Foul Play

It is Nanowrimo, and my goal has been one story a day. After a slow start. Leep and Cash and many others of the gang have been having all kinds of (Nano) adventures. Below is the very short tale I wrote today.


Leep knew there were regulations about how much cash money you could deposit to a bank account before the bank had to report you. So he put five thousand into the credit union, and another five thousand into the account that he and Cash had set up for the dining chair business. 

He immediately transferred the dining chair cash to his regular account, and a week later the five thousand from the credit union. The bank did not have to report it though of course they could, if they thought it suspicious.

But Leep was pretty sure there was nothing suspicious about a transfer from a business to a personal account. And the other was routine, too. Wasn’t it?

So now he had ten thousand dollars to play with, and a lot more, a lot, hidden under the floorboards in his bedroom closet, where his gun was.

He wondered whether he should quit his job at the mill. He felt he didn’t have quite enough to retire on, and anyway, what would he do with his time? It’s true, he thought of moving down to Playa, but he’d have to go check it out first, find out what the long term expenses might be, how long he could last and what his options were if his money ran out.

Wait. If he invested it, maybe it would never run out. Did investment companies have to report large cash deposits? He would have to google it. 

Meanwhile he went to the garden centre, now all indoors for fall, and found a big bushy basil plant to take to Beth. 

On the drive to Beth’s (Lizzie in his head) he heard an update on the radio about the body found in the pond at the golf course. A woman, a doctor, slight build, dark hair. Discovered three days after Leep’s windfall, and two days after she was reported missing by her husband. There was no mention of a stolen jeep.

The report said there were signs of foul play. What did that mean? Had she been assaulted? Beaten? Sexually assaulted? 

Leep felt queasy. He’d had bacon and eggs for breakfast and now they weren’t agreeing with him. He thought of the dark haired woman in the hospital parking lot and how she screamed and waved her arms as he drove away in her jeep. 

Beth’s car was in the driveway. The basil plant felt light. He would make sure Lizzie watered it right away.

Play On

golf ball on course

Cash learned he wasn’t very good at telling people what to do, even in his position as Assistant Pro at Coventry Pines Golf and Country Club. The particular foursome holding up play were drinking beer from a cooler on one of the carts, which Cash decided to overlook, and gambling on several elements of each hole, and then arguing for ten minutes about the outcome and what each player owed or won. 

Cash authorized several groups to play through on nine and also on thirteen, while the slow foursome argued and drank at the pin, but players were stacked tighter and tighter behind them. The club Golf Pro was just starting a round with a group of VIPs, and asked Cash to take care of it, pronto.

The Pro, Colin, was under the impression that Cash had some experience with golf and golf courses, but aside from pitch and putt Cash had never held a club, and had never driven a golf cart, and knew little about the rules and regulations. He had an open, blinding smile, however, and an outdoorsy tan, and the new slick golf shirts draped beautifully on his torso, his off-the-rack golf trousers looked tailor made— in other words, he looked the part, and Colin, being a professional, assumed that the Club would hire someone qualified, and not the adult son of a colleague of a wealthy member.

Most of the time Cash hung around the Pro Shop, sometimes answering the phone and booking players’ tee times, though he’d recently been asked to do so only when the Pro Shop manager was in the toilet. He could show Pro Shop visitors some of the gear and clothing he liked, but he didn’t know about stock or discounts or how to used the cash register. He listened with intensity to the stories from players about this birdie or that bogie, laughing heartily when it seemed appropriate, and deposting countless slaps on the backs of the old boys. Except for his utter ignorance of the game, he fit right in.

Cash drove the cart to the edge of the green then approached the foursome, who were in a huddle clutching handfuls of bills. Cash picked up an empty beer can and said amiably, “How’s it going, guys?”

“Hey, Cash is it?” called out one large man. 

“Sorry to have to ask you gentlemen to play on.”

“We paid for this round like everyone else,” said a man with a yellow visor, which cast an unfortunate pallid hue on his face.

“Oh yeah, sure, sorry,” said Cash. “Pro wants you to pick up the pace for the last few holes, ok?”

“Whatever,” said the skinny man with the visor.

“No, you really have to move on to the next hole now and play a little faster. Maybe a lot faster. Please,” said Cash with a self-deprecating smile.

