Michele Sayre: Maybe It Was Memphis

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay.

Maybe It Was Memphis

Michele Sayre

Summer 2016

The summer night was beautiful but she couldn’t appreciate it with a date who wasn’t taking any hints that he was not going to come inside with her.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to walk you to your door?”

“I’m sure. Good night, Jeffrey.” She used his full name to make her point because in the South that meant you were truly done with someone.

“Alright, Carolyn. I’ll call you.”

She wanted to tell him not to, but he was already back in his car and probably heading to some honky-tonk where he’d charm some floozy into bed with him.

Carolyn opened the wrought-iron gate and headed up to the old house she’d inherited, a lovely three-story built by her great-grandfather for her great-grandmother after he’d gotten home from World War One, a war she’d waited through for him.

As she heard the creak of the front-porch swing, she skidded to a stop as she saw her brother’s best friend, John Calloway sitting there looking way too good in the moonlit night.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.” She came up onto the porch in front of him. “I thought you were out with my brother.”

“Place was too noisy, and I wasn’t in the mood to yell over a bad band. Did you have a nice time at the club?”

“Hell no.”

That made him smile and laugh just a little, a sound that made her smile, too. She’d known John since her brother had brought him home last Christmas from their final round of Army Ranger training. John was from a small town in Mississippi he said he didn’t want to go back to as he didn’t have any family there, but he was still a good Southern boy. And he was also damn good looking: tall, muscled but not overly so, his dark hair military-cut short but thick, and his eyes were like the dark green of a hidden pond.

“So, what happened?” He asked.

“Oh, my date completely ignored me to talk with his buddies and all the other women under forty ignored me while they were shooting daggers at me thinking I was going to steal their husbands. I would have rather sat on the porch with you.”

“Carolyn…”

She took a step closer to him, then she decided to take the next step with her words.

“I know there is some ‘rule’ that a guy’s not supposed to have anything to do with his best friend’s sister but that’s not a law you have to avoid breaking. I’m a grown woman and I can take care of myself.”

He stood up and she tilted her head back slightly to look up at his beautiful face. “You know what I want to do most with a man? Slow-dance with him, have him hold me where I can hear his heartbeat and feel his arms around me.”

“I can do that. I’d love to slow-dance with you.”

She took his hand, “Inside, in my room.”

John couldn’t believe he was doing this, but he wanted to be with her so much tonight. She looked like the sweetest vision in her soft white dress with little red flowers on it, a dress that left her legs and arms bare and made him want to run his hands over her smooth skin.

She led him to her bedroom upstairs then closed the door behind them. She bent down and took off her sandals.

“Take off your boots and socks.”

He did as she went over to her desk and plugged in her iPod to her speakers. The first song came on and they both smiled as it was “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis.

“About us?” He asked as she came into his arms.

“Are you a lonely boy far from home?”

“Not anymore.”

She laid her head against his chest they listened to Ms. Tillis sing about moonlight and a love so soft and sweet. Then she looked up at him, “I know you and Bryce ship out in three days….”

“We can make the most of whatever time we have.”

She laid her head against his chest again and he swayed her with his arms as he wrestled with his feelings. This was no flirtation or one-night stand for him, or at least he didn’t want it to be for just one night. This was two people finding each other with no time to savor the feeling of falling in love.

She went still in his arms and lifted her head away from his chest, he slowly bent down and as her eyes closed, he touched his lips to hers. Her arms wound up around his neck as he kissed her slowly, drawing every second out between them.

“Are you sure? Because I want to be with you.”

“I am.”

Carolyn felt her heart soar at the look in John’s eyes, desire and heat, and something more, a word she was hesitating to use… love. But that’s what they were going to do here, make love.

Clothes came off slowly until they stood naked in the moonlit bedroom then he picked her up and laid her down on her bed. He touched her with a gentleness that said more than words ever could, pleasure slowly building between them.

The music faded out as they found release together then he held her in his arms as she fell asleep to the sound of his heart beating under her ear, a heart that would only beat for her.

~~~

Dawn slowly crept into her bedroom and woke her up, a smile blooming across her face as she opened her eyes to see John sleeping peacefully beside her. They’d made love twice last night, both times long, slow, and sweet. And now he was sound asleep while she was awake, so she decided to let him sleep.

She got dressed and went downstairs to start breakfast but found her brother instead fussing with the coffeemaker. It amazed her that he could do things with guns and stuff she didn’t want to but faced with common household appliances…

“Let me.” She quickly got the coffee going as he sat down at the table.

“Where’s John? He wasn’t in his room.”

Carolyn turned to face her brother, “He’s sleeping in my bed and do not say a word until I say you can speak.”

She sat down across from him, “He spent the night with me. And that so-called ‘rule’ about guys being with their buddy’s sister is total bullshit so don’t start on that. And last night was special.”

She got up and poured two cups of coffee, then she sat back down with their coffee. “Now you can speak.”

“I think you said it all, little sister.”

“Good.” Then she looked up as she saw John standing in the doorway. She wondered how much he had heard but she wasn’t going to ask. “Good morning, John.”

“Good morning.”

She got up from the table. “I’m going to fix breakfast now.”

“I’ll help.” John said as he came into the kitchen.

“Thanks.”

“And I’ll watch.” Bryce said with a smile.

John turned back to face him, “Really, bro?”

Carolyn came up beside John, “Obviously you haven’t tried to eat his cooking. Which is why I only let him set the table.”

They all laughed at that and all she could think was that everything was going to be alright.

~~~

Over the next three days, they made the most of their time together. During the day she hung out with her brother and John, having fun and goofing off. At night her brother would go out and she and John would slow dance, talk, and make love.

Then early in the morning after fixing them breakfast one last time, she stood on the sidewalk as John and her brother loaded up to drive to their base in Kentucky. They’d ship out from there to Afghanistan, right into a war. It was hard enough watching her brother leave but now she had two men to worry about, and love more than anything.

“I know you two will look out for each other, but I’m going to tell you to do so anyway. And when you get there, let me know what you need so I can start sending care packages.”

Bryce hugged her tightly then let her go, “I’ll give you and John a moment. You can even kiss him goodbye if you want to.”

She smiled as John pulled her in for one last hug. She closed her eyes as she took one last listen to his heartbeat, then she lifted her head from his chest and reached up and whispered in his ear, “I’ll wait for you.”

Then she let go of him before he could say anything to her. She watched them drive off until she couldn’t see them anymore, then she walked back towards her house, all alone now.

~~~

Over the next five years, the war in Afghanistan raged on though largely outside the awareness of the average American. Communication with John and her brother could be sporadic at times, and with no talk of what they were doing day in and day out. Visits home became farther and farther apart and both John and her brother changed in subtle ways each time they were home, hyper-aware of things, leery of crowds, loud noises, and struggling to talk about their feelings.

Carolyn just tried to give them the space they needed while trying not to burden them with her own struggles. She had discovered a love of fixing things and rehabbing old houses, working hard to get her contractor’s license along with licenses for plumbing and electrical work. She struggled to build up crews she could really on and not bash some sexist asshole upside the head with a hammer when he tried to do the ‘good ‘ol boy’ Southern charmer routine on her.

She and John hadn’t made any formal commitment to one another but every time she did go out with her friends, no guy could compare to John. Because when John came back to her, they picked up where they left off. They sat outside on the porch swing, slow danced in her bedroom, made love like there was no tomorrow.

~~~

Late Summer 2021, Afghanistan

John listened to the a/c unit in their room moan and groan like it was dying as he opened up his laptop and booted it up. He’d been trying to answer Carolyn’s last email for three days but with preparations for the withdrawal ramping up fast personal time was at a premium.

“Hey, man. Got a minute?” Bryce asked as he walked in and sat down on his bunk.

“Sure.” John set his laptop down and turned to face his best friend.

“How do you and Carolyn… how have you two kept it going despite barely spending any time together?”

“There’s a connection between us, and every moment we do spend together just… strengthens that, I guess. I feel like I can talk to her about anything even when there is crap I can’t talk about. And besides, she said she’d wait for me.”

