people are still alive. Both could have been electrocuted or run over by the train, but they were not. You brought them good luck by being there.”

I sighed heavily and let silence seal the conversation.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

My latest novella, A Snake in Paradise is available on Amazon.com only. If you are not in the USA, leave a comment below if you wish to read and review the book.

To make sure you don’t miss any new releases and specials, please sign up for my infrequent non-spammy newsletter.

Thank you so much for reading.

~eden

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Morning Ritual ~ My story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #47 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we use THREE words in our stories: 

Theater | Tourist | Savory

*  *  *  *

As a tourist, I love people watching because people represent the pulse of a city for me. Nowhere is this more evident than in a busy New York City coffee house. It’s like watching a play on stage while packed into a tiny theatre. The intimacy helps create stories in my head.

That’s how I feel about my discovery of a Parisian café in the middle of Manhattan, the only restaurant in the city that thrives on its stubborn cash-only policy. Everything from the red brick interior to the wooden counters and furniture harks back to another era. What the small room lacks in modern touches, it makes up for in old world charm.

I’m here to research a one-act play I’m producing as part of my thesis in Theatre History. Everyday, the setting is provided, but the cast is different, the script is different. My role as an unobtrusive onlooker is to capture the nuances.

For the morning hours when I come to write, few things remain the same from one day to the next. The staff must work shifts, as I never see the same servers more than twice. The customers range from harried businessmen to sweaty joggers to women with newborns strapped to their chests. Students en route to early morning classes order coffee and pastry to go. Others sit leisurely with a laptop at one of the small French-style tables. The carousel of patrons and the continuous ring of an old fashioned cash register keep the noise at a high but bearable level.

For almost a week, I record the subtle changes in this micro-environment. Everything changes, that is, except for him—the man at the corner table with a thinning head of silver hair. I observe him as I line up to put in my order. He is always there by the time I arrive at seven, as much a fixture of the café as the rickety wooden chairs and the Parisian pencil sketches on the walls. He sits alone staring out the window, yet he must be waiting for someone. Why else would he have two cups of coffee and two plates in front of him? On each plate rests a croissant. I have watched him tear into one and finish it, but the second cup of coffee and the other croissant always remain untouched during the time that I’m there.

I begin making up stories about him. He probably orders two pastries because he likes them. Maybe he takes one home if he can’t finish it. But why two cups of coffee? I never see anyone join him. And who would want to drink a cold cup of coffee anyway?

With six people in line ahead of me, the place feels busier today than usual. The tension rises behind the counter as one of the baristas yells in French that he needs more whipping cream. I look over my shoulder and count five people behind me. Several more come through the door. It’s not even seven thirty yet. The line moves quickly though, for which I’m thankful.

Today is my last chance to record my final impressions. I leave the city tonight. The first few days I soaked in my surroundings but didn’t pay too much attention to details. It’s always that way when I arrive somewhere new. Funny how time flies.

When I get to the front of the line, I order coffee with a brioche, a cake-like bread that is both savory and sweet. After paying for my order, I thread myself through the crowded room in search of a seat but find none. I stand in place and do a slow 360 to see if anyone is ready to leave; there is no sign of it. After someone jostles my coffee, I know I must step away from the aisle. There is only one empty chair in the café. I walk over to the corner table. The old man is staring out the window with his coffee cup in hand, a half eaten croissant in front of him, and the other cup of coffee cooling beside an untouched crescent-shaped pastry.

I bend forward at the waist, throwing my voice in the direction of the old man. I need to get his attention above the clang of the restaurant noise.

“Excuse me, sir.” I put on my friendliest smile when he turns to me. “May I sit here? This is the only seat available.”

He sets down his cup on the saucer, looks around the crowded room as if searching for someone or confirming that it is indeed full. In that stuttered moment, I expect him to say, “Sorry, the seat is taken.” I’m ready to blurt out that I’ve been observing him all week, that I know that no one is joining him. How dare he hog up two seats! I’m prepared for a confrontation if need be. Before my ire increases, the man moves the plates on the table and gestures to the empty chair.

“Please,” he says, “sit down.”

I breathe a big sigh and set down my coffee on the table, pull off my shoulder bag and drop it to the floor. There is no room for anything else on the table, so I slide into the chair with my brioche on my lap. “So busy here today,” I say, flushed with relief.

“Saturdays are always like this.” The man’s voice is calm despite the chaos and noise around him.

“Thanks for sharing your table. Hopefully someone leaves soon.”

“Not a problem,” he says.

I feel a bit awkward sitting with a stranger in silence. It compels me to make small talk. “I love New York. I wish I didn’t have to leave.”

