Camp NaNoWriMo Winner, June 2012

Winner’s badge

I’m so excited!  I validated my word count today and am now officially a winner in the Camp NaNoWriMo June, 2012 challenge!  I read over what I’d written today, made a few changes, added another chapter, then copied and pasted it to be validated….and then I got this nifty badge and printed out a very cool looking certificate that I’m most definitely going to frame.  And, in case you all haven’t heard enough about all of this, I just signed up for the August camp…I may be crazy, but I’m thinking I can write a sequel and actually end up with something publishable by late winter.  Wouldn’t that be something?  And a little bonus to finishing this…maybe now I can actually finish some of those short stories  that I started posting and didn’t manage to see through to the end.

Ye Olde Tyme Dry Goods Market, II

English: Photograph of a cleaver. Deutsch: Fot...

English: Photograph of a cleaver. Deutsch: Fotografie eines Hackbeils (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maria grips Tim’s arm, “Uh…Tim…”  When Tim glances at Maria, he notices that his usually outspoken, brash fiancée is pale and trembling.   Out of the corner of his eye he catches sight of movement.  He pulls his gaze away from Maria’s frightened face and tries to make sense of what he sees.  The old man is now behind the counter, holding a meat cleaver in his right hand, swinging it back and forth.  WHACK!! The old man pulls the meat cleaver back up and brings it whistling down, easily slicing the piece of meat that’s sitting on the old wooden counter.   He quickly pushes that piece of meat to the side and picks up a large hunk of some sort of meat, throws it on the table and begins methodically slicing it.  When he raises his arm to make another cut, blood drips from the razor-sharp edge of the cleaver.

Maria, whimpering, her hand covering her mouth, takes a step back only to be startled by a pair of hands roughly grasping her upper arms.  She spins around, breaking the hold, only to be met by the bottomless dark eyes of the old woman.   Maria moves closer to Tim, not taking her eyes from the older woman.  When she hears the screen door hinges squeal and then the door slam, she breathes a sigh of relief.  Thank goodness someone else is in the store now.  This is just way too creepy.

Tim looks at Maria when he hears the heavy footsteps making their way across the uneven floor.  He shares Maria’s feelings of relief.  He won’t ever admit this to anyone, but over the past few minutes, he believed they had walked into a horror movie, a real-life horror movie.  A dark old building full of squeaks and groans, the strange elderly couple, the meat cleaver, the bloody apron, the weird way the old people could move without making a sound.  The only thing missing was the scary soundtrack.  He chuckles, feeling silly for thinking these old folks would wish to do them harm.  Or even be capable of doing them harm, as old as they are.  Tim shakes his head as he shares a smile with Maria.

Holding hands, Tim and Maria side step around the old woman, anxious to get a glimpse of their rescuer.  When they walk past the end of the aisle, they look toward the front of the store.  Their gazes rake from side to side, not finding anyone else in the store.  They quickly look at one another with looks of disbelief.  And when they hear that same heavy, even tread approaching them from the back of the store, they quickly decide to make a hasty retreat.  As they near the door, it slowly begins inching its way  open, a loud drawn-out squeak hurting their ears. They stop, not sure what to do now, only wanting to get out of this place, to get far away from this town.  As the door opens the rest of the way, Tim thrusts Maria behind him…

Ye Olde Tyme Dry Goods Market

View of the Hermit in a rocking chair, by Free...

View of the Hermit in a rocking chair, by Freeman, J. (Josiah) 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tim and Maria sit in the air-conditioned Lexus debating whether or not to enter the shabby old store.  Maria says, “I don’t know, it looks kind of creepy.  I mean you can’t even see in the windows.”

Tim sighs deeply, shaking his head, “You said you were hungry and thirsty.  We’re out here in the middle of nowhere.  This may be our best bet to find anything at all to eat or drink before we get to your Uncle’s cabin.”  Looking around at the deserted town, Tim says,  “I guess what I want to know is what kind of people live out here like this?  I’m surprised they even have electricity this far out.”

