#My52 Writing Challenge 2019

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It’s a brand new year… are you ready for a new writing challenge?

In 2017, I participated in the 52-Week Writing Challenge (and was the randomly chosen winner) and in 2018, I did the #52weeks52stories Writing Challenge.

When I asked around about a writing challenge for 2019, none popped up, so I decided to go my own way, and you’re invited to join me!

If you’ve participated in any type of writing challenge, you’re already aware of what a useful writing tool they can be. If you’ve come to an impasse in your current WIP, stepping away for a moment to focus on something else can sort through the cobwebs, flick on the light, or move the forest so you can see the trees.

Parts of a current WIP can also be used in a writing challenge. The difficulty of character profiles, scenes, world building, and even book blurbs can disappear when task are tackled as flash fiction.

As the Queen of Many Wurdz and champion of the run-on sentence, I took part in challenges to focus on short stories.  I needed to focus on telling a complete story in as few words as possible. I’m partial to longer standalone books, but not everyone wants to read a 180K epic psychological family saga.

Okay, I lied. I don’t either.

So, after 70+ short stories, how am I doing? It’s an ongoing process. 🙂

What I enjoy most about writing challenges is the accountability. Someone is watching, keeping me honest, cheering me on during the good weeks, and talking me off the ledge during the bad ones. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but many times it helps to get out of your own head.

What are the rules for #My52? That’s the best part—there aren’t any.

  • Writing in any form counts. Haiku, Poetry, Drabble, Flash, short story… they’re all welcome.
  • Genres are also limitless. Suspense, Mystery, Romance, LGBT, Fantasy, Science Fiction, YA… it’s your choice.
  • The writing week is Monday through Friday with postings on Saturday and Sunday. (Posting earlier in the current week is acceptable too.)
  • Tweet a link to your post with the hashtag #My52 for retweets and likes

OR

  • Grab the banner at the top and link back to this page and I’ll feature your post during the challenge.

Don’t let the word challenge stress you. It’s not a contest and the challenge is only against yourself… to keep you writing-focused.

Life gets crazy and cluttered, so do not beat yourself up if you miss a week. Keep writing!

Word counts can be anywhere from a 17-syllable Haiku to a multi-week short story.

Have fun with it. Write outside your form or genre—I’m not a paranormal writer and I wrote paranormal stories last year and enjoyed doing it.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments or find me on Twitter – @MsFelicia, or Instagram – @fle_d.

Happy 2019… and happy writing!

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#My52 “Night Light, Part III”

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#My52: Week 11

Word prompt: house

Word count – 719

Reading time – 2 mins,  11 secs

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Part III

Kent whistled. “You said that? To Aunt Pearl? What did she say?”

“Well, she wasn’t happy with me, but she said she hoped to hear from me soon and hung up.”

Jack pointed his finger across the table. “You are so out of the will now, no question.”

Jo ducked her head. “Yes, sucks to be me right about now.”

“Why didn’t we know she and dad were so close?”

“They weren’t that close.”

“But, you just said-”

Jo held up her hand.

“Aunt Pearl’s boys were like their father—loud, brash bullies… they still are. Your dad said he was grateful he didn’t share the same last name because they were always in trouble all the way through school. Aunt Pearl did what she could to keep them in line, but Uncle Ed let them get away with everything, then used his influence to protect them from being held accountable.”

“When he died, they went buck wild and ignored Aunt Pearl. Your Grandma Nettie felt sorry for her and sent your dad to run errands for her and take care of chores around the house. Pearl latched on to him for dear life. Tommy and Dale saw how she doted on your father and straightened up by their early twenties. Your dad said that was when she figured out the power of her wealth and began to use it to get her way.”

“But no matter how much your dad meant to her, I couldn’t allow her to barnstorm in here and take over our lives.”

“And as long as I’m being honest, it felt good to stand up to her. I’ve spent too much time being angry at your dad for leaving me and myself for being a wimp about it.”

“But dad didn’t leave you, mom. Not in the walk-away kind of leaving.”

“I know, baby. My mind gets that, but my heart doesn’t.”

She reached out, touching their hands. “Last revelation of honesty… I feel like a fraud for telling your aunt I’m here to help you when I haven’t been.”

Both boys opened their mouths to protest again, but a stern look from Jo stopped them.

“Look, this isn’t about absolution, deflecting blame, or even forgiveness. It’s about accountability and responsibility—two things I’ve skated on.

We lost an important part of our family, but we’re still a family. I’m your mother and Wesley Cameron Tanner would haunt me to the end of my days if I acted like anything less.”

Kent smiled at the mental pic of a ghostly Wes Tanner in a Crowded House band t-shirt and camouflage lounge pants, his favorite around-the-house attire.

“I’m a blessed woman to have shared my life with your dad, but I’m just as blessed to have you two as my sons.”

“So, going forward, new rules! One, it is okay to be sad and it is okay to cry… but it is not okay to hide it. No more hiding in my room for me, no more skulking in corners for you. Two, it is okay to talk about your father… share things, good and bad. He wasn’t a saint, and neither are we. Jack, I know you were ready to run away from home when he took your bike away for a week last year.”

Jack’s cheek’s flushed a deep crimson as he hid his face. “Oh man, the grass wasn’t even that high. I didn’t think waiting another day or two would hurt.”

“Yeah, but dad thought otherwise.”

Jack jabbed his elbow into Kent’s side, but he continued to laugh anyway.

“And rule number three,” Jo said in a raised voice to get their attention. “it is perfectly okay to ignore rules one and two.”

The Tanner brothers exchanged confused glances.

“Your mom’s not loopy or trying to be facetious. It just goes back to what I said earlier. No one can tell you how to mourn. What’s important is that you do… in your own way, and I’ll always be here for you.”

Kent stared at the genuine love and affection on his mother’s face and anxiety he’d been holding onto for too long seeped from his body.

Jo rose from the table. “Now you two go wash up for dinner and I’m going to share a happy memory of your dad.”

 

To be continued…

Part 1    |  Part II   |

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

Song Lyric Sunday | “Rocket Man” – Elton John

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time and author Jim Adams from A Unique Title For Me is our current guest host. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

This week’s theme is  “School/Books/Learning.”

