#52weeks52stories “The Sweetest Days, Part 2”

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I said I’d post the conclusion of The Sweetest Days this week. I lied. Not intentionally! I don’t like serial pieces because I have no OFF button, but between my great-aunt duties, Camp NaNo, and my finger hovering over the publish button on another piece, my brain is like a bowl of oatmeal… and I hate oatmeal.

However, I did update it! And, finishing it is at the top of my to-do list for the week. Well, maybe not at the top, probably closer to the middle. Okay, it’s ON the to-do list. How about that? 😀

Enjoy!

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#52weeks52stories: Week 29

Word prompt: movie

Word count – 407

Reading time – 1 min, 41 sec.

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“I talked with Josie Jacobs, dear, and I know the last year hasn’t been easy for you.”

Gayla Petry took Moira by the hand, leading her to the registration table.

“Josie’s inside and Melanie will be here soon.” She handed Moira her name badge and reunion goodie bag. “Spend a little time with old friends, dear. It will make you smile.”

Moira squeezed her former teacher’s hand and headed for the grand ballroom.

Crossing the threshold, she was caught in a time-warp.

Posters of Prince, Robert Palmer, and Whitney Houston graced the entryway.

The Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls blared from speakers, assaulting Moira’s forty-eight-year-old ears and vibrating the floor.

I used to think that song was cool, now I just want it turned down.

As she admired the rest of the pop culture display, classmates waved to Moira. Some she recognized, other she was sure were groupies and not from her graduating class.

Not much happened in Flanders, Indiana, but the class of 1988 had the distinction of having three members drafted into the NFL, another went to the major leagues, and still another made two appearances in Olympic games as a member of the US swim team. All these years later, women still flocked to the standouts.

Not a bad legacy for a bunch of goofy kids.

Moira paused in front of a montage of Teen Beat magazines. A smile formed on her lips as she remembered how crazy girls were for all those handsome young male faces. She moved on, frozen in time. A poster of Three men and a Baby—one of her favorites, shared space with Fatal Attraction—her first grownup movie.

Her smile faded when her gaze fell on the third movie poster—The Lost Boys. It was an awesome vampire movie to most, Moira included until the title name took on a new meaning for her.

*

“You can’t leave, Kev.”

“I have to, Sissie. I’m one of the Lost Boys now. I’ll miss you, but I’d rather not spend whatever time I have left under the same roof with parents who believe I’ve ruined their lives because I’m gay.”

*

Moira believed the day her brother found out he’d become a Lost Boy—gone from being HIV positive to having full-blown AIDS—was the saddest day of her life. She didn’t think her soul could fracture any deeper watching the person she loved most suffer and die.

She was wrong.

~~~

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

#52weeks52stories “The Sweetest Days”

chest and rose

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#52weeks52stories: Week 28

Word prompt: reunion

Word count – 813;

Reading time – 2 min, 10 sec.

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Moira exited I-94 and rolled to a stop at the traffic signal at the end of the off-ramp.

She drummed her fingers against the steering wheel, indecision tugging at her.

Turning left would take her back to the highway, her hotel, and home in two hours.

Turning right would lead her to the Marriott Hotel… and her thirtieth high school class reunion.

The last thing Moira Lambert wanted to do was attend her class reunion.

She turned right anyway.

High school hadn’t been unpleasant for the homecoming queen and class valedictorian, it just didn’t have the same meaning for her as it did her classmates.

Moira was proud of her accomplishments and honored to be so well-thought of, but everything changed near the end of her senior year and then the only thing that mattered was graduating and leaving Flanders, Indiana.

It’s not too late, Lambert. You could grab your things from the hotel and be home before midnight.

Before she could respond to her own heeding, Moira heard Alexander’s quips.

“Don’t focus on the pain, honey-bunny. God knows we’d never smile if we only remembered the bad times.”

Her pursed lips relaxed into a bittersweet smile. She continued on as though Alexander Lambert was right there guiding her.

She pulled up to valet park in front of the Marriott Hotel and stepped out of her Qx50 accepting her claim stub from the young Latino man who’d opened her door. She thanked him with a smile and headed for the entrance, pretending not to notice the look her valet exchanged with two other young men standing at the valet stand.

She wasn’t angry or offended. Moira knew far too women in her age group who thought nothing of bedding young men half their age and it didn’t matter if they were valets, wait staff or occupied an office across the hall. Moira Lambert didn’t judge. She just wasn’t in that group.

As she entered the hotel, large metallic green signs with yellow glitter text directed members of the Taft High School Class of 1988 to the Grand Ballroom on the lower level.

Moira smirked while walking past the sign.

Kat Volker still had an obsession with glitter.

Approaching the escalator bay, Moira’s steps slowed.

This was the first reunion she’d attended without Alex.

This was the first time she’d done anything other than work since losing her husband of twenty-five years. She knew he’d be disappointed in her.

Like Moira, Alexander Lambert was going through the motions of living when they met on the Purdue University campus.

Tragedy touched his senior year of high also when his mother lost her battle with breast cancer. His misery deepened when he had to move in with his father and stepmother.

Catina Lambert hated him for being a constant reminder Gil Lambert was ever involved with a woman other than her. Her lies and scheming kept the Lambert men at odds so much, Alexander applied for early enrollment to Purdue to get away from the Lambert home.

Melancholy washed over her as the escalator carried her down.

Moira knew she’d met a kindred soul and told Alexander about her parents’ reaction when her older brother, Kevin, came out to them after his college graduation.

Big Abraham Jennings had balked at his only son being a fairy, and Genova Jefferson Jennings knew the Flanders African Methodist Church would shun them all.

Moira stayed at her brother’s side, holding his hand, ashamed of her parents for the first time in her life.

But it wouldn’t be the last.

Moira could see the reception area outside the Grand Ballroom was filling up and took stock of her appearance in the mirrored wall as the escalator took her to the lower level of the Marriott Hotel.

She looked good.

The streaks of gray on the left side of her head gave her a mature look without being matronly. They ran through her soft, brown curls from her temple to her shoulder.

The knee-length, purple silk wrap-dress complimented her hour-glass figure and Moira didn’t even lament the illusive twelve pounds that considered her hips a permanent home.

She stepped off the escalator and approached the registration table to the left of the ballroom entrance, and her first smile of the evening was genuine.

“Moira Jennings!”

A tall, thin woman with snow white hair leaped up from the table and ran to greet Moira, pulling her into a tight hug.

“Oh. I’m sorry, I keep forgetting. It’s Moira Lambert.”

Moira pulled back wearing a big grin. “Mrs. Petry, you know I’ll always answer to whatever you call me.”

The retired history teacher beamed. “Still my best… and favorite student.”

Gayla Petry pulled her former student close for another tight hug.

“It is good to see you, my dear. I’m so glad you decided to come.”

Moira chuckled. “I am too, I think.”

