The young girl stood at the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge staring out into the thick gray fog. She secured her long curly black hair up into a bun at the back of her neck as tears rolled down her cheeks. She had come to get a last look at the city she had loved, a city that no longer felt safe, but the fog was so thick this morning, she could barely see 2 feet in front of her. She closed her eyes and thought of the last time she had seen the city from this view point. Tina came here often. Her family lived close by and she liked to run everyday. Running across the bridge provided such a beautiful view, plus she loved seeing all the tourists taking pictures and how happy they were to finally be on the famous bridge. Yes, it was annoying sometimes to run around them as they randomly stopped with their selfie sticks, but she made a game out of it, ducking and dodging them like she was in a video game silently keeping score every time she was successful. Her Mom always had a large glass of cold water and a plate of nuts, apples and cheese waiting on the kitchen table when she got back from her run. She had loved her Mom and all the little things she used to do. Tina began to sob now as she thought about it. Her Mom had been killed 6 months ago. She had been walking to her car in a parking garage downtown when a man had grabbed her hijab from behind, pulled her close, and shot her in the head. The man had been caught a week later because he had gotten drunk and started bragging about what he had done to a friend he thought shared his same hatred. The fact that the man had been caught was a relief at first, but all the media attention, the stares, the insults to her Mom, her family, and to her, were too much. Many people had come to support their family. They had received an outpouring from the community of money, food, and some people even came to walk with her to protect her from the haters, but Tina didn’t feel supported. All she could think about was that her mother was gone. She couldn’t get the images of what she’d seen on TV of the people who supported the man who’d killed her mother out of her head. There had been a spray painted message on their garage that had read “You don’t belong here!” And the worst of it, a group of girls had surrounded the outside of her toilet stall at school and had whispered things like “your mother deserved it”, “your mom was a terrorist”, “muslims are scum”, “I hope it hurt when that man shot her”, “I hope the President deports you and bans you from coming back” and so much more. It seemed like they had kept her trapped in there for hours whispering horrible things, things that kept popping into to her head when she least expected it. She can’t forget them no matter what she does. Her father keeps trying to talk to her, but she doesn’t want him to know about it all. He is already so hurt and so angry. She sees how he struggles to keep going for her sake. She hears him crying all night, but every morning he’s in the kitchen making breakfast and trying to appear like nothing is wrong. Tina had stopped running, stopped laughing, stopped caring. She just wanted it all to end. Everyone kept telling her it would get better in time, just think about the good times, remember who your mother was not the way she died, take one day at a time, but that was all bullshit. Her mother was gone and never coming back. Her life had changed forever and she couldn’t handle it. Her Mom had been her rock. The expectation that she be just as strong as her mother, pick up the pieces, and carry on were unfair. Her mother was exceptional. That man had extinguished her life in seconds knowing nothing about her other than she wore a hijab. Tina pulled one of her mother’s hijabs from of her pocket now and put it on. It felt warm like her mother had put her arms around her. As she straightened the material around her neck and head, she caught a whiff of her mother’s scent. She smiled. It was the scent of lavender. She thought of the time her mother had put a little drop of lavender on her wrist and how grown up she had felt. Tina took a deep breath. And another. She knew she had to be fast. She didn’t want anyone to stop her. Someone may be on their way now with all the crying she had been doing. She was angry with herself. She had told herself that she wouldn’t give off any signs of wanting to jump. That anger helped her stop crying now. She wiped her tears away. She took another deep breath, quickly climbed over the railing, and jumped before she could change her mind.
Photo Fiction #74 (Random_Michelle) – Write a short story in 300 words or less
The monk had been a baby when he’d come to the temple. He’d never met his parents and never would. He’d been told they had died in an accident leaving him orphaned. When the boy had turned twelve, he’d decided to try and get to the village down the mountain to see if anyone had known his parents. He just wanted to hear stories about them. Unfortunately, he never made it to the village. As he slowly and carefully trekked down the mountain, he’d heard the cry of an animal. It sounded hurt. The boy knew that wounded animals could be even more dangerous yet he still went into the direction of the cry. He finally spotted it as he pushed through a thick set of bushes. Upon seeing that it was a tiger, the boy almost turned and ran, but he realized the tiger wasn’t fully grown yet. The tiger turned it’s head toward him and just cried before laying back down. The boy stepped toward it slowly to see if the tiger would try swipe or bite at him. The tiger just watched him. The boy touched the tiger’s head, first petting him and then scratching the tiger’s ears and while he did this, he inspected the tiger looking for where it was hurt. The tiger had scratches and wounds all over and one of it’s legs seemed to be strained or broken. The boy lovingly had taken care of the tiger for weeks, cleaning and tending the wounds and feeding the tiger. The tiger often nuzzled the boy seeking scratches. They were becoming friends. When the tiger was healed, the boy didn’t want to see the tiger go. Everyday year after year, the boy, now a monk, ate his lunch out on the hillside and sometimes the tiger would find him there.