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Week two for Elton John! 🙂
  • The first stanza of Rocket Man was thought of by Bernie Taupin whilst he was on the motorway heading to his parents’ home; he had to “repeat it to himself for two hours,” which was “unfortunate”, but in later interviews he said that since it gave him a hit, it was all worthwhile.
  • Among numerous other performances, John played Rocket Man at the launch site of Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998.
  • The song includes the line, “”And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then”. The website Schmoop commented, “The phrase “high as a kite” is a common idiom almost always used to refer to drug use. There’s nothing to suggest that lyricist Bernie Taupin really intended the double entendre, but the song did come out at the peak of stoner ’70s culture. The usual meaning of the expression, which Taupin would have been familiar with, is highly intoxicated.
  • The most commonly misheard lyric in this song is “Rocket Man, burning out his fuse up here alone.” This was the centerpiece of a 2011 commercial for the Volkswagen Passat, where folks came up with all kinds of interpretations of the last few words: telephone, cheap cologne, motor home, provolone. A couple in a Passat can correctly interpret the words thanks to the car’s premium sound system, and all is well. This wasn’t the first time the song was used in a commercial; it was also featured in ads for AT&T.

The video is from a live performance in Madison Square Garden in 2000.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

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Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.
 RocKet Man (I Think it’s going to be a long, long time)
by Elton John
Songwriters: Elton John & Bernie Taupin

 

[Verse 1]
She packed my bags last night, pre-flight
Zero hour: 9:00 a.m
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then
I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

[Chorus]
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no
I’m a rocket man
Rocket man
Burning out his fuse up here alone
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no
I’m a rocket man
Rocket man
Burning out his fuse up here alone

[Verse 2]
Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact, it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week
A rocket man
A rocket man

[Chorus]
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no
I’m a rocket man
Rocket man
Burning out his fuse up here alone
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no, no, no
I’m a rocket man
Rocket man
Burning out his fuse up here alone

[Outro]
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

#My52 “Night Light, Part II”

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#My52: Week 10

Word prompt: copper

Word count – 1384

Reading time – 5 mins,  07 secs

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Part II

Jo Tanner kept a neat home, but the drain on emotions and sanity over the last two months dealt a harsh blow to the tidy organization of the Tanner home.

When the brothers left for school early that morning, the corner breakfast nook was covered in mail, newspapers, and piles of half-folded laundry… as it had been for weeks.

Now the table and benches were clear and clean, no longer a catch-all for a stressed household.

Copper cookware hung neatly above the chef’s island and its sunflower yellow countertop sparkled.

A slamming door caused Kent to look across the kitchen to see his mother enter from the back porch carrying a basket of clean laundry.

“Hey, you’re home. Good.”

Jo sat the laundry basket near the door and went to her youngest son, pulling him into a warm hug.

Kent pulled back, searching her face.

She was different.

Though sadness was still a resident in his mother’s brown eyes, they were not red and swollen from endless tears. Her features didn’t sag in defeat, and she appeared to be calm and in control.

Kent had so many questions but gave in to the lump forming in his throat and returned her hug.

The side-door opened, and mother and son turned to see Jack enter with the same wide-eyed expression Kent had worn.

Jo raised her hand, beckoning for her firstborn to join them.

Without a word, Jack dropped his backpack and raced into the group hug.

With an arm around each of her sons, Jo gave them both a tight squeeze before pulling back and looking up into their faces.

“I’m sure I have more tears to shed, but not now.” She took a deep breath, steeling herself. “Your dad and I had so many plans for the future—things we wanted to do with you boys and things for the two of us after you guys were on your own.”

“He was bigger than life to me and I’ve loved him since the day we met at a peace rally in front of the public library. I saw us growing old together, spoiling your kids and fussing about dentures.”

Jack and Kent smiled while their hearts broke for the memories their mother would never have.

“I know there’re no guarantees in life, but I never imagined losing the love of my life to a massive heart attack at only forty-two years of age. Dang man had never even had a cold in twenty years, then he just up and dies…”

The brothers tightened their grip on their mother, holding her up.

“It broke me, and I allowed it. I was doing things by rote, ignoring everything that took thought,” she looked at each of them, “ignoring my boys.”

Jack and Kent protested.

“Mom, we understood-”

“It wasn’t like that-”

She shushed them both.

“That’s exactly what it’s like… how it’s been.”

“After the funeral when everyone was outback and your great-aunt Pearl gave you both a dressing down because you weren’t sad and crying enough to meet her definition of grief, I said nothing.”

“Mom, it was the worst day of our lives, give yourself a break.”

“Exactly, baby, it was the worst day of our lives, but I could only think of myself.”

“Mom-”

“No. I didn’t protect my children. I know Aunt Pearl meant well in her own too-nosy-for-her-own-good way, but I should have said something.”

Kent interrupted her.

“But no one else did either, mom.”

“Hmmpf. That’s because she has money, and no one wants to get cut from her will.”

The truth of the comment made them all chuckle.

“But Pearl never knows—or doesn’t care—when to stop. She’s called every few days. Sometimes I answer, sometimes I don’t.”

“What’s she calling for?”

Jo scoffed. “As she put it, ‘it’s her familial duty to make sure we’re okay,’ but it’s always about money with her. Offers to pay for a housekeeper or handyman, hire help for the crop rotation, even send us on a getaway trip for healing.”

Jack threw his head back and yelled, “Vegas!”

Jo laughed too, smacking his arm. “No, Mr. still-a-minor. I thanked her but said no thank you.”

Kent smirked. “I hear the sound of scissors… cutting you out of her will, mom.”

The Tanner family belly laughed together for the first time in months and Jo led her boys over to the breakfast nook. After they were seated, Jo became serious.

“It had been over two weeks since Aunt Pearl’s last call. I’d hoped she’d found someone else to harass.”

Jo shook her head.

“I wasn’t that lucky. She called this morning right after you guys left for school.”

Jack frowned. “Dang, mom. We left at six-fifteen. You said it was rude to call anyone before eight in the morning.”

“That’s for normal people who don’t believe the world revolves around them, honey. Aunt Pearl doesn’t fall into that category.”

“What did she want, mom? You look like she upset you.”

“Oh, yeah… big-time. She started right in the second I answered the phone.”

 

“Morning, Aunt Pearl.”