The large man shrugged. “Tell them to play through,” he said. 

“Yeah, or you could just step on it, like the Pro says,” said Cash, still smiling.

“This round is costing us close to six hundred,” said a man in a purple golf shirt. “So you can basically fuck off.”

“Hey Roger, the kid is just doing his job,” said the large man, who Cash finally recognized as one of the members. The Pro Shop manager ordered 3X shirts, just for him.

“Thanks guys!” said Cash, striding back to the cart. He got in and started it up, hoping to drive off in dramatic glory, but the cart slowly got up to its maximum speed of 20 kilometres per hour and puttered away. 

Cash returned to the Pro Shop and went into Colin’s office to cool down. He sat down on the hard oak chair that reminded him of the furniture at his old high school. There were pictures of Colin’s wife and children, older pictures since he’d met the kids and they were teenagers now. He could hear the phone ringing; people wanting to book times probably. He wondered where the manager was and if he had sought medical help for his bladder issues.

The oak chair swivelled and pivoted backward, so Cash could lean back and rest his feet on the desk quite comfortably. He really wasn’t cut out to be Assistant Pro, doing the grunt work, and sometimes even having to do groundskeeper’s chores, which he was sure weren’t in his job description, though he’d never seen it. He would do better as the Pro, entertaining VIPs, handing out prizes after tournaments, delegating the less pleasant tasks to the assistant. And those golf carts—what was the point of them being so slow? He’d remove the governors from the motors so the staff could zip around quickly and in style.

He’d need to improve his game. He could take lessons. He could just imagine the pictures of Virginia and Echo on his desk, Echo as a baby, then a little girl, and then maybe graduating from high school. She would learn to golf too, maybe become a little golf whiz, wowing the members and wowing her grandparents. 

By that time he might have advanced to General Manager of the course, taking over Dave’s job. Dave didn’t do much, as far as Cash could tell. He was never around. He often ate dinner in the Club restaurant, the Lobster Pot. Otherwise Cash never saw him.

Yes, he could have a future here, one Virginia could be proud of. 

His cell phone buzzed abruptly. He had to think for a moment. “Cash here, Assistant Pro!”

“Where are you?” Colin asked.

“Just got back!” 

“Well get out there again. I’m standing here at three. Can you take care of it or not?”

“I did take care of it,” said Cash. “They said they’d hurry up.”

“Who is the member, is it Gordon Wall?”

“I um—is he the big guy?”

“Tell him the rules. He knows better. Get it done Cash, or get out.”

Cash stood up. The window in the office had a view of the eighteenth hole. It was deserted, the flag hanging limply. The green was the same emerald colour as Cash’s golf shirt. 

He wasn’t sure what another confrontation with the foursome would accomplish. He just wasn’t cut out for confrontation. He was better at delegating. 

He wondered where he could take lessons, other than at the Coventry Pines Golf and Country Club.


Ice on aspen leaf

When the snow fell from the sky for the first time, that November afternoon, people ran outside to welcome it. Some people cried. The experts warned: Do not become complacent! But the air was cold and clean and deadly to the virus, and even Eleanor put her bowl of flour and sugar down on the counter and stepped outside to feel the icy flakes sting her cheeks.

The children were at school, her mother asleep in bed, and her father alone in his study not wanting to be disturbed, so Eleanor waved to her neighbour Harry, who waved back and then did an awkward little jig, and Eleanor laughed so hard she felt warm tears on her face. 

She felt eyes upon her and turned towards the house, and saw her father standing in the window of his study, his face in shadow. She could not tell if he shared her elation or was disdainful of it. She waved to him, then turned her back on him before he could respond, and waved to the neighbours on the other side, two sisters who hugged each other and wept. They’d lost everyone, and wept for their loss, Eleanor suspected. They were tears of rage more than tears of relief. They didn’t see her wave. 

A chill gust of wind abruptly brushed the thin layer of snow from the sidewalk and lawn and it rose in a cloud. Eleanor, now damp and cold, went inside.

She wanted to tell her mother but did not want to disturb her sleep. She’d slept so fitfully this past week, the fever coming and going; she was too weak to eat and the doctor, looking almost as grey and exhausted as his patient, had set up an IV to keep her nourished. That helped soften the rash on her face and body, she looked less uncomfortable and angry, and her features softened as she slept.

