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message 1: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) Oh wow, I'm really impressed by all of this! You're a really good writer. :)


message 2: by Anne (new)

Anne (annefrn) Thanks so much, Roxanne! That's so sweet of you.


message 3: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) You're very welcome! ^w^


message 4: by Anne (last edited Aug 16, 2014 09:17AM) (new)

Anne (annefrn) Inspired by a true story. Edited 8/16/14.

Title: Lost and Found-The SS Arctic
Genre: Fantasy / Short story
Words: 2060
Synopsis: The ghostly residents of a shipwreck prepare to move on after reality intrudes.

The two teenage girls giggled nervously as they followed their parents into the main salon. Dinner with the captain! Eyes glittering with excitement, they gazed at the splendor that awaited them: Crystal chandeliers filled with candles, velvet drapes, a man playing the piano, waiters dressed almost as elegantly as the guests. Many of the women wore diamond tiaras or feathered headpieces for the occasion, their last night on the SS Arctic that would land tomorrow in New York. It was September, 1854.

Their mother turned to nudge them along, “Come along, stop dawdling,” she murmured as she smiled at the other guests milling around. The girls did as they were told, joining the others already at the table. Mary carefully arranged her long skirt to cover her pantalettes as she sat down. Her younger sister, 15 year old Rebecca, sat next to her and copied every move. Mary was pleased that Charlotte, no – it was Lady Waring now, was seated on her other side. At 18 she was a year older than Mary and newly married. Mary wondered if her new position would affect her demeanor. She was pleased to be greeted with enthusiasm.

“Mary, I’m so glad you’re next to me!” Lady Waring gushed, leaning towards her. “We’ll have a chance to share some gossip,” she said in a lower voice, then added, “I think we’ll have some interesting entertainment tonight.”

“What do you mean?’ Mary asked as she edged closer to her companion.

“The children. Do you see them standing there?” Lady Waring gestured with her head.

Mary glanced to her right. About a dozen boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 12 were standing against the wall; the smallest in front and tallest in back.

“What does it mean?” she asked, confused.

“They’ll be singing for us before dinner. Apparently, the music conductor heard the children -- the nannies were keeping them occupied during the voyage by teaching them songs. He thought it would be a nice surprise for the captain and his guests tonight. The parents agreed.”

“Well, that’s certainly different,” Mary exclaimed. She turned a little more for a clearer view. The younger children were fidgeting and seemed scared. Peering around the room, she could tell who the mothers were. They were the ones staring at their offspring, appearing either very nervous or very proud. She smiled, thinking they had better start soon.

“Yes, and one of them is the captain’s daughter,” Lady Waring pronounced.

Mary nodded and smiled, “That’s so sweet. I’m sure he’ll be pleased.” Mary’s regard of the children was diverted by her father’s comment.

“You’d think he’d be here by now,” her father said impatiently to anyone within earshot. He glanced at his timepiece and sternly perused the room.

Mary followed her father’s eyes and noticed a number of other men also surveying the room, some standing, some sitting. Everyone was waiting for the captain.

“You don’t think anything is wrong, do you?” Mary asked her father.

“No, of course not. It’s probably the fog that’s keeping him a bit longer,” he replied. “Most likely, he just wants to make sure----“

He was interrupted by a resounding crash that echoed throughout the ship. Tables slid several feet, pulling chairs and their occupants along with them. People toppled over each other, unsuccessfully trying to regain their balance. Hurricane lamps flickered. A moment of shocked silence followed the screams. Then everyone started talking at once. The children had fallen and were huddled against the wall, crying. Parents tried to get up amidst the debris and were calling out to them. A few of the men close to the entrance held on the doorway and staggered out. They returned a few moments later, an officer with them, who announced breathlessly, “Everyone, please leave the salon and follow me. There is no need to panic. We’ll be fine, but you need to leave this room, now.”

“Mary,” her mother said in a trembling voice, “ Look after Rebecca, while I help your father. Stay right behind us.”

Mary nodded. She was used to taking care of her younger sister. Her father still walked with a severe limp from the polio. She rose and took her sister’s hand. As they prepared to follow their parents, another crash hurled them onto the floor again, directly in front of the children, now pushed between the wall and the piano. The floor rose up, separating them from the others.

Mary put her arms around the smallest and looked at the others who were frozen with shock.

Trying to keep her voice from shaking, she said, “Let’s all hold on to each other. I’ll help you get out of here.”

