Tag Archives: Stories

Bookbound

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Even the most intriguing book can become a dungeon of our own choosing. Comfortable as it is to read the stories of others, we only truly satisfy life by moving out into it and creating our own.

 

The prompts today are book, intriguing, dungeon and satisfy. Here are the links:
https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/03/22/rdp-friday-book/
https://fivedotoh.com/2019/03/22/fowc-with-fandango-intriguing/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/03/22/your-daily-word-prompt-dungeon-march-22-2019/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/03/22/satisfy/

Snowball in Hell


I just got home from a luncheon where I was surprised to discover I’d received the 2017 Ojo del Lago Award for outstanding literary achievement in the category of best fiction for a short story, “Snowball in Hell.”  I don’t believe I’ve ever published it on my blog as it was done as a timed writing for my writing group in La Manzanilla. Since it loosely follows the prompt for today, which is “tentative,” I’ll stretch things a bit and publish it today:

Snowball in Hell

“There’s not a snowball’s chance in Hell,” she snarled at him as he beat a hasty retreat out the door. Everyone knew she was a feisty old dame, but she still felt compelled to prove the fact often enough to remind herself of the truth of it. Lately, she’d been feeling herself mellow. Growing teary-eyed at the sight of kittens on YouTube videos—having little heart-flutters when she glimpsed other women’s grandchildren in photos on cell phones.

When she stood back to consider this strange new course of events, she could only view it as she might view a mysterious disease—look at the symptoms, try to figure out a cure. Surely, being around children or kittens might help. Nothing like reality to pop the bubble of a fancy. Kibbles underfoot and gumdrops in the sheets could surely cancel out cute. Although she had no experience with such cures, since they’d never been necessary before.

Jake had wanted kids long ago. Actually, he’d gone on wanting them for a good twenty years—as long as she might have provided them—but her refusal had been as determined as her response today, when he had asked if she perhaps would be interested in a Caribbean cruise. Her on a cruise ship with old men in madras shorts and women in beauty-parlor hairdos? She tried to think of what she would do on a boat. She had taken a mental oath years before to never play shuffleboard and bridge made her dyspeptic. She’d discovered this in college, waiting for Karen Schuller to play her hand, drumming her long perfectly polished fingernails on the bridge table, screwing her little red cupid box mouth into a perplexed knot.

“Play the damn card!!!” she’d screamed internally, afraid that if the bitch ran one more finger tattoo on the table that she’d slam her fist down on that perfect hand. It seemed easier to give up bridge than to give up the aggression she felt every time she heard the sharp drumming and viewed that pensive mouth.

Cruise ships, she was sure, were full of Karen Schullers, all grown up, with fingernails an inch longer, lips forty years more wrinkled. And they made you eat things like lobster and crabs—giant underwater bugs that no one would ever convince her were meant for consumption. But the truth of it was, that aside from these irritations, being cooped up in a cabin with Jake for a week or more must didn’t carry any attraction for her any more. The old coot got stranger by the day. Just last night, on the couch, watching Ray Donovan, he had tried to hold her hand. Forty years married and like a teenager, furtively reaching over. They’d been done with all that syrup years ago, but now, why was he thinking hand holds and Caribbean cruises?

What month was it? She tried to sort out a reason. Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas––not that they ever observed any of them. Finally, she gave up. There was no accounting for old men in their first states of senility. She would just have to put up with it, but she didn’t have to go along. She settled herself more solidly into her chair and grabbed the remote, switching on the TV connected to her computer. Millie Perkins had Facebooked her another puppy/bunny video. She tried to resist, but found herself moving the mouse over to the arrow. The bunny had loppy ears and the puppy had very long hair and a little vest. She clicked off the TV quickly when Jake came into the room, but didn’t greet him.

“Clara?” he asked tentatively. She pretended not to hear. “Honey?” In his hand was an envelope that looked sort of crumpled and a bit dusty, like he’d been hanging onto it for awhile. “Remember your last checkup? The results came a few days ago.” She looked up at him, and his face looked soft––like the face of the bunny. Something was written on it––a different sadness that she hadn’t seen before. He sat down beside her on the couch and risked once more taking her hand. And this time she let him.

http://chapala.com/elojo/index.php/218-articles-2017/september-2017/3872-snowball-in-hell

The prompt today was tentative

Angel: Daily Prompt, Anticipation

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Angel

In the bedroom, our alarm goes off faithfully at 6, and I see through the sliding glass door to the back porch, the lump of wood our neighbors’ dog, Angel, has left like a calling card. It tells me I’ve missed her invitation to throw the chunk and watch her hurtle down the mountainside in its pursuit. She has been known to run so fast that she wins the race with the stick, which hits her on the back of the head or lodges itself in her throat as she turns and lifts her head to catch it.