Eleanor imagined the teachers setting the children loose outside in the snow, free to run and play for the first time in many months, and anticipated they’d return home flushed and glowing. She put the cookies, dark with molasses and cocoa, in the oven. They would be warm when when the children burst through the door.

Her father came into the kitchen. She could feel his presence before she saw him. He was a dark cloud that inhabited the house, like a ghost, steady and uncomplicated and now predictable. “I don’t believe it,” he said.

“Don’t believe what?” Eleanor said with a sigh. “That it is snowing? That winter is here?”

 “That it will make a difference,” he said. “That’s just another lie.”

“Papa, they know it will kill the virus,” Eleanor said. 

“Who is ‘they’? You are naive. You forget I survived this virus. I know what it is.”

He’d said the exact words before, but was never willing to explain what “it” was; nor how he would know more about the pathology of a deadly virus than medical experts solely by virtue of having contracted it.

“I’m not sure you did survive it,” Eleanor said in a low voice, turning away and vigorously wiping the counter top with a yellow cloth. 

“What did you say?” 

“I’m not sure you survived it,” said Eleanor, more loudly this time, turning to face him. “You are not the same, papa, you don’t smile, you have… strange ideas, you—”

“It took me a lifetime to understand the truth, that’s all,” he said, his face flushing.

“What is the truth?” Eleanor snapped.

“I’ve been used, we all have been used,” her father said darkly. “Where do you think this virus came from?”

“You are talking nonsense,” Eleanor said. “We know where mama got it, and how.” 

“It’s because of them,” said her father.


A shaft of late afternoon sunshine suddenly broke through the clouds and streamed through the window, blinding her father; he turned away and covered his eyes. He was still very sensitive to bright light, it was a lingering symptom of the virus and one reason he favoured his darkened study. He would battle a severe headache later on. Her mother’s bedroom was never brighter than the light a single dull bulb from a lamp in the corner could cast.

“I’m sorry, Papa,” said Eleanor as she closed the blinds, a chore she’d usually have already taken care of as the sun moved lower in the sky. It would be dark soon, and the school bus would drop the children home. The cookies were cooling on the rack, and the milk ready to be poured.

She brushed an unruly lock of hair from his forehead. It was almost time to give him another haircut. Her fussing used to irritate him, now he let her touch his face with a resigned indifference. It was a connection, however tenuous. Sometimes their eyes met, as they did this time. 

Her father was about to retreat to his study when the front door opened and slammed against the wall and a small boy flew into the house, dropping his knapsack on the floor. “There was a snowman!” he cried to his mother, who smiled and knelt and helped remove his jacket. “She let us come home early, so we could play. Will you play with me Grampa?”

Eleanor’s father said nothing, but a wisp of a smile played at the corner of his mouth. 

“It’s gonna be better now, Grampa,” the boy said solemnly as he took a seat at the kitchen table. “Miz Fitzgerald said.” He then burst into a toothy grin. Eleanor’s father almost smiled again, and touched the boy’s head as if to tousle his hair, but did not.

“Where’s your sister?” Eleanor asked, as she placed warm cookies on a small plate and set it on the table.

The boy’s grin vanished and he looked at his lap, then at his Grampa standing beside Eleanor. 

Eleanor looked quizzically at them both, one by one. The boy stared at his hands. Her father took a step towards her as if to hug her. She could feel the dark cloud that always hovered over him penetrating her like an icy wind. She thought of the sisters, hugging on their front lawn, her neighbour Harry doing a jig. Her mother lost in a fog of illness. Her daughter, learning how to climb steps two at a time. She felt her father’s arms surround her and hold her as if she were a weeping child.

The boy advanced and gently took her hand. “It’s gonna be better now, Momma.” 

It’s gonna be better.

Astonish Me

Prompt: Flick

She entered the darkened room silently, the glow of her cigarette acting as the dimmest of lamps, and saw the silhouette of a large cat crouched in front of a window draped with a thin lace curtain. She could smell embers from a now-dead dead fireplace. 

She sensed the movement to her right before she saw it, and spun on her heel, kicking hard in a fluid, violent movement — it was Nick, one moment licking his lips in triumph at tracking her down again, now reeling backward, turning, and hitting his head on the brick mantle. The cat was quick to pounce, bloodthirsty, to lick the crimson liquid pouring from his forehead like thick cream into a bowl. She could suddenly hear the tick of a clock and smell the burnt waxiness of the extinguished wick of a candle and felt a prick of fear scud along her spine.