“Hello, JoAnna. How are the boys?”

“The boys are fine. They’ve already left for school.”

“No, I mean how are the boys, really? It’s only been two months since Wes died. Have they mourned properly?”

“Aunt Pearl, what is the proper way to mourn? Everyone deals with grief in different ways.”

“Oh, don’t get all defensive, dear. Everyone knows those boys were as crazy about Wes as he was them. Their life paradigm is forever changed. And no matter how big they are in size; Jackie and Kent are still children. I’d expect them to shed buckets of tears.”

“Auntie, again, there is no right or wrong way to mourn for anyone… children or adults. My boys were in shock just as I was. And yes, it is life-changing, but the boys had a father they loved and looked up to. I doubt losing him will alter their personalities. Wes’ death was so… so sudden. It still doesn’t feel real, but it is, and we’ll deal with it.”

“I know, dear, I know. That’s why I’ve cleared my calendar all the way to fall.”

“Huh? What? Auntie, what does that mean?”

“I’m coming to stay with you for a few months. While the boys wrap up the school year, I’ll line up a housekeeper for you and get some field help scheduled all the way through harvest. Then when the boys are on summer break, I’ll-”

“No.”

“… get them scheduled for some-”

“I said no.”

“… counseling and maybe even a trip to the Grand-”

“Aunt Pearl, are you listening to me? I said no!”

“There’s no need to raise your voice and get so dramatic, JoAnna. I’m just trying to help my family the best way I know how.”

“I’m sorry for yelling, Auntie, and I appreciate your generosity, but my answer is still no.”

“Why are you being so stubborn about this? Wes was my favorite nephew… closer to me than my own boys. Jackie and Kent are all I have left of him.” Her voice faltered. “It-it hurts to look at Kent sometimes. He’s the spitting image of his father. Please, let me help them through this.”

“Aunt Pearl listen to me. I know you miss Wes too, but you can’t work through your grief by forcing yourself on the boys-”

“JoAnna! I’m not forcing-”

“Let me finish. You can’t channel your grief through them. You cannot make them feel what you are feeling. They have to work through this on their own in their own way and if they need help, it comes from me.”

“JoAnna-”

“The boys have band camp and sports camp this summer. But I promise to sit down with them and go over their schedules. If they want to visit you together or separately, I will make that happen. But, it will be their decision to make.”

 

Jack and Kent stared at their mother with their mouths hanging open.

Kent whistled. “You said that? To Aunt Pearl? What did she say?”

“Well, she wasn’t happy with me, but she said she hoped to hear from me soon and hung up.”

Jack pointed his finger across the table. “You are so out of the will now, no question.”

 

To be continued…

Part 1    |

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

#My52 “Night Light, Part I”

Night Light banner

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#My52: Week 9

Word prompt: backpack

Word count – 880

Reading time – 2 mins,  12 secs

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Part I

“Karen told me Madeline is mad at you.”

“Hope she gets over it.”

Jack Tanner doubled over with laughter.

“Dude don’t even try it. You got it bad for her,” he chided his younger brother, Kent.

“Correction, I had it bad for her. I didn’t see it at first, but Maddie is just too shallow.”

“C’mon. Yesterday, if she told you to jump into Harper Creek, you would have.”

Fifteen-year-old Kent smirked. “Yesterday, she hadn’t shown her true face. Now I know she’s fake and an opportunist.”

“Ooohh, an opportunist? Really? What happened?”

Shifting his backpack from one shoulder to the other, Kent’s steps slowed.

“She was always cool, fun to talk to. We shared funny stories about our older siblings,” he tilted his head toward Jack, “and she asked da-… about how things were at home.”

Jack raised a brow. “So?”

“Whenever the upperclassmen came around, she changed, especially if Pete Michaels showed up. She tried to act older, call me a kid… crap like that.”

“She crushin’ on Pete?”

“I guess so.”

“That bother you?”

“Yeah, at first. But I got over it. I realized she’s wearing different faces for different people.”

“Okaaaay, what am I missing?”

Kent stopped in his tracks, his eyes focused on his feet.

“K-Man, what happened?”

Sadness and anger flashed across his face as he raised his gaze to Jack. His grip tightened on his backpack.

“I never thought she could be cruel.”

Jack’s jaw tightened. “What happened? Tell me now.”

Kent walked over and leaned against an old wooden fence at the edge of the dirt road.

“It wasn’t a big deal at first. While we were talking about band camp this summer, Pete walks up and teases me about my height, saying I must have grown three inches since school started. He switched gears and said I should drop the trombone and band and try out for the basketball team.”

Jack let out a long, slow whistle. “That’s major, dude. Pete acts like he invented the game, but the team is headed for a bad situation and Coach Turner is getting nervous. Half of his starters are graduating. He still glares at me for choosing to wrestle instead of playing basketball.”

“I know and took it as a compliment coming from Pete.”

“But?”

Squeezing his eyes shut, Kent blew out a harsh breath before responding.

“Maddie pipes in with ‘He can’t play with the big boys yet because he still sleeps with a night light’.”

Jack’s eyes widened. “No effin’ way! She did not say that! She said that? Out loud? How did she know?”

He hung his head. “I told her, right after dad-… when the nightmares started.”

Jack Tanner paced in front of his brother, fuming. “So? So? You told her. Didn’t give her the right to repeat it. What a cow.”

“It’s okay, Jackie.”

“No, K-Man, it isn’t. She took something personal and made a joke out of it so people would laugh at you. What a cow. Just wait until I tell Karen about her little sister.”

“I’m over it, man. I walked away. But Pete followed me.”

“Huh? Why? To continue the joke? Dude, I will kick his ass, I swear it.”

“Jackie, no, it wasn’t like that.”

Kent dropped his backpack to the ground and sat on it.

“When I got to my locker, I turned around, and he was standing there, looking kind of lost. He said he knew it wasn’t the same situation but when his dad left him and his mom he had nightmares for months.”

His brother was incredulous. “Pete said that? Pete Michaels? Tall guy, dark hair with a Dudley Do-Right chin? That Pete?”

Kent grinned. “Yes, Squidward, that Pete.” He ducked his head. “He also said it takes time, but it does get easier.”

