Tag Archives: nonfiction

Cheryl Ann Guido: SUNDAY’S CHILD

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 StockSnap from Pixabay.

SUNDAY’S CHILD

Cheryl Ann Guido

It was a small thing really, a tiny pale hand protruding from the waters of the pristine stream. Still, it had caught Janine Corbo’s eye as she biked down the scenic road that followed the river’s path. 

After leaning her bike against the guardrail, she scrambled down the steep incline to investigate. Probably just an old doll someone tossed into the stream, she thought. Still, she felt obliged to be certain. After all, being an aspiring journalist, if there was a story here, she wanted it to be hers. 

When she reached the edge of the creek and peered into the crystal-clear water, Janine saw that this was no doll. The tiny baby appeared to be about a year old. Janine pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911.

In a few minutes, police and emergency vehicles filled the road above. After being fished out of the water, the baby was placed on a small stretcher and looked over by the Medical Examiner who suggested that the baby had probably drowned. 

A forensic team waded through the stream looking for evidence and Janine found herself being grilled by a homicide detective. After the detective finished questioning her, he gave her his business card with instructions to contact him if she had anything else to add and not to leave town. Of course, she would not leave town. Why would he even say that?

Janine hiked back up to her bike. Still a bit shaken by the day’s events, she slowly peddled back home. Upon arrival, she started to heat the kettle for some tea but thought better of it. She needed something stronger, something to calm her nerves. She opened one of the cupboards and pulled out the bottle of Scotch she kept for guests. Not what she would have preferred but it was all she had. She poured a little into a glass and swallowed it in one gulp. The strong amber liquid burned, causing her to gasp and cough. Why do people actually like this stuff, she wondered, as she downed a glass of water to quell the flames in her throat.

Her eyes caught sight of the letter from the editor of the local newspaper that had arrived in the morning mail. She had written in hopes of being hired as a reporter and he had responded asking her for a sample of her writing. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed the editor’s number. 

“Hello? I’d like to speak with Mr. Dalton.”

The secretary on the other end told her that Mr. Dalton was unavailable and asked if she cared to leave a message.

“Yes, I would. Tell him Janine Corbo called and that I have an exclusive for him. I was the one who found the baby’s body this morning.”

Janine heard a slight gasp then the secretary asked her to hold. Several moments later a deep gruff voice came on the line. 

“Hello, Janine? Jake Dalton here. So, you’re the one who found that kid today.”

“Yes sir.”

“And, you want a job. Do you think you can accurately write up what happened this morning without leaving out any details?”

“Oh, yes sir!”

“Alright, you do that and email it to me by three this afternoon. If I like it, you’re hired.”

“It will be in your hands by noon, Mr. Dalton.”

“Well don’t rush it. Remember, you’re a journalist. It needs to flow, be interesting, accurate and without grammatical mistakes.”

“Of course. Thanks, Mr. Dalton.”

Janine disconnected then sat down, opened her laptop and began to write. The words came easily and before she knew it, the piece was finished. She titled it, Monday’s Child. After running it through spell check and rereading it several times to be sure there were no mistakes, she emailed it to Jake Dalton. She sat back in her chair and smiled. With that simple *send* command, she had officially become a journalist.

***

The next morning Janine flipped on her television after she prepared her breakfast. Addicted to watching the news, she settled into a chair and sipped the strong dark coffee that always gave her that little jolt she needed to start the day. On the tube, the detective who had questioned her spoke to reporters as he recounted the events of the previous day. He added that although a positive DNA match had not yet been determined, the baby girl had been visually identified by her parents, Mark and Diana Bolton of Bolton Industries.

Ancestors of the current Bolton family had founded the little town of Scenic Hills over one hundred years before and were considered township royalty. Their mill provided work for many of the town’s citizens and they were well known for their charitable contributions to needy residents. They were well liked and deeply respected. The loss of their child saddened many.

Janine still had not heard from Dalton. She began to worry that her piece had not impressed him when her phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Janine, Dalton here. Great job on your article. It will be in today’s afternoon edition.”

“Oh my goodness, thank you, Mr. Dalton.”

“No thanks needed. You’re an excellent writer. Now, I have an assignment for you. Are you up to it?”

“Already? I mean yes, yes of course.”

“The body of another child has been found. I want you to cover the story.”

“Another child? How horrible.”

“Indeed. Go to the old abandoned warehouse on Chestnut Street. You’ll need to leave right now. The police have already been on the scene for at least an hour. Oh, and … welcome to The Scenic Times.”

“Thank you. I’m on it.” Janine hung up and dressed. As she drove to the warehouse, she could not help but wonder about the murders that had so suddenly plagued her little town, a town whose biggest news stories prior to this had been car wrecks and the occasional fire. 

As she pulled up outside of the warehouse, she felt a chill as the memory of her own experience the previous day flooded her mind. Come on Janine, you’re a reporter. You need to toughen up. This is not the first crime scene you’ve witnessed and it probably won’t be the last.

A police officer stopped her. “I’m sorry, Miss, this is a crime scene. You need to leave.”

“I’m Janine Corbo of The Scenic Times, Officer. I was hoping to get some information regarding the murder.”

As she finished speaking, she saw the detective who had questioned her the day before. She waved her hand. “Detective, a word?”

The tall muscular investigator sauntered over. “It’s okay, Officer. I’ll handle this.” He smiled and held out his hand. “Miss Corbo, Detective Anders. What are you doing here?”

Funny, she hadn’t noticed how good looking he was before. They shook hands. “I’m covering the story for The Scenic Times and I was hoping to get a statement.”

“Really. You didn’t mention that you were a reporter when we spoke yesterday.”

“That’s because I wasn’t a reporter yesterday.”

“Hmm. Oh … kay.” His right eyebrow arched as he rubbed his chin.

“I know. It’s weird. They hired me right after I sent them a piece on the Bolton baby. It will be in this afternoon’s edition. Anyway, what happened here?”

“Well, all I can tell you is that we found another child, a boy who appears to be approximately two years old.”

“Were there any marks on the body?”

“None that the ME found at this point.”

“I see. He was probably smothered.”

“And you know that how?” 

Janine’s jaw dropped in embarrassment. “I … don’t actually. Just a guess. I’m a crime buff. I’ve picked up a lot about forensics.”

“I see.” Anders chuckled softly then grew serious. “Actually, the ME did find some fabric fibers in the boy’s mouth. He mentioned that smothering could be the cause of death but he wants to do a complete autopsy before making it official.”

“Do you know the identity of the boy?”

“We have our suspicions.”

“Oh, and who might he be?”