She first approached us in our driveway, where Bob was carving a stone boulder too large to move any further onto our property. With the stick placed on the ground in front of her, she would crouch with her haunches in the air, her front legs stretched straight out in front of her in anticipation. Her eyes would fix on the stick, then on us, then on the stick, her mouth stretched in a huge grin of expectation. How could we not throw?

Later, she ventured farther up the driveway and onto the porch if no cats were around. Now she knows every entry to our house and stops at each on her rounds, watching me make paper and Bob drill stone, occasionally lifting the stick and dropping it to the deck until we give in and throw again.

 At the time I first met Angel, I didn’t favor dogs, preferring my crabby cats. But I made an exception for this Australian dingo of a dog who was so happy to see me–so happy to see anyone who would throw a stick. This dog who now comes into my paper making studio to drink from my water bucket. Who once got pulp on her nose dipping into the wrong bucket. This dog who might show up covered in cement, and when the cement finally wears off, shows up covered in white paint, conjuring up images of workmen not patient enough to deal with a dog with sticks to chase.

This dog who seemed not to know about dog biscuits and who, the first time we threw one to her, retrieved it without eating it. This dog who for months would come no closer than five feet––friendly from a distance––fleeing away from any attempt to touch. Who had to be taught that an outstretched hand contained a pat or hug. This dog who sees the cats as bosses and who detours all the way around the house to retrieve a stick if one of the cats puts itself in her pathway. This dog who is an old dog but acts like a puppy.

She fills a place in my husband’s heart– a heart that needs the amount of child a dog can bring: companionship that doesn’t need to borrow the car, a stick chase that doesn’t involve any exercise more rigorous than pulling the arm back and letting the hand open as it swings forward. She is the way children should be when you’re in your sixties: being pleasant, being around without a lot of talking, fetching things for you.

Slowly, as we meet our neighbors at gatherings to try to stop the harvesting of the redwoods on the land adjoining ours or to discuss the cellular phone tower at the end of our mountain street, we find that they all know Angel in varying degrees. And we begin to understand that she needs to continue her rounds to find enough love, bit by bit, from all of us–like some children too ready with devotion toward strangers, too needing of attention from teachers or their friends’ parents. And that hard part of us that doesn’t want to love the person who needs it most can release a bit. Enough to throw a stick. Enough to teach a dog how to be petted. Enough to add a case of dog biscuit bones to our grocery cart at Costco, enough to try to get the matted cement from the tail, and to go to the woodshop to cut sticks. That part of us can thaw a bit, knowing that the dog will not take itself from us voluntarily. That she will stay with us as long as we will throw an occasional stick, talk to her every half hour or so, give a few pats, put down a pan of water. That she will stay with us for a minimum of our effort.

In this era of Angels pulling people from cliff tops and burning cars, in this time when Angels are the fad, we who usually shun trends, we who seek to be the exception, we who need no angels have an angel sitting in our driveway. Have evidence of her outside every door.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/anticipation/

Little Duck’s Almost Novel Adventure

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One day Little Duck was bored, and although Big Duck was not bored at all, Little Duck decided he needed to be educated in the art of flying. “Just stretch your left wing out like this,” he instructed Big Duck. Of course, Big Duck had neither left wing nor right wing, so he stretched his left arm out as far as he could.

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“Very good,” said Little Duck. Then, “Stretch out your right wing!” he quacked like a drill sergeant, in a very bossy tone. And so Big Duck stretched his right arm out as far as he could.

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“Now, spread out your wing tip feathers and flap both wings at the same time,” demanded Little Duck; but try as he might, Big Duck just couldn’t do it.

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Upon further investigation, Little Duck decided that aside from a failure to coordinate wing movements, there was a further complication that foretold that for Big Duck, flying lessons would never come to fruition,

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for it seemed that in addition to malformed wings, Big Duck also lacked the webbed feet necessary for landing and propelling himself through water as well as the tail to serve as a rudder.

