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.

Playing with Frames (Mad Monday)

How about that frame? Isn’t it cute?

Of course it is. Maybe a little lame… a lame frame ( 😀 I crack me up) but cute nonetheless. Facebook turned me on to the idea.SMOKE FREE

So what am I mad about now?

I’m mad in a good way about the sheer funness (yeah, funness is a word – look it up) in creating frames but I’m kind of pissed annoyed that Facebook would not let me use the actual book cover for Smoke Free because of the cigar. Yeah, it sends a bad message and encourages smoking. WTF?!

And I love this book cover…

The hubby designed it and that cigar was his special touch.

Smoke Free

Anyone that has read Smoke Free knows smoking is the least of Erwin Smutter’s problems. LOL. But hey, I ain’t judgin’ and I do not want to be the cause of someone picking up a stogie.

I would rather you pick up a copy of Smoke Free instead.  For 99¢ or less it might cure you. 😉

 

 

And Heeyy, don’t I look mad as a hatter and bat-shit cRaZy  in this frame? Well I am supposed to, it tis the season. HaPpY HaLloWeEn Y’all!

selfie smoke free

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

Roses from Ishmael (Friday’s Free-for-all)

Friday’s Free-for-all is a freaky little story I wrote a few thousand years ago. You can read along and/or listen to the narration by Robert Berliner.

777

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 causing him to heave with panic. A mouth full of juniper berries was an unpleasant memory to say the least. His tongue darted and swept in search of spit and after several sweeps he managed to be rid of it. When the candy landed 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 still here?” he spoke gently as he made is way toward the guest bedroom.

The squishing of his boots on wet carpet went unnoticed as did 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?” the man’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 his 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.

From Once Upon a Dead Gull available in digital or audio

Once Upon a Dead Gull Cover (420x640)

Written by Janna Hill

Narrated by Robert Berliner

Once Upon a Dead Gull (TBT)

Throw back Thursday.

Rated G for gross

dead gull (4) (1024x682)

The gruesome photograph that inspired the title [and the book cover] for Once Upon a Dead Gull.  That was 3 1/2 years ago and [amazingly] this cover hasn’t changed.

A peculiar short story anthology, I admit, but it was written for the horror genre.
Even more peculiar is that none of these stories are about a dead gull.
The poor seagull’s parting gift to mankind…  to me, was simply to inspire a title I had been struggling with.

In honor of those suffering from and those caring for…

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month & National Caregiver Month

BlueThey Always Come on Sunday is part of the ‘horror’ anthology Short Stories & Such. I think most people dealing with this disease would agree it is a real nightmare.

They Always Come on Sunday

There are seven days in a week, four weeks in a month and fifty two weeks in a year. Seven times fifty two equals three hundred sixty four. That doesn’t add up and there are five Mondays… and Tuesdays… and an extra Wednesday? I don’t understand –those are the most boring days available. Nonetheless I will scribble something; things have gotten so hectic I have taken to writing everything down.

I personally prefer Sundays. Fridays were never that exciting and Saturdays are just too busy. With the shopping and laundry and the endless play dates all I have to look forward to are Sundays. Some believe it is the last day of the week but according to my ledger it is the first. I suppose I have always looked forward to Sundays, especially Sunday dinner.

My grandmother was an excellent cook and she would rise early to prepare a lavish banquet fit for a wedding. As I recall it was after a delicious meal of chicken casserole, fresh cut green beans and scalloped potatoes that Edward Fry asked me to marry him. Edward’s father owned half of Cherokee county along with the mill and the lumberyard. Grandmother was thrilled by the proposal and credited her Italian Cream cake as the irresistible bait. My memory fails me as to why we argued later and she refused to give me the recipe. Whatever it was it didn’t hamper my love of Sundays.

Friends and family would always stop by after church or after fishing. People honor the Sabbath in different ways; I reckon one is as restful as the other. They knew me and I knew everyone in the community.  That is not the case now. People visit but it’s not the same.

Alone in the Wildreness

I hardly know these visitors. I have seen a few of them before but I haven’t a clue to what their names are and I am a bit suspicious of their intentions. They are just faces, acquaintances, people I presumably know though I do not recall precisely how we met.