~~~

Thanks for reading! Stop in next week for the conclusion to The Sweetest Days.

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #14

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I have nothing against deadlines.

They are necessary for organization, to accomplish tasks on time, and to move forward.

I’m a fan of deadlines and don’t believe life works well without them.

I have nothing against writing. How could I? I’ve been jotting down poetry and prose since I was nine.

Writing and deadlines work well together.

Most of the time.

Writing and deadlines disconnect for me when I add in another factor… chronic illness.

Missed Deadlines

It’s difficult to make plans and schedules when you have no idea what each day will hold. Will the pain level be tolerable? How much mobility will I have? Will my thinking be slowed due to brain fog?

So, I’ve stopped trying to make plans.

Now I make game plans and strategies.

If I can’t write, I can read. If I can’t read, I can edit. If I can’t edit, I can outline. If I can’t outline, I can search out art and images, check out new tools for writing and publishing, or work on my blogs.

I’ve taken my obstacles and made them challenges. No one likes to lose a challenge, but sometimes I do and a loss makes me push harder through the next challenge.

So while I still may not be able to say Sins of the Mother will release on April 3, 2019, I keep moving forward, closer to the time when I can publish dates.

Working through illness is my challenge. For others, it could be varying job obligations, multiple jobs, or having to travel frequently. I have several friends who are in school and try to set writing deadlines after midterms and exams. They’re still perfecting their systems.