“Sorry, this is an ongoing investigation. I’m not at liberty to say.” There was that gorgeous smile again.

“Is there anything else you can tell me?”

“Only that the ME determined that the boy died early this morning. You’ll have to wait until the press conference to get the rest of the information just like all the other reporters. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back.” He turned and began to walk away.

“When will that be?” Janine yelled at his retreating form.

“Five this evening,” he shouted back as he continued walking.

True to his word, at five sharp Detective Anders stood in front of a sea of microphones and gave a detailed statement about what they had learned so far.

The little boy was the son of Edward Kaddish, the head of the law firm servicing both the business and personal needs of the Boltons. Janine shuddered at what she felt was an obvious connection between the two dead children. The boy had indeed died by being smothered, and the police had been tipped off to the body’s location by an anonymous caller. Detective Anders did not comment or speculate about the possibility that the two murders were related. 

Afterward, Janine rushed home and wrote up her second article. She titled it, Tuesday’s Child, then emailed it to Dalton.

***

At eight o’clock the next morning, Janine again sat in front of her TV eating breakfast. She bit off a piece of toast then almost choked as an announcer broke in with a special report. Yet another body had been found, that of a ten-year-old boy. His little body had been discovered floating in the big fountain at the center of Town Square. Once again, the police had been alerted by an anonymous caller who claimed to be on an early morning run at half past five that morning. 

Janine rushed downtown and arrived just as a news conference began. Detective Anders announced that the boy had positively been identified as the son of Mark Bolton Senior’s secretary. Mark Bolton Sr was the patriarch of the Bolton family and the grandfather of the first child found. He also revealed that the boy had been strangled.

After his statement, reporters began shouting questions at Anders. Janine decided to ask one of her own.

“This child is the third murdered in as many days. Obviously, this is the work of a serial killer. All three children have connections to the Bolton family. Could this be a case of some kind of revenge?”

Anders gulped. In all of his career, he had never had a case like this one. He felt a bit unsettled by the fact that the question came from Janine, the person who found the first body. Was she involved? “Miss Corbo, all I can tell you is that all three children had ties to the Boltons. Anything beyond that would only be speculation.” He held up his hand. “Thank you, everyone. That’s all that I have for now.”

Janine drove home in silence. At first, she had been thrilled to write for the Times. Now, she dreaded penning her latest article, Wednesday’s Child.

***

At five am Thursday morning, Janine awoke to the ringing of her phone. With one eye open and the other struggling, she saw that the caller ID displayed Dalton’s name. She snapped to attention. “Mr. Dalton, good morning.”

“Janine, get down to the Broad Street exit of Route 88 right now. They found another body.” Before she could reply, he disconnected.

Upon arrival at the crime scene, she noted that she was the first reporter to arrive. In fact, emergency vehicles were still arriving. She spotted Anders and waved. 

“I’m sorry, Janine, I don’t have time right now.” He took a step then turned back. “How did you get here so fast, anyway. I wasn’t aware that the press had been notified.”

Janine shrugged. “They must have been. My editor called and woke me up.” 

Anders shook his head. “Well, at this point I have nothing. I’ll have more later at the five pm press conference.”

At the press conference that evening, Anders disclosed that the eighteen-year-old female had been an intern at Bolton Industries. Though it was unknown why she had been walking the highway, she had been the victim of a hit and run. No further details were provided. 

By this time, the residents of Scenic Hills, especially those with direct ties to the Boltons, had become terrified since all of the murders obviously revolved around that prestigious family.

With a heavy heart, Janine wrote Thursday’s Child.

The body of Friday’s Child, the six-year-old son of Mark Bolton’s other son Samuel, had been found in a tree house inside of the Bolton compound. A half-eaten package of chocolate cookies lay beside him. When tested, they were found to contain arsenic.

Saturday’s Child was not a child at all. The body of Mark Bolton Jr, father of the first victim and heir to the Bolton business empire, was found in his car in the company parking lot. He had been shot in the head.

As Janine wrote her series, she realized that the victims of the murders had an eerily bizarre similarity to an old poem she had once read whose lines described a different child on each day of the week. There was something else. In each case but the first, the police had been tipped off by an anonymous caller. Coincidence? Perhaps, but she thought it more likely that the murderer made the calls. 

Assuming she was right about the poem, there would be one more child, Sunday’s Child, a good and happy child. Who would be next? Janine’s eyes lit up as an imaginary light bulb went off inside of her head. She knew who the next victim would be, and after a few minutes of Googling, she also guessed the identity of the killer and why. Thankfully it was still Saturday. She dialed Detective Anders. “I know who’s next on the hit list. Meet me at the Bolton compound.”

“Wait a minute, you need to tell me more than that.”

“No time. Just do it!” She hung up without further explanation.

After arriving at the compound, Janine squeezed through the bars of the wrought iron gates. All of the rooms were dark except for one. She headed for the outside window and slowly raised her head until her eyes were just above the sill. Inside, Mark Bolton Sr stood upon a chair, a noose around his neck, hands tied behind his back with a gag in his mouth. Another man stood beside him, his back to Janine.

“How does it feel, Bolton? How does it feel to lose your children?” The man circled around the chair. Janine saw his face and gasped. He continued his taunting. “My son hanged himself, you know. This,” he gestured toward Bolton, “is exactly how I found him that night. It’s right that you go the same way.” 

Janine saw him raise his foot. He was going to kick the chair out from under Bolton and she had to do something fast. She pulled off her shoe and threw it at the window. The sound of glass shattering caught the killer’s attention. He faced the window. Janine stood there, eyes wide, trying to think what to do next. Where the heck was Anders? She held her head high. “You used me.”

“Yes, I did. I’m sorry, Janine, but now you have to die too.” He began to advance toward her. Someone grabbed Janine’s arm from behind and tossed her aside. A shot rang out. The killer keeled over backwards, dead.

***

At one pm on Sunday, Detective Anders stood behind the microphones. Janine stood at his right with Mark Bolton Sr at his left. Anders announced that the serial killer had been shot and killed while attempting to murder Bolton and another victim. He then introduced Mark Bolton Sr.

“I would like to apologize to all of the residents here in Scenic Hills. God knows, this tragedy has shaken the entire community. But it’s over now and thanks to the bravery of this young lady,” he gestured towards Janine, “the murderous rampage of Jake Dalton is over. 

“I will try my best to explain why this happened. Dalton’s son Aaron had worked at Bolton Industries as a junior executive for almost five years. But the stress became too much for him and as a result, he made mistakes and never advanced. Despondent over his failures, he committed suicide and Dalton blamed me. 

