Throwback Thursday #32–Short Story: A Ghost Story

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

Again, I find that I’m late in posting my Throwback Thursday story. Ah well. Life happens. Today I have something I wrote about seven years ago in the summer. At the time I was hosting a regular writing group in my dorm on campus and I first posted this story on the blog that our group had.

***

“Who’s that man?” the girl inquired, pointing. The man, his shoulders drooping scarecrow-like, took the sidewalk in a shuffle. A mass of yellow grocery bags beleaguered his arms. The plastic bulged, eclipsing his body with a kind of grotesqueness that only grocery bags have.
“Who?” came her mother’s voice. She entered the living room, flour-dusted, apron strings swinging rebelliously. “Oh. He lives at the end of the street, I think.” She leaned over, peering at him. The man slowly passed, head downward, a visible mutter emanating from his mouth.
“He seems very unhappy,” the girl remarked. She leaned her chin on her chapped knuckles thoughtfully, eyes fixed on the figure. “I wonder why. I wish we could do something for him. But I don’t know what that would be. He’s a little scary too.”
“Hm.” Her mother made an ambiguous noise, and returned to the sanctum of her flour and mixing bowl.
But the man shuffled till he disappeared from their sight and all but the windows of his own house confronted him with their shiny cold stare. His windows were dark. They were often dark, now that she didn’t brighten them anymore. She hadn’t brightened them for months now, neither with the lamps she turned on at night nor with the smile she bestowed on him each morning. He couldn’t turn anywhere these days with seeing her in the watercolors on the wall or in the extensive racks of bright-spined cookbooks. He dumped the bags on the table, repulsed by their fullness, hands trembling just a little. Half of their contents he would probably eat, when he felt like it. He only bought so much because she would have. His glance barely passed over the list next to the fridge, spidered with handwriting that he couldn’t look at.
The alcove to his bedroom gaped dimly at him as his weary feet drifted toward it. The door was shut, although he didn’t remember shutting it. He was beginning to forget everything these days. Everything, that is, except for the face emblazoned across his eyes. His hands found their way to the knob, which turned, and he went in.

~

The ants were at it again. They swarmed the peonies in the front garden, so carefully planted by hands now cold (if they were hands at all) as the ice in the man’s glass. He sat on the front porch, book open in his lap, condensation streaming quietly down the side of his lemonade. Bugs had infested the roses too; he could see them between the railing spokes.
“Excuse me, sir?”
The old man started. His glass dribbled onto the corner of the page.
“What!” he choked.
The girl stepped back, twisting her braid around her fingers. “Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to—“
“What are you doing here?” he demanded. Gripping the chair arm he stood, his grey eyebrows knotting themselves tighter.
“We just—just wanted to invite you to dinner some night. My mom and dad and brothers and me. Just us. And we’d make whatever kind of thing you wanted to eat,” she added desperately. “Oh and we’re the Turners, and I’m Imogene, but everyone calls me Ginny.” The toe of her sneaker found itself a nice hole in the dirt.
The old man stared, a reluctant introduction of himself withering in his mouth. She called to him, but he wanted to leave. He was sick of darkened windows and gaping bedroom doors at night.
“Ah, well, if that’s the case…” he muttered, sitting down. “Franklin Lewis is the name. Never Frank.” At least he could preserve that name from desiccation by anyone else’s speech. “And yes…maybe. We’ll see. How if I call you? You have a number, I suppose…”
“Yes!” said Ginny, and gave him the number.
He walked to the Turners’ on Thursday evening, a tune lingering around the edges of his mouth. It was there when he returned, his ears still sounding pleasantly with laughter, belly satisfied. But sweat dampened his pillow the next morning. She was there again, there in his head and dreams. He couldn’t get away from her.
Ginny came again a week later, riding her bicycle in broad sweeps down the sidewalk. The man’s back bobbed white-shirted in the sunshine, clippers busy in the peony leaves.
“Mr. Lewis!” Her voice piped across the bushes.
He straightened with a jerk. Ginny was looking confused.
“I thought you said you didn’t like flowers.”
“Never said that,” the old man replied, bending over a rose-bush. These were her flowers, all of them. A thorn pricked his thumb. Treacherous things, those roses were, but he had to look after them, for her.
“Yes, you did say that,” Ginny ventured. “That night at dinner. Remember?”
He remembered. It was true. His hands clipped faster with the pair of blades, in and out, trimming away the dried and blackened heads.
“Ah well, suppose I did then. I changed.”
“Oh.” Ginny stood on one leg, surveying the brilliant masses of buds before her. “You know, you’re different, Mr. Lewis, in a sort of a way. I’m not sure how, but you are.”
He froze, hands buried in the rose bush. The bright sunshine couldn’t keep away the shiver that crept down his back. She couldn’t know. She couldn’t find out. He had to keep it from her.
“So what if I am?”
The girl backed away slightly. “Sorry. I just wanted to say hi.” She sped away, hair streaming behind her.
The old man turned, swearing inwardly for what he had just done. The screen door had blown open in a sudden gust of wind. His clippers thudded gently on the ground. He clambered up the steps to the house. Light blazed across its windows.
A hand touched the back of his neck. He had felt it many times before, but could never stop himself from cringing as its ice prickled down his spine. He spun around as a cold draft met his skin.
On the sofa a figure sat, the floral pattern shimmering through what would have been her flesh. Wreathes of smiles threatened themselves at the corner of her mouth.
“There you are, Frank, my love,” she breathed. Drifting upwards, she extended a hand toward her husband.
“Sorry, dear,” bleated the old man. “I was just talking with someone.”
“Why do leave me alone?” whispered his wife. “That night I came to you in the bedroom—you’ve wanted to get away from me.” Her arms enveloped him, and the old man gasped.
“But dear—“
“I’ll never leave you, Frank,” she said. At that moment the screen door crashed, and they were alone.