“Oh?” He cocks his head. “Where are you from?”

I take a sip of my coffee. “Canada. Montreal to be exact.”

“I’ve been there, a very special city for me.” He picks up his croissant and takes a bite.

I nod, expect him to elaborate when he finishes chewing, but he doesn’t. If I have to guess, I would say he is a man in his eighties. A white shirt and tie peek out from under a light brown jacket. The morning sun casts a warm glow on his lined face, but he doesn’t appear bothered by the heat. Though his body language does not convey that he is unapproachable, there is nothing about it that says he welcomes conversation either. He’s old enough to be my grandfather, and I suddenly feel like I’m intruding on a morning ritual. I remain silent and finish my coffee. There is still a crowd inside the café, but two tables over, I see a student packing up his books in his knapsack. I make eye contact with him that I want his seat, and he acknowledges.

Before I get up, I ask the man in front of me, “May I buy you another cup of coffee? I’m sure your second one here is cold by now.”

He is silent for a moment, as if recalling a memory, and then his eyes glisten. “That’s very kind of you,” he says, “but I only drink one cup a day. That one is for my wife, and she doesn’t mind it cold.”

I force a smile. “Of course,” I manage to say, quick enough to cover up that I suspect there is no wife, not one I have seen, anyway. “Thank you for sharing your table with me.”

He nods as I get up to leave and slowly turns back to stare out the window.

* * *

A month after returning home from my trip, I’m reading an online version of the New York Times when a familiar face catches my attention. The headline reads: Property Mogul and Holocaust Survivor Dies at 92. My eyes widen at the picture of the old man from the coffee shop, and then tears blur my vision as I read the story.

Respected property owner, Jacob Klein, passed away peacefully in his home this past weekend. Many knew him as the proprietor of the hugely successful Café de Paris in Midtown Manhattan, opened in 1955.

Mr. Klein was liberated from Dachau, the concentration camp near Munich. He moved to the U.S. after first settling in Paris where he trained as a pastry chef. Upon arriving in New York, he met his wife, Michelle Dumas, a French Canadian from Montreal. They had five children.

Described by employees and friends as a quiet man of extreme humility, Mr. Klein was seen with his wife for years at Café de Paris sharing breakfast until she passed away in 2010.

His three sons and two daughters have taken over their father’s businesses. Says his oldest son, David: “Even after Mom died, Dad continued to have breakfast with her at the coffee shop. At first, we thought he had lost his mind, but he said it was the only thing that made it worth his while to get up in the morning, something he did every day until he died.”

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

My latest novella, A Snake in Paradise is available on Amazon.com only. If you are not in the USA, leave a comment below if you wish to read and review the book.

To make sure you don’t miss any new releases and specials, please sign up for my infrequent non-spammy newsletter.

Thank you so much for reading.

~eden

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THE WRONG SHOES ~ A story written with Bill Kirton (@carver22) for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

I’ve always written a story on my own for RB Wood’s podcast, but this time, I collaborated with Scottish writer, Bill Kirton, also a Word Count podcast regular. Last year, Bill suggested we join forces for a story, and since I adore him and his writing, it wasn’t a question of whether we would do it or not, just a matter of when. 

We decided to team up for the first Word Count episode of 2015 and dedicate it to RB, who celebrated his milestone 50th birthday at the end of December. Happy Birthday, Richard, many many more! 

The story was written in four parts, with Bill and me each writing two sections. Bill penned a wonderful post about the process on his blog, so hop over and read it. It’s a great summary of what we did in case you want to collaborate on a project with another writer.

You can hear Bill and me read “The Wrong Shoes” on: Episode #45 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt for this podcast was to use these three words in the story: Frozen. Whisky. Time.

me and bill for wcpc

flourish

The playground of the elementary school, which Jackie crossed on her way to the bus stop, or to anywhere for that matter, had turned into an ice rink. Normally a carpet of grass, it quickly froze after the temperature dropped to minus twenty following a night of freezing rain. The grounds had become a dangerous place for unsuspecting pedestrians.

It was the weekend, and she was at her local until closing time. She’d had one too many, as was her habit most Saturday nights. Leaving the bar, she had to walk across the schoolyard to get to her apartment building. She’d done the trip a thousand times, even when drunk, and made it home without any problems, but that night … she fell. The advantage of having had too much to drink was she fell limp and boneless, like a rag doll. There was no resistance, which meant no broken bones anyway. She was lucky in that sense. Instead, she had stumbled and dropped face down on the frozen ground.