“For years, Dalton accused me of putting too much on the young man, ultimately culminating in his death. He filed a lawsuit against me for wrongful death. He lost. Still craving revenge, he took the lives of children close to my heart, including members of my immediate family. He wanted me to suffer as he did. He wanted me to know and feel his incredible pain. I do. 

“I was to be his last victim. But thankfully, he failed in the end, and although my heart is broken, at least now the killing will end.”

Bolton yielded the microphone to Anders who declared the press conference concluded.

As the little group retreated, Anders gently touched Janine’s hand. Without thinking, she entwined her fingers through his and gazed into his eyes. “I wonder why he used me to report his crimes. They would have made the news without me.”

“Maybe he felt an odd sense of control. He was your editor after all. He could have changed what you wrote if it didn’t suit him.”

“I suppose.”

“Does it really matter?”

Janine cocked her head to one side. “Guess not, Detective.”

“I do have a first name.”

“You mean, it’s not Detective?” Janine winked.

“It’s David, and David would like to know if you would join him for a cup of coffee.”

“I’d love to.”

He dropped her hand and threaded her arm through his. “Then, shall we?”

~~~

SUNDAY’S CHILD

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace.
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go.
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living.
And the child born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, good and gay.

~ Author Unknown

{{~..~}}

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

Lynn Miclea: First Date

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 StockSnap from Pixabay.

First Date

Lynn Miclea

Allison drove down the two-lane parkway, glancing at the rushing river flowing by the side of the road. Excited and nervous, she licked her dry lips. She hated first dates. They were always so filled with promise and possibilities, but they almost always were horribly disappointing. She hoped this one would work out.

After meeting Ron online in a book group, they had exchanged numerous private messages, emails, and then phone calls. As their conversations progressed, she felt more comfortable with him, but something still bothered her, and she wasn’t sure what. He didn’t live that far away, and he suggested they meet since they had so much in common. A bit reluctant, and her stomach churning, she agreed.

Now jittery with second thoughts, Allison realized her throat was too dry and she decided to stop at a small store for a bottle of water. There were not many cars on the road, and glancing in her rear-view mirror, she saw only one vehicle behind her, a dark SUV a good ways back.

Two miles down the road, a gas station with a small convenience store appeared on the right. That looked perfect. She pulled in and parked on the side. After buying a bottle of chilled water, she gulped down half the bottle, wiped her mouth with her hand, and got back in her car. Feeling better, she started to pull out of the parking lot.

She noticed a dark SUV parked towards the back of the parking area as she pulled out onto the parkway. Something was tickling at the edges of her mind. What was it? Then it hit her. The dark SUV. Was that the same one that had been behind her on the road? Possible, but maybe not. But even if it was, it didn’t mean much. Whoever it was must have also needed to stop there. She was just nervous and reading into things.

Putting it out of her mind, she let the sound of the rushing water from the nearby river refresh her as she drove, and thought about her upcoming date. Ron had seemed very nice on the phone, but she was not sure she trusted anyone she met online. Especially when her gut was churning when she thought about it. But she didn’t know what was wrong, and she dismissed it as simply nerves. He seemed like a nice person and he liked the same murder mystery books that she did. That had to be a good sign. At least she hoped so.

Ten minutes later, she pulled off the parkway and drove a half mile down the road. Glancing in her rear-view mirror, she saw a dark SUV behind her. The hairs on her arm stood up. Was that the same one? Was he following her? And if so, who was he?

The coffee shop where she was meeting Ron was two blocks away. On impulse, she made a quick right turn. No one was behind her — good. She made another right and then two more, making a complete circle back onto the same street. Confident that she had lost the SUV, she pulled into the parking lot at the coffee shop and parked the car.

As she checked her watch, she saw she was five minutes early. She walked to the front and reached for the large glass door at the entrance to the coffee shop. She hoped this date would go well. For some reason, she was not looking forward to it, and she just wanted to get it over with.

Wondering if Ron was here yet, she glanced at the parking lot before she went in. As she looked around, she saw a dark SUV pull in. The hair rose on the back of her neck. Was that the same one? She peered into the cab through the window and briefly saw a young man with dark hair and scruff on his jawline. The man looked at her, his eyes boring into her, and then he quickly looked away and pulled around the corner and went out of sight. Who was he? Was she imagining things?

Her mouth dry again, she backed away from the entry door and wondered if she should call Ron and cancel the date. Something wasn’t right.

As she thought about her options, a man with short, light brown hair approached the entrance with quick strides, and he smiled at her. “Allison?”

He looked somewhat familiar but not quite like his profile picture on the internet. “Ron?”

“Yes, thank you for coming. It’s nice to finally meet you in person.”

“You too. I’m glad we can …” She stopped talking as she noticed the dark-haired man from the SUV approach. “Um, let’s go in,” she quickly stated, wanting to be away from the man who seemed to be stalking her.

“Is everything okay?” Ron asked.

“I’m not sure. This guy has been following me.”

Ron’s face paled and his eyes narrowed. “Who’s been following you?” His voice dropped and he sounded serious and concerned.

“I’m not sure … I just noticed this SUV …”

“Wait. I left something in my car.” Ron seemed agitated as he started to turn. Then he reached for her arm. “Come with me.” He pulled her with him into the parking lot.

The dark-haired man rushed toward them and took out a weapon. “Freeze!” he yelled. “Police!”

Ron held firmly to her arm and continued moving, pulling her through the parking lot toward his car.

“Wait,” Allison yelled, struggling to get free. “What is going on?”

Ron’s strong grip held her firmly. “That’s not the police. Stay with me.”

“Then who is that?”

“I’ll explain later. Let’s get in my car. We need to get out of here.”

“Stop! Police!” the dark-haired man yelled, rushing after them.

Confused, Allison glanced back at the man. Was he the stalker? Was he just pretending to be a cop? Or was he really the police? Was Ron who he said he was? Why would the police be after him? She had no idea who anyone was or who to trust. Nothing made sense.

Still holding tightly to her arm, Ron unlocked his car door and opened the passenger door. “Get in,” he ordered.

Feeling shaky, her breathing shallow, she backed up to the side of the car and stared at him. Nothing felt right anymore. “No,” she stated. “I can’t.”

Still gripping her arm, Ron glared at her. “Allison,” he shouted at her. “Get in the car. Now!”

Not knowing who to trust, but at least Ron was more familiar, she turned and took a step toward the door and put one foot into the car.

The dark-haired man rushed toward them, leaped forward, and grabbed Ron’s free arm.

Ron released Allison, and she quickly backed out of the car and scooted out of the way, watching in horror as Ron punched the man.

The man fought back and tackled Ron to the ground.

Horrified, Allison gasped and slowly stepped a few feet farther away, watching the men as their fists flew, pounding into each other’s body and face.

The two men wrestled, and finally the dark-haired man held Ron face down with a strong hold, took out handcuffs, and snapped them on Ron’s wrists.

Shocked and confused, Allison watched, frozen in place. Was he really a cop? She still wasn’t sure. She wanted to run but felt glued in place.

A couple minutes later, two cop cars pulled into the parking lot, their lights flashing. After coming to a stop, four uniformed officers jumped out of the vehicles and approached Ron and the man who now seemed to be an officer.