Maria rolls her eyes, “Don’t be an idiot. Of course they have electricity.  Gosh, you may be surprised to find they even have phone service!”

Tim opens his door, “Smart aleck!  You can stay out here if you want, but I’m going inside.  They probably don’t have any kind of specialty coffees, but surely they have Coke.  Right now, I’ll settle for just about anything.”

Maria looks around at the empty streets, dusk having taken hold, and no street lights to keep the darkness at bay.  “Hold on.  I’m coming with you.”

They climb the old wooden steps, making their way across the porch.  Tim stops next to a wooden rocking chair and taps it, causing it to rock back and forth.  “Look at these old things.  Looks like they were painted at one time.  Probably 50 years ago.”  They walk past the chair and Tim pulls open the screen door.  He glances over his shoulder at the chair and notices it’s still rocking.  He thinks that’s odd, shakes his head, but doesn’t say anything about it to Maria.

She follows him into the dark, musty smelling store.  They close the screen door and stand there letting their eyes adjust to the darkness.  Maria whispers, “This is weird.  I wonder if there’s anyone here.  Maybe this place isn’t really open.”

Tim takes a couple of steps forward on the creaky wooden floor when suddenly an elderly woman appears.  She has her grey hair pulled back into a bun, wearing a calico dress with an old-fashioned looking white apron protecting her clothes.  She silently walks behind the counter then glances at the young couple, “Hep ya?”

Tim and Maria look at each other.  Tim raises an eyebrow.  Marie nods in response to his silent question.  Tim meets the woman’s gaze with a smile, “Uh, yeah.  We’re traveling and saw your store.  Thought we’d stop in and pick up some snacks and Cokes to get us through the rest of our trip.”

The woman stares at them, then tilts her head to the side toward an old Coke machine.  “Co’ Cola’s right thar, get what ya want.  Got tater chips and candy here behind the counter.”

Tim and Maria walk hesitantly to the Coke machine.  It kind of looks like a small chest type freezer with a clear lid on top.  Tim lifts the lid and they each grab a small glass bottle of Coke.  Tim speaks softly to Maria, “I haven’t seen these since I was really young.  Grandma used to have these when we’d come to visit.”

They amble up and down the few aisles, looking at the groceries for sale.  Maria picks up a tin of corn meal.  “Look at this.  It’s metal…strange.” She puts the tin back on the shelf, takes a couple of steps, and stops to look at a large glass jar on the top shelf.  “What in the world is this?”  She stands staring at the jar.  “Oh my gosh, Tim…pickled pigs’ feet.  I didn’t even know there really was such a thing.”

Tim nods, turns a corner and stops suddenly as he almost runs into a man standing there.  When the man turns around, Tim is startled to see  blood stains on the front of the apron the man is wearing.  Tim quickly takes a step back.  Maria gasps as she steps around the corner and comes face to face with the old man.  When he sees Maria, he smiles at her, his teeth stained by tobacco, several of them missing.  “Well howdy there, young lady…young man.  What brings you here to our fine establishment?  It’s been a good little while since we’ve had folks as young as you all stop in.”  He looks over Maria’s shoulder, “Looky here, Mammy”

When Maria and Tim look behind them, they are both surprised to see the elderly woman standing in the aisle behind Maria.  It occurs to Tim that the elderly couple has kind of penned them in, blocking any exit.  How in the world did she sneak up behind them without making a sound?  Every step that Tim and Maria have taken has been accompanied by squeaks and groans as the floorboards shift beneath their feet.  Tim has a brief second to ponder that mystery…

Where are the children?

English: Griffy Woods, one of the properties o...

English: Griffy Woods, one of the properties of the Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve An old railway embankment? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cheryl’s father picks up the phone and calls the nearest neighbors.  He explains that the kids are missing and they could use some help trying to find them.  Those neighbors call other neighbors who then call others until there are over forty men and women milling around the farm.  When the county deputy shows up,  he recognizes that somebody’s going to have to take charge and it looks like it’s going to have to be him.