When she came to, she heard voices and an instinct warned her to keep quiet. She smelled cigarette smoke and soon murmurs formed hushed words. The voices were male, with at least three of them from what she could tell as the conversation ping-ponged above her.

“Darren, how about we take her to your place? No one will see us there.”

“Are you crazy? I may live in the basement, but my mom would kill me! She hears everything.”

“Steve, you still have access to that empty warehouse on Merton Street?”

Jackie’s entire body heated up beneath her goose-down coat. Even her face, painfully pressed against the ice, turned fire-poker hot.

She was in big trouble.

***

They say fear or trauma sobers you up quite quickly. They’re wrong. Her mind was still cloudy, slow. Even as she’d downed that last whisky, a double, she knew she was already way over any sensible limits. It wasn’t just her words she was slurring, it was her thoughts, too. So she lay there, trying to clear her head, trying to understand the plans being made by the voices.

“How the hell are we going to get her to Merton Street?”

“Carry her. Drag her. She’s pissed.”

“So what?”

“Well, Saturday night, innit? Everybody’s pissed, staggering about. We’ll just look like all the rest.”

The one called Steve wasn’t convinced.

“It’s too far. She might come round. Start screaming. How about the school? Maybe we could find a door open round the back, a window.”

Silence. Then “Yeah, Okay,” and other muffled sounds of agreement.

As two of them grabbed her arms and hoisted her to her feet, she knew she had to do something. In the school, even if they were stupid enough to let her scream, no-one would hear. Somehow, she had to stay where there might be others around, people who might hear her, save her. She shook her head and forced out a laugh.

“Aw thanks, guys,” she said. “I was bloody freezing down there.”

It silenced them, gave her a tiny advantage. She stammered on, her mind racing.

“I need to be in my bed. Cuddled up. Warm. Don’t suppose you could help me home, could you? It’s not far.”

She saw them looking at one another, uncertain. But smiles were creeping into two of the three faces. She nodded her head vaguely in the direction of her apartment building.

“Other side of the school,” she said. “Just there. Ground floor.”

The one on her right said “Anybody there to look after you?”

The cold was helping to clear her head.

“No,” she said. “Just me.”

“Bingo,” he said, and they set off through the darkness of the slippery playground.

***

Steve hated this. He didn’t want to be here. He had only suggested using the school with the hope they wouldn’t be able to get in, that the cold would eventually deter them, and they’d leave the girl alone. He wanted no part in what his friends had in mind. It turned his stomach to even hear them chat her up, trying to make her feel at ease, no doubt.

“Good thing we came along,” Darren said, his arm around her waist. His six-foot-two frame towered over her. “We’ll take care of you, honey, don’t you worry.”

“Oh yeah,” snorted Kenny, supporting her on the other side. “We’re your knights in shining armour!” He turned to look behind him. “Hey, Steve, keep up, will ya? We’re all gonna get nice and warm real soon.”

Steve bowed his head so he didn’t have to meet Kenny’s eyes. “Yeah … I’m coming …”

It was then he noticed the girl’s shoes. Even while propped up by Darren and Kenny, she teetered along like a child wearing ice skates for the first time. No wonder she fell. She wore the wrong type of shoes for this weather—the heel much too high, the material too thin. There was no support at all. His younger sister had the exact same pair. She had also fallen, fractured her wrist. For the past week, she’d cried with the pain, night after night. Kept Steve awake, hearing those sobs from her room. Made her sound so … lonely. And now here was another lonely, silly woman, out getting pissed all on her own, nobody waiting for her at home. He speeded up, overtook the others and turned to face them.

“Listen guys, we can’t.”

“What?” said Kenny.

“Her,” said Steve. “We can’t.”

“Why not? Look at the state of her.”

“That’s what I mean,” said Steve. “She’s pissed. It’d be like shagging a side of beef.”

“Cheeky bugger,” Jackie said. “You gay or something?”

Her voice was loud, penetrating, and coarse. Kenny hoisted her higher against him. The sudden pressure must have brought on a wave of nausea because she gagged and threw up on the path. Darren and Kenny let go of her and stepped away. She staggered but managed to stay upright.

“See?” said Steve. “D’you want to go home stinking of that? What d’you think your mom would say then, Darren?”

“Hey, gay boy, listen up,” said Jackie, sounding as if there might be more where that just came from. “Nothing wrong with me. I bet you’re talking about that HIV test. Am I right?”

Steve just looked at her.

“Am I right?” she said again, louder, almost aggressive. But, as she spoke, he saw something else in her eyes. Not aggression: a stare, fear, a plea for help.

“You are, aren’t you,” she said. “Bloody Angela’s been tweeting it. Well, she’s lying. It was negative. Right? The test. Negative.”