“Got him,” the officer who had wrestled the man said. He grabbed Ron’s handcuffed arms and helped him stand up. The five officers briefly spoke to each other, and one officer then took custody of Ron and walked him back to one of the patrol cars. He read Ron his rights and then pushed him into the back seat of the vehicle.

After the officers conferred with each other, two of the uniformed officers got back in their patrol car. The other two began taping off the area with crime-scene tape.

The dark-haired man approached Allison. “Ma’am, I’m Officer Samuels.” He took out and flashed a badge. “I apologize if I scared you by following you, but you were the best lead we had to get that guy.”

“To get Ron? What is going on? I was meeting him for a date.”

“Ma’am, I need to ask you a few questions and get a statement from you. Then I’ll explain everything.”

“I … I … okay.”

“You know what?” He relaxed and his voice softened. “You seem a bit on edge. Let’s go into the coffee shop and get a cup of coffee while we talk. You can relax, take your time, and answer some questions. Is that okay?”

Allison nodded. “Okay.”

After they were seated in a back corner of the coffee shop, Officer Samuels sipped his coffee. “So, first tell me how you met him and what happened. Don’t leave anything out.”

“Yes, of course.” Allison explained how they met and the progression of their contacts and how they had agreed to meet.

“So this is the first time you met him in person?”

“Yes. This was our first date. I was nervous and something didn’t feel right, but I tried to brush that off.”

The officer asked a few more questions, and Allison answered them as best she could.

After she answered his questions, Officer Samuels let out a long breath and watched her for a few moments. “That guy is not who he says he is, and you’re lucky we got here when we did. We’ve been trying to catch this guy for a while now. He befriends women online, lures them on a date, and then the women go missing, often turning up dead days later.”

“What?”

“He is a dangerous man.”

“I had no idea. I …”

“My advice? Don’t trust people you meet on the internet, especially if you don’t know them.” He shook his head. “You seem like a nice lady. I’m glad we got here in time and you’re safe. You have no idea how lucky you are.”

Allison picked at her napkin. “You’re right. I should have known. I was too trusting.” She should have listened to her gut that something wasn’t right from the beginning. The cop was right, and she vowed to be more careful.

The cop glanced around the coffee shop. “You know what? It’s lunchtime, and you were coming here expecting a meal. Do you want to get something to eat? We’re already here and I’m hungry. Is that okay? My treat.”

Allison gave a nervous smile. “Okay, I guess. But, Officer, I …”

“Hey, relax, it’s over. I won’t bite. Let’s just enjoy lunch. Just two people having a nice meal together. And please call me Greg.” He signaled a waitress over and asked for menus.

After they ordered, Allison looked at him. “But … Greg, how did you know I was going to meet him? And why were you following me and not him?”

“Good questions. We had finally narrowed down who he was and how he lured his victims. We found one of the names he was using and who he was pretending to be. He was in that book club looking for his next victim, and we were monitoring it. But his contact information was encrypted and fake, with his true identity hidden. So it was hard to get to him directly. We were watching to see his next move. You were our best chance to catch him.”

“I had no idea. I thought …”

“That’s how they work. They make friends with unsuspecting people, get you to trust them, and then ask to meet. My best advice is don’t trust people you meet online.” He paused to make sure that sunk in.

Allison nodded. “That’s good advice.”

The waitress returned with their order and set plates of steaming food on the table. “Anything else?” she asked as she refilled their coffee cups.

“No, we’re good, thank you,” the officer replied.

As they ate their food, the conversation turned more casual and personal, and they ended up laughing. Allison was surprised how comfortable she felt with him. Greg was kind, respectful, and funny, and she found that she was really enjoying her time with him. He was not at all what she expected when she first met him, thinking he was a stalker. Now she knew he was a good man, thoughtful and kind. And as she viewed his face, now that it was softer and more relaxed, she realized he was actually very attractive. She was sorry that the meal was ending.

Greg asked the waitress for the bill, and he then gave Allison his business card. “Thank you for joining me for lunch and answering all my questions.” He wiped his mouth with his napkin. “If you think of anything else, please call me.” He smiled, and his voice got softer. “Hey, even if you don’t think of anything else, you can call me any time.”

Allison laughed. “I will. You are very nice.”

His eyes grew warm. “Hey, I have a better idea. Can I call you? Could we do this again? I really enjoyed our time together.”

Allison smiled. “I’d like that. I enjoyed this too.”

After paying the bill, he turned to Allison. “I’m sorry your first date with him was not quite what you expected.”

“No, but I still had a first date, just with someone else.” Her smile grew wider. “And I had a very good time.”

He chuckled. “Thank you, Allison, that is kind of you to say.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m sorry, but I need to get back to the station. Let me walk you out and make sure you get safely to your car.”

As they walked through the coffee shop to the front, she felt his warm hand on her back guiding her, and the warmth seeped deeper into her body.

When they reached her car, he turned to her. “You are very sweet. Thank you for one of the best lunches I’ve had in a while.” He squeezed her arm. “Please stay safe. I’ll call you later.” He waited until she got in the car, then he waved, turned, and walked back toward the crime-scene area and the other officers.

As Allison drove home, listening to the rushing water in the river next to the road, she thought back over the events that day. This had definitely been a memorable first date, but not with whom she thought it would be. 

She smiled and found herself looking forward to a second date.

—————————————–

D. A. Ratliff: Rainy Days

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 StockSnap from Pixabay.

Rainy Days

D. A. Ratliff

Abigail Reed shivered as she huddled against the cabin’s front door, attempting to stay out of the heavy rain blowing across the porch. She watched the trees sway, hoping the branches of the pines and oaks surrounding the house wouldn’t break. Where was that dog?

“Clancy! Come on, boy, we need to go inside.”

Out of the darkness, a soaked and excited Golden Retriever bounded up the steps, stopping in front of her. Before she could throw the towel she held over him, he shook violently to dry himself.

“Stop. I have a towel to dry you.” She threw a big bath towel around him and rubbed vigorously. “I guess you’re dry enough to go inside.”

She opened the door, and Clancy pushed past her and ran to his food bowl, gobbling up the remainder of his dinner. “Worked up an appetite, did you?”

Uncorking a bottle of red wine, Abby poured a glass, then sank onto the comfortable leather couch and opened her laptop. After finishing his snack, Clancy trotted to the fireplace and lay down on the rug. Abby had lit a fire to ward off the late April chill, and the big dog stretched out to dry his damp fur.

She was rereading what she had written earlier when her phone rang—Patrick Simone, her producer.

“Hello, Patrick. How are things in DC?”

“Same as always, too many politicians. Just calling to see how you are.”

“I’m good. Trying to decompress.”

“I hear you, but it’s not easy.”

“How’s Gerard doing?”

“Called him this afternoon. He’s healing and said the docs assured him he’d have full use of his leg after physical therapy.”

“That’s great news. I’ll call him tomorrow.”

“Did you get the email from Mark Patton’s producer about being on his show on Sunday?”

“I did. Told him to send me the details.”

They chatted a bit, and after saying goodnight, Abby stared at the words on the laptop screen. She was working on her second novel but was too anxious to write. Talking to Pat brought back the anxiety of her last assignment, and concentrating was out of the question. She closed the laptop, flipped on the television, and watched a movie before heading to bed as the storms continued to rage.

