Monday, October 22, 2018

Sunday Night Dinner

Challenge Prompt:Leftovers | Word Count: 500 words exactly | Genre
Due Date: 11/7/18
(This also is not the story I will turn in for the challenge, but I enjoyed writing it and maybe you will enjoy reading it)

“Margaret Jean, I’ve asked you three times to set the table; come do it now.” You know you’re in trouble when Mom calls you by your full birth name. I sighed, putting aside my well-worn copy of “The Outsiders.”

It was 5:45 and Mom was in the kitchen plating food. She barely acknowledged me as I came in and pulled a stack of plates out of the cupboard. She always told me not to try to carry all ten plates at once, but my eleven-year-old arms were strong, and I knew I could handle them.

“Ron, you and your brothers go wash up for supper,” Mom called into the living room where they were watching TV; then motioned for Kati to hang up the phone. “And round up Terye and Mary as well.”

I set out the napkins and silverware while Mom carried the roast in, placing the platter in a prominent position on the table. I went back for mashed potatoes, Mom brought in gravy and peas. Dad strolled in and took his place at the head of the table as I went after rolls and Jell-O. The four boys began filing in, followed by the three girls.

Mom and I took our places and conversations quieted for a moment while Dad praised the meal and took the first slice of roast beef. The chatter started up again. I could hear five distinct conversations as we began serving and passing dishes.

It was ritual. We ate at the table every night; always at 6O’clock. Now that we were all “grown,” the rules were simple: take what you want, eat what you take. Never take more than will be enough to go around; you can go back for seconds if there are any. Always take some of everything.

I noticed Ron only put about four peas on his plate. Good thing Dad didn’t notice, or he’d have ended up with another spoonful. Good thing for the rest of us too, because we had to stay at the table until everyone was done eating. Dessert didn’t get served until then.

“What’s for dessert?” Dad asked, mopping up the last bit ofgravy on his plate with his roll.

“Pineapple upside down cake,” Mom proclaimed proudly, as she initiated the stacking routine now that everyone was done eating. By the time she brought the cake to the table, all ten plates were neatly scraped and stacked at the end of the table, silverware precariously placed on top.

Mom divvied up the cake while the ice cream carton was passed around, and, since Dad was monitoring portion control, I knew there’d be some left when it came around to me.

Afterwards, I cleared the table and helped put the leftovers away. Terye and Tim were on dish duty this week, and they finished just as the NBCLiving Color Peacock announced the start of the Sunday night Wonderful World of Disney. It was all part of the ritual. And I loved it.


Challenge Prompt:Leftovers | Word Count: 500 words exactly | Genre
Due Date: 11/7/18
(this is not the story I will turn in to the challenge, but thought I would share it here anyway)

Leftovers were not common in our house when I was growing up. Even though dinner most nights might seem like a veritable feast, with eight kids and two adults and the occasional friend or three to feed, there wasn’t usually any leftovers. As I recall, the only meal that regularly resulted in leftovers was spaghetti, and that was because we always made extra. Spaghetti was one of those meals I learned to make at an early age. I was sixth of eight kids and by the age of ten I could make homemade spaghetti like a pro.

We always ate dinner at the table; always at 6 o’clock. Dinner back then was a noisy affair. There could be five conversations going on at any given time, and if you concentrated really hard, you could follow all of them, as long as you didn’t try to participate in any of them. I was a quiet, introverted child, and I was real good at listening.

At six o’clock the table would be set and everyone in their seat. If you were late, you might miss dinner altogether. The rules were simple. Pass the dishes clockwise. Take what you want, eat what you take. Never take more than what will be enough to go around. You can always go back for seconds, assuming there’s any left. Always take some of everything, even if it’s canned spinach or lima beans. Thankfully, Mom didn’t serve those often. Eat everything on your plate. Because God knows there are children starving in China that don’t have any food at all. And, finally, you don’t get dessert if you don’t clean your plate.