“What’s she on about?” said Darren, staying well clear of her.

She turned to him.

“Chlamydia, that’s all it was. Bloody Chlamydia.”

“See what I mean, guys,” said Steve. “We can’t.”

Darren and Kenny looked at each other, then back at Jackie. Darren spat on the ground.

“Slag,” he said, and started walking back the way they’d come. Kenny reached out a hand, grabbed her breast, squeezed hard then turned away to follow his friend.

Jackie watched Kenny and Darren disappear into the darkness. She pulled her jacket more tightly around her chest, wincing as her fingers touched against her breast. She turned back and looked at Steve. The fear was still there and tears were beginning to form.

“Thanks,” she said, her fingers gently probing her bruised flesh. “I … I don’t know what to say.”

Steve shook his head and said, “Buy some decent shoes.”

flourish

Thank you for reading and/or listening. Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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BOOKMARK ~ A story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #44 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt for this podcast was to use these three words in the story: Woman. Book. Fall. 

*  *  *  *

The woman marched slowly on a busy city street. From behind her, you might think she was trying to avoid the sidewalk cracks, but that wasn’t the case. She wasn’t looking at the sidewalk. She acknowledged no one, kept her head down, her strides steady and deliberate.

“Excuse me!” a passerby said. He brushed by her in a huff, swinging his briefcase and almost hitting a child on his way to school.

Though aware of the rush hour traffic noise and joggers zooming by in the opposite direction, everything was peripheral to the mystery novel cradled in her hands. It was the latest book from international bestselling Scottish author, Bill Kirton. His new releases were almost impossible to get in North America until they had been out for almost six months in the UK. She couldn’t wait that long. A friend in England had been able to pre-order it directly from the publisher and mail it to her. It cost her nearly thirty dollars for the postage, but it was totally worth it.

She didn’t read e-books, otherwise it would’ve been a less expensive hobby. She was old school that way, didn’t even own a cell phone. Reading as she walked the ten blocks to and from work every day gave her some exercise, though her leisurely pace was hardly much of a work-out. That wasn’t so important, anyway. The main reason was it gave her time to read. At work, she would be sitting all day on the phone selling life insurance. With all her calls monitored, she didn’t even dare sneak in a few pages. And by the time she got home, the kids and her husband would demand her undivided attention.

No … as long as the weather permitted, this was the only time she had for herself to read.

At the intersection with a throng of pedestrians, she bookmarked her page and waited for the traffic light to change. After the opposing signal flashed amber, a countdown started from ten. A teenager beside her ran across the street when he saw an opening. She gasped and shook her head at his impatience. Why would anyone put their life in danger to cross the street five seconds before everyone else? What difference could it possibly make, she wondered. Even when the light turned green, she made sure the cars were fully stopped before stepping off the curb. Unlike the cell phone users who talked or texted while crossing the road, her attention was always on the cars.

After stepping up on the other side of the street, she eyed a clear path in front of her and cracked open the book again. From here until her office, there would be less people shuffling beside her. It was mainly a boulevard of residential town homes and high rises. She quickly scanned the page and re-positioned her eyes to where she left off, certain the climax of the story was only a chapter or two away. Who was the killer? She had three suspects in mind but could not be sure. In another eight to ten pages though, she would need to stop, but she wanted the mystery to last. If she timed it just right, she’d be able to finish the remainder of the book tonight. That gave her something to look forward to for her walk home.

Something hard bounced off her backpack and crashed to the ground. The impact of the object hitting her sent her stumbling forward. Her book flew out of her hands and skidded under a parked car. She fell to one knee and steadied herself, then whipped around to see what had struck her. A shattered device on the sidewalk next to broken glass seemed the likely culprit. It looked like a tablet of some kind, a Kindle perhaps, maybe an iPad.

Several people were stopped on the street. She caught the stunned look of a young man with his eyes skyward, and then he yelled at her with a horrified expression.

“Lady, watch out!”

 * * * *

6:00 PM News Update

In what appeared as a freak accident, two women lost their lives this morning on Condo Row. A resident fell from her balcony and struck a pedestrian below. Both were killed instantly.

Condo owner and husband of the deceased said his wife was reading outside their unit when she dropped her e-reader over the balcony. She reached out to grab it and lost her balance, falling from their penthouse on the twenty-eighth floor.

Coincidentally, the bystander was distracted reading the same book and did not hear warnings to get out of the way.

In a strange turn of events since this news story broke, Bill Kirton’s novel, Sudden Impact, the book both women were reading prior to their deaths, set a record by topping all bestseller lists in the UK. According to the publisher, it is now being fast-tracked for release in North America.