~~~

Abby woke up with a pain in her neck, unable to move—Clancy was draped across her with one large paw on the top of her head. She wiggled her hips to dislodge the sixty-pound dog, but he didn’t budge.

Using her elbow, she nudged him. “Want to go for a walk?”

Walk was the magic word, and he leaped off the bed, his big paws pushing into her hip. Groaning, she rolled over, muttering. “You had to fall in love with a Golden Retriever puppy. Could have had a little dog.”

Dragging herself from bed, she let Clancy out into the small, fenced backyard, made coffee, and dressed. Clancy was pawing at the door to come in by the time the coffee brewed. She fed him, then went out on the front porch with her coffee and phone, sinking onto one of the four wooden rocking chairs. The sun was peeking over the mountains of North Carolina surrounding the narrow valley where her grandparents’ land sat, burning off the fog. She could smell the pine scent wafting along with the breeze across the dew-covered lawn. Peaceful didn’t seem to be an adequate word to describe the valley that morning. It was too idyllic for such a mundane word.

After checking the news headlines, she read her email. Mark Patton’s producer had sent her a few notes about the interview he wanted to record on Saturday morning. They would edit it and drop it in Mark’s live show on Sunday morning. She responded with a “sounds good to me” and saved the notes for later review. She didn’t want to think about work. Work made her think about the last assignment and how she and her crew nearly died.

Abby leaned her head against the chair back. The pesky thought it was time to stop playing reporter and get a real job returned. She put it aside once more and resumed writing.

Around one p.m., she noticed storm clouds gathering and decided she needed to take Clancy out before the rain started. His tail started wagging as she grabbed his leash, and he ran to the door. “Hang on, let me get your harness on, and we’ll go.”

Abby walked along the strip of grass between the road and the stream with Clancy in the lead until they reached the gate blocking the National Park fire road. There was only one other cabin on the road, and Abby remembered the forest ranger and his family who lived there when she was a child. When they moved, a rental company bought the cabin. She knew someone was staying there, as several times, a car and a truck had passed by her cabin.

Thunder rumbled, and she tugged on Clancy’s leash and turned toward home. Dark clouds rapidly moved in, and the first drop of rain fell as Abby saw a green Forest Service truck coming up the road. Rain fell harder as the truck stopped, and the driver rolled down the window.

“Get in. There’s a monsoon coming this way.”

Abby didn’t hesitate. Clancy jumped into the truck cab, and she followed as the deluge began. “Thank you. You saved us from being soaked.”

“Had some reports of hail, so glad I did.” He drove to the gate. “I check the fire road gate every day about this time, especially with all this rain. It’s a fire road—don’t need it to become impassable.” He paused. “I’m Nate Hogan. That’s some dog you have there.”

As if on cue, Clancy barked. “This is Clancy, and I’m Abby Reed.”

“I recognized you from the news. Close call you had, dodging incoming missiles.”

“We didn’t dodge too well, but we got through.”

He had turned the truck around as the rain fell in sheets. Slowly, he made his way back to her drive. “I think we need to wait this out.”

“I have no desire to get out in that mess.”

Nate absently scratched Clancy’s head and the pup lay down with his head in Nate’s lap. Abby laughed. “He likes you.”

His eyes met hers. “He knows I’m a good guy.”

“Uh… he’s perceptive for a ten-month-old puppy.”

“What brings you here?” He gestured toward the cabin.

“My grandparents own this cabin, and I wanted some downtime to write and decompress after the last assignment.”

“You write?”

“Yes, I published a spy thriller last year.”

“I’ll have to check it out.” He took a breath. “Do you know who is staying in the cabin near the fire road?”

“No, but I know a rental agency in Ashville owns that cabin. I’ve seen them pass by a few times but have never spoken to them. Why do you ask?”

“No reason. Just seen them a few times and wondered. They burned trash near the house, and my Smokey the Bear radar kicked in. Fire is not our friend.”

They spent the next fifteen minutes talking about the park and the mountain until the rain faded to a drizzle. Abby thanked him, and as she exited the truck, Clancy gave him a lick on the face.

He laughed. “Friendly dog. I come through around the same time every day. Maybe I’ll see you again.”

Abby nodded. “I’m sure Clancy would like that. Thanks again for the shelter.”

