Welcome to The Watch #RWISA Write Showcase Tour! Day 6: Featuring author Ron Yates @jhawker69 #RRBC

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Hello and a warm welcome to this marvelous Watch #RWISA Write Spotlight Tour”

Featured author today is Ron Yates!

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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

Thank you for supporting this member 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:

RWISA Author page: Ron Yates.

Contact via:

Email:  jhawker69@gmail.com

Twitter:  @JHawker69

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Blogs/Websites:

http://www.ronaldyatesbooks.com/

http://www.ronaldyatesbooks.com/category/foreign-correspondent/

Welcome to the Watch #RWISA Write Showcase Tour! Day 5. Featuring author Karen Ingalls @KIngallsauthor #RRBC

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Hello and a warm welcome to Day 5 of this marvelous tour.

I’m delighted to feature author Karen Ingalls today.

Meet the author …

RWISA TOUR KAREN INGALLS PIC

KAREN INGALLS is an award winning author, public speaker, advocate, and posts weekly blogs for two separate sights. She states that she has been writing all her life, but it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with cancer that she published her first book. Since then she has published two novels and continues to write countless articles and blogs about health/wellness, relationships, and spirituality.

She has been a member and active supporter of RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB since 2014, an advocate for ovarian cancer awareness, and a volunteer and speaker for cancer organizations.  Karen describes herself as a passionate writer about important issues through stories, articles, and poetry.  In her free time she loves to golf and garden.

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JUST ONE MORE

By

Karen Ingalls.

The bright neon lights of Las Vegas did nothing to improve Jack’s self-loathing. He walked the Vegas strip with head hung down and his shoulders slumped, ignoring the people rushing past him. He was desperate as he fingered the five coins in his pocket, knowing they were the last of his money

The hot, bright sun did nothing to lift Jack’s spirits. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?” His questions went unanswered. He did not know how long he had been walking, but he soon realized how hungry he was. He stopped at the intersection looking in all directions, not knowing where he was and not caring. The crosswalk signal changed, and the crowd of laughing and drunk people, pushed him out into the street. Jack looked down as he stepped onto the curb and saw a wallet. He picked it up and looked around. The people that had once surrounded him had dispersed in different directions moving far away from him.

Jack slipped the wallet into his coat pocket and walked into the nearest casino and entered the men’s room. He went into the first open stall and with shaking hands he opened the wallet revealing a large amount of one hundred-dollar bills. “This can’t be. I must return the wallet.” He searched further and found a driver’s license for a Stephen Richardson from New York City. There were credit cards plus a family photo of a man, woman, and two young girls. “I suppose this is his family.”

“I will get hold of Mr. Richardson and tell him I found his wallet.” Jack put the wallet back in his coat and left the stall. He stood in front of the mirror looking at the unshaven face and unkempt hair. He washed his face and ran his fingers through his hair. He pulled his tie up and tucked in his shirt. “Well, I look a little better. Maybe I could use one of these bills, get a shave and haircut and have enough left over for dinner and a room for the night.” Jack reasoned that Mr. Richardson will never miss one hundred dollars out of the thousands in the wallet.

The lights of the casino were less intrusive, and the noise lifted his spirits a little. Jack walked past the slot machines and gaming tables out into a hallway. He walked past clothing stores and gift shops until he came upon a barber shop. The shave with the hot fragrant towels followed by a shampoo and haircut were what Jack’s weathered appearance needed. He hardly recognized the face in the mirror looking back at him.

“Perhaps a new shirt, slacks, and jacket would not be too expensive.” Jack reasoned that he would pay Mr. Richardson back every penny once he gets back on his feet.

The memory of his gambling habits which caused the loss of his marriage, job, and friends had faded. “I will never become that person again. I will change for the better.”

The new clothes and filling steak dinner with all the trimmings, relaxed Jack, and he confidently made his way back through the casino. The slot machines were well occupied and occasionally Jack heard the screams from a winner while the lights and sirens of the winning machine blared. “I would rather play poker than throw my money down the one-armed bandit.” He stopped at a Texas Hold ‘Em table where there was one vacant seat. “A few hands won’t hurt anything. I can play with Mr. Richardson’s money and pay him back with my winnings.”

The free drinks, the smoke, the cocktail waitresses and the sound of the cards being shuffled were magic to his ears. With each hand dealt, Jack became more determined to win the big one. He eyed each of the players trying to read their body language. On the fourth deal he opened his hand to reveal two queens. The flop showed a queen, seven, and a five. Jack made a modest bet. The dealer placed another card up which was a ten. Jack called the bet made by a player across from him. They placed the final card up revealing a seven, which gave Jack a good hand of two pairs. He raised the bet from another player and watched as other players either folded or called.

“I must have a winning hand because no one is aggressively betting,” he reasoned. “I’m all in,” he announced as he pushed all $500.00 of his chips into the middle. Players folded one after another except for the man sitting across from him. Jack tried to remain calm and put his shaking hands in his lap. The noise in the casino seemed to become louder and perspiration ran down his face.

“I’ll call.” The man turned his cards over to reveal two sevens.

“That can’t be. I had you beat.” Jack felt weak and nauseous. “Hold my place. I’ll be back.” He knelt in front of the commode and vomited up his lunch. At the sink he washed his face, straightened his tie and took another $500.00 out of the wallet. At this point he did not care and had convinced himself it was his money. “I found it. Finders, keepers.”

The evening turned to long hours. There were no windows or clocks in the casino, so Jack had no awareness of the hours slipping by in the same way the money was slipping away.

Jack’s luck and poker skills did not change. He won a few small hands, but he never recouped what he lost. He took his last $100.00 bill out of the wallet. “All I need is one good hand. Just one more.”

The big winning hand never came. Jack threw the empty wallet into a trashcan and walked out into the bright, sunny and hot day. He could not adjust his eyes to the brightness as he staggered down the street. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?”

Jack did not have one more game to play. He was found on a park bench late that night, alone, penniless, and without any life force in his body, still dressed in the new clothes.