She flicked the ash of her cigarette as the cat leapt back onto the windowsill. She felt sick, knowing Nick would survive to tell Vic about the trick she’d played, He’d once called her a hick, a foolhardy chick— now he lay ominously still at her feet. She had no choice: She pulled the Colt from her belt and heard the click as the gun was cocked. 

The cat, in silhouette, silent and angry, flicked its tail in the moonlight. 

Now that I have fulfilled my writing prompt responsibilities, in this case trying to incorporate as many ‘flick’ rhymes as I could into a rather thin story—which was the only idea that came to mind with this word prompt— may I now present a few of my favourite cartoons relating to the hero of our story, the cat, and her favourite prey?

cartoon cat editor

cartoon church mice

cartoon Astonish me

Peace and love,



Prompt: Spit


“I’m not going out there.”

That’s what he said, so I got supplies together and made a meal with what was left. It looked interesting… perfectly seared steak and a new age salad. The salad was composed of bananas, chickpeas, and minced dandelion flower (for colour). He did not like it.

“I can’t eat this.” He spit the forkful of salad onto his plate. “What a waste of a banana,” he said.

The sun beamed through the window like a spotlight, illuminating dancing, fluttering dust specks. We ate early these days, to conserve electricity. I had suggested dinner by candlelight instead, but he snorted. We ate at five o’clock. It had to be right at five, since he discovered a rigid routine was soothing to him in these stressful times. He rose at seven, took Nancy for a walk, sat down to breakfast at eight, read email and the news online an until his light lunch was served at noon. In the afternoon he liked to watch legacy sports, football mostly, and nap. Another walk with Nancy took place before his dinner, the contents of which were starting to disturb his equillibrium. 

“I can’t work like this,” he said after dinner. He wrote in the evenings, parked in front of the computer screen in the spare bedroom, set up as his office. 

“What’s wrong?” I asked, against my better judgement. 

“I’m hungry, for starters,” he said. “And this house is a mess. You know dust bothers me. I need peace and order. You know that. Did you clip Nancy’s nails?”

“Not unless you found the clippers,” I said boldly.

“Do I have to do everything around here?” he asked. He stood and came to me, standing in the doorway with a plate of dried apple and a cup of tea, his evening snack. He took the apple and the tea and closed the door. 

“I need my privacy,” he often said.

I turned on the television and grabbed my stack of handkerchiefs. The sewing machine was broken, so I stitched all the masks by hand. It was time-consuming. He liked to have several in rotation, and he liked to give extra to his friends outside. So I sewed extra ones.

The TV show was about a young woman living in a strict, Orthodox religious community, where her marriage was arranged and her duties clear and inalienable. I envied her. Then she gave it all up to run away to Berlin and study music.

The world had gone mad.

But I, sat there in the sagging armchair with my stack of white cotton handkerchiefs, had not gone mad. 

I put on a newly sewn mask, got a sweater, picked up the car keys and Nancy, and walked out to the old Saab. 

It took all night to drive there. I had forgotten what salt air smelled like, and forgotten the sweet bitterness of a fresh lemon. 

I pictured him at 8:45 in the morning, having foraged his breakfast, annoyed, opening his email program and finding my letter.

“Fuck off,” it said.


High Five [Repost]

Prompt: Dish

scrambled eggs

Jeremy’s bedroom was beside the kitchen, and he heard someone in there, rattling around, opening and closing the fridge, running the tap, getting dishes and cutlery. It wasn’t as if they were trying to be noisy, but Jeremy looked at the clock: it was 6:30 in the morning. This was one of the rare days when he didn’t have to be at work until four that afternoon, so he was a bit peeved. But not a lot peeved, because he knew that the person in the kitchen was Xavier, and that he was getting breakfast for Jeremy’s father.

It had only been a week since Xavier had been sleeping on their couch, but everyone’s routine had changed, and the rhythms of the household were disrupted, for better or worse. Xavier wanted to help, and did. Jeremy’s dad liked to get up early in the morning, but was slow and sullen and usually waited until he heard Jeremy was up, before arising and  joining him and settling in with his list of discomforts and displeasures. But Xavier rose early and made his father eggs, toast, and cut-up fruit every morning. It was aromatic and irresistible, and ready when Jeremy’s father emerged in his dressing gown.