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“Very strange indeed!” shouted Little Duck from waaaaay down on the floor, where he had gone to investigate the matter. “In fact, in spite of your name and the color of your feet, you seem to resemble this palefoot human standing right over here to my right more than you do a duck.”

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“But I love you anyway,” Little Duck quacked at Big Duck, as he winged up to his shoulder to give him a reassuring peck on the cheek.

And, never one to give up on chances for adventure, Little Duck put on his thinking cap and tried to think of something Big Duck might be better able to accomplish. It was important after his last big failure that he give him a simple task more suited to his talents than flying seemed to be.

“Eureka!” he thought, and hopped up to share his idea with Big Duck, who at first looked somewhat dubious.

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But, in his usual inimitable fashion, Little Duck persevered. “As a team, we are unbeatable,” he insisted. “With my creativity and great mind and your mutated feathers capable of maneuvering a keyboard, we could write great literature!” And so, after a great deal of quacking and what passed for quacking on Big Duck’s part, the two settled into a collaboration.
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“It was a dark and stormy night,” lisped Little Duck.

“That sounds a bit trite to me,” countered Big Duck.

“Once upon a time,” quacked the littler of the two.

“Been done already,” Big Duck fired back.

“Duck!!!!!” shouted little Duck as he saw a wasp zeroing in on Big Duck’s ear.

“That sounds a bit better,” enthused Big Duck, and typed the first word of their document, complete with five exclamation marks and an ending quotation mark.

Knowing there was very little time for action, Little Duck soared through the air to Big Duck’s shoulder just in time to snap up the angry wasp in his martyred and heroic beak.

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“What comes next?” asked Big Duck, totally unaware that he’d just been saved from his biggest fear by Little Duck.”Did you notice that I remembered the closing parenthesis?” He asked, pointing proudly at their first completed sentence. “Do you have an idea for the second sentence?”

“There was a wasp about to sting you on the ear and I saved you by catching it in my beak!” shouted Little Duck.

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“Now who in the world is ever going to believe that?” protested Big Duck, and threw up his hand in defeat.

And that is how Little Duck’s Big Adventure never came to be written and why Big Duck’s name has not gone down in the history of literature, or even at the very least, in the blogger’s hall of fame.

THE END

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What to do with leftover Little Duck photos on the way between St. Paul and St. Louis with Big Duck doing all the driving.  I hit the publish button just as we arrived at the motel!  Now that is timing.

Crave more Little Duck adventures? https://judydykstrabrown.com/2016/09/25/travels-with-ducks-the-continuing-saga-of-little-duck-episode-5/

Uncornered

                                                                         Uncornered

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Corners are the great equalizer, for it is a fact that no matter how large or small the house, every corner is exactly the same size. I remember being so small that I could fit all the way into a corner, right up to where it bent. If I was facing the wall, I could hold my head straight and fit my tongue into the crack that spread out in an L to form the two sides of the corner. If I faced outwards, I felt less punished and more ready to branch out from the corner into the kitchen, perhaps, with the refrigerator to be visited and a cherry popsicle to be collected on my way out into the world of my house.

Lying on my back on the purple living room rug––a floor that, although it extended to each corner of the room, had no actual corners itself. No chance of punishment. Facing downwards on the rug was entertainment: playing jacks or putting together a picture puzzle, moving paper dolls around their world of Kleenex box furniture, pot and pan swimming pools and matchbox coffee tables. In this paper universe were treasures purloined from the jewelry boxes of our mothers. Rhinestone bracelets became flapper necklaces and ruby-colored rings bangle bracelets. A folding fan stretched from side-to-side of the corner became the dressing room where Debra Paget donned her dressing gown, slipping out of her red paper high heels.

In the corner of my sister’s closet was the little cave I’d carved out of the shoe boxes and cardboard boxes of cast-off toys. There I’d wait for her to arrive home with friends in tow, to eavesdrop on their conversations in hopes of finding out who the boy was who had called her on the phone and hung up without identifying himself when he asked if she was there and I’d said no, she was out on a date. I might discover what she was going to give me for my birthday or hear any of the interesting secrets shared by girls four years my senior. But instead, it was the corner I fell asleep in, to wake up hours later when my mother called us down to supper.

“Where’s Judy?” I heard her ask my sister from the bottom of the stairs.