But without a doubt, writers struggle most with meeting familial obligations, whether it’s spouses and children, elderly parents, or fur babies. It’s easy to get overwhelmed… and do nothing.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Make obstacles and disadvantages positive challenges and accomplishments and meeting deadlines will become less daunting and effortless.

~~~

Day 14 word count – 26,986

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #10

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I come across a good post about writing schedules almost daily. Many authors and bloggers have unique and precise methods of ensuring time is allotted daily for writing.

My writing schedule looks like a casual suggestion.

Don’t get me wrong, I write something every day… at some point. The schedule part? That’s tricky.

I’m not disciplined enough to say, “I must write,” then sit down and do it.

If it’s editing or revising—words already written—I’m all in.

New dialogues and scenes? It’s complicated.

My stories are character-driven and if characters aren’t talking, I’m not writing.

However, that is not the case during NaNoWriMo/Camp NaNoWriMo, or any writing challenge.

For thirty days I write at the same time everyday, almost always exceeding my word count goal, then move on to something else.

First day after the challenge ends, I’m back to pencil-tapping and scrolling through Twitter.

It’s obvious I need supervision.

Writing challenges have deadlines not imposed by me.

To succeed, I have to play by guidelines not imposed by me.

See a pattern forming here?

I need accountability… and not to myself. I’ll blow me off faster than anyone.

Guess it’s a good thing for folks like me NaNoWriMo recently announced they’re launching an updated website later this year which includes YEAR-ROUND writing support.

This is a good thing. Perhaps I’ll actually adapt to a writing schedule which lasts longer than thirty days.

Anything is possible.

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Day 10 word count – 17,281

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©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update Day #9

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NaNoWriMo/Camp NaNoWriMo has very few rules.

The goal is to write, write, write and get that book, blog project, or screenplay out of your head and on to paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect because the first draft never is.

That being said, NaNo’s most famous rule is no editing.

Editing takes time and patience. Time can be lost while a writer searches for the perfect phasing or a different way to describe bad breath.

The focus on the writing is gone. Frustration levels are high. Goals are not met.

That’s why NaNo encourages writers to turn off their inner editor. Bound and gag them and toss them in the proverbial closet. Send them on a virtual vacation…. whatever it takes to not edit during the writing challenge.

It’s difficult in the beginning. When writers see those read squiggly or double blue lines, our brain tells us to fix it. But the minute we get involved in editing, we’ve abandoned the writing.

Example: The word that is misspelled as thst. You go back to correct it but then get confused. Should it be that or which? Which is it? By the time you find the definitions you’re looking for in your jumbled writing notes, you’re tired and annoyed and walk away from your WIP.

Writing time gone.

By my second challenge, I’d gotten quite skilled at not editing during the month. I remember my April 2017 Camp Nano WIP was a hot mess as far as errors go. There were so many red squiggly and double blue lines on the white background, my smart-ass son would peer over my shoulder and salute it. (He’s no longer allowed to visit during writing challenges)

So as much as I believe in the no editing rule during Camp NaNo I am actually editing while writing this time.

Calm down.

I am adding to an existing WIP, right? Meaning I am cutting some scenes and extending others.

How could I not edit as I go?

Because another Nano rule-of-thumb I follow is to put the WIP away at the end of the challenge for at least a month. If I didn’t edit and make changes NOW once I go back to the WIP it would take me another year to figure out what the heck was going on.

And I don’t need that kind of stress in my life. I’m married and I have a dog. Isn’t that enough?

😀

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Day 9 word count – 17341

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Want to see where this WIP came from?

The Devil You Know

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Camp NaNo Update #8

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Reading time – 1 min, 10 sec.

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Character development—or lack of—can make or break any story.

And just as the protagonist must be fleshed out so does the antagonist.

We may or may not like the antagonist.

They could be truly evil, intent on destroying the very fiber of goodness.

Or their actions could be a defense mechanism in place because of a tortured past or traumatic event.

It doesn’t matter. They’re standing in the way of the protagonist’s HEA or causing them harm, so someone must deal them with.

But shouldn’t we know at least some of what is driving them?

No one wants to destroy good just for the hell of it. I mean… it’s good! Doesn’t everyone like good? What happened to our character to make good bad for them? What was the trauma that built a wall around them? Were they betrayed by some they trusted? Loved?

I addressed some of these things with the villain in Sins of the Mother. I didn’t have the time or opportunity to go too deep with him, but I found out about his history. While I may not understand why he commits the crimes he does, I believe I understand how he got that way.

And I want to save him.

But much like Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Erik in The Phantom of the Opera, the fate of my antagonist is sealed from birth. While he doesn’t have a physical or facial deformity, his soul is deformed and his mind, fractured. By the time I meet him, he is unredeemable.

I have to let go and allow him to play his part in my protagonist’s journey.

But I don’t have to like it.

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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Day 8 word count – 16101

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Camp NaNo Update #7

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Camp NaNoWriMo’s week one is done and gone!

How did you do?

I’m happy with where I’ve landed, just still in shock I’m writing suspense. Wasn’t I supposed to be writing romance? Well, that never happened.

Check out the board! I’ve got Act 2:1 completed!

SOTM Outline Acts

Act 2:1 is the most difficult because that’s where all the mystery and unknown elements leave everyone scratching their heads. (Me, included!)

That’s not saying Act 2:2 will be a piece of cake but thank goodness for revisions!

Remember, this began as a piece of flash fiction back in March, And, YES, I know… 41K is not considered flash fiction anywhere in the cosmos. The story kept growing and growing, and when I said, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” the characters grabbed me and said, “Oh, you’re doing it!”

What? Your characters don’t talk to you?

Weird.

Okay! Last Sunday I posted the working cover for Sins of the Mother—this week, the synopsis!

~~~

A serial rapist is terrorizing Marbury, his victims all elderly women over seventy.

With her husband off on a business trip, fifty-three-year-old Sally Bennett is home alone, making plans for their wedding anniversary bash.

That is until the former Army medic has to fill in for a coworker at Angels Assist Care Agency and spend the night with a seventy-year-old client, Graciela Ramirez.

Gary Sievers is seething with rage—fifty years’ worth.

At last free of the monster who kept him imprisoned since birth, Gary sets out into a world he’s seen only through the Internet, allowing his anger to spill free a little at a time.

He’s invisible to the world, his existence known about by only a handful and most of them are long since dead. But his crimes are growing… and making headlines.

Gary wants the life stolen from him, he wants to find the twin brother he never knew existed, and he wants revenge on the woman responsible for it all.

The captive has become the monster looking for his own twisted brand of justice.

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved.

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FYI—I wrote the synopsis about ten days before Camp Nano began and it has since changed but I’m not rewriting it… yet.