Crawling together, they inched their way along the wall.

The ship lurched and water started pouring in.

***************
Mary felt like she had been here a long time. She had been sent back down to help them to move on. So far it wasn’t working. Now she watched her sister and the other children as they stood at the porthole. They never got tired of the view.

“Look, there’s a whale!” one boy cried out.

“No, you’re blind – it’s a shark! another boy yelled.

“I like the squid best,” said a 9 year old girl shyly.

“Yeah, those are neat, too,” the first boy said. “Especially when you can see their insides,” he laughed as the girl made a face.
Victoria, the 10 year old daughter of the captain, said, “I want to see the mermaids again.” And there they were, smiling and waving, wearing colorful costumes.

Mary just shook her head in amazement. The imagination of these children! What would they conjure up next? They created their own version of heaven here. Now an octopus waved its tentacles, the suckers latching on to the window. A few of the girls screeched in mock fear, then they all began tapping on the glass. It was easier when she saw the world through their eyes. But she’d had enough.

As she approached, some of the girls started to back away from her. “Aren’t you ready to leave? Why don’t we go up?” she coaxed. She lost count of how often she’d asked them. Would they ever be ready to move on?

“No! We like it here. We don’t want to go,” a chorus of voices cried out. It didn’t help that her sister was among the loudest. They were more likely to follow Rebecca -- she was more willing to join in their escapades.

“Your parents are probably wondering what’s keeping you. Don’t you want to see them?” she asked softly.

“They can come down here,” a 10 year old boy replied, narrowing his eyes at her resentfully. “You go up if you want to.”

Mary said sternly, “I can’t just leave you. I promised I’d watch over you, and bring you up. Now it’s time to go.”

They refused to budge. The littlest girls started to play together with their dolls, while some of the boys began a game of tiddlywinks. Rebecca and a few other girls sat close together, whispering and giggling. Mary sat down and prepared to wait.

“I’m going to have a raspberry ice,” Elizabeth, a perky 12 year old, announced.

“Me, too!” several others agreed. Soon they were savoring their confections.

Mary spied the boys across the room. What were they doing? The oldest, Ephraim, had the most active imagination and always bore watching. This time he produced a carousel, complete with plumed horses. Her sudden laugh attracted the others’ attention. Cheering, they left their desserts for this new amusement.

Mary sighed. No wonder she couldn’t get them to leave.

“Look at that! That’s a really big fish -- I’ve never seen anything like that,” one of the boys exclaimed, his face and hands pressed against the window.

“Where, where?” They all rushed over.

“I don’t think that’s a fish,” Rebecca said, “It doesn’t look right somehow.”

Mary wandered over and gazed above their heads. No, it didn’t look right. What WAS that? She scanned the children’s faces and saw that their expressions mirrored her own concern. This was not one of their creations. She peered more closely. This was a big white-grey thing, kind of round, but long, with odd shaped – were those arms or tentacles? It didn't appear natural, it was strange and scary looking. As it came closer, she backed away. She felt very uneasy about this.

The children were uneasy, too. They closed in around her, the youngest whimpering and hiding in her petticoats; the older ones frowning as they moved behind her and gaped at this unknown menace.

“I want my mommy,” five year old Emma cried, holding her doll tightly and sucking her thumb. A few others echoed this sentiment.

Mary stared at Rebecca, the oft-asked question looming silently between them. Rebecca nodded.
Mary studied each child in turn as she asked, “Are you ready to leave now? Ready to go up and be with your parents?”

She waited as they glanced back at the fish-thing, its odd appendage snaking towards them. One by one, they nodded and said, “Yes, I’m ready.”

Mary breathed a sigh of relief. Finally.

“Come. I’ll take you home.”

Holding hands, they glided out. And drifted up.

****************

“Hey! Look at that! Over there, do you see it?” Bill asked. The navigator gestured excitedly to his two passengers.

“Whoa! Is that a shipwreck?” Pulling out his list and a map, Mark studied it a moment then said, “That could be the SS Arctic. If so, we’d be the first ones to find her.”

The scientists from the Oceanographic Institute were examining the marine life on the sea floor off the coast of Newfoundland. They knew about the shipwrecks in the area, of course, but hadn’t really expected to find one within their search grid. This was an unexpected bonus. The two scientists pushed forward, trying to get a closer view.

