Monday, February 28, 2011

The Shoemaker's Children

Today's muse: Stony River

The prompt for Microfiction Monday #72:

* * *

The Shoemaker's Children

Video data, demonstrating the antics of rogue faeries, provided ample evidence to acquit the Shoemaker on charges of negligence.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Bench

Today's muse: One Word

Today's word: Bench

* * *

The Bench

Near the water fountain, in the west end of the park, children laughed and frolicked while puppies gambolled and yipped.

The young couple resting on the park bench didn’t move.

Stretched out across the wooden seat, she lay with her head on his lap, her eyes staring up at him, a mischievous smile on her lips. Though slack, his left arm lay across her shoulders in a protective hold; his right arm extended across the back rest.

“A shame,” said Bill. “They look happy.”

Frank nodded. “Damn shame.”

As he wandered over to the bench, unwrapping a new roll of yellow tape, Bill called over his shoulder.

“Better call the coroner.”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Echos

Today's muse: Stony River

The prompt for Microfiction Monday #71:

* * *

The Echos

Though she tried with all her might, the deafening echo of her stomping feet couldn’t drown the voices that ruled in her mind.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Full Disclosure

Today's muse:

Miranda's story continues. If you haven't been following along, you may want to start at the beginning.

* * *

Full Disclosure

The marriage classes were a joke. They’d been living together for over two years. Did the church really think they were still virgins? It was all Miranda could do to keep from laughing at some of the questions the other couples asked. How does someone reach their mid-twenties and still remain so naive?

She had to remind herself that just because she’d never enjoyed the luxury of innocence, didn’t mean that others hadn’t.

At the back of the small room, she fidgeted on the hard plastic chair, her arms folded across her chest. She didn’t want to take the stupid classes, but Gregg insisted they marry in the Catholic church, so she played along. She drew the line at going to confession the week before the wedding. She’d already been down that path and wasn’t about to travel it again. Besides, as far as she was concerned, she could confess directly to the source.

Whispered conversations halted as the guest speaker entered the cramped room. A bald, paunched man stood before them and announced his lecture.

“We’ll be talking about divorce today.”

Miranda rolled her eyes. She’d spent the last four weeks listening to discussions on communication between spouses, insight on raising children within the parameters of the church and—the best one, she thought—a lecture on the Rhythm Method of birth control with a distinct undercurrent of abstinence. And now they wanted to tell us how to pack it all in, she thought. Fucking hypocrites.

Gregg took her hand as they walked back to the car after class. He cupped her ass as he reached around to open the door. She grinned, knowing the outcome of that subtle gesture. For some obscure reason, the marriage classes were the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Gregg had barely set the lock on the front door of the house before Miranda was pawing at him, tugging off his shirt, undoing his jeans. He spun her around, pressed her against the door, trailed moist kisses across her throat. Heat shot through her and she clung to him.

“Upstairs. Now.” The words panted out, barely audible.

They raced up the stairs, tugging at clothing, and stumbled into the bedroom. She fell back on the bed, her hair splayed out, skirt hiked up her thighs. He hovered over her, the gleam in his eyes a mixture of love and desire.

“I can’t get enough of you.”

He bent down, pressed his lips against hers. Soft, at first, then more urgent, demanding. He clasped her hands, their fingers interlocked, and pulled her arms over her head, pressed her into the mattress.

He nuzzled her neck. “I want you.”

She wasn’t with him anymore. In that instant, when he thrust her hands up and stole the power from her, she snapped back to fifteen, with Darryl, who forced, took and broke. She couldn’t see Gregg at all, she could only see Darryl, whose face then morphed into her grandfather’s, his wrinkled face leering and laughing, alcohol-sodden breath washing over her.

“Off!” She shoved at Gregg. “Get off me!”

“What the fuck?!” Gregg rolled off the bed, hiked up his jeans, leaving them undone. He ran his fingers through his hair. “Jesus, Rand!”

Miranda pushed her skirt down, wrapped her open blouse across her chest and curled up on the bed. “I’m sorry.” She pressed her face into the duvet, fought for composure but it wouldn’t come. She’d never had a flashback before, at least not during sex.

“You’re sorry? Sorry?! You can’t just stop it like that.”

No, she thought, she couldn’t stop it. Never could. Never would. She was a fool to think otherwise.

“I have to tell you something.” Curled into a tight ball, staring at the pile of decorative pillows at the head of the bed, she told Gregg everything. Drained of all emotion, her voice raspy, she was surprised to feel better having let it all out. She remembered one of the guest speakers at the marriage class had said communication was paramount, that it would be their salvation. He was right. She could move forward now, knowing she had someone to lean on.

After a long silence, Gregg finally spoke. “I can’t deal with this right now.” Miranda closed her eyes as the bedroom door clicked shut.

Later, she’d wonder whether she would have bared her soul if she knew he’d twist it against her.