If you’ve been following along with me, you will know that my year has started out a bit rocky. Wisdom teeth and the terrible awful flu have caused havoc these last few weeks, but now that it feels like I am getting back on my feet health wise, it is time to make some goals for this year and work towards them.
I was inspired by the blog Wild Daffodil to do “17 for 2017”, but unlike her goals that use the numbers as part of her goal, I just did 17 goals because I found that I couldn’t fit what I wanted to achieve in the same way. So here goes:
- Make 4 journal pages a month
- Exercise at the gym 2x a week
- Walk 5x a week
- Make (at least) 5 fabric/yarn projects this year
- Write in my journal 3 times a week
- Submit 6 stories to different publications through the year
- Complete 3 5K’s this year
- Read/listen to 65 books (I did 72 last year, but I figured with all my craftiness and writing going on, I may not read as much)
- Make 12 Scrapbook pages
- Take 3 road trips this year (my husband and I used to go all the time…we need to start again)
- Take 1 vacation this year (it’s been nearly 5 years since I’ve taken a proper vacation…it’s time to change that)
- Find 12 geocaches this year
- Commit 12 Random Acts of Kindness this year
- Write my representatives once a month re: current issues coming for a vote or that are concerning me (I figured I gotta start complaining to the right people especially in the times we find ourselves in)
- Work (at least) 10 hours a month preparing for NaMo WriMo – I hope this will be my first year participating
- Draw/Paint/Color 12 times this year
- Buy (at least) one Christmas present a month (trying to avoid draining my bank account in December every year)
I have broken them down by goals I want to achieve weekly/ monthly and by the end of the year. I added pie charts to my bullet journal that I can color and keep track of (as you’ll see in the featured photo for this blog). I will be updating my progress each month at the end of the month to help keep my focus on my goals. I hope to achieve them all, but I’ll be happy if I just stay focused as that seems to be one of my bigger problems. Below are some of the journal pages I created this month to also help me keep track of some of the things in my life. The first is my “Books Read in 2017” page to write in each book as I complete it. My “2017 Year in Pixels” is to keep track of my moods throughout the year. The “Movie Night” page is the place I will glue in all my movie tickets for the year. As you can see, my husband and I finally got out to see our first movie of the year today.
The next one was just for fun. I originally just wanted to make a collage of the Christmas Wrapping paper I used so I can see the different choices I make each year, but then I turned into what you see here. There were 4 different rolls; one with the animals, one with the trees, one with the chevron design, and one that just Merry Christmas over and over.
Here’s to 2017…may we all keep moving forward – remembering the past, living in the present, and looking ahead to the future
(A Story Cube Short Story)
As Kayla sat at her desk trying to figure out how her bank account got overdrawn, she began to feel overwhelmed. Christmas is in a month. How was she going to pay for her ticket home? It had to be an oversight on her part somewhere, but where? She scoured her account again looking for a charge she didn’t recognize or didn’t remember. How could she have done this to herself? What is she going to tell her parents when she tells them what happened? It wasn’t her fault though. At least she didn’t think so. She’d been busy for weeks working on her paper for her Emerging Global Culture Class. Sure she had spent a lot of time at the Coffee Genie working on her notes, brainstorming, and writing, but she hadn’t spent $400 on coffee and snacks had she? No, she had to figure this out. She was going to have to learn how to download her transactions from her bank. She hadn’t signed up for it yet because she was afraid that someone would be able to steal her information from her computer, but maybe someone had already gotten ahold of her banking info. Ugh! She dreaded finding out. She still had finals to get through. The last thing she needed right now was to deal with money issues.
“Oh, sorry…your door was open. I just wanted to drop off your speech for your Psych class. I went over it. It looks good though I did make a few corrections here and there. I think you should…hey, are you okay?” Liam asked as he got a good look at Kayla.
“Thanks Liam. Sorry, I just found out that I overdrew my account and I don’t know how. I thought I’d been doing a good job balancing my account, but somehow I spent $400 that I don’t remember spending.” Kayla stopped because she felt the tears coming and she tried to hold them back. She didn’t want to cry in front of Liam.
“Wow, are you sure you spent the money? Did you go through your transactions?” Liam inquired.
Kayla nodded still trying to fight the tears.