“Why? She’s got her own life and everything. I mean, it’s not you’re a bad guy or not for her, or some… oh crap, man I’m sorry.”

“Christie left, didn’t she.” John saw right through Bryce’s meandering questions to what Bryce really needed to talk about.

“She’s been assigned to the evac at Kabul airport.”

Both of them knew the withdrawal from Afghanistan was probably going to be as chaotic and crazy as it was in Saigon in 1975, but here there was an added risk of suicide bombers said to be targeting the airport.

“I’ve known Christie for ten years and although we haven’t been ‘faithful’ to each other, every time I see her I just want to be with her. But she says she’s the river to my highway though and she says that’s why we don’t stand a chance with each other. Do you ever feel that way about you and Carolyn?”

John didn’t have an answer to that because he hadn’t let himself think about any kind of a future when in-country. But he knew the war was ending and he had to go home and face Carolyn, and find the words to talk about their future.

 It was a gorgeous September afternoon when Carolyn walked down to the street to her house. The meeting with her latest clients was within walking distance of her house so she’d enjoyed the sunshine to and from, and the meeting was with a lesbian couple so no male egos, just lots of laughs and great ideas.

The war in Afghanistan had ended with a hasty evacuation and a terrible tragedy at the Kabul airport there, and for close to twelve hours she didn’t know if John and her brother were among the wounded, or the dead. They got out a brief message to her letting her know they were alright and would be home when they finished in-processing and de-briefing.

So many lives were now hanging in the balance of the future and the past, she thought to herself as she rounded the corner and started up the street to her house. She realized in the five years with John that they had never once talked about their future together, or if they had one at all. She had never asked about any plans he had and she wondered she would follow him around if he stayed in the Army and got re-assigned to a base out of state, or even out of the country.

Then she opened the gate at her front walk and as she turned around after closing it behind her, she saw John step out of her house. She ran up the walk to him and he grabbed her as she raced up the steps. They held each other tightly as she closed her eyes against the sudden heat of tears in her eyes. She was so happy to see him but felt almost overwhelmed with emotions, too.

Then she heard the door open and John let her go and set her on her feet as her brother walked out of the house. She gave him a hug then looked at them. “So, will you two be here for a while or…?”

“Well I was headed to the store to get a few things so we can barbeque tonight.” Bryce said.

“Then let me give you my list from my phone here.” She pulled out her phone and sent the list to his phone. “Try not to forget everything I have on it.”

“I won’t.” Bryce kissed her cheek then gave her a wink before heading down the sidewalk to his truck.

As her brother pulled away, Carolyn went over to the porch swing and sat down. John sat on the railing in front of her, looking down at the floor like he was trying to figure out what to say. Then he looked right up at her and spoke.

“Before I met you, I thought I’d just do my twenty in the Army then buy a little cabin someplace and live out the rest of my days alone. But since I’ve met you, I haven’t thought like that at all…. I’m leaving the Army. I don’t want you traipsing from base to base with me or just waiting here. But I’m sure about much else…”

She got up and went over to him. “I’ve waited for you to come home to me, to want to come home to me. And here you are. Here we are.”

He held her gently in his arms as they were face to face, and heart to heart.

“I don’t know what I want to do  with myself, like, work-wise.”

She smiled at that opening, “You can swing a hammer, right? I could always use another hand on my crews, and you can work with me until you get your feet underneath you.”

“I’d like that.” He smiled at that then kissed her softly.

“All we can do is take things one day at a time.”

“I love you, Carolyn.”

“I love you, too.”

They shared another kiss, then a soft wave of heat began to rise up between them. He stood up then scooped her up in his arms. She wound her arms around his neck and said in his ear.

“Maybe it was you, maybe it was me, but it sure feels right. Now, and forever.”

Please visit Michele on her website:  https://michelesayre.com

Calliope Njo: The House Is Alive

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay.

The House Is Alive

Calliope Njo

Things sort of got turned upside down since the pandemic hit. I didn’t so much lose my job as they told me there was nothing I could do. If I had other skills such as answering the telephone or typing, then they could keep me. Otherwise, it would be best to find other means.

It was an office complex that kept food on my plate and gave me the ability to drive a car. I worked in the mailroom. It didn’t satisfy any need I had other than that. I had dreams of doing something more physical.

I wanted construction. It’s what Dad did, what Grandpa did, and so on down the line. Mom did the catering, Aunt Doris and Aunt Ethel cleaned houses, and Grandma stitched anything that needed to be stitched.

Me? I was supposed to fall in line with the women, but I couldn’t thread a needle for the life of me. That little thread never got into that little hole. I burned water more times than I dared to count.

If it wasn’t for the microwave, I’d starve. Dad worked in a construction company, and that’s what I wanted to do.

I had a vision of owning a construction company. With Dad’s help, I thought we could be on top. It meant a lot of hard work, but I believed we could make it work.

So when an opportunity to redevelop an area came up, I jumped at the opportunity. With Dad’s and Grandpa’s help, we could do it. An application needed to be filled out and submitted with detailed plans along with one thousand dollars to buy the property. If approved, then a lending company would donate one hundred and fifty thousand dollars as the funds to buy materials and hire the necessary subcontractors. The winner would then have the opportunity to create their own construction business. The money from the sale of the house would go to a veteran’s non-profit.

Everybody would win. It was a great idea.

I went to the designated area and had flashbacks. The area used to house those who worked in an iron factory. After World War II, the factory got shut down. A dairy company then bought it, but after so many disasters, they pulled out along with the population that used to live in this area. Somebody bought up the area and did something with it.

The houses had peeling paint, holes in the porches, broken windows, graffiti, and dead animals. All of them could be demolished and rebuilt again. However, that would take more time and money than what was given.

The one I wanted was the one with the porch swing. It seemed to be the most intact, meaning that if I dared to walk on the floor, a hole wouldn’t appear out of nowhere. I gathered up the money and did the paperwork. We were approved. From that point forward, we had seven weeks.

That was a lot to accomplish in seven weeks.

We worked night, day, and weekends on that house. Thank God Mom provided food. My aunts volunteered to do any cleaning that needed to be done and that helped a lot. Grandma, being Grandma, made sure all of us had clean clothes every day.

We gutted it. That way, we could see what was underneath and talk about what needed fixing. Which was everything.

We didn’t get outside yet, so that meant the swing was still intact. As a test, I put a full tool box on it and it didn’t fall. It stayed put. I sat down with the intention of it only being for a few minutes.

“I hope you like it here,” a girl said. “It’s an old thing. Needs a group of peeps to keep it.”

What? I did not know what she was talking about. I didn’t even know how she got here. “Uh. I just sat down here to rest a little. Your parents might miss you.”

“Na. Dad’s still at work. Mama went to town to get some stuff. Probably a sack of taters or some rat poison. The baby died last night. Dad buried it in the backyard before he gone to work this mornin’.”

Oh, my god. Why does this child sound so cold? As if nothing happened. “I gotta get back. It was nice meeting you.” If I had a dollar, I would’ve given it to her, but I didn’t think to bring my wallet.

I walked a few steps away when I realized she could help us by picking up the trash. That would help. I turned around to talk to her about it but she disappeared. Maybe she left, and I didn’t realize it.

It was about the middle of talking about whom to hire to do the electrical when something crashed. Aunt Doris and Aunt Ethel went home to take care of their families. Grandma went home for the day. That left Dad, Grandpa, and me standing around a table to work out the kitchen.

Dad went out back, Grandpa stayed inside, while I went out front to see what happened. The swing was still there. No new holes in the porch. So the only thing I could think of was the fireplace was falling apart. It had been doing that every day since we got here. We were going to demolish it anyway and put in a new one.

Dad and I found Grandpa in the future kitchen. He kneeled on the floor with a coin in his hand. “This is a 1932 penny. Not shiny, but it doesn’t have any holes in it. This house must be about that old. They say a found penny brings good luck. I’ll put it in my pocket.” He checked his watch. “It’s best we get goin’. The open style kitchen would help to sell it to the new buyers. So we’ll go for that. I still don’t like the idea of the bleach-white cabinets, with the bleach-white countertop, and bleach-white walls. This ain’t a hospital. It’s a house. I say we use wood for the cabinets and keep them that way. We just use a lighter wood. That would be best, I think.” He stood up with a lot of moaning and groaning. ”Tomorrow at nine. Night and God bless.” He ambled out the door.