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Thank you for supporting this member 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:

RWISA Author Page: Karen Ingalls.

Contact via:

Twitter:  @KIngallsAuthor

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Poetry Friday & Book Launch!

Don’t miss this exciting #NewRelease by the talented Vahsti Quiroz-Vega. #RRBC @Vashti Quiroz-Vega

The Writer Next Door | Vashti Q

Welcome, everyone! I am beyond excited today! Firstly, the 2nd novel in my Fantasy Angels Series, “Son of the Serpent” is released today on Amazon (eBook). Secondly, I just received an amazing 5 STAR review from Readers’ Favorite for Son of the Serpent. I am so happy!

REMINDER: You can still purchase Son of the Serpent (eBook) for 99¢/99p, so please take advantage of this sale and download your copy today.

*Starting tomorrow 11/10/18, the eBook forThe Fall of Lilithwill be priced at 99¢/99p for a limited time.

Son of the Serpent, the latest book in my Fantasy Angels Series is released on Amazon today. The print book will be available soon. Son of the Serpent is a High Fantasy sprinkled with Romance and Horror aimed at an 18+ audience. All the books in the Fantasy Angels Series are standalone books, but it would be more fun to…

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Welcome to the Watch #RWISA Write Showcase Tour! Day 4 Features Marcha Fox @startrailsIV #RRBC

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Hello and a warm welcome to our featured author for Day 4 of this fabulous tour. Marcha Fox.

About the author:

RWISA MARCHA FOX PIC

Self-defined as a “space cadet on steroids”, life-long science fiction fan, Marcha Fox, penned her first stories in 6th grade. Now she’s paying forward the inspiration she obtained from that genre—inspiration that led her, as a mother of six in her 30s, to return to school to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in physics. After that, she pursued a 20+ year career at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, from which she retired in 2009.

Specializing in classic hard science fiction, her epic Star Trails Tetralogy series and its spin-offs have been acclaimed for their palatable and accurate science content. As an amateur astronomer, she’s a member of the Austin Astronomical Society, where she serves as librarian and is certified as a telescope wrangler at a local observatory.

Forever fascinated by the heavens, when her attempt to debunk astrology backfired, she pursued knowledge in that field, as well. She graduated from the International Academy of Astrology’s professional development program in 2012, and created ValkyrieAstrology.com. Much of the popular website’s informational content can be found in “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology.”

Born in Peekskill, New York, she has lived in California, Utah, and Texas in the course of raising her family. Besides writing, she pampers two Bengal cats and a sassy tuxedo while trying to keep up with her astrology clients, home, yard, friends, and family.

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The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon

by Marcha Fox

Charlie Whitehorse caressed the soft texture of the wool blanket as he gathered its folds around himself against the evening chill. He savored it’s earthy scent, unlocking an onslaught of memories. This wasn’t just any blanket. Over three decades before, he’d watched his ama’sa’ni create this one from scratch. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of his log cabin, gazing into the roaring fire, he recalled how he’d longed to hunt deer with his father and the other elders. But he was a child of seven, his job to help his grandmother, one of the tribe’s weavers. The process of making blankets was long and tedious, one far too boring for a young Navajo boy who felt embarrassed and demeaned performing chores assigned to squaws.

Even now, he remembered every step. First, she’d shown him how to separate the shoulder sections of the fleece, which were the cleanest with the longest staple. After that, she’d instructed him how to prepare the raw wool for spinning. This involved teasing a few locks with his fingers to separate the fibers. Next came combing them with a pair of carders that looked like large, flat dog brushes, manmade imitations of the prickly teasel. Then he’d place the resulting bats in a reed basket, miniature clouds of fluff awaiting her skilled hand. Pure lanolin coated his fingers, making them squeak when rubbed together, its odor one he’d never forget. Nor how it softened callouses earned practicing with his bow. Often he couldn’t work fast enough to keep up with her spinning, accomplished using a spindle to twist the prepared fibers into yarn.

Fortunately, once she spun enough yarn, his part became more interesting. Then he no longer had to sit for hours on end, arms aching from carding. Now he could explore a bit as he gathered the materials she needed to dye the yarn into a variety of warm colors.

The collection process for some substances required a knife or ax, which contributed to the feeling of it being a worthy task for a young brave. Bloodroot, hickory twigs, pokeweed berries, and oak bark were some of the things she requested. Among the most challenging were cochineal beetles which, when dried and ground into powder, would yield crimson. It could take an entire day to gather enough bugs for a single batch, but to both him and his ama’sa’ni, it was a day well-spent.

In fall, goldenrod blossoms were gathered to produce vibrant yellow, though color and intensity depended on various factors. When ama’sa’ni was ready to start the dye process, he’d haul water from either the iron-rich spring to the north side of their village for reds, or the alum-rich one to the east for the yellows, the resident minerals necessary for the fiber to permanently retain its color.

When she’d prepared sufficient yarn, Charlie helped her warp the loom constructed from tree trunks, then wrap the different color yarns on separate sticks that served as shuttles. Then, the best part–weaving–began. He marveled as she’d skillfully alternated shuttles, colorful geometric patterns emerging with each row of weft, until at long last their collective labors produced a finished blanket that was not only functional but a work of art.

Only now, as a grown man, did the wisdom of that experience impress itself upon his mind. Not only the work itself, but what it taught him about nature, going full circle from the vegetation the sheep ate to dyeing the yarn with some of those same plants. Yes, the process was tedious and long; yet the result was well worth it. It taught him patience, perseverance, and appreciation. For simple things. Like a blanket that felt softer to the touch each year, improving with use, unlike so many things that didn’t last. Analogous to life itself. And old friends. A cherished cover that had kept him warm for what would soon be thirty winters, many of which were spent in the frigid Colorado Rockies.

His cultural roots demonstrated man was intended to be an integral part of nature; stewards, not conquerors. Unlike those who’d invaded their land, forced Indigenous population to settle in inferior regions, then even drive them from there, when a wealth of silver, gold, copper, and other minerals were discovered beneath what they considered sacred ground.