Jeremy’s father didn’t exactly thank Xavier, in fact he was perfunctory in pointing out his preferences. Runny yolk. Dark toast. No citrus fruit. But he ate it all, seated at the kitchen table, then put his dish in the sink and went into the living room, where he sat in his chair and turned on the television.

A little later on Xavier would fetch the newspaper from the hall, and set it on the side table beside his chair. No thank you’s, but no searing, vitriolic, unprovoked take-downs, either. Those were still reserved for Jeremy.

It was Xavier who now prepared Jeremy’s father’s dinner, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to be microwaved later, when both Xavier and Jeremy were at work. Xavier did the laundry on Monday, and ironed and folded the shirts, including Jeremy’s white airline shirts.

Jeremy had to boot Xavier out— just for the day— on Tuesday, because he was working too much. He looked pale. He’d become too quiet. He hadn’t seen any of his friends. Jeremy ordered him to go out and have some fun. Xavier seemed reluctant. “The couch will be here when you get back,” Jeremy said. He gave Xavier twenty dollars, which he tried to refuse.

On this morning, Jeremy sighed, dragged himself out of bed and padded into the kitchen. Xavier was scrambling eggs in a cast iron pan. “Plain,” Jeremy said. “He doesn’t like cheese or tomato in it.”

“Ok,” said Xavier.

His father appeared in the doorway, in his plaid flannel dressing gown, his thinning hair uncombed. He glanced at Jeremy, who wore only cotton pajama bottoms and no slippers. “Put some goddamn clothes on,” he said.

“Some apple juice, Mr Connor?” asked Xavier. “Jeremy, you are wanting some juice and breakfast?”

“No, thanks,” said Jeremy. “I’m going back to bed in a minute.”

“Oh! Sorry!” said Xavier. “I forgot.”

“No problem, just remember next Thursday.”

Xavier blinked, slightly smiled, and said nothing, but Jeremy could read his mind as if his thoughts appears on sign above his head. Next Thursday? I will still be here next Thursday! Thank you God! And Jeremy! Where was a very young, illegal immigrant going to live, on the wages Xavier earned as a busboy?

“I was wondering,” said Jeremy, “what you–” he turned to his father– “and Xavier would think about having him stay here full-time.”

“Wow,” said Xavier.

“What for?” said his father.

“To partly take care of you, and this place,” said Jeremy.

“Impossible,” said his father. “I can’t pay him, you certainly can’t, and there is no room. Forget it. Go back to bed.”

“I could clean out the den. We don’t use it, it’s just full of boxes that haven’t been opened in years.”

“It’s too small,” snarled Mr Connor.

“It’s fine,” said Jeremy. “Xavier, it’s true I couldn’t afford to pay you much, but you would have room and board, and lots of free time.”

His father poked at the plate of scrambled eggs Xavier had just placed before him, and said, “Salt.”

“Of course a lot depends on if you can abide my father’s rudeness, bad manners, bigotry, and evil temper,” said Jeremy.

“Watch your disgusting mouth,” said his father.

“Sorry,” said Jeremy, and smiled secretly at Xavier, who smiled back. There was something about sharing the pain of his relationship with his father that somehow made it more bearable.

“I would say, yes,” said Xavier. “To the question. I can do more. I can take your father out.”

“I am sitting right here,” Mr Connor said. “And I’m not a dog. And who says I want to be seen with a wetback in public anyway?”

“Nice try, dad, but that’s only about a 4 on a scale of 10.”

“Fuck you.”

“Are you sure, Xavier?”

“I am sure.”


“I have no say, do what you want, don’t expect me to pay for it,” said his father. “Or like it.”

“It would be nice if you gave your notice at the restaurant in person,” said Jeremy. “They may want you to work a week or so yet, but maybe not. It would be better if you don’t, since those freaks know where to find you.”

“What freaks?” said Mr Connor.

“Your favourite kind,” said Jeremy. “Religious bigots.”

Mr Connor pushed his chair back from the kitchen table and stood up. “Better a religious bigot than a hypocrite faggot,” he said. He shuffled into the living room and turned on the television.