“Stop crowding me guys,” Bill laughed, “Let me get the robotic arms out and turn the cameras on and we can see what’s inside.” Mark and Scott eased back a few inches, still scrutinizing the ship as they neared.

“What was THAT?” Bill murmured as he maneuvered the deep subversion vehicle close to the SS Arctic.

“It can’t be… it was like… a kid’s face… ” Mark’s voice drifted off.

“Must have been a fish, we know they have some weird looking ones this deep.” Scott said with certainty.

“Well, that’s why we’re here,” Bill countered. “Let’s get in there.”

The camera arm roamed inside, bright lamps highlighting skeletons of rust and wood leaning against each other. Unique formations rose up from the floor. Although the cold water limited the growth of algae at this depth, it was still hard to recognize the debris. They saw no fish.

“Hey, do you think there’s any treasure around?” Scott grinned at his partner.

“Well, it WAS designed to be upscale, at least by 1854 standards, so there might have been some rich people on board, or so I heard,” Mark replied.

“If that’s the case, I’m surprised no one’s searched for it before – I mean, shouldn’t it have been famous or something?” Bill remarked, as he maneuvered the DSV around to a different vantage point.

“Well, infamous is more like it,” Scott answered. “The few survivors didn’t talk about it very much. The company hushed it up. A lot of people were embarrassed at the time.”

Surprised, Bill turned to face Scott, “Why? What happened?”

Scott explained, “The SS Arctic collided with a French steamer in the fog. There were 400 on board with lifeboats for 180, but only 85 survived–all men. 61 were crew, including the captain. None of the women or children got out. No one was held accountable, and there was never an official inquiry.”

The robotic arms gently lifted up the remains of a porcelain doll, held it for a moment, then set it down. The men moved off, letting the ship and its secrets rest in peace.


message 5: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) I'm still very impressed, especially by "Lost and Found". Great job! :)


message 6: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) Well there's always going to be something that you can improve... but then again, that's always been my favorite part about writing. ^w^

I haven't been noticing any cliches, so you're doing an excellent job about that. :)


message 7: by Anne (last edited Sep 08, 2014 05:50PM) (new)

Anne (annefrn) Also submitted to the weekly writing contest (some editing done 8/16, ending changed 9/5/14).

Title: Gracie’s Search
Word Count: 2218
Genre: Fiction / gentle romance

Synopsis: A young woman seeking her first apartment in 1967 finds more than she is looking for.

Gracie nibbled at the end of her blonde ponytail as she read, “1 BR apartment for rent. 2nd floor. No pets. $110/month.” It sounded perfect until she called and heard, “We prefer married couples.” She scratched the listing off with her pencil, eliminating it with most of the others in the paper. Every day it was the same.

Her mother tried to tell her. “No one will rent to you if you’re single. What will people think? A good girl lives at home until she’s married. Anyone taking in a single girl is trouble. And if you come home ‘IN TROUBLE’, you can turn around and walk right out of here again.”

Thanks mom.

The next door neighbor wasn’t much better. Mrs. Randall had grabbed her arm and pulled her close, “What are you thinking, going off to the city by yourself? There are BAD boys in the city – they go after good looking girls like you. “ She gave Gracie a knowing look. “You stay away from the bars and the dope, you hear?”

Yes Mrs. Randall.

Still, she couldn’t wait to exchange the staid comfort of suburbia for the exciting bustle of the city. She wasn’t stupid, though. She knew about bad boys. Joey Mitchell was only 15 and already smoking pot and drinking beer. Bobby Cox was all about “going all the way” with every girl he dated. Not that he had any luck with Gracie. She wasn’t that foolish.

Her thoughts turned back to the few appointments she made and she grabbed her purse to go see them. She was getting desperate. It was 1967, not the dark ages. Several girls she recently graduated with were renting, although they could afford better since they were pairing up as roommates. She was alone and had to be careful with her money.

Newspaper clipping in hand, she trudged up the stairs to see the last apartment on her short list. He would meet her inside, he said on the phone. She hoped he would soon fix the lock at the entry door. Anybody could walk in here. The stairs creaked under the threadbare carpet and a breeze blew in through a broken window next to the stairwell.

“Well, hello, little lady, you must be Gracie,” he rubbed his cigarette-stained fingers over his grizzled face as his bloodshot eyes roamed over her from top to bottom. He smelled of beer and sweat and smoke.

“Yes, sir,” her voice was a little shaky. She was more anxious than she expected to be.

