Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Seven

The deep, depressing bell toll still echoed in the cold cement-lined world outside when Wil pushed out of Mr. G.’s cubicle. He’d released them early, for him, which had granted the class a thirty second head start.

She walked down metal stairs and headed toward the main building. Quick, solid footsteps replaced the reflected sounds of the bell. Wil turned to see Art coming after her. Although he’d made amusing faces at her every time she’d accidentally -or, increasingly, intentionally- looked back at him, Wil had forgotten about him once excused from class.

“Hey, Wil,” he said amiably, once he joined her. He walked with her as if they had always walked together. Wil marveled at the sensation of friendship, of being sought out.

“What do you think about the group assignment?” He asked.

“Oh,” Wil replied. She’d also forgotten about that. She was so accustomed to no one volunteering to work with her, that she had mentally written off worrying about it. Mr. G. would attach her to some unwilling group once he asked which group everyone was in at the next class period.

“We could be in a group,” Art said. He glanced at her face, then added, “It would be convenient since we’re in the same class. I could get the two guys by me to work with us, too.”

“Okay; if you’re sure,” Wil replied, hestitantly. She knew Art was intelligent and very interested in History. She didn’t want to let him down by naturally being the opposite of him in those areas.

Art laughed. Wil liked his laugh.

“Don’t worry!” He said. “I think it will be fun.”

They reached the door. He pulled it open for her, with a flourish. “Lady deWinter,” he formally announced, while bowing.

Wil laughed, then scuttled into the building quickly. He caught up to her again. They walked through the crowded school, amidst the hubbub of end-of-day socializing.

“So, m’lady,” Art continued, “Have you any ideas for the project?”

Wil thought, then blushed. “I don’t remember the topic, actually. Sorry.” She was sorry. Unless she wrote things down, or cared about them, she usually forgot.

“Ah,” Art said. “I may need to re-think this group, then.” Wil looked at him in panic, but saw that he was grinning in a teasing way.

He stuck his right hand over his heart and intoned deeply, “The topic is Famous Battles of the American Revolution.”

He and Wil reached a hallway juncture. His locker was down to the left, while hers was to the right. Art waved to Wil, then started down his hall.

She saw him stop, turn, then walk a few steps backward as he called, “Think about it, WIL you?”

 

Continued from Forty-Six.

This Old House

Their school year had already begun when he looked around their 10-year-old house and said, “How about we move?”

His wife glanced up from grading homework, glasses perched down her nose. Eyebrows raised, lips pursed, she said, “Okay.”

And that was how they ended up in front of the 1917 farmhouse in a town of 257 people. Only the wind spoke, with an occasional canine interjection.

“It’s about half our current mortgage,” she noted, as they surveyed almost an acre of yard.

“It may need some work,” he observed, peeking around a musty, boarded-up section.

“It’s perfect,” they said, completely smitten.

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

The Very Worst Missionary

TheVeryWorstMissionary

I haven’t been able to read an actual, physical book since…

Let’s see: how old is my youngest? And, how long was his gestation period? Divide by four, carry the two, add a year… Maybe we’d better go with a very safe date. When did the Berlin Wall fall again?

This uncultured gulf has been due to children, children, and housework. Lately, however, I’m pleased to confess that my free reading time has been spent catching up on the blogs that automatically fill my inbox with 45 daily posts.

Yeah, yeah. I know I need to cut back. I can stop anytime I want. It’s my life; my choice.

What does this rambling have to do with the title of my blog post tonight? It’s called “setting the scene.” For; I found out about a woman’s blog, and accompanying book, whilst reading through the Fractured Faith site. I think.

Point is, I read one post by Jamie Wright about how to edit the swearing in her published book and was laughing audibly (for you, M). Right there, on the spot, I ordered her book from the Amazon. After it arrived, I read it non-stop. You know, between feeding, cleaning, avoiding work, writing, sleeping, conversing, and living.

It took me a few days, but Jamie Wright’s book was FREAKING HILARIOUS.

Allow me, if you will, to quote some of my favorite passages:

“God will not be swallowed like a pill to cure herpes of your soul so you can run in a field of sunflowers with your hot boyfriend.”

 

“When you struggle in your forties with things that wrecked you at fifteen, I don’t think you’re supposed to say so out loud. It makes people uncomfortable.

“Everyone loves an underdog, but we prefer our stories of wrestling and redemption to be told in the past tense: I was depressed. I had anxiety. I felt insecure. I slept around… We’d rather hear from drunks when they’re sober, our depressed when they’re happy, our sick when they’re healed. We want to see wild horses broken and to believe in the hands that tamed them, because most of us hold our own dark places of wrestling with unbridled messes in our souls that sometimes spill over into life, and we desperately need to see that maybe we too can overcome the things that are ruining us.”