The house was too small to have walls other than in the bedrooms and the bathroom. Leave everything else open. A more modern style. I heard that moan and raised him two yawns when I finished that thought. It sure felt good, though. “So tomorrow at nine?” I said through another.

“I hear ya. Light wood cabinets are fine. We still need to work on the layout, though. Maybe Dad is tired, so his mind couldn’t function.” He laughed. “I knew I got it from someone. Night kiddo. Take care of yourself.” He kissed my forehead.

Kiddo? I wasn’t a kiddo. I was twenty-eight.

Since everybody else left, I figured I might as well, too. I needed a shower, some food, and some sleep, in that order. “Good night, house. See you in the morning. We’ll take care of the rest later. Night.”

I always thought people might see me as being crazy for talking to a building. I might be, but I had a reason. A house that sits deteriorates quicker than one that’s being lived in. Since we broke it down to bare bones, it had to feel something. Didn’t it?

On the way home, I dropped into a burger place and grabbed a cheeseburger and a Coke. Maybe the caffeine and the sugar would help to give me enough oomph to make it to the door, or maybe to the shower. Whatever.

The following days were coming along. We finished the kitchen with Grandpa’s insistence that the sink be in front of the window. Why? Because that’s where Grandma likes it. We shrugged and moved along to the family room.

I didn’t see the girl during that time. There were only about three weeks left. We took alternating naps to get the place ready for inspection and for sale.

With about a week left, we started work on the outside.

Dad wanted the front porch to be more than a front porch. He envisioned a screened-in porch. I had to say goodbye to the porch swing. I liked that swing because I could sit on it. It also felt like it belonged.

That was when things sort of went crazy. Walls would collapse. Holes in the floor would appear out of nowhere. Windows would shatter and millions of tiny pieces of glass would fall to the floor. These were brand new. We didn’t install them that long ago.

Dad almost got his head smashed by a flying hammer. I told him I didn’t do it. We had our differences, yeah, but that didn’t mean I wanted to kill him.

Grandpa had chest pains. He said it didn’t feel like a horse. It felt more like an elephant. Grandpa was a healthy man. Grandma made sure he took his vitamins, drank plenty of water, and ate plenty of fruits and vegetables. They walked for an hour everyday plus construction. Yet he was complaining of chest pains.

A box of nails marched on the floor. Then somehow came into formation to build a wall in the middle of the air. I ducked for my life as they came right at me. I heard them slam into the wall behind me.

Dad came running in and he yelled about me being reckless. I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to nail myself to the wall. Of course, he thought I did it to get attention.

That was when I had second thoughts about this project. Last-minute fixes coming up were to be expected. That’s how things worked sometimes.

Between the deadline and finishing the house, along with Dad’s and Grandpa’s issues, I started to have second thoughts about all of this. Maybe my dream of owning my company wasn’t going to happen.

Dad left after the nail incident. He was angry with his stiff jaw, even though he said he was fine. Of course, I didn’t believe it, but it’s not like I wanted us to be together at that moment either.

I took on the front porch by myself. The project had to be completed. Even if we didn’t win this thing. We could look back on it with thoughts of it being an honest day’s work.

I took down the swing, but instead of getting rid of it, I thought of redoing it with new boards and fresh paint. The sun was about to set and that meant getting out the lanterns. I couldn’t work in the dark.

“All right, house. What do you think? We got the cement poured early in the project and that’s why it’s hard now. That way, we don’t worry about falling through the holes.” I laughed. “Tomorrow, hopefully, Dad will be here to do the backyard. That’s always been his thing. While he’s doing that, I’m going to go to a sort of rummage store. They have a whole lot of stuff to choose from. Most for free if you know how to refinish it. Then, you’ll be beautiful. Oh wait, I have to install the screens, so you’ll have a screened-in porch. Yeah. OK.”

I got the screens from someone’s trash. They weren’t broken beyond repair and only torn around the edges. I worked on that until I couldn’t work anymore. Someone I knew worked with glass. I hoped I could talk to him about the possibility of getting windows to fit in over the screen at a reasonable price. There were piles of red bricks scattered around the property. Most were in good shape and maybe there were enough to provide a finishing touch.

After a good night’s sleep and a hot shower, I returned the next day. Dad was in the back doing the backyard. He started pouring the cement for the backyard when something came right at him. I grabbed the closest thing I could, which was the trash can lid, to stop it. It worked and Dad didn’t look up. Of course, my arm hurt, but at least Dad would be OK.

“Morning, Dad.” I waved.

“Morning, Pipsqueak.” He smiled.

Yeah. Things were OK. I shook my head and went around to find Grandpa.

The kitchen was finished, and that led out to the family room. It was an open area instead of the closed off option, which might’ve made the space feel smaller. After looking at the completed area, it looked better than I thought it would.

Grandpa was finishing the floor tiles in the bathroom. We agreed it wasn’t big enough to have two bedrooms. So we arranged the floor plans to have a master bedroom with a connecting bathroom and a small office space.

“Morning, Grandpa.”

“Morning. Got my coffee?”

“You didn’t order any.”

“I coulda sworn I did. All right. When I finish up here, I’ll go out and get some.”

“Just be careful.”

“Always.”

I made my way to the front, and it looked gorgeous. The red brick would show it off. Be something different to sort of glam up the space.

“All right, House. I’m going to put up the brick. While that’s sitting, I’m going to redo the swing. Not get rid of it, no no. Redo it and put it back up. Then there will be a nice sitting corner, I think. You’ll love it.”

I spent the entire morning doing that. Thank God Mom came by with food. I was starved by then. Outside the house, I sat on a tree stump and looked at it. I stood up and took a couple of steps back and smiled. “Now, you look fantastic.”

I spent the rest of the day picking up. My aunts agreed to come by and clean it up before we went back and told them it’s done. Of course, we needed to get the inspection paperwork in before doing that.

Everybody else had gone home while I stayed and sorted through the paperwork.

“So. You done now?”

That voice sounded familiar. I looked to my right, and that girl reappeared. “Hi. You need something?”

“Nah. Just sittin’. I got worried when this chair was gone. I got angry.”

“Dad wanted to get rid of it. I didn’t. I just took it apart, got some fresh supplies, and redid it. There was a picture in my head of the perfect front porch. All I needed were the parts. The house supplied the rest.”

“You done good then. You gonna be here?”

“Uh.” This conversation went from typical to creepy. “What do you mean?”

“Gonna live here?”

All the time that we had been talking, she looked at the ground. I didn’t mind that much. Lots of people do that, including me. When she looked at me there were no eyes where there should have been.

I got up and made my way towards the door. “We just rebuilt it. We don’t have plans to live in it. There’s some paperwork to finish before submitting it to the county office. They’ll put it up for sale. That’s how this works.”

“I see.” She stood up and walked to me. “So you tore me up and put me back together ‘cause you felt like it?”

I gulped. That was when what she said penetrated my brain. Tore her up and put her—she’s the house. “No, no. House, listen to me. We didn’t tear you up because we were mean. We tore you up and put you back together to give you another life. So that you can feel useful again. That’s why we did it. You got tired of sitting here and doing nothing. Right? Well, this will give you another life.”

“I suppose. You better be right ’bout this. I know who you are and how to find you.”

“All I can say is it might not happen right away. It will happen, but it will take time. You look beautiful now. Right? The factories are gone, but I know there’s a company that’s going to come in. Someone will take care of you when that happens. It will take time.”

The girl blinked, turned around, and went inside. When she did that, I collapsed on the floor. I looked over at the swing and remembered that the paperwork still needed to be finished. I stood up and walked over.

The paperwork was completed and stacked on the table. “Thank you.” I grabbed all of it and locked the place before I left.

I turned it in and needed to wait six to eight weeks for approval. After that, another two weeks before they made a decision.