Liam crossed the room and sat next to Kayla on her bed. “How about your wallet? Do you have all your cards? My Mom dropped her card once on her way out of the grocery store and didn’t notice for days till she tried to use it when she went to the gas station. When she reported it lost, she found out someone had been using it and the charges were reversed.”
Kayla grabbed her purse and took out her wallet. Her fingers fumbled trying to unzip it as she hoped that maybe her problems would be solved if she didn’t find her debit card in there. Liam saw her struggling and took the wallet from her and opened it up. Kayla saw the empty slot immediately. Her card was missing. When had she used it last?
Liam told her to call the bank and report it lost and they would go through her transactions with her to see which charges were hers and which were someone else. Kayla was anxious about calling the bank to admit that she had lost her card despite all of her parents warnings before she left for college to always keep track of it. She had promised that she would and now she was going to have to tell them that she’d lost it and not only that, but that someone had used it. She started crying this time. She couldn’t hold back the tears. She felt like she had let her parents down. She had wanted to show them how much of a grown up she was and yet here only a few months into her first semester she felt like she was barely making it. Liam put his arm around her and told her not to worry. The problem was fixable as long as she dealt with it as soon as possible. Kayla took some deep breaths and got herself under control. She thanked Liam for his help and support, but asked if she could be alone to make the phone calls. Liam said he understood and wished her luck before leaving her dorm room closing the door after him.
Kayla got out her cell phone, took a deep breath, and called the bank. The phone call seemed to take forever, but she felt better once it was over. The person who had helped Kayla had been really nice and like Liam had said, they went through each of the transactions on her account until she got to ones she didn’t recognize. Whoever had taken her card had gone to Barnes & Noble and bought almost $75 in books, $40 in yarn from an organic sheep farmer, and had signed up for a sky diving class. Not what Kayla would’ve done if she’d had free access to someone’s card for sure especially not the sky diving class. She was terrified of heights and hated to fly let alone jump out of a plane. The bank told her to file a police report and let them know about the skydiving class since it hadn’t happened yet. Maybe the person would show up and the police could catch them. Kayla wasn’t sure what would happen, but she was glad that the problem on her end was solved. Well, at least most of it. She still had to tell her parents. Maybe she would go tell Liam what happened and get dinner at the commons before she called her them. Talking to the bank had taken a lot out of her. Talking to her parents was going to be even more taxing. She needed a break. Kayla found her hoodie and put it on, grabbed her school ID and her keys, and walked down to Liam’s room. It felt good to move. She’d been so anxious all afternoon. Maybe she needed to go for a run before she talked to her parents. She wondered if Liam liked to run. She hoped he did.
Little Olivia woke up in her bed. She was a little confused because the last thing she remembered was laying on the couch watching TV downstairs with her sister. Olivia was cold. She could see her breath every time she exhaled. She pulled the blankets up over her head. Just as she was starting to warm up again, the blankets were yanked away. Olivia tried to hold onto them, but her little hands weren’t strong enough so she kicked out instead catching her sister in the butt with her foot. The blankets came flying back at her. Olivia reached out to catch them and saw a hand coming at her from the side, but she was too slow to avoid it.
“Ow!” screamed Olivia.
“Well, don’t kick me then, ” her sister Izzy screamed back.
“You pulled the blankets off me,” Olivia retorted.
“You pulled them off of me first!”
“Oh,” said Olivia, “Sorry.”
They both lay in silence until Olivia’s stomach made a sound.
“You hungry?” Izzy asked.
Olivia didn’t want to admit it, but her stomach had already given her away.
“Yeah, my tummy hurts.”
“C’mon, then…let’s go find something to eat.” Izzy slipped out of bed and moved the footstool closer to the bed, held Olivia’s hands, and helped her down onto the stool. Olivia was only 3 and needed help sometimes, but Izzy didn’t mind lending a hand. They often fought, as sisters do, but they also knew they were a team. Their Grandma had told them so one afternoon while baking cookies for the girls.
She’d said, “Girls, your parents work hard and aren’t always there, so you need to be a team. You need to work together and help each other. Take care of one another. Especially you Izzy. Help Olivia and teach her the things you know.” She looked like she was going to cry then and that made the girls worry, so they listened. Once their Grandma got her emotions under control, she continued, “Be helpful to your parents when you can. Clean up after yourselves. You’re a team and together you are unstoppable.” She’d hugged them then and they had squeezed her back. They loved their Grandma. They loved visiting her because she made them feel safe.