Thank you for reading and/or listening. Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

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Clowning Around ~ A story for @RBwood’s HALLOWEEN Word Count Podcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #43 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt for this podcast was to use these three words in the story: Cloak. Knife. Blood.

*  *  *  *

I hate Halloween—with a passion. And every year it rolls around, even in this godforsaken hellhole, I am reminded of why I hate it.

“Ooooh…you’re the clown, you’re the crazy clown!”

I curl up tighter in my corner.

“Clowns! Clowns! The clowns are going to get you!”

And the taunts continue until someone yells for them to shut up. When my back hurts and my bum is sore from sitting on the cold, hard floor, I drag myself to bed and plug my ears with the corners of my thin blanket. There’s no use fighting it. The dream will come, as it has every year for the past ten years.

***

The teacher asked us to dress up for Halloween. There’d be a competition to see who had the best costume. Everyone in the class would get a vote to choose the winner—twenty-three votes, not counting my own. Miss Drage, our homely grade five teacher would also get a vote. I fretted. I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice. I was already an outsider, and if I didn’t participate, it would only draw more attention to me. That was the only reason for doing it, as the prize of a basket of candies certainly didn’t entice me. I hated candy, which was another reason the kids in the class considered me strange.

I stressed the entire week leading up to the competition. I threw temper tantrums and snapped at my mom every time she asked me what was wrong. Finally, two days before I had to have a costume, she’d had enough.

“Young lady,” she said, “I’m tired of your sulky behavior. Tell me what’s wrong or I’m not buying you another book this month.”

“No!” I screamed. Books were my only refuge, and her threat was akin to death for me. It didn’t take much coaxing from her before I spilled the story of needing a costume.

“Damn it,” she said, “as if we don’t have better things to spend our money on.”

“I know, Mom.” I wiped tears from my face. “I know we can’t afford to buy a costume. I don’t know what to do.”

Somehow, Mom must have known this meant something to me, because aside from one Scholastic book a month, I never asked for much. Even as a kid, I understood her job as a factory piece-maker afforded us few luxuries.

That night, I went to bed with my tattered copy of Stephen King’s Carrie and reread parts of the book under the covers with a flashlight. “It’s okay to be different,” I whispered as I fell asleep. “It’s okay if I don’t have a costume.” I tried hard to convince myself that I didn’t care about some stupid competition.

***

“I’m making you a clown suit,” Mom said when I came home from school the next day. She held up flannel material that alternated red, green, blue, and yellow stripes, cut in the shape of a small body. “Come here and let me see if this fits before I sew the pieces together.”

“Oh Mom!” I rushed over and gave her a hug.

Mom wrapped the fabric around me, pinning key areas. “I’ll leave the legs a bit baggy,” she said, marking off the length of the sleeves with chalk. “How does that feel?”

“I love it!” I squealed.

Mom sewed late into the night, so I could bring the costume to school the next day. The intermittent chug-chug-chug of her Singer sewing machine, like an old steam engine, lulled me to sleep. I had a good feeling I was going to win the competition.

And I should have won.

My costume was the best, the most authentic, the one that looked like it cost at least fifteen dollars off the rack of a department store.

When all the kids stood in a circle awaiting Miss Drage’s count of the votes, my confidence quickly diminished. I received one vote, and that was the one I had put in for myself.

Lizzy Kemp won with fifteen votes—the popular girl, the one everyone liked because they were too afraid not to like her. She had a nothing costume cut from a black garbage bag, draped around her neck and secured with a clothespin. Some red food coloring streaked down the corners of her mouth. Countess Dracula, she called herself, flapping her plastic cloak when she won. She pranced around the circle with her winning basket of candies.

“I always knew you were a clown!” she said when she passed me, sticking out her tongue in my face. “Now we all know it’s true!” Some of the kids laughed. Miss Drage uttered a feeble “Now, now kids … be nice.”

Next to me stood Tim Sheppard. He tried to dress up as a pirate, but his costume consisted of a badly constructed eye-patch and rolled up pants. He didn’t have a sword, so he carried a knife—a steak knife. Lizzy made fun of him too, so I thought I’d do us both a favor. I grabbed his knife and stabbed Lizzy in the neck.

Her blood gushed dark and thick. That’s what I remember the most, how dark the blood was, so much darker than the fake blood on her face.

Thank you for reading ♥ and Happy Halloween! 