Miranda's story continues...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In a Blink

Today's muse: Three Word Wednesday

Today's words: blink, kind, occasion

* * *

In a Blink

Kind and tender—gentle to a fault—it always took her by surprise when, on occasion, he would morph in a blink, release the demon hidden deep within.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just a Kiss

Today's muse:

Miranda's story continues. If you haven't been following along, you may want to start at the beginning.

* * *

Just a Kiss

The coffee table was littered with cashews, potato chips and two bottles of wine—one empty. An oblong ceramic platter displayed three different cheeses and an assortment of crackers. Actors mimed their scenes on the muted television.

Gathered with her two best friends for one last bash as a single woman, Miranda sat cross-legged on the floor in Wendy’s apartment, her hands cupped around a glass of chardonnay. Her long dark curls were pulled back with an elastic, away from the green masque now smeared over her face.

“A week today,” said Wendy, sprawled on the sofa, her own face smothered in an oatmeal paste, cucumber slices on her eyelids. She balanced a bowl on her stomach from which she selected Cheezies, popping them blindly in her mouth with unerring accuracy.

“Then it’s all over.” Sandra blew on her wet nails, waved them to dry. Having opted for the Camomile facial, they all agreed she looked like a cheery sunburst.

Miranda laughed at her friends. “Marriage doesn’t mean it’s over.” She sipped her wine, let it dance over her tongue.

“I hear that love-making is non-existent after.” Wendy popped another Cheezie into her mouth.

Sandra made an affirmative noise as she sipped her wine. “It’s true. Love-making goes out the window.”

“Well then,” said Miranda, “I guess we’re safe. We don’t make love.”

Sandra choked back her wine. Wendy sat up, sending cucumber slices to the floor.


Miranda shrugged. “We don’t make love.”

“You’re twenty-three years old. You’ve been living with Gregg for over two years. And you’ve never made love?” Wendy looked over at Sandra who only shrugged.

“We fuck like rabbits, we just don’t make love.”

Sandra hooted with laughter. Wendy fell back onto the sofa, threw a Cheezie at Miranda. “You had me going there for a minute. I mean, how can you sleep in the same bed with Gregg and not make love.”

“I told you,” said Miranda, topping up her glass of wine. “We don’t make love.”

Sandra blew at her nails, waved off this minor detail. “Making love. Screwing. Same thing.”

“No it’s not.”

Maybe the wine was getting to her, but there was one thing Miranda knew: sex had absolutely nothing to do with love. After everything she’d suffered through, struggling with the darkness to reach the light, she’d been shoved back into the vortex by the first man she’d trusted. Her grandfather may not have crossed that line, but Darryl made sure he broke through it, shattered it beyond repair. It took ages to breach the surface, to breath again. Oxygen manifested in the form of Gregg. And because she could trust him, she would marry him.

Wendy sensed something in her friend’s voice. Setting aside the bowl, she sat up and picked the cucumber slices off the floor, stacked them neatly on a cocktail napkin.

“How can you say that? You’re getting married. You can’t have sex without love.”

Miranda shrugged. “The two are mutually exclusive for me. I can’t—won’t—have sex with someone I don’t trust. I mean, you’re naked for god’s sake. You’re pretty vulnerable. But the act itself? It’s purely physical. A way to release pressure. There’s no love involved.”

She popped a cashew in her mouth. An awkward silence filled the room. Wendy sipped her wine.

“Is it good? I mean, are you satisfied?”

Miranda grinned. “Honey, there are days I can’t wipe the smile off my face.”

They laughed then, talking over one another, the fallout of Miranda’s bomb drifting away; though the mushroom cloud hovered around her.

As her friends chatted about the wedding and exchanged Hollywood gossip, Miranda sipped her wine and wondered if Gregg could feel the gap between them, the distance she maintained. Did he even notice she couldn’t kiss him when they fucked?

* * *

Miranda's story continues...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Memories spewed like vomit, oozed from pores she thought she’d clogged so long ago. But rather than break the fever, the words only festered into puss-filled boils.

“You have to break some time,” she muttered, pressing the angry red lumps. “You just have to.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Assignment

Today's muse: Three Word Wednesday

Today's Words: dare, essence, practical.

Some stories need to be told. Miranda's begins here.
And now, it continues...

* * *

The Assignment

At the front of the classroom, wearing his practical Mr.-Rogers-cardigan-with-the-corduroy-elbow-patches, Deacon Phillips lectured the class.

“Senior year,” he promised, “will be different.”

Miranda rolled her eyes and folded her arms across her chest. Notorious for questioning just about everything her religion teacher preached, she was already convinced that the Catholic curriculum in this final year of high school would be the same as the last four: propaganda meant to put the fear of God in the hearts and loins of young adults.

Thing was, once the devil took you, your loins never quivered again—in fear, or otherwise.

Deacon Phillips turned to the chalk board and scrawled one word in his looping penmanship.