Rather than extracting and processing it in a way that honored the earth and showed gratitude for its abundance, they’d virtually raped the land, leaving gaping holes and tunnels behind. Some hundred-fifty years before, his people had sadly admitted defeat and had no choice but to tolerate such behavior.

Yet, their misfortune didn’t end there. It was harvest time in 1869 when a band of drunken Whitemen raided the village, waiting until the tribesmen were away for the final hunt in preparation for winter. The invaders not only ravaged the women and burned their homes, but stampeded the horses that remained in camp. A few young braves, not yet old enough to join the hunt, had attempted to save the steeds, only to be driven by a hoard of deranged miners over the edge of a cliff to be decimated in the ravine a hundred yards below. Charlie recalled when he’d first heard the story as a youth and how he’d imagined himself as one of them.

Was it any wonder that when the tribesmen returned and found the resulting devastation that their medicine man, likewise a shaman, cursed that canyon?  So far, however, the Whiteman had continued to benefit from exploiting and abusing the entire area. Perhaps the dawn of  the curse resided in the aftermath of the leaching and other processing methods used to extract the precious metals. These involved noxious substances such as arsenic and mercury. Their residue poisoned the ground and eventually migrated to nearby streams when abandoned mines filled with rain and snow melt. The toxic drainage eventually killed all aquatic creatures and drove away wildlife that depended upon such channels for drinking water.

The mines were mostly exhausted, yet water continued to accumulate in their cavities. The latest bitter irony that they were using the excavations’ polluted aftermath to further devastate the ground. The acid mine water was being used for hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, again dishonoring the earth while stealing from its depths.

It was easy for Charlie to question whether or not the curse was real. So far it was questionable, no apparent consequences answered upon those who had wreaked so much destruction for the sake of greed. Only the earth and local wildlife had suffered.

Local tradition dictated that the curse would manifest in its entirety when their actions reached the pinnacle of evil. After that, it would dissipate, but only when the Whiteman and his Indigenous brothers mended their ways; when they closed the persistent rift between them in friendship and cooperation. Unlike many, he was one of the few who had tasted of such sweetness with his friend, Bryan Reynolds. They’d met in their teens, when Charlie had moved north to live with his father in his male parent’s native Cheyenne country. Oddly enough, the two boys even shared the same birthday, spending dozens of adventurous summers together, exploring, hunting, fishing, and growing up in separate cultures, yet being of one heart.

But now Bryan was dead. His life terminated in that very ravine known to his people as Dead Horse Canyon. Charlie suspected his friend’s tragic accident had been orchestrated by those to whom the curse had been directed. Yet so far, no guilty party had been identified, much less suffered due consequences. It didn’t make sense. Seven generations has passed. Surely it was time. And intuition assured him fulfillment was in progress.

But why Bryan? Why now? And what, if anything, was Charlie’s role?

The blanket’s warmth enjoined him to patience. From that first bat of carded wool to its liberation from the loom, it had comforted and instructed him in the ways of life. Legend assured him that the curse would end. Soon. And in some way, currently unknown to him, he would be part of it.

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Thank you for supporting this member 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:

RWISA Author Page: Marcha Fox

Contact via:

Twitter

Facebook

Blog/Website:

Blog

Website

Welcome to The Watch #RWISA Write Showcase Tour. Day 3. Bernard Foong @BernardFoong #RRBC

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Hello and welcome to the Watch Rwisa Write Showcase Tour Day 3.

Meet today’s guest Bernard Foong.

RWISA BERNARD FOONG

Bernard Foong is, first and foremost, a sensitivist. He finds nuance in everything. To experience the world he inhabits is an adventure which is mystical, childlike, and refreshing. He has a rare ability to create beauty in a unique fashion. His palettes have been material, paint, words, and human experiences. By Christine Maynard (screenwriter and novelist).

Bernard Tristan Foong, alias Young, is an accomplished fashion designer. After graduating from The Royal College of Art, London, England, he worked as an in-house bridal wear designer for Liberty’s of London for four years.

Stop Worrying

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.

 Corrie Ten Boom

#

Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, London, England

I was delighted to see Uncle James after several months of absence. The evening before my mother’s arrival in London, I had a heart-to-heart talk with my English guardian. He had kindly invited Andy and me to sup with him at one of London’s oldest English establishments – Simpson’s-in-the-Strand.

“What is worrying you, boy?” Uncle James pressed. “You know you can ask or tell me anything. I promised your mother that I’ll do my best to assist you, while you are in my care.”

Touched by his kindheartedness, I muttered, “I know my mother is in London to whisk me away from Andy. She’d gotten wind that I am having a homosexual affair with a boy. Is that true?”

My guardian gave a hearty laugh. “That is indeed true, and it was I, who told her about Andy. Most importantly she is here to see her darling son and to meet his mannerly beau.”

“If she intends to get to know Andy Why is she bolting me, with her female entourage to Europe for two weeks?” I questioned.

“She misses her son and wants to spend time with you,” my guardian answered on my mother’s behalf.

“Knowing my relatives, they’re likely to convince her that my homosexuality is a sin,” I countered.

James acknowledged. “Although that is true, you should evince to them that you have come into your own and you have the right to love whom you choose. Young, positive actions will always speak louder than words.

 “Your mother is a worldly and a well-traveled woman. She understands you more than anybody else, besides Andy.”

“It’s hard not to worry,” I opined.

Andy, who had thus far remained quiet, expressed, “My dearest, the answer lies in your beliefs in the negative and the positive about worrying. On the negative side, you may believe that your worrying is going to spiral out of control, which will drive you crazy, and may damage your health.

“On the flip-side, you may believe that your worrying will help you to avoid bad things; like preparing you for the worst and then coming up with solutions. In my opinion, your worrying shows you’re a caring and conscientious person.”

Uncle James denoted, “Andy is in part correct. Negative beliefs or worrying about worrying add to your anxiety.

“But, positive beliefs about worrying can at times be damaging. It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying protects you. To stop worrying, you must give up your belief that worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem and not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.”