Those six to eight weeks felt like sixty to eighty years before I got a letter telling me they approved. It only took another two days before another letter came telling me they had plans to put it up for sale. It seems that I was the only one who finished. Two other groups tried and left after the first day.

Rumor went around that two other groups couldn’t finish because their tools kept disappearing. They ran out of money before completion. They left.

Another group didn’t finish because the general contractor got nailed to the wall. The others in the company ran out and left everything behind. None of them got over the vision of seeing their boss in that state.

It seemed I was the only one who finished and they had plans to make my house a showpiece of what the future might hold. I had no idea any of that happened. I only knew there were two other groups.

When I told Dad, he laughed. Grandpa gave his usual yup and went back to reading the paper. Neither helped, not that I was looking for it.

I went back to the historical society and looked up the area. Nothing happened there that I didn’t already know. So how did those houses become possessed? There were always people coming in and out. Maybe one of them did some horrible things, and we suffered for it?

It didn’t take any time at all before they sold the house. It seemed the CEO of a new incoming company loved it. Couldn’t pass it up because of the screened-in porch. So House could feel useful again. It still made me wonder about the other two.

Please visit Calliope on her blog: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog/

Courtney E. Taylor: The Return

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay.

The Return 

Courtney E. Taylor

She looked up into unmistakable green eyes.

It couldn’t possibly be him.

But it was.

“Hey, Liz.” His voice was as smooth as ever.

She opened and closed her mouth twice before finally releasing a pathetic, “Hey.”

He smiled. When she didn’t say more, he asked, “Is the soda fountain open?”

She couldn’t keep staring. “Sure. What can I get you?” She retreated behind the counter as he selected a stool and a beverage.

As soon as she served his drink, she fled to the kitchen. She hoped no one would notice the shift in her demeanor — she was high strung on the average day — but she could feel her heart racing and imagined everyone in the café could see it.

Four years had passed since this man had exited her life. She had anticipated their final farewell, yet she had grieved the culmination of their relationship for weeks. Eventually, she had come to terms with that broken piece of her heart, the part that would always be his. From time to time, it would pulse as a memory forced itself to the surface to remind her of the love she had felt for him. But she had truly believed she would never see him again in person.

Now he was sipping a soda just a few feet away.

She had to keep moving. Her small staff could handle this midafternoon crowd, but she couldn’t simply dash out the back door. She washed her hands, patted her cheeks with the damp paper towel, and grabbed a pitcher of iced tea to refill glasses and check on the customers.

She gave Chris a glance with a quick smile as she passed but kept her eyes to the floor as she moved across the room.

Three glasses and five nervous minutes of small talk later, she had to return to the counter. There was no way around it.

She finally faced Chris. “Can I get you anything else?” She probably only gave him a second to answer, but even that felt too long. “What are you doing here?”

His smile had faded, but that only increased his handsomeness. “Can we talk for a minute outside?”

She nodded. “Ok.” She paused to ensure that her staff would indeed be fine without her for a few minutes, then led the way through the front door.

Sunlight broke through the trees, creating a spotted pattern on the wooden porch. The air was unusually comfortable for that early in the year.

The hinges creaked as they lowered themselves onto the swing.

Seriousness filled Chris’ face. The intensity made her pulse quicken. She wanted to end the silence that had followed them outside, but words escaped her.

He stared at her for a long moment. Then he leaned forward with his elbows balanced against his knees, his eyes on his folded hands. “I’m getting married in three months.”

Good. He wasn’t there to woo her again. “Congratulations!” What else could she say?

He dipped his head in a nod. “We’ll buy a house, we’ll have children.” He paused. “But it should be you.”

She jerked her head in his direction.

He didn’t meet her gaze. “For days, weeks, you have filled my mind. Every time I close my eyes, there you are. When I kiss my fiancée, I think of you. Every waking moment, I crave you.”

She studied his profile. “Is this what cold feet look like?” She didn’t expect him to laugh. “I’m not sure what advice you want me to give you.”

“I’m not looking for advice. I just had to see you again.”

She knew better than to ask if his wife-to-be knew where he was. “Is she all the things you wanted, all the things I’m not?”

“She’s flawless. She fits every checkbox.” He closed his eyes. “I love her, but her perfection falls short. She’s not you.”

“What do you want me to say?” Liz whispered.

He turned his head to look at her without offering an answer.

“All those years, we had each other. But that’s so far behind us.”

“Fifteen years.” The swing rocked gently beneath them as he leaned back. “Fifteen years of weaving in and out of each other’s lives. I was certain that you were only part of my journey, not my future. I had to let go of you to pursue my dreams. Now I’ve achieved nearly all of those dreams. The only one left to fulfill is creating a family.” He paused, his eyes burning into hers. “I’ve finally realized that those times together created a chain binding me to you. You are wrapped around my every choice, my every move. I can cut you out of my life again and again, but you are locked in my heart. Nothing I can do will break that bond.”

She wanted to reach for his hand. She wanted to kiss him. Yet she held back. She couldn’t crumble.

“I love you. I’ve always loved you.”

Tears betrayed her. “You told me to move on. You said you released me.”

His shoulders sank slightly. “I know. I’m so sorry I hurt you. It seemed like the right decision back then. But now…”

“Now doesn’t matter. You’re committed to someone else. Remember? You wouldn’t say it, but it was written all over your face. I’m not the girl for you.”

He opened his hands with defeat. “I was wrong. You are undoubtedly the woman for me, and we still have a chance to make it work.”

She stared at him blankly. This suggestion was ludicrous. Was he serious? Could she even consider it? What would she have to sacrifice to accept his offer? Would they finally have the life together that had always seemed just out of reach?

The waitress stuck her head out the front door. “That guy from the Southern Supplies finally called back. I know you didn’t want to miss him.”

That interruption pulled Liz back to reality. By sunset, he could easily cut her out of his memory again, but she would still have bills to pay and a business to run.

Her eyes darted from Chris to the waitress to her hands and back again. “I have to go.”

He stood when she did, but she didn’t have the nerve to stand eye to eye with him. She stepped toward the door, frantically trying to pull together a respectable farewell. “I’m sorry. Congratulations again. I hope everything goes well.”

She felt her throat closing as she crossed the threshold. That was not how she’d wanted him to remember her, sounding like a Hallmark card, but she couldn’t run back outside for another try. She couldn’t face him again.

She picked up the phone and greeted her vendor with all the enthusiasm she could muster. She leaned her forehead against the heel of her hand, her eyes closed, her mind only half processing the information coming through the wire.

She was afraid to look out of the window. She knew he’d be gone. That was his MO. But she couldn’t believe he’d been there in the first place.

Still, her insides sank when she ended the call and had to face the dining room and the empty porch beyond it. She stared, trying to wrap her mind around the reality that he had come calling again, professing his undying love for her.

The waitress paused with a tray of dirty dishes balanced on the edge of the counter. “Here, that guy left this for you.”

Liz turned the business card over in her hands. It was nothing special, not even instructions to call him scribbled on the back. Yet it held the weight of a diamond ring, waiting for her to say yes or no.

The closed sign clanked against the front door as she pulled it shut behind her. She dropped onto the swing and pushed her feet against the deck to set it in motion.

Her mind was spinning in a million directions. The dry goods order was going to come a day late. She needed to visit the grocer to restock the garnishes. She owed her friend Megan a return call. The front door needed a new coat of paint. A few branches of greenery were encroaching onto the porch.

The tears caught her completely by surprise.

I love you. I’ve always loved you.

The very words that could have changed her life, offered an eternity too late.

Why had he resurfaced after all this time, and what was she supposed to do about it?

Megan showed up four days later as Liz was locking the cash register for the night. “Wine, please!” Megan knew that the café didn’t have a liquor license, but Liz always had a personal bottle stashed away for nights like these. They grabbed the wine and headed for the porch.

Megan settled on the swing with her glass. “So what happened while I was gone?”

Liz closed her sweater against the cool evening air and let the swing move back and forth a few times before answering. “I’ll give you one guess who showed up last week.”

Megan gaped at her. “Did you immediately tell him to go to hell?”

