Happy Valentine’s Day & Hats Off to Women’s Horror Month

Roses from Ishmael

Ishmael thought the flowers would be a nice touch. Roses were her favorite, red roses to be exact. These were slightly black around the edges and void of fragrance, but they were roses nonetheless.

“You’re not old enough to remember when roses had a smell are you?” he asked the cashier as he handed her a twenty dollar bill.

“No sir, I guess not.” She replied handing him a rumpled one along with thirteen cents in change.

“I bet you’re not even old enough to buy beer.” He said tucking the flowers under his arm. The young woman gave a weary smirk and he shoved the change into his coat pocket. “I guess it doesn’t matter as long as you’re old enough to sell it.” Ishmael yanked the eighteen pack of Bud Light from the counter and strolled to his truck.

Just outside of the city limits he reached across the seat and twisted the first cap off of a tepid bottle. The clanking of the glass was comforting and the warm beer eased the queasiness in his stomach. He downshifted and let the black Chevy pull itself along the narrow country lane as he sipped the Bud and drank in the scenery.

The summer heat had taken a toll on the coastal Bermuda that waved its browned tops as he drove past. Ishmael nodded and gestured back, feeling a kinship. But relief was on the way, the weatherman said as much when he interrupted the radio host to announce tornado warnings in effect until eight o’clock this evening.

As he pulled into the drive he sucked the last bit of suds from the third bottle, took a deep breath and sighed.

Her car was parked in the usual place. He felt hopeful, nervously adjusting the flowers and dusting the fallen petals to the floorboard before popping a wintergreen disc into his mouth.

The mint clung to his cheek like paste as he gagged; the stench of evergreen caused him to heave with panic. A mouth full of juniper berries was an unpleasant memory to say the least.

His tongue swept his mouth in search of spit. After several frantic jabs his lips gathered to form weak whistle and he forced the disk from his mouth. The candy landed with indifference and Ishmael kicked at the dusty drive covering it and his boot in a fine white powder.

“Honey I’m home.” He called from the kitchen. “Arianna? Sweetheart? Are you here?” he spoke gently as he made is way toward the guest bedroom.

The squishing of his boots on wet carpet went unnoticed, much like her silent cries.

“You’re in there aren’t you?” He asked pressing his hand to door. “Speak to me, please?” Ishmael ran his fingers across the buckled paint and continued, “Ari- I’m sorry. You have to believe I never meant to hurt you. You believe me don’t you?”

Ishmael’s statement was honest but how could she believe him? He knew how she loved her perfect house; how hard she had worked to make the quaint space a home. He knew too that it was him she loved, only him but jealousy blinded him to the fact.

“I was only trying to make a point… a stupid point I know but I never struck the match Arianna. It was an accident. Can you forgive me?”

A sharp snap came from the other side of the door and his heart dropped. He made his way back to the kitchen and tossed the roses into Tuesday’s dishwater.

How many Tuesdays had passed? Her silence set a new record. She had never shunned him so long and the guilt that urged him to buy the flowers – the same remorse he felt every time he lost his temper was quickly being replaced by irritation; an all too familiar annoyance building in the pit of his stomach. It would simmer there until it bubbled over and rumbled through his empty gut, lapping against raw nerves, reviving memories of every rejection and hurt feeling he had ever known.

Ishmael felt the heat rise in his face and throb in his ears as he gripped the counter to steady his frame. Trembling he strained to recall what the therapist had taught him. It was not working. The only happy thoughts he owned were of her and they had been supplanted by unbearable memoirs, images of unforgiving eyes. Her eyes once bright and smiling now flamed and pierced him with accusations. The same eyes that gave him comfort now cut him to the bone. She had a way of doing that – shaming a man without a word and shame was a thing he hated.

He had been ashamed for as long as he could remember. Even as a small boy, before he had ever heard the word or perceived its definition – he felt it. He ate shame for breakfast and bathed in it before going to bed each night. He knelt on it as he said his prayers and iced his beer in it and sometimes he hid it in a bundle of flowers. Yes shame was his unfaltering companion, the one sure thing he could count on.

Jutting his face toward the heavens he prayed and waited for an answer.

Oblivious to the first drops that landed Ishmael continued to pray. As the rain drenched his upturned face, mingling with his tears he steadied his breath and waited for an answer, an absolution that refused to come. Instead the wind swirled in the open roof above him showering his blistered face with twigs and scorched bits of fiberglass, a foul reminder of things that could not be undone.

“Am I beyond forgiveness?” He pleaded toward the thundering sky. “Will you always be angry with me?”

Ishmael tried to stoop amongst the debris, to kneel if for no other reason than sheer exhaustion but the charred drywall held his fists.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!” he croaked, his throat too dry to scream

“Damn you Arianna!” He cursed through cracked lips, unable to summon any moisture, unable to summon anything. Not so much as a heave could he muster from the memory of juniper on an elementary playground. He would now welcome the kicks of a bully in canvas sneakers, the scratching of coarse pungent needles against his face and the bitterness of their berries.

Ishmael heard the machines approaching; he could hear the men talking just prior to the wall landing. They used words like ‘total loss’, ‘unsalvageable’ and ‘condemned’. Words he had come to terms with, things no amount of roses in the world could fix.

He laid his head against the sooty timber that permanently fixed him and asked once again, “Arianna? Ari-honey… are you here?” and again she refused to answer.

Happy Valentines Day to you all and hats off to the women who dare to write horror.

Sam & Sally Scarecrow (Friday’s Free-for-All)

Hey y’all, HaPpY Friday!

This Friday’s free-for-all brings you an Oktoberfest treat.