“Well, come on in, take a gander.” He leered at her as he stood sideways in the doorway, and stretched his arm out to welcome her inside.

“Uh… I was just thinking…,” Gracie hesitated. What she was thinking was how was she supposed to get past his big fat belly that blocked most of the doorway. She backed up a bit, and blurted out, “I can’t live on the third floor.” She ran down the three flights and out the door. For the first time she thought maybe her mother was right. She stopped outside at the curb, bending over to rest her hands on her knees. She took a few deep breaths.

“Hey, are you ok?”

She lifted her head to see a young man, slouched on his motorcycle in the middle of the street, staring at her. She was still breathing heavily and her eyes were blurry with unshed tears. She could hardly talk, her heart was pounding so hard. She turned her head, wondering if fat-belly was on his way.

The young man followed her gaze, “Someone after you?”

She didn’t answer. Her breathing slowed and she straightened up. Blinking to clear her eyes, she peered at him. He was attractive, if you liked the type -- black curly hair, dark brown eyes, black leather jacket and boots, black jeans. She thought about Mrs. Randall’s warnings. He was probably a high school drop out, maybe even a drug dealer. Bad boy was written all over him.

He gave her a sardonic grin and tilted his head towards her, “Looking for an apartment?”

“What makes you think that?” she found her voice as she crumpled up the ad in her hand and stuffed it in her purse.

“Maybe it’s the For Rent sign out front, the marked-up ad in your hand, and the way you tore like a bat out of hell out of that dump.”

He smirked and the sparkle in his eyes made her heart leap. How could anyone look so good and so bad at the same time?

She bit her lip and said, “I’d better go now.”

“If you’re up for a better place, there’s something at the end of the block down there on the left.” He pointed.

“How do you know that?” she asked, her eyes narrow with suspicion.

“They evicted some people this morning. I saw them get kicked out,” he laughed, and continued, “It’s a nice building. But it might not be your style. The owner and his wife are Europeans who like to run a tight ship. They don’t put up with any crap.” He revved up his bike and gave her a mock salute that matched his uneven grin as he took off.

She didn’t know whether or not she was sorry to see him go.

Hurrying to her car in case the lech came out, she started up her third-hand VW Beetle and drove to the end of the block. It WAS a nice building, with a tidy lawn and geraniums in box planters. Her heart sank as she realized she could never afford anything this good. An older man with graying hair and horn-rimmed glasses was putting up a For Rent sign. She made a snap decision and pulled over to park.

Approaching him, she said, “I’m looking for an apartment. I heard you might have something available.”

The man scrutinized her up and down, but not in a way that made her uncomfortable.

“Where you hear that?” he asked with a strong accent.

She explained about the biker, and her visit to the apartment up the street.

“You married?” He glanced at her hand. “Boyfriend?”

It was always their first question. “No, I’m single. No boyfriend.“ It was true enough. The last one disappeared without a word a few months ago.

“What you want an apartment for?”

That stumped her. To live in, of course. She tried to decipher his meaning.

“Well, I got a new job at the hospital and it’s far from where I live with my parents. I wanted to be close to work.”

“Hmph.” He frowned. ‘Ok, you come in. We talk.” He turned away from her and started walking. She hurried after.

Inside, Gracie sat at the kitchen table as instructed. She was afraid to touch anything. The snow white tablecloth etched with embroidered flowers looked homemade and was fancier than her mother’s best company cloth. Lace doilies trimmed the sofa and stuffed chairs in the room behind the kitchen.

“I’m Rudy; my wife Agnes,” he indicated the woman standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes. She turned and gave Gracie a gentle smile and nod.

“So,” he folded his hands on top of the tablecloth, “now you tell me everything.”

Huh? “Like what do you want to know.”

“Everything. Your name, where you live, your school, your job. Who your father is. What work he do. Everything.”

Gracie talked. In the next hour she told him her life story. She answered ceaseless questions. The classes she took in nursing school and the grades she got. How old her brothers were and what they hoped to do with their lives. Her friends. The chores she did at home. The story of her boyfriend. (she blushed a little at that.)

When she thought she was finished, he said, “Ok, now we talk money. What you making at the hospital?”

“About $5 an hour.”

“So what you think you can pay?”

Now she took a deep breath. “I was hoping to find something for around $100 a month,” she said timidly. “Maybe 120.” She expected him to laugh at her. Instead, his lips were pursed in thought.