Wealways had dessert on Sunday Night. Right before the Disney movie came on. Buta two layer cake or two dozen cookies spread across ten or more people rarelyproduced leftovers. Even a half-gallon of ice cream didn’t last beyond one setting.Mom always divvied up the cake, but the ice cream carton would be passedclockwise, and as long as someone was monitoring portion control, you’d usuallyget some.
Everyone had to stay at the table until everyone was done eating. Then you placed your silverware on top of your plate and passed it clockwise, where the next person would place their silverware on top and stack and pass, until all the plates were stacked with all the silverware on top. Whoever had dish duty that night carried them into the kitchen to start washing.

Eventually my family split up and dispersed around the world. I moved into my first apartment and made that first batch of spaghetti for my boyfriend. Wouldn’t you know I made enough to feed an army, even though there were only the two of us!

Two husbands and a boyfriend later, the [step] kids have grown and now we eat dinner in front of the television. I still haven’t quite learned to cook for two, but I have grown rather adept at making new meals out of leftovers.

Born to be Wild

Challenge Prompt: The Robbery | Word Count: 1500 words exactly  | Genre: Adventure

Due Date: 10/3/18

Tess marvels at the gorgeous scenery along the coastal highway where she and Roger are driving on their way to the cottage. They’ve been dating for a about a year now, and Roger had suggested a weekend getaway to help rekindle their dying romance.

Born to be wild comes on the radio and Tess cranks up the volume. Not only is it one of her favorite songs, but it fills the awkward silence that has settled between them. The song epitomizes her feelings, and Tess sings along enthusiastically.
“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway. Lookin’ for adventure, and whatever comes our way…”
“Really, Tess?” Roger scowls, turning the music down. “I thought we were going to use this trip to talk. You haven’t spoken five words to me in the last hour.”
She rolls her eyes, forces herself to loosen her grip on the steering wheel. “You know I’m not very good at small talk. And anyway,” she points to the sign ahead, “we’re coming into town and I need to pay attention so I don’t miss the turnoff.”
Five minutes later she’s pulling the Lexus into a redwood lined driveway.
“What the hell!” Roger says, irritably, “I thought you said this place belongs to a friend of yours. It doesn’t look like anyone’s been here in years.”
“She’s a co-worker, actually. Maria used to tell me stories about her and her brother coming here when they were kids. When I asked if they still owned the cottage, she told me I could use it whenever I wanted.”
The grounds were all overgrown weeds and bushes; the cottage a dilapidated single story structure with shingle siding that looks ready to fall off the walls. The porch appears in serious need of repair.

“The view of the ocean is spectacular, though, don’t you think?” Tess gestures expansively.
She parks the car, suggests they check out the cottage before unloading. “The key is supposedly under one of these porch boards.” As her full weight came down on the second step, the board cracks loudly and her foot crashes through. “Ouch!”
“Are you alright?” Roger helps steady her, and Tess leans into his slight frame for balance as she pulls her booted foot out of the hole, covered in cobwebs and splinters.
“Yeah, I’m ok,” she says. “Might as well look for the key.” Tess activates the flashlight on her smartphone. The light reflects back at her from the darkness and she leans down to peer into the gloomy space. “What is that?”
“It looks like a a box of some kind,” Roger says, holding onto Tess as she reaches down into the hole.

“I can’t get it loose.” She motions for Roger to help, and after a few moments they lift one of the boards away. 

Roger grabs the box with both hands and forcefully dislodges it from its burial place. “It’s probably some kind of ammunition,” Roger suggests, shaking the box and feeling its contents shifting around.