A hum rippled through the classroom. A few heads turned, eyebrows raised in silent question. No one spoke.

“Explore.” Deacon Phillips waved his hand at the board. “Explore what?"

He walked to the front of his desk and leaned back, tucked his hands in his trouser pockets.

“What do you want to explore, Angela?”

In the front row, Angela Giovanni twitched in her seat, blushed a deep crimson. “Sir?”

“What do you want to know? What do you need to know to make it in the real world?”

In the back row, in the farthest corner, Miranda uncrossed her arms and leaned forward on her desk. This was getting interesting.

“You’re all of age now,” said Deacon Phillips. “You’re adults. You need to be treated like adults, not kids. Adults have grown-up conversations about grown-up things. In-depth discussions that explore opinions and feelings. So this year, in this class, we’re going to explore.” He underlined the word on the board with three violent slashes. “In essence, we’re going to talk about whatever you want.”

A few students snickered. Dean Phillips stared them down, then pointed at John Walsh.

“What do you want to talk about, John?”

John had the good grace to hang his head and stare at his desk in silence.

“Come on, people. I know you talk. You talk all the time. I hear what you say. You may not think I do, but I hear everything. I don’t judge. You’re entitled to think and feel what you want.”

He paced across the front of the class, met each and every pair of eyes. He seemed to hold Miranda’s for an eternity, daring her to speak. It was as though he could read her thoughts. No one wanted to talk about the same thing as her, she was pretty damn sure about that.

Walking back towards his desk, the Deacon stopped in the centre of the front row.

“What about you, Angela? What do you want to talk about?”

Angela was dumbstruck and only shook her head.

“What about sex? Do you want to talk about sex?” He waved his arms to encompass the group. “Does anyone in the class want to talk about sex?”

It didn’t seem possible, but Angela’s blush deepened three shades and she let out a high-pitched squeak. At the back of the class, Miranda dug her nails into her clenched hands with such force, it wouldn’t have surprised her to see blood ooze between her fingers.

Despite Deacon Phillip’s astounding question, the classroom was silent; except for the quiet humming of the fluorescent lights.

“How many of you use condoms?”

Not surprising, no one moved. Who the hell was going to admit that in a Catholic high school, and to a deacon, no less?

The Deacon sighed, scrubbed his hands over his face. “Alright. Let me start over.” He sat back against his desk, crossed his ankles. “We’re going to be talking about really personal things this year. Important stuff. You have to trust each other to keep it confidential. You’ll also be learning a lot. You can share what you learn with others, but no one repeats information using names.” He paused a moment. “We agree—every single one of us, including me—that we don’t repeat anything personal.”

A few heads nodded.

“When we talk about how to use condoms, how to put them on, you don’t go and laugh about how so-and-so didn’t know how to. You didn’t always know how to either.”

There was absolute silence in the classroom. Even the lights seemed to stop humming.

“There is no grade given for religion in your final year, but you’re required to take it and we’re required to teach it. So we try to make it interesting.” Deacon Phillips glanced at the black and white wall clock. “This class will have but one assignment this year. Over the next two weeks, I want you to pick a topic you want to explore. You will have all year to work on this. If you want to present it to the class, you will be given that opportunity. If you want to hand it in to me to review, I’m happy to look at it. In theory, you don’t even need to complete this assignment.” He shrugged. “I won’t know if you’ve done it. But you will.”

He paused, allowed everyone to digest that.

“Explore who you are, ladies and gentlemen. Explore who you once were, who you are now and who you want to be. Hopefully, you’ll figure out a way to get there.”

The bell rang then. There was a moment’s pause before everyone gathered their books and filed out of the room. There wasn’t the usual cacophony of voices or the mad exodus. It was a sombre group leaving church after a funeral service, everyone absorbed in their private thoughts.

Deacon Phillips scribbled a few notes in his ledger, tucked folders into his briefcase. When he glanced up, he saw Miranda sitting at her desk, in the far corner of the room.

“Miranda? Did you want to speak with me?”

Nodding, she threw her bag over her shoulder, and wound her way through the desks to the front of the class.

“I know what I want to explore.” As soon as he announced the assignment, she knew. Somehow she knew it would help with the nightmares.

“You don’t have to decide for another two weeks.”

Miranda nodded again. “But I already know. I need…I want to explore this.”

Deacon Phillips sat back and waited. Miranda hugged her bag against her like a life preserver, took a deep breath.


He didn’t flinch. Didn’t blink. Didn’t move a muscle. His pupils didn’t even dilate.

“Good choice. Let me know if you need any help.”

His tone was dismissive, almost indifferent. Perhaps that’s what Miranda needed. Not the pitying look or the empty platitudes, but acceptance, plain and simple. She turned to leave the classroom, her mind already pondering French class.


She stopped at the door, her hand on the chrome handle. She didn’t turn, but waited for him to speak.

“I hope it helps.”

Yeah, she thought, me too.

* * *

Miranda's story continues...