Izzy held Olivia’s hand as they made their way quietly downstairs. They didn’t want to wake their Mom. She worked the overnight shift as a nurse at the local psychiatric hospital, or “Loony Bin” as their Dad liked to call it. Speaking of their Dad, they heard noises in the kitchen. They stopped the at the bottom of the stairs. Izzy sat down on the second to the bottom step and Olivia held onto the banister while she climbed up onto Izzy’s shoulders to peek over and look into the kitchen. Sometimes their Dad was in a good mood and sometimes it was better to just avoid him. Olivia had to push up onto her tip toes to see into the kitchen. Their Dad was moving about quickly. He seemed to be cleaning up while the coffee dripped into the pot. Olivia tried to see his face, but he kept moving out of her view.
“I can’t see him good, but he doesn’t look mad,” Olivia whispered down to Izzy. Izzy listened and didn’t hear anything worrisome. Izzy held on to Olivia and she climbed down off of Izzy’s shoulders. They were about to leave the stairs when they heard their Dad coming out of the kitchen. They quickly sat down on the stairs moving as close to the wall as they could and listened. They heard him put on his jacket, grab is briefcase, and head toward the door. He didn’t notice them. He walked out the front door and locked it behind him. The girls crept over to the front window. They saw him get into his car and start the engine. He sat there for a while letting the engine warm up. Finally, he drove away and the girls let out a breath.
They turned around and headed for the kitchen both of them dreaming of something yummy to eat. They started looking around in the pantry since they knew there was nothing left in fridge. They found some saltines. They each had a few while they continued to look around. They were lots of canned foods, but they couldn’t get the can opener to work. Izzy had tried a couple of times, but she wasn’t strong enough to get the blade point through the top of the can. There were a couple of boxes of macaroni and cheese, but they weren’t allowed to turn on the burners on the stove top. Way up high they saw boxes of cereal and a package of cookies. If only they could reach the cereal. Izzy tried to climb the shelves, but as always, when she stepped on the third shelf, it made a scary creaking sound and Izzy quickly stepped back down nearly missing the bottom shelf and falling, but she recovered at the last second and made it back down. Both girls stood there staring at the cereal willing it to fall from the shelf. Olivia’s stomach gurgled again. Izzy had to find something they could eat.
Their Mother hadn’t come out of her room to make dinner again yesterday. She stayed in there a lot. They often heard her crying and the one time they had gone in to see what was wrong, they had found their Mother sitting up in bed surrounded by opened letters scattered all over. She was holding one of the letters and just crying. When their Mother had noticed them, she cried more and shouted at them to leave her alone. So when they had heard her crying again last night as they quietly listened outside her door, they left her alone. There had been some left over fried chicken in the fridge and they had settled on that for dinner, but this morning their prospects of food seemed to be just more saltines.
As they sat on the floor of the pantry eating what was left of the crackers, Izzy looked up at the boxes of macaroni and cheese and decided she was going to break the rules. She reached up, grabbed a box and walk out of the pantry. Olivia followed her worriedly asking, “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to make us breakfast.”
“But we can’t turn on the stove. We’ll get in trouble. Momma will come down with her brush again. Please Izzy, don’t get us in trouble.”
Izzy turned on her sister and said, “Don’t you wanna eat? I’ll be quiet. I’ve watched Momma make it before. Plus, if we get in trouble at least we’ll have eaten something.”
Olivia was worried, but her stomach gurgled again at the thought of getting to eat macaroni and cheese so she didn’t object further. Izzy told her to find the milk and butter in the fridge while she found a pot and a spoon. Izzy couldn’t read, but she knew she had to put water in the pot and put it on the stove. Izzy pulled a kitchen chair over to the sink and filled the pot with water. She filled it so full that she ended up spilling quite a bit of it on her way to the stove, but she got it there. Olivia pushed the chair behind her and after Izzy turned on the burner under the pot, they both climbed up onto the counter to watch the water get hot. Izzy knew you weren’t supposed to put the noodles in until the water got hot, but she wasn’t sure how long that took. Izzy decided to put the noodles in as soon as she started seeing little bubbles on the on the bottom of the pot. They took turns stirring the noodles. Izzy had seen their Mother throw noodles at the wall to see if they were done. Izzy carefully fished a noodle out of the pot and threw it at the wall. It didn’t stick, but some of the water had gotten on her hand. It was hot and she dropped the spoon so she could put her hand in her mouth.
“Are you ok Izzy?”
Izzy pulled her hand out of her mouth and looked at it. There was a little red mark, but the pain wasn’t so bad any more.
“Yeah, I’m alright.”