He paused before he rejoined, “Young, you can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more positive perspective.

“Let me cite you an example: daily, I have tough decisions to make as the CFO of The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and it is not easy to be productive if I allow worries and anxiety to dominate my thoughts….”

My Valet asked before my uncle could finish. “What techniques do you use to rectify that, sir?”

James responded smilingly, “It doesn’t work to tell myself to stop worrying; at least not for long even if I can distract myself for a moment. I can’t banish those anxious thoughts for good. Trying to do that often makes these thoughts stronger and more persistent. 

“Thought stopping often backfires because it forces me to pay extra attention to that very thought I want to avoid, thereby making it seem even more important. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing I can do to control worry. This is where the strategy of postponement of worrying comes in. Rather than trying to stop or get rid of the anxious thought, I give myself permission to have it, but I put off dwelling on it until later.”

He took a breather before he resumed, “Postponing worrying is effective because it breaks the habit of dwelling on worries when I’ve other more pressing matters to attend to, yet there’s no struggle to suppress the thought or judge it. I simply save it for later. As I develop the ability to postpone my anxious thoughts, I realize that I have control over them.”

Andy inquired curiously, “How do you stop thoughts of worry from reemergence by deferment?”

The CFO answered, “There are three steps I take to accomplish this goal. 

“First, I create a ‘worry period.’ I choose a set time and place for worrying. For me, it is from 6:00 to 6:30 PM so that it is early enough for me to not be anxious before dinner and bedtime. During my worry period, I allow myself to worry about whatever is on my mind, while the rest of the day, is a worry-free zone.

“If an anxious thought comes into my head during the day, I make a brief note of it and then continue about my day. I remind myself that I will have time to think about it later. Therefore, there isn’t any need to worry about it for now.

“Lastly, I go over my worry list during the appointed worry period. If the thoughts I had written continue to bother me, I allow myself to worry about them. But only for the time I’ve set aside for my worry period. If those worry thoughts don’t seem important anymore, I cut short my worry period to enjoy the rest of my evening.”

My Valet exclaimed, “What a brilliant way to deal with worry and anxiety.”

James gave an acceding nod and added, “You see, worrisome thoughts and problem-solving are two very different things. Problem-solving involves evaluating a situation, before coming up with concrete steps to deal with it, and before putting the desired plan into action. 

“Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time I spend dwelling on the worst-case scenarios, I am no more prepared to deal with them should the actual event happen.”

I queried, “How then, do you distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries?”

“Young, It is much easier than you think. If a worry pops into my head, I start by asking myself if the problem is something I can actually solve. I ask myself these questions:  

Is the problem something I am currently facing, or an imaginary what-if? If the problem is an imaginary what-if, how likely is it to happen? Is my concern realistic? Can I do something about the problem to prepare for it, or is it out of my control?”

He sipped his wine and continued, “Productive, solvable worries are those I can take action on right away. For example: if I’m worried about my bills, I could call my creditors to see about flexible payment options. 

“Now, unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. Like: What if I get cancer someday? Or what if my kid gets into an accident?

“If the worry is solvable, I start brainstorming by making a list of all the possible solutions I can think of. What I try not to do, is get hung up on finding the perfect solution. I focus on the things I can change, rather than dwell on the circumstances or realities beyond my control. After I’ve evaluated my options, I draw out a plan of action. Once I have a plan, I can start to do something about the problem. This way I feel less worried.”

My lover questioned, “How do you deal with unsolvable worries or a worry I cannot solve?”

Andy, you’re not a chronic worrier, but if you are, it is vital for you to tune into your emotions. In the majority of cases, worrying helps a person avoid unpleasant emotions. Worrying keeps one in one’s head – like thinking about how to solve problems rather than allowing him or herself to feel the underlying emotions. Yet, one cannot worry one’s emotions away. While a person is worrying, his/her feelings are temporarily suppressed. As soon as the worrying stops, the feelings bounce back. Then, the person start worrying about his/her feelings, like: ‘What’s wrong with me? I should not feel this way!’” James paused when our waiter fill our wine glasses.

When he departed, my uncle resumed, “It may appear alarming to embrace one’s emotions because of a person’s negative belief system. For example, I may believe that I should always be rational and be in control and that my feelings should make sense. Or I shouldn’t feel certain emotions, such as fear or anger.

“The truth is that emotions, like life, are complex. They don’t always make sense and are not always pleasant. But as long as I can accept my feelings as part of being human, I will be able to experience them without being overwhelmed, and I can learn how to use these emotions to my advantage.”

I remarked, “Uncle, it is difficult to accept uncertainties when I don’t know the outcome.”

“That is indeed true. The inability to tolerate uncertainty plays a huge role in anxiety and worry. Chronic worriers cannot stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with a hundred percent certainty what is going to happen. Worrying is seen as a way to predict what the future holds, to prevent unpleasant surprises, and to control the outcome. The problem is, it doesn’t work.

“By thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable. You may feel safer when you’re worrying, but it’s just an illusion. Focusing on worst-case scenarios won’t keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. My dear boy, if you want to stop worrying, start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers,” my surrogate dad counseled.

“Worrying is usually focused on the future, on what might happen and what you’ll do about it. The centuries-old practice of mindfulness can help you break free of your worries and redirect your focus back to the present. This strategy is based on observation and release, in contrast to the previous techniques I mentioned; that of challenging your anxious thoughts or postponing them to a worry period. Merging these two strategies together will help you to identify the roots of the problems and will assist you to be in touch with your emotions.

“By not ignoring, resisting, or controlling them, and through acknowledgment and observation of the anxious thoughts and feelings, one then views the worrisome thoughts without immediate reactions or judgments, from an outsider’s perspective.” 

 “My dear fellas, let go of your worries. When you don’t control your anxious thoughts, they will pass; like clouds moving across the sky. Stay focus on the present, pay attention to your ever-changing emotions, and always bring your attention back to the present,” my surrogate dad reassured as our English roasts arrived for us to dig in.

