Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 in review ...

January
 February
 March
 April
 May
 June
 July
 August
 September
 October
 November
 December

Friday, December 28, 2018

haunted melody

This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts have been at Drifting Through Life's blog this month.
     Skye pulled out the ribbons to let down her hair and absentmindedly began brushing it as she looked out the window.  She could see snow falling in the porch light of the house across the causeway, but knew it wouldn't stick just yet.  It had been raining earlier in the day, and the wet ground caused the snow to dissolve into an icy slush.

     The power flickered and then went out.  Instinctively, Skye reached for the candlesticks she kept in her vanity for just such an occasion.  Winters could be harsh, and power outages were frequent as the weight of ice caused trees to fall, breaking power lines.  A frown crossed her face.  It hadn't been that cold, and ice certainly wasn't a problem just yet.  She looked out the window at the neighbor's house and realized that their power was still on.  It was only her house that had gone dark.

     A sound coming from the attic caught her attention.  It sounded almost like an accordion, but not quite.  She remembered once that her grandmother told her that her great-great-great grandfather had played the concertina when he was a young man in Germany, and it had been "instrumental" in his courtship of her great-great-great grandmother.

     Closing her eyes, Skye listened to the haunting melody, swaying slightly, letting the sound carry her away to another time ....

     "Heinrich, you play that like you are a wizard and you have bewitched my heart."
     "That was my intention, Elise!  Tell me you will go to the Oktoberfest bonfire with me this weekend."
     "Only if you help me unload the garden's harvest at the market.  I must get this done before Father comes back from town."
     "But of course!  You know I would do anything for you, just to see the way the light beams from your smile and brightens my day!"
     "Stop flirting, Heinrich, and just work or we will never be done in time to go to the bonfire and share a hot chocolate!"

     The music stopped suddenly, and Skye realized it had been more than just a distant memory of a story her grandmother had told her.  It had been real.  She discarded her worries of ghosts and a haunted concertina and slowly climbed the stairs to the attic.

     "Heinrich!  She's coming!"

Thursday, December 20, 2018

twins...

This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts are at Drifting Through Life's blog this month.
     Rushing to George's office, Sam threw the door open.  The acrid miasma of gunpowder and a coppery smell of blood caught him off guard and he took a step back.  On one side of the office, the security guard, a large powerhouse of a man named Nathan, lay clutching his chest and gasping for breath.  Blood poured from a wound in his abdomen, and as Sam leaned over him, he tried to speak.

     Pedro could hear women behind him sobbing, and someone on the phone asking for a doctor to come right away.  He looked over to the desk and saw George leaning back in his chair, blood, bits of skull and brain on pictures of George and his family hanging on the wall behind him.  He shivered and looked away.  Such a foolish thing to have done, no matter what he had been afraid of.  How would his children face life now without him, Pedro wondered.

     A man rushed into the office wearing a denim shirt that said "Ace's Plumber" over the left front pocket, looked at the dead and wounded men and rushed back out.  Pedro wondered if he had been the third man arrested with his father and if Nathan had also been one of them.  He suspected he was because of his behavior when Sam had mentioned Moose's name.  Men barely out of their twenties, their lives just beginning, now bleeding out or dead on the floor.  Shaking his head he walked out of the room.

     George followed him outside a few minutes later.  Pedro stood in the shade, smoking a cigarette that he knew he'd have to explain to Amelita, but it was the only way he could get the smell out of his nostrils.  He glanced up at George.

     "Is he ...?"
     "Yes.  He died just a few minutes ago."
     "Did he ...?"
     "He confessed to being part of killing both Moose and your dad.  Said that Moose had been an accident.  They'd been drinking and a prank just went too far.  It had been eating him alive ever since.  When your dad rolled into town, they saw it as an opportunity to make some extra money by ripping off some houses and robbing people before going on the run.  But George got greedy, and things got out of hand.  It was his idea to blame it all on your dad."
     "Who was the third man?"
     "A guy named Ace."
     "He was just here.  Came in and took a look at what happened and then took off like a bat out of hell."
     "Probably realized they'd be coming for him soon."

     Just then the sound of a gunshot down the block caused both men to stop talking and look up.