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

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Author @RBwood and I chat on his Word Count Podcast

Website | Twitter @rbwood | Facebook 

* * * *

Good friend and fellow author, R.B. (Richard) Wood interviewed me for the 42nd episode of his Word Count Podcast, a show he regularly puts together for writers to expose their stories. I’ve written and read for many Word Count shows, and I’m a huge fan of the podcast.

That’s why it was an honour to be invited for a one-on-one chat. I was nervous, but Richard made it easy, and he made me laugh—a lot.

We had a great time talking about books, writing, and I also read an excerpt from Stranger at Sunset.

Tune in to the Word Count Podcast and have a listen … and a laugh. You’ll have a lot of fun.😉

eden

**

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The Final Countdown ~ My story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #40 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we use THREE words in our stories: 

Glass | Bed | Bow

Special acknowledgement to David Bowie for inspiring my tale.

*  *  *  *

My eyes click open mechanically like a ventroliquist’s dummy, like a cheap plastic doll you win at an amusement park. They stay open, staring at the ceiling. That god awful beige, the same color as the walls, the color of sick, which I am.

Wait. I’m not sick. I’m dying. Let’s not mince words here. I prefer not to delude myself.

I’m in bed. It’s probably nine, ten in the morning. I can tell James has been in the room. The curtain has moved. A fringe is in a different place from yesterday before I fell asleep—my marker. I know every tiny movement of everything in this room. That’s all I can do—look around and take note of minute changes.

Time drags, but that’s okay. It should slow down at this stage. We rush our whole lives to get here, and when the end comes, we’re not ready.

Not me. I’m ready.

It takes all my strength to lift my body enough to elevate my head. The room spins, so I shut my eyes. Behind the lids, silver lightning bolts pinwheel and shoot out in different directions like fireworks.

Zing! Boom! Bang!

I scrunch my face and squeeze my eyes tighter. I wait for the noise to quiet down, for the lights to stop flashing, and for the time bomb in my head to stop ticking. It only ticks to tease me because it has yet to explode. I’ve waited for it to explode, even sat in front of the mirror, (when I was still able to sit up), staring at my reflection, eyes bulged, pressure building in my head, counting down my time like … like …

10-9-8 … Ground control to Major Tom … 7-6-5-4 … Commencing countdown engines on … 3-2-1… Check ignition and may God’s love be with you … Lift off …

No. No lift off for me.

The pressure builds and builds and then it’s like someone pricks a pinhole in my balloon of a head and the pressure eases.

I think it would be great to see my head explode. If the last part to burst could be my eyes so I can see that final image of myself intact, that would be great—one hell of a way to blast off.

That’s what I thought last month anyway. Now … I’m not so sure. I can’t even get out of bed anymore. Oh god, a different sensation, rising from my stomach.

I roll to my side and say hello to my bed companion.

“Hello, spit bowl. Don’t you look shiny today? Are you ready for me?”

I pull the glass dish toward me and drop my head over it.

“I have something for you. It’s coming, I feel it coming up.”

A few seconds later, I hork up a phlegmy gob and immediately feel some kind of relief.

A teaspoon size dollop jiggles like lime-green silly putty in the bowl.

Lime green, better than beige anyway. Must be an infection.

My time is near.

To know this, to have the luxury of feeling death take hold of me is a gift really. I’ve had time to reflect, to have the choice to die at home.

I’m a lucky man.

Uh oh. Queasiness.

The bile rises quickly. I can’t catch my breath. I grab the bowl again (thank god it’s a deep dish) and gasp air in short, quick breaths. The first expulsion jettisons liquid into the bowl and up its sides. There’s a bit of splash-back on my face, but not much.

No lumpy pieces this time. No surprise. I haven’t eaten anything solid in days.

A second hurl (there’s always a second) ratchets up my abdomen. Another splash into the bowl, though not has plentiful as the first one. My heart beats like a jackhammer. My empty gut gurgles.

The stench of stomach acid curls my nose. I push away the bowl and flop on my back. I suppose I’m one of those crazy people who enjoys vomiting. It feels so good when you stop, and you can’t know that good feeling without the agony before it.

Yeah, the logic is a bit twisted, but blame that on the brain tumor.

A packet of cough drops lay by my pillow. I pop a cherry-flavored lozenge and suck it against the roof of my mouth. Useless things. It gets rid of the awful taste in my mouth anyway.

A knock on the door. James, my trusted servant of more than a decade walks in to greet me. He bends at the waist in his usual gesture of reverence.

“James, I can’t believe you still bow down to me after all these years.”

He sits on the edge of my bed and adjusts my pillow. “Until the day you die, Mr. Chancellor.” With a wet cloth, he wipes around my face and mouth.

“That could be today, you know,” I say.

“Yes sir. That could very well be.”