#

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 Twitter:  @BernardFoong

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A Harem Boy Saga

Welcome to The Watch #RWISA Write Showcase Tour! Day 2.Rhani D’Chae @rhanidchae #RRBC

RWISA BLOG TOUR BANNER

Hello and Welcome to day 2 of the Watch Rwisa Write Showcase tour. My guest today is Rhani D’Chae.

rhani-dchae

I am a visually disabled writer who was born and raised in Tacoma, WA.  “SHADOW OF THE DRILL” is my first published novel and is the first in a series that revolves around and unrepentant enforcer and the violent life that he leads.

 

THE WEEK MY FATHER DIED

I was at work when my mother called to tell me that dad had been rushed to the hospital the night before, suffering from excruciating pain in his abdomen.

  Dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer about fifteen years earlier and it had spread to other parts of his body, but he had been doing fairly well so there was no reason to anticipate something like this.

Mom told me that dad had spent quite a bit of time at the hospital while they ran numerous tests to discover the cause of his pain. Long story short, his kidneys were failing and there was nothing that could be done. He was sent home with a hospice nurse, so that he could be with his family in comfortable surroundings when the end came.

We rented a hospital bed and put it next to the front window so that he could see outside into the yard. We kept instrumental hymns playing on the stereo and moved mom’s chair closer to the bed so that she could be nearer to him.

And that’s when things started to get a little crazy.

James, my seeing eye son, was living with mom and dad at the time, and my sister, who I was living with at the time, drove out with me every day.  Gail, my other sister, also came out daily, as did her husband, her four children and their collection of young ones.

Gail’s grandkids were all under ten and did not really understand the severity of the situation. They knew that Papa was going home to see Jesus, but that was about as far as it went. Gail’s family had never lived close to mom and dad, so their kids only saw my parents three or four times a year. None of them had a close relationship with dad, so the thought of losing him did not rate overly high on their radar.

For five days, the kids ran through the house, slamming the doors and yelling to each other. Even when they were sent outside, the noise was loud enough to be heard everywhere in the house. Their respective parents would occasionally tell them to tone it down, but they were kids and that’s what kids do.

At one point, one of my nephews-in-law decided to commemorate the occasion by putting it on film. He videotaped everyone going to my father’s side and saying goodbye. Maybe it was the stress of the situation, but I didn’t like what he was doing. My father’s death was not a photo-op, and I resented anything that made it seem that way.

I remember being called into the living room and told to say something to dad. I had already spoken to him several times, telling him that I loved him and assuring him that mom would be taken care of. Having my niece’s husband dictate to me where to stand and how long to talk so that he could get it on film, was infuriating.

As six families moved through the house each day, my mother spent most of her time sitting with dad, reading the Bible to him and making the most of the time that remained. She loved having her family close, but as the days passed, I could see that the noise and constant disruption was getting to her. I did speak to my nieces individually on several occasions, asking if they could please keep the kids quiet, at least in the house. They always said they would, and I know that they meant it at the time, but it never happened. The noise, the chasing from room to room, and the constant interruptions into my parents’ private space, continued. I could see that it was upsetting my mother, and I finally decided to put my foot down.

I took my mom and Gail into the bedroom and asked mom what she wanted or needed. She thought about it for a long moment and then said, very simply, that she wanted to answer the phone. Either Gail or one of her daughters had been taking the phone calls and making a list of the callers. Mom wanted to speak to those people, most of them from her church, and was upset that she was not being allowed to do so. And she wanted the volume around her to be turned down to a much less disruptive level.

Gail said that she would take care of it, and she did. Within hours, her grandkids had been taken by their fathers to another location. I didn’t know where they went, and I didn’t much care. They were gone, the house was quiet, and that was all that mattered to me.

Later in the day, James, my other sister Sharon and I, took mom to Cold Stone for some ice cream. Dad was fairly unresponsive by then, so she felt that it was okay to take a little break.

We were gone for about an hour, and by the time we got back, everyone else was back as well. But at least mom had a few hours of uninterrupted time with dad, and I’m so grateful that the girls understood and were willing to do what was needed to give her that.

My father passed that night, surrounded by family and carried home on the sound of our voices singing his favorite hymns. Standing in a semi-circle around the bed, we held hands as we sang, while my brother-in-law, a minister, laid his hands on my father’s head and prayed him home.

As cancer deaths go, my father’s was fairly quick. He had been fully functional up until the night he went to the emergency room, enjoying his life without much discomfort. He avoided the long hospital stays and horrific pain that are so often a part of that kind of death. My aunt Gloria died of lung cancer when I was eighteen or so. I went to see her in the hospital, and I remember a shrunken figure in the bed, hooked up to monitors and numerous IV lines. Her time of dying took several long and torturous weeks, and I will always be thankful that my father was spared a similar end. I would have hated to have my last memory of this strong and vital man, be that of a wasted shadow of the man that he had always been.

I thank the Lord that it didn’t go that way.

#

Thank you for supporting this member 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:

RWISA AUTHOR PAGE: Rhani D’Chae

 

 

 

Contact Via:

Email:  RhaniDChae@gmail.com

Twitter:  @RhaniDChae & @RhaniDChaeBooks

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Rhani D. Chae

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 1 Guest Laura Libricz @LauraLibricz #RRBC

 

RWISA BLOG TOUR BANNERWelcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC

Say hello to today’s guest Laura Libricz.

Laura Libricz Author PIC

Laura Libricz was born and raised in Bethlehem, PA, and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature.

She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY, in 1991, and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of musical instruments into the world market.

Her first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.

***

 

The Protective Plague

Laura Libricz

 

From the overlord’s house came a quiet but vicious argument. I walked past the stately, tiered structure, decorated with wooden carvings. The other houses circling the town square stood quiet: the midwife’s red wooden house built up on stilts; the iron workers’ blue housing complex and their adjoining workshop also built on stilts; the dark-brown community building, windows tightly shuttered.