“Mebbe we got somethin’.” He gave her a stern look. “The place need lotta work. It’s a mess. I show you.”

He started to walk away; then turned back to face her. “2 rooms. Basement. Ninety dollars. No washing machine. One month security deposit.”

She nodded gratefully. It was a good deal.

He was right. It was a mess. Water had flooded the kitchen; the fan was still drying out the room. Rancid grease and burnt food covered the stove. Papers, garbage, rags, old food were piled up all over. She could see a lot of debris had already been removed and stacked outside the kitchen door. One window was boarded up. A fist-sized hole decorated the bedroom wall.

Rudy said, “Filthy pigs. Scum. Always fightin’. Makin’ noise. Don’ take care o’ nothin’. Could you live like this?” His accent grew stronger as his face grew redder. He pressed his lips tightly together and shook his head as he turned away.

“I let you know when we get it clean and you can move in.”

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “But I start work on Monday. I was hoping to move in this weekend.” Today was Friday.

He raised his voice, “You think I can get this fixed in 2 days? You nuts! No.”

“Please,” she pleaded, “I don’t care if it’s like this for a while. I’ll help clean it up. I can do that. I can start now. I don’t mind, really. I’m strong. I’m not afraid of work.”

Her mother would laugh to hear this.

He studied her a moment. Then they made a deal. Gracie could stay there rent-free until the place was ready. But she had to do her share and not get in the way. She had no doubt he would know exactly what she did and how much time she put into it.

Nevertheless, it was exciting. Her first apartment. Gracie went home and packed a week’s worth of bare necessities. Her brother’s sleeping bag and a pillow finished it off.

She lied to her parents. She convinced them that she wanted to savor these few days on her own before she started work and she would get the rest of her stuff next weekend when they could come help move her in. She hoped it would be true.

Returning to the apartment that evening, she saw that most of the remaining debris had been removed. Spreading the sleeping bag on a tiny patch of almost-clean bedroom floor, she fell asleep with a big smile on her face.

The crying woke her up at dawn. Oh joy. Someone had a baby. Or two. The ceiling creaked as the walkers over her head paced back and forth, back and forth. She buried her head in her pillow and thought, not this too.

Giving up, she rose, had breakfast and decided to start cleaning. She put on her grungiest clothes, full of stains and a few holes. They should suit today’s work perfectly. Scouring the stove top, she heard the front door open. She ignored it, assuming it was Rudy.

The wolf-whistle got her attention fast. She whirled. Her jaw dropped as she recognized the biker from the day before. Leaning casually against the doorjamb, he was working a toothpick around in his mouth as his laughing eyes gazed appreciatively at her.

“Nice,” was all he said.

She didn’t know whether to be mad or humiliated. Mad that he obviously deceived her in some way—how could he get in here? -- Humiliated by her shabby appearance. Controlling herself, she copied his stance and said, “What are you doing here?”

He straightened up and said, “Since you took my advice, I came to help you out.”

“I was desperate,” Gracie admitted.

“So was Rudy. This is a hard unit to rent. ” the biker said. Only he didn’t look so much like a biker now. He seemed older, more mature. His faded blue T-shirt and white painter’s pants were even more holey and stained than hers.

“How do you know that?” she asked, curious about this young man with the piercing eyes and devastating smile. She felt the blush start to rise up from her neck and creep to her cheeks.

“Rudy’s my dad,” he said, stepping closer and favoring her with a crooked grin. “I’m Greg.”

Her eyes widened and she started to smile back. Trying not to show too much delight, she held out her hand. “My pleasure."


message 8: by Anne (last edited Sep 02, 2014 11:06AM) (new)

Anne (annefrn) Title: The Cactus
Genre: Non-fiction / Humor
Word Count: 1176 Edited 9/2/14

Some people have pets. Mom had her cactus.

Mom loved her cactus.

I hated it.

It was a bulbous monstrosity, ready to attack the unaware with it’s long spiky needles.

I was often the unaware.

She had been living in the house for 15 years before I moved in to help her in her declining years. The cactus never intruded on my existence until I had to help care for it. It was becoming too hard for her 80-year-old hands.

“Mom, why don’t we move it away from here?” The plant lived directly outside the side door to the garage. I looked around to consider other options.

She glared at me.

This was typical. She had two looks that she used the most: The Glare or The Blank Stare. The Glare was delivered with lips slightly turned down and denoted disapproval, as in “Absolutely Not.”

