Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Beem Weeks!  Beem is a dedicated member of RWISA and RRBC who excels at creating vivid imagery and memorable characters.


Beem Weeks


Nightly Traipsing

by Beem Weeks

There might’ve been a dream. Or maybe not. Violet Glass really couldn’t recall. Probably, though. A dream concerning some stupid boy—or even a girl.

Whatever.

Can’t control what creeps through your sleep.

Her body stirred awake as the blackest part of night splashed its inky resolve across that part of Alabama.

Violet stared at the ceiling, tried like the dickens to recall a face, perhaps a voice—anything belonging to the one responsible for this latest agitation.

Nothing came through, though.

Even dead of night did little to lay low that sticky heat. Old-timers in town swore oaths affirming this, the summer of 1910, to be more oppressive than any other summer since before the war between the states.

Violet eased her body from her bed; the soles of her feet found cool the touch of creaking floorboards.

There’d be nobody to catch her—not at this hour.

Nobody, but Ruthie.

And Ruthie Sender?—she’d never let on of these doings.

Violet scampered through the kitchen, flung her blue-eyed gaze against the darkened parlor. Only shadows and silence bore witness to her planned escape, a girl’s nightly traipsing.

The back door gave up with only minor provocation.

Dripping moonlight splashed the yard with a silvery sheen; promising secrets lingered among the gathered glow.

Around the rear of the house she skulked, careful to hold close to the shadows, to remain hidden from the ones who’d blab, those others who’d hold it over her head for gain.

Back behind the barn she found her crouching spot, fell low to the ground, fixed sight on the direction of Ruthie Sender’s place a few hundred yards away. Traipsing just didn’t hold its fun without Ruthie tagging along.

Violet rushed her granddad’s cotton field without that hesitation she’d known only a summer earlier.

Shadows stirred and wiggled in the distance. Figures formed, made shapes around a low-burning fire. Even at the center of all that cotton, Violet could pick out words of songs sung by the coloreds, those kin to Ruthie Sender.

They sang about standing on wood, an old slave’s saying, drawing up recollections of a time they themselves belonged to someone else.

Belonged to Violet’s kin.

Wood smoke fogged the night air.

Violet hunched low, skirted the yard where those coloreds took up with their fire and song and whiskey. Friendly sorts, all of them. Always first with a kind word, an interest in Violet’s family, how the girl’s folks were getting on—even if that interest leaned toward pretend. But that’s the nature of the matter. It’s Violet’s great-granddad who’d once owned all those souls that gave creation to the very ones now singing and drinking.

She broke through shadows collected beneath an ancient willow tree, found respite behind the Sender family’s privy, and waited for the girl to either show or not show.

The colored girl’s legs appeared first, dangling from the pantry window, bare feet scrabbling at the air, searching for a solid thing to set down upon. The thud of her sudden drop wouldn’t wake anybody.

A dingy gray nightshirt clung to Ruthie’s body. Her dark-eyed gaze landed out where she knew to find Violet. If the girl offered a smile, it couldn’t be seen—not from this distance.

“Go out back of Tussel’s, maybe?” Ruthie asked, finding space in Violet’s shadow.

“Catch a strap across my butt, I get found by that saloon again,” Violet promised. “Daddy don’t say things twice.”

Ruthie said, “Chicken liver.”

Violet backed down a notch, weighed her options. “Who’s gonna be there?”

“Fella named Ferdinand something. Plays piano.” Ruthie tossed a nod toward those others out by the fire. “They won’t share us no whiskey.”

“Won’t share up to Tussel’s, neither—unless you got some money.”

*      *      *

They were born the same night, Violet and Ruthie, back during spring of 1895. Only a few measly hours managed to wedge in between them, separated the girls from being twins of a sort.

Close enough, though.

Ruthie came first—if her folks were to be believed.

“Where we going?” Violet asked, following after Ruthie’s lead.

“Lena Canu’s place,” said Ruthie.

“How come?”

“She got stuff to drink, mostly.”

Droplets of sweat ran relays along Violet’s spine, leaving the girl’s skin wet, clammy. “Awful hot, it is.”

“She a conjure woman,” Ruthie announced, laying her tone low, protected. “—Lena Canu, I mean.”

Midnight’s high ceiling lent sparse light to the path splitting the two properties. Violet’s kin, they’d once owned the entire lot. Her great-granddad, he’s the one took notion to make things right, gave half of his land to the slaves he turned loose after the war.

Ruthie’s kin, mostly.

Senders and Canus.

Couldn’t ever really make a thing like that right, though.

A small cabin squatted in the brush; the orange glow of a lamp shined in the window. Used to be a slave’s shack, this one here.

Moonlight dripped on the colored girl’s face, showed it round and smooth, lips full and perfect, eyes alive with life and mischief. “Gonna see does she have any drink.”

Violet leaned closer, her bare arms feeling the other girl’s heat. She asked, “Can she tell fortunes?”

“Like reading a book.”

That dark door yawned wide; Lena Canu peered into the night. “I’ll tell your fortune, white girl,” she said.

Ruthie gave a nudge, guided Violet up the walk and into the shack.

A table and four chairs congregated at the center of the bare space. Kerosene fed a flame dancing like the devil atop the glass lamp. A pallet in a corner threw in its lot with the scene.

Lena Canu tossed a nod toward her rickety table. “Have you a seat, now,” she ordered, “—both of you.”

Violet sat first. Ruthie found perch across from her friend. Beneath the table naked feet bumped and rubbed, each girl assuring the other this would be a good turn.

“You one of them Glass girls, ain’t you?” Lena asked, dropping onto a chair of her own.

Violet said, “Yes, ma’am.”

Lena waved her off. “Ain’t no ma’am. Call me Lena, is all. You the one runs wild.” A pronouncement rather than a question.

Ruthie asked, “You got any liquor?”

A clear pint bottle came into the moment; its bitter amber liquid promised that sort of burn a person won’t mind.

Each girl drew off a long pull, let the heat mingle with their blood. Neither girl had ever gone full-on drunk; only a swig or two is all they ever dared.

Lena Canu, conjuring woman, spread a pile of bones over the table and commenced to ciphering future happenings a girl might need to know.

Things about boys and marriage didn’t come up. Neither did mention of babies and such. All Violet heard portended mainly to trouble.

“Quit you runnin’ wild,” Lena proclaimed, “and you be just fine.” She took up her narrow gaze again, aimed to settle matters. “But you keep doin’ what you been doin’, things gonna go bad.”

The suddenness of gunfire echoed through that sticky air. Three quick shots chased by a lazy fourth that staggered along a moment later.

Lena jumped first, ran for the door. Ruthie followed after, peering into the dark, no doubt expecting to put a face to the one pulled that trigger.

Violet remained stuck to her chair, attentions tugging between the matters outside and those sayings left to her by that conjuring woman. Did she really believe in such things, or was it all just a mess of nonsense?

“What am I gonna do to make things go bad?” she asked, supposing it wouldn’t hurt to know—just in case.

But Lena had other notions to work over. “Sounds like they come from over to your place,” she said to Ruthie.

Ruthie tipped a nod, said, “Could be they gettin’ liquored up too much, huh?”

“Might could,” answered Lena.

It happens that way, boys and their whiskey, wandering along crooked paths of discontent, blabbing things not really meant for harm—just boasting, is all.

But boasting to a drunken fella is as good as a punch on his nose.

“Gonna go see,” said Ruthie, pushing past the threshold, pressing on toward home.

Violet held her ground, let the colored girl disappear in the night. Attentions ceased their tugging, settled on the one making proclamations concerning bad manners and trouble to come.

Lena came loose of her thoughts, brought one to words, said, “Go on home now, white girl. Nighttime belongs to devils.”

*      *      *

Clouds laid a brief smudge against the moon, stripped its shine right off the night, left Violet to wonder if it really might be footsteps stumbling along behind her, following that same narrow path toward home.

“Fool boys,” she muttered, tossing nervous glances over either shoulder.

Footfalls fell heavy—like boots hammering the earth. An eager thing born of desperation.

Violet bolted left, squatted low behind a pile of brush that had the makings of a snake shelter. She held her breath and waited for the one at her back to pass on by.

A piece of tree limb came to her hand, a long and heavy thing, able to put a soul right should he come at her with wrong intentions.

That smudged moon went shiny again, dripped light across the path, showed off the shape of a man loping toward home. Tall and thin, this one; he moved quick with purpose.

Going the wrong way, though, Violet thought, waiting for the man to pass.