I set my basket down in the middle of the square. The fountain marking the village center bubbled behind me. A mouse scurried around its stone base. The door of the overlord’s house slammed open and he appeared on the top step. A woman’s sobs came from inside the house. He raised his nose to the sky and sniffed at the air, his black, wiry hair standing on end. He approached the fountain, his black woolen cape fluttering behind him.

“The weather has changed,” the overlord said.

“You notice such things, Master?” I asked. “Today is the Turn of the Season; coupled with the full moon.”

“Yes, that is why you tie those wreaths of herbs,” he said. “Silly old traditions.”

“We will burn them at sunset on the Field of Fruition. These old traditions give the people comfort.”

“Your traditions have no power,” he said. “This year we initiate my new ritual. The One True Deity is not appeased with burning herbs.”

“What will appease your Deity then, Master? Burning flesh?”

The door of the red house squeaked open. The midwife flurried towards the fountain carrying a spray of reeds. Two red-haired daughters followed behind her. They carried baskets overloaded with sage and wormwood.

“Good day, Master,” she said, dropping her reeds at my feet.

Her black hair, not colored carefully enough, showed red roots at her scalp. I moved between her and the master, hoping he had not seen her hair, and gathered three reeds in my hands. I braided their stalks. Her daughters set the baskets down on the stone steps of the fountain and the midwife pulled both girls to her side.

“The workshop is quiet this morning.” I mentioned.

“The men have crossed the ford to the settlement beyond the Never-Dying Forest. They’ve taken our surplus of food and hope to trade. Years ago, the forest villagers made fabrics.”

The overlord chuckled. “Foolish men. No one lives beyond the water and the forest but barbarians. They don’t trade, they take.”

I held my braided reeds aloft. “Our petition tonight at the bonfire is to ask for the safety of all villagers involved, whether they come from Forest Village or Field Village.”

“There will be no bonfire tonight,” he said.

As if by the Master’s silent command, the double doors on the community building slid open. Five leather-clad men, adorned with weapons of glinting steel, took two steps forward. Five young women draped with dirty white shifts, hands and mouths bound, knelt behind their ranks. I recognized the midwife’s eldest daughter and the barrel-maker’s granddaughter.

“My new Turn of the Season tradition starts today.” The overlord nodded to the troop. The men grabbed each of the young women under the arms and dragged them into the square. They were forced to kneel on the stone steps by the fountain. The overlord’s daughter was also among them.

“These women will be taken against their will on the Field of Fruition. The One True Deity will come to accept the eggs as soon as they are fertilized. I will summon him. The women and their fruits belong to him. He will exalt them and admit them into his glorious mountain realm.”

I threw my reeds aside. “Our traditions and petitions are based on protecting our villagers, not sacrificing them.”

“These women are ripe. We have prodded them all. The One True Deity will have this offering.”

“Men cannot enter the Field of Fruition at the Turn of the Season. It will bring us harm so close to the coming winter.”

“Your foolish traditions cannot keep the furies of winter at bay. Harm will only come if one of these women becomes pregnant. That would prove her self-seeking nature, her desire to retain the fruits for herself. She will be executed.”

The midwife let out a shriek. The overlord stroked his daughter’s matted hair.

“If she becomes pregnant,” he said, “we will also know she enjoyed the act. She will have defied The One True Deity. Women cannot become pregnant when taken against their will.”

He took two steps forward, his face a breath away from mine. “These women can be saved. Here they are. Save them. Save them now but know this: four others will take their places. You shall be the fifth.”

He turned with a swish of his cape and, followed by his armed mob, disappeared into the community house.

The midwife and I unbound the women. Together we gathered the wreaths, all our herbs and reeds, and walked out of the square towards the Field of Fruition. The sky was overcast. Rains threatened. Two women and their children stood at the edge of the green field, bundling straw. They piled it neatly on a cart. Two other women whacked the lazy ox and the cart jerked into movement.

In the middle of the Field of Fruition, wooden planks stood in support of one another, forming an inverted cone. Mice scurried under my feet and under the cone. The planks were once an old barn. In its place we built a new one. Since the great flood, our village had prospered. We had practiced our Traditions of Gratitude ever since. I gave silent thanks for the abundance of grain that allowed even the mice to multiply.

“The moon is coming up over the trees,” I said. “We will start the fire now.”

The midwife scraped her knife on her stone and sparks flew into a pile of straw. She convinced the fire to burn and we fed the flames until the dried planks ignited. I raised my wreath of braided reeds over my head as mice scurried out from under the burning planks.

Our peaceful but preventive petition resonated between our practiced voices. We’d recited the verses many times and shuddered with the energy they held. I threw the wreath on the fire; sparks flew into the low storm clouds. More mice scurried over my feet. I looked down and the Field of Fruition was no longer autumn-green, but mouse-grey. A layer of mice had gathered, completely covering the Field–a protective plague insuring the fulfilment of our petitions of peace and gratitude. Well, this was not what I had in mind, but it would do. No ill-wisher would enter this field tonight.

#

Thank you for supporting this member 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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 RWISA Author Page RWISA AUTHOR PAGE: Laura Libricz

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“Taxi” By Suzanne Burke @pursoot #Thriller #ShortStory from my next #Anthology. #RRBC #IARTG #IAN1

 

TAXI NEW YORK SHORT STORY

Taxi

By

Suzanne Burke.

 

The plane landed late at Dulles. Very late. The storm that had prevented us from arriving on schedule finally hit and hit hard as I left the terminal. It was icy cold and felt like snow was on its way.

I kicked myself again for drinking so much on the damned plane. I guess I had never really gotten over my fear of flying.  The car was in the long-term car park and considering how much booze I’d had it would need to stay there at least for tonight.

I was thankful that I had been one of the first to clear through security and a lone cab remained at the rank. Heaving a tired sigh I tapped on the window, the driver gave me a grin and opened the locked back passenger door. He saw my baggage and resigned himself to opening the trunk. I threw my bag in and gratefully slid into the rear of the cab, it was warm in here.

“Where to, lady?”