Tess roots around and finds the key. “Let’s see if it opens the back door.” 
It does, and soon they are inside a kitchen, with warm yellow walls and white cabinets and appliances. “At least it smells like Mr. Clean has visited recently,” Tess quips; “everything’s all neat and tidy.”
Roger sets the box on a table and Tess pries it open, revealing a purple bag with Crown Royal embroidered in gold stitching.  She pulls the draw string apart and opens the bag. “Oh my God!  Roger look at this.”
She tips the bag and gold coins come spilling out. Canadian Maples, German Krugarrands, Austrian Philharmonics, American Liberties. 
“Oh, wow! Where do you suppose these came from?” Roger’s face is shining with excitement. “There must be over a hundred coins here.”
“I imagine they were stolen,” Tess states dryly. Ever the voice of reason. “We should call the police, see if they have some record of a theft.”
“Ah, Tess! No! This is a fortune!” Roger fills his hands with the gold. “Just think what we could do with the money this would bring!” Tess thinks she can see dollar signs reflecting in his eyes. 
“Roger, we can’t keep this! What are you thinking? We have to call the police.”
“Why? Why do we have to do that?” Roger, deflated, scoops the treasure back into the Crown Royal bag.
“Because I’m not going to be an accessory to robbery.” Tess deftly takes the bag from Roger; drops it in the large purse she carries on her shoulder. She wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him in for a kiss. Propelling him away from the kitchen, she kisses him again, deep and passionate. “Let’s just focus on us for now, like we planned. Check out this cottage!”
They cross the living room, peer into a small bathroom. “It’s really not so bad.” She opens the door to one of the two bedrooms. “God, Roger, will you look at that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a round bed before!”
The front porch is completely torn apart when they return from a day of whale watching and antiquing the next afternoon. It’s the first thing Tess notices when she pulls into the driveway.
Roger seems oblivious to the wreckage. When she points it out to him, he doesn’t immediately grasp the significance. They go around to the back and find the door has been pried open and left slightly ajar.
“Stay here,” Roger whispers, finally attuned to the possible danger. Using his slight form, he thrusts Tess’ taller frame behind him.
Tess finds herself suddenly impressed with the sense of confidence he’s projecting, so at odds with his usual nerdy, insecure self. Roger is a computer programmer; he spends most of his time at a desk, and if he wasn’t programming he was playing computer games. He’s not overly strong, and his physique reflects his occupation. But he does excel at action-packed games and Tess knows Roger has great hand-to-eye coordination.
“Be careful,” she whispers urgently, placing a hand on his back as he cautiously pushes the door open and takes a step inside. 

They never saw it coming. One step into the cottage and a short, stocky man stepped out from behind the door and smashed a heavy flashlight into Roger’s face.
Tess screams as Roger crumples to the floor, blood spurting from forehead, nose, and mouth.
She goes into high alert after seeing Roger’s eyes roll back into his head. Tess focuses on the other man. He’s Latino, and, she thinks, inconsequentially, rather good looking, with that dark ruggedness that has always appealed to her.
He lunges for her and Tess puts her Tae Bo skills into action. Grabbing him firmly by his ears, she pulls his head down into her up-rising knee, surprised at the sudden pain when head and knee collide. Ignoring the pain, she again brings his face down into her knee; then lets him go, takes a short back step and follows up with a hard roundhouse kick to his groin.
“You bitch!” He yells, falling to the ground with his hands clutching his balls, tears of pain and rage streaming from his eyes.
Roger is still out cold beside him.
In a series of fluid movements, she pulls a set of fur-lined handcuffs from her purse, jerks his arms behind his back, crosses his wrists and hooks and latches the cuffs.  Even she would find it impossible to escape the fake cuffs with wrists crossed just so. 

“You should know better than to mess with me!”
“Christ, Tess!” He’s squirming on the floor like a fish out of water.
“What are you doing here, Hector? Maria did not tell me you were out of prison.”
“No? She told me you were coming to the cabin,” he said through gritted teeth. “I heard your Grandfather passed away last month. I guess he’ll never know how his favorite granddaughter convinced me to rob him of his gold.”
Roger sits up with a groan. “What’re you saying? Tess! You stole the gold?”
“Well, technically, Hector did. But Grandfather never reported the theft, so it’s not really stolen, is it? I should’ve just waited for the old coot to die. He never took the coins out of his will, after all, and he left it all to me!”
She heads out of the kitchen, quickly packs her belongings. Suitcase in hand, purse hefted on her shoulder, she turns for the door.
“You’re just going to leave me here?” Roger asks in disbelief. “How will I get home? What am I supposed to do with him?” He glances at Hector, still struggling to free himself from his restraint.
“Call the police? Report a robbery? I don’t know.” She tosses him a coin. “Maybe Hector will give you a ride.”