She gained her feet, charged his retreat, swung that heavy piece of wood and caught that interloper straight between his shoulders.

“Jay-zus!” the man hollered, hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes.

“This is private property!” Violet informed him, fixing up for a second swing.

The fella pulled up on his knees, tried to reach for that spot on his back no doubt gone swollen. He said, “It’s private property only ’cause I say so.”

Foolishness seeped into the girl. She squinted against the dark, drew recollection of his face. “Granddad?” she said, hoping her recollections proved wrong.

“What the hell are you doing out here?” he demanded, giving his legs a try.

“Came out to use the privy,” she fibbed. “Heard gunshots, came to see, is all.”

“Liar!” the old man spat. “You been gallivanting again, ain’t you?” He moved closer to the girl, sized her up, made a big fuss over her running around in only a nightshirt and nothing else. “Your daddy’s gonna hit ya where the good Lord split ya—then he’s gonna move you to your sister’s room upstairs. Won’t be no sneaking out from there.”

Her gaze caught that glint at his waistband, a familiar hunk of blued steel. “Don’t matter,” she said. “Daddy’s gonna put you in the county home.”

“On account of what?”

“On account of you’re going senile, traipsing off, bothering colored folks again with that pistol of yours.” Violet leaned closer, continued her spiel. “Heard him and Mama talking just last week, saying how you’re a danger to yourself just as much as to others.”

The old man’s jaw fell open and slammed shut; intended words went lost to the night. He couldn’t tell on her now—not without personal risk.

Defeat fogged his eyes. “I won’t tell your business if you don’t tell mine.”

Violet seized the moment with both hands. “That depends,” she informed him.

“On what?”

“Who’d you shoot tonight?”

“Nobody. Just meant to scare, is all.”

“Gonna kill somebody one day—if you ain’t already.”

“Ain’t in my blood, killin’.”

“Don’t have to mean it to do it.”

The old man pulled back, let frustration have its way. “We got a deal or don’t we?”

“You gonna leave Ruthie’s people be?”

“Just want what’s mine,” he complained.

“But it’s their land, Granddad—been so for forty-five years. A hundred guns ain’t gonna make it not so.”

He never did wear misery well.

Violet’s arms went easily around the man. She pulled close to him, breathed in that familiar odor of sweat and tobacco.

He said, “I won’t bother them no more.”

“Then we have us a deal.”


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Beem Weeks’s RWISA Author Page


How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!



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Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW


Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Robert Fear!


robert-fear-author-pic


 Afternoon Cycle Ride

by Robert Fear

Ibiza, May 1977

As I set out on my cycle ride, the streets of Es Cana were busy with pale-faced holidaymakers exploring their new surroundings. I almost collided with a couple who looked the wrong way as they crossed the road.

The hire bike was a boneshaker, and as I headed out of town to the west, the road surface was uneven. The ride became rougher, and I swerved to avoid potholes. Shocks vibrated through the handlebars and I lost my grip twice. Despite this, the breeze in my face and the sun on my back felt good.

Roads twisted and turned as I followed the coast around Punta Arabi and through the outlying villages. I passed pine tree fringed sandy beaches and caught glimpses of the sea. New tourist developments dotted the coastline, in between the traditional houses, shops and bars.

After a while I came to the dusty main road that ran from the north of Es Cana. Cycling westwards towards Santa Eulalia I soon found myself in the main square where I had changed buses when I first arrived from Ibiza Town in April.

My parched throat led me in search of a drink. Opposite the Guardia Civil offices, I spotted Fred’s Bar and decided it was a good place to quench my thirst. With the bike propped against an outside wall, I walked into the gloomy interior and blinked after the bright sunshine.

At the bar I ordered a draught beer. As I stood and sipped it, I glanced around and saw groups of men sat at the wooden tables. English was the main language being spoken, and the newspapers were days-old copies of The Sun. I felt out of place amongst the rustling of papers and whispered conversations.

Chalked on a board was a small menu of English food. I ordered Shepherd’s Pie with my next beer.

‘Take a seat at that corner table and I’ll bring it over in a few minutes,’ commanded the gruff Yorkshire voice from behind the bar. I assumed that was Fred.

‘Cheers mate,’ I smiled and walked over to the seat he had indicated.

Sat on the hard, wooden chair I placed my drink on the table.

I looked up and saw a man limping from the bar. A large glass of whisky and ice almost slipped from his hand. Without a word he slumped down opposite me. He shouted greetings to others but ignored me. His voice was slurred, and he had a distinct American accent.

My food arrived, and I dug into it with a vengeance. The cycle ride had given me a good appetite. As I polished off the plate, my table companion burped and glanced towards me. I smiled at him and he grinned,

‘Looked like you enjoyed that.’

‘Yes, it was great,’ I replied, ‘have you tried it?’

‘No man, I’m not into food much, I prefer this stuff,’ he slurred and pointed to his drink.

He pulled out a pack of Camel cigarettes, flipped back the top and offered me one.

I accepted it and gave him a light. We both took a deep drag on the rough taste and exhaled plumes of smoke. He moved closer and I could make out a mass of scars on his face and arms.

‘Do you live in Santa Eulalia?’ I asked, ‘you seem to know lots of people here.’

‘Yea man, been here ages now. Came to Ibiza in ’73. I’ve got a small apartment just outside the town, overlooking the sea.’

I looked at him with curiosity, ‘so you work here then?’

He threw back his head and laughed. All eyes turned in his direction as the raucous laugh subsided into chuckles.

‘No man, I’m pensioned off from the Army. I was in Vietnam. Halfway through my second tour I got blown to smithereens and was lucky to survive. They shipped me to the States, filled my body with metal and stitched me up. I was in hospital for months and still go there twice a year for check-ups.’

My jaw dropped, and I looked at him with a new respect. He continued,

‘The climate here helps my aching bones, and the booze is cheap. I’ve made friends, although most of them think I’m crazy. I suppose I am sometimes!’ he mused.

‘Did you want another drink?’ I asked him, to break the momentary silence.

‘A large bourbon, with water and ice would be great, thanks man.’

Back at the table I clinked my glass against his. ‘Salut!’

We chatted a while longer and I told him about the work I was doing. His eyes glazed over. He nodded as I talked, but I sensed his mind was elsewhere.

‘I have to go now,’ I said, as I stood up and offered my hand.

‘Nice talking to you man, all the best and hope to see you again.’ He gave me a weak handshake from his seated position.

‘Yes, me too, my name’s Fred.’

‘I’m Michael, or Mike, also known as Mad Mike by my friends. Take care on your ride back to Es Cana.’

He waved over as I headed out of the door.

The bike had fallen over, but it was still there. I had not thought to secure it two hours before when I entered the bar. I figured it was safe parked opposite the police station.

With a slight wobble I set off along the main road towards Es Cana. A car came straight at me and I had to swerve. Out of habit, I had started out on the left-hand side of the road. With a wrench of the handlebars I switched to the right and just avoided a collision.

That could have been nasty!


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

ROBERT FEAR’s RWISA Author Page


How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!


Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Blog Tour Banners

Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Jan Sikes! Jan is a Texas author with a flair for heartfelt insights into the human condition. Learn more about Jan and her books at the link at the bottom of the page.

jan

PARADISE BELOW

JAN SIKES

Emma Dupont shifted her backpack and lowered her head as she struggled through the crowded street. Panic struck as the sunlight faded.

It would mean sure death to get caught out after dark

“Watch where you’re goin’, you stupid bitch!”

Rough hands shoved her into the edge of speeding traffic. With great effort, she steadied herself, stepped back onto the sidewalk, and quickened her pace.

Making sure no one noticed her, she ducked into an alleyway and banged on the side of a blue dumpster with a series of raps. A camouflaged door slid open.

She tossed her backpack inside then hurried down the metal steps into the arms of a dark-haired man who held her while she sobbed.

“Susan, please bring Emma a cup of tea,” he instructed.

A tall blonde woman hurried away.

“I can’t go back up there again, Donovan. I just can’t.” Emma moaned. “They are no more than savages. Armed soldiers are everywhere, questioning everyone, barely controlling the mobs of hate-filled people. It’s awful.”

She didn’t tell him she’d felt someone watching her as she pushed through the street. The noose was tightening, but she’d die before she’d expose their hiding place.

Donovan rubbed her shoulders. “Don’t think about that right now.”

Susan appeared with a steaming cup and pressed it into Emma’s hands.

“Try to relax,” Donovan tucked a tendril of brown hair behind her ear.

Emma sank down against the cold concrete wall and let the warmth of the tea soothe her ragged nerves She watched while Donovan emptied the contents of the backpack.