Jack shoved his hands into his pockets. “Wow. Guess he’s not such a douche after all. I may have to do something nice like cheer him on at a game or tattoo his name on my bicep.”

“Oh, don’t go all adoring fan-boy on my account.”

Jack extended his arm, pulling Kent up. “What are big brothers for? C’mon, let get home.”

They walked together in silence until they neared the end of their quarter-mile trek from the rural school bus stop.

The Tanner farmhouse came into view as the brothers rounded the bend.

They stopped and stood under the walnut tree at the edge of the soybean field and exchanged anxious looks.

Jack thumped the side of his hip with a tight fist.

Kent bit the inside of his lip.

“I wish things could go back to the way they were.”

“I know, Jackie. Me too. I miss dad.”

“We all do, but especially her.”

“And we can’t make it better.”

Jack gripped his shoulder. “How can we make it better when we hurt too?”

Kent jerked out of his brother’s grip, heading for the farmhouse. “C’mon. We stand here every day wishing things were different, but our life still sucks.” He didn’t stop until he reached the kitchen door next to the driveway.

Throwing the screen door open, Kent stormed inside and stopped, startled by the sight surrounding him.

To be continued…

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

Song Lyric Sunday | “Crocodile Rock” – Elton John

Song Lyric Sunday banner

Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time and author Jim Adams from A Unique Title For Me is our current guest host. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

This week’s theme is  “Animal.”

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FUN FACTS:

  • The song was inspired by John’s discovery of leading Australian band Daddy Cool and their hit single Eagle Rock, which was the most successful Australian single of the early 1970s
  • In a 1974 lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Los Angeles by attorney Donald Barnett on behalf of Speedy Gonzales composer Buddy Kaye, it was alleged that defendants Elton John and Bernie Taupin illegally incorporated chords from Speedy Gonzales which produced a falsetto tone into the Crocodile song co-written by defendants. The parties reached a settlement between them and the case was then dismissed.
  • Bernie Taupin also stated in an interview with a magazine that Crocodile Rock was a funny song in that he didn’t mind creating it, but it wouldn’t be something he’d listen to; it was simply something fun at the time.
  • Elton John has dismissed criticism of the song that it was “derivative”, quoted in the booklet for the 1995 reissue of Don’t Shoot Me … as saying, “I wanted it to be a record about all the things I grew up with. Of course it’s a rip-off, it’s derivative in every sense of the word.”