Xavier and Jeremy high-fived, in silence, then Jeremy went back to bed.

  • Original Prompt: Clock, July 24, 2016.

Sound of Silence

scary green pepper 2

Charlotte ate green peppers all day long. She hadn’t had time for breakfast and she was hungry— starving even. It was hard work in the field, filling the baskets with peppers just the right shade of green, and while most of the pickers couldn’t stand the sight, smell, or taste of peppers, Charlotte craved their crunchy bittersweetness.

“Pesticides,” said the woman with very long grey hair, bent over in the row next to hers.

Charlotte was almost certain the peppers were organic and free from sprays. If not, sure, she could be in trouble.

“Your daughter needs a healthy immune system!” she remembered Nana Cole telling her mother. “Let her eat dirt, for heaven’s sake!”

Charlotte didn’t remember eating dirt, but she remembered the admonishment to her mother.

Pesticides were not dirt, however. But Charlotte was sure that thousands of people didn’t wash their pesticide fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming, and they weren’t all dead. Were they? Maybe the pesticides had side effects just this side of death, like… acne? Cancer? Memory loss? Baldness? Stupidity?

There was no way to know. Charlotte was thinking long and hard about this after work as she punched the button for the third and top floor of the apartment building, too tired this day to take the stairs. Just before the door glided closed a woman with long grey hair slipped into the elevator.

“Oh hi,” said Charlotte. 

“Pesticide,” said the woman.

“That’s me,” said Charlotte.

As the elevator made its initial lurch upward, there was a loud long beep, then silence, darkness, and stillness. The elevator, motionless, was frozen between floors.

“It’s premature,” said the woman.

“What? The elevator?” said Charlotte, frantically rooting around in her purse for phone, since she was terrified of pitch blackness.

“My hair, it’s prematurely grey.”

“We’re stopped, did you notice?” Charlotte flicked on the phone and held it up, casting light onto to stark metallic elevator walls.

“I don’t need the light to see the darkness,” said the woman.

“Oh jeez,” said Charlotte.

There was a red button, unlabelled, at the bottom of the small bank of floor buttons. Charlotte pressed and held it. There was no comforting sound of alarm bells or sirens to alert the world that there was trouble in the elevator shaft.

She punched in 911 on her phone. No signal.

“Hmm,” she said, checking the battery. 

 The woman took out a Bic lighter and flicked it on. The flame danced in the breeze of the woman’s breath.

Charlotte had a vision of a… Gordon Lightfoot concert somewhere in a vast, past concert hall, empty but for the grey -haired woman, a dedicated Bic fan.

“HELP!” Charlotte shouted, just in case. Elevators weren’t sound-proofed, after all. Were they? Someone might hear her cries and investigate.

The woman reached out and touched Charlotte’s forearm.

“Be brave,” she said.

“Be kind,” Charlotte said impulsively.

“Be silent,” said the woman firmly.

Charlotte was strangely comforted, as she had felt helpless and desperately wanted something to do in this predicament, and now she had a direction: silence. She took a deep breath through her mouth and exhaled through her nose. Silence was power, peace, and purpose. Charlotte understood, she got it.

But the silence did not last.

The grey-haired woman, illuminated by the flickering light, said, “When you eat, your digestive system works to break down food into usable energy to power the cells and the body’s necessary processes and functions. But your gut finds certain foods too difficult to break down into just energy and waste, and gas is the leftover product when those foods sit in your colon.

“Portions of foods that can’t be broken down and digested by the intestines travel to the colon, which is full of bacteria. The bacteria in your colon ferment these undigested particles of food, resulting in gas, burping, and flatulence.

“Green peppers,” she concluded, “are unripe peppers.”

Charlotte put her phone in her pocket. “I’m very sorry,” she said.

The woman nodded, the lights suddenly came on, and the elevator lurched hopefully.

Joy and Dismay [Repost]

New Prompt: Rouge

manet picnic

Shhhhhh! —The leaves of the lime and birch shuddered and bobbed in the wind, blinking green and dun yellow, green and dun yellow. Five six seven fat quail scudded across the grass. An animal pounced; they flew up into the air like ashes from a fire.

Molly tried to keep her knickers hidden, but the hem of her dress was not weighted like her sister’s, and so flapped and fussed and threatened to reveal not just her boot-covered ankles but her stockinged calves, her frilly pantaloons, proof a woman was hidden somewhere beneath the billows of robin’s egg blue fabric.

