Thursday, August 29, 2019

8 ~ Defiance

River at Drifting Through Life hosted Words on Wednesday for the month of August.  In September, the prompts will be found on Delores' blog: Mumblings.  Delores was the original host of Words on Wednesday for several years.
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some, all, or none of the prompts.
1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees
6 ~ Peppermint

7 ~ An Unmasked Truth

     Kendall sat watching the papers curl with blue flames from the ink.  He had read the contract over and over again, then in anger, he had thrown it into the fireplace.  The words ran like an endless loop in his mind as he tried to comprehend what was going on.

     That his father was involved in somehow defrauding investors had not yet crossed his mind, but it was creeping in along the edges.  What he did know for sure was that the contract did nothing to protect himself or Blaze, and everything to protect his father.  In fact, nowhere in the contract was his father's company even mentioned.

     A knock at the door signaled that Horatio's assistant had returned for the contract, expecting it to be signed by Blaze.  Kendall raised his crystal lo-ball glass with a shot of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey in it to watch the flames glittering through it like a crystal kaleidoscope.

     Anton entered the living room with anger in his steps.  He was wearing a pair of ridiculously bright aqua, patent leather shoes that perfectly matched his suit.  His pale pink shirt was topped by a buttercup colored bow tie that almost glowed with the absurdity of it all.  Anton wore rings on almost every finger, diamonds, and small pearls in each earlobe.  It was all Kendall could do to keep from laughing out loud at how much he resembled an Easter egg.

     "What does he mean he didn't sign it, Kendall?  Your father is expecting me back at the office in an hour, and he expects that contract to be signed.  Now, where is it?"

     Kendall tipped his glass towards the fireplace, and Anton's face turned bright red.  "You have got to be kidding me!?!?!  That was the original contract!  What am I supposed to tell your father?"
     "You can tell him I said he could go to hell."
     "I think you are forgetting who butters your bread, Kendall.  You might want to rethink whatever course of action you're taking right now."

     Kendall stood slowly and turned towards Anton, causing the small man to stumble backward.  "Are you threatening me, Anton?  Because I don't fill my wallet with my father's money.  My money is my own.  I may work at my father's company, but I've made very sure to keep my nose clean from his side business.  You, on the other hand, have a lot to worry about.  So I'd be careful about threatening me.  I know more about his business than he thinks I do, and I've made sure to cover my assets."
     On the other side of the lake, a half a mile away, two men were wearing headphones in a navy blue van.  One of them made a note of the date and time on a pad of paper and jotted two words:  Turn Kendall.  The other took a stapled sheaf of paper with the word Directory printed on the top of it off a shelf, pulled out a cellphone and dialed.
     Adelia was busy adding figures on a calculator when Horatio opened the door to his office.  "Delia, do you have a few minutes?"
     "Yes, of course, sir.  I'll be right there.  Would you like me to bring you a cappuccino also?"
     Horatio nodded and closed his door.  Adelia finished tallying the figures and made a note on a piece of paper.  She turned to the cappuccino machine on the credenza behind her and set a mug under the spout.  Glancing over her shoulder to see if there was anyone near, she reached into her jacket pocket and switched a mini recorder to sound activated.
     She walked into the office and set the cappuccino next to Horatio, who was staring at a crossword puzzle in the Wall Street Journal.  He had a few rows filled but was stumped on one of the columns.  Adelia looked over his shoulder.  "Brother powder.  Five letters."
     Horatio looked up at her.  "Do you know it?"
     "Of course.  Every good secretary knows that one.  It's a toner.  Brother makes toner powders for copiers and printers."
     "How long have you been with me, Delia?"
     "Fifteen years, sir.  Not counting the two years I took off for my girls."
     "How many do you have?"
     "Just one now, sir, Gloria.  Samantha died two years ago from an accidental overdose."
     "Yes.  She was at a rave party and her boyfriend put it in her drink.  He thought it would be funny."
     "Hmm. What does he think now?"
     "I don't know, sir.  He's in prison."
     "And Gloria?  How is she?"
     "She's doing well, sir.  Was there something else you needed me to do, sir?"
     "I'd like to update my will and trust.  Do you have a copy of them?"

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

a woman of a certain age...

Yes, yes, yes ... affiliate links abound!
 I have no qualms in admitting my age, especially since it caught me by surprise.  I turned 57 this year.  I hadn't expected to live past 40, especially when I was 16 and calculating how ancient wise I would be when the year 2000 rolled around.