The video is from a live performance in Madison Square Garden in 2000.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

~~~~~

Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Crocodile Rock

by Elton John
Songwriters: Elton John & Bernie Taupin

[Verse 1]
I remember when rock was young
Me and Susie had so much fun
Holding hands and skimming stones
Had an old gold Chevy and a place of my own

But the biggest kick I ever got
Was doing a thing called the Crocodile Rock
While the other kids were rocking round the clock
We were hopping and bopping to the Crocodile Rock

[Chorus]
Well, Crocodile Rocking is something shocking
When your feet just can’t keep still
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
Oh, lawdy mama those Friday nights
When Susie wore her dresses tight
And the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight

[Post-Chorus]
Laa, la-la-la-la-laa
La-la-la-la-laa
La-la-la-la-laa

[Verse 2]
But the years went by and the rock just died
Susie went and left us for some foreign guy
Long nights crying by the record machine
Dreaming of my Chevy and my old blue jeans

But they’ll never kill the thrills we’ve got
Burning up to the Crocodile Rock
Learning fast as the weeks went past
We really thought the Crocodile Rock would last

[Chorus]
Well, Crocodile Rocking is something shocking
When your feet just can’t keep still
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
Oh lawdy mama those Friday nights
When Susie wore her dresses tight
And the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight

[Post-Chorus]
Laa, la-la-la-la-laa
La-la-la-la-laa
La-la-la-la-laa

[Verse 1]
I remember when rock was young
Me and Susie had so much fun
Holding hands and skimming stones
Had an old gold Chevy and a place of my own

But the biggest kick I ever got
Was doing a thing called the Crocodile Rock
While the other kids were rocking round the clock
We were hopping and bopping to the Crocodile Rock

[Chorus]
Well, Crocodile Rocking is something shocking
When your feet just can’t keep still
I never knew me a better time and I guess I never will
Oh lawdy mama those Friday nights
When Susie wore her dresses tight
And the Crocodile Rocking was out of sight

[Outro]
Laa, la-la-la-la-laa
La-la-la-la-laa
La-la-la-la-laa
Laa, la-la-la-la-laa
La-la-la-la-laa
La-la-la-la-laa

 

 

Song Lyric Sunday | “Piano Man” – Billy Joel

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Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time and author Jim Adams from A Unique Title For Me is our current guest host. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

This week’s theme is  “Occupation.”

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FUN FACTS:

  • The “waitress practicing politics” is Elizabeth Weber, who ended up becoming his first wife when Joel married her in 1973 (they divorced in 1982).
  • Joel played under the name Bill Martin, which explains why the patrons in the song call him Bill. Martin is his middle name.
  • Piano Man is the first song and title track to Joel’s breakthrough album, which he released after signing with Columbia Records. His first album was released by Family Records in 1971, and the contract Joel signed to get that deal came back to haunt him. As is often the case with young musicians, Joel did not understand the contract, and it bound him “for life” to the label. Joel was forced to pay royalties to Family for years after breaking the deal and signing with Columbia.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

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Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Piano Man

by Billy Joel
Songwriter: Billy Joel

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Makin’ love to his tonic and gin

He says, “son, can you play me a memory?
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes”

La la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinkin’ alone

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright

It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, “man, what are you doin’ here?”

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright

 

#My52 “The Price of a Life, conclusion”

Price of a Life banner

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#My52: Week 8

Word prompt: photograph

Word count – 2632

Reading time – 6 mins,  35 secs

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Part VII

Against his better judgment, Dex opened the door in the far corner of the dining room and walked down the back hallway.

Montages from his life in this house flashed through his mind.

A game of hide-and-seek with his dad.

Racing through the halls with Bobby Tanner and Walt Lansing during a sleepover.

Looking for the eggs his dad hid on Easter morning.

Dexter sighed. All good memories that should have made him smile, but so long ago, they were fuzzy and out of focus.

Who was taller, Bobby or Walt? Did his dad ever find him in the garage’s corner behind the tool bench?

He couldn’t remember. Too much bad had come after the good.

A few weeks away from his nineteenth birthday, it wasn’t lost on Dex that one-third of his life dominated his existence.

Dex stopped at the last room on the right… his room.

He opened the door and entered like he was treading on hallowed ground.

The room was his sanctuary, but it had also been his prison, banished there when Verna wanted to relax, or when ‘Uncle’ Simon came for a visit.

He pushed the ugly thoughts from his mind, tired of his tormentors occupying his thoughts.

Someone had covered everything in the juvenile bedroom in white sheets, but it all appeared to be in place.

Dex knew if he uncovered the tubular nightstand next to the bed, he’d find his initials—DJM—carved on the side. A rare act of defiance after being chastised by Verna in front of his friends.

The baseball mitt grandpa Gerald gave him for Christmas the year before he died was in the bottom drawer of the dresser, and the pointed silhouette on top was the trophy he won in the sack race at the base’s family day cookout.

But Dex was confused.

More than half the furniture he remembered was missing from the house, but his room appeared to be untouched.

Why? Had someone taken advantage of Proctor’s condition and removed whatever they wanted without his knowledge or consent?

Fresh anger blossomed in his chest and Dex stormed around the room thinking of his dad alone and at the mercy of everyone.

He yanked open the closet door and found not everything in his room was untouched.

Dex kicked through the clutter of old toys on the floor of the otherwise empty closet.

He wasn’t upset the clothes were gone—they were clothes bought for a child—it was the loss their absence represented, and how little say he’d had about his life… in his life.

I have to get out of here.

He took a step backward but stopped when he saw the shadow of something hanging in the closet’s dark corner.

Reaching in, Dex grabbed the garment… and fell against the door-frame when he realized what he was holding.

Awash in emotions, his chest tightened in sadness as the tiny smile on his face grew into a grin.

He raised an arm to wipe away the tears forming, then gazed at his find.

The child-size camo fatigues were a big part of Dexter’s happiest memory.

Proctor gave the fatigues to his son to wear for the base’s Bring Your Child to Work Day.

He remembered the pride in his dad’s eyes as his staff called Dex his mini-me and he still felt the awe at all the wonderful things said about Proctor.

“He’s everything I hope to be.”

“He’s the biggest hardass on the planet, but he’s also the best officer on the planet.”

“He won’t ask anyone to do anything he isn’t willing to do. We respect that.”

“He could teach those girly-men in Washington more than a thing or two about how to be an officer.”

The day was revelatory for Dexter. Proctor wasn’t just dad or even a decorated soldier. He was a well-respected leader and mentor his unit wanted to emulate.

The grin returned to his face… along with stark clarity.

It wasn’t that things were missing from his childhood home, but more so the things which were still there.

His things.

No one had stolen from or taken advantage of Proctor Morgan.

The missing furniture items were removed by his request.

Dex mentally chided himself for not seeing it sooner.