“By the way James, you know I’m leaving you everything I own.”

He applies a warm compress to my forehead. “Yes sir, and I’m forever grateful. I will miss you, Mr. Chancellor.”

I close my eyes. It’s time. “I’m going to sleep again, James.”

“Sweet dreams, Mr. Chancellor.”

I hear him walk around the bed and pick up the bowl on his way out. In my head, the countdown begins again, for what I hope is the last time.

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

You can find more stories in my book of flash fiction and poetry, Hot Flash. 

My mystery novel is due out Summer 2014, and I will announce all details leading up to it here.

To make sure you don’t miss the details, please subscribe to my blog (by email or via RSS feed).

Thank you.😉

~eden

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The Locket ~ A story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #39 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt for this podcast is “I was walking on the white sands at Magens Bay in St Thomas when…”

*  *  *  *

I was walking on the white sands at Magens Bay in St Thomas when an object about fifty feet away caught my eye. Reflecting the setting sun’s rays, the shiny surface of the mystery item lured me toward it. Looking to the ocean, I saw the next wave rolling in. I quickened my pace, then sprinted, dropping my flip-flops along the way, swishing up sand between my toes.

I snatched the object from the beach just as a wave rushed over my feet. Foamy salt water and seaweed swirled around my ankles. The crimson orb was dipping below the horizon. Soon night would drape over the Bay like a wizard’s cape.

I examined the silver locket while walking back to where I left my sandals. No bigger than the size of a quarter, it sat with the weight of a heavy stone in my palm. Fine swirls of engraving adorned the border of the heart-shaped pendant. The ornament’s front featured a single letter in cursive font—the initial “S.” I turned over the locket and brushed away sand residue, saw three rows of text. Some of the etching had faded, but it was still legible.

The lines read:

Forever near
Forever young
Forever in my heart

The deserted beach offered privacy as I walked back to my hotel with only my thoughts to keep me company. Somebody had lost a person precious to them. Now it seemed, this keepsake was lost as well.

The “S” probably stood for the name of the person who died. Was it a husband or a wife? A lover? A child?

I inserted my round fingertip into the indent of the locket, wished I had not clipped my fingernails this morning. I struggled to open it, even tried jamming the corner of my pinky into it. No luck. I would have to wait until I returned to my hotel room before I discovered what was inside.

The locket reminded me of my own tragedy. Steve and I were married here in St. Thomas a year ago. It was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives, and it was. With twenty of our closest friends and family, we celebrated until the morning hours. The weather could not have been more perfect.

Along with Steve’s best man and his wife, and my maid of honor and her boyfriend, we rented a three-bedroom villa. Our private bedroom was on the second floor with a huge wrap-around patio that overlooked the ocean. On our second night together, we watched the sunset on the deck. I was with the man of my dreams. We were the happiest couple in the world. Who could have predicted it would end only two hours later?

It was dinnertime. Steve was hamming it up. That was my husband. I married him because he taught me not to be so serious. He promised he would make me laugh everyday of our lives, and he would have. I know it. That’s why no one took particular notice when he fell off his chair and thrashed about on the floor.

Oh … that’s just Steve, we thought. He was joking again … but no.

A jagged chicken bone had lodged in his throat. Chaos ensued before the ambulance arrived, but in my heart, I already knew he was gone. The doctor later told me he died from a punctured esophagus. It was a horrible accident.

In two days, I had gone from being a happy bride to a distraught widow.

And so here I was, back in St. Thomas. I returned to try and recapture the joy Steve had taught me. He would have hated to know I had been grieving the past year, not even cracked a smile since he died.

Finding the locket did not help either. I had hoped instead for a happy sign.

Upon entering my room, I rummaged in my luggage for my multi-tool Swiss Army Knife, the one I always packed for emergencies, but never had to use.

Sitting cross-legged on the bed, I turned on the table lamp to its brightest setting. I retrieved the pendant from the side pocket of my beach bag. Holding the smooth red handle of my knife, I flipped out the small blade, inserted the tip into the space between the two halves of the locket. A gentle twist popped the hinge of the ornamental case.

I cracked open the locket and saw a man’s face staring back at me. He looked in his mid-thirties, kind eyes, a huge smile. He even reminded me of Steve, which only caused me greater sadness. Tears welled up behind my eyes.

What happened to this man? Had he died some tragic death like my husband? Was his young widow as unhappy as I was?

I ran the blade along the border of the picture to catch an edge. After several unsuccessful tries, I plucked out a small piece of the picture from under the ridge. I pressed the blade back into the handle and pried out the tweezers. Holding my breath, I gently pulled out the picture. The photograph lifted easily.