     "Well, maybe he decided not to run after all."
     "What a waste."

      Ace had left a letter addressed to the sheriff on a table in his foyer that detailed what they had done to both Moose and Pedro's father.  The letter had been dated two years prior.  Apparently, Nathan wasn't the only one whose guilt had been keeping him awake at night.  George had been the only one of the three who had no remorse, at least until Nathan had told him he was going to tell everything.  George had shot him point blank and then realizing he'd never be able to explain it away, shot himself.

     The circus had left town a week later when the audience was more interested in the local scandal than they were in the center ring shows.

     Three months later things had almost returned to normal.  Amelita had been reading palms one night when she sensed a presence in her tent.  She waited until Pedro had finished his high wire performance before sending a message for him to come to see her.

     Pedro pushed aside the intricately embroidered curtain and saw Amelita sitting at her small table with a thoughtful look on her face.

     "What is it, my love?  Are you alright?"
     "Yes, of course.  I just need to tell you something.  It's about your father."
     "My father?"
     "He was here tonight, during my reading, and gave me a message for you."
     "What?"
     "He wanted me to tell you he's sorry for how he treated you when you were a child.  For hurting you the way he did.  He didn't understand that things could have been different.  He wants you to know how proud he is of you and says that you are a much better high wire artist than he ever could have been."
     "I wish he'd been able to tell me those things when he was alive."
     "He does too.  After your mother ended her life, he realized just how hard he had been on you, but he didn't know how to change.  She had been the one good thing in his life.  When you left, he lived a very monastic lifestyle, focusing on his craft to hide from his pain and loneliness.  He wishes things could have been different.  You've become the man he wishes he had been able to be for you."
     "I wish I'd been able to tell him I forgive him, and how much I love him."
     "He knows, Pedro.  He knows and he loves you too."

     A year later, Amelita and Pedro stood in the courtyard of the small house they had purchased in Goleta, California.  While the house was small, the property was forty acres that sprawled along a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean, giving them plenty of room to grow.  Amelita rubbed her hand on her growing belly and smiled as the baby kicked.  "Babies." she thought to herself.  Twins, just like Pedro's father had told her she would have.

Friday, December 14, 2018

the sheepdog

This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts are at Drifting Through Life's blog this month.
     Sam kept a controlled smile on his face as he strolled into the front door of the bank with Pedro.  A security guard walked towards them with his hand out to stop them from going further into the bank.

     "Can I help you, sir?"
     "Why, yes you can young man!  I'm here to open an account and I was told I could speak to the man in charge here.  I believe his name is Mr. George Andersen.  Is he by chance here?"
     "Do you have an appointment?"
     "No, but since when does someone need to make an appointment to open an account?  My money not good enough for you all?"
     "Mr. Andersen is a busy man.  Perhaps one of the tellers could help you open an account?"
     "Oh, I don't need to take up the time of one of those pretty young ladies, when I'm sure Mr. Andersen will make time for me.  You just run along and tell him Mr. Sam is here to collect Moose's belongings"

     At the mention of Moose's name, the security guard paled and withdrew his hand.  "You just wait here.  I'll get Mr. Andersen."

     Sam began laughing so hard he shook, and Pedro had to look away to keep from laughing as well.  The fear on the guard's face told both men everything they needed to know about his involvement in Moose's disappearance, as well as what might have happened to Pedro's father.
     A few minutes later, a woman came out of George's office and pointed to a pair of leather chairs.

     "Please have a seat.  Mr. Andersen will be right with you.  Would you gentlemen like some coffee?"
     Sam smiled at her.  "Well, that would be mighty nice of you if'n you don't mind.  You know, you just reminded me so much of a lovely lady I once knew who worked at a diner hereabouts.  I wonder if she might be your sister?  I think her name was Luella?  We went out dancing one night, and she had the sweetest laugh.  I'd sure like to see her again."
     The woman blushed hotly and began to backpedal away from the two men.  Sam's laughter again shook him and the large, black leather chair he was sitting in.
Image Source: WeHeartIt.com