Once inside, she watched as he backed onto the road. Nate, the park ranger, was a fascinating man. The first man who piqued her interest in a long time, and Clancy liked him.

~~~

It rained most of the night, and it was a struggle to secure a stable connection to record the Mark Patton show. After stopping and starting a few times, they finished the interview. Thank goodness for good editors who would make the interview look flawless. She wondered if they would keep Clancy’s cameo when he jumped up on the table and barked at the camera. Knowing Mark’s sense of humor, he might ask to leave it in.

She called Gerald to check on his recovery and was pleased to know he would transfer to a rehab facility on Sunday. They chatted for a bit, and when she hung up, she shuddered as the image of the aftermath of the missile strike flashed in her memory.

Abby walked outside and plopped down onto a rocker. The rain had stopped, but the clouds were thick and gray. The stream was flowing fast from the recent heavy rains. She rubbed the back of her neck. Gerald had asked her when she was returning to DC. She had avoided answering. The notion that she didn’t want to return had crept into her thoughts over the last few weeks. Nearly getting killed in a war zone wasn’t helping her maintain enthusiasm for her job.

It didn’t help that sitting in her emails was an offer to teach journalism at Georgetown University. She asked for more time to decide, citing the attack, and they had graciously given her that, but the day of reckoning was near.

Whining from the door interrupted her thoughts. “Want to take a walk, Clancy?” An enthusiastic bark was her answer, and within minutes, Clancy was tugging at his leash and dragging her down the sloped drive.

The sky had lightened a bit, and Abby noticed a patch of blue in the distance. The forecast was for more rain, but they could take a long walk for now. She took a deep breath, savoring the fresh air. Redbuds, in full bloom, and budding dogwoods and mountain laurel dotted the mountains covered in spring green leaves. She had turned left at the base of the driveway and headed for the fire road entrance to the National Forest. There was a bit of flat land where she could throw the tennis ball she brought along for Clancy.

She passed by the cabin at the end of the lane. It was a rustic log cabin with a rickety barn behind it. She was surprised to see four vehicles parked there. She had only seen two of them pass her place.

Reaching the park gate, she took Clancy into the small field. He jumped and wagged his tail and raced for the ball as she threw, rushing back each time for her to throw it again. After fifteen minutes, she was worn out and tucked the tennis ball back into her jacket pocket. A whining Clancy wanted to play more, but he calmed down as soon as she reattached his collar.

“Good boy. When we get home, you get a special treat.”

As they walked home, she noticed a man standing in the doorway of the log cabin, watching her. She waved, but he didn’t react. About halfway to her cabin, a black van raced up the road, and she pulled Clancy as far to the edge as she could. The van’s windows were so dark she could barely see the driver. The hairs on her neck stood up, and she picked up her pace back to the cabin.

She was near her driveway when she spotted Nate’s truck coming toward her. She felt relieved as he stopped.

He leaned out the window as Clancy ran to him, jumping up to get his head scratched. “Hey, boy.” Nate looked toward Abby. “My luck to run into you.”

“Mine, too. We took advantage of no rain and took a long walk.” She held up the tennis ball. “We threw the ball in the clearing next to the park gate for a while. It wore me out more than him.”

He smiled, and Abby blurted out, “I am making chili for dinner… going to be colder this evening. If you don’t have plans, would you like to join us?”

His gaze held hers as he answered. “I’d like that a lot.”

They settled on a time, and Nate drove on to check the gate while Abby and Clancy returned to the cabin. As she walked inside, she silently thanked her grandmother for having the pantry and refrigerator stocked with groceries before she arrived. She spent the afternoon cooking and tidying the cabin.

Nate arrived promptly at seven p.m., bearing wine and dog snacks. Abby shook her head as Clancy wiggled as he got a treat. “I swear he likes you better than me.”

“No, he doesn’t, but he does like treats.”

Abby poured wine for them, and they sat on the couch in front of the fire. “Surprised how chilly it got tonight, thankful for the fire.”

He nodded. “Surprised me that this far south, it could dip into the forties at night this time of year.”

“You aren’t from here?”

“No, Chicago originally.”

“How long have you been with the park service?”

He bit his lip. “Been a federal employee for several years. Just assigned here a couple of months ago.”

“Where do you live here?”

“I rented a trailer in the RV park.”

“The one just past the tunnel along the main road to town.”

“That’s the place. Owners had an extra trailer there and made me a deal.” He sipped his wine. “You live in DC?”

“I do. I have a house on N Street, not far from Georgetown University.”

“Nice area.”

“You know DC?”

“Assigned there for a while as well. Tell me about your last assignment.”

“Not much to tell that hasn’t been discussed on the news. We got pinned down, and a mortar landed close to us. My cameraman was injured, leg fractured, but he’s going to be okay. Shrapnel hit my producer, Patrick, who threw his body over me, protecting me.”

“You were lucky.”

Abby stared into the fire. “My luck is not what it used to be. Considering leaving the news business and teaching journalism at Georgetown. The Dean made an offer, but I haven’t accepted.”

“Wouldn’t you miss the limelight?”

She chuckled. “No, not at all. Never wanted to be a star. I only wanted to cover the news, which is not easy these days. Too many opinions and not enough hard news.”

“Think you’d be happy?”

“I could write, teach, and not travel so much. Sometimes I think I got Clancy because I knew I would need to stay closer to home.”

“Sounds like you have made up your mind.”

Abby looked back at the fireplace. “I think you’re right.” She stood up. “Hungry?”

“I am. That chili smells good.”

Nate left about eleven p.m., and as she watched the taillights on his truck disappear, she realized she was ready for a change. She smiled. Maybe a change in everything.

~~~

Sunday morning, Abby watched the Mark Patton Hour, pleased that Mark included Clancy’s cameo. He seemed pleased, barking at the screen. She fixed breakfast and then sent an email to the Dean of the Journalism department and accepted the offer, then drafted a letter to the network that she would send tomorrow.

She began writing on her novel until distant thunder interrupted her, surprised it was nearly three p.m. “Clancy, we need to go outside before it rains again.”

As they neared the log cabin, she noticed the black van from yesterday was parked in the drive, the rear door open. She clutched Clancy’s leash tighter and decided to turn around. She’d taken two steps when a gruff voice called out to her.

“Hey, neighbor, where ya going?”

She turned. “Just heading home before the rain.”

He took two long strides and was directly in front of her. “Been meaning to say hello. You’re that hot TV news gal. What are you doing in North Carolina?”

Abby took a step backward. “Just taking a few days off. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get back.”

She turned, but he grabbed her arm. “You ain’t going anywhere. You’ve been snooping on us. Think you got a news story.” He laughed. “Well, you do.” He jerked the leash from her hand and kicked Clancy away. “We got something planned for the government, and you can have a front-row seat to tell our story. Might even let you live if you play ball.”

He started dragging her toward the house, but she yelled for Clancy to go home. He slapped her. “Shut up, or I’ll kill the dog.” She struggled, and he hit her hard enough to knock her out.

~~~

Nate decided to surprise Abby with a pizza, and as he drove up to the house in the rain and darkness, he was surprised to see no lights shining. A chill shimmied down his spine, and he feared the worst. He should have told her what was going on. Nate parked on the road, grabbed a slicker and flashlight, and started walking toward the other cabin. His heart seized when his light caught a pale body lying next to the raging stream that ran beside the road. He ran as he realized it was Clancy.

“Hey, boy, are you okay?”

He gasped as the dog raised his head, seeing his snout covered with blood. Clancy wagged his tail and stood a bit wobbly. “Come on, let’s get you in the truck.”

Out of the rain, he checked Clancy’s pupils, thankful the dog didn’t seem to have a head injury. He used a jacket to dry his wet fur. “Clancy, those people took her, didn’t they?” Clancy barked and licked Nate’s face. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

Nate pressed a contact on his phone. “Jamison, the reporter I told you about, she’s missing. I think they have her … Yes, I’ll be parked in her drive waiting for you. It’s time to go in.”