He climbs up into the back of a pickup truck and shouts for everyone’s attention.  “Okay, listen up, folks!  We’ve got a little six-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy missing and it’s going to be dark before long.  We need to split up into teams and scour the woods and fields  hereabouts.  Let’s try to find ’em before it gets dark.”

A bearded, gut-heavy man lifts his arm in the air, “Hey, Terry…over here!”

“I see ya, Willard.  What’s on yer mind?”

“I guess I’m just wondering why we don’t have blood hounds out here to help us?  Isn’t that the quickest way to find runaways?”

Terry takes his ball cap off, runs his hand over his bald pate, and then shakes his head.  “Willard, come on.  You know we don’t have blood hounds.  Where in the hell would we come up with money in the budget for blood hounds?  And nobody said anything about runaways.  Fact of the matter is, right now, we don’t know what’s happened to the kids.  Any number of scenarios could end up playing out, but for now, we’re assuming they just wandered off and got lost.  That’s usually what happens ’round these parts.  So nobody go makin’ this worse than it already is.  Ya hear?”

There’s a lot of mumbling and grumbling, some nodding of heads, some narrowed eyes studying the deputy.  Most of these folks remember the last time a couple of kids disappeared…not all that long ago.  And no one ever did turn up any kind of clues as to their whereabouts.  Who’s to say this time will be any different?  And who’s to say that one of these very folks who’ve shown up to help search isn’t responsible for the disappearance in the first place?

Short short…story


Bedroom (Photo credit: plasticstalker)

It’s dark, middle of the night dark.  No street lights out here in the boondocks, no moon tonight dark. The little girl is startled out of a deep sleep. What is that?  Is somebody in here?  The girl stops breathing in an effort to be quiet enough that whoever is in her bedroom won’t be able to find her. She has her eyes wide open, trying to see who is in the room with her.  Even so, it’s  still too dark to see anything.

She gasps as someone reaches out and grasps her hand.  She struggles to free herself, but can’t get loose.  She whispers, “Daddy, someone has me and I can’t get away.”

Suddenly the light comes on.  Daddy is standing in the doorway, ready to protect his little girl from the intruder.  The girl is almost too afraid to look at whoever is holding her hand, but she finally gets up the nerve to face the monster.

And then she sees…the hand holding her right hand so tightly…is her left hand…


Unhappy at work

English: Book and apparatus for writing. Engra...

English: Book and apparatus for writing. Engraving (prints). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m still struggling with the changes that have been made where I work.  I’m trying my best to work through it, to remain positive and continue to do my job.  But oh my goodness, is it ever difficult!  With the changes that have been made to my schedule, I am not given the time to actually do my job.  And that stresses me out, knowing that the things that I’m supposed to be doing, the things in my job description, aren’t getting done…

Thank goodness for my writing!  Honestly, that has become my saving grace.  I work all day (or night, or mid-day…whatever…the schedule is different every day), come home feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything, but am able to sit down at the computer and write away my troubles.  I can get wrapped up in my short stories, my book, or my blog and leave the stress of work behind.  And for that, I am so grateful.  My writing has managed to keep me from falling into a pit of depression, has given me hope that things will get better.

However, writing hasn’t been able to tell me if things are going to get better where I am, or if I’ll have to make a change in order to find some measure of happiness at work again.  At least, my writing hasn’t told me that yet…maybe, if I delve deep enough, I’ll  find even those answers in my writing…who knows?

Teaching children

English: Children of migrant cotton field work...

English: Children of migrant cotton field workers from Sweetwater, Oklahoma. Eight children in the family. Note the housing. Near Casa Grande project, Pinal County, Arizona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, another Sunday come and gone.  It wasn’t like those Sundays in the past, when Joe was still around.  But it was a good day in its own way.  Esther took the children out in the woods where they gathered a basketful of poke weed, pulled some wild onions, and found a good berry patch where lots of the berries were bigger than Esther’s thumb, big and juicy, just right for eatin’ fresh with enough to make a nice cobbler too.  The kids sure did enjoy that.