     "I tell you what, Pedro, the more I see of this town and these people, the more I realize how evil and corrupt some people can be.  It just digs at my craw that I didn't turn back the next morning when I realized Moose was gone to go look for him.  It just kills me that I let him down like that when I know he'd have been like an old sheepdog with a bone if the tables was reversed and it was me that up and disappeared.  That man was like getting a sample of what a truly godly man was like.  Gentlest man you ever met.  Wouldn't hurt a mouse, in fact, he'd even leave out a little bit of his own dinner each night just to make sure they was fed.  Never had a hateful word to say about anyone, even as much as people was cruel and hateful to him just because of the color of his skin.  Me 'n him had gotten into a morning routine of having our coffee sitting out on the edge of camp to watch the sun come up.  We'd just sit there in silence and watch it get bigger and bigger on the horizon, then as soon as it was full up, Moose would say 'Amen' and stand up.  That was how we started our days.  Lord I miss him."

     Before Pedro had a chance to console his friend, the sound of a gun going off in George's office caused the men to jump up and several of the women in the bank to scream.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

the Moose

This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts are at Drifting Through Life's blog this month.
     Sam and Pedro took a leisurely stroll into town, talking as they walked about the circus people they had known in their lives who had gone on to the great Center Ring in the sky.  As they happened to pass a large tree on the side of the road, both men were startled to see a noose hanging from one of the lower branches.  They stopped, momentarily speechless, before walking on.  After about fifteen minutes, it was Sam who first broke the silence.

     "Do you remember the strongman we called Moose?  A huge black man that spoke with a deep French-Canadian accent?"
     "That was before my time, but I sometimes hear people talking about him.  Why?"
     "It was different times back then.  A lot of strong feelings on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.  Didn't matter he was born somewheres other than the United States, or that he spoke with a French accent.  All most people saw was the color of his skin.  It was a shame they couldn't see that he had a heart of gold, or that his blood ran red just like everyone else's."
     "What happened to him?"
     "The circus was playing in a small backwards town, and after we'd been there for a few nights we started finding nooses hanging in the trees around the camp.  For such a big man, he was just as gentle as a lamb.  Pretty soon, however, he was downright spooked by all of them, and was just as jumpy as a cat in a rockin' chair factory."
     "Can't say that I blame him."
     "Things started to go wrong in the camp, and some of the gypsy women traveling with us said that it was a bad omen of things to come.  We decided it was time to move on before things really turned ugly, and made plans to pack and travel immediately after the show that night without even waiting for dawn.  Couldn't wait to shake the dust of that place off our shoes."
     "I bet."
     "The thing about little hick towns like that one is that sometimes they are like peeling back the layers of an onion.  Just when you think you've gotten past the layer that makes you cry, you get hit by another one.  Before we even started the show that night, things went really bad, really fast."
     "How so?"
     "The weather was so hot, you could see steam rising off the blades of grass as the sun fried them to a crisp.  When it started to set that night, it looked just like an hourglass on the horizon with the heat rising up off the dirt.  It wasn't just like standing in front of an open oven, it was like standing inside a blazing hot fireplace. Tension in the camp started to rise as performers had to get ready for the night's performance, and pack for the move when it was over.  Fights broke out.  It was as if we were tearing ourselves apart into tiny little fragments, just itching to get out of there.  What at first felt like a small desert paradise, suddenly felt like hell on Earth."
     "So how does Moose and all the nooses play into it?  Did he get hung or something?"
     "Nah.  Or at least as far as I know he didn't.  We finally finished the show that night, got the tents yanked, and slowly started to move out when there was some kind of ruckus on the road ahead.  I had a little motor scooter that I used back then, so rode up to see what all the fuss was about.  There was Moose, having some kind of a heated discussion with this little old gypsy woman.  She was reading him the riot act, up one side and down the other, all in that Romani language of theirs.  Moose was given' it right back to her in French!  It would have been funny if it hadn't been for the terror I could see on both their faces.  I had to practically pull them apart.  Moose stormed off back to his wagon, and the gypsy went to hers, and I never saw Moose again.  I don't know if he ran off, or got run off.  It's something I've been wondering about ever since."
     "Wow.  That's quite a story.  I can see why you got fired up about the banker and what happened to my father.  But are you sure you want to stir things up in town?  Seems like we'd be asking for a lot of trouble."
     "No doubt about it.  I think it's high time we found out what happened to your dad, and to Moose."
     "Wait a minute.  You don't mean to say that this is the same town, do you?"
     "Yep."