Izzy picked up the spoon again and started stirring the noodles, but she wouldn’t let Olivia stir anymore. Olivia was mad because she wanted to help too, but she saw the red mark on Izzy’s hand and let it go. They continued to watch the noodles in the pot and got a little worried when the water started boiling. Sometimes the water popped out onto the counter, so Izzy made Olivia get down so she could move away from the stove top a bit, but still see into the pot. Their stomachs started grumbling again so Izzy moved back over and fished out another noodle to throw at the wall. It didn’t stick, but they didn’t want to wait anymore. Izzy turned off the burner. Olivia found the strainer and threw it into the sink. Izzy carefully carried the pot to the sink and set it down before retrieving the chair and climbing up so she could pour the noodles out. She fixed the strainer in the sink first and then poured the noodles in. She was so scared, but she was determined to make them something to eat. Once the water had drained, Izzy put the noodles back in the pot and poured in a little bit of milk while Olivia opened the stick of butter and threw in in the pot. Izzy struggled to get the package of powdered cheese open, but eventually she did and she poured it in. They took turns stirring again. They were excited to see the ingredients mix together and savored the smell. It seemed to take forever for the butter to melt. They tried to wait, but they were too hungry. Olivia got the bowls and Izzy scooped the macaroni and cheese in. They sat on the floor and quickly stuffed the noodles into their mouths. It didn’t tasted the same as when their Mother cooked it, but it was still good. They continued stuffing their mouths afraid their Mother would come downstairs any minute and find out what they had done. She didn’t and eventually their stomachs felt full. They had done it. They had made themselves food. They looked at each other and smiled.
Cubing the Stories 11 (The Blog Propellant)
Five days after the reading of my father’s will, I found myself on a plane to Egypt with an old-fashioned key on a chain around my neck. In his will, my father wrote a list of instructions for me to follow in order to earn my inheritance. His last wishes were that I follow my dreams and travel, so he was sending me to Egypt. While there, I was to visit anywhere I like, but specifically the Egyptian Museum, the Valley of Kings, and the Great Pyramid of Giza where I was supposed to find clues that would lead me to what the key unlocked.
After landing, I took the first few days to get over my jet lag and to explore with no specific agenda. I just wandered around, taking pictures, and talking to some friendly locals about the best places to eat. I felt the stresses of my everyday life slipping away as I lost myself in the city of Cairo.
This morning I was heading to cafe recommended to me by a woman I bumped into at the bookstore. I literally bumped into her as I took pictures (a “shelfie” for my bookstagram account) and dropped the books she was carrying. I helped her to pick them up and we got to talking. I mentioned how much I would like to find a good cup of coffee. The coffee in my hotel room just wasn’t cutting it and I didn’t want to find the Starbuck’s I had heard about. I wanted to really experience Egypt. She said I had to go to Zahrat-el Bustan. I found the cafe, ordered a turkish coffee, and took a seat. I sat sipping my coffee, feeling the caffeine zing through my veins, and writing in my travel journal. As I wrote, I found myself smiling. My Father had been right. I needed to follow my dreams. I rubbed the key between my fingers, looked to the sky, and said, “Thank You Daddy.” Tomorrow I would start looking for his clues and figure out what else he wanted to tell me.
I began with the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. I have always loved museums. My Father took me to many different ones when I was a kid and now I always felt the need to check out the museums in the cities I did get to visit. I roamed around the museum reading the fascinating histories of the pieces presented. As I walked over to see the statue of the Goddess Neith, a man in a suit approached me. He held out his hand and introduced himself as Muhammad. As I shook his hand, he went on to say that he had been a friend of my father’s. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope handing it to me. “Your father gave me this to give to you when I saw you here.” I started to ask how he knew who I was, but he stopped me, put his hand back into his pocket, and pulled out an old photograph of me. It was one my father had taken of me a few years ago when we had gone on a brunch cruise out on the San Francisco bay. It had been right before he’d been diagnosed with cancer. Muhammad and I walked around the museum talking about my father. Muhammad told me so many stories I hadn’t known. They met 45 years ago when my father came to do research for a book he was writing and apparently my father came back quite often to visit and spend time with Muhammad and his family. I wondered why my father had never mentioned it. I thought I had known everything about him. I thanked Muhammad for his time and he invited me to his house for dinner before I left. I accepted his invitation looking forward to learning more about my Father, but what I really wanted right now was to find a place to sit down and read what was inside the envelope. I walked out of the museum and sat down on the nearest unoccupied bench outside. My hands were trembling as I tore open the envelope and pulled the letter out. It read;
My dear sweet daughter,
