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Onto My Next 40 Years

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Cubing the Stories #10

Write a short story using the dice pictured above (The Blog Propellant)

Three weeks ago, I friend of mine named George called and asked if I wanted to go camping.  George is not the outdoorsy type, so naturally I was intrigued.

“Why do you, of all people, want to go camping?”  I asked.

“Well…I found this old teepee in my grandfather’s basement the other day.  I remember him telling me about it as a kid.  He told me stories of when he used to take my Dad out several times a year and they would camp under the stars in the teepee.  He had always wanted to take me too, but after he had that first stroke when I was four, he never could.  I dreamed about it all the time though.  I wondered what it would be like to be out there with him, so I thought it might be a nice way to remember him and my Dad now that they are both  gone.  What do you think?”

“I would love to, but what happens if we can’t get the teepee up?  What if it’s so old it just falls apart?  Don’t get me wrong, I loved your grandpa and your dad and would love to sit around and talk about them with you, but I’d like to know that we’re going to have at least a little something between us and the wildlife.”

“Oh, no worries there.  I already brought it up from the basement and spread it all out for an inspection to make sure it was all in one piece.  Everything seems in working order.  I even think I can get it standing.  I was going to do a practice run this week  to make sure though.  So, will you come with me?”

I sat so quietly contemplating my decision that George thought I had ended the call, but eventually I agreed to go.

We  left on our adventure a week later.  We packed everything from flashlights to first-aid kits into my jeep and followed the directions to the campsite his grandfather used to always go to.  George had found a box with maps,a bunch of little boxes and whatnot, and postcards/letters his Dad had sent home while camping in the teepee.  George had only looked at the maps.  He had thought that going through the box was something we could do once we got there.  “I think it will have more meaning if we see the stuff and read the letters in the place they were written,” he’d explained when I asked as we drove.  I kind of understood that, but I don’t think I could’ve resisted looking if I were him.

The trip to the campsite only took a little over 3 hours.  The final directions were to turn right onto this dirt road that lead into a forest that seemed to get darker the further we drove into it.  It was a little creepy and I began to feel uneasy.  I kept trying to tell myself that it was all in my head, but then I kept seeing movement and sometimes glowing yellow eyes every now and then.  George noticed that I had started to look a little nervous and asked, “Are you okay?”  I just shook my head and said, “I’m fine.  I think I’m just getting hungry and a little tired.”  He seemed to accept my answer, but my unease kept growing and just as I was about to ask him if we could turn around, we came to a break in the forest and the sunlight returned.  It felt warm on my skin and my fear began to fade.  Siri announced that our destination would be on our left in half a mile.  A sign appeared that read, “Sunflower Ranch and Camping Grounds” and just after it, a driveway.  We turned in, paid for our campsite and return we got a map.  The man also told us to watch out for sheep in the road.  “They are apart of the ranch and move about freely, but generally move out of the way when cars approach,” he’d warned.  When I looked at the map, it seemed that our site was the furthest from the road and didn’t really have any other sites near it.  I was happy about that.  When George and I get to talking about old times, we tend to get a little loud.  Every other time, we’d gone camping, we had always gotten warnings to be quiet from the Ranger on duty.  Maybe this time would be different.

We made it to the campsite without encountering any sheep.  We unloaded most of what was in the jeep and George began putting up the teepee.  I jumped in to help as needed.  He had obviously practiced more than once because it seemed like the teepee was up in no time.  I took pictures of us with the teepee using my tripod.  There was no cell service out here, so I couldn’t post anything just yet, but I wanted to document our trip.  I started thinking of what to call our trip, “Our Adventure into the Trees” or “A Night in a Teepee”.  I wouldn’t decide yet since so much could happen overnight that could really define our time here.

George started making a fire and I found the portable speaker and got some tunes going.  Then I started pulling out the ingredients I had already pre-chopped for campfire nachos and threw them into the cast iron skillet.  Once I was done arranging it into the pan, the fire was just starting to really catch.  It wasn’t quite hot enough to cook on yet, so I grabbed the bottle opener and cracked open a few beers.   George set out the folding chairs.  We took a seat and watched the fire as it grew and started to give off warmth.  After our first beers were gone, we got up and I started the nachos while he finished unloading our stuff.  He set the table and moved our chairs to the table.  He disappeared into the teepee for a bit and when he reappeared, he was carrying a big box.