The Blank Stare worked for almost everything else. Totally devoid of expression, it could mean “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “I can’t believe you just said that.” Sometimes I thought I detected underlying sarcasm that could be inferred as “What do you THINK…?” implying a higher than usual level of stupidity on my part.

The Looks were her preferred mode of communication. They saved her a lot of time talking and answering questions, which she avoided whenever possible. Sometimes she would grace me with a gesture, saving me from a Look. The Gesture might be a slight movement of the head to the side, a twitch of the shoulders, or a hand motion. Interpretation depended on context.

I never understood why the cactus had to be housed right there. Of course the door swung open in the opposite direction from the cactus. We walked in and out of that door several times a day eight months of the year to do yard work, gardening, and weeding. We grew vegetables and flowers and tended them as carefully as babes in a nursery. As soon as I stepped out that door, the needles attacked my legs. It was like having a pet porcupine.
The first time I eyed it with the intention of planting a kick, mom grabbed my arm. Oh, yeah, she could read my mind, too.

By the end of the summer, I looked like a cutter -- someone that takes a knife to themselves to express self-hate. I was afraid to wear shorts when I was around other people.

The arm grab was sometimes accompanied by a finger flick that meant “Watch where you’re going.”

The cactus had one redeeming quality. It bloomed. A lot. The first time I saw it extend its stalk, mom pointed to it and said, “It’s going to be a flower tomorrow.”

This was True Cactus Love, since she actually spoke words to me about it. The next day we went out and sure enough, the large delicate pale pink-lavender petals were wide open, embracing the sun and sky. It reminded me of a Venus Fly-trap ready to snare the unwary. What would happen if an insect landed there? I was afraid to touch it.

Mom wore a rarely seen, ear-to-ear smile usually reserved for those proudly giving birth to a firstborn (not me).

I was jealous. The cactus made out better than I did.

From then on it became a game. We bet on how many flowers that cactus could bestow on us at one time. That first summer we counted ten. Mom won, of course. They only lasted a day, but they were beautiful. I took pictures. I could almost like the thing when it bloomed.

I thought of a new strategy.

Mom spent a lot of time looking out the rear picture window at the fruits of our labors when she couldn’t do anything else.

“Mom, you can’t see the cactus when you’re inside. If we MOVE it over THERE, you won’t have to go out to look at it. You can enjoy it from right here.”

Most importantly, it wouldn’t be lurking near the doorway, waiting to pounce on me.

She gave me the Blank Look.

I dragged the plant across the yard anyway – it was almost too heavy for me to lift - and set it down in a bare patch near the geraniums. I thought it looked great. When I went back inside, I got the Glare.

She went out and dragged it back to its summer home just outside the garage door. In the winter, it lived on a small round table inside the garage, where it delighted in assaulting my arms when I went to use the winter supplies kept there. All things had an assigned place where they belonged.

Each year it got bigger and bloomed more; our highest count was 24 at one time. Each blossom was a picture of perfection, each identical to the next. We ooh’ed and aah’ed together. I took more pictures. The cactus became a bond we shared. As long as it was flowering.

I’d been there for almost ten years when we noticed the cactus was desperately seeking to escape its prison. The sturdy pot had split open near the top on one side. Mom pointed, meaning “It needs a bigger pot.” Her Look that clearly implied this was my job. I upped her look with my own that meant “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Wearing heavy duty rubber gloves four sizes too large and wielding the largest knife I’d ever seen, I tried to pry the cactus loose. No luck. It had spread out in all directions and was hanging well over the lip. There was nothing to grab on to except needles. Sitting on the ground with the pot between my feet, I held the knife in both hands above the monster. I leaned forward, aiming to split the thing in half like a watermelon. Mom grabbed my arm to stop me.

“Wha-at? Do you want me to try to break the pot, mom?” I would need a sledgehammer.

No. The cactus would have to suffer in its pot-bound misery. It continued to flower anyway, although not as profusely. It was one tough plant. I had to respect its tenacious hold on life. It was much like mom.

Mom was a realist. As much as she loved it, she expected it to die soon. Her relationship with the cactus seemed to reflect her feelings about her own mortality as she grew weaker each year. The summer before she died, I pushed it across the yard one more time so she could see it through the window. One budding stalk was about to burst open. Her big brown eyes watered. This was her sad look. I knew what she was begging me for. I moved it back. She no longer mentioned it.