A quick aside about this short story picture book…

I received news from Amazon about the launch of Kindle Create encouraging me to give it a try, it’s a software program that is supposed to make a writer’s life a little easier. Some of you may know that I have been rejecting neglecting KDP for a while now but hey, I’m not one to hold a grudge. 😉 Anywho… I decided to give it a go.

So there I was uploading photos and tinkering with the fonts and themes and BOOM! Sam & Sally Scarecrow came to life.

Ahhh, I can’t wait for you all to meet these wacky characters who may or may not have been inspired by my crazy family. 😜

At any rate, I have to admit it was nothing but pure pleasure putting this little short together. So grab your free copy today (Friday’s free-for-all) and don’t forget to tell your friends to grab a copy too.

Cover Sam & Sally

The Long, long Night

 

The Winter solstice and the longest night has now past. The occasion brings to mind one of my favorite poems:

The Long, long Night

He would sculpt and I would write

to get us through this thing called life and

what seemed to be an aimless plight

The long, long night

pottery-sculpting

I used pen and he used clay

to cope with all the pain filled days

which lived within our slow decay of

The long, long night

writing material

But in between the words and mud

we found the art of making love

and pacified the angst and blood of

The long, long night

lovers

Forsaken pages ripped and torn,

spattered earth across the floor,

graphite tales of love and war and

The long, long night

spilled ink

Come into my bed sweet angry lover,

your tender calloused hands beneath the cover.

Find the place where none has been,

beneath the ink and turning pin,

get us through yet once again

The long, long night

Crazy Conversations (Genres)

Cotton, peas, your friends, your seat, your nose… There are a lot of things you can pick. Family isn’t one of them. Disclaimer: Life is crazy, people are crazier and my family… well they get the crazy award if there is one. This is a work of ‘true fiction’ inspired by family. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. CAUTION: They cuss.

I have had genre issues concerning one title in particular so a couple of weeks ago I (finally) asked my eldest sister for an opinion. Be careful what you ask for. And the category Is…

Sister: Hey, I just called to thank you for the book.

Me: Oh you’re quite welcome. So do you have an opinion on the genre?

Sister: Well I have to tell you it started off a little staggery. You know what I mean?

Me: As in slow and unsteady, I agree.  So what genre did you decide?

Sister: Clara seemed sort of dull at the beginning. I wasn’t sure what to make of her, you know?  She’s rather meek and reserved.

Me: True. But what category-

Sister: Thank goodness she shines further into the story. You need to show that in the first few pages. You might omit chapter one all together or incorporate one and two. I see what you were doing there and I’m all about character development but step it up a little.

Me: The book is already out. My current problem is the specific genre. What do you-

Sister: Well no need crying over spilled milk, right? Maggie is likable. I like Maggie, she’s spunky. No wonder Linda has issues. With a name like Mucalinda and a mother who runs a voodoo shop in New Orleans. Geez!

Me: Thanks. Other than fiction would you consider it –

Sister: I hated that Lafont character! Hate is a strong word I know but I absolutely hate him. He didn’t suffer near enough in my opinion but Levi isn’t the type to torture people. He just done what needed to be done. Taking care of business, I loved that about him. So is he really a-

Me: Speaking of business I need your opinion on the genre. Remember I asked for-

Sister: Oh it’s definitely romance. It almost verges on soft porn at times if you ask me. Your brother in law couldn’t believe you wrote that. He had a time with it. Were your ears burning?

Me: You let him read it?!The Rage Trilogy Cover for B&N

Sister: Sure. He agrees with me – it’s romance.

Me: No, I don’t think so.

Sister: Yes it is! I am a seasoned noveller, you asked for my opinion now don’t argue. With the relationships and intimacy throughout you have to know it’s a romance.

Me: I really didn’t think it was. I categorized it under paranormal fiction.

Sister: Maybe as a subcategory.  Now back to Levi, is he or is he not a-

Me: I’m not sure I should classify it as romance. One reader said-

Sister: I don’t give a damn what one reader said or one hundred for that matter. Do you know how many books I read a week? Sure you do that’s why you asked for my opinion. It’s a freaking romance.

Me: Okay. Don’t get your panties in a wad. So you want to know more about Levi but what about Vivian?

Sister: Vivian Cature? That wench has no redeeming qualities. I despise her.

Me: But she came from a troubled background. Aren’t you the least bit empathetic?

Sister: So what. That is an excuse! Everyone has junk in their past. No, she was looking out for number one and the way she treated her own daughter- not just the way she treated her friend but her own daughter! I don’t forgive her and I have no sympathy for her. Nope, I cannot abide such. She is a sociopath. She and that worthless man-whore deserved one another.

Me: You know they aren’t real people, right?

Sister: Well of course I know that but girl I cried twice. Oh, when Mr. O’Bromley was in the emergency room I had to get a tissue and blow my nose that just tore me up. — What are you laughing about?

Me: Nothing.

Sister: You wanted my opinion. You should be flattered that I liked it.

Me: I am. I totally am. But I really just needed help with the genre thing.

Sister: It is a blasted romance. Let’s not go over that again. Now tell me will Levi be showing up in the next book?

Me: I don’t think so.

Sister: He could. There is ample leeway for another story, maybe bring him in to the lead, I would like to see that and why on earth did you kill off-

Me: You’re positive on the genre?

Sister: Damn it girl do I have to spell it for you? Would you rather ask mother?

Me: No! Romance it is. Thank you.

Sister: Anytime. Can you at least try to expound on the Duffy character.  What exactly is he? And I don’t see why you couldn’t do more with Levi.

Me: I’ll work on it.

Sister: Do that and by the way you’re not getting the book back,

Me: That’s fine, consider it a gift.

Sister:  I did.