“Here’s the box of camping stuff I told you about.  I can’t wait to go through it,” he said as he set it down on the table.

“Wow, that’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be.  How many times did your Dad and Grandfather come out here?” I asked as the smell of the cooking nachos hit me and made my stomach rumble.

“My dad said they would go at least 5 or 6 times a year.  They had a good relationship and enjoyed spending time together.  Times were different back then before cell phones, iPods, iPads, and TV.  My dad said he hardly ever watched TV even though they had one.  He loved being outside.  That’s how he became fascinated with bugs and decided to study them when he got to college.”

“I remember that one time I came to your house and your dad had brought home those bugs he had found on his trip and he was mounting them.  It gave me the heebee jeebees.  How did you not have nightmares all the time?”

“I have been learning about bugs and touching them for as long as I can remember.  I never found them gross or scary.  They were always just there.”

I brought the nachos to the table and we dug in, burning our tongues, but we were so hungry, we didn’t care.

Once we were full, we cleared the table and cleaned up.  Then George put the box back on the table and we started spreading out the things we found inside.  We made pile of the postcards/letters.  There were also;

  • a bunch of old coins
  • a few old matchbox cars
  • a big box of polished/unpolished rocks
  • another smaller box filled with old arrowheads and what looked like little bones
  • a sketch pad filled with drawings of bugs, birds, and trees
  • a small arrow
  • a weird little statue of what looked like a bear

We sat down and just looked at everything, turning them over in our hands, and inspecting the items.  George’s Dad had been a really good artist even at a young age.  He started to add real details around age 9.  The pictures of the spiders really creeped me out because they looked so real on the page.  It was like they were going to pop right out at me.  At the back of the book, there was a picture of the weird little bear statue sitting in the hollow of a tree with a notation saying “Found on December 23, 1955”.

George picked up the pile of postcards and started reading them out loud.  They told stories of fishing and bug catching, long hikes up into the hills, finding caves, being scared of a snake that had wiggled across their path, and this one time he had fallen out of their canoe because he had been laughing so hard at a hawk that had caught a snake, but the snake had wrapped itself around the hawk’s wing in flight and made if fall from the sky.  The snake had escaped as the hawk just lay there dazed from the fall.

The last letter was different from the others.  George’s Dad’s handwriting looked shaky and rushed and the story it told was weird.  The letter began one morning right after breakfast, a bird had landed on their table and kept tweeting at them.  It would hop towards the end of the table tweeting then come back.  It seemed that the bird wanted them to follow it.  So they did.  The bird would fly aways and then tweet till they caught up and then fly again.  Eventually they found it sitting outside a cave they had never seen before.  They approached the cave quietly and looked in and listened.  Something in there seemed to be in pain.  The bird flew in and when they didn’t follow, it came back out and pecked George’s Dad on the head and flew back in again.  It did this several times before they cautiously went in.

Just a short way into the cave, they found a baby bear holding it’s paw and crying out.  George’s Grandfather was worried about the Momma bear coming back and finding them there and suggested they let the little bear be and go.  His Momma would help him.  It wasn’t their job, but George’s Dad disagreed.  He didn’t want to leave the little bear crying like that.  He approached the bear.  At first, the baby bear growled and tried to swipe it him, but the bird that had lead them there pecked the baby bear on the head and the bear stopped.  The little bear let George’s Dad look at it’s paw.  At first he thought it was just a stick protruding out, but when he got a good look at it, he realized it was an arrow.  Someone had shot the bear.  Father and son worked together to get the arrow out and bandage up the baby bear.  They kept an eye on the bear for the rest of their camping trip, but never saw it’s mother.  They were heading home when George’s Dad got really upset about leaving the poor little bear all alone.  They turned around and took all the food they had left in the truck to the cave for the bear.

“That’s it?  That’s the end of the story?”  I asked George when he stopped reading.

“Looks like it.”

“But I wanna know what happened to the baby bear.  Did it’s Momma ever come back?  Did it survive?”

“It doesn’t say and I don’t see any other letters or postcards that come after that one.  What a cliffhanger!”

“There has to be another letter.  Check the box again.”

George looked in the box, checking under the flaps and turning it upside down.  Nothing.

I picked up the letter and read through it again hoping to find clues we may have missed the first time around, but it wasn’t until I was putting the letter back in order that I noticed the date at the top.  George’s Dad had written the letter in August of 1955.  1955…where had I seen that?  I searched the other letters and the coins.  Nothing.  Was I imagining it?  Then I saw George looking through the sketchbook.  I grabbed it from him and I went straight to the last page.  The sketch of the weird little bear statue.