When he looked up, his eyes shone. “You did good, love. We almost have enough.”

After the last election, conditions in the US had deteriorated. Humanity had gone crazy. Hate flourished and people killed each other over the slightest disagreement. Satan reigned.

Evil permeated every corner. Small handfuls of people banded together and escaped into underground tunnels determined to live in peace and raise their children.

Fed up with the insanity, Emma didn’t hesitate to join. Her group had one plan.

They had to get to Mexico.

The government’s restriction of money forced them to withdraw small amounts at a time. Emma’s experience of working in banks gave her the ability to gather the funds they needed to escape.

They were almost there, but nine months of living beneath the crazed streets of Dallas had taken its toll, especially on the children. Deprived of vitamin D, they grew lethargic and pale.

Resources, time and patience grew thin.

“I’ve been in communication with others in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. We’re almost ready to make our move,” Donovan said. “But, one mistake will mean death.”

Emma nodded. She didn’t care. The thought of dying didn’t frighten her.

Jasmine tea helped slow her heart rate and settle her nerves.

Donovan dropped beside her. “I never imagined that the ‘Land of the Free’ and the ‘Home of the Brave’ would deteriorate into such a state of evil, and hate.” He blew out a long sigh. “We’ve lost everything.”

Emma placed a hand on his arm. “But, we haven’t given up. And, we’ve kept love in our hearts.”

Susan and several others gathered around. “With trust in God and help from the angels who watch over us, we’ll survive,” she said. “We’re the future of humanity. We are the Lightworkers.”

They formed a circle and joined hands. In a melodic voice, a woman with straight black hair sang, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…”

Voices blended sweetly, and an essence of light filled the dank tunnel.

###

Melchizedek bowed his head overcome with the beauty and faith of the small group. He called Nemamiah and Charmaine to his side.

“It is almost time. We must rally everyone to watch over and help them. Please meet with the Ashtar Command and give them a report.”

Nemamiah folded his wings and nodded. Charmaine smiled and opened her wings to take flight.

“It is done.”

###

Emma barely survived her last venture above ground. When three hoodlums grabbed her and dragged her into a deserted alleyway, she fought hard, but they stuffed a dirty rag in her mouth and kicked her with the sharp toes of their boots.

From their sneers and insinuations, she knew they intended to take more than the contents in her backpack. She silently prayed.

The moment her attackers dumped the money out of her backpack, a flock of Ravens descended from nowhere, flapping their wings and pecking at their heads and eyes until they ran screaming from the alley.

Emma was sure they’d attack her next, but to her surprise, the birds hovered around her while she picked up the money, then flew above her while she ran for safety.

She shook her head when Donovan questioned her bruises and told him the angels had protected her.

Wheels were in motion. They would soon be away from the nightmare.

Donovan gathered the group for final instructions. “Travel light. Anything you don’t need, leave it. We have two vans, but there’s limited room.”

While the rest did the same, Emma gathered her belongings. She wouldn’t take more than she could carry on her back. She stared at a photo before tucking it into a zippered pocket. That life was gone. All she had left was her faith, strong will, and this family determined to live in peace.

By the time the twelve adults and four children were ready, the first shy rays from the sun graced the sky. It would be a long day.

They piled into the vans in an orderly manner. Donovan would drive one vehicle, and Michael the other.

Emma got into Donavon’s van. They’d grown close over the months of their confinement. She wouldn’t call it romance, but pure love. She’d grown to love all these gentle souls. Together, they would build a new life in paradise.

They slapped magnetic signs on the sides of the vans that read, “Hollow Road Baptist Church” and crawled through early morning traffic toward I-35 south.

They hit a roadblock a few miles outside Dallas.

“Remember what we rehearsed,” said Donovan as he pulled over.

Several of the group placed Bibles on their laps. Emma held her breath.

Armed soldiers approached. “Papers,” one soldier barked, “and state your destination.”

“Camp Zephyr, sir, for a retreat.”  Donovan handed him papers.

Soldiers surrounded both vans and peered through the windows. Emma was sure they could hear her heart pounding. She forced a smile.

Donovan stared straight ahead.

After what seemed like forever, the soldier passed the papers back through the window. “You can go. But, stay on the main roads. There are crazies around.” He motioned them on.

Donovan nodded and pulled away. “Emma, pull up GPS and find a back route, then tell Michael what we’re doing.”

The route took them through miles of open pasture and small Texas towns. Finally, their headlights pierced the darkness and lit up a rusted VW van shell.

Donovan pulled to a stop. “Everyone stays put until we know it’s safe.”

He jumped out. He and Michael hurried toward the VW, looking in all directions.

Emma chewed her fingernails and stared out the window. Nothing could go wrong now. They were so close.

Donovan had explained that a Coyote would escort them through the tunnel into Matamoros, where they would find papers and transportation.

When the men turned and waved, the group grabbed their belongings and exited the vans. One-by-one, they climbed down rickety wooden steps into a damp tunnel. Flashlights reflected off dirt walls supported by boards and rocks.

Painted on one board, “Paradise Below” promised a long awaited redemption. The narrow tunnel forced them to walk single-file, and some taller men had to hunch over.

But, discomfort didn’t matter.

In an hour, they emerged onto a deserted side street in Matamoros where a dilapidated bus waited.

Without a word, the group filed onto the bus. The driver closed the door and ground the gears into forward motion.

Emma sat beside Donovan and reached for his hand. “We’re going to make it.”

He sighed and leaned back against the seat. “We are.”

A brilliant red sun rose over the ocean, bringing with it a new day, as the bus lumbered to a stop many hours later. Gentle waves lapped the shore and seagulls cawed as they swooped down searching for breakfast.

When the bus door opened, a couple dressed like American tourists greeted each person.

A woman with flaming red hair hugged Emma. “Welcome to Mexico. I’m sure you’re exhausted. We have rooms prepared for each of you.”

“Thank you,” Emma murmured soaking up the tropical scenery.

Paradise! They’d made it. No more hate, no more violence, and no more hiding.

They’d reached Pueblo de Luz, (City of Light).

A band of angels hovered above the group with tears of joy shining in their eyes.

There was hope for humanity.

Hope in these small groups that dared to keep love alive.


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Jan Sike’s RWISA Author Page


How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!


Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Blog Tour Banners

Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Susanne Burke! If you’re a fan of gritty suspense, you’re going to love her writing! Learn more about her via the link at the bottom of the page.


suzanne-burke


“Shielded”

By

Suzanne Burke.

I welcome the shield provided by darkness. Those sweet moments when I allow myself to sit in the velvet depth of silence and dwell only on what is to come.

For the past only exists to remind me of the challenges I failed to meet. The things I thought myself powerless to change. I know better now.

I have no room for failure here as I sit wrapped in the warm blanket of my darkness-inspired illusion of safety.

The soft glow of the clock now heralds your arrival. I feel my pulse jump in anticipation.

I check the window … again. No vehicle yet slows to a stop on the rain-drenched streets so many floors below.

I feel the twitch of the nerve in my jaw and suck in the air in an effort to still it.

I remind myself once more that external factors are likely responsible for your late arrival. I know you too well to ever believe that you would be late by choice. You are eternally predictable. That comforts me somewhat.

My neck muscles clench and I stand, stretching my arms and softly willing them to relax.

The clock rolls through another hour, and my calmness begins to falter.

I check through everything that I have prepared in anticipation of our meeting.

Grunting with approval at my readiness, I check the window one more time, and I gift myself a smile as your vehicle draws up and parks on the opposite side of the now quiet street.

The excitement begins to make itself felt and I shiver.

You will arrive soon, and all the waiting will end.

I lick my dry lips and take a deeply satisfied breath.

I hear the sound of the ping the lift makes as it stops on this floor. I hear your key turn in the lock.

I wait as you fumble for the light switch and flick it on. You swear in displeasure as the room remains dark. Now you search for your iPhone and seek out the torch app. The room in your immediate vicinity is caught within the boundary of its fractured light.

I smile.

My surprise still awaits your discovery.

You feel your way slowly along the wall and take a faltering stumbled step into the kitchen. The light switch disappoints you once more.

The language that follows that discovery explodes in the air. I hear you open the refrigerator to confirm to yourself that this lack of light has permeated the entire apartment. You shrug out of your coat and drop it to the floor, uncaring of the dirt and clutter it now lay amongst.

You find the bottle of scotch and slam cupboard doors seeking a glass. There are none. They lay in a disordered mess of unwashed utensils still awaiting attention on the food scrap cluttered kitchen bench.