Just kidding. Hello Lunaloo! I know this must be hard, but I am proud of you for coming all the way here. What do you think? Isn’t this city fascinating? It has become a home away from home for me. Muhammad and his family always welcomed me. I loved to escape here. Being around all this ancient history always got my mind going whenever I was stuck. I think almost every one of my books came from an idea I got while wandering around various parts of Egypt, but the museum was one of my favorites. I spent many hours here thinking about what it must have been like all those years ago when the antiquities seen here were brand new. You know how I used to get. I could day-dream for hours. Muhammad often had to come looking for me when I was late for dinner. He was such an understanding man. I hope you will spend some time here and really take it all in. As you may have guessed by now, I have some friends waiting for you at each of the destinations I asked you to visit. I know I never told you about coming here, but I never told anyone. It was where I came whenever I got writer’s block. I always had to come alone. I didn’t want the distractions or itineraries that traveling with others brought. I hope you can understand. I did want you to see it though. I love you Lunaloo and I always will. Love, Daddy
My eyes teared up a little, but I was able to stop the tears from overflowing. I didn’t want to cry out here in front of all these people. My father’s words warmed my heart. I headed back to my hotel and planned out my next day. I thought I would go to the Great Pyramid of Giza next. I had always dreamt of going there ever since I saw “The Mummy” starring Boris Karloff and started studying everything I could find out about Egypt and mummification as a kid. I wonder if that’s why my Dad brought me here. I dragged him to the library I don’t know how many times to check out book after book about Egypt or even just books where the stories took place in Egypt. I think I was obsessed for over a year before I took a painting class that included a little art history about the techniques we would be learning. I then became obsessed with the painters of old. As all the memories flooded in, I started to feel exhausted physically and mentally and decided to turn in early. Tomorrow had the potential to be another long day.
I made it to the Pyramid early. I wanted to get pictures of it in all kinds of light through the day. I also hoped to get a few shots before a lot of people arrived. I wished I had gone to the cafe first to get a cup of that delicious turkish coffee, but I was here now and ready to learn whatever my Father wanted to tell me today. I sat in silence just staring at the Pyramid when a little old man came walking toward me and introduced himself as Asra. He sat down next to me and handed me a large envelope. As I took it in my hands, I felt that it was quite heavy. Asra was a little out of breath, so I we sat in silence for a few minutes while he recovered.
“Your father saved my life once,” he said. I looked at him surprised. He laughed and continued, “He saw some men chase and corner me in an alley. He followed them in and stood in front of me. They told him to mind his own business, but your father persisted. He asked and kept asking what I had done. They finally told him I owed them money. He asked how much and when they gave him the number, your father didn’t blink, he reached into his bag and he paid the men. After they left, I thanked him, but told him he was crazy for interfering. Your father just laughed and said he couldn’t stand by and watch them kill me. Your father was a good man. I owed him my life and helped him whenever I could after that. He came to see me about two years ago and gave me that package for you. He looked terrible. It broke my heart to see him so weak when all I could remember was that man who stood up for me. He tells me you are just like him; strong, wild, and an imagination that can create worlds far greater than anything he could. He asked me to tell you to stop dreaming of those worlds and start writing those stories in your head down. Inside that envelope is one of his last book ideas. He made a lot of notes and even started writing the story. I read it and helped him edit it as I always have with his books. It’s good, but it’s not finished. I hope you will finish it.” He stopped talking then and I could see tears in his eyes. I put my hand on his and thanked him for being my father’s friend and for all his words. I couldn’t tell him that I was not a writer like my father though. I had always wanted to be, but every time I sat down and tried to get the stories out, they never came. Asra showed me around the Great Pyramid. Telling me more stories I didn’t know about my father. It was another good day and I thought I would be exhausted again as I made my way back to my hotel, but my curiosity about what was in the now very heavy envelope won in the end. I stayed up almost all night reading the story my father had started. I was so engrossed in the story that when a late night lightning storm knocked out the power for an hour, I had used the flashlight on my keychain to keep reading. I was so tired, but I felt energized at the same time. The story had stirred up so many thoughts. I had made notes throughout the night. As I went over them again adding a few things here and there, the exhaustion won out and I fell asleep for 10 hours. I woke up starving and as I left my room in search of food I found a man sitting outside my door. I screamed and started to back into my room and just as I was closing the door, he quickly said, “I knew your father.” I pulled the door back open. “I’m sorry to have frightened you, but when you did not come to the Valley of Kings today, I worried about you and brought your Father’s gift here. I knocked several times, but you did not answer. Are you okay?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. I was just up all night reading my father’s manuscript and fell asleep this morning. I just woke up. Wow, I must have really been sleeping hard. I did not hear your knocks. I am so sorry.”
“Well, I have brought your last present from your Father. How about I take you to a wonderful place I know for dinner and we can talk?”