But if I had been wise at the age of 16, and not ignorant of the damage that roasting my skin in the sun on Florida beaches would cause, I probably would have put sunscreen on.  I am of European ancestry, with honesttogoodnessreal red hair (once upon a time anyway), and my skin has always been prone to freckle burn blister peel repeat.

Now the perfect tan made up of freckles that I had once strived to achieve is marred with scars from where sun damage, cancerous and pre-cancerous spots have been frozen and cut from my face, arms and chest.  My turkey neck is was dry and wrinkled.  What's that you say?  Past tense?  Why yes!  

I've been dabbling with essential oils for the past couple of years to help heal and improve my skin, especially with the long, dry, and freezing winters here that sap all the moisture out of my already damaged skin.  Especially oils that hint at being the same ones Cleopatra used.

I've found two Jade Bloom blends recently that have made such a remarkable difference, I wish I'd taken before and after photos.

The first blend, CLEAR Daily Skin Blend for Women, I use in the morning after cleaning my face from the night grunge of snuggling with my dog Charlie and drooling in my sleep.  Total transparency here.

I've been using it mostly to help reduce the visibility of the scar on my face from my most recent surgery, and it has really helped it to fade.  It is also good for preventing wrinkles and keeping skin soft.

After applying it to my face, I massage the excess into the backs of my hands and my upper chest and neck area.

At night I use TONE Skincare Concentrate mixed with the carrier Rosehip Seed Oil Virgin.  After washing my face, I apply it on my face, neck, upper chest, and the backs of my hands.
"Rosehip seed oil towers over all other oils as the queen of skincare oils. The seeds are replete with Vitamin A. Rosehip oil greatly diminishes stretch marks and helps to remove wrinkles from the previously damaged skin. It combats inflammation and reduces the visibility of scars and blemishes. With regular use it will increase collagen levels, allowing for greater elasticity. It is a non-greasy oil which absorbs easily. Jade Bloom recommends placing this oil on at night -- you will wake up glowing like a Queen or King!"
Regardless of your own age, it's never too late to start treating your skin with a little TLC...

Update:  I managed to find some old photos to share to follow up on my post ...
These are some before photos:
 the one above is from 2017 and shows the fine lines and wrinkles on my neck and upper chest
below is the scar on my face after having some skin cancer removed.  this was taken a few days after I took my stitches out in April 2019.

and here is an after picture that I took just this morning
while not as easy to see, the skin on my neck and upper chest has improved dramatically from 2017

Thursday, August 22, 2019

WEP Red Wheelbarrow

Write Edit Publish!
It was dark when I finished. The sun had set hours ago, and if you wanted to survive you didn't dare even light a candle once that happened.  But I had to finish what I was doing and I couldn't wait until morning.  Still, I wasn’t quite done yet. I still needed to dispose of … it.


I was surprised at how odd it was that I no longer was able to even think of it as something that was once human. But then again, this wasn't really a very humane time for any of us, was it?

Perhaps there was something here, in the garage.  I reached out blindly and took a few steps to what I thought was the rear of the garage.  I hadn't planned for it to happen here, but sometimes an opportunity arises and you just have to grab it.

My knee hit something hard in the pitch black and I reached my hand down cautiously.  Metal.  Cold as ice in this weather.  Rounded.  Was that a handle?  I shuffle walked around the edge and stubbed my bare toe on something.  Damn that hurt.  Bending even further down now, I felt a tire.  What was this?  A wheelbarrow?  Perfect.

I had come in here looking for something.  What, I couldn't even remember now.  Shock must be setting in.  Adrenaline.  The killing could do that to someone.  Killing?  Is that even what it was?  Weren't they already dead?  Well, maybe not.  I didn't know the science behind it all.  There wasn't enough time in the day to waste it trying to understand what had happened.  Once the sun went down and the electricity was shut off everywhere, all you could do was hunker down and wait for sunrise.  Try to sleep if you could through the noise they made.

It was the noise that would really make you crazy.  The last bit of humanity that they had, and you almost wished they didn't.  It was like listening to a wounded animal.  That deep guttural moaning of something not quite dead yet, but very aware and terrified that it was soon going to be.  It was the sound of fear.  You could even smell it on them when they came close to you.

No one knew how or where it started.  Almost overnight it just "happened."  Newspaper reports said that it was something from space that came down with a dead satellite.  Television newscasters said that it was a biological weapon experiment gone wrong.  The vegans said it was from chemicals in the meat.  The meat industry said it was pesticides on the plants.  Bible thumpers said it was "The Enemy" or "Satan."  Satanists said it was God.  The Left said it was The Right, and The Right said it was the Conservatives.   I really didn't care anymore.  I just wanted to survive.