“She’s not up here,” I heard my sister answer as she went hop skipping down the stairs, two at a time. Even after I heard the door close at the bottom of the stairs, I stayed quietly where I was, barely breathing.

Five minutes later, I heard my sister clomping up the stairs again—looking in every room, the bathroom, under beds, in every closet except her own—I guess because she knew I couldn’t be there since she’d been in her own room for the hour before supper. I stayed quiet, giggling inside.

After my sister went downstairs,  I sneaked quietly out into the hall and down the stairs in my stocking feet, then creaked open the door and went running around the corner into the kitchen and dinette to take my usual place at the table—on the bench against the wall.

“Where were you?” my sister asked, “You weren’t anywhere!”

“It’s a secret!” I answered, and to this day, my whereabouts that day are an unsolved family mystery.

“Where was she?” They ask each other. Then, “Where were you?” they ask me again, but try as they may, no one has ever cornered me to give an answer.

Didn’t follow the daily prompt today as I’ve written about this one a couple of times, but here it is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/strike-a-chord/

 

Locked Secrets

                                                                      Locked Secrets

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I’d just received my school’s math prize and my Uncle Jimmy, after handing me a twenty dollar bill, had, in his usual self-effacing manner, proclaimed that I must have gotten my smarts from him.  “How is it that you are both the pretty one and the smart one in your family?”  He teased.  My sister Eleanor was out of the room at the time.  If she’d been there and I hadn’t, he would have been proclaiming her the prettiest.  We all knew this about our uncle.  He adored us, and was not above flattery in revealing the fact.

This time, however, he had overlooked  both the precociousness and competitiveness of my two-and-a-half-year-old youngest sister, Stephanie.

“Elebben, eight, twenny, fiteen,” she recited proudly!

“Well, forgive me, Missy. Aren’t you a smart young lady, knowing how to count?” He reached into his lumpy pocket and tossed her a nickel.  Amazingly, she caught it.  Perhaps she was going to be the first athletic one in the family.

“Fohty-two!” she exclaimed proudly. “free, sebben-elebben, one, one, one.” This time he extracted his wallet, took out a one-dollar bill and handed it to her.  Putting his wallet back in his back pocket, he turned one side pocket inside out. “But that’s it, Teffie.  No more money. If you want to go on counting, it will have to be for free.”

His other pocket still bulged with its contents: coins, a rubber ball to throw for our dog Pudge, oatmeal cookie bits in a small plastic bag–also for Pudge.  My Uncle Jimmy always proclaimed that doggie treats were a real gyp and that no self-respecting dog would perform for such a dry, tasteless mouthful.  So, he preferred to bake his own dog treats.

My sisters and I agreed, and sometimes we would perform, hoping to be rewarded with one of Pudge’s treats.  We were all constantly performing for our uncle, whom we adored. He was the one person who paid more attention to us than to our parents when he visited.  He was our favorite babysitter, and our parents’ favorite as well, as he always waved away payment.

He would take us to Fern’s Cafe for strawberry malts, greasy hamburgers and mashed potatoes and gravy, since Fern didn’t have a French fryer. He took us for wild rides over cow pastures in his beat up old red Ford pickup.  Once he took us to a matinee cartoon show in Pierre, sixty miles away, and got us home and in bed again before my folks got home.  We were sworn to secrecy and so far as I know, none of us ever told.  I know for sure I didn’t.  My Uncle Jimmy had my undying loyalty.  I would have borne torture before giving away any of his secrets.

Sadly, Uncle Jimmy died during one of those wild rides across the South Dakota prairie.  This time he was flying solo over a dam grade and veered too far to the right, rolling the pickup.  He drowned trying to get out of the passenger door, the pickup mired driver-side down in the mud at the bottom of the dam.  We had always felt like such ladies as Uncle Jimmy graciously got out of his pickup to personally open the door from the outside for us.  We didn’t know then, as we know now, that it was a peculiarity of that door that it would only open from the outside.

“Thank God the girls weren’t with him,” my mother sobbed to my father, as they sat side-by-side at the kitchen table, my dad’s arms around her.  It was past midnight, and they were sitting in that room furthest away from our bedrooms, thinking we wouldn’t hear her sobs.  But, unable to sleep, we had stolen out to the living room to listen––all consumed by that missing of Uncle Jimmy that would last our whole lives.