She showed ’em the elderberry bushes, not quite ripe yet, but loaded with flowers that would soon become berries.  They’d have to fight the birds for ’em, but it’d be worth it.  Looks like they’ll be able to get plenty for jelly later on.  They also walked under several persimmon trees.  The tiny fruit on those trees wouldn’t be ripe until fall, but it sure did look like there would be lots of it.  They all had a good laugh when Joey told the younger kids about him eating a green persimmon one time…wooeee, if that don’t make you pucker, nothin’ will.

While they were out in the woods, Esther smelled an old ripe cucumber smell.  She knew what that meant and knew it was up to her to teach her kids what it meant too.  She told ’em all to stand still, right where they were at.  Then she asked ’em if they could smell it.  When they all figured they could, she told ’em what that meant out there in the middle of the woods.  Nothin’ to be too scared of, no need to take off runnin’, just be sure to notice it and keep still.  When ya smell that old cucumber smell out in the woods or fields, it means there’s a copperhead around abouts somewhere.  Usually a copperhead will be more scared of you than you are of him.  Just stay still and give him time to get away from ya and you’ll be okay.

Later that evening, after the kids were in bed, Esther was sitting at the kitchen table remembering the day.  She was thinkin’ about how the children all paid attention to what she’d told ’em and that now they all knew what to do when a copperhead was around.  Yep, Joe, trying my best to teach our kids what they need to know to get along in this old world.  Sure do wish you was here with me.  Every kid needs a daddy, that’s for sure.  But I’ll do the best I can to be momma and daddy both to these kids.  I sure do miss you, Joe.  Miss sittin’ here talkin’ about the day after all the work is done and the kids are down for the night.  Miss yer quiet laugh when one of the children did somethin’ funny.  Miss sharin’ the work with ya, and the good times too.  Oh Joe, why?  Why’d ya have to go and die on me?  Sometimes I just don’t know if I can do this without ya, but…I know I have to…if you can hear me, Joe, just know I still love ya, we all do.  And I’m doin’ the best I can.

Esther leaned over the table and blew out the candle.  Wiping a tear from her cheek, she slowly made her way to her empty bed.

Scrounging for food for the children

Some of the family eat Sunday dinner, on Sunda...

Some of the family eat Sunday dinner, on Sundays the two married sons of the Sergents, their wives and children often… – NARA – 541343 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday.  The one day of the week that’s different.  For one thing, the diner is always closed on Sunday.  As tired as she is, Esther appreciates having a day off, but that means no table scraps to bring home to feed the kids.  So Esther knows she’ll have to come up with somethin’ else to fill those little tummies today.

As she sits at the kitchen table in the quiet of the early morning, Esther thinks back to how Sundays used to be, back when Joe was still alive and they lived on their farm.  She still got out of bed early in those days.  Lots of cooking to do for a family of seven, that’s for sure.  She’d get her bread kneaded and set it to rise in a warm spot in the kitchen.  Nothing like the smell of yeast bread to get a mouth to waterin’.  Sometimes she’d put on a big pot of beans early in the morning so they could have beans and cornbread, but not on Sunday.

On Sundays, after taking the whole family to church dressed in their Sunday go-to-meetin’ duds,  they’d have fried chicken, mashed taters and white gravy, green beans cooked with bacon, corn on the cob, sliced maters and maybe a nice juicy berry cobbler for dessert.  Oh my, thinkin’ back to those meals sure did get her stomach to growlin’.  Esther shakes her head, places her hands palm down on the table and pushes herself away, knowing she’s got to get busy.

Today they’ll have that beans and cornbread.  Too bad there’s no ham to put into the beans and no butter for the cornbread.  Esther decides to gather the kids later and go out and find some poke weed to cook up for their supper.  Of course there’ll be wild onions to add to the beans.  And maybe, just maybe, they’ll get lucky and find some blackberries.  She might be able to scrounge up enough sugar to make a little blackberry cobbler in the old cast iron skillet, at least enough for a few bites for each of the young’uns.