Liz’s eyes shifted to the ground.

“You listened to him??”

“I couldn’t actually slam the door in his face! I hadn’t heard from him in four years. Four years. But here he was, telling me that he still loves me.”

“What an asshole!”

Liz wouldn’t argue with that. “It’s a fairytale and nightmare combined. The love of my life came crawling back — on the eve of his wedding.”

As she attempted to recount the full conversation, she could feel herself getting worked up again. The emotions were as real as they had been when Chris had sat next to her in this same spot. “What did he expect me to say? ‘Sure, let me leave everything I’ve worked so hard to build behind to satisfy your desire?’”

“How did you leave things?” Megan asked.

Liz swirled the wine in her glass and watched it with contemplation. “We were interrupted. It was for the best. I don’t know how I would have escaped otherwise.”

“And you haven’t heard from him since?”

She shook her head again. “Not a word. And I have no right to feel anything about that. On one hand, vanishing like this is normal for him, the one thing I couldn’t let go of the last time we got together. On the other, good riddance. Hearing from him again would only make the situation worse.”

Megan looked at Liz skeptically. “But deep down?”

Liz sighed. “Deep down, I want to know everything about how his life has turned out. We were never just friends, but I wish we were now.”

Megan laughed. “You couldn’t be further from it. Evidently, you have become both the love of his life and the other woman.”

“Hey!” Liz smacked her friend’s arm with the back of her hand. “I’m not the other woman. I didn’t do anything.”

“Not a single melt-your-knees kiss?”

Liz shook her head. “Not even a handshake or hug hello.”

“Wow.”

They fell into companionable silence for a while, watching cars pass on the street and listening to birds settling down for the night.

“Is he still as hot as he was back then?”

Blood raced through Liz’s veins at the recollection. “Every bit.”

“Damn.”

They lingered on the porch until well after midnight. At last, they ran out of wine.

Megan stretched as she stood up. “I hope I’m here if he shows up again.”

Liz grinned. “You picked one hell of a week to leave town.” She gave her friend a big hug. “Thank you for letting me process all of this with you. Now I can shove it into the box of memories, out of mind at last.”

Megan stopped Liz at arm’s length and held her eyes for a moment. “I’m proud of you for saying that, but… You can still change your destiny. I’ll give him grief ’til my dying day because of the heartache he’s caused you, but I know you cling to those intermittent memories. He has given you countless moments so perfect they might’ve been stolen from Hollywood. But whatever happens next, it’s up to you. If you want that future, go after it. If you don’t want it, you’ll be fine that way too. I’ll stand with you either way.”

Liz rocked slowly as the warm evening air wrapped around her like a hug. The sun was down, but the neighborhood wouldn’t fall silent for a few more hours.

Her heart stopped as the murmurs of an old song vibrated down the road. He’s getting married.

Those words shouldn’t have had any effect on her. She had long since let go and moved on. Yet he had returned, his presence reverberating in her soul. Three months had passed; in one week, he would be promising his life to someone else.

She groaned. How was she going to make it through the week without imagining each step of his celebration? She desperately needed to shake him from her mind.

Instead, she tumbled down a trail of memories.

At last, her thoughts drifted to the business card stowed in her desk drawer. Would he answer if she called, or had he once again blocked her number — blocked her existence — from his life?

She stared into the night, knowing there was only one thing left to do.

~~~

He hurried past the receptionist, his hellos automatic and mindless. He barely glanced at the figure who rose from the loveseat nearest his office door.

He nearly tripped when his subconscious caught up with him.

He swiveled to face her with shock.

Her exquisite blue eyes returned his gaze. “Hey, Chris.”

Please visit Courtney on Facebook or Medium: 
https://www.facebook.com/byCourtneyETaylorhttps://bycourtneyetaylor
medium.com/the-return-ad58218d2770

Kenneth Lawson: Rewind

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay.

Rewind

Kenneth Lawson

The sound of a distant lawnmower woke him. He stretched as he untangled himself from the couch where he’d fallen asleep. A glance at his watch revealed it was well past noon.

Shaking the cobwebs from his brain, he sensed something was off—but what? Everything looked just as it always had. Even his favorite chair was where it should be, along with the coffee table he almost tripped over when he stood up. But it was different, and he couldn’t figure out why. 

Jason Kline inherited the small three-bedroom house from his parents, who bought it new, seven years after his father had returned from the war. Many families moved into the neighborhood at the same time his parents did. Jason and his brother had lived there since he was ten and Jeremy was seven years old. He knew everyone in the neighborhood.

Jason walked into the kitchen to get coffee and noticed the kitchen wall next to the hallway. It took him a second to realize what was missing and when he did, his heart raced. The marks were gone. As they grew up, their parents had marked their height on that wall. The marks, left as a fond memory, were gone and appeared freshly painted.

He muttered, “What the hell?” Jason went from room to room, tamping down panic, as he noted familiar items of his were missing and the antiques inherited from his family looked brand new. He needed air and fled out the front door, stopping in his tracks.

The porch swing hung from a rafter as it always had, but the chains were shiny, the white paint pristine, not worn as it should be. He stood still, listening to the sounds from the neighborhood—the laughter of small children, the sound of an old lawnmower, and barking dogs, not the sounds of his neighborhood where everyone was retired.

His breathing came in shallow gasps as he turned toward the street. Instead of a neat row of seventy-year-old-plus maple and oak trees shading a row of postwar cottages, he found the same houses with fresh paint, newly sowed lawns, and sapling trees staked for support.

The lawn he mowed yesterday was now a patchwork of grass and dirt. The smell of freshly cut lumber mixed with new construction sounds and the rumble of antique trucks passing by. Jason grabbed the arm of the swing and sat before he collapsed. This was the same house—just a younger version of it.

Across the street, children around five or six years old played in the yard. They were familiar, Julie and Tommy Burns. He had known them all his life. Two houses down, Mr. Rigby, looking no older than twenty-five, was mowing his yard. He had moved in before his family did, and his yard had grown lush. The sounds of hammers and men yelling drifted from down the street. A house he knew would fill with more friends.

He closed his eyes, repeatedly muttering, “Think. Think,” and tried to remember what he had done this morning before waking up and finding himself in his private twilight zone.

~~~

Jason Kline’s routine rarely varied. He woke up at precisely seven am, and by seven-thirty, he had gotten dressed and had a light breakfast and coffee. He would go for a walk at exactly eight am, turning right onto the sidewalk in his usual route. Jason ventured down the porch steps and looked to his right. Most mornings, Linda Clay was on her porch picking up the morning paper. She’d wave, and he would half-heartedly wave back. Linda’s house was there, but it lacked the flower garden she had tended for all those years. The bare wood picket fence looked stark against the grass trying to grow next to the newly poured concrete sidewalk. Jason found himself looking at the sidewalk as he walked down the street. Freshly poured and barely dry, the neat lines separating the blocks still showed trowel marks.

He stopped next to a maple tree, touched the trunk, then encircled the trunk with his fingers. He shouldn’t be able to wrap his arms around this tree. The cement block that anchored the sapling was pristine, but he knew years later that the abandoned block would exist as chunks of concrete nearly buried in the ground.

Jason looked down the street toward the house under construction—Lewis’s home. In a few years, he would meet them when he attended a neighborhood picnic and fell in love with their daughter April. 

Jason turned to face his house. It was the same but different. His parents moved into the house as newlyweds, raised him and his brother, and lived there until both died.

He turned and went back into the house. Nothing felt right. He wandered around the house until he passed a bookcase and spotted the family photo albums. Maybe they could shed some light on his predicament.

He returned to the living room where he noticed the large flat-screen TV was gone, and in its place was a large old-fashioned radio. What else? He laid the albums on the coffee table, sank onto the couch, and opened the top album.

For an hour, he flipped through the pages of the photo albums. Some pictures he remembered seeing all his life, but photos from most of his life were missing. He found a photo of the street and yard, taken from the front porch. Rushing outside, he compared the photo to the view in front of him. It was the same. The photo was dated April, the year he was ten years old.