A few of the faces gathering are not familiar at all. They smile and let on like they know me personally; like we’ve shared more than a cordial conversation or a hot cup of coffee. I find their behavior to be crass and much too assuming. They try too hard; with all of their grinning and nodding and batting their bloodshot eyes at me. It’s a ploy to seem sincere. They impose and pester me with niceties and the constant can I get you something as if this was the wake of a dead man and I was the widow.

Darrell (that’s what he calls himself) sits down beside me and pats me on the leg. When he’s not touching me he’s cooing and awing like I’m a goddamn baby. I try not to speak to him because it only encourages his vulgar behavior. He must be a hundred years old. The flesh beneath his eyes hangs in folds of blue and purple. One would think the puffiness would plump up those dark circles but it doesn’t.

I stare at his hand when he lets it rest on my thigh. It looks like a gardening fork draped with crepe paper and it’s cold. He makes me nervous. I move my leg away from him but he insists on petting me. He reaches toward my face, not in a hurried way which is good. I am faster than him and watch his eyes tear up when I land the second slap against his loose jaw. I say “You nasty son of a-” but before I can hit him again one of the faces catches my wrist and yells “Mother!” Darrell assures her it’s okay but the woman holding my hand argues and tells him “No, it is NOT okay.” I can tell she is upset as she firmly nestles my hands into my lap. I don’t know her very well but when I look into her eyes I feel it’s safe to trust her. Eyes are the mirror to the soul, I heard that somewhere once.

The sun is shining, casting a light midway across the quilted tulip bedspread. That is a sure indicator that it is past 10 AM. Usually when the rays peek over the headboard I am sitting upright with a cup of coffee half consumed and watching… what is the name of that morning show? Oh well, It doesn’t matter.

“Would you like your egg scrambled or poached?” he asks. I cannot see his face but I know the voice and my heart smiles.
“Scrambled please.” I purr, in my best seductive voice. I love Saturdays. Darrell lets me sleep in and serves me breakfast in bed. I know after the last bite of toast he will kiss the crumbs from my lips and we will make love. I unbutton my gown in anticipation.
“The kids will be coming for dinner.” he says, his voice coming closer. I sit up, smooth my hair and lick my lips. “Charlotte is home for Winter break, she will be coming too.”
“Who is Charlotte?”
“David’s daughter.” he replies. I cannot see his face yet but I sense the change in his tone, cracking slightly over the tinkling of cup against saucer.
“And who is David? Do I know him?”
“He’s your son Beth. Our son.” He says it softly and sets the tray across my lap. How is it he has aged so bitterly?
“We have a son named David?… David? Oh yes I remember sweet little Davy. He made me a jewelry box last Christmas… a cigar box covered in dry pasta and painted gold. What did I do with that box? Davy is my baby.”
“He is not a baby anymore Beth.”
“I know that silly!” I tell him as I pick at the ugly lumps of yellow lying before me. “Liz, Liz is the baby now.” Liz, the woman with the eyes I can trust.
“Eat up. Liz and Ron are bringing your favorite dessert and you know you can’t have sweets on an empty stomach.”
“Liz is my daughter; she makes the best Italian Cream cake.” I’m not sure why I said that but it makes him happy.
“Yes sweetie, yes, yes, yes.” He pecks out kisses on my forehead like a starving rooster; he hoovers over the bed smiling. Amidst the rays of sunshine, he looks like an angel, a weary angel. His once beautiful face lined with worry and too many sleepless nights.
“They always come on Sunday.” More words from my mouth, their origin a mystery.
“Yes, yes they do.”

Some days the birds are the only things I understand. The context of their chirps doesn’t change much. Words, warping and twisting themselves into a rope, strangle me. English is a foreign language, a dialect that seems barely recognizable, one I must strain at to recall. Each sentence is a puzzle and I search to find the words that fit… their place, their meaning. Signs and gestures, imported expressions and faces that that fade with the sun – I suppose they are more amicable than the demons at sundown.

Lonley

I know that one day I will awake and find me gone, forever lost in that void of timeless confusion surrounded by strangers I once loved. Each day is like the next, a never-ending procession of things I cannot explain in a world I do not understand. With one transitory exception, they always come on Sunday.