She didn’t partake of the claret as it took her shyness away, and sister had told her that her shyness made her prettier. So she blushed and stammered in full sobriety, while her sister sipped and laughed and flirted with Donald Heath, the man Molly wanted to wed.

Egg sandwiches were passed around, which Molly denied herself too, as they made her flatulent. Sister took two small wedges, and fed one of them to Donald Heath.

James Fenwick and his cousin Halifax attended to Molly, embarrassed as they were by the intimacy on display between sister and Donald Heath, and Halifax braided tall grasses, adorned the halo with violets, and crowned Molly, much to her joy and dismay.

Sister caught Molly’s eye and winked under long lashes, and held out her glass without looking at Donald Heath and he filled it with wine. Her dress was cranberry red with pink ribbon trim and if she spilled a drop of claret on the bodice of the dress, which she did, no one would notice.

When they all rose to make their way to the carriages, sister stumbled and this time James Fenwick took her elbow on one side and Halifax on the other. The three walked ahead on the path as Donald Heath caught up with Molly and she could smell him— tobacco, horses, and mint.

“You must be very hungry and thirsty,” said Donald Heath.

“No, not at all,” said Molly as her stomach growled audibly. She half crouched as they walked, as the wind had not subsided and pulled recklessly at the hem of her skirt.

“I don’t usually eat egg sandwiches,” he said. “They make me fart, so please forgive me if we share a carriage.”

Molly let out a rather ungodly snort, before blushing rouge from head to toe. Donald Heath, victorious, grinned broadly, took her elbow and whispered in her ear, “One day you’ll be my wife, and we’ll drink claret, spill it on our clothes, and—“

“—eat egg sandwiches all day long and fart as much as we choose,” said Molly. The wind calmed and they were suddenly children again, chasing each other through the tall grasses until they tumbled onto the ground, exhausted and unafraid.

Sister could go to hell.

  • Original Prompt: Partake, April 22, 2018

No Place for Secrets [Repost]

Prompt: Fright


“There is no place for secrets here.”

That’s what he used to say, almost every prayer session, sometimes softly like a nurturing father, sometimes with spittle at the corner of his mouth, furious and shouting. It got so that the phrase had no meaning at all.

We weren’t sure what secrets were anymore. He mostly told us what to think about, and there seemed to be eyes upon us all the time; if not him, or some of the others, then our own eyes, upon ourselves.

He told us to think about what life means, and what it would mean without him to guide us. What if we were abandoned by him, and left to fend for ourselves up there? We trembled when we thought about it. He said we would be eaten alive up there, and we realized he meant it figuratively, but it seemed terrifying all the same.

When we looked in the mirror we saw faces without sunshine, from without or from within.

“There is no place for secrets here.” We were to confess our wayward thoughts to him. Shine the light of day on those thoughts and make them scurry like cockroaches back into the darkness. We didn’t know what the light of day looked like or felt like. We had forgotten. We confessed that wayward thought to him and he grew angry. “Up there, you would be lost. What good is the light if you souls are lost? Think about that.”

And we did. We thought about life, about life without him, about how we would be eaten alive up there, about soulless lives, about how there is no place for secrets.

So, we rolled him into a blanket, and shoved him out the door. He was right, the light was frightening. It hurt our eyes. We closed and sealed the door, and he began pounding on it. He was shouting something too, but his voice was muffled and we couldn’t make out the words.

We didn’t have to hold secret our thought, not any more. It was finally out. And he was right. The world is a better place without secrets.

Original Prompt: Secret, March 1, 2016


doberman hydrangea-Edit

“That looks like a paint-by-number my grandmother did,” said a man in a hat. He wore a grey raincoat and could be cast as a subway flasher, Envy thought, as he seemed the tiniest bit shifty.

“I can see how you might get that impression,” she said. She looked around for the server with the tray of white wine. Exhibit openings always attracted fresh new art aficionados, or at least those who could tolerate modern art and who liked free wine, which was ok with Envy as long as she got her fair share.

“This one is $670 though,” said the man, not taking his eyes off the small painting, which was a representation of two doberman pinschers in front of a blue hydrangea shrub.

“Framed,” said Envy.