Next week, an excerpt!

Have a great week two! Happy writing!

Day 7 word count – 14461

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#52weeks52stories “oyster crackers & lemonade”

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#52weeks52stories – Week 27

Word prompt – cold medicine

Word count – 2777

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“I said I’m not going, and that’s the end of it, old woman.”

Willie Crawford plunked down in his worn recliner and crossed his arms across his chest.

“Call me old woman one more time. I dare you.”

Wanda Crawford stood with arms akimbo glaring down at him.

He waved her off. “Oh, Wanda you know what I mean. We’ve been married forty-seven years. I’m old too.

“You got that right.”

He smirked at her and picked up the television remote.

“Don’t you dare turn that on.”

“Wanda—“

“I mean it. We’re old, not dead yet, Willie. What’s wrong with driving down to town for a nice lunch and a quick shopping trip?”

“I hate shopping.”

“But you love to eat.”

Willie dropped the remote onto the coffee table. “Why do we have to go anywhere? We have everything we need right here at home.”

“You know what I have, Willie? I have your laundry to do, your meals to cook, and the back of your head to stare at while you watch yet another movie marathon of westerns.”

“Oh, what a horrible life you have, Wanda. Shame on me.”

“Don’t be an ass, Willie. Not that you can help yourself.”

She stomped off into the kitchen and Willie knew he’d crossed a line. He followed her to make things right… without having to leave the house.

“Honey, I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to get on your bad side, honest.”

Wanda didn’t respond. She stood at the kitchen counter, her back to him.

“Come on, baby, don’t ignore me. I just don’t see anything wrong with enjoying retirement doing the things I like.”

She turned her head toward him.

“Doing the things you like? That wasn’t the plan, remember? Twenty years ago, we said when the kids were all on their own, we’d sell this place, buy a small bungalow and garden a little. Maybe travel and see some of this country.” She looked away. “We both retired four years ago and we’re still here in the hot-as-blazes Nevada desert… thirty minutes from the nearest decent town and four hours away from our children. And for what? So you can sit in that chair I should have thrown out a decade ago and watch yet another retrospective on how the west was won.”

“It’s called, ‘The Old West: They Wore White Hats: The Good Guys.’”

Wanda picked up a pen and scribbled on her notepad. “Today. Tomorrow it will be, “The Old West: Bad Guys: Guns, Guns, Guns.” What’s next? “The Old West: When Men Were Men, Women Were Few, and the Cattle Were Nervous?”

“Now isn’t that a fine way for my wife to talk?”

Wanda clutched at her chest, feigning shock. “You do know that I’m your wife. At least I know your brain still works. Mostly.” She continued writing.

Willie let the jibe pass while trying to look over her shoulder. “What are you writing?”

“It’s called a shopping list.”

“Look, Wanda. I apologized, but I’m not going into town.”

She tore the sheet from the pad and grabbed her handbag from the kitchen table.

“No, you’re not. I’m going alone.”

“Aww, c’mon, honey. You know I don’t like you traveling these roads alone.”

“Then come with me.”

“That’s blackmail.”

Wanda strode past him to the door leading to the garage. “No, Willie. It’s not. See you later.”

He bristled. Why was she so stubborn? She was probably standing in the garage waiting for him to come running. Well, he wasn’t going to. She couldn’t trick…

Willie was startled from his thoughts when he heard the Suburban’s engine roar to life.

Dammit! She was leaving!

He raced through the side door just as Wanda put the SUV in reverse.

“Wanda Jean! Wanda Jean!”

She lowered the passenger door window. “What?”

“You always have to have things your way, don’t you?”

“Willie, the last time I got my way was 1994 when we painted the house blue instead of that puke pea-soup green you wanted. See you in a couple of hours.”

She eased the truck out of the garage and backed down the driveway.

Frustrated, Willie ran after her, approaching the truck on the driver side.

“Wanda Jean!”

She stopped again, this time lowering her window.

“Why do you keep yelling my name?”

“I want you to stop this.” He held out his hands. “Look, I’m not calling you old, but you’re too old to travel these old dusty roads alone.”

“Maybe I am, Willie. But I’m also too young to sit at home day after day waiting for death.”

He flinched.

“We’re fortunate, Willie. We have our health and our right minds—well, I have my mind—and the means to live comfortably.”

“And we’re comfortable here, right?”

“You are, Willie Crawford. But some days… most days, I feel like I die a little. Just like this town.”

“Oh, stop getting all dramatic, Wanda Jean.”

“Willie, why won’t you ever admit it? Thirty years ago, Hemming was something else. A real family community. But things change. All the kids grew up, moved away for college and better jobs. And they never came back, Willie.”

“All the kids left, but parents… grandparents—we’re still here.”

“Not the smart ones. They followed their kids or moved to retirement communities with more amenities than dusty pastures and rusted out tractors.”

“This would be paradise to some folks, Wanda.”

“We should have left after we retired.”