I hear you curse as you stagger. The booze you’ve been consuming for hours rattles your movements and makes them disjointed.

You sit heavily in the easy chair uncaring of the scattered and dirty clothing that cushions your weight.

You unscrew the lid of the scotch bottle and take several satisfying gulps.

The anticipation makes me quiver now.

I have waited so long for this.

The cigarette lighter grants you a drag of the nicotine that is but one thing on your list of addictions.

The clock ticks over again and moves time relentlessly forward.

The bathroom awaits your imminent arrival and you curse again at your now shaking hands as you seek out your ever-present stash of heroin. You scream in rage and frustration when you finally acknowledge that there is none to be found.

I hear you slamming the walls with your now white-knuckled fists.

I reach across and flick off the power override switch. I illuminate the apartment.

It takes brief seconds for you to lurch back into view.

“Melody? Why the fuck didn’t you tell me you were here? What the hell! When did you get back?”

“I discharged myself from the hospital.”

“Oh. Good. This place is a mess. It needs cleaning.”

“Yes, Charles. Yes, it does.”

I watch you nod your head, pleased at my response.

You check your wallet, quickly counting the bills waiting inside. You confirm your decision, “I  need to go out. Fix me something to eat. I won’t be long.”

“Why do you need to go out again? It’s raining.”

I watch you glare at me for daring to question you. “I need a fix. I’m heading to see Freddy.”

“There’s no need. I stopped by and saw him on the way home. I wanted to give you a surprise.”

You smile for the first time. “Well, now. That’s fine. That’s good.”

“Do you want me to get it?”

You now wear your frustrated look. “Fuck yes. Of course. Hurry up.”

“Sorry. It’s a little hard to walk with my ribs strapped.”

“You’re always sorry. You’re pathetic!”

I access the bedroom and return with his fix, and watch as he draws it up and applies the tourniquet to his upper left arm.

“You broke my jaw again, and two ribs this time.”

You glare at me as I dare to disturb your concentration, “You shouldn’t aggravate me like you do. You know you asked for it.”

The smack hits you, and I watch as your pupils dilate. The sickly smile that you now wear is most unattractive.

I wait.

You look suddenly startled. I watch the confusion on your face turn to fear … and then a moment of understanding colors your now bulging eyes. “Fuck! Fuck, Melody! What did you d…………….”

I wait.

You make a gargled choking noise as you begin to foam at the mouth.

I wait for five minutes and then check for a heartbeat … I smile … there is none.

I need to be certain that reviving you is not possible. Fifteen minutes should do it.

I punch in a number on my iPhone.

“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“Oh, God … help me, please! Please! I’ve just found my husband. He’s not breathing. Please … I think he’s overdosed.”

The kind operator took my address, “Okay. Stay calm. I have paramedics on the way.”

“Hurry! Hurry, please, please hurry.”

I turn off the lights and sit within darkness’s velvet cloak. My iPhone torch casts a spotlight on your rapidly cooling body.

I smile.

The rigid look of fear on your now strictured face brings me comfort. “Did you like my little surprise, Charles?”

I hear the sirens approaching.

I laugh in delight as the heady rush of adrenaline-fuelled relief floods my system.

The dawn light is just filtering through the balcony windows. Soon now I’ll have no need to seek the comfort of darkness.

I wait now. I have finally regained control.

#


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is John Howell! John is a master of suspense thrillers that keep you turning the pages. I’m sure you’ll get the idea from the sample below. Check him out at the link at the bottom of the page!


john-howell


Trouble

by John W. Howell ©2018

I know its morning, but I don’t want to open my eyes. I am starting to remember what went on last night and I don’t even want to imagine who might be sleeping next to me. Not that I think there is anyone there since I’m pretty sure I came home alone. I didn’t want to go back alone, and god knows I tried hard to prevent sleeping by myself. I do remember coming on to the beautiful woman in the bar. Wait a minute. I remember it because it was so early in the evening, I didn’t have a lot to drink then. I know I drink too much and lately, I have been having a hard time getting the events of the previous night together. Okay, so before I open my eyes, I will give a thought to what I believe the evening turned out to be.

First, I met David at the bar, and we had a drink. I ordered gin on the rocks and David had bourbon. So far so good. David and I were discussing something about workout shoes, then he left for the bathroom. The woman came in and asked if I would mind buying her a drink. She had some story about losing her purse and being pretty much stranded. I remember asking her if she had someone she could call. I think she told me, no, but I’m not sure. Anyway, we had a couple more drinks, and sometime in there, David came back. I introduced the woman to David. I think her name was Chloe or Carolyn. By this time, I am starting to feel pretty good. I ask her if she would like to stay over and I remember her telling me she was not that kind of girl. We had some more drinks and then decided to go to dinner. I asked the woman if she would like to join us and she was pretty definite about the decline. I chalked it up to my usual déclassé, and David and I left.

Now from there, it is a little fuzzy. I remember ordering dinner and a couple more drinks. I really don’t remember finishing the meal or leaving the place. This lack of memory is foretelling me that from experience the outcome will not be good. I’m sure David and I went out after dinner as we always do and so there are some blank places where mayhem could have occurred. I am now sweating quite hard, and it isn’t the heat either. The room must be fifty degrees if it is one. The sweat is as a result of the sinking, bottom of stomach pit nervousness coming from the fact I have no idea what I did after we left the restaurant. My head is also beginning to ache as a warning to my body the caffeine level in my system is getting dangerously low. I am afraid I have no alternative, but to get up and face whatever needs facing so I can get some coffee. I know I will also need some painkiller as well. I will try aspirin and know from previous headaches I will need to wash it down with about three fingers of vodka. No ice just the ice-cold vodka from the freezer in a glass with no ceremony. Get it into the system fast so the memory will come back, and these infernal shakes will slow down for the moment.

I steel myself and get ready to get out of the bed. I will need to move my body slowly, so I don’t cause a situation that inevitably leads to nausea and the arrival of the dreaded throw up that doesn’t have the decency to come when I’m numb and in the bag. I know my body would prefer if I did, in fact, throw up, but my mind still considers throwing up the sign of someone who can’t hold their liquor. God knows I can hold mine even if I can’t remember a damn thing about the night before. Now is the time to open the eyes and have a look around. I do the left one first since I think I am closer to the left side of the bed and I’m sure no one is there. When I open my eye, I can almost hear the tearing of the lids as they try to separate. Another joy of falling asleep drunk; the eyes feel glued shut. I look with my left eye and see nothing but the bedroom window looking reddish and covered in the gauzy curtains one of my past loves put up there. The red glow must be the bloodshot view my iris gets looking out of my eyeball.

I open the right and almost scream out loud. My worst nightmare has come true and is lying next to me. That beautiful Chloe or Caroline is sound asleep, and now I have to wonder why I didn’t feel the heat of her body before I opened my eyes. Immediately the old Coyote ugly joke comes to mind about chewing off an arm to get away, but this woman is not ugly and not on my arm. I begin to hyperventilate since no good can come from not remembering how this lovely creature ended up in my bed. I can see she doesn’t seem to have a shirt on either. I am not about to probe to understand about the pants and must try to get to my medications before I actually throw up right here in the bed. I roll to the left and swing my legs over the edge of the bed and sit up as gracefully as I can. I see I am completely naked and instead of feeling free, I believe I feel more like someone who has a clamp around the midsection. I rise off the bed very slowly.

“Morning darling,” she says.

“Uh good morning,” I say. “Would you like some coffee?”

“Ummm that sounds so good right now.”

“I’ll be right back. Don’t go away.”

“Oh, don’t worry I won’t.”

Son of a bitch. What the hell have I done now? I can feel my gag reflex starting to go into automatic drive, so I rush to the kitchen and open the freezer. The vodka is right there, and I am not even going to wait for the glass. I take three big swallows and hold my breath. My stomach gives a lurch like I just dropped an explosive down the hatch but retains the liquid in place. “God thank you,” I say out loud. It Looks like I can go to the coffee machine and brew some strong stuff. At times like these, I am so thankful I quit smoking. As bad as I feel, had I consumed a couple of packs of smokes, I would have wanted to kill myself about now. I hold on to the counter as the coffee begins its cycle.

“How do you feel?”

I wheel around and almost lose my precious vodka which is just starting to worm its way into my brain. “I feel like shit.”

“I am not surprised. When I ran into you again, you were pretty wasted.”

“Whoa, I sure was. Where is David?

“You and David got into a fight.”

“A fight? What were we fighting about?”