The ugly Naugahyde living room furniture Verna demanded because some Hollywood A-lister hawked it on late-night television. The contrasting end tables with cherubs as the stands. And the horrid high-backed Victorian dining room furniture his mother believed reeked of class.

The long-suffering Proctor acquiesced to keep his wife happy but hated it all.

His wife’s offenses after she left were no doubt more than enough motivation for Proctor to clean house… literally.

But he didn’t erase his son.

Still clutching the fatigues, Dex grabbed the file folder he dropped and headed for the door. He didn’t have a clue what to do with his inherited home yet, but leaving the fatigues behind wasn’t an option.

Dexter’s mind was a jumble of thoughts and memories. He had to meet with the executor of Proctor’s estate again in two days and needed to come up with a plan before heading back to Vegas.

With his free hand, Dex patted his pockets, looking for his cell phone as he re-entered the dining room.

Crossing the room, he noticed a small table on the opposite side of the hospital bed he didn’t see when he’d first arrived.

Curiosity led him to the table, and despite the dust, Dex recognized his father’s medals arranged on the front edge of the table.

Surrounding the medals were photographs of Dexter—from the hospital the day he was born; from his first day of kindergarten, and in his jersey for Pop Warner football.

But it was the largest photo in a gold frame sitting behind all the others Dex picked up.

Proctor’s arm was around Dex’s shoulder as father and son stood in matching fatigues under a large banner that read Bring Your Child to Work Day.

His breath caught in his chest and a choking sound escaped his lips as Dex laughed and cried at the same time.

He leaned against the bed and slid to the floor, tears streaming down his face.

He’d cried so many tears of self-pity and loneliness. For what he’d lost and what he didn’t have. For his meager existence overshadowed by the violence he couldn’t escape.

But now, Dex’s tears were for the love of a father for his son.

Verna stole him away and kept them separated, but she couldn’t separate their hearts or break their bond.

Proctor Morgan’s physical condition didn’t allow him to go find his son or fight to bring him home, so he kept him close the only way he could—in his heart and surrounded by his photos.

Jumping to his feet, Dex rushed to the kitchen to find something to hold his new-found treasures.

Darting from cabinet to cabinet, clarity smacked the young man in the head again and he knew he’d never sell the house.

Despite failing health, Proctor did what he could to provide for his son.

Dexter lost faith and almost himself, but his father left enough legal bread crumbs for him to find his way home one day.

He found an old Hostess bread tin in the pantry suitable for a carryall and hurried back and gathered up the photographs.

There was so much to do, his mind raced at the possibilities.

His freshman year was going well at UNLV and he’d already picked classes for the fall… but he wanted to come home. He needed to come home.

Bennington had a community college and the University of Colorado was only two hours away.

This could work. It had to.

He’d call Jerome Gaffney as soon as he got back to his hotel room.

The guidance counselor had become a good friend and father-figure and Dex knew the man would give him sound advice.

Turning in a quick circle, Dex took in the room one more time then headed for the front door.

He didn’t know the first thing about furnishing a home past milk crates for bookshelves, but he’d learn soon enough.

Pressing the remote, he popped the trunk on his rental, secured the bread tin and file folder then closed it, hurrying to the driver’s door.

Hearing a car door close, Dex turned to the street. One look at the new arrival and Dex froze for a heartbeat before whirling around to leave.

His hand was on the door handle but instead of opening the door, Dex hung his head and blew out a harsh breath.

He didn’t know if it was destiny or fate or simple luck, but thanks to his father, Dex had a promising future.

It was time to let go of the past.

He walked down the driveway with his hands shoved deep in his pockets.

Stopping at the curb, Dex raised his head but not his voice on the quiet street.

“Did you ever love me?”

Verna Morgan opened her mouth to speak, but no words came.

He huffed. “Guess I got my answer.” He turned to leave.

“It’s not how you think-”

“How do you know what I think, ma? Did you ever ask?”

He fought to stay in control of his emotions.

“You didn’t ask when you dragged me away from here. You didn’t ask when you used me to file for dad’s benefits, and you damn sure didn’t ask me when that investigator came looking for me a few weeks ago.”

“You’re too young to understand-”

“Stop it.” She jumped at the harshness of his voice, but Dex didn’t care. “No more lies. No more excuses.”

He searched her haggard face.

Despite the determined set of her jaw, Verna’s fatigue was obvious.

The blows delivered by Simon’s fists, coupled with an itinerant lifestyle and too much alcohol caused her to look two decades older than her forty-six years.

“Before we even left here, I used to cry myself to sleep hating myself. I knew I had to be a bad son for you to always be so unhappy with me. I wanted to be perfect for you, but I realized too late I wasn’t your problem.”

“Simon started coming around and I figured you were mad at dad for being away so much. Then he came back disabled, and I thought you hated him for it.”

Taking his hands from his pockets, Dex took a step closer to his mother.

“But you know what, ma, dad wasn’t your problem either. It’s you, always scheming to get your way, chasing a life you wanted. There wasn’t anything you wouldn’t do… separate father and son, forge documents, lie… no price was too high for you to pay, even if it was someone else’s life.”

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting a good life, Dexter.”

“No, ma, there isn’t. But we had a good life.”

“No, you had a good life, Dexter. A military brat with a father doing a job he loved. I was just the live-in maid. I deserved more. Your father promised me.”

“Was that before or after you took up with Simon?”

“That’s not fair. Your dad was always gone, training at other bases… deployed.”

“Shit happens, ma, but dad was in the service when you married him.”

“It got lonely. The other wives snubbed me, and then you came along and…”

“I wasn’t enough.”

“Stop putting words in my mouth and stop trying to make me the bad guy.”

Throwing his head back, Dex laughed. “Damn, ma. You fight to the bitter end, huh? ‘Don’t blame me. It’s not my fault. I deserved this. I deserved that.’”

He took a step back, still laughing.

“We’re done here. I have things to do.”

He turned and headed up the driveway.

“I don’t know where Simon is. I-I think he’s left me.”

He paused in his tracks; the laughter returning. Turning, he faced Verna with a feigned surprise expression.

“What? Without giving you the good life he promised? I’m shocked.”

“Don’t be cruel, Dexter James.”

“I learned from the best.”

“Dexter.” Wringing her hands, Verna stepped away from the rundown Explorer for the first time. “Someone in a black Mercedes picked him up two days ago, and he hasn’t come home… and I don’t think he’s going to.”

Dex blew out a long, low whistle. “A Mercedes. Sounds like he upgraded.”

He saw the flash of anger in her eyes before she looked away.

“Did I say something wrong, ma?”

“I love him, Dexter.”

“You love him? Yet, he left two days ago, you don’t know if he’s dead or alive and the only thing you could think to do was come here? You love him about as much as you love me.”

Verna couldn’t contain her anger this time and stormed up the driveway.

“I made a choice, Dexter James! Drive all over Vegas looking for Simon or come here and help you. Stop trying to make me sound like a monster.”

Emotional fatigue bore down on Dexter Morgan. He was tired of the back-and-forth. His mother would never apologize because she didn’t believe she’d done anything wrong.

“You came here, ma because your scheme to dupe that investigator who came looking for me didn’t work. He didn’t know us, but the attorney who hired him knew dad… and how he felt about you.”

“I never tried to dupe-”

“You did. I saw the forged power of attorney.”

“I knew you needed help, Dexter. You know nothing about wills or probate.”