Willie didn’t want to have the moving argument again. He wanted his wife to park the truck so they could both go back inside.

“We’re salt of the earth people, Wanda. This is where we belong.”

“You say we when you mean you.” She glared at her husband. “It’s not always about you, Willie Crawford.”

Removing her foot from the brake, Wanda continued down the driveway. Willie walked alongside the truck until she backed into the road.

A part of Willie Crawford knew his wife was right, yet he still couldn’t reconcile with selling the home he spent his life working for and moving away. Willie didn’t handle change well.

Wanda put the vehicle in drive.

“Since you’re determined to go, stay out of Shuyster’s. Cal Beeman’s always flirting with you.”

Wanda scoffed. “He’s just a nice man. No one wants me. I’m an old woman, remember?”

The words stung Willie’s ears. He was such a fool sometimes.

“Yeah, but you’re my old woman.” He spirits rose when he saw the corners of her mouth twitch.

“And would you bring back some of those oyster crackers I like? And some of that bottled lemonade?”

“Nope.”

Willie’s mouth hung open as the smile that had been forming on Wanda’s lips turned into an evil sneer.

“But I will bring back some Spam.”

She floored the SUV and left him standing there in a cloud of dust and sand.

Damn woman!

Willie hated Spam. He’d had more than his fill during his military days and vowed never to eat it again.

However, he knew when Spam appeared at the dinner table Wanda Crawford was fed up.

Willie walked up the driveway, glancing down Kess Road, knowing the cloud of dust was his wife.

He went straight to the kitchen and made two turkey sandwiches. He added two bananas and a bottle of beer to his meal.

Willie knew he had to fill his stomach because he had no doubt Spam was on Wanda’s shopping list.

~~~

Jolted awake, Willie sat up straight, scrubbing his hand down his face.

“That you, Wanda?”

Getting no response, Willie stood and stretched, and headed for the kitchen to see how much Spam Wanda brought home. He’d just reached the doorway of the darkened kitchen when the front doorbell chimed.

Willie glanced into the kitchen once more before answering the door.

“That better not be Wanda playing guest again.”

He yanked open the door, but it wasn’t Wanda. Sheriff Chet Austin filled the doorway. Willie noticed Chet’s deputy, Harris Nelson standing next to the squad car in his driveway.

“Hey, Chet. What brings you to my door? I’ve been home all day and have broken no laws.”

The pained expression on the lawman’s face made Willie’s chuckle die in his throat.

“No, Willie. It’s Wanda—“

“Wanda? What did she do? You know what? She left here speeding—mad at me. Did you pull her over? Oh, God, please tell me she didn’t have an accident—“

The sheriff was abrupt. “Willie, there’s been a shooting. You need to come with us.”

Willie froze.

“Shooting? What does a shooting have to do with me? Where’s Wanda? I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going—“

“It’s Wanda, Willie.”

Willie Crawford slumped against the door-frame. The sheriff reached out to hold him up, but Willie steadied himself.

“C-Chet… where? Where, Chet? What happened and where’s my wife?”

“At the strip mall in town. Some meth-head smashed a case in Dollar General, shoved a shelf full of cold medicines in a bag and ran out the store. The assistant manager ran after him. He yells at the guy to stop and the fool pulls out a handgun and shoots behind him. A bullet struck the assistant manager in the head. He died instantly. From what witnesses said, Wanda was climbing up into her truck. A bullet hit her in the chest.”

Willie locked his elbows, bracing himself against the door. “Where’s my wife, Chet? Is… she… “

“No, Willie, Wanda’s still with us, but it isn’t good. You have to come with us now.”

~~~

Sheriff Austin pulled up next to Wanda’s Suburban in the strip mall parking lot.

“This isn’t a good idea, Willie. You should have waited at the hospital for the victim’s advocate. You shouldn’t be alone right now.”

Staring straight ahead, Willie’s voice was flat, void of emotion. “I’m not the victim, Chet. W-Wanda… was. I can’t leave her truck sitting here like this. She wouldn’t like it. She wouldn’t like it one bit. You said the crime scene investigation was done so I’m taking it home.”

The grieving man reached for the door handle.

“Then stay with me a while, Willie. At least until some of your kids get here. We can get a bite to eat and talk. Or not talk.”

Willie sagged deep in the seat. “I thank you for your kindness, Chet. I appreciate it. But you have a job to do and nothing will bring Wanda back.” His voice broke on the last word. Willie bit into his lower lip, steeling himself. “Pasadena’s less than five hours away. Junior’s always driving like he was on fire. Now, with his mama… well, I’m sure they’re past the halfway mark.”

He opened the door and stepped out before the sheriff could respond. When he reached back inside to grab the bag containing his wife’s personal belonging, Chet grabbed his arm.

“I’m so sorry, Willie. Wanda was a nice lady. Please know we’re taking that lil punk into Vegas tomorrow. He’ll be arraigned for double murder with special circumstances. He’ll never see the light of day again.”