A wide grin spreads across her cold, beautiful face as she reaches for the door, a song forming on her lips. “Get your motor runnin… Head out on the highway… “

The Takedown

Furious Fiction: Must take place in an Airport; must have Spring and “it was empty” somewhere in it
Due 9/3/18

The Takedown

"Boss, we've tracked Sinclair to the men’s room in the Sky Lounge. We can spring the trap on him now and catch him with his pants down."
The radio crackled a moment before the response came. “Alright, Morris. Do it. Nail the bastard."
Morris was part of the task force team that had been following Sinclair's trail for months. When they got wind that the cartel leader of a large human trafficing ring was planning to return to the states, they had stepped up the investigation. Current intel had led them to the Tampa airport this morning, just before Airport security had tipped Morris off to Sinclair's arrival and subsequent stop at the men's room.
Morris checked the strap to his holstered gun, loosened for easy retrieval. He shouldered the door and entered the bathroom. 

The room was bright and stark, with one urinal and one stall.

It was empty.

“Damn it! He’s not here.”

“That’s impossible,” Cliff responded, “I haven’t taken my eyes off this door since Sinclair entered. There hasn’t been anyone else in or out.”

“Well he’s not here now.” Morris turned away, speaking into his radio to his team. “We lost him, guys. Spread out. He must have been tipped off somehow, and he may have disguised himself.”

Morris scanned the room again for any evidence that would explain Sinclair’s disappearance. Noticed one of the ceiling tiles askew. The one just above the empty stall. He motioned to Cliff.

Cliff held the stall door open as Morris stood on the toilet. He was just lifting the tile when it was ripped away from above. A booted foot came swiftly down out of the hole. It struck the task force agent in the head; sent him sprawling into Cliff. As the two men struggled to regain their feet, Sinclair dropped down from the ceiling onto the toilet and, in a fluid motion, flung himself straight at Morris, just as the agent was reaching for his gun. The gun clattered to the floor, and the cartel leader used the moment to push past the two floundering men, pulled the door open and rushed out of the room before either men could react.

Morris sprang to his feet and sprinted for the door, exiting just in time to see Sinclair shoving past travellers as he entered the tramway, gaining distance away from the agent.

“Travis, he’s coming your way,” Morris called into the radio as he took off in quick pursuit, “be alert.”

Morris could see Travis at the other end of the walkway, but Sinclair easily bowled the other agent aside as he flew off the tramway and took off down the concourse.

Morris was certain the man was going to get away, when an observant teenaged girl flung out her leg just as Sinclair passed, and sent the cartel leader sprawling, face first, into a heavy potted plant.

“It’s over, Sinclair.” Morris yelled, approaching the fallen man with his gun drawn. “You are going down!”

The DJ and his son

Challenge Prompt: The Cottage | Word Count: 1200 words exactly  | Genre
Due Date 9/19

The party was in full swing, and Daniel was enjoying himself. He thought it might be the first time in the year since Audrey left him that he could say that.
He scanned the room, past the couples slow-dancing to the song he’d just started. Past the diners lingering at the tables around the edge of the dance floor. Past the bar where a group gathered, drinks in hand, chatting animatedly.  Past the hallway and into a small room where children played.
There was Liam. Daniel’s joy and his despair. Just to look at his three year old son you’d never know he was deaf, barely able to communicate. Daniel was teaching him basic sign language, but what he really yearned for was a way to connect with the boy.
He noticed Megan kneeling on the playroom floor amidst a pile of stuffed animals and tonka trucks, watching her three-year old boy, Kyle, climb onto a toy car, and Liam pushing Kyle across the room. Daniel couldn’t hear their laughter over the music, but he saw it in their faces and in the ease with which they played. 
Megan’s long hair shone in the light. He could see a hint of red in the dark brown waves. As if she felt his perusal, Megan looked up and met his eyes across the distance. She smiled a broad, crooked smile and his breath caught at the sight.
Daniel felt his cheeks redden under her scrutiny. He smiled a shy smile back. He supposed his golden eyes were twinkling under his bushy eyebrows. He’d been told they did that when he was happy.
 The song ended, and Daniel started a fast upbeat song meant to draw a crowd to the dance floor; but not too fast, as he didn’t want to amp the energy much beyond where it currently was.
He’d met Megan just a few weeks ago, while emceeing a wedding she had attended. She’d said she was impressed with his professionalism and the quality of his equipment and music, asked if he’d be interested in emceeing a small gathering at her cottage. He’d been impressed with her quiet manner and good looks, and readily agreed.
They’d met several times in the intervening weeks, to go over the details of the party and discuss music and potential playlists. He’d felt a romance budding between himself and Megan, which was something he’d avoided since Audrey left.

