Friday, January 29, 2016


Robin Berkley's entry I'm enjoying how different we interpret the writing prompts.

A dozen shiny spheres clunked against each other as Ally tipped open the brown cloth bag Daddy had given her that morning at breakfast. They were warm and heavy in her hand.  She looked around the playground hoping someone would offer to teach her how to play marbles.

A group of girls from her class huddled around a teen magazine, giggling.  Another group of girls had linked arms and were skipping across the yard singing. Most of the boys were flicking hockey cards against the school wall while a few played catch with a deflated football.

Her little brother, Greg, sat beneath a tree at the edge of the playground. He'd arranged some empty beers cans into a windy twisting train. She watched him move the lead can forward and to the right.  He used a stick to measure the distance between then cans then lined them all back up in their previous formation, just a few inches forward of their previous position.  Greg liked angles, exact measurements and geometry even though those things made Ally's stomach hurt.  She turned away.  He was fine over there playing by himself.

She spied Tommy and Max on their knees in front of hole they'd scratched out of the dirt.  Even though they were a grade older her than Ally, they sometimes talked to her on the school bus.  Tommy always wanted to know what she had for lunch and Max always told him not to be a bully.

Ally crossed the yard to watch them.  Tommy glared up at her.  "What do you want?"

She held the bag out for him to see. "Will you teach me how to play?"

Tommy grabbed the bag and spilled the marbles onto the dirt.  He sorted them out by colour and size.  "I'll take this one as payment." He held up a large black marble full of white clouds like a misty morning before dawn.

Ally shrugged.

"Try to get your marble into the hole without knocking our marbles in."  Max flicked a blue green marble as a demonstration.  "Whoever has the most marbles in the hole wins all of them."

The three of them knelt down to play.  It took a few tries for Ally to get the hang of it but she had one marble in the hole and two on the lip. Tommy's marbles were the furthest away and Max had two in the hole. His yellow marble clinked into Tommy's green one.

A squirrel ran past and Tommy kicked at it.

Ally yelled at him. Before she knew it, Greg barreled past her and shoved Tommy.  "Leave it alone!"

Tommy shoved Greg down into the dirt.  Greg kicked him and Ally threw herself on top of her little brother.  "Stop!" she yelled at both of them.

"Leave the little kid alone, Tommy" Max tugged at his friend as a crowd grew around them.

A pretty blonde girl strode up to them. Her two equally blonde and pretty friends followed on her heels.  Tracey planted herself in front of Tommy. "Leave him alone, Tommy or I'm telling Mom and Dad."

She whipped around so fast her long hair hit her brother in the face.  "I'm Tracey."  She held her hand out to help Ally up.  "These are my friends Terry and Tonia."

"I know."  Ally pulled Greg up with her and kept his arm around his small shoulders. He was still primed to fight.  "We're in Miss Stickles class together."

"Do you want to be friends?"

Ally narrowed her eyes.  Was this a trick?  The 3 Ts didn't talk to any of the other girls.  They went everywhere together and acted like no one else was in the world.

"Hey, anyone who takes on my brother is a friend of mine."  The other Ts nodded.  "I don't know why Max hangs out with him."

Max shrugged. "He's not all bad."

Tracey held out her hand.  With a scowl Tommy dropped a couple of marbles into it.  She dropped down onto her knees and flicked all three marbles straight into the hole.

Greg clapped and smiled. Ally released him.  He walked back to the tree and his beer can train.  A black squirrel sat at the base of the tree and watched him approach.  It didn't run off or scamper up the tree.

That was one of the things about her brother. Animals trusted him. They liked to be around him. The only time he ever showed any temper was when one of them was threatened.  Ally had spent most of his life protecting him from bullies like Tommy.

Tracey handed all of the marbles to Ally.  "Justice."

Ally looked at her brother content beneath the tree.  Tommy glared at his sister.  "I didn't want them anyway.  Marbles are a baby game."

Max rolled his eyes.

"Thank you."  Ally fished through the handful of marbles searching for the black misty one. She handed it to Tommy. A peace offering.  "Thank you for teaching me how to play."