I gave him the address and smiled as he said, “Hey whaddya know…That’s a good long trip, lady. You sure?”

“Uh-huh, yeah…thanks.”

“Plane was late, huh?”

“Yes.”

“Where’d you come in from?”

“Los Angeles”

“Long trip.” This was a statement more than a question.

“Yeah, it was.”

“You out there for a holiday?”

“Business.”

“So what line are you in?”

“Insurance.”

“What sort?”

“Life insurance. …  Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m really tired, can we just get where we’re going, okay.”

“Sure, sure…just making conversation, is all.”

“Thanks, appreciate it.”

I settled back into the corner and closed my eyes; the trip would take at least 40 minutes, longer still on the icy roads. It would be good to get home. The trial had ended ahead of the time allowed and I was back a full three days earlier than planned. I needed sleep and a long hot bath.

The driver was humming happily to himself, I relaxed, he clearly knew what he was doing, and had slowed down to adjust to the dangerous driving conditions.

I was falling asleep.

I felt the taxi stop, a red light I figured, keeping my eyes closed.

I heard the door open, and slam again…

“What the hell! I’m taken, buddy. You see my light?”

“Shut the fuck up and drive!” A male voice exploded from the front seat.

“Sure, sure!Whoa! Easy, man. Whatever you say.”

“What are you doing? This is my taxi.” I was in no mood for crap.

The new arrival turned, seeming surprised to see a passenger…He had a gun clenched firmly in his right hand… “Oh shit, shit shit. A fuckin’ woman, that’s all I need. Shut up and sit back.”

“What? What are you doing? Don’t be a fool!”

He waved the gun at me, “Just shut up.”

“Do what he says, lady…okay? For Christs’ sake. The man’s got a gun.”

The man with the gun was sweating, the beads of perspiration on his face clearly visible in the neon lights of the city street.

I took a deep slow breath and tried to think.

“Don’t be doin’ nothin’ stupid bitch. I don’t much care who I shoot”

“Why don’t you just let us go, and you take the cab?” I hoped my voice sounded calm.

“Not gonna happen. I need the driver. But you are expendable, so shut the fuck up.”

“Do what he says, lady, sweet Jesus! He ain’t kiddin’!”

The gunman was agitated, and it wouldn’t take much to push him into doing something neither the driver or I would like.

“You got a cell? He asked the driver.

“Yeah. Here.” He fumbled as he took it from his pocket. Handing it quickly to the other man.

“All women have cell phones, so hand it across, bitch.”

“It’s in my luggage in the trunk.”

“Why”

“I ran out of charge … it’s dead.” If he stopped to check he’d be a fool. I knew that.

“Give me your handbag …you better be telling the truth. Hear what I’m sayin?”

I handed over my bag. The driver gave me a frightened look. The gunman rifled through it and tossed it on the floor in front, not before removing my purse. “You got lucky, bitch.”

He opened my purse and took out the notes, “Where’s your license? “

“I don’t drive anymore. I had an accident….”

I left the sentence unfinished. I watched him look at my social security card, and that joined the bag on the floor.

He turned to the front and addressed the driver, “Take the next left”

The driver was picking up speed…gradually. I knew what he was doing…smart move, but if we got pulled over for speeding the guy in front would shoot his way clear, he looked and sounded like he had nothing to lose.

“You think I’m fuckin stupid man. Slow it back down…now!”

“Sorry…sorry, take it easy, you make me edgy and I wasn’t watchin’ the dial.”

I slid my right hand inside my jacket. I felt the cell phone nestled against my side. My hand was shaking. I took a slow quiet breath.

The gunman was watching the driver, intently.

My service pistol felt reassuring in the shoulder holster, but the driver would eat a bullet before I had a chance to use it if I made a sudden move.

I said a thankful prayer that I had set the cell to silent on the plane. I’d been too weary to turn it back on.

I withdrew it gently and slowly…hoping I hit the right button in the dark.

My team had a panic button, a number that would answer 24/7. There would be no voice communication. I had to leave the connection open, and hope that the trace would pick out our location. With as much help as I could give.

“Where are you taking us? You’re heading for the river? You’re going to shoot us both aren’t you?’ I raised my voice, pretending hysteria I was close to feeling anyway.

“I’ll shoot you if I have to. Understand?”

“But why? What did the cab driver and I ever do to you?”

“Nothin’! You’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shit happens. Now shut the fuck up.”

He waved the gun in my face again.

“Okay okay…” I made my voice more tearful… “ Please, I don’t wanna die..not out here…it’s so…so empty…we passed the river, your gonna kill us aren’t you?”

“Jesus, Lady. Shut up! You’ll make him pull that damned trigger.” The driver was understandably shaken.

All I could do now was wait, hoping that I had given the response team a hand with directions and that the global positioning satellite had pinpointed my exact location.

I sat back again. I remained quiet. We were heading further and further away from the city. We had been traveling for the best part of an hour. I made no sudden moves, watching the gunman stiffen as he stared out the windows. He was clearly on the lookout for something or someone. If he was meeting up with anyone we were in even bigger trouble.

“I’m almost outta gas.” Said the driver.

“What?”

“Gas! I’m nearly out!”

“Let me see the gage!” He grunted, “Fuckin’ inconvenient! There’s a gas stop about another 15 miles on. You have to get us there. Understand?”

“Man, I don’t know. The tanks almost dry. I was coming off shift when the woman climbed in.”

I applauded his smarts. He wasn’t coming off shift, he was too thankful for a long haul fare to be coming off shift. I couldn’t see the dashboard. But the gunman could.

“Fuck.”

“Will you let us go at the gas stop?” I asked

The man turned. He had no regret in his voice. He simply said, “NO!”

I knew the driver and I didn’t have much of a chance.

I would need to use my pistol. The Glock was a good gun, and I knew how to handle it…but the subject was armed and it wasn’t just myself that stood to die out here.

I heard the faint sounds of a chopper in the distance, all I could do was hope that it was my team. It had to be something urgent to be flying at all in this weather. Maybe a medivac flight. I guessed I’d know soon enough.