Esther whispers a quiet prayer thanking the Lord that her children won’t have to go hungry today, trying to keep her faith strong in the face of life’s trials and tribulations.  It’s not an easy thing to do, but Esther knows that’s what Joe would expect of her. She asks the Lord’s forgiveness for not taking the children to church these days.  It’s just that she’s noticed some of the church women looking down their noses at her and the kids.  She overheard the banker’s wife talking to several of the women, telling them she didn’t think it was right to walk into the Lord’s house dressed in rags and not wearing shoes.  Esther held her head high that day, but the tears flowed freely once she got home and went to bed.  She felt such shame, shame that people would think that way about her kids, shame that she couldn’t do a better job of providing for the kids, shame that she hadn’t been able to hold everything together once she lost Joe.  No, she wouldn’t take her kids to any church where they weren’t welcome.  The Lord would just have to understand.

My children

Poor mother and children during the Great Depr...

Poor mother and children during the Great Depression. Elm Grove, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The woman sat at her kitchen table, her head in her hands.  The candle had burned down to almost nothing.  Weighed down with exhaustion, Esther was too tired to sleep.  She’d dragged herself out of bed at four in the morning to feed the scrawny chickens and cook up a pot of oatmeal for the kids.  Almost out of oats again.  She found herself worrying about where the money would come from to buy more.

She knew she was lucky to have a job, any job, these days.  But trying to feed five kids on what she made at the diner was impossible.  Thank goodness Hazel let her take the scraps home to the kids. They might go to bed hungry some nights, but at least they wouldn’t starve.  She felt so ashamed that she couldn’t provide better for her children, but when Joe died,  she lost everything.  The house with their big garden, the car (old and battered as it was, it still got them around town…now they had to walk everywhere), the livestock, everything.  And now she had to do whatever it took to raise these kids.  And if that meant swallowing her pride, well then, that’s what she’d do.

Goodness knows, she’d experienced hunger and poverty when she was a kid.  She just never thought her kids would have to experience it too.  She and Joe had worked hard, scrimped and saved their money, and bought that piece of property out west of town.  They built it up, adding a cow or a couple of pigs one year, working on the house the next.  They were happy out there.  And Joe, he sure did love his kids.  She’d never seen a man behave the way her Joe did with their babies, patient and tender, always willing to show them how to do things, yet stern when he needed to be.

The day little Joey came running up to the house from the field he and his daddy  were working in,  to tell her that the tractor rolled over on Daddy…oh my…there’s just no way to talk about how awful that day was.  And when they buried Joe, well, had it not been for those five babies of his, Esther would have just crawled right in that grave with him.  But she couldn’t do it, couldn’t give up.  She knew Joe was counting on her to raise their brood.  But she didn’t think he had any idea how hard it would be for a woman with no schoolin’ to be able to come up with the money to pay the taxes on the land.  Letting that place go was just one more slap in the face for Esther, one more way she had failed Joe and their kids.

Time to move on once again

A Crane for Each Child; Students Seek End to C...

A Crane for Each Child; Students Seek End to Child Abuse (Photo credit: ct senatedems)

I’ve decided it’s time to leave little Sean lying on his bed, trying to recover from the emotional and physical abuse he’s endured.  That  was a tough little series to write.  I really can’t understand child abuse.  I get that people who abuse have usually suffered abuse themselves…I get it, really I do.

What I don’t get is what is going on in an abuser’s mind that tells them that what they’re doing is okay?  I know that people who are a lot smarter than I am have given this issue a lot of thought over the years.  And that they don’t really have any more answers than I do…but I can’t help but question this.  And…then I find myself questioning why I’m writing about it…I think I just had to tell the tale.

So, in leaving little Sean behind for now, where do I go next?  There are stories begging to be told…stories from a hundred years ago, or fifty years ago, or ten years ago, or yesterday, or even stories from the future.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see which one comes out on top tomorrow.