~~~

Abby woke up, arms and legs tied to a chair. She was wet, chilled, and her jaw hurt. She heard voices from another room and started yelling. The door flung open, and the man who took her walked in, followed by another man.

“Shut up, or I’ll backhand you again. It appears you’ve seen too much, Ms. Reed, but you can live to tell our story if you cooperate. At worst, you will be a hostage if the Feds find us.”

“What are you planning?”

The second man smiled. “Tomorrow, we’re blowing up the Federal Building in Charlotte.”

They left, locking the door behind him. Abby tugged at her bindings, but her struggles were fruitless. She dropped her head against her chest. Her only worry was Clancy.

Her head was aching, and she dozed off. A loud explosive bang startled her awake, her pulse racing. She straightened as best she could in the chair, and when she heard someone yell “FBI,” her body flooded with relief.

The door burst open, and she gasped, shocked to see Nate wearing an FBI tactical vest and holding a weapon.

“Nate, what…”

He began to cut the ropes. “Told you I’d been a Federal employee for a while. Just didn’t tell you it was with the FBI. I was undercover as a Park Ranger to surveil these guys. We were waiting for them to leave to follow where they were going, but we decided to raid the cabin when I realized they must have taken you. Can you stand?”

She nodded. “They planned to blow up the Federal Building in Charlotte. Clancy?”

“He’s fine. He’s in my truck.”

“Thank goodness.” She collapsed against him.