A chill ran down his spine. What was going on? Why was his world suddenly back in nineteen fifty-two? Jason heard a noise behind him. Turning, he recognized a much younger version of Linda Clay, no more than twenty-one, walking up the street with a basket of flowers.

“Jay-Jay, why aren’t you at school?”

No one had called Jason “Jay-Jay” since he was a little kid. He shared his name with his father, and he was called Jay-Jay as a kid. 

Linda came up to him and handed him a bunch of flowers. “Give these to your mother, then go to school.”

Jason watched her walk down the sidewalk. He looked at his hands holding his mother’s favorite flowers, bluebells. They were the hands of an adult, yet Linda reacted to him as if he were ten-year-old Jay-Jay.

What was going on?

Shaking, he returned inside and shut the door behind him. He leaned against the door and closed his eyes, hoping that his world would return to normal when he opened them. The sound of construction filtered through the windows. He opened his eyes, but nothing had changed.

The flowers weighed heavy in his hand as he remembered how his mother’s face lit up when he brought her flowers. He sighed and went to the kitchen to put the flowers in a vase. He set the vase on the windowsill, overlooking the backyard. He saw the swing set he and his brother played on and he went outside.

~~~

Jason was unsure how much time passed as he sat on the swing—a brand-new set. His mom and dad loved to sit in the swing on the front step talking to neighbors as they passed by, but he and Jeremy loved their red swing set, especially the slide.

He tried to understand what he was experiencing, but he couldn’t get his head around any of it. The Linda he’d just talked to was not the Linda he’d seen yesterday on his morning walk. This Linda was young, pretty, and slender, not old, wrinkled, and slightly plump. 

He saw his image in the bathroom mirror when he wandered through the house. He was the same slightly bald man in his late sixties, not the skinny kid Linda saw. She was young again, but he wasn’t. Why? Did he look like a ten-year-old to everyone else? Was everyone else young again? Were the kids playing across the street the kids he grew up with? If they were young, why didn’t he look young to himself? Was everyone in the neighborhood experiencing what he was?

~~~

Hungry, he returned inside and rummaged in the retro-looking refrigerator for food. While nothing about his morning was funny, he laughed when he saw a package of bologna—his dad’s favorite. He made a bologna sandwich and sat at the kitchen table, thinking about what could have triggered this.

He finished his sandwich, put his plate in the sink, and went into the living room. He sat down on the couch where he had awoken to this nightmare. He needed to retrace his steps from the morning.

Everything was blank. He could only remember waking up from a nap on the couch. He picked up a photo album and leafed through it. He remembered something familiar in a photo, but what? He searched through the albums as tension rose in him. What had he seen?

Then Jason found the photo—a photo of his father. On his father’s wrist was the gold wristwatch that he wore today. He looked at his wrist. The watch wasn’t there.

He slammed his hand against his forehead. Remember, remember.

The watch … he took it off just before he lay down. The coffee table—he’d put it on the coffee table. Pushing the albums out of the way, he saw it. It looked brand new, shiny, not the patina of old gold that was the watch he wore every day.

Jason picked the watch up and racked his brain, trying to think what he had done. He had unfastened the watch and slipped it from his wrist. Then what? He wound it. It hadn’t been keeping good time, so he wound it. He remembered something his father once told him. Sometimes time had to reset itself. He never paid any attention to that phrase, but somehow, someway, time had reset itself to nineteen-fifty-two.

He stared at the watch. Maybe if he tried to wind the stem the opposite way, he would return himself to his time. His fingertips turned the stem in the opposite direction as he heard the front door open.

Jason looked up to see his father walking into the house. His heart skipped a beat. It had been years since he had seen his father.