“So, you’re saying to help me you had to take from me?”

“I’m your mother, Dexter James, I wasn’t trying to take anything from you.”

“If dad hadn’t confided in his attorney, you’d have these instead of me.” He held up the house keys. “And Simon wouldn’t be missing, he’d be here getting comfortable in his new home…. a home he didn’t work for or deserve.”

Dex backed toward his rental. “I’m done, ma. With this and with you.”

Reaching the car, Dex opened the door but looked back at his mother. “The irony of this ma is you never got that life you were searching for. You put us all through hell for nothing. You tried to steal my inheritance that, had you been a normal wife and mother, would be yours right now.”

He took one last look at the woman who gave him life before getting in the car and starting the engine. Dex watched Verna stepped to the side as he reversed down the drive. She called out as he passed her. He stopped.

“What about me? What am I supposed to do now?”

“That’s not my problem, ma.”

“So, you’ll just drive away and leave me with nothing and nowhere to go? You hate me that much?”

He shook his head. “I don’t hate you, ma. I don’t feel anything for you.”

Dexter almost felt guilty at the truth of his words until he saw the rage and contempt in Verna’s face.

“Dexter James, you owe me. I am your mother!”

“Goodbye, ma.”

Without another word, he backed into the street, then drove off, relieved.

Stopping at the stop sign a half block away, Dex looked into his rear-view mirror and saw his mother get in the Explorer.

And then he saw a second head.

Simon. Hidden in the back seat the whole time.

Verna’s emotional plea, her lies about Simon’s desertion… had all been just another scheme. A plot. A con.

Dex did not understand what his mother had hoped to accomplish by confronting him, but she’d failed and proven there was no redemption for her.

And he was okay with that.

He turned the corner and headed for the hotel… and the future his father intended for him to have.

 

 

Part I     Part II     Part III   Part IV   Part V  Part VI

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©2019 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

Song Lyric Sunday | “Don’t Stop the Music” – Yarbrough & Peoples

Song Lyric Sunday banner

Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time and author Jim Adams from A Unique Title For Me is our current guest host. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

This week’s theme is  “Harmony/Melody/Music.”

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From 1981, Don’t Stop the Music was a hit dance song by Yarbrough & Peoples. The song could be heard several times a night in dance clubs and was a much-requested last song before closing.

The song reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 7 in the UK and fared even better on the US R&B chart, where it hit number one, helping to earn a gold record for the duo.

FUN FACTS:

  • Calvin Yarbrough and Alisa Peoples met as children in piano class.
  • The duo married six years after Don’t Stop the Music dominated the charts.
  • Calvin and Alisa reside in Dallas where they run their own music company and mentor to gifted newcomers, as well as perform on Broadway.

Enjoy!

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

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Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

Don’t Stop the Music

by Yarbrough & Peoples
Songwriter: Calvin Yarbrough, Jonah Ellis, Alisa Peoples
Don’t you stop it, don’t you stop
Don’t stop the music
Don’t you stop it, don’t you stop
Don’t stop the music
Don’t you know you’ve got me mesmerized
With the beat I always fantasize
Don’t stop the music ’cause it tends to soothe
I can tell you want to groove
Don’t you stop it, don’t you stop
Don’t stop the music (the beat keep goin’ ’round and ’round)
Don’t you stop it, don’t you stop (turns me upside down)
Don’t stop the music
I just wanna rock (all, all night long)
All night long (to my love song, yeah, yeah, yeah)
I just wanna rock (just wanna rock you)
All night long (yeah), I got a love song (oh, oh, oh, oh, oh)
Everything we do is right on time
The beat’s so smooth it blows my mind
Don’t stop the music, it’s so satisfying
It feels so good to me, there is no denying
Just because it’s two o’clock
Don’t stop the music
Don’t you feel like dancing and prancing?
Don’t stop the music
Don’t you stop it, don’t you stop
Don’t stop the music
Don’t stop
Don’t stop
Don’t stop
Don’t stop
Don’t stop
Don’t stop
Don’t stop
Don’t stop
You’ve got me moving, you’ve got me grooving
Don’t stop the music
Don’t you stop it, don’t you stop (don’t stop the music)
Don’t stop the music (don’t you feel like dancing?)
I can tell you wanna dance
Don’t you feel like dancing?
Don’t you stop it, don’t you stop (don’t stop)
Don’t stop the music
All night long (to my love song), oh oh oh oh oh
(I just wanna rock you) I just wanna rock you (all night long)
All night long, hey (to my love song, love song, love song, love song, love song)
I can tell you wanna boogie
I can tell you wanna boogie (boogie)
I can tell you wanna boogie
I can tell you wanna boogie (yes I can)
Don’t you stop it (you don’t really wanna stop), don’t you stop (no)
Don’t stop the music (you don’t really wanna stop, uh-uh)
Just because it’s two o’clock (don’t stop)
It don’t mean that we have to stop (don’t stop)
Just because it’s two o’clock (don’t stop)
Don’t mean that we have to stop (don’t stop)
Just because it’s two o’clock (don’t stop)
It don’t mean that we have to stop (don’t stop)
Just because it’s two o’clock (don’t stop)
Don’t mean that we have to stop (don’t stop)
Just because it’s two o’clock (don’t stop)
It don’t mean that we have to stop, boogie with me, oh my god (don’t stop)

National Random Acts of Kindness Day!

Random Acts of Kindness Banner

Observed on February 17th, National Random Acts of Kindness Day has grown in popularity each year.  It is celebrated by individuals, groups, and organizations nationwide to encourage acts of kindness.

I believe we can all agree random acts of kindness are always a good thing, but society could really use a few right about now. Let’s get to it!

The phrase “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” was written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. It was based on the phrase “random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty”. Herbert’s book Random Acts of Kindness was published in February 1993 speaking about true stories of acts of kindness.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK) was founded in 1995 in the USA. It is a nonprofit headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

However, launched in 2004, New Zealand was the first country in the world to have a Random Acts of Kindness Day!

New Zealand’s RAK Day started after co-founder Josh de Jong was stuck in Auckland traffic one typical afternoon and watched some irate drivers ahead of him getting into a bit of a road rage altercation. He began to think… ‘what would it be like if on one day everyone in New Zealand was kind to a stranger?’ Thus the national day was born and quickly spread around the world.

A simple online search of ‘random acts of kindness’ yields a return of thousands of related items, not the least of which is dozens of groups and organizations created to spread kindness.

The cynic in me could say how sad it is we need groups to motivate us to be kind to each other. But, my optimistic side applauds them for leading by example.

I hope the day is celebrated with millions of acts of random kindness, but I also hope we don’t wait for February 17th or some random group to recruit to us. It doesn’t take much to show kindness. Hate takes effort and forethought, and energy to sustain it. Kindness is natural when you treat others the way you wish to be treated.

A few ideas for random acts of kindness could include:

  • Pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line
  • Buy extra at the grocery store and donate it to a food pantry
  • Buy flowers for someone (postal worker, grocery store clerk, bus driver, etc.)
  • Help someone change a flat tire
  • Post anonymous sticky notes with validating or uplifting messages around for people to find
  • Compliment a work colleague on their work
  • Send an encouraging text to someone
  • Take muffins to work
  • Let a car into the traffic ahead of you