“Sure, that sounds good.” I doubled checked that I had my room key and left with him. His name was Nofre and the wonderful place he knew was his house. His wife and family were very welcoming and the food was warm and delicious. We talked for a few hours. His stories were funny and spending time with his family was just what I needed after spending most of the last week alone. I kept staring at the box he had brought from my father. It was a large beautifully carved wooden box. I had not missed the keyhole on the front. The keyhole that I bet the key around my neck would fit. Nofre noticed me staring and he got up and brought it to the table in front of me. I took out the key and looked at him, he nodded, and I unlocked the box. Inside were more notes, pictures, drawings, and on the very bottom a laptop. As I pulled everything out and laid it on the table, Nofre told me how he and his father would work on stories together. My father would ask him to take him to see places he’d read about, places that he would eventually include somehow in his stories. They may appear as the city on a space station deep in space or the road trip between two old friends in another or some artifact would change a little, but it would be the treasure the main characters went out on a quest for. They had shared many adventures together and her father had hoped that his daughter would be inspired their adventures too. The drawings included, Nofre had done and sent via texts to her father when he got to weak to travel. His mind had never stopped working. I had known he had kept trying to write, but I didn’t know he had gone to such lengths to get his ideas. I thought he had just come up with them on his own. Now all those talks I had had with my Father about traveling and experiencing life made sense. He’d wanted me to have adventures too. I started crying as I realized how much I had stood in my own way. He had been nudging me for years and now only after he was gone did I see what he’d been doing this whole time.
That night I wrote an e-mail to my boss quitting my job. On the laptop I had found a video from my Father that explained to me about a very large bank account that he had set aside for me to start living. I took his advice and started traveling everywhere I had dreamt about. I worked on the story he had started and when I finished it I brought it back to Egypt and shared it with my Father’s friends. They each read it and gave me some final pointers before I submitted it to my father’s agent. It was 2 long months before he found a publishing house to print it, but I finally became a published author with my father’s name next to mine on the cover. I still wore the key around my neck. It had become a lucky charm of sorts. Standing in the back room at my first book talk and signing, I rubbed the key, looked up at the ceiling, and said, “Thank you Daddy.”
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.
Laurie nudged John as she came back into the living room and said, “Hey, I need your expert advice.”
“What am I an expert in today?”
“Guys. I went on a date last night with this guy that Trudy set me up with. I’m sitting there looking at my menu when I look up and he’s texting away on his phone. He stopped to order food when the waitress came, but then went back to texting for a good five minutes before I finally got really annoyed and said something. He didn’t seem to get that I was annoyed, but stopped. We talked a little, but he kept looking at his phone. Am I not a good date? Here look at my selfie from before I left to meet him. Did I not look hot? Was it me or him?”
“First, never let Trudy set you up. She knows some weird ass people and she thinks they’re normal. Secondly, you know you look good, you don’t need to show me that pic. Love that dress by the way. And third, you don’t need my expert advice. That guy obviously wasn’t worth your time. You need to learn to get up and walk away from shit like that. Don’t blame yourself for other people’s bad behavior. What’s going on here? Why are you so down on yourself?” John got up and moved over to the couch and sat next Laurie.
“I don’t know. I guess it’s because this is the third date in a row that hasn’t gone well. I just want to find someone already. I’m tired of being single. I miss having someone next to me at night. I miss lazy Sunday mornings drinking coffee and catching up on TV shows on demand. I miss someone telling me they love me. I want that back. Where is Mr. Right?”
“I wish I knew. I’ve been looking for him for years myself.”
They both laughed at that. Laurie laid her head in John’s lap and looked up at him. “I wish you liked girls. You’re the perfect guy. My Mom loves you, you never forget my birthday, and I can tell you anything.”
“Sorry. Can’t change who I am, but thank you for saying I’m perfect. I don’t hear that nearly enough.” He smiled and ran his fingers through her hair. “What can we do today to make you feel better?”
“I think I need to get away from people. What can we do to get away from the city?”
There was a long silence while they both thought of what they could do. Finally John said, “How about we take a drive out to the tide pools?”
“Yes! That’s just what I need. Let’s get ready and get out of here.” Laurie jumped up and ran for the bathroom. “I’m gonna take a quick shower.” She shut the door.
John got up and started a pot of coffee to take with them so they wouldn’t have to stop at Starbucks on the way out of the city. He then went to his room to get ready himself. He heard the music come on in the bathroom as he passed. It was the Black Eyed Peas singing “Boom, Boom, Pow”. John started dancing along as he got dressed. He was excited to get away too. Yesterday had been been a really tough day at work. One of the home visits he went on ended with the children being removed from the home. The mother had been so high, she could barely answer the door when he knocked. He had had such high hopes for her and it had been a real let down to see her like that. All the paperwork and phone calls. It had been a really long day. He shook his head trying to clear all the thoughts away. He needed to stop thinking about it. There was nothing he could do. The smell of the coffee pulled him back into the kitchen. He reached up into the cupboard for their travel mugs. He put two sugars in his and some peppermint mocha creamer in hers then poured the coffee in.