 

“The past lies beneath our beliefs like the soil of our soul. It’s the wet clay and dry bones and clumpy dirt, the grit and gravel, the small stones and loose sand, and the petrified turds that the adult formation of our faith must rest upon. Your history is like an inheritance, a patch of land that, though you may not have had much choice in its early cultivation, belongs solely to you.”

As you can read, she’s a conversational storyteller with an attitude; but one who says some deeply profound things in a relatable way.

This was worth the cost of actual purchase, plus more. You should get a copy, too.

Fair warning, however: if you are a prudish sort in terms of language, buy the book and follow her guide for editing. She’s unapologetic about some very common cuss words, but you’ll be able to black out the most egregious.

And, frankly, she makes it very clear that you can take her as she is or, simply, not. I consider myself very prudish over cussing, but found her profanity fit perfectly well with the dialogue of the writing.

Skinwalkers, XVIII

Nathan’s worried thoughts fueled a helpless anxiety. They chased each other round his head like feral Outlands beasts of some sort, snarling without reason or satiation.

“Look out!” Shin exclaimed, grabbing at Nathan. He managed to grasp at enough of Nathan’s thin upper arm to stop his oblivious pace, just as a large transport swung a sharp right directly at their toes.

*Cheerp!* *Cheerp!* Called the trafficsection signal, as the exhaust from the retreating vehicle still rose in the putrid city air.

Nathan exhaled; turned to his friend. “Thanks.”

“Yep.”

They crossed. “It’s just further proof that the autodrives aren’t perfect,” Nathan noted as they walked down the citypath.

He glanced back at Shin, and was rewarded with a half-smile; a, “Nope.” A moment of even treading later, Shin added, “They still don’t solve stupidity.”

Nathan, who’d nearly been enveloped in his worries again, was a bit slow to hear the truthful tease. He stumbled, and turned a quick look to Shin. Shin’s eyes seemed focused on their path ahead, as he grinned broadly. Nathan took the moment of distraction to punch his friend’s shoulder.

“Ow!” Shin reacted, surprisingly pained. Quickly, he covered with a playful laugh. He pretended a return punch; but, Nathan noted, with his other arm.

*I only use sultronous* a sultry female autoad crooned. Her image dropped the towel it had barely been wearing to begin with. *Because I need my skin touchably soft.*

They walked through her without comment, stopping at their last crossing. Shin stole a quick glance at Nathan. “Did you feel something at that last one?”

Nathan considered. “Yeah,” he realized. “I thought they weren’t going to add sensory to the street ads, though.”

“Well,” Shin answered, nodding at the ever-present street dwellers, “Guess they’ll learn.”

“Yeah,” Nathan repeated. His friend’s comment drew him back to when sensory modifications had first been introduced. Every advertiser had clamored to use them and the citypaths had been saturated in perfumes, breezes, and flashing lights -until the dwellers systematically cannibalized them for parts. One sensory mod covered a week’s worth of hits from the right vendor.

“If they’ve got a way to get around it,” Nathan posited, “we ought to look into it. I could use new slipshods.”

“And I could use a hit,” Shin replied.

They walked to the other path, past two buildings, then stopped. Shin gave a low, appreciative whistle at the sight of the monolith before them. “Check that shade,” he marveled. He tilted his head back, attempting to see where Carapace’s grey pinnacle reached grey-clouded sky.

“C’mon,” urged Nathan, turning away.

Regretfully, Shin abandoned his scrutiny. Together, they stepped to the neighboring alley. As with most of their assignments, the service side was less impressive than the streetside façade. Still, this one was cleaner and more secure than most.

Adjusting his satchel, Shin approached the access door. After groping around various pockets, he found and withdrew his comm. Nathan watched him place it on the sensor; watched the familiar green activation light.

The entry slid open, and they went inside.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XVII.

Wilhelmina Winters, Forty-Six

“I hate math!” Reagan exclaimed. Wil’s hand was delivering pork substitute to her mouth, but stopped in surprise at this announcement. The rest of the lunch table’s occupants laughed or smiled, commiserating with Reagan.

“Yeah,” Art said. “I feel you. I’d much prefer English any day.”

Reagan was stirring her instant potatoes. She looked at Art in surprise. “English?” She questioned. Her eyebrows raised and her mouth twisted distastefully. “I didn’t say that was much better.”

“I like English,” Stephen supplied quietly.

“Well, of course you do,” Reagan responded, a bit sarcastically. Wil noticed that Reagan’s tone was almost always sarcastic.

“Guys, guys,” Derek said, his hands in a calming gesture. “We can all agree that math sucks.” The others laughed, except Wil. She blinked.

“What, Wil?” Reagan asked her. They all turned to look at Wil, and she blushed.