~H

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Flash Fiction: Not an Ordinary Tuesday

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Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash.

It was Tuesday, which meant that all but one of the maids were out for their break, and the one that was left was busy cleaning up after a particularly rowdy troll who had hosted a party the night before. Olivia realized that she would have to clean up the vampire’s bathroom herself. What a nasty job. She had encountered such bathrooms before. She’d better gear up with some hefty gloves.

At least this vampire was tidier than most, she thought ten minutes later. The bathroom was indeed a mess, but the mess had been confined to the sink and bathtub. Good thing she’d thrown on her red plaid skirt that morning. The stain would be less obvious.

And then she smelled it. The odor of magic. And not just any magic. Hallucinatory magic. The smell of vampire. Too strong for a guest that had left a few hours before.

“Sorry to disturb you, miss,” said a silky voice from outside the bathroom. “I believe I left my robe in the closet.”

Olivia spun around, scrub brush in hand. He was the least threatening vampire she’d ever seen. Thinning grey hair, glasses that he constantly had to push up his nose, small watery eyes that reminded her of dying beetles. His teeth were yellow and crowded together.

“Oh, no trouble,” she said, inwardly greatly relieved, and went back to scrubbing. It was turning out to be not an ordinary Tuesday after all.

~H

https://todaysauthor.com/2019/07/30/write-now-prompt-for-july-30-2019/

https://jillianchantal.com/2019/07/29/tuesday-tales-july-29-2019-plaid/

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/rdp-tuesday-odor/

 

Flash Fiction: Five Children #RDP

There were five of them, Victor with feathers for hair and a toothy smile, Agnes with skin white as milk, Philippa whose footsteps couldn’t be heard, and then of course Emil and Oliver.

Emil could be a beast, and Oliver—well, he was the worst of them, and also the baby.

It was Oliver’s day to be paraded in front of the crowds. People laughed as their held their ear protectors over their ears. They laughed some more as they dropped their payment in the box and turned into the passage between the tents toward the other shows.

But Oliver was not done screaming. He opened his mouth again and screamed as hard as he could. Crawley, their keeper, flew backward and landed in a hay bale. The children’s hard-earned money scattered.

“I think his ears are bleeding,” Agnes whispered.

“Serves him right,” said Victor.

“He’s going to be very angry this time.”

“I know.”

They glanced at Oliver and smiled. The little boy grinned back.

“Well, when he’s locked us up we can prepare our plan of escape,” said Agnes.

The five children looked at each other. It was time.

~H

Progress Update on Novella!

I recently announced that I started work on my second book, a novella this time. I plan to post regular updates on my progress, which hopefully will help with my motivation. So, here is the first of many updates.

Title: The Time Children

Word Count: 837

Chapters: 1

Stay tuned for more!

~H

Throwback Thursday #31–Poem: Summer’s Bride

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Photo by Filip Zrnzević on Unsplash.

For my (late) Throwback Thursday post, I’m sharing a ballad I wrote nine years ago. At the time I had been reading a wide variety of poems and was having fun playing with forms. This form is based on that of a standard ballad. In my notes for this poem I wrote that I had been inspired by a few lines from one of Emily Bronte’s poems; I wish I had written down which one.

A Ballad 

On some grey hill
A distant rill
Amid the forest flows,
Replete with shadows deep and chill
And some strange wind that blows

Throughout the trees
While summer flees,
Defeated by the fall:
Possessor of the sacred keys,
Unlocking winter’s pall;

And there beside
That river’s tide
(Dark flood that sighs and moans!)
She waits, the dying summer’s bride,
Upon the cold-dewed stones.

White spreads her gown
Against the brown
Of bark and mosses dead,
While crimson leaves drift ever down
In aureoles round her head.

No word she speaks
Nor refuge seeks
Though tempests rage and storm,
But waits through heavy days and weeks,
A wasting ashen form;

And in her eyes
Her longing cries:
Deep longing for her lord!
While slain by frost the autumn dies,
As by some ice-sharp sword;

And her dark eyes
Weep like the skies
Whose dark dome shrouds that wood,
Where on the rocks she waits and lies,
‘Mid crimson leaves like blood;

But mute she dwells
In Winter’s spell,
Till her bright summer comes,
For she is bound to that cold dell,
By which that river runs.

On some grey hill
A distant rill
Amid the forest flows,
Replete with shadows deep and chill
And some strange wind that blows.

~H

Poem: Quadrille

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Photo by Milos Prelevic on Unsplash.

Thanks to dVerse–Poets Pub for today’s prompt. https://dversepoets.com/2019/07/15/quadrille-83-8th-anniversary/.

As yet untitled. 

Let me dive in the depths of your eyes,

Let me search within the blood vessels

And barnacled ribs of memories;

There I will find treasure

Sunken among your shipwrecks,

Riches scattered by clandestine currents,

Picked over by the dumb gazes of indifferent fish.

 

~H

Promote Yourself Monday July 15, 2019

Promote Yourself Monday is one of my favorite offerings from Go Dog Go Cafe! Check it out and share some of your own work. 🙂

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Promote yourself Mon

Welcome toPromote Yourself Monday. All Go Dog Go Cafe readers, guest writers, and baristas are invited to postonelink to one specific post (600 words or less please!) from yourblog into the comments section below.

If you post a link, be sure to read some of the other great writing people have linked to.

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