He crinkled his face and kicked at the dirt.  "Nah, you keep it. I cheated you out of it."

"Nope.  It's only fair payment for the lesson."

Max cuffed his friend in the shoulder.  "Take it, Tommy. It's a beauty."

Tommy grabbed the marble. "You're alright. For a girl."

The school bell rang to end recess.

"Want to play again tomorrow?"  Tommy tucked the marble into the front pocket of his corduroys.

"She can't." Tracey looped her arm through Ally's.  "We're going to show her how to flip her hair so she looks like one of Charlie's Angels."

Ally smiled to herself.  Daddy was going to be so surprised when she told him he was right. Marbles did help her make friends.  He would laugh because Mommy had said no one would want to be Ally's friend. She was too strange.  She didn't know how to have fun.

Mommy was wrong. Ally had a lot of fun - especially when Tommy got beat by his sister. A girl. She had wanted to laugh until he looked like he was going to cry. He looked too much like her baby brother right then.

That made her sad. So she gave him the marble. It didn't mean anything to her.

Tommy ran ahead of her and shoved the marble under another guy's nose. "Look what I won!  Suckers!"

Friday, January 22, 2016

String, glass and Bowie

Robin's entry in the challenge

Ally and her friends did cartwheels across the lawn while David Bowie sang about spiders from Mars on the stereo speakers her mom had blasting from the kitchen.  It was a weird song.  She tugged her pigtails out from her halter strap, took a few deep breaths and chilled at the edge of the front lawn.  Gymnastic practice was hard work even if it did look like fun. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the street below but still, it was safer to practice their moves towards the house and away from the hill.

Terry, Tracey and Tonia all did back flips.  It was strange not to have a name that started with a T but it wasn't the only reason she felt like an oddball in their group.  Ally's parents were still married to each other.  She only ever received one set of presents at Christmas and birthdays. No trips to Disney like Tonia took with her dad so he could tell her she was going to be a big sister thanks to her new mom.  No pony lessons like Tracey got from her mom and new dad when they moved out of the old neighbourhood. Terry's parental bribes were more along the lines of concert tickets and the latest albums for all of her favourite bands.  They'd replaced the Bay City Rollers three times because Ally and the 3 Ts wore it out.  S-A-T-U-R-

"C'mon, Ally, get the lead out!" Tonia called.

She shrugged before tucking herself into a ball like the raccoon she'd watched roll across their backyard the other  night. It was annoying the way her parents treated her like a little kid when she was 12 years old, practically a teenager.  Ally was going to pierce her ears for her thirteenth birthday, just like Tracey did when she turned twelve.Mom and Dad promised she could.  They said she'd been really patient with her brother Greg and all the attention he got because he was slow.  Terry's brother called him a retard.  Ally had punched him on the nose.

She'd been expelled for three days from school because she punched him on the playground during recess. If he had said at home she wouldn't have missed any school. Mom said she was disappointed that Ally felt the need to resort to violence.  Dad took her outside and told her was proud of the way she stood up for her baby brother.

Almost as if she had conjured him up by thinking about him, Greg ran onto the front lawn and tried to stand on his head. Of course he fell over. He was as co-ordinated as a piece of string.  If someone didn't put his body into the right position he fell over. A lot.   He followed the 3 Ts to the edge of the lawn at the top of the hill.  All stopped to tie up her shoe. It would hurt if she tripped over it while setting up a cartwheel.

"Look, Ally Bally Bee! I tumble just like you."  Greg dropped to the ground and started to roll, backward down the hill.

"No, Greg, stop!"Ally ran across the lawn but it was too late. He'd slipped over the side and was headed for the street.

Greg giggled like a madman.  Her friends screamed and Ally ran faster than she ever had before in her life.  Halfway down the hill, with every breath in stabbing her throat, Ally got in front of her little brother.   Momentum barreled him right into her legs and she fell too.

Blue sky, blue car, green grass. Blue sky, blue car, green grass.  They flipped past her vision faster and faster til it was just blue and green.  Everyone was screaming. She could hear them but had no way to stop.  Blue green bluegreen bluegreenblue.