I rolled the wheelbarrow back to where I thought it was on the floor.  That's odd.  Maybe it is over there just a bit?  I stretched my foot out, not wanting to really touch it again, but knowing I had to find it to get it into the wheelbarrow.

With all the fingerpointing, we still didn't know how it was transmitted from person to person, or if it was airborne, in the water, or just a sudden mutation of everyone's DNA.  You could go to bed with your significant other and wake up with ... something else entirely.  Only you wouldn't even know it until after the sun went down.  For some reason, the artificial light showed you what it really was.  Like it reflected the light differently, even candlelight.

Where is it?  I could have sworn it was ... ah, found it.  Thank God.  I was starting to freak out a little.  Ugh, what a smell.  Deep breath, hold, get it in the wheelbarrow, turn, breathe, again.  Watch out for the shovel that I used to kill it, don't stub ... ouch!  Damn it!  Why didn't I put shoes on before I came in here?  Oh, yeah, now I remember why I came in here.  Shoes.  I'd left my shoes in here because they were muddy after the rain, so I took them off before I shut the garage door.

The thing about it all was that it wasn't even really considered dangerous.  I mean, no one had been killed by one that I knew of.  But we didn't waste any time killing them.  Because ... I don't know why.  If they weren't dangerous, what were they?  Different?  They didn't look different in the daylight.  It was just after dark when you knew they were.  Because of the sound.  And that smell.  Wait, is that sunlight under the garage door?  Finally!

I opened the garage door and turned to see what it looked like.  The wheelbarrow was red with all the blood and gore.  I'd grabbed the shovel when I heard it and smelled it after I flipped the light on in the closed garage.  Swinging wildly, I'd hit the bulb and plunged the garage back into darkness, but I could hear it screaming in fear and pain as I struck it again and again.  I must have hit it a thousand times trying to make sure it was really dead, not knowing where I was hitting, just hearing the blade of the shovel hit flesh and bone again and again.  Splatter had hit my face and hands, and I'd almost slipped once in the blood on the floor.

In the daylight, I could see that it was not as large as I had thought it was, and wait ... is that blond hair?  Those pajamas, they look just like ... oh no no no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO NO NO ... DJ! My son my baby boy my DJ!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Word Count: 972:FCA
This is my first time writing with "Write...Edit...Publish" and I welcome your comments!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

7 ~ An Unmasked Truth

River at Drifting Through Life will be hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of August. This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees

“So it is more useful to watch a man in times of peril, and in adversity to discern what kind of man he is; for then at last words of truth are drawn from the depths of his heart, and the mask is torn off, reality remains.”
― Lucretius
     Kendall's father, Horatio Alexander Creek, was called Horatio by all who worked with him, but Alex by his close friends and family.  His father had held an avid interest in war history and especially Lord Nelson whom he named his firstborn son after.  He actually hated the name Horatio but felt that it gave him an air of regality and commanded respect in the business world.  It also helped him to distinguish the people within his trusted circle and his enemies rather quickly.   If the truth were to be told, which Alex seldom did anyway, there were fewer than a handful of people who even knew what his middle name was.  Alex trusted no one.  He hadn't made it as far as he had in business by trusting people.

     He stood before the full-length mirror in a walk-in closet that was larger than some New York apartments, adjusting a coral-colored tie.  Taking matching colored endangered coral cufflinks out of a box, he slipped them onto his handmade white linen French cuff shirt.  He glanced over at the wall-mounted television to his left and called out "Weather."  Instantly the channel changed from the stock exchange to The Weather Channel.  Noting that the evening temperature was once again going to be cooler than expected for August, he walked across the room and pulled down a black vicuña wool suit.

     Normally he would conduct all of his business meetings at Masa, where he expected his clients to pay for the entire meal, a bill that could sometimes be several thousand dollars depending on how many were dining with him.  Dining at Masa served to let him know how serious the client was in investing with him, and it also gave him free publicity as the paparazzi delighted in selling photos of the elite clientele to New York's Page Six.

     But some business meetings demanded the utmost discretion, and for those, he held them in Central Park where two men casually walking and talking along one of the many random paths would draw little attention, and even more important, be less likely to be overheard or photographed.

     As he adjusted another piece of endangered coral, this time a black coral tie-tack, there was a knock at the door of the closet.