“Oh, he never would have driven that wildly if the girls were with him,” my dad said.  But Eleanor and I and even Steffie just exchanged that look that we were to exchange so many times in our future lives together––that look that children exchange that would tell their parents that they know something their parents don’t know––if only their parents took the time to notice. Even Steffie understood.  And Uncle Jimmy was right when he proclaimed her wise beyond her years.  Even Steffie never told.

(This is a work of fiction.)

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Your Days are Numbered.” What’s the date today? Write it down, remove all dashes and slashes, and write a post that mentions that number.

Daily Post: Play Date

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Play Date

 

My sister’s house has sold and they are cleaning out her attic. My niece and I make one trip more and I find my old dollhouse, collapsed, in the garbage can. I take the pieces out—some of them—and stash them in her trunk. I’d thought them gone forty years ago when the tornado took the roof off my parents’ house, but now, here they are like the leaves of memory blown miraculously back to me.

When she sees I’ve taken them, my niece asks what she should do with the dolls she found in the back recesses of her mother’s attic storage room—the one I hadn’t got to on my last visit—perhaps because of the roofing nails sticking through the wood which made reaching back behind the eaves a physical danger.

I find them where she has stashed them In a suitcase in her garage, and when I open the case and see the first doll staring up at me, I think it is a “find” from some antique store, like the dishes in my sister’s China cabinet or the tiny figures on her shelves. One rubber arm, sticky with age, has burst open and streams kapok like a froth of bleached and fermented blood. Other limbs have decayed to nothing but empty puddles of congealed rubber. Only the torso, held in place by a sagging pink fancy gown; and the face, stained red in places from some surface it’s been pressed against for too long, are still intact. As I lift the first doll from the suitcase, the other doll—the size of a toddler—stares up at me, one eye unhinged, her hair in pigtails sealed with rubber bands. When I lift her by one arm, her head turns, her legs pump and I realize this is my Ideal walking doll. When you raise her arms, one at a time, she walks toward you and her head swings, side-to-side. Hard and beautiful, she was not a doll to cuddle and she would not sit. She stood propped up against one corner of my room, rarely played with. What, I wonder, has happened to the bright blue dress she wore? Then I look closer and see that she’s still wearing it—faded to paleness even in the dark. What is here is original—her hair, her limbs, her dress, her petticoat—but her shoes and socks have been lost to another little girl, perhaps, or have jiggled off in some trunk and been left behind.

I’m 1500 miles away from home, yet I load the child-sized dollies into my boyfriend’s trunk: my sister’s doll in it’s fancy pink floor-length formal, my doll with her eye gone wild in its socket. They won’t make it home to Mexico in my suitcase this time, but it is impossible to leave them there in the suitcase to be thrown away by someone who has no memory of them. They are not collector’s items. They have been too neglected in their lives since they stood propped up in the corners of our rooms, then in the corners of our closets, the basement, my sister’s trunk and then her attic 800 miles from where they called us their owners and stimulated our imaginations to the extent they were able.

They’ll now reside in my boyfriend’s garage in Missouri until the time comes when I can carry them back in an extra suitcase or he can mule them down for me. If they were miniatures, I could include them in a retablo or a memory box, but each head is larger than the largest assemblage I’ve ever made. The closets of my house are full and overflowing, as are the wall-to-ceiling cabinets in my garage and studio and every area of my house where I’ve had room to build a closet. But I must use them. Give them some purpose for still existing other than to fill up room in some box on some cupboard shelf.

I imagine a memory box of gigantic proportions and suddenly, I have to make it, even if it takes up all the work room of my studio, and I start to plan how I could take my own doll back with me and what I’ll have to leave: the case of books that I’ve just had printed or my clothes or all the cartridges for my laser printer? If I wear a baby carrier, will they believe it is my baby, sound asleep? And what sensation will I cause when I try to stuff her into the overhead rack?

When I start to plan what else will go in the memory box with her, I remember the metal dollhouse sides and suddenly, I’m planning another trip back to Missouri, where I will make the mother of memory boxes—four feet square—and I wonder how my boyfriend will react to this and what I’ll do with it when it is finished. But somehow all these practicalities do not matter, because this dolly, relegated to corners for its whole life, is finally going to get played with!!!

 

The Prompt: Antique Antics: What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view.

 

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