“Look George, this sketch was drawn after the letter.  It’s the statue from the box.”

They both looked over at the statue.  Had his Dad made it in remembrance of the bear?  It looked like it had been whittled.  As I reached out to touch it, I felt a shock like I had been dragging my feet across a carpet.  I pulled my hand back and just looked at it.  Hmmm…weird.

“I guess we’ll just have to wonder,”  George said as he picked it up without incident.  I nodded my head, but I hate unanswered questions and I knew it would bug me the rest of the night.

We ended up sitting around the fire talking about the good old days until we both grew tipsy and tired and passed out in the teepee.

I was woken up by the smell of smoke and was that electricity?  As I reached over to wake George, something entered the teepee and grabbed my sleeping bag and pulled me out.  As my head cleared the teepee, I saw what had pulled me.  It was a bear.  There were two of them.  The bigger one, bit the side of my sleeping bag and lifted me up over of the smaller one, and laid me on the top.  As soon as the big bear let go, the little bear took off.  It was then that I noticed the teepee was on fire.  George!  I tried to wiggle off the bear, but that only made him run faster.  Just as we were leaving the clearing of our campground, I saw the big bear pulling George out.  A bird swooped down then and pecked George on the head.  George looked up and saw the teepee was on fire and moved away on his own.  It started to pour down rain then.  This all seemed so surreal.  I just hung on to the bear and went with it.  I saw George running behind the big bear and the little bird on the path behind us.  What the hell was going on?  Where was this bear taking me?

I thought we were never going to stop, but then we entered a cave and the little bear shook me off.  I got myself out of my sleeping bag just as George and the others caught up to us.

George bent down to help me up.  “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I think so.  Is this really happening?  I’m not dreaming am I?”

George pinched me. “Ow! That Hurt!”

“Nope you’re not dreaming,” he said.

The bird pecked George on the head and flew toward a light in the cave.  We followed and found many pictures on the walls.  The big bear pointed at a picture of lightning and then one of a teepee, then back at us.  Was he trying to talk to us?

“Lightning struck our teepee?” George asked.  He seemed to be catching on quicker than I.

The bear nodded.

“Why did you save us?”

The big bear turned around and moved further back into the cave.  The bird pecked our heads and we followed.  The bear stopped and pointed again.  We had to get close to see what he was pointing at this time.  It was a picture of two stick figures putting food at the mouth of the cave with a tiny bear inside.  Next to this picture were five sun drawings in a row.  The big bear touched each sun and then there was a big bear entering the cave.  Then there was a picture of the bird pecking at a fallen log.  Followed by a picture of the weird little bear statue.  The big bear held up the statue now and I got chills.

George said, “You saved us cause my family saved you?”

The bear nodded.

We both said “Thank you” in unison and smiled.  We now knew the end of the story as crazy as it was.

We never spoke of the bears or the bird to anyone else, but we continued to go out there to visit them and we would always share a meal.

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Scorpio

Photo Courtesy of pixabay.com

Inspiration Call: Write a short story structured as a horoscope in seven sentences or less. Choose your own sign, or have fun with another zodiac sign. Don’t forget to tell us the sign.

Be careful today dear Scorpio, as you may feel jealous of a co-workers achievements.  Fear not, you will get your time to shine in the coming months.  Keep your whits about you and use that pent up tension to get out for a walk today if the weather’s nice or head to the gym if it’s not.  Tonight, a friend will need you to be a good listener.  Listen and be honest even when you don’t want to be.  They need to know who their real friends are.  A financial opportunity will present itself in the morning, so get to bed early tonight.

Daddy’s Girl

Inspiration Call: Life is about relationships. As with everything in life, all relationships end for various reasons. Think about a relationship that you valued that has ended—a friend, a lover, a family member. Write a poem that encapsulates your sense of loss and appreciation and how this particular person impacted your life. The power of poetry transcends everything that ends.

The day I was born,

You were there,

You held me up,

For the world to share,

I had brothers and a sister too,

I joined the family,

And went home with you.

We had food, clothes and a house,

You partied too much,

Mom found a new spouse.

Things changed that day,

We lived in our car,

And slept by the bay.

You had a heart attack,

And Grandma took us in.

Mom came back,

And custody she did win.