“Hi, Jay-Jay.” His father smiled, and as he tossed his hat onto the couch, the room faded.

~~~

The late afternoon sun filtered through the large living room window as Jason woke. Disoriented, he sat upright. What a nightmare—he had been ten again, and the house was different. His father—he’d seen his father.

Then he realized he was holding something—a watch.

His father’s watch—a shiny gold watch.

Please visit Kenneth on his website: http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Anita Wu: Hopes and Dreams

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay.

Hopes and Dreams

Anita Wu 

“Did you ever wish we didn’t have to move, Zo?”

Zo looked up at me with those blue eyes that always mesmerized those around her and always made me wonder what I did to deserve her. She always seemed to know the perfect words to say, too, when it mattered. “Mom, you know I would follow you everywhere.”

She beamed the widest smile, and I pulled her into an embrace so that she did not notice the tears that burned my eyes.

“Mom,” Zo whispered. “I know it’s cold, but it is not comfortable on this swing.”

I let go of her, chuckling. Zo never liked people on her swing — her prized possession, as she liked to call it. She had dreamed of a swinging chair on a patio for years, but Jeoff never let her leave the house, much less build it. It was the first thing she did when we escaped to this cabin in the woods. She crafted it just large enough to fit two persons snugly, but she truly wanted it all to herself. So she did not take kindly to anyone taking up her space, not even her mother. “Yes, yes. Sorry.”

She gave me that smile again, and I wished I could pause and save this moment forever — where we lay on her swing on the porch of our cabin, surrounded by the summer trees, clear blue skies, and a hint of clouds to accent the mountains far in the distance.

It had taken us — me — a long time before we reached this oasis. I had fallen into the lie of Jeoff’s protection. The allure of leaving my first life — where I stole bread to feed my family or sold myself for medications to sell on the streets, only to be sold a lie and beaten when purchasers chased me for retribution — won me over. Jeoff promised food, shelter, and a companion, someone who would always be by my side.

Yet, he too sold me a lie. My second life was a broken vase that would shatter if a feather fell upon it. Jeoff lived a hole far deeper than mine, where one misstep could cost him his life. Yet again, he never shared a single nugget of information with me. He told me to stay put, to watch our daughter, and never let her leave home. But “home” was a single room with no windows, no light, and no furniture. I lay in the corner at night, my arms around Zo to remind her that I would always be there.

I dreamed of a better third life.

I let go of Zo now. “Do you want to get some wood to start a fire then?”

“Of course!” She beamed, jumping off the patio swing. “Can I try making the fire today? I’ve been practicing.”

“Practicing?” I arched my eyebrow. “Don’t go starting any forest fires now. You’ll burn down our home.”

“Don’t worry, they’re tiny. And I put them out as soon as they start to catch. It’s really fun to throw dirt over a tiny fire. Could we make an oven like that?”

“We can try something,” I told her, chasing her off into the forest. I watched, smiling, as she pranced away, her tiny figure disappearing into the distance.

My smile faded when I recognized a man lounging a distance away, sitting at the base of a tree, watching me. Jeoff’s friend’s gaze followed Zo.

I ran into the cabin, slammed the door, bolted the lock, and scanned the room for weapons, settling on a knife from our makeshift kitchen.

I heard the impatient knocks on the door. Three knocks meant last warning. Once upon a time, I stood watch on the other side of the door and covered my ears to the wrangle and screams inside the home. Now being no longer in the safety of the outside amused me. “Bluery, we just want to chat.”

I tightened my grip on the short knife. “Ben, you’re never here to just talk.”

A chuckle. “You remember, huh? Then you know I’m here to collect.”

“There’s nothing to collect. I’ve paid off my debt. And you made sure of that.”

“True.” The knob on the door shook. “But Jeoff did not.”

“His debt is not mine.”

Ben kicked the wooden door, tearing the chain lock from its hinges and slamming the door against the wall. He greeted me with a wicked smile, one I knew too well. “But sweetie, he’s your husband. And don’t you remember it’s rude to not invite me into your home?”

“Ex-husband,” I clarified as I inched closer to a window, hiding the knife behind me.

“Not in my books. You’re still one happy family. Besides,” Ben leaned against the doorframe, “he said you’d happily pay off his balance for him.”

“Bastard,” I spat as I circled Ben, trying to get to the door that he was blocking.

“Bluery,” Ben gave me his sweet voice. “You’ve always been a smart cookie. You have the money somewhere. Or if not, come with us, and I’m sure we can negotiate something that will work perfectly. Nothing you haven’t done before. You’re already an expert. Your daughter can come too. She’ll be more than willing to help you, I’m sure.”

“Leave her out of this. This has nothing to do with her.”

“Nor me,” I whispered.

“Ah ah ah. I can’t hear you, darling.” Ben cupped his ear as he turned his head. He always let his guard down around women, believing that he would be able to snap them in half if he wanted. I took this opportunity.

I raced towards him and slashed his arm and cheek, moving quickly to face him, opening his throat to my reach, slashing once more, and sending my calf between his legs for good measure. He grunted and fell to his knees. I stepped around him and sprinted out the door. The cuts were shallow, and I knew he would give chase, vengeance on his mind, no care for what his boss would do to him should he return without the money or a live body to work.

I didn’t care. I needed to find Zo.

I scrambled, like the day that I impulsively took Zo out of the house against Jeoff’s instruction. He came home early that day before I even got three steps off the lawn. He screamed when he saw me outside. I snapped my head in his direction, saw the muddied, torn clothes, bruises on his arm, and blood running down his face, and knew that that was my only chance.

I would never forget the words he shouted at me as he limped our way. I grabbed Zo in my arms and sprinted down the street. She clung to me, her little hands wrapped tightly around my neck as if she would lose her life if she let go. And perhaps she may have. We made our way into the forest at some point and stumbled upon our cabin, now home.

That was six months ago, and I had wished to never again hear those insults.

But I heard those words now, and I cursed. I hoped history repeated itself, for the alternative seemed far worse.

Please visit Anita on her blog: https://soreispeaks.wordpress.com/

MICHELE SAYRE: WRITING INSPIRATION BULLOCKS

Please Note: This article is reprinted from the original post on January 12, 1019,

WRITING INSPIRATION BULLOCKS

Michele Sayre

I’m sure there is someone out in this world who would love to slap my mouth shut for putting those three words together in today’s blog title. But sometimes, I feel like all I see when it comes to writing is finding the motivation and inspiration to write instead of complete works of writing instead.

So in response to all that glorious writing motivation and inspiration, I say this:

You don’t have to write.

I know you may feel like if you don’t write your brain is going to explode or all your wonderful ideas and stories will just die with you and take a few million years to regroup from the stardust of your demise. But that’s not going to happen because you felt like you had to write, but because you went out and wrote then edited the crap out of what you wrote till it shined like a clean toilet.

I write despite all the bullshit that comes along with it. But I refuse to be all high-and-mighty and lofty and say ‘I have to write’. No, for me it is a conscious choice to park my butt and write the words and edit the crap out of them before I share them with the rest of the world.

For me it’s never been about having the need to write, but wanting to do it. It’s wanting to see the words hit the page, wanting to push myself to sharpen them to the brightest points, and hearing their truth not just inside my head, but with my own ears, too.

I know I don’t have to be in the perfect mood to write. I know my mind can be a mess and most of all, I know it doesn’t have to be set in a certain way. I can write in a flying-hot good mood, or in a dark and cold pisser of a mood. And I can always edit until I get it to where it flows the way I want it to. I don’t have to kill my darlings but instead, keep at them until they make it out of the jungle of my mind.

I don’t need a room of my own, or a lot of time, either. And as for the thoughts that question the worth of my words and whether they’re good enough for others to see, bullocks to them. I know someone out in the world won’t like me and what I write, but I’ve kept on going despite being told that in more variations than I care to admit to. Every day I feel like I’m learning more and more how to kick that crap out of my way even when it keeps coming into my path.

So if you’re looking for any writing inspiration from me I’ll tell you one thing: write because you want to, and never mind the bullocks that come along with it.

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Please visit Michele Sayre’s website:
https://michelesayre.com/

Cheryl Ann Guido: A GOOD LIFE

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay.

A GOOD LIFE

Cheryl Ann Guido

Slowly lowering onto the old porch swing
He sighed
His old eyes wandered
Taking in memories
Of times gone by
Remembering games of catch
And a princess
Wearing a rose-patterned robe
Made from sheets
Celebrating birthdays
At backyard barbeques
Visualizing three young ones
Joyously chasing a Collie dog
Around the yard
 
His head cocked to one side
As he felt the imaginary touch
Of his bride
Gently laying her head
Upon his shoulder
The love of his life
For fifty years
No one else
Just the two of them
Sitting quietly
On this swing
Each night
Holding hands
Sipping sweet iced tea
Yet saying nothing
For the love between them
Needed no words
A love now gone
But always alive
In his heart
 
Alone now
The silence was sometimes unbearable
The swing all too empty
His home
Simply rooms without laughter
Yet he felt full
Knowing his had been a good life
 
As he watched the sun set
He smiled
Then closed his eyes
 

Please visit Cheryl on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherylannguidoauthor

SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK: EPISODE 32

In our quest to assist writers in becoming the best they can be and remain motivated, we would like to introduce you to John Chuback, M.D. A cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Chuback found his goals waylaid by his lack of motivation.

In a series of interviews with Paul W. Reeves, host on Impact Radio USA, Dr. Chuback continues his discussion of the tools leading to success with his book “Make Your Own Damn Cheese: Understanding, Navigating, and Mastering the 3 Mazes of Success.”

Please click on the link below to hear Episode #32 of SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK, the first episode in the second series, and start enhancing your journey toward success today.

DR. JOHN CHUBACK, a cardiovascular surgeon from New Jersey, is the author of, “Make Your Own Damn Cheese: Understanding, Navigating, and Mastering the 3 Mazes of Success,” “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom” and other books.

DR. CHUBACK joins HOST PAUL W. REEVES weekly to discuss his books, “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom” and “Make Your Own Damn Cheese“, each of which explores the human mind and becoming all that you can be.

Throughout this portion of the series, Dr. Chuback will discuss “Make Your Own Damn Cheese“, and the research behind his success philosophies.

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Audiobooks on Audible

The Straight a Handbook: The 50 Most Powerful Secrets for Ultimate Success in and Out of the Classroom Audible Logo Audible Audiobook – Unabridged

Written by John Chuback, M. D.
Narrated by Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D.

Click for Audible version on Amazon