“I… um, I like math,” Wil said quickly. She looked down, wishing her reheated frozen vegetables were interesting enough to keep her attention the way she was pretending.

“Really?” Reagan asked, in an unusually sincere tone. Wil glanced up. Reagan’s face also seemed sincere, even curious.

Wil noticed the others bore looks of interest, while Hope wore her kind and humorous smile. “Yeah,” Wil said; then, a bit more loudly, “I don’t have a problem with math.” She cleared her throat a bit. “Maybe it’s the teacher?”

“I know you have a different teacher,” Reagan stated, as if Wil’s class schedule were common knowledge. “Hope told us.” (That explained things, Wil thought.) “But, I don’t think that’s why math sucks.” They laughed again, at Reagan’s bluntness.

“Oh, duh,” Art said, acting like he was smacking his forehead. “You’re in the higher math class.” He smiled, then chuckled a bit. “We need to add that to your talents, Wil. Cool.” He turned his smile to her.

Wil was surprised, then pleased. If they all really didn’t like math, and were not in the higher math class, then here was a talent she really did have. The Talented Teens were nodding and making sounds of agreement. She watched Stephen pull their secret paper from a folder, then carefully pencil “Mathematics” on the line with her name.

“Um,” Wil began. Everyone except Stephen looked at her. “Um, speaking of… um, why did you?.. I mean, how did you?” She felt flustered, and their staring did little to help calm her thoughts. She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word imaginative.

Reagan understood. “I’m in your English class, remember?” Wil looked at her, then did remember. How could she have forgotten? Reagan had composed and read a truly terrible poem about a woman waiting for a phone call that had turned out to be a salesperson.

“I told them all about that story you wrote, that Mr. P. liked so well.” Reagan stuffed a wilted bean into her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and added, “He kept saying ‘imaginative’ so many times, that’s what we wrote for your talent.”

Wil was surprised. She had forgotten about that story.

“In fact,” Reagan added, “It was kind of an inside joke for a bit with us.” She looked at Wil and gave a sarcastic half-smile. “Sorry.”

Wil wasn’t hurt. She felt relieved.

“Well, that’s settled then,” Derek said. He smiled at them all, then pulled out his sandwich and began unwrapping it. Reagan turned to Art and began discussing a book they had to read for class. Stephen showed Derek his latest sketches. Hope watched silently.

Joining in the group’s happy feeling of resolve, Wil ate the remainder of her food with a contented feeling. She listened with half an ear to the snippets of her friends’ conversations.

Glancing up, she caught a meaningful look from Hope. Remembering the events of the morning, Wil ate more quickly. She had work to do.

 

Continued from Forty-Five.
Keep reading to Forty-Seven.

Happy Mother’s Day

The sun isn’t very bright yet when she wakes to the sound of loud whispering, to the sight of a homemade paper card a few millimeters from her face. The smell is that of unsorted laundry, bedsheets a tad late for their cleaning, with an infusion of overdue diaper. She doesn’t seem able to lift her legs, or one arm. Even her lower extremities are pinned; the sleepy man to her side wakes enough to stretch and embrace what he can affectionately reach.

Using her free hand, she grasps at the card and pulls it to the range at which she can make out its contents. It’s too early, her brain complains, to decipher Cyrillic. She blinks and refocuses. Ah, she realizes, those were flowers -and probably people. Maybe letters.

Taking a guess, she attempts speech. “How nice, Sweetheart!” The artist frowns at the unusually croaky sounds. She clears her throat some, and tries again. “I see you drew me and you and flowers…” She relaxes as his scowl turns to smiles. Satisfied, he turns and falls off the bed, relieving one pinned leg.

The next boy thrusts his offering at equal facial distance to the first, then turns and frowns disinterestedly at the wall. This one is definitely English; it’s even partially typed. She sees he is clearly the most talkative child on paper, too, with so many one-word responses to this standard form his class was given. Age: 33, Hair: brown, Favorite food: food. She smiles, then looks more strained at the next two answers he’d supplied: She likes to … do dishes, She’s really good at … doing dishes. She tries to look grateful as he’s pretending not to watch but really is.

“Thanks, Honey,” she smiles and is not surprised as he shrugs and dodges her attempts to hug him. He, too, leaves the bed and another leg free.

She looks to her last child, on her other arm, and to her other half. Both smile up at her with similar expressions. Genetics will do that. “I love you, Mommy,” the wet diaper owner says sweetly. He cringes adorably as she awkwardly kisses his plump cheek.

Dad sighs and sits up. “Let’s go make Mommy breakfast,” he tells his youngest. He scoops her remaining impediment into the air playfully. He looks down at the bedheaded beauty who birthed them all.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he says, kisses her around their squirming child, and leaves.

Finally alone, she looks over her offspring’s offerings, and cries.