“You wanted to take me home, and David didn’t want you to do so.”

“So, where is he?”

“I really don’t know. We left him on the street.”

“What? Left him on the street? Why the hell did we do that?”

“As I said you were pretty wasted.”

“Yeah but leaving him passed out on the street.”

“Oh, he wasn’t passed out.”

“What was he?”

“You shot him. I believe David is dead.”

“Shot him? How is that possible. I don’t own a gun.”

“That didn’t stop you from finding one.”

“Finding one? Where did I find a gun?”

“I loaned you mine.”

“And I shot David with it?”

“Yup. Right in the back as he tried to walk away.”

“Oh my God. What on Earth made me do that? He’s my best friend.”

Was. I wouldn’t say it was an Earthly persuasion. I do believe my work is done here.”

“Your work?  What do you mean?”

“Hear those sirens. They are coming for you. I called them. I would get some clothes on if I were you. Oh, and a piece of advice.”

“Advice?”

“Yeah. Think twice before you decide to mess with the devil. See you on the other side.”


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author is Wendy Scott! Wendy is a fabulous author who writes in a variety of genres. She’s a master of suspense who knows how to weave an intriguing plot! Be sure to check out her work!


wendy-scott


The Cowgirls of Serratogha

By Wendy Scott

A companion scene to my fantasy WIP, ‘Rainmaker’.

My spirits lifted when I spied structures rising above the prairie. For the last three days, the landscape had consisted of uninterrupted cornflower skies above an endless sea of grassland. Occasionally, a wild cow had burst out of the greenery and trotted alongside the horses, before abandoning our company to munch on the juiciest shoots lining the roadside.

I grasped the seat as my boss snapped the reins, urging the horses to quicken their pace. The wooden wheels creaked, and the glass bottles in the back of the wagon chinked together, but Zachery didn’t ease up. Towns equalled business and Dr. Zachery Theopold Montgomery knew how to charm the purse strings open from even the most sceptical non-believers.

This place wasn’t like any of the other towns Zachery plied his lies. Most townships’ main thoroughfares consisted of churned sludge. A medley of mud and manure, with a few planks placed precariously over stagnant puddles. Dried splotches marked my breeches from where I’d previously stumbled into a knee-deep pothole filled with slush I hoped was only mud and water.

Up close, there were only a handful buildings, but a freshly painted signpost declared we’d entered the township of Serratogha. The horses’ hooves clip-clopped on a smooth expanse of cobblestones. Pastel pink paint coated the hotel, tubs overflowed with rainbow-hued pansies and white roses entwined the veranda posts. I breathed in the floral scents. It sure smelt sweeter than any of the other places we’d passed through.

Laughter tinkled from above, and a feminine voice purred, “Theo, you old snake charmer, about time you came back for a visit. Ya’ll make sure you mark my dance card.”

A lacy handkerchief dangled out of another upstairs window. “Forget dancing, come and play tie-ups.”

Zachery straightened and pushed his shoulders back, but the brass buttons on his red jacket strained across his chest and stomach. “Gals, no need to fight over me. I plan on being here for a few days, so plenty of time for us all to get acquainted.”

A blonde head peeked out a third window. “Don’t be shy. Bring your good-looking friend.”

Zachery’s ginger eyebrows arched as he coaxed the horses around the corner. “Shame on you, ladies. Harper’s a mere lad of fourteen.”

“Not for long. We’d make a man out of him.”

My cheeks reddened, and I slunk down on the wagon seat.

Window boxes, bursting with sunflowers decorated the stables, and the same shade of pink paint glazed the boards. As soon as we pulled up, two teenage girls, garbed in tight legged chaps, pink and white checked shirts, and cowboy hats darted up to the side of the wagon. Zachery climbed down and tossed the reins at the tallest girl.

One leather-gloved hand caught them. “Jersey-Jayne said for you to go on up to the bathhouse first, as she wants to discuss business. Daisy and I will see to your horses, and we’ll secure your wagon out back.”

Zachery flicked a couple of brass coins toward the other girl. “Young ladies, I’m much obliged.”

He unbuttoned his coat, stuck his thumbs inside his suspenders, and whistled as he pranced towards a third pink-frosted building. I scrambled after him.

Bells chimed on the door, announcing our entry. A placard on the wall listed the range of bathing services available at the ‘Squeaky Inn’. I wasn’t sure what they all meant, and the lowest price was more than I’d earn in a month. Back home, our mamma had insisted her seven children all bathe monthly. We had to share the tepid, murky water and I reckon sometimes I emerged filthier than before I took a dip in the tin tub.

Beaded curtains swished aside, discharging a fully grown woman. Under her pink cowboy hat, dark chocolate plaits swayed on either side of her doll face. Her checked shirt was unbuttoned, but hog-tied under her breasts, revealing a mountainous cleavage, and tanned midriff. Zachery licked his fingers and fussed with his ginger moustache, smoothing the ends until they resembled feline whiskers.

She slipped her arm through his elbow. “Welcome to Serratogha. I’m Jersey-Jayne, Head Wrangler for the cowgirls. Come through, and let’s get you all cleaned up before we discuss business. My girls report that you specialize in elixirs that are beneficial for enhancing particular social activities.”

“You’re well informed, little lady.” He patted a bottle-shaped bulge in his jacket pocket. “Fortunately, I have brought some samples with me. May I be so bold to suggest we partake in a demonstration where we can mix business and pleasure?”

My face flamed, wishing I’d never agreed to be his assistant. I shouldn’t have left the family farm. Zachery turned to me and made shooing motions. “Harper, out back there’s facilities for the hired help. Go and wash up. I’ll see you at suppertime in the hotel.”

Outside I found tendrils of steam escaping from a trough of frothy water scented with lavender. I’d never had a bath all to myself before. No one was around, so I stripped off my stained clothes and slid into the water. Travel-weary muscles unwound, and I closed my eyes. Bliss.

“Is that a tattoo?”

A tidal wave sloshed over the side as I bolted awake. Daisy, the shorter stable girl, peered at the feather shape on my arm. I was thankful for the camouflaging layer of bubbles.

“No, it’s a birthmark.”

She pulled back her shirt sleeve and compared the tanned, but unblemished skin on her forearm against my cinnamon tones. “Are you from the Tribes?”

I shook my head. “I’ve never laid eyes on a native. Zachery mentioned he’d once taken one on as an assistant, but he didn’t last long as he was a drunkard. Reckons they’re all horse-thieving savages.”

Daisy shrugged. “I dunno about that. Anyways, I brought you some clean clothes and a towel.” She scooped up my discarded outfit. “If you want, when you’re done, I can show you around.”

I leapt out of the cooling water and scooted into the garments before she returned. They fit well and were of a better quality than the ones I’d been wearing. I wondered if I’d get to keep them. Zachery wasn’t fond of spending coins on anyone but himself.

Five minutes later, Daisy appeared. “Come on. Follow me, and I’ll show you the real Serratogha.”

A path, well trampled by many boots, cut through the tall grass and led away from the township. We threaded past corrals filled with cattle. Further afield, cowgirls on horseback steered herds of cattle in and out of the larger pastures. Ahead, smoke rose from several chimneys and mingled with the smell of manure. This settlement was much larger than the sugar-coated town we’d come from. There were over fifty dwellings, including a church, and trading post. Bright flags fluttered from posts, wind chimes swung in the breeze, and cow horns adorned gates.

Daisy grinned. “Most gentlemen visitors don’t know this place exists. They don’t tend to venture far from the bathhouse or the hotel.”

High-pitched giggles followed a horde of barefoot children who skipped around the houses. Their contrasting shades of hair and skin reminded me of my cavalcade of brothers and sisters. Annabel and Sue-Ellen, blue-eyed and fair, like our mother. Ginger curls and green eyes complimented Katie’s pale skin. The twins, Billie and Willie, sported light brown hair and hazel eyes. Jimbo was the spitting image of our Pa, with his darker shade of brown hair and grey eyes. And then there was me with my straight raven-hair and amber eyes.

One small boy with feathers threaded in his dark hair paused and stared at me. Amber eyes met amber eyes for a brief second before he raced off and joined his friends. The feather mark on my arm tingled.

“You sure you’re not part native?” asked Daisy.

Pa’s leaving words flooded my thoughts. Is this what he’d been hinting at? Could it be that he wasn’t my real father? And if he wasn’t, who was?