I turned it over to see if anything was written on the back, something sentimental, a date perhaps, any clue that could lead me to who this man was.

With my heart in my throat, I read the words, and then I burst out laughing.

Oh, Steve … you did send me sign after all.

The words read: Sample only. Not for resale.

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

You can find more stories in my book of flash fiction and poetry, Hot Flash. 

My mystery novel is due out Summer 2014, and I will announce all details leading up to it here.

To make sure you don’t miss the details, please subscribe to my blog (by email or via RSS feed).

Thank you.😉

~eden

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Wild World ~ A story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #37 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt for this podcast is  “I was out for an early morning stroll when…” There was also a photograph by fellow writer, Matthew Munson that spurred the prompt. You can see it here.

*  *  *  *

I walk briskly pulling my suitcase behind me when a clicking noise halts my steps. A shiver runs through me, the kind that lingers until you discover the source of the sound. I turn around and see no one. The empty street is dark and foggy. I lower the volume on my Sony Walkman, maybe it’s the faulty cassette inside. I breathe a bit easier.

Cat Stevens singing “Wild World” was my theme song while I traveled Asia and discovered the world he sung about. The lyrics rang in my ears …

“ … Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world

I’ll always remember you like a child, girl …”

I was a child really, nineteen, uncultured, naïve.

I bought the tape at an outdoor market in Bali. The quality wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, considering it was a knock-off. Besides, what could I expect for less than 1500 Rupiah—the equivalent of ten cents Canadian.

Now, here I was—six months later, leaving Rotterdam to fly back home. It’s February and it’s cold, and my skin still thirsts for the humidity of the tropics.

* * * *

I met Elise in Bali at an open market, which sold everything from scarves to kites to kitchenware. I was looking for music, and she was browsing for souvenirs on her last day before returning home.

We hit it off immediately. She was older then me, at least twenty years older, but that didn’t matter. I liked her candor, her experience, her accent. She was talented with languages, speaking five of them fluently, even though she said English was not her best. Before she left to catch her plane, she made me promise to visit her in Rotterdam if I stopped in Europe before returning home. I did promise her, though I had no intention of going to Europe.

How things changed.

I met a Dutch businessman shortly thereafter in Thailand, fell hard for him. He was married, but that didn’t stop me. The brief affair lasted less than two days, but I promised to meet him on the way home. Of course, I could not stay with him, so I thought of Elise, discovered Rotterdam wasn’t that far by train from Amsterdam. I could use her home as my base for seeing the sights and planning meetings with my Dutchman. It seemed a good idea, selfish as it was, but I didn’t have money for a hotel. I convinced myself Elise was happy to offer her home to me, and she was.

I didn’t know why at the time, now I do.

Today, I leave Elise because I cannot reciprocate her feelings. She made her intentions known by joining me in the shower the third night I stayed with her. It shocked me, not in the way it would if a man did it. It wasn’t fear or repulsion, but indifference. As much as I wanted to experience the wild world, it did not extend to my sexuality.

“But how do you know if you don’t try?” she asked me.

“I like you Elise, but I’m not attracted to you,” I said, in as reassuring a tone as I could, with both of us lying naked next to one another.

“You are so young, you know so little,” she said.

“I like men,” I said.

She stroked my face. “Then you must leave,” she said. “I cannot have you here anymore.”

I pleaded with my eyes. “May I at least stay until morning?”

“Yes, but I want you gone by the time I wake up.”

She left me without saying another word. A part of me almost wanted to change my mind … but no. I got up and checked the schedule for the earliest train heading into Amsterdam.

* * * *

I rewind the tape and start listening to “Wild World” again. I think about how nice it will be to see my family after traveling for almost two years. Mom will be surprised to see me, especially since she wasn’t expecting me for another two weeks.

I hear the rumble of my suitcase wheels as they roll over the cobblestones. I adjust my headphones and turn the volume up.

The hazy darkness of dawn makes it difficult to see the street names. I see none of the familiar markers from the last couple of days of walking in this neighborhood. Where was the coffee shop? I must have made a wrong turn. I stop to fumble in my backpack for a map. Maybe I can make my way to a well-lit area and get my bearings.

There’s that clicking sound again, only now it’s getting louder, more like clackety clack, clackety clack, clackety clack. I look down at my feet and realize I’m standing on tracks.

What?

Where am I?

The horn blows. I turn around and the bright light of the train blinds me.

“… Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world
I’ll always remember you like a child, girl.”

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

You can find more stories here, as well as in my book of flash fiction and poetry, Hot Flash.

~eden

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