Saturday, December 1, 2018

the opera

Image Source: WeHeartIt.com
This ongoing creative release was started quite a while ago. The Words for Wednesday prompts are provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast. Essentially the aim is to encourage you to write. Each week a selection of prompts are provided: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. You are encouraged to use any form of artistic expression (stories, poems, music, pictures) to express how those prompts move you. The prompts are on the Elephant's Child blog this month.
     Amelita placed a record on the player and heated water for tea. Madam Butterfly was her favorite opera, even if it did make her cry every single time she listened to it. She stopped what she was doing when she could hear Pedro's voice rising outside of their wagon.

     "And just what exactly do you recommend, Sam? I told you I would get on the wire again, but I just don't know when."
     "Pedro, I just don't understand why it is suddenly so hard for you."
     "I don't either. I just ... I've been having nightmares that keep me from getting much sleep, Sam. When I'm on the wire, I need to be able to focus on my balance and when I'm exhausted it is that much harder for me to concentrate."
     "Nightmares of what?"
     "My father mostly. The things he did to me when he was teaching me how to walk the wire. He was a hard man. Cruel. Hurtful. He used to burn my feet with cigars to make them sensitive to the wire."
     "Wow. I'm sorry, Pedro. I had no idea. Is he still part of your life?"
     "No, actually. He died. In this town in fact. I think that he has brought us here somehow to help solve his murder."
     "Murder?!"
     "I think it was murder. The authorities felt it was suicide, but I don't think so. I think he was framed for robberies I don't believe he committed, and when he threatened to prove that he was innocent, he suddenly turned up dead."
     "Holy moly."
     "The thing of it is, that one of the guys that testified against him was the banker you had a run-in with the day we arrived. He was arrested with my father and two other local men, but only my father was convicted. I think that he was set up by the locals because he wasn't from here."
     "And you think the banker was involved."
     "I think that it's pretty odd that someone who had been arrested for various small-time crimes is now a banker and my father who was never arrested for anything was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and then winds up dead when he said he had evidence he was innocent."
     "So you think they killed him?"
     "I think it's pretty odd that some local yocal who grew up on cheap beer is now sipping champagne with the bank president, while my father is haunting my dreams at night."
     "What do you want to do about it? Shake up this town and give them a little excitement?"
     "I think I want to know the truth, and I think the only one who can give it to me is dead and buried."

     The next morning Sam woke Pedro and Amelita up at dawn with a loud rap on their wagon door.

     "Rise and shine, sunshine! We've got some digging to do!"
     "Sam? What on earth?"
     "I was up all night thinking about this mess, and the jam it has got your mind in. I think it is high time we paid a visit to the local sheriff and started asking some questions about what kind of justice system they got around here."
     "I'm not sure if that's a good idea, Sam. I don't want them chasing us out of town when we've had sold-out audiences."
     "Well, I think it's a damn fine idea. We need to stir the pot a little and use it to fire up some added publicity. Throw these rednecks into another dimension and let them see what a little city-slicker justice is like for a change. What are they gonna do? Raid us and arrest everyone? It's gonna be mighty hard for them to weed out the good and bad from this bunch, and I know that we can make a mighty big noise about it that will stretch all the way back to the East Coast."
     "You know, Sam, I've got a lot of admiration for how you think sometimes, and you've never done us wrong, even with me not being able to get up on the wire right now. But I worry that if the three men who framed my father felt like they were backed into a corner enough to kill him, what would they do to our families if we pushed the truth out into the light? I couldn't live with myself if someone with the circus got hurt because of me."
     "And why do you think I employ someone like Hercules? Just for eye candy?"

     Pedro laughed, and soon the two men were making plans for how they would approach the sheriff. Amelita smiled and heated up their small stove to begin cooking enough breakfast for the three of them. It was good to hear Pedro laugh again.