She wrapped her body around Greg's and tucked him beneath her as they slid to a stop. The screech of tires filled her ears and she waited for the hot steel bumper to hit her.

Ally's arms shook as Greg struggled to break free.  If she could just keep him still, she'd be able to keep him safe.  She just needed to hold on.

Weird. She could taste the coppery strangeness of blood but she hadn't felt the car hit her.  Ally listened hard, tried to hear anything over her friends screaming.  Greg pounded on her arm.  "Let go, Ally!!! Let me go."

She smelled the older boy before she saw him. Incense and weed, her neighbour Doug always smelled like that. Her parents told him not to come around the house but sometimes he plunked himself in a lawn chair at the end of his driveway.

Ally opened her eyes.  The blue VW bug sat a good twenty feet away. No dents on the hood or the bumper. "Are you alright?" the driver asked.

She nodded and sucked in a breath. Jeez that hurt. Greg climbed out of her embrace.  "That was fun."

A gasp from the driver was followed by more horrified screams from the 3 Ts.  She looked Greg over head to toe. He looked alright. He waved his arms around recreating the cartwheel somersault free-for-all that had carried them down the hill.

Why was it so hard to breathe?  Ally looked down at herself. Nothing strange there. Man, her back hurt.  She twisted but the boy, a high school boy with long blond hair and the greenest eyes she'd ever seen, put his hand on her arm. "Don't move."

She shivered. A high school boy touched her.  Just on her arm. It was no big deal. But the 3 Ts were going to ask her lots of questions about how that felt. Jeez.  It hurt to breathe.  Her back felt funny. The boy looked like he was going to be sick.

"Don't move. You'll just make it worse."

"Make what worse?"

Greg stopped bouncing around her friends and came back to Ally's side.  "Ally Bally."  He squatted down to examine her closely.  "Why do you have a big piece of glass sticking out of your back?  mom said we should  never play near glass. Never. It could hurt you."

"Glass?" Black spots popped and hopped around Greg's head. That was bad. Really bad.

"Yeah, a great big piece of broken glass."

The driver nodded.  "Someone dumped a mirror into the ditch. You must have rolled onto the jagged piece when you came down the hill."

"Ally!"  Her mom pushed her way through the 3 Ts and shoved the driver aside.  Her face twisted then smoothed out into her serious Mom face.  "Terry, Tonia, Tracey, please take Greg back into the house. Everyone have a glass of milk. There are cookies on the counter. Please stay inside until Mr. Robbins or I come to get you. Please."

The spots were more like a lava lamp, just blooping up and down all over her vision.  Hmm, her back didn't hurt as much.  How big a piece of glass could it be anyway?

"I love you Ally Bally."  Her mom's voice sounded like it was coming through a tunnel.

Everything was cold. Nothing hurt any more. Her last thought was of the mirror she'd tossed into the ditch the other day.  The mirror she'd smashed to bits.  Except for that one piece that reminded her of an icicle.

Bowie's voice drifted down the hill. "There's a starman, waiting in the sky."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tires, hockey, club, bakery and ivy

Follow this link to read Robin's Results.  Mine are below

Tires gripped the asphalt as the car hit the icy curve too fast.  The bungee cord holding the passenger door in place stretched to its point of no return. A white box slid through the gap before the door slammed shut.

Dave watched the retreating taillights and shivered inside the light hockey jacket he'd worn non-stop for the last two years. He slowly checked in both directions for oncoming traffic before he darted onto the road and retrieved the broken box. One red velvet cupcake stood straight in the center of the box while cookie monster, minion and spiderman cupcakes lay dented on their sides. Two Olaf cupcakes had fallen from the box to hit the pavement upside down.  Dave grabbed those two by their paper liners and snapped them off just above their contact point with the road. Pleased with the day's bounty, food for the aching belly and a cardboard hat, he hurried back to the relative warmth and dryness afforded by the underpass.  Nothing at his Ivy League school had prepared him for the harsh reality of a wind pelting him with snow with the level of ruthlessness a homeless man experienced.