“Mmmmmm…that smells so good,” Laurie said as she came out of the bathroom in her robe. She grabbed her cup and took a slow sip. “Thanks. I needed this.” She walked back to her bedroom coffee in hand.
Twenty minutes later, they were in the car, coffee cups refilled, windows down, music blasting and they were both singing along. Nothing spoiled the mood. Not the traffic nor the sun disappearing behind the fog as they drew closer to the coast. They just kept singing and dancing all the way till Laurie parked and turned off the engine. They got out of the car both of them taking in a deep breath as they did so. “I love the smell of fresh air,” Laurie said as she locked the doors and began walking toward the beach.
“Me too and listen to those waves.” John put on his sunglasses, put their beach bag over his shoulder and followed Laurie down the trail. Once they got down the hill and close to the water, Laurie sat down and took off her shoes. “I thought we were going to the tide pools, ” John said as he sat down beside her.
“I want to go get my feet wet real quick.” Laurie got up and started running towards the water. Right before her feet hit the ocean, she turned around and yelled, “Wanna join me?”
John declined. Laurie ran into the water splashing around and John leaned back on his hands to relax. He listened to the waves and watched her kick her way through the rushing water. Both of them turned at the sound of a pounding feet on the sand and saw a man running along the waterline. As the runner got close, Laurie noticed that he was good looking. She turned so that her good side would be facing him as he passed. Unfortunately, as she turned she tripped on a rock and fell right into the runner knocking him into the water and landing on top of him. Laurie screamed as the cold water washed over them.
John was trying hard not to laugh as he watched them untangle their limbs and stand up. It looked like Laurie was apologizing profusely. The guy reached out and touched her head and even from where he was sitting, John could see that she was blushing all over. They went on talking for a few minutes and then headed in his direction. John grabbed the towels out of their beach bag and held them out as they approached.
“This is David,” Laurie said as she started drying herself off. “And David this is John, my roommate.” The guys shook hands and David thanked John for the towel.
“I offered to drive David back to his car so he doesn’t have to run all the way back soaking wet. Do you mind?” Laurie asked John mouthing “Please” when he looked up at her.
John smiled and winked at her. “Sure no problem. It’s the least we could do.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate it. It’s only a few minutes away. I had just hit the 3 mile mark and was about to turn around when Laurie here decided I needed a bath,” David said smiling.
“I’m so sorry,” Laurie started to say, but David cut her off. “There’s no need to keep apologizing. It’s just water.” They made their way up to the car and got in. David told Laurie where his car was and she backed out and headed in that direction.
“So what are you guys doing out here on a Sunday morning?” David asked as they drove.
“We just came out to get away from the city and see the tide pools,” Laurie answered as she turned the car onto the ocean frontage road.
“Oh, I’ve never been over there. I always say I’m gonna stop on my run back, but I always forget.”
“You could get dried off and come with us if you want?” John offered.
Laurie’s eyes got wide and she began to blush.
“I would love to, but I’ve gotta conference call in an hour.”
John saw David look at Laurie and sensed that he really had wanted to come, so he decided to try again. “Would you like to meet us for lunch then? We’ve gotta pay you back for Laurie’s clumsiness somehow.”
“Yes, please, let us take you out. It would be my treat,” Laurie chimed in looking at David in the rearview mirror.
“That sounds good actually. I should be done with my call by 11:30. Do you guys know where the Fish Shack is on Main Street? They have the best crab cakes in town. I could meet you there around noon?”
“Crab cakes are my favorite. We’ll be there,” Laurie said as she turned into the parking lot and drove toward the only car there. David thanked them for the ride, got Laurie’s number to call in case he was running late, and headed to his car.
“Well, this turned out to be an interesting morning,” John said as Laurie grabbed some extra clothes out of the bag.
“I know right. Just when I was beginning to think all men were idiots I literally run into a good one. Or at least I hope he’s a good one. We shall see. Thanks for your help getting the lunch invite out there.”
“He’s cute. I couldn’t let you let him get away.”
Laurie smiled and turned to go change out of her wet clothes in the bathroom. She couldn’t stop smiling. She had started the day feeling pretty low and now she felt like she could float she felt so good. Who knew being clumsy would get her a date? She started daydreaming about all the things that could happen. She walked back to the car feeling hopeful.
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.