Fours years away,

Thousands of miles from you,

Worrying each day,

And wondering what to do.

Living in a new place,

Trying to adjust and make new friends,

Moving from space to space,

And waiting for this time to end.

Finally old enough to decide,

I chose you,

And flew back to your side.

Little sister, Step mother, and a new school,

But it was all worth it,

Everything was cool.

Long road trips,

Singing in the Car,

 Chips and dips,

Driving real far.

Family game nights,

Good times could be found,

Watching star lights,

Smiles all around.

Patient talks,

Encouraging me to write,

Pacman rocks,

Space Invaders we would fight.

Midnight movies,

Staying up late,

Feeling groovy,

But time wouldn’t wait.

Everything would soon end,

My heart would be broken,

And never mend.

I miss you Daddy.

 

Looking for Another Lead

Photo-Fiction #51 – (Random Michelle) Write a story or poem based on the the picture in 300 words.

George sat going through the file of the person he was to question next.  They only had a few hours before they had to get back to work.  This was an off the books operation.  His partner of twenty years was helping him.  They had finally brought in the two guys they had each taken turns following for weeks in connection to the disappearance of his daughter Julie.   She had been missing for a year.  Three months ago,  George had been going through her room again.  He pulled all the books off of her shelves, sat on her bed and went through them looking for clues of any kind.  Julie had been an avid reader.  She tagged her favorite quotes, made notes in the margins, and posted reviews on her vlog.  He read her notes, visited each spot that was marked, and then flipped through and shook each book.  He found himself learning a lot about his daughter that he hadn’t known.  She really thought about the books she read and the underlying lessons  in each story.  She always tried to talk him about the books she read, but he only half listened.  He regretted that now.  He’d been beaten himself up about how little he had paid attention to her because maybe he could’ve protected her if he’d known what was going on in her life.  Eventually, he’d found a handwritten note that said, “Victor, White Door Publishing @ The Crazy Bean 4pm 8/16”  That was the day she’d gone missing.  The two guys they had brought in worked for Victor.  They suspected Victor was some sort of internet pimp, selling girls online, but they didn’t have anything concrete yet.  George heard footsteps approaching the door.  He put his game face on and hoped he could get another lead.

 

The Little Clown

Inspiration Call: While shopping downtown one day, you find an antiques store that has a rare, old doll. You buy it for your daughter. A few days later she tells you her new toy can talk. You don’t believe her, until one afternoon you find yourself alone in the house, and it starts talking to you. Write this scene.

Finished with the dishes, Karen moved into the living room pushing the vacuum in front of her as she went.  The kids would be home from school soon and she wanted to straighten up a bit and get all their things in their boxes for them to put away before they got their homework out.  They had just started a new organization/cleaning system where each member of the family has a box on the stairs.  When anyone finds something belonging to someone else in any of the rooms downstairs, they could just throw it in that person’s box and each day everyone was responsible to take their boxes upstairs and put their things away.  The system seemed to be working, so before she started vacuuming, Karen searched the living room for toys, clothes, shoes, books, etc. that had been left out in the morning rush to get ready for school.  She found the boots Billy had taken off when he remembered today was a field trip day and had changed to his more comfortable sneakers.  Liza’s journal for her English class was under the pillow.  Karen was tempted to read it.  She stood there holding it debating whether or not to open the cover.

“I wouldn’t read it if I were you.”

Karen screamed and turned around looking for the person who had spoken.  She saw no one.  She threw the journal down and started moving around the living room searching for the owner of the voice.  Her adrenaline was pumping as she moved quickly.  All she could think was that if someone was in the house she wanted to get them out before the kids got home, but as she ran from room to room finding nothing and no one, she began to wonder if maybe she had just imagined it.  She went back downstairs feeling weird and a little silly.  She grabbed a bottle of water from the kitchen and went back into the living room to sit down for a second to catch her breath.  As she sat there, her eyes wandered around looking for all the things to pick up when she got started cleaning again.  She took a few more sips of water and then got up, filled her arms with everything she had seen and walked them to the boxes to be sorted.

