“We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort.

“And that is why we write.”

-Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medal acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book at the annual conference of the American Library Association in Chicago, July 12, 2009.

Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Two

The whole of Saturday and early Sunday morning passed without event, much to Wil’s disappointment. She even managed to alter Sunday’s morning walk with her mother to pass the small playground and the side of Building 5 twice, but they never saw anyone. She knew they walked earlier in the morning than most were awake, but a sliver of hope was all Wil ever needed to assume a sunrise’s worth of chance.

If her mother suspected anything, Cynthia was, as always, respectful enough to keep things to herself. That, or she knew Wil could never keep a secret for long.

“Well,” Cynthia said, after she and Wil had returned home and recovered somewhat on the couch, “That was a nice walk. Thank you, Wil.”

Wil turned to look at her mother from her reclined position. She hadn’t really noticed much of the walk and hoped there hadn’t been some landmark her mother wanted to discuss.

Cynthia cleared her throat, look worried, then smiled at Wil. “Why don’t you get started on breakfast for us, and you can tell me about how things are going?”

“Okay,” Wil agreed, still confused. She rose and walked the few steps to their eating area, her mind on what to talk about. There was the book she had been reading for school, of course; the secret group -oh! She could tell mom about the group; and then Eric, but even she wasn’t sure what there was to tell about Eric…

“Wil,” her mother said, bringing Wil back to reality to see she’d left the fridge door standing open with her in it.

“Sorry,” Wil said, and finished removing the eggs, milk, and bread from the cold interior before closing it. She set the breakfast items on the counter and began the everyday ritual of summoning coffee from their antiquated, secondhand machine. “I. wish. Dad. had. started. this,” she muttered as she prised the old filter from the top and attempted to scrape old coffee from the carafe.

Cynthia laughed, then stopped as she began coughing. “He’ll appreciate waking to it already tamed,” she said, once she caught her breath.

The coughing fit had not lasted long, but it gave Wil enough time to successfully start the coffee maker and get going on scrambled eggs. She and her mother kept the conversation to breakfast preparations, else Wil get lost in another area of the kitchen.

“You like them with salt and pepper, right?” Wil asked.

“Right.”

“How about Dad and Jakob?”

Her mother laughed a bit. “They like food.” She paused, “Though maybe not burned.”

“Ha. ha,” Wil pretended to laugh. She hadn’t burned their meal for nearly a week, although it was true that scrambled eggs had been the last thing she’d overcooked. “That reminds me,” she said, over her shoulder. “I need to tell Jakob I’m not the only one we need a smoke alarm for now.”

Cynthia smiled. “True. But he’s awfully grouchy in the mornings. You might not want to push your luck.”

“Who’s grouchy?” a grumbling voice asked. Jakob stood in his boxers and and t-shirt in the doorway, blinking around.

 

Continued from Seventy-One.

The Apple Pie from the Same Tree

Ann’s mother was special when it came to food. She could scan a printed page, retrieve a container from the cupboard, and *poof* add to the mixing bowl. Later, the family would eat freshly-baked casserole or chocolate-crusted cake.

And that is why Ann thought she might be magic, too. Surely, by the same means, Ann could create with a pinch of this or dash of that.

After Ann’s first attempt, only her father would taste it.

“Ah. Mashed potatoes?” he asked.

Ann nodded, trying not to feel sick as he stirred her mix of potato, milk, and runny eggs.

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Based on the author’s actual experience, and
Stirred together for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community.

Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Welcome to the very first Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. I am your host, Chelsea Owens.

Your first contest has the following rules:

  1. The topic is elective surgery.
  2. It’s short. Keep your poem below 200 words but above 4. That means anywhere from 5-199 words.
  3. To rhyme, or not this day? Up to you.
  4. And remember: the poem needs to be awful. I want to cringe. I want to scrub my eyes and go lick something to clear my artistic palate. -though, G-Rated.

Think you can do it? You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (November 16, 2018) to submit. Post your poem or the specific link to it in the comments.

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Poetry Contest Writing Thingie

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I want to start a poetry writing prompt contest thing on my site.

Yes, here.

Yes, I still intend to randomly have a caption contest as well. -In fact, I had intended for that one to be monthly or quarterly, but got a bit sidetracked in keeping my children alive over the summer.

On to the poetry:

Every week, I will announce a topic and parameters. People may enter by posting their entire poem in the comments, or a post-specific link. I will read through the entries and pick my favorite. Said favorite is the winner and gets his/her post listing his/her poem and announcing that he or she is The Grand Poet Master of the Week.

The best part?

This will always be a contest for the very worst poetry you can write. *Ahem* And G-Rated. I’m not gonna want to tread through some of my reader’s minds (you know who you are)….

So…. Every Saturday at 8 a.m. MST (UTC-7, though UTC-6 during Daylight Savings), I will post the rules and prompt. Every Friday of the following week at 8 a.m. I will announce who won. You’ll have that week to write something.

Are you game? I am. Tune in tomorrow and let’s have some fun!

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Skinwalkers, XLI

Nathan mentally cursed the suspension drops as he stood in the newly-formed dark. Despite the redlight influence, he could not see anything.

“N. Reed?” Pul asked with concern.

“A moment.”

Nathan used his reprieve to squint, blink, and peer around. Black nothing resolved into red bits. The red bits became various light sources. Those red sources reflected from equipment on desks and the expectant faces of a handful of seated laboratory workers.