     "I wasn't aware you were going out tonight, Father.  I was hoping we could have dinner tonight and go over some of the details for Blaze's foundation."
     "Um, yes, well I've got a business meeting tonight with a potential investor and it will have to wait for another night."
     "Perhaps I could join you?  I haven't eaten at Masa's in quite a while, and I would like to learn more about this side of things.  Excuse me for saying so, Father, but there has been talk that you will be stepping down sooner than you anticipated?"

     The color left his face and Alex turned quickly looking at Kendall in surprise, "Talk?  What do you mean?  Who has been talking?  What have they said?"

     Kendall was caught off-guard by his father's apparent shock at what he had said, "I'm sure it is nothing more than watercooler gossip, sir.  You know how you strike fear in everyone.  Perhaps it was just an associate's wishful thinking?"
     "Umph.  Perhaps you should be spending less time around the watercooler and more time learning how to be a little more professional looking?  Who makes your clothes?  Make an appointment to meet with my secretary tomorrow and have her give you my tailor's information.  You look like you shop at Goodwill.  Now leave me.  I need to finish getting prepared for my meeting."

     Two hours later, just as Alex passed a rocky outcrop for the second time, a man stepped out of the shadows and walked alongside him.  Alex said nothing until the man had chosen an alternate path for them to walk that would take them deeper into the park and the dark.

     "Are you certain you weren't followed?"
     "No less than you are.  How certain are you that the money we are cleaning through the foundation won't be traced back to us?"
     "I'm positive.  My son is too stupid to know the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground, and his friend is even more of an idiot.  How certain are you that the drugs you are smuggling can't be traced to me or my company?"
     "I'm not sure my boss would appreciate what you are insinuating."
     "Which is?"
     "That your son is smarter than he is."

     Blaze sat in the living room reading through the stack of paperwork that Horatio had given him to sign.  He'd read through it three times already, but there was still something that seemed off about it.  As the daylight in the room began to fade, he reached up to the table lamp beside him and switched the light on.  If he had turned to look, he would have seen the small black microphone that had been placed just inside of the lampshade.  It might have made him curious enough to check all the lampshades in the room, but just as he started to turn his head the sound of a key in the front door lock caused him to look in that direction instead.

     "Kendall, come look at this."
     "What is it?"
     "The paragraph here about how the foundation will be funded.  I've read it four times now, and it just isn't making any sense to me.  It's like circular logic."
     "Didn't the corporate attorney go over it with you?"
     "No, your dad's assistant came by and dropped it off earlier.  He said to just sign where indicated and he would be back to pick it up in two hours.  He's going to be here in about 20 minutes, but I'm not signing anything I don't understand.  I'm not a rocket scientist, but it looks to me like the foundation is funding itself.  I just can't figure out where the money is coming from.  It also looks like both you and I would accept full responsibility and liability for any failure of the foundation to perform as promised."
     "Let me see that."

     Kendall sat down at the dining room table and read through the document slowly.  The more he read, the more he felt furious immobility begin to overcome him.  Why would his father have drawn up a contract like this?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

6 ~ Peppermint

     River at Drifting Through Life will be hosting Words on Wednesday for the month of August. This rotating party of words was started by Delores a long time ago. Computer issues led her to bow out for a while. The party was too much fun to let go, and now Words for Wednesday is provided by a number of people and has become a movable feast.
     Essentially the aim is to encourage us to write. Each week we are given a choice of prompts: which can be words, phrases, music or an image. What we do with those prompts is up to us: a short story, prose, a song, a poem, what have you. We can use some or all of the prompts.

1 ~ Completely Opposite but Exactly the Same
2 ~ Blazing
3 ~ Kendall
4 ~ Two Birds
5 ~ Fox in the Trees

     Blaze scratched his neck where his collar rubbed from the tie he was wearing.  He felt like a fish out of water and wondered if this was all a mistake.  Kendall had insisted that he present the idea to his father and the board of directors.  They had argued over it for two days.  Blaze felt that his lack of education would give the board reason to treat him with derision, but Kendall felt that it was Blaze's personal experience that would make the presentation believable.

     "Hey, the secretary over there thinks that you look like Keanu Reeves and wants to know if you'd like her phone number?"

     Blaze looked where Kendall indicated, and then back again to see Kendall crying with a stifled laugh.  The secretary was probably as old as his grandmother might have been, and had thick glasses on.  She was busy filing papers while answering the phone headset she had balancing on her hair bun.