“He’s some kid strung out on meth who tried to steal the stuff to make more. Harris told me the kid still doesn’t understand he killed two people today. If he sits in jail for two lifetimes, he’ll never know what he’s taken from me and that young man’s family.”

Willie grabbed the bag and shut the door, not looking back at his old classmate. He dug around in the bag until his hand felt the small Magic 8 ball keyring. He stared at the keyring then shook his head, refusing to allow memories to crowd his mind.

Pressing the door fob, Willie approached the driver-side door and froze.

Parking lot lights illuminated the area enough for Willie to see what remained of the sheriff department’s investigation.

Arrows and distance markers were etched into the pavement. Willie’s broken heart pounded in his chest when he realized the dark circles outlined in chalk was blood.

Wanda’s blood.

He gripped the door handle, yanked the door open wide and threw himself up into his wife’s truck. Slamming the door, Willie leaned his head against the steering wheel to calm his rapid breathing. But Wanda’s presence overwhelmed him.

The scent of her favorite white citrus body crème filled the vehicle. The purple seat covers and floor mats reminded him of her near-obsession with the color.

He touched the small cube hanging from the rearview mirror. It was filled with photos of the two of them from last year’s harvest festival.

Wanda hated harvest festival. She didn’t see the point since no one had harvested anything but dust in fifteen years.

But Willie loved the festival, and she went because of him.

She was always doing something for him.

Willie’s jaws tightened as he clenched his fists and punched the steering wheel over and over.

“Why did you have to go out, Wanda? Why couldn’t you stay with me?” Perspiration trickled down his temples. He raised his head and covered his face with his hands. “Oh, God, Wanda. Why couldn’t you stay with me?”

The lump in his throat made swallowing difficult. As bile churned in his stomach seeking an exit, sharp, stabbing pains filled his chest. Now drenched in sweat, Willie knew he was having a heart attack. He leaned back in the seat and waited for death to take him.

But it wasn’t a heart attack and death never came for Willie Crawford, and he was grateful. As his body worked to calm itself, Willie remembered his children racing from California to be with him. To say goodbye to their mother. He wouldn’t want them to have to deal with so much death.

He started the truck and went home.

~~~

After the garage door closed, Willie sat in the Suburban feeling every one of his seventy years.

He glanced at the side door, knowing he could not prolong this, and opened the truck door. Willie grabbed the bag holding Wanda’s things from the passenger seat and for the first time noticed Wanda’s hand-sewn canvas shopping bag on the floor.

He turned away, planning to leave it in the truck and couldn’t.

Reaching over, Willie grabbed the canvas bag, slid his arm the looped handles and allowed it to slide up in arm.

His gait was unsteady. His wife’s bags coupled with the emotional weight of grief and fatigue caused Willie to lumber all the way to the kitchen table.

Dropping everything on the kitchen table, Willie Crawford leaned on the table with both hands to steady himself and catch his breath.

He raised his head and listened. The stillness of his home made Willie uncomfortable and for the first time in thirty-two years, he hated the house. This was the last place he wanted to be.

Without Wanda.

The sharp stabbing pains returned to his chest and Willie fell into the chair next to him. He raked a hand through his thick gray hair, pulling it on the ends.

“Why was I so stubborn? I knew she wanted to move. Why was I so determined to stay?”

“It’s not always about you, Willie Crawford.”

The words rang in his ears even though Wanda said them hours before.

Guilt and shame bore down on Willie and he leaned on both elbows on the table. Wanda was unhappy… because of him. She left home upset… because of him.

His eyes brimmed with tears and Willie swiped them away with his hand. He didn’t deserve to cry. Had he been a good husband, he would have taken Wanda to lunch. It would have been a long lunch with his wife teasing him for having two desserts.

She would never have been in the strip mall parking lot.

Willie didn’t know how he’d go on… how he would live with himself. She was the love of his life. Had he told her that recently? Did Wanda know how much he loved her?

He looked at the bags on the table. They shouldn’t be here without Wanda. He shouldn’t be here without Wanda.

Willie reached out, his fingers stroking the canvas shopping bag.

Wanda hated plastic shopping bags and made canvas bags for quick, small trips to the store.

He pulled the bag to him as melancholy and humor struck him at the same time.

Spam. Wanda was true to her word.

He popped the snap and reached into the bag to remove the offensive mystery meat.

But it wasn’t Spam.

Guttural moans began deep in Willie’s chest and filled the kitchen. His hands shook as he removed the bag’s contents—a package of oyster crackers and two bottles of lemonade.

 

Images from Google
©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights, Reserved

 

Camp NaNo Update #3

Camp NaNo Update banner #3

WriMos have more in common than, well… just being WriMos.

Regardless of whether writing goals are met in the first ten days; metered out over the month, or never met, challenge participants have to do more than simply write.

We have lives to live.

Work or school, spouses, partners, and children, health issues and caregiver responsibilities, and yes, even pets require our time and attention. As much as we may want to bury our heads in our WIPs… it ain’t happening.

NaNo organizers send out the first emails early telling WriMos to get organized and find the best writing tools… and snacks.

We’re told to clear our calendars of all major distractions, send our inner editors on vacation… or lock them in the proverbial closet, and get ready to write, sprint, write!

Because it’s just that easy… only not.

July and November have the distinction of including two major U.S. holidays—Independence Day and Thanksgiving—and even in years when Easter Sunday occurs in March, everyone from pre-schoolers to PhD candidates will celebrate the one-week-to ten-day break from studies in the U.S. known as Spring Break at some point during the month of April.

But NaNoWriMo is a global event.

So while some WriMos may not be concerned with cookouts, roasted turkeys, or trying to get to the nearest beach or amusement park, they’re still living lives which come with a laundry list of things which can pull them away from writing.

Water heaters break. Cars won’t start. Children need their parents. Out-of-town guests show up unexpectedly. Friends extend dinner invites. Writers get sick.

Life will get its time, one way or another.

And don’t we want it to? Isn’t that what being a writer is all about? Doesn’t the total sum of our experiences make us who we are?

True distractions? Maybe. Necessary? Definitely.

What are we writing about if we’re not living? How can we create our best work if our minds are only focused on creating our best work?

There’s a quote which says all a writer needs to do is sit down and write. However, before you can write, you need to live.

Our two oldest are in town for the rest of the week. We’ve already decided no one is standing out in one-hundred-and-five-degree heat just to flip burgers, but their list of movies to watch is massive and full of action movies… my weakness. Thank God I’m already over word count because I’m going to be distracted by family movie time… and the jokes, stories, food and laughter that go along with it.

I hope you’re distracted this month too.

Let’s be clear here—four hours on Twitter or three hours playing Call of Duty is not a distraction, it’s procrastination and you should be writing! 😀

 

The Devil You Know, Part VII #52weeks52stories

Intruder

#52weeks52stories: Week 17

Word prompt: cell

Word Count: 1513