Thank you for supporting this author along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

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Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

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Welcome to our tour! Each day this month I’ll feature a writing sample from some of the incredible authors who are members of this elite writing group. To learn more about them and their work, follow the link at the bottom of the page. Today’s featured author, Ron Yates, is also one of my favorites! His background as a journalist and meticulous research makes his historical novels come alive.


ron-yates


OUT TO PASTURE

Musings of an Erstwhile Asia Hand

by Ron Yates, RRBC 2017 KCT Int’l Literary Award Grand Prize Winner

He watched the hawk circling high in an infinite Southern California sky, far above the shaggy brown hills that loomed behind acres of avocado and orange trees. Every so often the hawk would dip as though preparing to dive on its unsuspecting prey, but then it would pull up abruptly, unsatisfied with the approach to its target, waiting perhaps for a better opportunity.

He knew this hawk. He had seen it before. There were two patches of vermilion feathers on the underside of its broad chestnut wings that reminded him of the red circles that adorned the wingtips of the Japanese fighter planes he used to see in the Pacific during World War II.

He closed his eyes, allowing the warm sun to wash over him. The only sound other than the crisp dry wind that blew up the long pass from La Jolla, was the dull whine of the automatic pool cleaner as it made its programmed passages back and forth in the pool next to the patio. For a moment he could feel himself being pulled back to a time when the heavy coughs of old propeller-driven fighters ripped through the dense, fragrant tropical air like a dull knife through perfumed silk.

For a brief moment, he pictured himself sitting at his old black Underwood, pounding out another story of some long-forgotten battle in World War II, or Korea, or Vietnam that he had covered. He could almost see the white typing paper rolled half-way out of the typewriter and he could see his By-Line typed neatly just above the first sentence of the story:

“By Cooper McGrath

 Global News Service.”

He sighed and shifted his body in the pool-side lounge chair, allowing his growing potbelly to slide slowly to the other side of his frame. “Typewriters,” he thought. “Nobody even knows what they are today.”

Then he reached for his binoculars so he could get a better view of the hawk.

“Look at old Zero-sen up there. He’s going in for the kill.”

“Zero-sen?” Ellen was still puttering around the patio, watering potted plants and trees.

“Yeah, the hawk. That’s what I call him. Look at those red spots on his wings. He looks like one of those old Japanese Zeros.”

Ellen squinted up at the sky and frowned. “You have a lively imagination, Cooper.”

The hawk continued to circle, but it was moving further away. Finally, it dipped below a small rise and disappeared. When it reappeared, it was carrying something in its talons. Cooper exhaled and at the same time pounded his ample belly, the sound of which reverberated across the patio like a hollow drum. Then he pulled himself upright in the recliner.

“I always did, you know.”

“Did what?” Ellen asked, only half paying attention to what her brother was saying.

“Have a lively imagination.”

“Oh, that.” She was on her knees pushing sticks of fertilizer into her potted plants. “And as I recall, it always got you in trouble.”

“Is it time for lunch?” he asked, rising slowly to his feet. “God,” he groaned. “I’m stiff as a dead tree.” He looked at his watch. It was already one-thirty in the afternoon—way past his usual lunchtime and his stomach was growling.

“You don’t get enough exercise, Cooper. I keep telling you, you should enroll in that aerobics class they’re offering down at the clubhouse.”

She stood looking at him for a few moments, hands on hips, white, wide-brimmed gardening hat shading her beige face from the hot sun. She loved her brother mightily, but it saddened her to see him in such physical and mental decline. Why had the Global News Service pushed him into retirement? He had given his life to that ungrateful news agency.

As he stretched his arms skyward Cooper’s ever-expanding belly caused the bottom of his shirt to pull out of his shorts at the midriff, revealing a roll of untanned flesh the color of boiled pork. Finally, she shook her head and made one of those disapproving clucking sounds with her tongue.

“I’ll call you when lunch is ready. Why not take a few laps in the pool, or even better, call the clubhouse about that senior’s aerobics class?”

Cooper mumbled some acquiescent reply as Ellen walked into the house. She was right of course. But at 70 he didn’t feel any particular need to jog around a room with a bunch of other ill-proportioned old farts in tights. Hell, he was retired. Why did he have to do anything at all? Hadn’t he worked his ass off all his life? Didn’t he risk his life reporting stories nobody cared about? Didn’t he deserve some time off to do, well, to do nothing? Nothing at all? Hell yes, he did.

He sighed heavily, and a bit guiltily. He always did when he remembered the half-finished manuscript in his small office. It sat there day after day on the desk next to his laptop computer—unfinished, unedited and unsold. Sometimes he half expected it to finish itself, to somehow link up magically with his mind, download forty years of journalistic experience and then turn it all into some kind of marketable prose that a big time publisher would snap up without hesitation.

But it didn’t work that way. He knew that. Oh, how he knew that. After years of meeting one deadline after another—thousands and thousands of them—if there was one thing Cooper McGrath knew it was that nothing got written until he sat down at his typewriter and began banging it out. Then, about five years ago, toward the end of his career as a foreign correspondent, he had reluctantly traded in his typewriter for a computer. The laptop had been sent over to Singapore by his editors. He would no longer roam the Asian continent as he had for most of his professional life. Instead, he would write a column every two weeks that focused on current events. And that’s what he had done for the past few years. His job, he was told, was to insert his years of historical perspective into dispatches written by less knowledgeable, more youthful correspondents.

Cooper knew what was really going on, of course. He was being put out to pasture. Sure, the discipline was the same. You still had to sit down in front of a blank screen and create something worth reading. The difference was the burnout. He felt as burned out as an old war correspondent could feel—like the old iron kettle in which he cooked up his special chili. He had served up so many portions of his life that there just wasn’t anything left to spoon out anymore. It was 1990, and the kettle was empty—empty and caked with rust.

Yet he knew he had things to say, stories to tell, history to recount. He was, after all, an eyewitness to some of the greatest history of the Twentieth Century. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, not to mention more than a score or so revolutions and coups d’état. When he thought about it that way, he could feel the juices stirring and bubbling in the bottom of the kettle, and he would get excited enough to walk into his small office, turn on the laptop and type a few lines. But after a while, an inexplicable gust of arid self-doubt would blow through his mind, and he would feel the passion receding. Then it would be gone—as extinct as that old black Underwood he used to pound on day after day in places like Rangoon, Saigon, and Hong Kong.

“Nobody gives a damn,” Cooper would say when Ellen asked him why he didn’t finish his memoirs. “It’s all ancient history. Hell, I’m ancient history.”

Ellen knew he was feeling sorry for himself. But she couldn’t bring herself to tell him that. Instead, she guilefully nudged and tugged his ego gently back to its perch above the bleak valley of his self-doubt.

“You’ve seen so much, and you have such a gift for describing what you’ve seen,” Ellen would say. “You must write it all down, to preserve it for others. That is your gift to the world. It shouldn’t be wasted.”

Cooper knew Ellen was right—if not for the sake of history then for the sake of his own mental and physical health. He needed to be doing something. And he had to admit, when he was writing, he felt like he was contributing again. It gave him a sense of power and purpose.

But after Toshiko’s death most of the power and purpose he still possessed deserted him. He retreated emotionally and physically from the world. He gave up the grand old house in Singapore where he and Toshiko had spent the last ten years of their married life. He just couldn’t bear living in it anymore—not when everything in the place reminded him of Toshiko and their life together.

For the first few weeks after Toshiko had succumbed to the ravages of cancer, Cooper would sit on the verandah of their house built during the British-raj, drinking one vodka-tonic after another and wondering why Toshiko had to be the first to go. He always figured he would be the first. After all, he was the physical wreck, not Toshiko. She had taken care of herself. Her 5-foot 2-inch body was as lithe and slim as it was the day he met her in 1946 in Osaka.

Cooper knew the hours spent on his verandah were nothing more than a boozy ritual of self-pity. But he didn’t care. It was the only way he knew to deal with abandonment. And that’s what had happened. He had been abandoned; and cheated, and irreparably damaged. By dying, Toshiko had deserted him. These were the emotions that had churned in Cooper’s sozzled brain with ever-increasing velocity until late afternoon when he was, as they say, “decks-awash and listing severely to starboard.” Then, with the sun descending past the tops of the traveler palms and tamarind trees that populated his front lawn, Cooper would stumble into the house and collapse on the small bed in the guestroom. Even drunk he couldn’t bring himself to sleep in the bed he had shared with Toshiko.

The self-pity finally wore off in a couple of months and so did the appeal of Singapore. After minimal coaxing from Ellen, he left Asia and moved in with his only living relative. Ellen, his little sister, lived in the sunburnt craggy hills just north of Escondido. The house was one of those rambling Spanish-style places with a red tile roof and bleached stucco walls. It had been built by Ellen’s husband just before his untimely death ten years before.