Megan had encouraged Daniel to bring Liam with him on the three occasions they’d met at the cottage, and suggested he bring the boy to the party as well. It pleased Daniel to see Megan taking such an interest in his son. Liam was a well-mannered boy, shy and cautious around others; and though the child was completely deaf, Liam and Megan’s son, Kyle, had become fast friends.  

 In a little while it would be dark outside and the gathering would move beyond the walls of the cottage and onto the deck and the beach beyond, where the full moon would illuminate wet sand and crashing surf.
His equipment was set up so he could cater to both environments, inside and out. Daniel could see gas heaters placed around tables on the deck outside; a bonfire stacked close to the shoreline, ready to be lit. A cool  breeze drifted through the screen door, past a large fire burning in an open fireplace, near the DJs station, keeping Daniel warm. 
He turned his attention back to the playroom, where Megan spoke a few words to the babysitter, then left and went to the bar. Daniel turned his attention away from his son as he tracked Megan's progress across the room. He queued up several songs as she approached, so he could give her his complete attention. “Thanks,” he gratefully accepted the beer she offered him. “How are you enjoying the party?”
 “It’s perfect.” She smiled that crooked smile again.  “You’ve set a great mood with your music selections. Just look at everyone, laughing and dancing; who wouldn’t be enjoying this?”
They chatted for a while, completely absorbed in each other, until suddenly  the babysitter came rushing out of the playroom, frantically looking around. Daniel’s heart skipped several beats when he heard her calling Liam's name. Abandoning his post, he hurried over to the playroom, Megan right behind him.
"What's happened? Where's Liam?”
"He was here a moment ago.” The babysitter cried, "I only went to the ladies room. He was gone when I came back.”  She was wringing her hands with worry; “Liam; Liam, where are you baby?”
"Calling for him won't help,” Daniel scoffed. "He can't hear you."  Panic had taken hold of his thoughts. He couldn't focus.
Kyle came running up to them, wrapping his arms around his mom’s legs. “What’s the matter, Mama?” he asked, blue eyes wide with innocent curiousity. “Are you scared?” 
“We’re looking for Liam. Did you see him leave?”
“No. But I know where he is.”
“You do?” Megan’s pale face took on a cast of hope, “can you show us?”
“He likes it in the corner over there,” the boy pointed towards the far side of the room; but the corner was obscured by the bar and Daniel couldn’t see what Kyle pointed to.
None of the partyers seemed to notice anything amiss as they rushed past.
“Oh, thank God!” Daniel breathed a sigh of relief, seeing his son sitting on the floor, unconcerned and unaware that he had caused such a panic.
Liam appeared utterly transfixed by a strange lamp that sat in the corner of the room. The lamp was somehow attuned to sound, blue and green light  intensifying and fading to varying noise levels. Daniel had never seen anything like it before.
“Where did you get this?” Daniel asked Megan, amazement replacing the fear that had gripped him just moments before, now that he knew Liam was safe.
“My brother made it.” Megan picked up the lamp and handed it to him. “He calls it a sound reactive LED light. He’s such an electronics nerd. He found the instructions on YouTube if you can believe it. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? I could probably get him to make one for you, if you like.”
The song ended and the lamp dimmed in the sudden quiet that followed.
“Liam,” Daniel touched the boy’s shoulder, crouching beside his son, intrigued by the green light that flared when he spoke.

The deaf boy made a guttural, laughing sound, and when the light reacted to the noise, Liam laughed again. Blue light danced and Liam made the sign for MORE. He laughed again and his face lit up as bright as the light. He wore a smile that Daniel had never seen on the boy’s face in all the short years of his life.

Liam looked up then, right into his father’s eyes, and Daniel felt his first real connection with his son. It brought a lightness to his heart as he thought of the possibilities he could do with such a tool.

Megan suggested they let the boys take the lamp to the playroom, and Daniel agreed, feeling an overwhelming desire to kiss this lovely women. But all he could think to say was “thank you!”