     "Yeah, right.  She needs to get her eyes checked.  Pretty funny Mr. Mendacious."
     "Oh, a big word there!  Have you been watching Wheel of Fortune again?"
     "No, Jeopardy.  It has given me a plethora of names for you."

     The two men laughed, breaking the tension that they both felt.  The board meeting had gone well, and surprisingly Blaze's presentation was well received.  Each of the twenty board members and Kendall's father had been given detailed manuscripts of the proposal for their review.  Now the two friends were waiting to find out whether or not they had voted in favor of establishing the foundation.

     "Look, I know all of this stuff is a little unfamiliar to you, but have you thought at all what you want to call the foundation if they approve it?"
     "I hadn't really thought about it.  I mean, the last few weeks have been just a blur with trying to get everything ready for today's meeting.  I just never even imagined that it would get this far."
     "And now?"

     Blaze looked out the window at the city below and remembered someone he met once on the street.  A girl he had liked, and thought that maybe if their lives had been different they might have had something.  He spoke her name so gently that at first, Kendall thought he was vaguely mistaken.  But the expression on Blaze's face told him that there was something more.

     "Tell me about her."
     "She was a runaway, like me, but a few years younger.  When I first saw her, she was hiding in the same dumpster I was.  I'd almost jumped in on top of her.  It was right after the holidays, and she had covered herself in some kind of ornamental garland.  I didn't even realize she was there until she moved."

     Blaze thought back to that night.  It was freezing, and the sides of the dumpster were so cold that he thought for sure he was going to freeze right to them.  He moved to get more trash between him and the metal, and as he did, she moved to the corner farthest from him, startling him in the process.  Neither of them spoke that night, nor did they sleep, unsure of what the other might do if they did.  In the morning he watched her slip out of the dumpster, a piece of peppermint candy stuck in her hair.

     She was beautiful in a way he had never seen before in a girl.  Her eyes had been blue, like the cornflowers that grew in the field where he liked to sit when he needed to get away from the city.  Strawberry blond hair that fell below her shoulders, and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks.  He'd only heard her laugh one time when she was playing with a stray puppy, but other than that time he'd never heard her speak. 

     He saw her only a few more times after that before he heard that she'd been killed.  No one really knew how.  Some said she'd been trapped and crushed in a garbage compactor truck.  Others said she'd killed herself when she'd been raped and forced into prostitution.  The saddest thing about her death, however, was the fact that no one knew her name or where she had come from.  Somewhere there were parents missing a child, who would never know that her laughter had been silenced forever.

     If he spent too much time thinking about all the what-ifs, his thoughts would lead him down a dark tunnel, spinning out of control.  What if he had said something to her that first night in the dumpster?  What if he had protected her?  What if, what if, what if?  His eyes narrowed as he tried to fight back unexpected tears.

     Kendall put a hand on his shoulder just as the door of the boardroom opened.

     "They're ready for you."
     The man watched from a dark SUV across the street, waiting for Kendall and Blaze to exit the building.  It was his job to signal that they were on their way back to the cabin, alerting the men who were searching it, planting bugs and cameras.
     The fire sparked as Kendall moved the logs around to burn evenly.  Blaze sat silently watching the flames dance.

     "What are you thinking?"

     Blaze shook his head.  "So many things, and nothing at all.  I was trying to think of a name for it, but then I was going to bed, where I planned to stay until Christmas.  I know who I want to name it after, but I just don't have a clue what her name was.  I can't call it The Peppermint Foundation.  People will think Charlie Brown is running it."

     "Why can't you name it The Peppermint Foundation?  Her story is everything the foundation is about.  It's about finding the lost and giving them names.  Maybe in the process, we could try to find out who she was.  I'm sure the police have pictures of her, don't they?

     "I really don't know.  It's been so long, there were so many stories about how she died, I don't even know what the truth is.  All I know is that one day she was there, and the next day she was gone.  It was a crazy time back then, always struggling to find food, trying to find a warm, dry place to sleep at night, running from the gangs and the cops.  Even when I calmly said I'm always careful, I'd step straight into a puddle.  I don't even know if I ever gave anyone my real name, and I'm sure if she ever told anyone, it probably wasn't her real name.  Sometimes people went to the streets to disappear.  It wasn't always involuntary."

     They sat silently after that.  Watching the flames.  Listening to the distant howl of a wolf, and dismissing the sound of branches breaking in the woods as just being deer moving in the underbrush.  Neither of them suspected the storm that was coming.