~~~~~

Part I    |     Part II    |    Part III    |   Part IV   | Part V

Part VI   |

(All links open new windows.)

“What? When was she discharged?”

“It’s been at least two hours.”

Gavin Marks hung his head while rubbing his brow in frustration.

“Ma’am, Mrs. Bennett is a victim and a witness in this case. The department was to be informed of her release.”

Donna Marcus was at a loss.

“I know, detective, I know. It’s on the patient chart and in the patient care system, but I just came on duty. I know there were emergencies on the floor in the afternoon and the shift was understaffed. Any number of things could have happened, including one nurse thinking another made the call. I’m sorry.”

Gavin understood how a well-planned day could go south in a matter of moments.

He reached out and shook her hand.

“Thanks for your time. I apologize for my rudeness. This case has stonewalled us, and Mrs. Bennett is our only lead. I hope your shift is an easy one.”

“Thank you, detective.”

Gavin walked away, pulling out his notepad and cell phone. His call to Sally Bennett’s home went unanswered. He swore under his breath when he realized he hadn’t gotten her cell number too.

As he reached the elevator, the doors opened and Brian Holland stepped out.

“Got the message to meet you here but you don’t look happy to see me.”

The detective smirked at the uniformed officer.

“The hospital discharged our only witness over two hours ago. Just called her home… no answer.”

“She’s had a rough couple of days… could be asleep.”

“True. But three of her five children are in town and I doubt they’d drop her off and head back home after finding out their father tried to kill their mother and her client and now he’s dead.”

It was Holland’s turn to smirk. “Good point.”

Gavin pushed the button for the elevator.

“Let’s take a ride over there… see what’s going on. This case is dead in the water. There must be something Mrs. Bennett has forgotten that will point us in the right direction.”

“Sure thing. Let me call Lothern.” The officer reached for his radio.

“Not necessary, dude. I talked to your sergeant and had you re-assigned. Hope you don’t mind, but you’re on my team in four days, anyway.”

The elevator doors opened and the big man grinned as he stepped inside.

“Nope, I don’t mind at all.”

“Welcome to the Special Investigations Unit. Your first case is a real cluster.”

*

It only took a few minutes for Connie Pierce and Walt Stokely to tell the police what they knew about Gary Sievers.

Neighbor Jill Vick had nothing to add. The forty-seven-year-old disabled woman lived right across the hall but spent most of her days wearing headphones or ear-buds.

Noah Lambert lived across the hall from Connie but had been at work all day, then spent the night at his girlfriend’s.

Lead detective Leonard Ganson was pissed.

“Someone tried to commit murder and no one heard anything. That’s just great. That’s just freakin’ fantastic.”

He lit his third cigarette since arriving at the scene.

“Man, calm down and stop acting like it’s the first time we’ve had no witnesses. Pete Hill had been Ganson’s partner for fourteen years.

“And stop smoking like a chimney. If the captain shows up and sees you, it won’t end well.”

“Just once I’d like to have a willing witness or a repentant suspect who fears for his immortal soul and confesses.” He took a long drag on the cigarette before continuing. “It’s gonna be a long night.”