I was with mom and her cactus for twelve years. When mom died, my sister and I agreed it was time to send the cactus to its heavenly reward. Afterwards, I noticed four small pots tucked away along the side of the house.

I stared at my sister in horror. “Did you do that?”

“Well, I couldn’t just let it die completely.”

She had cut off and planted several small cactus nodules.

“You’re taking them home with you. Don’t you DARE leave them here.”

I gave her my best Glare, but we broke down laughing. No one could do it like mom.

So my sister is growing baby cacti. Mom is no doubt tending the beloved cactus that I sent her way. And I’ve got a great framed picture of 24 cactus flowers on my wall, which in my opinion, is exactly where they belong.


message 9: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) I think one of my favorite things about your writing is when you have one-sentence paragraphs. They really leave an impact!

(ex: ending of Part II -- Reveille)


message 10: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) Anne wrote: "Title: The Cactus
Genre: Non-fiction / Humor
Word Count: 1176 Edited 9/2/14"


That ending! XD


message 11: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) Anne wrote: "Title: The Rabbit Hole
Word Count: 103"


I absolutely loved this! It was such a unique idea, the whole thing was short and sweet, and the ending was perfect.

Great job! :)


message 12: by Anne (last edited Sep 02, 2014 07:59PM) (new)

Anne (annefrn) Roxanne, Thank you so much for your lovely comments! I'm glad you enjoy my writing. PS: If you double click on my profile picture, you can see the cactus that I wrote the story about.


message 13: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Shriver (roxannexshriver) Ooh, pretty. :D


message 14: by Anne (last edited Sep 08, 2014 05:42PM) (new)

Anne (annefrn) Title: The Deadly Pen
Word Count: 410
Genre: Humor
Synopsis: Sometimes it's hard to take advice.

“STOP! You’re killing him” I shrieked, grabbing Tracy’s arm.

She shrugged me off and slapped my hand. “No, I’m not. He’ll be fine. He’ll be better. Trust me.”

I didn’t trust that evil grin. Not for a moment.

Holding my head in my hands, I whimpered, “How can you do this to me?”

She reached in and grabbed my chin. Looking me straight in the eye she solemnly said, “Abby, do you or do you not, want to be a writer?”

I glared at her. “Of course I do. You know that.”

“Did you or did you not, ask me to read your work?”

I wasn’t finished glaring.

My sister, the editor.

We sat at the kitchen table, surrounded by my precious words. Watching her red slashes tear across my manuscript burned a hole in my soul.

“First of all, you’ve got to lose the adverbs. They’re excessive and irritating.”

“I love my lovely adverbs. They bring gloriously descriptive meaning to my scenes.”

“Think of a better way to say, ‘He ran rapidly and furiously with great gusto.’

I thought. “There must be readers somewhere who like that sort of thing.”

“Find me one.”


Tracy was relentless. “And about those alliterations. They’ve got to go.”

“Why?”

“They make your writing look… weak. And that’s putting it kindly.”

I ignored the insult. “How?

She read to me, “ Sam surreptitiously, but sensuously stepped closer, confident his macho, manly demeanor would bewitch the blonde, beautiful bombshell.”

I sighed. “Well, I guess when you read it out loud…”


“Now, about the clichés.”

I groaned. “Not my clichés, please. They’re the bread and butter of writing.”

“Abby, maybe 50 years ago, that might have been true. ”

“Sis, you’ve got me between a rock and a hard place.”

She couldn’t help giggling.

“This is your baptism by fire.” She chortled. “Oh, God, now you’ve got me doing it.”

“Tracy, there’s no doubt about it, This is…definitely… a bone… of contention… between us.” I could hardly say it as I was doubled over with laughter.

She got up to leave, still chuckling when I launched my parting shot. “Ok, you win. I’ll take the bull by the horns.”

But she got the last word in as she waited for the elevator. “I can tell you’re chomping at the bit,”
she called out to me as the doors closed.

I opened my laptop and started a new document.
Title: The Devil’s in the Details


message 15: by Anne (last edited Sep 12, 2014 05:25PM) (new)

Anne (annefrn) Title: Heavenly Plane
Genre: Fantasy
Synopsis: A dying boy gets his most ardent wish.

“Look, mom! Dad! See it go!” Ten year old Bobby drew has arm back and threw with all his might. This time the paper plane went nearly 50 feet before it slid to a stop. The long, smooth newly resurfaced cul-de-sac was perfect for his experiments. “This is awesome! I’m ready for the contest, don’t you think?”