“Let’s get you checked out, have paramedics waiting.”

~~~

They returned to the cabin near midnight. Abby curled up on the couch, and Clancy curled up on his bed in front of the fireplace. Nate brought her coffee.

“Got a bit of brandy in it. Will help you sleep.” He pointed to Clancy. “Like he is after eating the entire pizza I left in the truck.”

“He loves pizza. Glad he’s okay.”

Nate sat on the couch. “I’m glad you both are.”

“So, you live in DC?”

“I do. Have an apartment off of Pennsylvania Avenue in the Northwest.” He smiled. “Are you taking the Georgetown job?”

“I am.”

“Good, then you’ll be in town and not traveling.”

“I will.”

“Good.” 

The sound of a crackling fire and snoring Golden Retriever filled the cabin. Looking at Nate in the firelight, she saw what she felt reflected in his eyes. Life was changing, and they were ready for it.

Please visit Deborah on her blog: https://daratliffauthor.wordpress.com

DR. PAUL’S FAMILY TALK PODCASTS:  DR. ROBERT YOHO

DR. ROBERT YOHO, a retired physician and cosmetic surgeon from California, joined host Paul W. Reeves to discuss his career, the world of medicine, and his books, including his newest release, Butchered By Healthcare – How Doctors and Corporations Try To Kill You For The Money And How To Survive Anyway“. 

FROM HIS WEBSITE:

“I was born in l953 in Richmond, Virginia, and grew up in Kent, Ohio, (known for the Kent State riots during the Vietnam war). I was an Eagle Scout and a Judo wrestler. 

I spent four years at Oberlin College and went to Small College National Championships in Varsity Wrestling his senior year. I was then accepted at one of the finest medical schools in the United States, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

2020-2021 full-time writer; ​2019: retired from my medical and surgical practice and resigned my medical license. I had a fantastic career, and I was initially sad to end it. But I was soon relieved that I was no longer responsible for patient care and was able to write full time without conflicts of interest; 1992-2019: Cosmetic surgery practice, Pasadena, Visalia, and Oxnard, California. Liposuction, breast implantation specializing in through the umbilicus (belly button), laser blepharoplasty, face-lifts, facial implants, laser resurfacing, vein treatments, hair transplantation. Operated medical hyperbaric chamber between 1996 and 2000; 1987-1994: General practice in Pasadena, California.”

www.robertyohoauthor.com

———————–

Admin Note: Welcome to our newest source of information for authors. “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” radio program on Impact Radio USA offers interesting and entertaining interviews of authors who share their writing journey as inspiration for all writers finding their way. Dr. Paul also interviews successful individuals in education, finance, conspiracy theorist, medicine, self-help, motivation, musicians, artists, and more. These interviews give insight into various careers providing writing research and possible character ideas.

Look for additional Dr. Paul’s author interviews on the page found on the menu bar. Enjoy!

Impact Radio USA

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is impact-radio-usa-modern-large.jpg

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul W. Reeves 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 11700698_10204467697476836_1401739541151934347_o.jpg

Paul W. Reeves 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

LYNN MICLEA: SUCCESS AS AN AUTHOR

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

This article is a reprint of a post from June 22, 2018.

SUCCESS AS AN AUTHOR

Lynn Miclea

Many new writers and authors often wonder what it takes to be considered a successful author. How many books do they need to sell before they are considered successful? How much money do they need to make in royalties before they can say they’ve really made it? How is success measured?

In our society, and for many of us, success is often defined as money, fame, and power. But I think we do ourselves a big disservice when we define it that way, or base it on specific numbers reached, whether it’s book sales or income.

What about an author who has only published a few books, but they are well-written, filled with heart, humor, and gut-wrenching honesty? What about a new author’s book that opens up unique and fascinating worlds to explore? Or an author’s story that shares the overcoming of a huge difficulty in life that can inspire and help others? Or a new author’s book that touches the lives of others in powerful and profound ways? Would you say they are not successful?

I used to think of success in terms of a huge number of books sold, a steady income from royalties, and being on the best-seller list. However, those goals may be fleeting, arbitrary, unrealistic, and self-defeating – using those as criteria for success can discourage or undermine talented writers, stop them from doing their best, or cause them to give up too soon. You can be successful without reaching those typically out-of-reach goals for most writers – so don’t sell yourself short. And don’t give up.

To me, success is measured in the fulfillment of publishing the ideas and stories within me. It is in producing well-written and memorable books, stories, and articles that I can be proud of. It is in touching the lives of others through my words. It is putting my creative thoughts and imagination into a cohesive and powerful story, and getting that on paper in a way that is touching, heart-felt, and powerful.

Success is not a destination – success is a living, breathing, shifting journey of discovery and creativity that you can choose to be part of.

If you have done your best with as much integrity as possible, are proud of your work, and are happy with who you are and where you are, then you are successful. That is the success we should strive for.  And that is in your hands, within your grasp.

Success is the expression of and explosion of creativity, heart, and imagination, all coming together in powerful and moving stories. It is exciting and fulfilling and continues to unfold in spectacular new ways and in glorious wonder.

Number of books sold? That doesn’t even come close.

Go for real success – the fulfillment of a dream. And that is something all of us can do.

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

Copyright © 2018 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

The Author

LYNN MICLEA grew up in New York and moved to California while in her twenties. A certified hypnotherapist and Reiki master practitioner with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she spent many years working in the medical field and in various offices in an administrative capacity.

After retiring, Lynn discovered and developed a passion for writing, and she is now a successful author with many books published and more on the way. Her two memoirs, one of her family’s experience with ALS, and one of her own journey through open-heart surgery, have received numerous five-star reviews.

She also has published ten sweet, exciting, and fun children’s books, which are uplifting, loving, feel-good animal stories, filled with warm humor, and which are about kindness, compassion, helping others, seeing the best in others, and believing in yourself.

She hopes that through her writing, she can help empower others and add more joy and love to the world. She asks everyone to be kind to each other as we all share this journey through life together.

Lynn currently lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband.

————————-

Learn more about Lynn at her amazon author page here.
And please visit her website at www.lynnmiclea.com for more information on her books.

SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK: EPISODE 33

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 #33 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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Previous Episodes of “Success Philosophies With Dr. Chuback”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Impact Radio USA

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is impact-radio-usa-modern-large.jpg

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul W. Reeves 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 11700698_10204467697476836_1401739541151934347_o.jpg

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/

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-cover.jpg

The Written Road – Behind the Story: Maybe It Was Memphis

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

Michele Sayre offers an insight into the process of writing a short story and the components that vary from writing a longer piece. Please visit Michele on her blog for more great articles and stories. https://michelesayre.com/

The Written Road – Behind the Story: Maybe It Was Memphis

Yesterday I cross-posted a short story I wrote for the Facebook group I am a group administrator for, Writers Unite!. First, I want to thank everyone who read it and shared their kind words about the story. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Now I want to take you into the writing of the story to try and illustrate a creative process for me that’s something I don’t really think about in words too often.

The story ‘Maybe It Was Memphis’ came from a prompt. A story prompt can be anything, such as a picture, a topic, or anything chosen. In this case, the prompt was a picture of a front porch swing.

Now with prompts there’s usually other requirements to work within, mainly the length of the story. This is to help writers focus their storytelling skills in order to tell a story that doesn’t wander all over the place or doesn’t go nowhere at all. For me, this front porch swing got me thinking about a song I’d heard years ago, “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis. The song mentions a front porch swing and is about a young woman meeting a young man sitting on the front porch swing of her mother’s house as the song goes. This first meeting gave me the starting point of the song.

Most of the time, coming up with the beginning of a story isn’t hard for me. Occasionally I have a hard time finding where to start the story but in this case, the opening scene you read came to me pretty quickly and I ran with it. And as you can see, I don’t write out a plot or an outline with my fiction. My writer’s brain does not work from outlines and such because that part of my brain thinks that if I outline a story then I’ve written it and that’s it. So I start from ideas and bits and pieces of scenes and lines of dialogue then go from there.

With a short story, one big thing that kept me from writing them for many years was the issue of plot. Then I realized in a short story the plot line has to be linear. By linear, I mean the plot has to function as a straight line with no off-shoots, or sub-plots as they’re also known. With this story, my plot line became how do I get these two characters together in the end when one of them is going off to war? Five years pass by in a thousand words or so and I’ve never written anything like that before.

The original mid-section actually got deleted and completely rewritten because in my first draft I had Carolyn’s brother killed in combat and John coming home and he and Carolyn bonding over that. But then I thought that’s been done before and it’s much more complicated to do therefore I deleted it and started over. Then two things brought me to the ending of the story: John realizing he saw no future for himself after the war was over, and Bryce (Carolyn’s brother) talking about a woman who referred to herself and him as ‘The River and the Highway’. Because in a way, John and Carolyn were a river and a highway in that they had their own lives halfway around the world from each other but they felt a connection with each other and Carolyn had promised to wait for John no matter what. So with that, I had the ending in place: that connection even in an uncertain future.

Another thought that came to me with the ending of this story was how soldiers have a tremendous amount of difficulty adjusting to life at home after being away at war for so long. In my story, when it came to the end of war, John just didn’t see a future other than hopefully with Carolyn. Now Carolyn understood that John would need time to adjust and figure out his path in life. Carolyn’s way of thinking is to just take things one day at a time and figure out as you go along, which is how I feel about life in general. That patience and understanding are what bring John and Carolyn together in the end.

To add here: since I didn’t kill off Carolyn’s brother Bryce I will be writing his story for this month’s prompt with my group Writer’s Unite!. It will be how he learns to understand what his lady Christie means when she describes their relationship as the river and the highway. So far all I can tell you is their story is a road-trip with an overnight stay. It’s about two people together with nothing else to do but talk things out. That’s the basic idea anyway. Now all I’ve got to do is just write it and figure out what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it, and work things out.

Check out Michele’s story and other stories written for the May 2022 prompt in the Writers Unite! archives.

WRITE THE STORY! JUNE 2022 PROMPT

Welcome to Write the Story!

The porch swing from the May prompt generated several excellent, nostalgic stories and poetry. This month a lonely road and a babbling stream are the writers’ muse. Looking forward to June’s stories.

Thanks to the writers who submitted a story and to the readers who enjoyed them. We appreciate your participation in Write The Story!

Now on to the June prompt!

A reminderWU! created this project with two goals: providing a writing exercise and promoting our author sites to increase reader traffic. We ask that you please include a link to the Writers Unite! blog when you post your story elsewhere. By doing so, you are also helping promote your fellow members and Writers Unite! We encourage all of you to share each other’s stories to help all of us grow. Thanks!

Write the Story! June 2022 Prompt

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

Here’s the plan:

  • You write a story of 3000 words or less (minimum 500 words) or a poem (minimum 50 words) based on and referring to the image provided and post it on the author site you wish to promote. Don’t forget to give your story a title. (Note: You do not have to have a website/blog/FB author page to participate, your FB profile or WordPress link is fine.)
  • Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing, but WU! reserves the right to reject publishing the story if poorly written.
  • The story must have a title and author name and must include the link to the site you wish to promote.
  • Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff or email to writersunite16@gmail.com. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message.
  • Please submit your story by the 25th day of the month.

WU! will post your story on our blog and share it across our platforms— FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The story will also be available in the archives on the WU! blog, along with the other WTS entries.

We ask that you share the link to the WU! blog so that your followers can also read your fellow writers’ works.

The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time, but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.

—————–

 Please visit Writers Unite! Facebook and join us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752/

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/