“Does the frame cost $665?” asked the man.

Envy wondered where the featured artist, Francesco Brown, had wandered off to. He was a thoughtful and precise man, and could likely engage the man in the hat in a startling and enlightening conversation.

The pianist had started playing ragtime, which Envy detested at that particular moment as it clashed with her mood and, she felt, with the paintings on display. She signalled to Meghan, her assistant, who didn’t notice, as she was swiping at a blob of cream cheese which had dropped from a canapé onto her blouse.

“Francesco Brown,” said Envy to the man, who had turned his head to stare at her when she hadn’t responded, “paints in a somewhat primitive, two-dimensional style as a way of connecting with past sensibilities and in response to the current trend of what he calls multi-media ‘meddling’.”

“He does, does he?” said the man. He took his hands out of his pockets and Envy, in momentary panic, feared he would suddenly expose himself.

“He can explain his aesthetic better than I can. Why don’t I find him for you?” She looked around again for the tray of wine.

“Not necessary,” the man said quickly. “I’ll take it.”

“Take it?”

“I’ll buy it. This one. The dogs. It reminds me of my grandmother. She was the only one who never asked me why I collected sticks. Plus, it has a nice frame.”

Envy insisted the man in the hat meet the artist, who was charming and drew out from the man that his name was Edward, he lived in the neighbourhood, he had a dog named Cleo, he didn’t drink, and he preferred to pay by cash rather than a credit card, which made it awkward for Envy, who didn’t want to put the “sold” sticker on the picture until the money was safely in hand.

Edward didn’t seem to notice, or care, that there was no “sold” sticker on the painting of the Dobermans with Hydrangea. He said he would drop by the next morning with the cash and seemed confident the picture would be wrapped and ready to go.

But he did insist on a cup of coffee at the Starbucks next door after the event ended at nine pm. Envy agreed, and a coffee with a client was a good excuse to duck out and leave the closing up to Meghan, who hadn’t been much help at the exhibit otherwise.

They chatted briefly about the obvious topics: the exhibit (well-received), the artist (not as flaky as expected), the attendance (solid, including at least one arts writer from a small local paper), and the sales (satisfactory).

Then Edward said, sipping on his black coffee, “You are dying for a glass of wine.”

“Not drinking makes you an expert?” said Envy, a touch prickly.

“In a way, I guess so,” said Edward. “I always liked a drink after any kind of exhausting activity.”

“What kind of exhausting activity?”

“You know, like the end of a project, a speech, a big sale, lovemaking, anything emotional.”

“To be honest, I could murder one,” Envy admitted.

“I won’t keep you,” said Edward. “You just seemed interesting. Not like the women I usually meet.”

Envy stifled a yawn. That old line. She possibly got it more than most women, since she was, by any objective standard, not particularly attractive. She instinctively looked at her watch, then blushed at the inadvertent impoliteness.

“Sorry,” said Edward.

“No, I’m sorry,” said Envy. “I’m not bored, honest.” Not yet.

“Is that an engagement ring?” Edward asked, indicating the glittering tri-ruby ring on her left ring finger.

“It is,” said Envy with a sigh. “Though I don’t know if I am really engaged.”

“What’s the confusion?”

“I have the ring, but not sure if I want the marriage,” she said. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

“Because I’m safe, anonymous? I have a kind, trusting face?” suggested Edward.

For a flasher, thought Envy. But she found herself continuing, “We love each other, we do, we should get married.”


“He thinks I’m not over my first marriage.”

“Oh. Are you?”

“Definitely, but not over the man,” Envy said. Yes, that was it. The worst combination of feelings for an engaged person ever: cynical about the institution of marriage and still clinging to the connection with the ex. Shit.

“Selfishly, I can’t help but think that puts me in third place at the very least.”

“Amazing, isn’t it, how someone who looks like me could have an interesting love life?” Envy said, much more harshly than she intended.

Edward gently set his coffee cup down and stood to his feet. “It’s been fun, Envy, but Cleo can’t walk herself, so I should run.”

Envy rigorously decided against being embarrassed or regretful, and held out her hand. “Thanks for the coffee, and see you tomorrow.”

“Right,” said Edward.

Whether he would show up at the gallery to pay for Dobermans with Hydrangea or hop the subway in his raincoat was anyone’s guess.