Bobby’s mom and dad grinned at each other. His dad said, “I think you’ve nailed it. You have a good chance at winning, or at least placing in the top five.”

Bobby’s hard work was paying off. Fascinated by airplanes since he was 3 years old, Bobby had a vast collection of model airplanes. Several were remote controlled. However, having heard about the Great Paper Airplane Fly-off, paper planes had become his most recent obsession. He spent hours analyzing trajectory and flight position, trying different ways to hold his paper plane to get the most out of it. This was after trying different types of paper to find the heaviest and stiffest that he could work with. He had several he was now practicing with.

But the annual contest held in Tucson was not his greatest dream.

The poster in his room showed a huge white paper plane that looked to Bobby like a fighter jet, sleek and powerful, it’s nose reaching for the stars. Forty five feet long, it was made out of corrugated cardboard with a wingspan of 24 feet. After being lifted up to 4000 feet by a helicopter, it soared at 98 mph until it made an unfortunate landing 10 seconds later.

But, the most impressive part was this: The huge paper aircraft was based on a design by the 12 year old winner of last year's Great Paper Airplane Fly Off contest. And they named it after him. Now the kid was famous.

Bobby wanted to be the next winner. But this wasn't his greatest dream, either.

His fantasy was to fly a paper plane farther and faster than anyone else. Maybe even ride on it. Maybe even travel around the world in it. In his mind, you just had to figure out how to make it work. Wasn’t that what his dad told him? Anything’s possible, you just have to figure out how…

This was his greatest dream.

He was already working with his father on making a 5 foot long cardboard plane. They planned to try it out at the neighborhood block party that day. The park at the end of the street was perfect. He had no idea what would happen, but he knew it would be a lot of fun.

It was.

His dad had jury-rigged a type of slingshot. Two 6 foot high poles were dug into the ground several feet apart. Between the poles but several feet back, was a triangular wooden platform that sloped 45 degrees up from the ground. The plane was brought to rest on the platform, nose pointed up. Securing the ends of the bungee cords around the two poles, they pulled as far back as they could to and carefully positioned the tail of the plane (reinforced with extra cardboard) into the slingshot.

“Let her rip!” someone yelled out.

They did.

The plane took off up in the air, then spun crazily in all directions before diving nose first into the ground. Total distance: about 20 feet.

It was a most entertaining disaster.

Bobby was not dismayed. He felt that the momentum created by the slingshot was to strong for the paper plane. Something a little gentler, but then how would he get the distance? Maybe from higher up. He looked up at the roof. Would that work? How would they get it up there? How could they push it off? He couldn’t see very well from down here.

His parents were busy talking with the neighbors. He remembered the ladder along the side of the house where his dad had been cleaning the gutters when Bobby had distracted him with his paper plane. It was probably still there.

It was.

Scampering up to the top before anyone saw what he was about, he stepped on to the angled roof of the three story house. He looked around and made his way over to the edge.

It occurred to him this was a perfect place for a launch.

Just before he slipped and fell.
________

He was aware of laying in a bed. Everything hurt. Something was pumping air into him. That hurt, too. He couldn’t move. Couldn’t even open his eyes. Soft cool hands were stroking his forehead, his cheek. He heard voices praying. He slipped back into unconsciousness, dimly aware of others crying.

The woman in white glowed. She floated into the room, silver hair flowing down around her ankle-length white gown. Touching his hand, the shackles of pain became a pleasant warmth. He felt wonderful. She led him over to the wall, which disappeared to accommodate the life-sized paper plane balanced half in, half out of the room. The woman pointed to the cockpit. He got in.

The plane was soft and smooth like the velvet fur of his sister’s bunny rabbit, yet it felt much stronger than his cardboard model. The controls were made of paper, too. An on/off button, a lever to adjust the rudder, a joystick to move up, down, right, left. A flat screen with a map of the world. An insert in the lower right corner depicted the Milky Way. And beyond.

He was so excited. He looked to the woman for confirmation. She nodded.

He got in and started to push the ON button, then thought of his parents. He looked over to where they embraced each other. Why were they crying? This was the best day ever. He willed his thoughts to them. “Mom, Dad, I’m gonna fly! I’m really gonna fly my paper plane around the world. See you when I’m done!”

He soared.


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