The last thing in her hand was the doll Liza had gotten at Joe’s Antique shop last weekend.  Karen hadn’t wanted to buy it because it was just the creepiest looking doll she had ever seen, but Liza had fallen in love with it the minute she saw it.  Liza had an obsession with clowns.  She loved them.  On the weekends, Liza experimented with face paint and trying different looks.  She would spend hours working on shows to act out for them.  It had all started last summer when they had gone to the circus.  Karen had gotten them front row seats and Liza had just been amazed by the clowns when they had come close.  She talked about it for weeks afterwards and then as Halloween had rolled around, she begged to be clown.  So, Karen had bought her the clown doll.  Liza had come to her yesterday to tell her that the doll talked.  At first Karen thought she meant she had found a pull string or something that made the doll speak, but Liza had insisted that it was magic.  That it actually talked to her, it knew her name, and it had loved the face paint design she had created last night.  Liza had tried to get it to say something to her, but the doll had remained lifeless and limp in her hands.  Liza had been frustrated and upset.  Karen threw the doll in Liza’s box and turned to plug in the vacuum.

“Ow, that hurt.”

Karen quickly turned back and looked at the doll.

“You didn’t have to throw me so hard.”

She had seen it’s lips move that time, but she still didn’t believe it.

“Liza said you didn’t like me.  Why don’t you like me?”

Was she really seeing and hearing this or was she losing her mind?  She walked back to the box and picked the doll up.

“Not so tight.  That hurts.”

She loosened her grip and said, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.”  The doll’s eyes swiveled up to meet hers and asked, “So, why don’t you like me?”

Karen was a little scared that the eyes moved but answered, “To be honest, you’re a little…uh…”

“Creepy,” the doll finished.

“Yeah.  I have never liked dolls with eyes like yours.  My Grandma had this huge doll collection in her living room and whenever I went in there, I felt like their eyes followed me wherever I went.  I had trouble sleeping at her house when I was a kid because I always imagined them coming to life and attacking me in my bed. ”  She couldn’t believe she was talking to a doll.  Was she having a mental breakdown?  Was this a hallucination?

“I’ve heard that a lot.  I think that’s why the little boy Donald painted my face and dyed my hair.  He was scared of me and wanted his sister, Tara, to get rid of me, so he turned me into her biggest fear, a clown.  Their Mom couldn’t get the paint off, so they put me in the garage sale box.  I was really sad.  I liked Tara a lot.  The nice man at the antique store found me at the garage sale and bought me.  He liked my clown look and almost kept me for himself, but his girlfriend objected.”

“I’m so sorry,” Karen said still feeling weird talking to a doll, but deciding to just go with it.  “So, how come you can talk?”

“I don’t know.  I didn’t know I could until I talked to Liza.  I sat there watching her do her face paint last night and was so impressed, it just came out.  I was surprised.  That’s why when she brought me to you last night, I didn’t say anything.  I was in shock and a little scared.”

“Why talk to me now then?”

“You were going to read Liza’s journal and I knew she didn’t want you to.  Well, at least not yet.  She’s been working on a new show and wrote about it in there and that would spoil it if you read about it before she got to perform it for you.”

“Oh.”

“It’s going to be an amazing show.”

“Thanks for stopping me then.  I had noticed she seemed to not want me read it and was worried something was going on at school or with her friends.  I worry about this obsession with clowns and how it might be affecting her social life at school.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that.  She told me all about it that first day she brought me home. Her friends thought clowns were weird at first, but Liza has included them in her show plans, asking for their help with different face paint designs, outfits, learning new moves/funny faces/jokes, etc.  Their planning sessions have become something they all look forward to because they have so much fun.  Plus, Liza did a show on a dare at school a few months ago and one of the boys that they all think is super cute stopped to watch and then talked to them all afterwards.”

This was news to Karen and it was good to hear, though knowing that boys were becoming apart of the picture scared her a little.  She knew the day would come, but she had hoped it wouldn’t happen just yet.

“Thanks for telling me.”

“Your welcome.  I really like Liza and you seem nice too.”

“Thanks.  I worry about her.  She’s going to be 12 next month and I wonder what her teenage years are going to be like.  Is she gonna to stay this passionate young girl or are things going to change?”

Just then they both hear the school bus pull up in front of the house and the doors bang open.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll watch over her for as long as she let’s me and I’ll tell you when something big happens.  Now put me in the box before she comes in so she doesn’t know we’ve talked.”

Karen gently placed the doll in Liza’s box and quickly went to open the door for the kids.  Before she turned the knob, she looked back at the little clown.  It winked at her and she winked back.  She still couldn’t believe she had just had a conversation with a doll, but she was kind of looking forward to having another pairs of eyes helping her through this crazy time to come in her daughter’s life.

 

 

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