Moving in with Ellen wasn’t Cooper’s idea, but he was thankful she had offered. One evening in Singapore during a fierce tropical storm that had forced Cooper to retreat from the Verandah, Ellen had called, and in the course of the conversation, she suggested he come to California and help out with her thirty acres of avocado and orange groves.

A month later, after selling off five decades of Asian bric-a-brac, several rooms of teak, rosewood and rattan furniture, half of his oriental carpets and various silk screens, wall hangings and jade statuary, Cooper returned to the U.S. It was the first time he had been back in almost 20 years. When he stepped off the plane in San Diego, he couldn’t help observing how sterile, how ordered, how incredibly mind-numbing it all was.

“Where’s the texture?” he asked as Ellen drove him north toward Escondido.

“What?” Ellen responded.

“You know, the texture. The dirt. The coarseness. The graininess that makes a place look lived in.”

Ellen had dismissed Cooper’s outburst as a sign of jet lag or crankiness.

In fact, Cooper was frustrated by how little the change in scenery had done for him. He had merely traded the verandah of his house in Singapore for the poolside patio of Ellen’s mountainside villa. There was one huge difference, of course. There was no booze to be had anywhere in Ellen’s house. Just lots of lemonade and cases of those flavored ice tea drinks that were so irritatingly trendy.

And so it had gone for the past six months that he had lived with his sister in the hills north of Escondido. He purged the booze from his system, but not the pain. He drank lots of ice tea and lemonade and every so often the two of them took day trips to places like the old missions at San Juan Capistrano or San Luis Rey, or the old stagecoach town of Temecula, or the posh resorts of La Jolla.

If nothing else, Cooper was getting to know his kid sister once again and Ellen was rediscovering her brother. Nevertheless, sometimes she thought he would have been better off staying in Singapore. But she was the only family Cooper had left and it distressed her to know he was alone and suffering in Asia.

Cooper watched Ellen as she reemerged from the house and moved across the patio with the water hose trained on the hanging plants. He closed his eyes and imagined Toshiko standing on the long wooden verandah of their Singapore house under slowly turning teakwood paddle fans fussing with the bougainvillea and orchids. It was too easy. All he had to do was will her into his consciousness and there she would be, just as she had always been. That was the problem. As much as he had loved Toshiko in life, he found himself consumed with an even stronger love for her in death. Sometimes he thought it was becoming his own personal cancer, and he had no doubt that it was killing him.

Cooper paced the length of the patio, spent a moment or two pushing himself up by the toes, then walked back to the lounge chair, eased himself onto its thick foam rubber cushions and closed his pale blue eyes under freckled eyelids.

“That’s enough exercise for today. I think I’ll take a little nap.”

Ellen looked over at him and shook her head. His tanned legs with their crepey skin extended from knee-length blue shorts and his meaty, liver-spotted hands rested on a half-buttoned red, yellow and blue Hawaiian shirt that threatened to burst open with each of his breaths.

“You really are a lazy old bear, Mr. McGrath.”

Cooper, muttered an indistinct reply and watched Ellen as she pottered past him into the house. He closed his eyes, yawned, and began drifting away to another time in a vanished world where his personal cloistered refuge awaited.

“Tomorrow,” he mused. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll come in from the pasture.”

 The End


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A Cute Christmas Short Story

mildredmistletoe

Okay, this review is a week late and a dollar short, so to speak, but worth putting on your list for next year. This cute short story is perfect to read aloud with the family during the Christmas season, especially if you have a cat.  It’s well-written, has characters you can relate to (especially Mildred, the cat), and enough of a plot to give it substance. I laughed out loud at some of Mildred’s opinions of the dog and loved the innovative ways she tried to intervene and make sure everyone was happy. Highly recommended for a cozy read by the fireplace.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

“Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour” — Day 25

RWISA TOUR (1)

A Gift of Silence

By Joan C. Curtis

The man stood outside the store window, shifting from foot to foot. I’d have probably gone right by him, but as I passed, he looked me straight in the face, sending a chill up my back. Mystified, I found a place in the shadows and watched.

He wore a black golf shirt with a Nike swoosh. His black slacks were neatly pressed, but scuffs covered the toes of his dark shoes. As he paced in front of the store, as if waiting for something or someone, his left foot dragged. Maybe that was where the scuffs came from. A girl passed by him without so much as a glance. She wore flip-flops and short shorts. He turned away from her. Why look me in the face and ignore this young girl with long flowing blond hair?

Joan Curtis

Joan C. Curtis

After an interminable twelve minutes, he entered the store. I crept to the side window to get a closer view. A saleslady approached with a big hopeful smile. He jerked away as if he might flee, but she persisted. Probably learned that in Sales 101.

Peering inside, I could make out the blurry image of the saleslady as she crouched down to retrieve a box. While she bent, the man grabbed an item off the counter. He pocketed it so fast if I’d blinked, I’d have missed it. Gasping in surprise, I nearly collapsed into the window. So neat. So fast.

While I recovered from the shock of having witnessed a theft, the man exited the store. He hurried in the direction of downtown. Hands tucked in his pockets and his head lowered, he wove along the sidewalk, avoiding moms with kids, students with backpacks, and cyclists. I followed. What did he plan to do with his ill-gotten gains?

My friend, Rose, would give me a lecture. Why didn’t you go inside the store and raise the alarm? What were you thinking, watching, witnessing, and doing nothing? No wonder we pay so much money for our trinkets. Thieves get away with it, and it’s all because of people like you. But, I never intended to tell Rose about this. Not if I could help it.

Instead, I hastened to follow the man, avoiding other shoppers and site-seers. My sole purpose was to find out what this strange person was up to. My watch read two-fifteen. I had missed the coffee date with my cousin. She’d forgive me. I’d have to make up an excuse about traffic or something equally lame, but I couldn’t think about her now. I had to see where this man led me. My curious nature would never let me rest otherwise.

Moments later he entered the parking deck. He was going to his car. Darn! Once he got in a car, I’d lose him for sure. My Honda was parked here as well, but on the top level. With my luck, his was probably on the first level. It was impossible to imagine we’d be parked close enough for me to follow him.

He entered the elevator. The light flashed up to level 4. I raced up the stairs like a madwoman. Huffing and puffing, I reached the fourth level just as the elevator doors opened. I caught a glimpse of his black form walking to a red Kia. I made a quick turn and hightailed it up to the fifth floor to retrieve my car. Then I plowed down toward the exit, round and round, hoping, praying. Eureka! The red Kia was just in front of me, waiting to pay. The Universe was on my side.

Mr. Thief drove with caution, obeying all the traffic rules, making it easy for me to keep him in sight. Nonetheless, I stayed one car back, not wanting to risk him seeing me. Maybe he’d remember me from the street! A shiver ran through me. What would he do, this thief? Stop his car, jump out, and murder me? Absurd.

The light changed. We moved down the road. A strange thought filled my head. Had the Universe wanted me to witness this thievery? Everything seemed to be falling into place. “Don’t be stupid.” Rose would say and would add I was being melodramatic.

We turned into the parking lot for the Hermitage Nursing Home. This made no sense. Why not a pawn shop? Didn’t thieves go to shady establishments on busy street corners with flashing neon signs to hock their merchandise? Not to a nursing home. Maybe he worked here? Maybe he was some sort of klepto and couldn’t help himself? Maybe he had no intention of hocking the stolen article? He pulled into a parking place a few steps from the entrance. I chose one farther away. From my rearview mirror, I spied him getting out of the car and entering the building.

Once he disappeared, I made my way inside and approached the information desk where a girl of about twenty had her head buried in a People magazine. When she finally looked my way, her eyes filled with wonder, as if I’d dropped from the sky, “Can I help you?” she said.

“The man who just came in. He dropped a five-dollar bill in the parking lot. I ran after him, but I missed him. Do you know where he might be?”

“Oh, that’s Jerome. He’s visiting his mom. Comes every day at least once. Want me to give it to him?”

I hesitated. She blinked. “Well… I guess it won’t hurt for you to go down to room 212. It’s the last room on the right, down that corridor.” She pointed the direction.

I moseyed away as if I had all the time in the world. Once out of her view, I picked up my pace. Conversation came from room 212. Mr. Thief was talking very loudly. Apparently his mom had hearing issues.

At the door, I peered inside where Mr. Thief perched on the edge of the bed near an attractive woman with cottony white hair.