  • Wash someone else’s car
  • Take a gift to new neighbors and introduce yourself
  • Pay the bus fare for the passenger behind you

Showing kindness to someone else makes them AND you feel good – so enjoy your day…and feel good!

No Random Act

 

(Repost)

 

(Compiled from Google, Wikipedia, and NationalDayCalendar.com.)

#My52 “The Price of a Life, Part VI”

Price of a Life banner

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#My52: Week 7

Word prompt: maintenance

Word count – 1361

Reading time – 3 mins,  35 secs

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Part VI

Bitterness and anger warred inside Dexter Morgan.

His mother stole his childhood and forever changed his life chasing the affluent lifestyle she believed she deserved.

Jerome Gaffney’s inquiry into Dexter’s eligibility for a scholarship through his father’s veteran benefits was the catalyst for Verna Morgan’s undoing.

He received the funds he needed for college, but the Department of Veteran’s Affairs also launched an investigation into the benefits Verna claimed before Proctor divorced her.

Authorities were certain she forged allotment documents before she left her husband. Though it was rare, it wasn’t unusual for military families to maintain two residences.

Proctor’s diminished physical condition could account for any disparities in his signature on the documents, and even with abandonment as his reason for divorce, the VA still had no concrete proof Verna forged his signature.

Since Dex was Proctor’s son, he was entitled to Social Security disability benefits for dependent children. That he never knew about the monthly checks and Verna dressed him in thrift store gleanings while buying new suits for Simon only proved her a bad mother. Reprehensible, but not illegal.

Dexter’s strained home life grew more contentious after Verna’s machinations came to light.

Counting the days until graduation, a part-time job with the school’s maintenance crew filled enough hours for Dexter to only return to the dusty apartment for a few hours sleep each night.

When graduation day arrived, an unrepentant Verna did not attend.

And Dexter didn’t want her there.

With all he’d been through, Dexter Morgan was proud of his accomplishments, but his heart mourned his father not seeing him accept his diploma and scholarships.

By the time he returned home, his sadness had turned to rage.

“Well, lookie here. We have an honest-to-God high school graduate in our midst.”

Headed to his room, Dex froze in his tracks, fed up with Simon’s smart mouth.

“Yeah, I am, and I appreciate you being there to support me.”

Verna interrupted before Simon could respond.

“Don’t start, Dexter. It’s still a hundred and fifteen degrees outside. There was no reason for us to get heatstroke trying to get to an overcrowded gymnasium and sit for three hours.”

“Damn, how did you do that, Simon? I didn’t even see your lips move.”

“Dexter James! How dare-”

“How dare me what, ma? Call you both on your crap?”

“You listen to-”

“I’m done listening to you, ma. Seeing your only child graduate from high school… with honors wasn’t a good enough reason to brave Las Vegas heat, but I was a good enough reason to steal money from dad and the government.”

“I am not a thief!”

“Taking something that doesn’t belong to you is stealing-”

“I stole nothing! They found no grounds to file charges against me.”

“Only because dad’s dead… now.”

“We’ve already been over this, Dexter. I was entitled to that money.”

“Because of me!”

His tone startled the shameless couple.

“And we haven’t been over it. I was in the room the last time you talked to the VA people. But you,” he pointed an accusing finger at her, “refused to say another word about it when we got home.”

“There was no point. We needed to put the ugly accusations behind us and move on.”

“There wasn’t enough proof to charge you, ma. No one said you were innocent.”

“How can you speak to me this way? I’m your mother-”

“It’s always about you. Dad getting deployed to Afghanistan, his coming home wounded, and you walking out on him… all about you. All to interrupt your life.”

Verna pleaded with her boyfriend for help. “Simon, baby, make him stop. Don’t let him talk to me like that.”

But the older man had not forgotten how the teenager pulled him off Verna and threw him across the room. He withered under Dexter’s dark glare and focused on his beer.

“He only hits people who don’t hit back, ma.”

“What have I done for you to disrespect me like this?”

“How many times can I say it? You used me to take money that didn’t belong to you.”

“I was entitled to that money.”

“No, you weren’t.” He pounded his chest with each word. “I was entitled to those benefits, ma. You were only able to get as far as you did because you used me.”

“I did it for you!”

“You did it for yourself.”

“Dexter-”

“You fed me Hot Pockets and Pop Tarts, dressed me in thrift store hand-me-downs, and made me sleep on the floor until you found an old bed at a garage sale… for ten dollars.”

“It’s not like I was getting big bucks, Dexter James. You have no idea what it costs to raise a child.”

“Does it cost as much as that fancy bed Simon had to have for his bad back? Or his high-tech gold watch? What about the gold cuff links, ma? Does raising a child cost as much as those?”

“You need to leave.”

“And there it is. Kick me out so you don’t have to face your own lies. Only this time you and Mr. Big here won’t come looking for me. I’m eighteen and the checks have stopped. I hold no value for you anymore. I’m a liability… and a reminder of your meanness.”

“My lies? My meanness? What about your father, Dexter? He promised me we’d travel the world. We were supposed to buy a new home, new cars and join the country club. He promised me.” She paced next to the rickety dinette. “But instead he comes home barely able to feed himself, and I’m supposed to be the dutiful wife and caregiver. No. No. I deserved better.”

When Dexter didn’t respond, Verna turned to her son.

Even Simon looked up from his beer.

Dex stood frozen in place, his eyes on his mother.

And his lips twitched at the corners.

Unable to hold it in, he bent at the waist… and roared with laughter. He wrapped his arms around himself as guffaws rumbled up from deep inside his belly.

“Dexter James! What is wrong with you? What are you laughing at?”

The teen buried his face in his hands and righted himself. Scrubbing his hands down his face, he tried to catch his breath. Looking around the shabby apartment, Dex returned his mischievous gaze to Verna.

“Welcome to better, ma.”

Hit by another wave of laughter, Dexter stumbled backward into the wall.

“I’m glad you find this funny, young man.”

Pushing away from the wall, Dexter Morgan stood to his full height, the laughter gone.

“You took me away from my home, my friends. You took me away from my dad… after he lost the use of his legs serving his country.” A single tear slid down his cheek. “All because you could. All because you knew there was something better waiting for you.”

He took two steps toward his mother.

“But you ended up in this rundown hole-in-the-wall with a man who beats you like it’s a hobby… while you took care of him with money I was eligible for because of my dad… the man you walked away from.”

He took two more steps.

“You don’t think that’s funny, ma? Because I think it’s fucking hilarious.”

Verna opened her mouth to speak, but Dexter talked over her.

“I’m leaving, ma, but not tonight. Mr. Gaffney is making arrangements for me to move into the dorms early and work on-campus until classes start. So, you’re stuck with me sleeping here until that happens. You owe me that much.”

Dexter turned and headed to his room, stopping in the doorway.

“Don’t worry, ma, it’ll only be for a couple of weeks and then you’ll be rid of me. But what’s even better is I’ll be rid of you.”

 

Dexter Morgan leaned his forehead against the cool window and closed his eyes. His jaws trembled as though the memories left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Six days later, Jerome Gaffney had picked up Dex and his modest duffle bag of belongings. As they drove away, he closed the chapter of his life that included his mother.

But Verna Morgan wasn’t done with him yet.

Next week, the conclusion of The Price of a Life

Part I     Part II     Part III   Part IV   Part V

~~~

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