The gas station appeared as we crested a hill and the driver slowed and pulled into the pump.

“Get out, fill the tank. I have the woman and I’ll be watching you every step of the way.”

He turned to me, “Get out slowly, lady. Come round and stand in front of me, and we are gonna stand and watch your friend here real close.”

“You!” he poked the driver with his gun “Fill the tank, pay for it, and get back here. Make it fast. You take too long, she ain’t gonna stay healthy.”

The driver gave me a long look and then unhooked the hose and started pumping. He clicked off and headed inside to settle up.

The gunman had the weapon firmly pushed into my neck. I watched the driver go to the counter. It was then I recognized the guy behind the register.

I knew what had to happen, I saw the driver pocket his change and nod at whatever he was told to do. He exited the station and walked towards us.

“Down!” the single word came from behind and to the left!  I dropped; the driver dropped. I rolled and fired. How many shots I got off I didn’t know or care.

The gunman was on the ground.

The team surrounded his prone form. He wouldn’t be car-jacking anyone ever again.

I stood on legs made of jello and hurried the few steps to the driver.

“You okay? Are you hit? I asked as he scrambled to his feet.

“Life insurance, huh?” He managed a weak smile. “Good name for it.”

My team did what they had to do. The body was covered and I turned to the driver..”You weren’t really out of gas were you?”

“No but that gage has been faulty for months, it always shows empty, I hadn’t got round to fixing it”

He laughed now in reaction. ‘So you’re with, um …  FBI life insurance…?’

“Yup,” I smiled at him. “That’s the one.”

“After we do all the paperwork I’d be pleased to buy you a beer.” I smiled.

“I think we should each get the other drunk. That’s what I think.”

I shook his hand, “Sounds like a plan.”

#

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Welcome to the World of Suzanne Burke

 

 

A #Thriller #ShortStory “Subterfuge” an excerpt from my next #Anthology.@pursoot #RRBC #IARTG

Man in mask

 

Hello and welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I’m in a hyper muse-orientated writing burst at the moment. It’s wonderful, challenging and more than a little exhausting. I currently have one novel being read by my marvelous beta-readers. And no less than three new books under construction. Two more full-length thrillers novels and an Anthology of thriller shorts. Crazy? Yup! Guilty as charged.

Here’s a little taste from the Anthology.  It’s dark … as always.

 Subterfuge.

By

Suzanne Burke.

The day felt wrong.

Neither hot nor cold, dark nor light. It was grey. Murky, sweating, drowning, grey.

My mind was made up. A perfect solution to my dilemma presented itself. I took it.

I eased the safety on the Glock and concealed it beneath the covering of the raincoat. It must rain, I needed rain. Rain washes away so many things. Rain and pain, something to gain. The rhythm of the words in my head was pleasing. I played them over and over, seeking comfort from the calm they delivered.

The bell rang out, it was nearing time. Retribution was at hand. I smiled. Retribution, contribution, a solution. Another perfect rhyme to play on a grey day.

I walked past the brown people, the disappearing, disinterested, boring, colorless, brown people. They contributed nothing, no laughter or tears, no vivid recollections of happiness shared. They went about their daily rituals of bus travel, train travel, they sat making no eye contact with the colorful ones. The inferiority of their brownness relegated them to being almost invisible.

Had they ever had color? When in their dreary pitiful lives had there ever been a spark of joy? Had they ever experienced that thrilling rush of adrenaline to bring texture and life to their faces? Faces with dull eyes and downturned mouths. Brown people.

The world didn’t have time or place for their kind. The world was weary of browness, the dull, the ignorant, those that contributed nothing.

The building was lit … brightly shining, luring them in. Come and find color in me, it said. Bring me your invisible selves and I will give you light, it said.

I picked up my pace, the day still felt wrong. It needed to be set right. Taking the brown away was my mission. I must complete it before the rain came.

I could hear a faint rumble. Was it thunder? Oh, yes. Yes! It was not yet close, drifting on the edge of hearing. A Lovers sound in my ears, distant yet filled with the promises of passion to come.

Someone brushed by me, knocking my arm in their haste. “Sorry!” he said. Not stopping to see my face in his hurry towards the building of light. Sorry, sorry, sorry! Always, they were sorry! Sorry for this … sorry for that, they spewed the word out and felt it not a bit.

Sorry! Just … sorry!

I waited, just beyond the opening of the building.  I had such pleasure in watching, waiting, soon all would be well. I would make it so. Me, I, myself; could they not see me? Had I become brown? But no, I know better. I have color and shape, a past and a history. I know laughter, it visits me and comforts my mind.

The late ones come running, all in a bother. I smile at their faces … looking for light.

I am calm as I watch them scurry and hurry, scurry and hurry, they mustn’t worry, another sweet phrase to add to my list.

The package lay untouched, like a virgin bride. No-one had ventured to see what it was. I smile, at their stupidity.

I know, I know, what joy lay in its secret folds. It was my gift. My contribution to the world of the brown.

The thunder bounced again in and out of my mind, not yet fearsome, I was patient. All would be well.

I picked up the package, freshly admiring my work. Brightly wrapped …  it said gift, it said pleasure, come open the treasure.

The bell rang eight, then nine.

Soon, it said.

I entered the building, I sat patiently, my turn was coming.

The thunder grew closer, hummed in my mind, in again, out again … always on time.

My turn arrived. It was out of the light, not blackness yet darker. I sat and talked with the faceless voice. “Forgive me father, for I have sinned.”

The voice came back at told me I was forgiven. I was forgiven and all would be well.

I knew before the faceless voice had confirmed it. Of course, I was forgiven. Why wouldn’t I be?

The thunder roared now, finally. Yes, and then came the rain.

I put down my gift. I walked outside in the rain. Excited and trembling, I pressed the button. The cathedral exploded in tempest and sound, screaming and fleeing, the brown people ran. I waited and watched.

My gift was opened. The brown ones lay dead. I had given them color and the color was red.

I put my gun to my head.

#