“You shouldn’t have, Jerome. I know how much this place is costing you,” the woman said.

“But, Mom, it’s your birthday. I wanted to give you a little something.”

“Just having you here is enough. But, I do like bracelets. You know how I like bracelets. Remember when your dad gave me a diamond bracelet—of course, I didn’t know it wasn’t diamonds then. It wasn’t till later. Remember? After he died and left nothing but bills and debts, I tried to sell the bracelet and found out it was worthless. I flushed it down the commode.”

“I remember, Mom. You told me that story. I wanted you to have a real diamond bracelet before… well, you know.”

She hugged him. “This is the best gift ever.”

I backed away from the room, my heart racing.

Back in my car I didn’t wait for Mr. Thief, a.k.a. Mr. Nice Son, to come out of the building. I started the engine and drove home.

***

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“Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour” — Day 24

RWISA TOUR (1)

One Nice Fall Day

by Bruce A. Borders

©2017 Bruce A. Borders & Borders Publishing

Not having a good Monday at work, I decided to cut my day short and head home. Home, my sanctuary. As a single guy, I often retreat to my sanctuary when things become intolerable, such as today.

Pulling into the drive, I noticed the yard and house really needed attention. I kept the lawn mowed, but the knee-high weeds were another matter. The house too had long been neglected. The loose siding and trim boards couldn’t be ignored much longer.

BRUCE BORDERS

Bruce A. Borders

“Maybe next weekend,” I mused.

But then, I’d said that last week too. I’d only gotten as far as hauling out a garden rake and a tree trimmer before reconsidering and putting them back. Or, maybe I hadn’t put them away, I thought, seeing my rake in the yard.

Taking a minute to replace the rake in the tool shed, I wandered inside, intent on taking it easy for the rest of the afternoon. And I did. The next couple of hours were spent napping. Then, feeling slightly more energetic, I thought I’d give the yard work another try. And that’s when I found the body.

A male, early twenties, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, lay face down in the weeds, not ten feet from where I’d walked earlier. Good citizen that I am, I immediately called 911. Within minutes, my yard was swarming with cops and other emergency personnel.

After examining the body, one of the detectives walked over. “You discovered the body?”

I nodded, as another officer joined us.

“Tell me what led to your discovery.”

I related the gist of my activities of the day, such as they were.

Then began a series of inane questions. “You live alone here? Why’d you leave work early? What took you so long to call 911?”

“You’re acting like this guy was murdered or something.”

“We’re just trying to figure out the timeline and what happened,” one said.

“And to what extent you were involved,” his partner added.

I guess I’ve seen too many TV dramas because the first thing I said was, “So, do I need a lawyer?”

The cop shrugged. “Depends. Is there a reason you may need a lawyer?”

“I don’t know,” I stammered. “Don’t think so. Just don’t want to be blamed for this murder.”

“No one’s blaming you—yet.” The officer paused, whether for dramatic effect or to weigh his words, I wasn’t sure. “Should we be looking at you as a suspect?”

“Of course not.”

The detectives eyed me a moment. “We’ll be in touch,” one said as they turned away.

They’ll be in touch? What’s that supposed to mean? They’d said I wasn’t a suspect; was that just to keep me off-guard until they’d had time to gather enough evidence to build a case?

I shook my head. I must be crazy. There was no evidence. There was no case. I hadn’t done anything except find the body. I certainly hadn’t killed him.

But, they didn’t know that. And here I was acting all weird. Even I had to admit my strange behavior and ramblings appeared suspicious. The police likely thought so too.

And that’s how I ended up seeing a criminal defense attorney for a crime I hadn’t committed.

“Sounds like you’re a bit paranoid,” said the attorney after I’d filled him in.

“Paranoid, huh?” I said, somewhat sheepishly.

He smiled. “A little.”

I couldn’t think of an intelligent response, so I just sat there.

“Tell you what,” he said, breaking my uncomfortable abeyance. “I’ll keep my notes and if you’re arrested, call me.”

“Thanks. Hope I don’t need to.”

“If you didn’t commit the murder, they can’t exactly find any evidence. Although…”

I frowned. “Although what?”

They could always charge you with manslaughter if anything you’ve done, intentionally or unintentionally, contributed to the man’s death.”

“Right. I didn’t even know he was there until I found the body.”

“It’s most likely nothing to worry about. But you never know.”

As I stood to leave, he added, “If you are arrested, don’t say anything until I’m present. You’ve already given your statement. That’s all you’re obligated to do.”

Nodding, I left.

Just talking to the lawyer had helped. The anxiety I’d felt earlier was gone. Feeling better about my prospects, I drove home and was utterly shocked to find two police cars in my driveway, the officers knocking at my door.

As I parked, they came toward me. “Mr. Powell?”

“That’s me.”

“Can we come in and talk?”

I hesitated. The attorney had said to say nothing if I were arrested. He hadn’t mentioned anything about not being arrested. “Depends,” I finally managed. “Am I under arrest?”

“No,” the officer said. “We just want to clarify a few things with you.”

I repeated what the lawyer had told me. “I’ve already given my statement. That’s all I’m obligated to do.”

“You’re not interested in helping solve this murder?”

I certainly was interested in solving the murder, but something told me that “helping” might have an entirely different meaning to them. “I’ve already given my statement,” I said again.

The officers looked perturbed. “Well,” one said, reaching for his handcuffs. “You leave us no choice then. Mr. Powell, you are under arrest in connection with the murder of Vincent Dalhart.”

As the cop handcuffed me, I focused on what he’d said. I wasn’t being arrested for the murder but in connection with the murder. I wasn’t sure what that meant if anything. I hoped it meant they didn’t actually think I’d killed the man.

The next two days were a blur of numerous meetings with the detectives and my attorney. Through these conversations, I finally learned what had happened.

Vincent Dalhart had been stabbed to death. There were four puncture wounds, evenly spaced. Two had pierced a vital organ. The time of death was uncertain although, the medical examiner estimated it to be five hours before I, the only suspect, had stumbled onto the body.

Meanwhile, the police had executed a search warrant for my property, finding my rake, which they believed to be the murder weapon. Lab testing confirmed that blood present on the tines was that of the victim. Murder in the first degree was the charge.

To his credit, my lawyer seemed undaunted by the discovery. I told him about seeing the rake and putting it away. He seemed satisfied. “But the police will want to know how you didn’t notice any blood on the rake.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “Not sure how I missed that.”

He shrugged. “Easy enough explanation. The blood was only on the tines—probably not a large amount. By the time you picked it up, the blood had likely dried. It would’ve been very difficult to see unless you were specifically looking for it.”

Unfortunately, the police were specifically looking for it, having determined a garden rake to be the likely murder weapon. And as my lawyer had predicted they weren’t exactly sold on my account of the events. Instead, they believed I’d used the rake to murder the man breaking into my house.

With no other options, we prepared to go to trial. My attorney seemed to like my chances. I wasn’t so confident. Here I was, a guy who’d never even been in a fight, charged with murder. It all felt so overwhelming.

Then, the next day, things took a surprising turn.

The guard came to escort me to the briefing room where my attorney waited.

“Good news,” he greeted me. “All charges have been dropped. You’ll be released within the hour.”

I was stunned. “That’s great, but… why? How?” With the direction things had been going, I found it hard to imagine the police had suddenly decided I was innocent.

“Turns out your neighbor saw the whole thing from across the street. Mr. Dalhart arrived at your house on foot, poked around; checking doors and windows, then went to the shed and retrieved the rake. Standing on your porch railing, he attempted to use the rake to pull himself up to an open second-story window. The window ledge gave way, and Mr. Dalhart fell to the ground, impaling himself on the rake.”

“But the rake was a good ten feet from the body.”

The attorney nodded. “Apparently, the would-be thief lived long enough to remove the rake and fling it away.”

I was frowning. “My neighbor watched all this and didn’t even try to help? Or, report it? Not that I care, really. The thief got what he deserved. But how does someone just watch all that and not do anything?”

The lawyer shrugged. “People are strange. Maybe he didn’t want to be involved. Who knows? He’s been arrested and faces legal troubles over his lack of humanity.”

“I would hope so.”

“Just be glad he eventually came forward.”

“I am.” I fell silent then.

The attorney noticed my gaze. “What is it?”

I smiled wryly. “Was just thinking… That window ledge has been loose for quite a while, banging in the wind. Been meaning to fix it for months, just hadn’t gotten around to it.”

Eyeing me a moment, the lawyer said, “You might want to keep that information to yourself.”

***

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Bruce A. Border’s RWISA Author Page