Turning to the eerie face of Pul at his shoulder, Nathan announced, “I am ready.”

“Excellent,” answered the voice of Caill. “We’ve already lost time waiting for your arrival.”

Tracing the sound of her strident voice, Nathan found the strict executive standing just a few paces beyond him and Pul at the front of the room. She was scowling, her features appearing more demonlike than usual in the crimson ambiance. “Then, by all means, outline the inpracticum,” Nathan responded, mildly.

Caill scowled further, he thought. Straightening pose and lifting chin, she complied. “This is one team of research adherents. They represent who you might be working with if assigned.” She paced, a nervous gesture. “You are to lead them through a randomly-assigned task provided by Stone.”

“Stone?”

“Here,” the succinct executive provided. Nathan turned his body to view a back corner of the room. Stone did not look as sinister as his female colleague in the redness; his masculine features instead gave the impression of a face chiseled in a mountainside. He strode forward and handed a tablet to Nathan.

Without even glancing at the display, Nathan accepted the tablet and marched to where Caill awaited. “If you don’t mind,” he said, almost deferentially. She moved, stepping down to stand warily beside Pul and Stone.

“Now,” Nathan said, addressing his new team, “I am Nathan Reed. We will be working together this inpracticum and for many cycles henceforward.” He ignored an intake of exclamation from Caill. “Let us see what we will accomplish.”

Nathan fought the internal anxiety of the small space, the stares of so many strangers, and the challenge of whatever his assignment might be. To the view of his expectant audience, however, he was confidence and control.

Glancing down, he read the tablet’s instructions. His wristwatch beeped; it was time to get started.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XL.

Track Memory

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Anticipation clung to my twitching legs. A girl nearby hopped; I copied. Another stretched, as did I.

We pretended to ignore the waiting barriers. We’d glance to the nearest, flit to the next and next and next, then end at the finish line.

Too soon, I heard, “Runners, take your mark.”

“Se-e-e-e-et!”

*POP!*

Out of the blocks, I ran to the first hurdle.

Fell.

And sat and crumpled and cried.

Then, felt an arm about my shoulders. Heard a repeated lullaby of encouragement from a onetime friend.

“You won,” she reminded, “By not hesitating.

“And, tomorrow, you’ll run again.”

 

Written for Carrot Ranch Literary Society’s #2 Contest: Memoir.

Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-One

Blinking away a world of sunsets and wings, Wil snuggled her arms free from their blanket cocoon. She groped into an outside coat pocket, searched, and removed her thin, black gloves. Nope. The other outside pocket produced a few wood chips, and a remembering blush. *Sigh* The inside pocket held lint and a rather bent novel. Oops. She frowned, hoping her teacher wouldn’t be too upset at the state of her loaned material.

Wil reached into her other inside pocket. This held a crinkling wad of official paper folder over a handwritten letter: her goal. Wil spread them out as best as she could and read them over again.

“Mom,” she said. Her fingers traced the looping flourish of Guinevere Greene’s signature. The title of Mother belonged to Cynthia; there had never been any thought or chance or wish for Wil to believe otherwise. She’d read stories, of course, of children with awful parents who wanted more than anything to be cared for by someone else. Wonderful, loving Cynthia, however, had always been so sweet. If they hadn’t had limitations like health and money, the mother she and Jakob had known for most of their lives might have spoiled them.

As such, they were only ever spoiled with affection.

Once when Wil was quite young, she remembered, she got into Cynthia’s makeup. Staring at her tiny, painted self in the mirror, Wil had realized that her mother was standing right behind her. Arms crossed, face frowned, Cynthia had not been pleased. “Now Wil,” she’d said. “This is my makeup and you need to ask permission.” She’d come forward and sat right next to poor, apologetic Wil. “Now,” she’d added, “Let me show you how grown-up women put on their lipstick.”

Wil’s lips pursed forward, remembering the way she and her mother -the mother she’d always known- had made kissing faces at the mirror after painting their lips. Anytime she’d wanted to after that, Wil had joined Cynthia at the mirror to get made up for the day.

Wil stared down at the cursive again, trying to picture its author. Was Guinevere the sort of mother who smiled with love when her daughter blurted out whatever came to mind? Did her laugh or smile light up a room? Would she have asked Wil about her day, every day? Would she have shown Wil how to put on makeup from her own supply?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Wil had no experience with how a real mom might be. If anything, her reading had taught her to fear a stepmother, but Cynthia was nothing like the cruel stepmothers that stalked the pages of fantasy stories. Given that, was Guinevere the evil one?

She had left Wil behind. She had insisted on Rob’s never telling Wil about her.

And yet…

“Whazzinit?” Syl the pixie paige asked, ever the nosy sprite.

Wyl Winterling cast him an imperious glance, her coils of dark hair shifting across her featherlight wings with the movement. “I believe that is none of your business.”

Syl drawled a disappointed, “Awwrr.”

“Still,” Wyl interuppted. “I may tell you that I’ve learned I’m also daughter of The Great Lady of the Greene.”

The effect of her statement was instantaneous. Syl drew breath in, and was blessedly speechless. The Great Lady existed in forgotten ballads and old stories, and was whispered amongst the branches of the magical elder boughs.

“So,” Queen Wyl’s paige squeaked out, “Will she be comin’ for a wee visit soon?”

 

Continued from Seventy.
Keep reading to Seventy-Two.