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Previous Episodes of “Success Philosophies With Dr. Chuback”

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Dr. John Chuback

Picture

Dr. John Chuback was born and raised in Bergen County and graduated from the Dwight Englewood School. He earned his medical degree from New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ, in Newark. Dr. Chuback then completed a five-year General Surgical Residency at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC). Dr. Chuback is the author of Make Your Own Damn CheeseKaboing, and The Straight A Handbook.

All books are available on Amazon. com. 

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Impact Radio USA

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Welcome to ​IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN NOW” button at the top of the page to hear us 24 hours a day. While you are here, please check out all of our links to our shows, our podcast page, our blog, and learn how YOU can host your own show with us.  Thank you for listening to IMPACT RADIO USA!!!

Impact Radio USA ListenNow

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Paul W. Reeves 

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Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D. is an author, radio talk show host, educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician.

Listen to “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA and visit Paul’s websitehttps://paulwreeves.com for more information on his books and CDs.

https://www.impactradiousa.com/

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Lisa Criss Griffin: Eva’s Neighborhood 

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Rebecca Matthews from Pixabay.

Disclaimer: Implied spousal abuse and possible child abuse.

Eva’s Neighborhood 

Lisa Criss Griffin

Overgrown rhododendrons camouflaged the front porch swing of the old home nestled in the forested dead-end lot. Eva had lived here for most of her seventy-two years. Neighbors came for a while, then left as they moved on into more upscale areas. But she wasn’t going anywhere. This was her home. It was paid for, and she was generally well liked. It was a good neighborhood. Sometimes she still missed her husband, but Chester the Cat enjoyed a good conversation and had kept her company since her retirement. Lordy, the things she had told Chester….

Rain pattered gently on the metal roof of the porch as dusk approached. The smell of the fine peach brandy in Eva’s snifter wafted upwards, enticing her to take a sip before relaxing on the comfortable old swing. Chester gazed out from behind the window screen, watching her enviously. A man’s voice raised in anger pierced the evening air, followed by the sound of a solid slap. 

Despite the warm temperature, goosebumps rose on Eva’s arms. A wave of rage shuddered through her sturdy frame. Ole Nasty Nate was at it again. The man was insufferable and cruel to his family. None of the neighbors liked him, and with good reason. She suspected they didn’t know the half of it. But she sure did. She had heard a lot from Nate Tacey’s foul mouth, sitting unseen on her porch swing next door. Just the other day, he had yelled at little Susie Mallory, causing her to wreck as she turned away on her bike. Terrified, the girl limped towards Eva’s house.

“Hey, come here, you little snot! You can’t leave your bike in the road and cut through my yard!”

“Noooo, leave me alone!”

The sound of material ripping announced that Nate had made a grab for the little girl. A terrified shriek was quickly muffled.

“So, Susie-girl. How are you going to pay back your Uncle Nate for your trespassing? I could call the cops and have you arrested, you know.”

The muffled sound of sobbing brought Eva to her feet.

“Or we could play…Doctor. You can go to jail, Susie-girl, or play….”

“Susie? Susie Mallory? It is about time you got here. You are late. I thought you might have forgotten to come visit me.”

Eva stepped off the porch and strode towards the crying child. Nate stepped back, his face quickly mirroring concern.

“She fell off her bike, Ms. Eva. I was helping her to your house. I think she hurt her ankle and tore her shirt. She is upset. Thank goodness you are home.”

Eva’s eyes narrowed as she pulled Susie behind her.

“Go on up to the house and get a cookie from the kitchen table, honey. I’ll be there in a moment.”

Susie’s small face was pale as she limped away as fast as she could go. Eva drilled Nate with her steely blue eyes.

“You don’t fool me, mister. If you so much as look at that child again, I’ll call the authorities.”

Nasty Nate laughed sardonically, placing his beefy fists on his hips. 

“And tell them what? The cops won’t do anything, and neither will you. Dumb old hag.”

“You are trespassing on my property, Mr. Tacey. I suggest you leave before I call the cops. And you don’t want to play games with me. I guarantee you won’t like it.”

Nate looked Eva up and down, snorting his derision as he backed away. He turned and retreated to his house. She stood there watching, trying not to flinch when his front door slammed. He had gone too far. Something had to be done about that monstrous man.

Eva washed the dirt and tears from Susie’s frightened face, and wrapped her ankle before calling her parents to come pick her up. 

“Always remember, Susie, policemen protect children…they don’t take children to jail for cutting through someone else’s yard. They do, however, take bullies who terrorize their neighbors off to jail. And I think we can both agree that Ole Nasty Nate is a bully!”

Susie giggled at Eva’s nickname for Mr. Tacey, a cookie crumb falling from her lips as she grinned. Her mother arrived and took her home, thanking Eva for taking care of her daughter. Eva smiled benignly, replying that good neighbors look out for each other. Chester the Cat twirled his fluffy tail around her leg as she watched her visitors leave.

“Yes, I know you agree, Chester. That horrible man has gone too far. Something has to be done.”

“Brrrrouw?” Chester asked as he looked up at her.

“Exactly. Have I ever told you what a brilliant cat you are? I have? I hear that tuna is good for the brain. Should I get you some tuna, Chester?”

Chester meowed his opinion emphatically, weaving around Eva’s legs as the can opener began to hum. Eva forked the tuna onto a small china plate and placed it on the floor. The aroma of fresh fish filled the kitchen.

“You know what, Chester?”

Chester looked up at her, chewing his latest bite of tuna before he refocused on the plate in front of him.

“I think I will see if I can find that wonderful old recipe I have for brownies. It has been quite a while since I’ve made them. Only you will have to stay out of them, my friend. Chocolate is bad for cats.”

Chester ate the last of the tuna and started licking the plate, silently wondering if tuna cookies would be as good as he imagined them to be.

Two weeks later, Nate Tacey’s wife reported him missing. She knocked on Eva’s door, the massive bruise on her face still slightly visible under her makeup. 

“Excuse me, Ms. Eva. Have you seen my husband Nate? He stormed out of the house a week ago and never came home. I am worried about him. He always threatens to leave me, but this is the first time he hasn’t come home. I don’t know what to do.”

“Oh my! That is worrisome. You might want to let the police know about it.”

“Yes, ma’am. Could I use your phone? Nate never allowed me to have one.”

“Yes, of course. He is awfully mean to you, dearie. Are you sure you want him to come back?”

“Well, yes…no…oh, I don’t know.”

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you any further. Let’s make that call…it is certainly the right thing to do.”

The police came and took Mrs. Tacey’s statement, assuring her they would let her know when they had any information regarding her husband’s whereabouts. She went home, thoroughly exhausted. 

The neighborhood felt much friendlier as the weeks progressed without the wretched presence of Ole Nasty Nate Tacey. Children returned to playing outside, and adults lounged contentedly on their front porches in the evenings. Even Mrs. Tacey attended a barbecue, looking happier than she had in a long time. Eventually, the neighborhood felt like the safe, pleasant place it had been for decades.

Eva tapped a pencil on her notepad, making a shopping list. Chester jumped up on the couch beside her, sat down, and cocked his fuzzy head.

“Yes, I know. We need some garden lime for the backyard. And a few nails for the shiplap fence. It wouldn’t do to have some diggy dogs break in and destroy all my hard work back there in the flowerbeds. Especially that new flowerbed in the far corner that went in after I made those special brownies for Ole Nasty Nate Tacey.”

Eva locked eyes with the cat.

“It was for the good of the neighborhood, you see.”

Chester stood up and stretched, his nails visible at the tips of his velvety paws. Eva reached out and stroked him gently. The cat purred noisily, enjoying the attention.

“Just like it was good for the neighborhood all those years ago, when my Ralph disappeared,” Eva reminisced, “and later on, that hateful floozy down the street he ran around with behind my back. Funny how they all loved those brownies…. Yep, good neighborhoods are made up of good people, aren’t they, Chester?”

Chester the Cat looked up at her and licked his lips, certain there was tuna in his near future. Lordy, the things Ms. Eva told him….

—————

Copyright ©️ 2022 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

Please visit Lisa on her Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorlisacrissgriffin

WRITING TIPS, TOOLS, AND TIDBITS!: IMPLY versus INFER

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author and WU! admin Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.

IMPLY versus INFER

People often mix up the words imply and infer. Although they are similar, these words have different meanings and are used differently. This should help to use them correctly.

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Imply means to suggest or state something indirectly, or to hint at something. Implying is done by the speaker and is giving indirect information. If you mean the speaker says something indirectly or hints at something, use imply.

Examples:

  • He implied there might be a test, so I’m studying just in case
  • Without saying so, she did imply that she might be here later.
  • He didn’t say it directly, but he implied that I did not understand.
  • Her comments seemed to imply she didn’t like the food.
  • Are you implying that he cheated on the test?
  • Without actually saying it, the boss implied there might be layoffs.
  • Without being direct, the doctor implied that I needed to lose weight.

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Infer means to deduce or come to a conclusion or make an educated guess based on something indirect or based on an implication. Inferring is done by the listener and is figuring out what was meant. If you mean the listener comes to a conclusion, use infer.

Examples:

  • Based on his attitude, I inferred that he was not happy with me.
  • He inferred that she would come by later, even though she did not say it.
  • She inferred that she would fail the test based on the teacher’s comments.
  • Based on her comments, he inferred that she did not like the food.
  • The student inferred that she was being accused of cheating on the test.
  • When the boss asked to see her, she inferred that she was in trouble.
  • She inferred that he had been drinking when he slurred his words.

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Basically, imply is to say something indirectly and is done by the speaker, and infer is to come to a conclusion based on indirect information and is done by the listener.

If you mean the speaker says something indirectly, use imply.

If you mean the listener comes to a conclusion based on indirect information, use infer.

After her boss implied there might be layoffs, Melissa inferred they would happen soon.

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Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

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I hope you find this helpful. These tips and much more are also on my website and blog, and also in my Grammar Tips book. Thank you!

Website – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
Blog – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Grammar Tips Book – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09N2BQMCG/