As a journalist, he'd done his research. He had expected rough conditions, a scarcity of food and cruel people. His undercover stint as a homeless man had shown him the other side of things, the compassion, decency and creativity of people on both sides of the situation.

The freedom was unexpected. No longer a slave to deadlines, cell phones and demands of family. He thrived on the streets, living like a wild man dependent on no one or nothing that his wits in order to survive. No more country club, fancy cars or facials.

The freedom had been a surprise but no more so than the realization that he liked it.  Dave bit down on Spiderman's head. Eighteen months after the assignment finished, he whooped as the sugar hit his malnourished bloodstream. He was never going back to civilization.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Writing prompts update

Robin Berkley and I have decided to join forces to do the writing prompts twice a week and share with our combined readers. Anyone is welcome to join us. At the very least, I hope you'll be willing to toss a few words or phrases our way.

The schedule will be Monday - gather prompts for two sessions.
Wednesday and Friday post the results of all that creative brilliance.

The library's writing group does something similar with paintings. Artists and writers inspire each other. I'm not sure which comes first but the art that comes out of it, printed and painted, are beautiful.

Writing prompts don't take the place of novels but they do a great job of kickstarting the brain.  We like to make connections with even the most random of things.  These exercises embrace those connections. A paragraph can lead to a scene which can lead to a chapter.  Occasionally, they will inspire an entire novel.   Most books start from one idea.

So. Wednesday.  That's when you'll see what happens when you put tires, hockey, club, baking and ivy together.

Any other words you'd like to see us string together?

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Year, new goals

I'm thinking of a slight revamp to the blog. My life is no less crazy than it has been the last few months. I've got at least two more months of this insane care-giver schedule. The blog will continue to be neglected if I don't change it up slightly.

Not writing makes me cranky. To be more accurate, it turns me into a grade A bitch but I was going for creativity over honesty.  Today while waiting for my car to be healed at the garage, I wrote around 300 words. It needs a bit of tweaking before I share. The twist is dancing just on the edge of my consciousness.

The other thing I did today was find the photos of Stanley. I will scan them and see what they inspire.  I did pick up a crow painting by Kathleen Thorsen.(I'm having trouble connecting with her website but that link will show you some examples of her work)  It's encaustic which adds so much depth and texture to the painting.  Go check her out.

Every week I'll post a short story based on writing prompts provided by you, either over here or on Twitter. So Monday, send me five words on any topic. On Wednesday, I'll post the story it inspires.  That way, I'm back into a routine and the blog is active, even interactive.

Today's prompts were tires, hockey, baking, club, ivy.  The last two words are still missing. Once I figure them out, I'll post the answers - on Monday.  This week's schedule is a bit off just because it only came to me about an hour ago.

Depending on how Stanley's story goes, it will go up as a bonus treat some time in the next two months.  Trips to the garage, and a break from caregiving, are not that frequent.

See you Monday!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Animal Intelligence

National Geographic has a feature every couple of years about animal intelligence. It's a bar that's constantly being moved so they don't catch, or even surpass, humans in that area. Every time I turn on the news, I thinks it's too late.

Our multi-generational household is shared with two dogs, two cats, two parrots. All are rescues. The second parrot is the only one we went in search of. While they all comfort, love and entertain, they each teach me every day. The cats trick the dogs all the time, the dogs have taught us how to give them what they want and the parrots change the tone and inflection of common sentences to get an appropriate response from us.

Give any one of them an unfamiliar task and they will all find a way to complete it. Unless it's the cats. They never do anything they don't want to do.

With all this in-house entertainment, you'd be surprised how many videos I watch online of crows at play. They know how to have fun. Windshield wipers are an amusement ride, jar lids are toboggans and car hoods offer fresh snow on which to make crow angels.

Corvids, dolphins and octopus are the top three performers in self-awareness, intelligence and play. I've been fascinated by all three my whole life. Nothing will pull me out of a story faster than an author mocking animals.

I'm not back to typing full time yet but I have pulled out my sketchbook that is full of Stanley the crow. I think its time he got his own story. A little bit of romance, a touch of horror but definitely the happy ending he failed to receive in real life.