Connie stood in the evening twilight watching the paramedics stabilize Gary Sievers for transport.

Attached to the gurney, a short I.V. pole held twin bags for O positive blood and simple saline. A light compression bandage was wrapped around his forehead “to keep his brains from falling out” she’d heard one paramedic say to the other.

The small case tracking Gary’s vital signs showed they were impossibly low.

Walt slipped an arm around Connie.

“I’m sorry, Pierce. I should have opened the door when you asked me to.”

Surprised by the gruff man’s sincerity, she offered him a sad smile.

“Don’t blame yourself, Walt. We didn’t know. Gary kept to himself so much, not seeing him daily wasn’t a big deal.”

The paramedics lifted the gurney into the back of the ambulance. One jumped inside, administering aid to Gary while the other packed aware their medical gear.

“Will he make it?”

“I can’t say, ma’am. We’ve stabilized him the best we could, but his pulse rate hasn’t improved. If he can last through the ride to Colon Regional, the docs there may be able to improve his odds.”

He closed the back doors of the ambulance and hurried around to the driver’s side. Connie followed.

“Wait. Colon Regional? Trinity Memorial is right down the street.”

He opened the door but paused long enough to respond.

“Yes, ma’am, but their ER is closed down. Some guy rushing his buddy in after an accident lost control of his truck and plowed into the emergency room. They’ve got dozens of injuries to deal with.” He climbed inside the vehicle. “Baxter General is seventeen miles across town through evening rush hour traffic.”

He radioed in his departure time and started the ambulance.

“Colon is in the next county, but it’s only six miles away, a straight shot… and this guy’s best chance.”

The ambulance pulled away with sirens on, and Connie’s tears returned.

*

Seated back in Pax Lacey’s office, Carolyn and Joanie clung to each other, sobbing. Darrin sat next to his mother, exhausted and defeated.

Sally sat perched on the edge of the sofa watching the coroner as he placed first a call to Detective Marks—which went straight to voice-mail—and another to check on the status of the fingerprint search for the man he now knew wasn’t Franklin Bennett. He completed the call and scrubbed a hand over his face.

“Still nothing on the fingerprints.”

“How is that even possible? Everyone is fingerprinted for something these days.”

Anger marred Carolyn’s tear-stained face. “I was fingerprinted for a background check before I could volunteer at my daughter’s school.”

Joanie nodded. “I had to be fingerprinted when I worked at the bank.”

“Don’t forget our driver licenses,” Darrin added while staring at his fingers.

Pax stood and approached the family. “That just means this man has been off the grid for some time. But we’re just getting started We will find out who he is.”

“Please. You have to… soon.” Sally’s voice was shaky and stilted. “Finding out who this man is may be the only way of finding my husband.”

The distraught woman wavered and her son slid closer to support her.

“I can’t make any sense of this but that man isn’t Frankie. And we know Frankie didn’t go with Bill Reynolds. But, he wouldn’t have lied to Bill about me being ill. That means the man lying in that room talked to Bill… and he’s done something to Frankie.”

*

After exiting the elevator, Det. Marks and Officer Holland took the shortcut through the emergency room to reach law enforcement parking.

Marks pulled out his cell phone to check his messages.

“Hey, Marks! How’s it going?”

He stopped and turned to see Leonard Ganson standing in the doorway of an exam room.

“Lennie, hey man, what’s up? Aren’t you in the wrong county?”

The wiry older detective snickered. “Yeah, yeah. I’m on your turf. Gotta follow the case, right? Assault victim found unconscious in his apartment. Trinity’s ER is shut down. Colon was closer.”

“Tough break. Heard about Trinity too. Anything good happen for you today?”

“My wife told me she loved me.”

Marks laughed. “That’s gotta count for something.” He motioned to Holland. “This is Brian Holland. He joins Special Investigations Monday. Brian, this is Leonard Ganson, a senior detective in the Baxter major crimes department.”

The two men shook hands.

“Congrats, Holland. Now you’ll get to work double shifts and drink bad coffee in a suit.”

Brian chuckled. “Thanks, man.”

Pete Hill rushed toward the men panting. “Got an ID on our vic! Franklin Bennett… has a Marbury address.”

Marks and Holland exchanged quick glances. Before either could speak, Holland’s cell phone rang.

“Holland.”

“Yes, I’m with him now.”

“Okay, I’ll let him know. Thanks.”

“That was Lothern. Says the coroner’s trying to reach you.”

But Gavin Marks didn’t hear the officer. He walked past Ganson and Hill into the exam room.

A nurse was washing up the unconscious man lying in the bed.

“I’m sorry, sir. No visitors.”

Gavin opened his jacket to show his shield clipped to his belt.

“Oh, sorry. But like I told the other detectives, he’s still unconscious. We’re prepping him for surgery and hoping his blood pressure rises enough for him to live through it.”

She said more, but he didn’t hear. Standing at the foot of the bed, Gavin just stared at the man.

Holland joined him, his mouth gaping open when he looked at the unconscious man.

“What the hell is going on?”

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved