New WIP Installment 4 [fiction]

In this final installment, Abigail and Quinn butt heads, and then Abigail goes to the hospital’s breakroom to cool off. It is still Monday and four days before Halloween. I have a feeling that the holiday is going to pair up Vree and Abigail before the novel ends.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone.

Enjoy the installment. Thanks for the likes and comments on the previous posts. And again, please don’t shy from letting me know what you think about this story so far.

4

Abigail was lost in thought as she walked down the sapphire colored hall with its highly polished light green tiled floors. Quinn was a few feet in front of her, his heels clicking sharply. He stopped at the elevator bay. “That was a hell of a surprise,” he said.

“I’m still stunned,” Abigail said. Her belly rumbled—almost as loud as the rumble coming from the elevator shaft. She stood next to him, swayed for a moment, and then said, “For a moment I was worried I was going to lose my job.”

Quinn pressed the only button there, the square one marked DOWN. “He’s crazy,” he said steely, “picking you to work in the OR. But that’s okay. I like the idea of you working for me.” Embers flared at the rims of his eyes as he smiled. “I’ll make you a deal. Sell me the lake house and I’ll back off and give you no hassles.”

And there it was … again, ever since the divorce. The log house at Alice Lake and its thirty acres her grandfather had left her when he died. Quinn had taken a special liking to the place during the marriage, but Abigail had been wise to keep Quinn’s name off the deed.

“Not for sale,” she said. “And what do you mean by giving me no hassles? This isn’t kindergarten. I expect you to behave professionally.”

“I should think you would want to make things easy on yourself,” he growled. “Keep the head surgeon happy, if you know what I mean.”

“Are you threatening me?” She could feel embers heating around her own eyes.

“Here’s some advice,” he said as the elevator car stopped and the stainless steel doors rumbled open and revealed an empty car. “Don’t try to play in the big leagues, Abby.” He stepped inside, turned and flicked his hand at the air as though he was brushing away a fly. “You wouldn’t be working here if your grandfather hadn’t been on the board of directors. And if it was up to me, you’d be nothing more than an admissions clerk.”

The doors began to close. Abigail lunged at the panel and pressed the DOWN button. The doors rumbled open again. “You don’t own this hospital,” she said through a clenched jaw. “And you don’t own me. Not anymore.”

“Is that so?” Quinn grinned, exposing large teeth at her. “You’re part of the OR staff now. My OR. So consider yourself owned, babe.”

Abigail stared at him, hoping to see him fade away like a bad dream. He remained postured in his stance, smirking at her. She swiped at the tears pooling in her eyes.

Quinn laughed.

“You’re nothing more than a bully,” Abigail said.

“And you’re a slut who slept with Tommy. I can never forgive you for that.”

“Forgive me?” She slapped the wall above the panel. In her mind, she had struck that supercilious smirk from his face. “You cheated on me!”

“And who did I find you with in our bed?”

“It wasn’t like that. Tommy was drunk—”

“Keep telling yourself that.” He stepped back, folded his arms over his chest, and shook his head three times. “Good luck carrying this baby to term.”

“I will. I don’t have a jackass for a husband who’ll hit a utility pole and make me lose our baby!”

Quinn shrugged. “Now you just have a jackass who calls himself an artist but paints houses for a living.”

“Well, at least—”

The doors began to close. Abigail waited with her hands balled into fists for her comeback—the one that would hurt him most. But it stayed in her throat as the doors closed. She took in a deep breath, and then let it out with a growl.

“This will never work,” she said. She marched to Wentworth’s outer office. The door was closed and locked. He had left, likely taken the rear stairwell next to his outer office to the administration parking lot. She wondered if he had seen and heard her fighting with Quinn.

Her stomach rumbled. This time for chocolate.

She entered the stairwell and followed it down three flights of cerulean and light-green concrete stairs to the nurse’s break room. There, she charged into the cozy room and halted in front of the candy machine.

“Damn it.” The Kit Kat bars were sold out. She pressed her forehead against the candy machine’s Plexiglas window. She did not see the reflection of the white-haired nurse who stood at the coffee maker next to the sink behind her. Her mind busily played more highlights of her angry moments with Quinn.

When her mind settled from its Quinn attack—and it did, quicker now that Daniel was a part of her life—she spied the last chocolate truffle waiting inside the machine. The money slot refused the crumpled dollar from her skirt pocket. After three tries, she gave up, feeling defeated. Turning, she halted with a yelp as she faced a white Styrofoam cup that seemed to hover in front of her face.

“Hot and fresh,” Emily Frewin said.

Emily’s cinnamon breath wafted over the nutty coffee aroma. The plump woman always chewed Big Red gum. Neither smell alleviated her frustration or her nausea.

She took the cup by its top and bottom and almost dropped it from the heat, then hurried it to the nearest table and blew on her stinging fingers.

Emily sat across from her and eyed her suspiciously. The older nurse’s brown eyes were red and puffy.

“Allergies,” she said when Abigail commented on them. “Every October.” She shook her head. Her short hair held its place above a narrow brown forehead, and where it fell short and straight in the back, caressing a slender neck and resting unmoving on the back collar of her white blouse. Nurses her age were well familiar with hair spray.

“What happened upstairs?” she asked. “I heard you were in Wentworth’s office. It has to be important if it involves Wentworth.”

“I turned in my leave of absence papers.”

“To Wentworth? Why should he care about your leave?”

“I think I did something I’m going to regret.” She watched steam rise from her cup. “In fact, I know I am.”

Emily cocked her head. “You’re going to make me play Twenty Questions, aren’t you?”

“You have to promise to keep this news to yourself until I’m back from leave.”

“Listen, I’m old enough to be your grandmother. I have secrets even my husband doesn’t know, and he thinks he knows everything about me. Now tell me what’s eating you.”

“Wentworth offered me Linda’s job and I accepted.”

A smile filled Emily’s face. “Congratulations.” Moments later, she returned to studying Abigail’s face. “This is where you smile,” she said.

“I know it sounds good, but I’m having second thoughts of working with Dr. Quinn, medicine jerk.”

“You’ll do just fine working in the same room with your ex-husband. You have spunk, Abigail Mae Gentry. You won’t let the sonofabitch push you around.”

“He blamed me again for our divorce. And he wants me to sell him the lake house.”

Emily shook her head. “He owns enough property in and around Ridgewood. Don’t you sell him anything.” She looked down at her coffee. “Don’t ever give in to him. Never.”

Two chattering Radiology nurses entered the room and took turns ordering from the candy machine. Abigail and Emily were silent. After they got their candy and left, Emily said, “I got laid off. Just found out a half-hour ago. But don’t you feel sorry for me. This was a job, not a profession. I can always go back to being a Walmart cashier … anything to keep me busy.” Emily returned to staring at her coffee. “And if that doesn’t pan out, my oldest, Larry, said he can get me a job at the plastics plant, so there’s always that.”

“Well, if you need anything, call me,” Abigail said. An awkward silence fell between them. She was certain there was more Emily wanted to tell her.

“What is it? she asked.

“It’s a bit awkward, but I know you have an interest in the unordinary. So, I’m going to be frank. At first I thought our new patient was either talking to herself or the lightning that struck her may have harmed her brain.”

Abigail leaned forward. “Are you talking about the girl with the unusual name?”

“That’s the one.” Emily lowered her voice. “Or she’s neither and I either saw something real and extraordinary or there’s something wrong with me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Earlier today I answered her bell and just before I entered her room, I heard her telling someone that she wanted them to leave her room … to leave her alone. She even told me that she wanted them out of her room, but no one was there.”

“Fascinating.” Abigail leaned closer. “And?”

“Just that it was so cold in there … colder than usual. I got her a blanket and got her calmed down … she seemed so frightened. But the really weird part was when I was at her bedside, I swear I saw a flash of white at the door, like a camera flash, only not as bright. And in the light—”

Two more nurses—Lab, by their blue name badges—entered the room and headed to a table in the back.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” Emily whispered, “but I saw something in the light … a woman … a big woman.”

“That’s Mrs. Radcliffe,” Abigail whispered. “You’re not crazy. I’ve seen her too. She’s a ghost.”

“I’ve never believed in that stuff. But…” Emily swallowed down her coffee. “But I’ve been a nurse long enough to know there’s more to life after this one is over.”

Abigail sat back. “So it seems our young patient may have been talking to one of our resident ghosts. That is definitely intriguing.”

“And spooky to hear you say there’s more than one ghost in our hospital.”

“All harmless.” Abigail stood. “I’m heading back to the floor before people think I was fired.”

Emily went to the machine and bought another coffee. “Since they’re laying me off after today, then I’m taking a longer break.” She sat and said, “What are they going to do? Fire me?”

End of installments

New WIP Installment 3 [fiction]

We leave Vree in this installment and learn more about one of her nurses, Abigail Gentry. I based her looks on the illustration below. The hair in the illustration is curlier than how I described Abigail’s. I may need to add a new description when I sit down for my final draft. Oh well. Anyway, the day is still Monday and four days before Halloween in the story.

Enjoy. Thanks for the likes on the previous posts. Please don’t shy from leaving likes and/or comments on this one.

3

Storms had a way of looking worse through windows.

It was a thought that Abigail Gentry would have turned into poetry a year ago, perhaps even a song played on her old Fender guitar. But thirty-three-year-old Abigail didn’t write or sing anymore. A lot had changed in her life this year. A lot for the better. But not all.

The Monday afternoon rain outside the three-story hospital drummed like a carwash rinse down the plate glass windows to Abigail’s left. The stormy October skylight over Ridgewood had darkened to a faux twilight that exaggerated the artificial lighting inside the anteroom of William Wentworth’s office, which made Abigail’s white uniform glow almost ghostlike against the black plush leather chair in which she sat.

She tapped trimmed and painted fingernails—glossy pink—against the large manila folder on her lap, the folder that contained her unsigned maternity leave papers. Betty Howard at personnel had sent her to the medical building’s third and top floor, saying that Mister Wentworth wanted to see her about her maternity leave.

But why?

Betty said she didn’t know.

Nurses didn’t get called to Wentworth’s office unless it was something big. Something bad, perhaps.

Layoffs—some of them permanent—had struck the hospital’s nursing staff last month, but Abigail knew the CEO didn’t personally hand out pink slips.

Her belly rumbled with hunger. She needed to eat more than tossed salad for lunch. But anything else brought bouts of nausea because of her pregnancy.

She tugged the hem of her skirt over her knees, crossed her short legs, picked a piece of lint from her white pantyhose, tugged her skirt’s hem again, and waited. Alone. In front of her CEO’s black, liver shaped, glass-topped desk. Except for a stack of manila folders at one end, Wentworth’s desk was spotless—unlike the desk in his inner office … or so she had heard.

At her right, Wentworth’s outer door opened and stirred her attention to her ex-husband Quinn Bettencourt entering the room. He paused upon seeing her, then crossed in front of her and plopped his gangly body in the matching chair between her and the stormy windows. He had changed out of his earlier attire of green surgeon’s scrubs and was now sharply dressed in a dark blue suit and solid green tie—the official colors of Ridgewood Mercy Hospital.

She scowled at Quinn’s boyish face easily masking his true age of forty-five. On the surface, it was a pleasant face, filled most of the time with a kindly expression until one looked deep into his ultramarine eyes where cynicism bubbled behind them.

“You here to see Wentworth?” he asked.

She chewed her bottom lip for a moment. Then, “Uh-huh. You?”

“It’s my three o’clock.” Quinn splayed his long legs and sighed. “Every Monday through Friday, like clockwork.”

“Are you always late for your meetings?”

His eyes traveled down her shapely calves, then darted to the closed door where Wentworth’s muffled voice drifted from the other side.

“Is he on the phone?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“So, why does he have you here during our three o’clock?”

“I’m hoping it’s about my maternity leave.”

“That’s right. I hear congratulations are in order.” Quinn grinned wider on the left side of his face, which made him look like he was smirking. He pointed at her trim stomach, not yet showing her pregnancy.

“I’m happy for you and Dick,” he said.

“Daniel. His name is Daniel and you know it, you—” Abigail repressed the derogatory word from entering their CEO’s pristine meeting place. She folded her arms over her chest and waited for Wentworth’s entrance.

“My bad,” Quinn said. He brushed a hand along the side of his short and neatly trimmed brown hair—dyed, of course. “I don’t know why I get his name wrong. Must be he reminds me of a Dick.”

Abigail’s scowl fixed on his steely gaze and she hoped he saw the fire behind her green eyes.

He glanced at her stomach and said, “So, how long has the pudding been in the fridge?”

Abigail turned from him. “God, you’re disgusting.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Fine. How long has the bun been in the oven?”

“You’re a….” She bit her lip.

“I’d guess six weeks, which would explain that nauseas look on your face.” He glanced over her folded arms, at her breasts that pressed against her uniform top. “Feeling tender there, I bet.”

“You’re such an ass.” The derogatory word escaped her mouth easily this time.

She took her arms away from where her breasts were definitely tender and glanced down at her watch. Eleven minutes after three o’clock. Her workday was almost over, so she made mental notes of whether to cook tonight or have send out for dinner. Probably neither since the smells of food had been unkind to her lately. Babies can make such a fuss during pregnancy.

The inner office door opened and a portly but brisk William Wentworth entered.

Quinn sat up and Abigail sat at rigid attention as their CEO plopped into a large swivel chair behind the desk, cleared his throat and apologized for keeping them waiting. Sharply dressed in a beige suit, black shirt and silver tie, he peered eagerly at Abigail’s folder before meeting her gaze and bobbing his balding round head.

“Maternity leave. An early one at that, I hear.” He held out a pudgy hand and waited for Abigail to hand him the folder.

“Dan and I want to make sure there are no complications with this pregnancy,” she said when he opened her folder.

The room stilled. Quinn coughed. Abigail almost looked pleased to see her ex pull at the Windsor knot of his tie.

“Well, naturally I would like to see you back, healthy, as soon as possible,” Wentworth said. His brown eyes danced nervously at Quinn for a moment before he settled again on Abigail. “But considering our recent layoffs…”

“If that’s going to be a problem, sir, I understand should you want me to wait.”

“Layoffs,” he said, as though the word troubled him. He squinted at her for a moment. Then he pulled a manila folder from atop his pile, opened it, and turned to the last page of the papers inside.

Abigail swallowed. Her stomach rumbled and she wished she hadn’t passed on the grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Whatever she was here for, this was it. She took in a breath and held it.

“Linda Thomas is retiring,” Wentworth said briskly. “Are you aware of this?”

“Yes, sir.” Her attention snapped back to him. “At the end of the year.”

“Sooner. She and her husband are packing this very minute. I tried to get her to stay longer, but her husband found a place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, their dream home. They had to act fast or chance losing it.”

He patted the papers with his left hand. “I’m losing nurses left and right,” he said. He bobbed his head three times at Quinn before he looked again at Abigail.

“You’re an excellent nurse,” he said, “and an outstanding team player. And despite the irreconcilable differences you listed between you and Quinn when you divorced, you have always been professional here at the hospital.”

He paused and Quinn sat forward, suddenly interested.

He’s going to lay me off, she thought. Once the baby is born, I’ll be recovering while standing in the unemployment line.

“You’re young,” Wentworth continued, “but that isn’t a limitation for the job.” He slid the folder and its small stack of papers in her direction. “Should you be so willing, Abigail, I think you’re the best candidate to fill Linda’s shoes in the OR.”

Quinn made a whooshing sound, as though he too had been holding his breath. Abigail was speechless.

“I’ll give you all the time you need,” Wentworth said, “including three months’ vacation after the baby’s delivery … completely paid, of course.”

There was a moment of rain swashing the windows. Abigail finally said, “The OR? Me?” She sat forward, took the folder to her lap, and skimmed the paperwork of her promotion. There were twenty-five pages of legalese. Contract agreements bound nurses all through their careers, but this contract seemed to contain more pages than necessary.

As though he had read her mind, Wentworth said, “It’s a bit wordy, but the standard employment agreement for all nurses hired to an upper staff position: Everything that will transpire during the term of employment, the start date, a description of your duties, who you’ll directly report to.” He looked at Quinn. “Treat her well, Dr. Bettencourt. Leave the divorce outside the hospital.”

“Yes, sir,” Quinn said. He looked and sounded stunned. He shifted his body away from Abigail, crossed his legs, and added, “Of course.”

“You too,” Wentworth said to Abigail. He produced a fountain pen from his desk. “If you’ll just sign and date on the last page, you can begin your new job as soon as you’re back from your leave of absence.”

For a moment, Abigail could not picture herself part of the OR staff. This only happened to intelligent, quick-to-learn nurses.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Wentworth said, as though he had read her mind. “You’re a topnotch nurse, Abigail.”

She nodded. He was right. She opened Wentworth’s pen and signed and dated the last page. Then she returned the contract and pen and sat back in her chair. A fog filled her mind—a good fog filled with visions of her future.

Wentworth slid the contract to Quinn, who frowned at it for a moment before he signed below Abigail’s name. The CEO followed their signatures with his before he stood, looking pleased.

Abigail stumbled upright, shook Wentworth’s awaiting hand and thanked him.

“The first year will be probation,” he said, bursting her visions of success. “But I know you’ll do us proud.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll certainly do my best,” she said.

Wentworth turned to Quinn. “No three o’clock today. I have some errands to run.”

“Of course.” Quinn stood and addressed Abigail. “Congratulations. I look forward to working with you.”

She didn’t miss the faintest flicker of distress that appeared for a moment in his eyes. Then it was gone.

“Three o’clock tomorrow?” he asked as he turned to Wentworth.

“Yes.” Wentworth turned and retreated to his inner office. When the door closed, Quinn headed for the exit.

Abigail resided in her thoughts for a moment before she stumbled past her chair and followed Quinn into the hallway. There, she paused at a corridor window that mirrored her image back to her, the rain behind it washing down with a constant certainty. She straightened her skirt and ignored the weight of a new obligation upon her, coupled by the sour sickness caused by being pregnant. After all, she reasoned, reflections have a way of looking worse through stormy windows.

To be continued

New WIP Installment 2 [fiction]

Here’s more of the novel I have worked on for the past four years. It features 15-year-old Vree Erikson who wakes up in the hospital after lightning struck her and her neighbor Owen Avery. It is Monday and four days before Halloween when Vree awakens.

Enjoy. And again, please don’t shy from leaving comments.

2

Vree floated, buoyant in the dark.

She struggled to move, to rise out of the dark around her.

An unknown but pleasant voice spoke her name.

“Can you hear me, Verawenda?” a woman asked.

Vree plummeted deeper into darkness for a moment, then rode an invisible wave that lifted her to a small, lighted square white room. She was on her back, on a bed, and covered to her chest by a white blanket. A bank of computerized machines flanked the head of her bed. Clear liquid in a rectangular plastic bag hung above her head on a metal pole. A plastic tube ran from the bag to the top of her right hand, its metal needle held in place by three pieces of clear, plastic tape.

Her voice croaked from the worst sore throat ever as she asked where she was.

“You’re in the hospital.” The woman with the pleasant voice leaned over from the left and smiled down from an oval face surrounded by coils of red hair. Kind, mocha eyes gazed at Vree. “How are you feeling?” She wore a white starchy blouse and a gold nametag with ABIGAIL GENTRY, RN stenciled on it.

Vree tried to swallow away the fire in her throat, but her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth.

“Thir-thty.” She licked her swollen, sandpapery tongue across parched lips.

The head of her bed rose until she sat upright. A white plastic cup came from the left and hovered in front of her face for a moment before she took it from Abigail’s offering hand. The water was warm but tasted good and soothed her throat, clearing it so she could ask the nurse why she was in the hospital.

“You were struck by lightning,” Abigail said matter-of-factly as she looked up at one of the monitors. She swept a curly lock of hair from her brow. “You were unconscious and unresponsive when the emergency medical team arrived at your home. We treated you for dehydration and ran some scans, but it looks like you’re doing fine now.”

Vree handed Abigail her empty cup and groaned, recalling Owen on his back and dead. The white flash must have been the lightning striking him. Tears rolled down her cheeks and a sob broke free from her throat.

“Where are my parents?” she asked, sniffling at her tears.

“Your mom stepped out for some coffee. She’s been with you this whole time. She’ll be happy to see that you’re awake.” Abigail tucked the blanket tighter around Vree’s narrow hips before she said, “I need to ask you some questions, so I need to know if you’re feeling dizzy, feeling nauseous, or having any pain.”

Vree shook her head. Several other questions followed, including if she knew who the president of the country was. She answered each one, but then asked, “Why did you look surprised when I said that today is Sunday?”

“You rest,” Abigail said. She took the pillow from behind Vree’s head and replaced it with a fresh one from a closet in the room. “Dr. Fuller will talk to you later. Meanwhile, I’ll be back later to check on you. The call buttons are on both bed railings if you need anything.”

Vree sank into the fresh pillow. As soon as she closed her eyes, darkness grabbed her and pulled her down into a swirling chaos that stopped when she opened her eyes.

A cool breeze fell on her as though someone had turned on a ceiling fan. A white crow sat perched on the foot of her bed.

Was it the same crow from earlier?

It had to be. After all, how many white crows existed in Ridgewood?

The crow cawed and spoke to her.

“You are not hallucinating, Verawenda Erikson,” it said with a deep, masculine voice.

Vree reached out to press the call button then stopped when the crow spoke again.

“You see and hear me because your magic has awakened inside you, brought to life by the lightning that struck you.”

“This can’t be real,” Vree said.

The crow seemed to stand straighter, taller. “I am Lucian.” It arched its back and flapped its wings as an obese woman entered the doorway and stopped. Her blue hospital gown was tight against her rolls of flesh.

“Why is this girl in my bed?” she bellowed.

“You need to leave, spirit,” Lucian said, turning to face her. “Your time here has expired.”

“It’s my bed. She needs to get out of it. NOW.”

Icy wind whipped across Vree. She pressed the call button.

“Go,” Lucian said. “Leave this plane of existence.”

“But this is my room.”

“Stop it,” Vree said. “Both of you get out of here and leave me alone.”

An older, plump, white-haired nurse entered and passed through the woman as she hurried to Vree’s side. She said, “It’s always so cold in this room. Can I get you another blanket, sweetheart?”

“No. I just want them out of my room.” Vree brought her trembling hands to the sides of her face and pressed them against her cheeks, despite their coldness.

“You want who out of your room?” the nurse asked.

The angry woman vanished like vapor. So did Lucian.

“I want my mom,” Vree said. Her throat had tightened and her voice was barely audible. She peered up at the nurse’s concerned face and said, “I want to go home.”

To be continued

New WIP Installment 1 [fiction]

This is just a taste of the novel I have worked on for the past four years. I’m not a speedy writer since I only have a few hours each day to write.

Okay, a fewer more since my surgery and sick leave from work.

The intro of my novel is lengthy, so I’m putting it here in four installments spread over four days.

Below is the first installment. It features 15-year-old Vree Erikson and her neighbor Owen Avery. The story opens on a Sunday and five days before Halloween.

Enjoy. And please don’t shy from leaving comments.

1

Vree Erikson yanked the steering wheel of her dad’s John Deere riding lawnmower and sent it across several surface roots of the old oak tree in the backyard. She and the mower pitched left, right, left again, then … BAM. The deck slammed down, the blade stopped, and the motor whined for a moment before the engine stalled.

“No, Mom, listen,” Vree said into the microphone of her pink and black Bluetooth headphones, “I need acrylic ultramarine blue. It has to be acrylic paint. I want to finish my painting tonight so it’s ready to take to school tomorrow.” She sighed. “Have Tina help you. She works there every Sunday.”

She was quiet and chewed at her bottom lip until her mom said she had found the correct paint.

“Thank you.” Vree whipped off the headphones and flung them over the steering wheel.

A chilly October wind blew grass and leaf clippings at her back, rippled her white shirt and green palazzo pants, and blew her long blonde hair around her face. She hunched in her seat and sputtered, pulling strands of hair from her mouth.

The sky over Ridgewood had darkened as thunderheads rolled in and dimmed the afternoon sunlight. She needed to hurry if she wanted to finish mowing the backyard before the rain came.

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Go away, Owen. I don’t want to talk to you.”

Her neighbor Owen Avery peered at her from the brown picket fence that separated their yards.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “It sounded like the lawnmower’s blade struck one of those tree roots.”

“I’m still mad at you.” Vree leapt from the mower and fell to her hands and knees when she tripped over a root.

Owen vaulted the fence and hurried to pull her by an arm from the ground. She pulled from his grasp and stumbled over another root. Owen reached for her but she slapped away his hands.

“I told you I don’t want to see you anymore,” she said.

“I know. But listen.” Owen peered at her with anxious brown eyes. The hair on his chin and upper lip made him look older than fifteen. Grass and dirt marked his cheeks and stained his T-shirt and jeans. Had he been in his mom’s pumpkin patch, picking out the best ones for jack-o-lanterns on Friday night?

“This is all Skye’s fault,” he said. “She saw me kiss you at the hayride last night and wanted to know how serious we were. She’s been stalking me at school, driving me crazy, so I told her we, uh…” He combed a hand through his bushy auburn hair, lifting the locks from his forehead. “I told her that we—”

“You told her that we were all the way serious.” Vree scowled at him. “And when she asked me about it after the hayride, my mom overheard her. I spent all night convincing my parents that I’m … you know … that you and I haven’t had sex.”

“I’m really sorry about all this. But if Skye wants to think that we had sex, then that’s her business. Now she can’t play me like I’m someone she needs to score with.”

Vree stepped away from him and leaned her back against the lawnmower’s hood. The conversation had plowed into the one thing she did not want to discuss. And it was all Owen’s fault.

“When two people are in love, they should cherish their love and not say stupid things,” she said. “You need to remember that.”

The pained look left Owen’s face. “Does that mean you still love me?”

Vree pushed her windblown hair away from her face again. “It means you need to make things right with Skye and my parents if you think I’m ever going to talk to you again.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I really hate myself for hurting you.”

His apology softened Vree’s anger and eased her frown. She gave him the smallest smile she could muster and said, “For the record, I had a good time at the hayride.” Then she rolled from the hood and grabbed the lawnmower’s steering wheel before Owen could open his mouth and ruin the good moment they had just shared. “Help me get this thing off those roots,” she said. “Okay?”

She steered the mower away from the roots while Owen pushed at the back of the seat. The damaged root exposed a white, wet wound where the lawnmower blade had cut it.

Thunder boomed from the bruise-colored sky as a sudden cold downpour rushed through the bare oak branches above them. Vree shrieked at the icy rain drenching the back of her shirt.

She hurried back to her seat and tried to start the mower. The engine coughed but did not jump to life.

“Dad’s going to ground me for a year if I broke anything.” She jumped to the ground. “He’ll be home from his office any minute,” she said to Owen who swiped away rainwater from his eyes. “Come on. We need to get the mower out of the rain.” She pushed against the steering wheel and steered toward the little white shed behind the garage thirty yards away.

Owen pushed from behind again but he slipped several times as his beat up tennis shoes lost traction on the wet grass.

A flash of bright light dazzled the space around them as thunder cracked again. Heat hit them like a giant fist that knocked them off their feet. Vree landed on her back, rolled to her stomach, and rubbed at her eyes with cold, wet fingers. Her body ached everywhere and she spat away an acid taste in her mouth.

When she got to her knees, the rain had stopped. Owen lay on his back a few feet away. He did not move.

Vree forgot her pain and scrambled to his side. He looked asleep but he was not breathing.

His heart made no sound when she put an ear against his chest.

Two EMTs had demonstrated CPR on a rubber mannequin in her Human Health class last month. Was it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if the person was not breathing and external cardiac massage if their heart stopped beating?

She was unable to remember.

Panic kicked in. She cried for help, alone in her backyard. Where were Mr. and Mrs. Avery and Gaylene? Someone needed to call an ambulance, but she had left her phone charging in her bedroom.

She cried out again, almost screaming for help. No one came.

She had to save Owen.

She blew air into his mouth with hers, remembering to pinch his nose closed.

Then she pressed her palms against his sternum for ten quick jabs, but it did not revive him. She called out for help again until a painful sob erupted from her throat. How long had Owen gone without breathing? More than five minutes? Could the human brain live without oxygen for more than five minutes?

She continued CPR, calling for help, and begging Owen to live. She almost screamed when strong hands pulled her to her feet.

Her well-groomed blond-haired father in a gray Brooks Brothers suit towered over her for a moment before he dropped to his knees at Owen’s side. He performed chest compressions with the skill and ease of someone who had done it many times before.

Her dad knew CPR. She stumbled backwards. Did lawyers have to know CPR to be lawyers?

Vree jumped when he shouted, “Did you call nine-one-one?”

“I don’t have my phone.” The words caught in her throat and choked her. She staggered backward. A heavy weight pressed away her breath. She needed to get away from Owen’s lifeless body.

Her dad pulled his iPhone from inside his suit jacket and dropped it in the grass. He snatched it from the ground, swiped away the grass clippings stuck to the screen, and dialed 911.

A white crow cawed from the lawnmower as Vree backed away. It was perched on the seat, and it cocked its head at her, looking with black, beady eyes.

“Not dead,” it cawed before it vanished like a ghost.

Vree stumbled across the tree roots and fell into warm darkness.

To be continued

What’s Ahead For My Characters

2018 is a year of do-overs for my Ridgewood characters and their stories. Forget everything about them. Forget all of it.

This is the year that began with a blank slate—a book of blank paper where anything is possible.

Like many writers, there are times when I dread starting the blank paper because, well, if you’ll allow me to use boating metaphor, I know I will have many false starts before my story finally leaves port and sets sail.

Writing stories can be very much like sailing out on an open sea. You obtain a good crew and the proper vessel and provisions for the voyage. You gather information from others who have made similar voyages. Then, as you make your way to sea, you find that your boat isn’t crafted as well as you thought. You discover that your compass is unable to locate true north and your maps are missing important information. And sometimes, your crew—those characters you spent so much time with preparing for this voyage—commit mutiny, take charge of your vessel, and sail into uncharted waters.

It’s hell out there on the high seas. And it’s hell writing stories—especially novels. Those are the long voyages, the ones where you know you’re going to run into all sorts of problems. But like those old sea dogs who keep sailing, you keep writing. Either for the love of adventure or the love of telling stories—or both—you do it for the love of doing it.

And I love telling stories. Even when I have mapped the route and I know where I want my story to go and the direction changes, I love it.

So, here we are, two months into 2018 and I’m finishing getting my crew ready for our voyage. Our boat is still Ridgewood and our voyage is still along the deep waters of Myers Ridge. Some of the crew has changed, but Vree Erickson is still aboard and I’m almost ready to give her the helm. She is younger now—13—but that’s okay. The blank slate in January allowed it to happen. Her best friend on this voyage is her neighbor Julie Douglas. Julie’s big brother, 15-year-old Kaden, is Vree’s love interest. Puppy love is still love and it comes with a ton of emotional baggage. He has eyes for Vree’s musically gifted, 15-year-old sister, Amy. But she is too interested in music to notice boys right now, which is okay because Kaden is moments away from finding a green crystal that’s going to change his life and Vree’s and Julie’s too.

Tune in next time for “Did We Just Change Course?” or “That’s Not a Compass, Silly. That’s a Pocket Watch.”

New Ridgewood, 2 [fiction]

Wherever Vree was, she could not see much, just gray darkness similar to the warm and safe kind beneath her blankets when she and Zoey used them for tents in her bedroom. But she was not beneath her blankets. The grayness was infinite here, wherever here was, and she floated and rolled and swam in it, which made her certain she was dreaming.

There was nothing to look at, only her hands and arms and the rest of her body below her head, though they were almost impossible to see in the grayness. She wore a gown—no. Not a gown. It was a long T-shirt—the kind she wore as pajamas. She also had a pair of white ankle socks on feet that seemed far away. They floated in and out of sight.

She grew bored with floating, so she sat, surprised to find a plush seat beneath her—a sofa by its size and shape when she stretched out her arms on either side.

“Nice,” she said.

The sofa made a comfortable bed.

“Very nice.”

She floated alone. And she liked it.

She floated with her sofa, going nowhere.

There was no sense of emergency here—no alarm to awaken her to another day of chores, no schedules to follow and adhere to, and no places to be at, like Chase’s baseball games and Emma’s piano recitals.

She liked that, too.

Except for the infinite grayness. It was like being underwater. She searched for color. She had seen plenty of colorful underwater worlds of coral reefs and tropical fish.

But this was not the ocean.

“Where am I?” she asked a pinpoint of white light far above her, shining like a solitary star a billion miles away.

An urgent need to go to it overwhelmed her. Whatever was there was important. Perhaps color was there.

“Hurry,” she said to her sofa, which floated and ignored her requests for it to speed to the light. “I need to go there. Now.”

“Let it come to you,” a familiar voice said from the seat to her right.

“Daddy?” Vree squealed, delighted to hear his voice.

“Be patient,” he said from the grayness, his thin body an almost featureless shape in the seat next to her. She scrambled from her seat and leapt in his embrace of long arms that wrapped around her and held her close. His Aqua Velva cologne made her grin wide while she snuggled against him.

Sudden white light bathed them as though someone had flicked on a light switch. Vree fell from her father’s embrace but remained snuggled against him. He wore his usual dark work suit and shoes—all business. And her T-shirt was the Bugs Bunny one from last Christmas.

She smiled a short-lived grin at her father who now wore his blue silk robe and matching pajamas and slippers from the same Christmas.

“How did you change clothes so fast?” she asked.

“It’s Christmas,” he said, pointing a long finger at the infinite white space in front of them. Vree looked. She wanted to see a Christmas tree and decorations there, but there was none. No Christmas smells of cookies and cake, and no carols playing in the background. No noise at all.

Someone coughed. A quick, soft cough loud enough that it sent her attention to an armchair that descended from above them. It stopped in front of the sofa and a girl looked up from an open, oversized hardcover book.

“You look like me,” Vree said.

The doppelganger smiled at her, then closed the book softly and laid it in her lap of skinny leg jeans—Vree’s favorite pair from last Christmas. She even wore Vree’s oversized tank top with a print of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night on the front, which had also been a Christmas gift. Her blonde hair—either fastened in a bun or a ponytail in the back—was pulled tight from her face.

Vree noticed her own hair was loose and draped around her neck and shoulders.

“Who is she?” Vree asked her father.

“I’m you,” the doppelganger said.

“This is such a weird dream,” Vree said. “I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed about me before.”

“’Tis no dream, girlfriend,” the other Vree said. “Welcome to one of death’s many realities … home away from home … the land of repetition and boredom.” She yawned audibly.

“Hush,” Charles said to her. Then, to Vree, he said, “She’s your subconscious. She needs to be a part of you, not floating here without you. You must pull her in so you can recover. The two of you need to be one again.”

Vree clutched her father’s arm in a tight embrace. “Recover from what?”

“A coma,” the other Vree called out. “Lightning struck us. It killed Daddy and put us in the hospital, unconscious.”

Vree scowled at the girl. “I don’t like this dream. I wish you’d go away.”

“You’re in denial, girlfriend. But that doesn’t change the facts. You need to wake from this coma.”

“I don’t believe you,” Vree said. “Daddy’s right here. This is just a dream trying to go bad.” She searched her father’s solemn face. “Tell her she’s crazy.”

Charles met her gaze. “To awaken from your coma, you need to be one with your subconscious and create order in your mind. You need to embrace your subconscious again.”

Vree shook her head.

“You can do this, Vree, honey,” Charles said. “The lightning separated you from your subconscious, but it also triggered special abilities in you. You need your subconscious so you can live.”

Vree let go of his arm and scooted away. She crossed her arms over her chest and said, “This is just a dream.”

No one said anything.

Vree uncrossed her arms and looked down at herself. She no longer wore the Bugs Bunny shirt. Her red KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON T-shirt made her think of rain, thunder, and—

“If this isn’t a dream, then where am I?”

“Somewhere between life and death.”

Vree moaned and shook her head.

“Hey-hey, girlfriend,” the other Vree called out, “where’s the love?”

“I don’t love you!”

“Without her, you cannot live,” Charles said.

“If all this is true and you’re dead but I’m not, I don’t wanna live without you.”

“Hush your nonsense, Verawenda Renee. You need to continue living. You need to do important things where you’re going. Now, sit up straight, chin out, and bring your subconscious to you. Think it and it will happen. Accept her and she will come. Let it happen.”

Vree frowned at him. He had moved closer to her. She reached out and took one of his hands in hers. He lifted it to his mouth and kissed the back of it. Then he released it. A white light glowed from her hand, spread up her arm, then over her body until the light bathed her.

Across the short distance, white light bathed the other Vree.

“Now that you’re awakening, it’s time for me to go.” Charles’s form grew translucent. “The path of your new life will be difficult, especially where you are headed. But your subconscious will be with you to help.” He raised a finger to hush her interruption. “You can do this.”

He vanished.

The light hurt Vree’s eyes, so she covered them with her hands. She did not see the lights from each body connect and become one.

“Breathe,” the other Vree said, her voice coming from all directions.

“I am breathing.” Vree sucked in a breath. “See?”

“Deeper. I want you to take a deep breath this time. A really big breath.”

“Why?”

“You know why.”

Vree uncovered her eyes but kept them closed. Then she took in a deep breath.

The light vanished. So did Vree.

*.*.*

New Ridgewood, 1 [fiction]

Ridgewood continues to change. The same goes for her characters. After all, real-life 2017 is a bizarre, stranger time than 1970 when I began creating the place and her residents. And no matter how fictional they are, they need an essence of reality to make them current and believable.

I have told Vree Erickson’s story before. But no matter, it wants to change with the times. So I stopped wrestling with it over the summer and let it happen—let it write itself.

Here is the beginning of Vree’s story with new life breathed into it.


Vree Erickson yanked the steering wheel of her father’s John Deere riding mower and dodged mowing over her brother’s black leather baseball glove. Surface roots of the old oak tree in her parents’ backyard jostled her while she tried steering away from them. The lawnmower pitched left, right, left again, tossing her like yesterday’s roller coaster ride on Old Shaky, and then… BAM. The deck slammed down on a root. The blade stopped. The motor whined. Vree took her foot from the gas pedal and groaned. She had promised her father that she would be careful mowing the lawn this time.

But this was not her fault. Chase had promised that he had picked up his sports equipment before he, Emma and their mom left to shop at Ridgewood Village Mall an hour ago. Now Vree pondered what to do about the mower. All she knew was how to check and fill the gas tank and oil, and how to start it and turn it off. Driving the thing over the hilly terrain without killing herself was a plus.

“Hello? Vree? Are you there?” Zoey’s voice brought her back.

“Let me call you back,” Vree said to the voice in her pink and black headphones over her ears. She shut off the mower’s engine.

“Are you okay?” Zoey asked. “It sounded like you were in an accident.”

“My stupid brother left his glove in the yard, which caused me to get the lawnmower stuck on some tree roots. My dad’s gonna kill me if I broke anything.”

“Do you need me to come over?” Zoey asked.

Vree sat forward, tugged her red KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON T-shirt from her sweaty back, then wiped her palms on the knees of her blue jeans. “I’m okay,” she answered. A wet breeze blew the ends of her long blonde hair across her face, covering her eyes for a moment. She pushed her hair away and shivered from another breeze. The sunny day had turned gray in an instant.

“You get ready for my birthday party,” she said. “I’ll push the mower into the shed and finish cleaning the kitchen and living room.”

“I’m so excited for you,” Zoey said before she squealed. “You’re a teenager now.”

Vree shrugged. She didn’t feel any different.

“See you at six, birthday girl,” Zoey said before she ended the call.

Vree removed the Bluetooth headphones and put them over the steering wheel. Then she jumped from the tractor, pulled her hair back, twirled it into a bun, and hurried to the rear of the lawnmower. She needed to finish her chores by four o’clock and shower before Mom got home from shopping.

She placed both hands on the back of the seat and rocked the mower, grunting and pushing it until it was away from the roots. The damaged root exposed a white, wet wound where the lawnmower blade had cut it. Daddy would be disappointed in her for damaging his grandfather’s oak tree—again. Luckily, there was a can of tree wound sealer in the shed left over from last year.

She leapt into her seat and tried starting the mower. The engine coughed but did not jump to life as it was supposed to do.

If the lawnmower was broken…. She groaned. This was different from staying out past curfew, or cutting her hair uneven with Mom’s good scrapbook scissors, or vomiting corndogs on Daddy at Alice Lake’s rollercoaster ride yesterday.

“Come on,” she begged as she tried the engine again. Things had to start going her way.

Thunder banged from a sky that had grown darker with bruised looking clouds. Her phone’s weather app had told her it would rain today. If only her phone had an app to let her know when she was about to screw up her life.

I could dodge life’s embarrassments and stay out of trouble.

More thunder banged, vibrating its way into her. The sky seemed to open and drop a flood of rain past the umbrella of leafy branches and drenching her. She scampered to the tree trunk and shivered from the chill beneath heavy branches. Thirty yards away, her parents’ spacious Craftsman home beckoned her inside where it was dry and warm. Her orange tabby cat sat at the living room’s middle bay window, watching from behind the rain-streaked glass, and meowing for his three o’clock meal.

Vree looked away. Rain fell on the lawnmower and her good pair of headphones. She darted to the left side of the green and yellow mower and pushed, losing her footing twice on the wet grass after three steps. She hurried to the back of the mower.

After losing her footing again, she looked up. Her father’s black Escalade pulled in the driveway. She groaned. It wasn’t five o’clock. He wasn’t supposed to be home yet.

Charles Erickson hurried from his vehicle, leaving its headlights on, the engine running, and frantic wipers slapping rain from the windshield. He juggled his opened umbrella while he took to the right side of the mower and helped Vree push the tractor across the soggy ground, closer to the shed behind the garage.

A flash of bright white light and tremendous heat engulfed Vree. Something popped in her head. She fell unconscious to the freshly mowed grass, unaware that lightning had struck the oak tree, her, and her father, knocking Charles Maxwell Erickson, Esquire, out of his polished, black leather Florsheim wingtip oxfords.

An hour later, after Karrie Erickson returned home from shopping with Vree’s older brother and sister, the successful private practice lawyer, who had earned as much as six figures last year, lay dead inside the same Ridgewood ambulance that rushed his comatose daughter to the hospital.

*.*.*

To be continued, for sure.

Margga’s Curse, revised: Chapter 1 [fiction]

Intro

I know, most of you would rather see my artwork and photography than read my writing. But for the handful of followers who enjoy my writing segments, here’s the continuation of my attempt to rewrite Night of the Hellhounds, or accurately, Margga’s Curse.

After I published Night of the Hellhounds with its new title and felt done with it, ready to work out the kinks in the second novel, a fan of my stories—and probably my only fan—admitted that he liked my short story better than the novel.

“What’s wrong with the novel?” I asked.

“I don’t like the parts with Vree being a wimp and running away from her problems. Or the Roualens—they don’t seem important to the story. You should get rid of them and the spaceship … Lenny too. His parts in the story were boring when it was about him at the dinner table and the restaurant. This is Vree’s story and her problems with magic and dealing with Margga who wants to take away her magic. You should have told it only from her perspective.”

Finally! Some honest criticism, albeit late in the game.

“Would you like to read an earlier draft of Margga’s Curse?” I asked, pulling an ace from my sleeve. I have a habit of writing in first person point of view when I write a first draft, then change everything to third person point of view by the final draft. I still had the draft with everything told from Vree’s point of view.

He said he did, so I gave him a copy. Weeks later, he said it was as good as the original short story and a lot better than the novel, though he still didn’t care about the Roualens.

But was it better? I had my doubts, but I read the first-person draft again. I liked it. Its pace was quicker than the draft I published. Other reasons I liked it are

  1. The introduction of Vree extends a friendly hand to the reader—a much warmer intro than when she was introduced in third person point of view.
  2. Because first person point of view is a limited scope to work with, Vree cannot tell the reader things that happen offstage. She and the reader are kept in the dark and must rely on revelations. Revealing actions create suspense or foreboding, and empathetic curiosity. A little mystery keeps everyone wanting to find out more.
  3. Vree’s voice makes her identifiable and adds to her personality from the start, which was something I had to build when I wrote her as a third-person-point-of-view character. And because she’s a constant active character, we have a stronger sense of her as a real person who has choices and can make decisions of her own free will. We see the experience from her immediate perspective.
  4. Vree can confide in the reader with secrets and intimate revelations, creating curiosity and making the reader invest in the story.
  5. Writing in first person point of view allows me, unfortunately, to use filter words. Filter words are I saw, I heard, I smelled, I thought, etc. I find it necessary to reread my first-person stories and eliminate filter words, to let the reader see the action through Vree’s eyes. “I saw the brown and shaggy dog,” makes the reader watch Vree see the dog. “The dog was brown and shaggy,” lets the reader see what Vree sees, and closes the distance between the reader and her. “I heard the music, tinny and spooky and weird,” vs. “The music was tinny and spooky and weird.” One is outside, watching Vree listen; the other is inside her head, hearing it with her. Filter words aren’t always bad. “I see the shelves, and I see the counter, but I don’t see the magic potion.” This is describing the act of seeing explicitly and conveys Vree’s frustration at not finding what she’s looking for.

So, for the sake of experiment, I’m publishing here the first-person story with changes. I hope you like it.

The Story

I yanked the steering wheel of Daddy’s John Deere riding mower and dodged mowing over my brother’s black leather baseball glove. Surface roots of the old oak tree in our backyard jostled me while I tried steering away from them. The lawnmower pitched left, right, left again, tossing me like yesterday’s roller coaster ride on Old Shaky, and then… BAM. The deck slammed down on a root. The blade stopped. The motor whined. I took my foot from the gas pedal and groaned. I had promised Daddy I would be careful mowing the lawn this time.

But this was not my fault. Chase promised that he had picked up his sports equipment before he, Trina and Mom left to shop at Ridgewood Village Mall an hour ago.

I pondered what to do about the mower. All I knew was how to check and fill the gas tank and oil, and how to start it and turn it off. Driving the thing over the hilly terrain without killing myself was a plus.

“Hello? Vree? Are you there?” Zoey’s voice brought me back.

“Let me call you back,” I said to the voice in my pink and black headphones over my ears. I shut off the mower’s engine.

“Are you okay?” Zoey asked. “It sounded like you were in an accident.”

“My stupid brother left his glove in the yard, which caused me to get the lawnmower stuck on some tree roots. My dad’s gonna kill me if I broke anything.”

“Do you need me to come over?” Zoey asked.

I sat forward, tugged my red KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON T-shirt from my sweaty back, then wiped my palms on the knees of my blue jeans. “I’m okay,” I answered. A wet breeze blew the ends of my long blonde hair across my face, covering my eyes for a moment. I pushed my hair away and shivered from another breeze. The sunny day had turned gray in an instant.

“You get ready for my birthday party,” I said. “I’ll push the mower into the shed and finish cleaning the kitchen and living room.”

“I’m so excited for you,” Zoey said before she squealed. “You’re a teenager now.”

I shrugged. I didn’t feel any different.

“See you at six, birthday girl,” Zoey said before she ended the call.

I removed the Bluetooth headphones and put them over the steering wheel. Then I jumped from the tractor, pulled my hair back, twirled it into a bun, and hurried to the rear of the lawnmower. I needed to finish my chores by four o’clock and shower before Mom got home from shopping.

I placed both hands on the back of the seat and rocked the mower, grunting and pushing it until it was away from the roots. The damaged root exposed a white, wet wound where the lawnmower blade had cut it. Daddy would be disappointed in me for damaging his grandfather’s oak tree—again. Luckily, there was a can of tree wound sealer in the shed left over from last year.

I leapt into my seat and tried starting the mower. The engine coughed but did not jump to life as it was supposed to do.

If the lawnmower was broken…. I groaned at the thought. This was different from staying out past curfew, or cutting my hair uneven with Mom’s good scrapbook scissors, or vomiting corndogs on Daddy at Alice Lake’s rollercoaster ride yesterday.

“Come on,” I begged as I tried the engine again. Things had to start going my way.

Thunder banged from a sky that had grown darker with bruised looking clouds. My phone’s weather app had said it would rain today. If only my phone had an app to let me know when I was about to screw up my life.

I could dodge life’s embarrassments and stay out of trouble.

More thunder banged, vibrating its way into me. The sky seemed to open and drop a flood of rain past the umbrella of leafy branches, drenching me. I scampered to the tree trunk and shivered from the chill beneath heavy branches. Thirty yards away, my parents’ spacious Colonial home beckoned me inside where it was dry and warm. My orange tabby cat sat at the living room’s middle bay window, watching from behind the rain-streaked glass, and meowing for his three o’clock meal.

I looked away. Rain fell hard on the lawnmower and my good pair of headphones, so I darted to the left side of the green and yellow mower and pushed, losing my footing twice on the wet grass after three steps. I hurried to the back of the mower and pushed.

After losing my footing again, I looked up. Daddy’s black Escalade pulled in the driveway. I groaned. It wasn’t five o’clock. He wasn’t supposed to be home yet.

Daddy hurried from his vehicle, leaving its headlights on, the engine running, and frantic wipers slapping rain from the windshield. He juggled his opened umbrella while he took to the right side of the mower and helped me push the tractor across the soggy ground, closer to the shed behind the garage.

A flash of bright white light and tremendous heat engulfed me. Something popped in my head. I smelled freshly mowed grass close to my nose before I realized I lay on my stomach in the wet grass. Rain fell on my back.

I tried to get up, but my body refused to cooperate. Even my head refused to turn.

That’s all I remember before

*.*.*

Click to read the next chapter

Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 3)

Chapter 3: Vree’s Comeback

Not long after I published Night of the Hellhounds, 2.0 and the alternate ending version Night of the Hellhounds, 2.1, I found the original draft in a box of high school papers and notebooks. I knew I wanted to bring Vree Erickson back, so I took to the keyboard and composed a story similar to the original.

Night of the Hellhounds, 3.0: The Amazon Short Story

I’m one of those people who picks at scabs; I can’t leave well-enough alone.

However, it was not an immediate decision to tell again the story of ghost dogs terrorizing some local teenagers on Myers Ridge. I was busy making artwork, working 36 hours a week at the neighborhood Wal-Mart Supercenter, presiding twice a month for almost nine years over a group of local writers, and writing other stories for local publication at book fairs and craft shows.

By 2012, after I semi-retired from making art, stepped down as president of my writers group, and saw my hours at Wal-Mart dwindle because of corporate greed, I found myself with more time to write. I rediscovered the original ghost dogs story and began making changes, though I left in the names of the original characters. It was fun seeing Lenny Stevens, Dave and Amy Evans, and Vree Erickson play out again on the pages. It definitely took me back to my teen years and brought back pleasant memories. Not everyone’s childhood is as bad as psychologists would have us believe.

Around the same time I was “playing” with Lenny and the gang, I was reading ebooks via a Kindle reader my wife had gifted me, and some friends said, “Hey, Steve, did you know you can publish your own books through Amazon so other people with Kindles can read them?”

I did not.

I wasn’t new to e-publishing; I had published several books via the PDF platform, so I looked into publishing via Amazon. They hooked me like a hungry bass when they offered me a real honest-to-goodness author page. So, I set about converting my rewritten ghost dogs story into language the Kindle would recognize.

I published “Night of the Hellhounds” January 7, 2013.

The following day, my book received a 5-star review that had this to say: More please! Mr. Campbell has started something with this story that I truly hope he intends to continue for a long time to come and soon I hope. This may be his first time in print but you can still tell how much he cares for the story and its characters by the level of detail he uses. “Night of the Hell Hounds” may be a short story in form but it has the heart of something much larger and I shall be checking often for additions to the story.

More? Continue? Something larger?

Could I?

When my second 5-star review came in, I decided I could.

This short story acts like the first chapter of a book you do not want to put down. Although you meet several familiar tropes and may even be tempted to shrug off the Rockwellian setting, the book hardens back to the scary stories you loved as a kid. The characters go from telling ghost stories to living one, and just when you think the other is going to “Scooby Doo” his way out of committing to a certain story arch, THAT’S when you want to keep reading and see what else this world has to offer. I, for one, can’t wait for the next installment.

Upon rereading the story, I saw that I had left in the original cliffhanger. No wonder my readers wanted more. So, I scrambled and found an old story called “Trespasser” that I felt would be a fun platform for Vree Erickson to play on. From there, The Ridgewood Chronicles was born.

Since then, I have offered the book for free, though Amazon was hard-pressed about giving it away. So, I reprinted the story on my blog, as part of The Green Crystal Stories. You can read it by clicking here, or continue scrolling.

Without further delay, I present teenagers Lenny Stevens, Dave and Amy Evans, and Vree Erickson, their encounter with ghosts and demons, and their struggle to survive atop mysterious Myers Ridge.

The Story

It was the weekend after Halloween, dark and cold on the night Lenny Stevens parked his Schwinn next to the garage at Dave Evans’s place on Myers Ridge. Dave had told him he would be behind his dad’s barn. Lenny found him there, roasting hot dogs on a stick at a fire that failed to advance any warmth. His tent was set up behind him, and his twin sister Amy had her own tent behind her. She sat cross-legged across the fire from Dave, whispering and giggling with Vree Erickson. Lenny’s heart pattered while his gaze caressed Vree’s long hair looking golden in the firelight. Amy saw him, patted her sleeping bag and told him to sit next to her. He did, sandwiching himself between the two girls and snuggling under Amy’s blue blanket, which she draped over their shoulders. He quickly warmed, all the while smelling hot dogs and wood smoke and perfume that smelled like oranges.

They wore sweatshirts and blue jeans and jackets to ward off the night’s chill, and Vree had on white furry mittens that seemed to make her all the more beautiful to Lenny. He said hello to her and she nodded, smiled, and remained silent while Amy controlled the conversation about Mr. Baretti—a tenth grade teacher she didn’t like. When she finished, Lenny opened his mouth to make small talk with Vree. He never got a word out.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Dave said, seeming to awaken from the trance the fire had put him in. “Take a look at the old Myers place and tell me what you see.”

The old, burnt shell of Myers Mansion was to Lenny’s right and at the bottom of a hill. It languished inside a thicket of property almost a hundred yards away and barely visible in the darkness. No moonlight broke the cloud cover then, so he squinted to see the spooky remnants of the mansion destroyed in June by an unknown arsonist. The police were still investigating the fire and Lenny and his friends had their suspicions of the culprit—he figured it was Craig Coleman and his gang of toadies who liked to smoke and drink there, even though the place was supposed to be haunted.

“Dave thought he saw ghosts,” Amy said. She gave him her whittled stick and a hot dog to roast. “Always with the ghosts.”

He looked again at the house, excited about this new turn of events. The once prominent house had been built ninety years ago by a once-famous Broadway playwright named Benjamin Myers who became even more popular writing blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood before he and his wife mysteriously disappeared.

“You saw Myers and his wife’s ghosts?” he asked.

“Apparitions of some dogs,” Dave said; “three of them as plain as day. They vanished right before you came.”

“You saw his dogs? The hunting dogs that froze to death?” Lenny almost dropped his hotdog while he fumbled to pierce it with the stick.

“How did they freeze?” Vree asked. She, who had moved last year to Ridgewood, inched closer to Lenny. He began to tell her when Amy interrupted.

“It’s a dumb story that says the county sheriff found Benjamin Myers and his nine hunting dogs frozen inside the house on a hot summer day.”

“It isn’t dumb,” Dave said.

“Yes, it is. I checked the town’s newspaper archives that time I did an English paper about Cathleen and Benjamin Myers. There was no mention of anyone or anything frozen inside the house the day they disappeared.”

“So, how did they disappear?” Vree pressed closer to Lenny when she said this.

“No one knows,” he said as he relished the feel of her body against his; “but it started a half-century of ghost stories.”

“The police concluded that Mr. and Mrs. Myers died in a plane crash during a trip to the Caribbean,” Amy said.

“Which isn’t official,” Dave added. “Myers and his wife always flew using pseudonyms, and no bodies or substantial wreckage were ever found, which means there’s no confirmation that they died at sea.”

Amy sounded irritated when she groaned. “It makes more sense than believing that he and his dogs froze to death, or that Cathleen jumped to her death at the bottom of Widow’s Ravine.”

Lenny glanced at where a trickling stream separated the two properties. A half-mile away to his left, the stream fell into a steep-sided gorge called Widow’s Ravine, a place that the rest of the legend claims Cathleen Myers jumped to her death after she found her husband and his dogs frozen. He told Vree about the legend and added, “Her screams can be heard whenever her ghost relives the suicide and plunges into the ravine.”

Continue reading “Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 3)”

Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 2)

Chapter 2: Rewrites, Rewrites, Rewrites

Sometime while I was in high school, I decided to rewrite “Ghost Dogs.”

Night of the Hellhounds, 2.0

It’s basically the same story: some teenagers are on Myers Ridge and they meet malevolent ghost dogs that put someone’s life in danger. During the first rewrite, I took myself out as the point-of-view character and wrote from the perspective of a girl. I’m sure it was the result of a classroom assignment.

Text of the following short story is copyright © 1974 when I finished scribbling it down in a notebook, and 1985 when I typed it into a word processor at college. The language became stronger than what I wrote in high school because of the age of the readers reading my work. I even wrote an alternate ending at a friend’s request. That text was renewed in 2002 when I published it at my old (and no-longer-available) website.

This is the PDF version offered above at my Library section. For a quick download click here.

The story is a bit long but I think if you stay with it you’ll find it fun to read. Comments are welcome, so please consider dropping me a line or two below.

The Story

My name is Nancy Louise Johnson. I’ll never forget the night I almost died. Ghostly hellhounds were snapping at my heels when I slipped on some gravel and fell over the steepest side of Myers Ridge.

The day began like most August days in Ridgewood, Pennsylvania: hot and humid. Every hour, the weatherman at our local radio station promised more of the same, and every hour since seven o’clock that morning my twelve-year-old sister Krissy groaned from her spot in Dad’s huge recliner. It was Friday and as usual, I was babysitting. Dad was at work and Mom and my big brother Ted were shopping in nearby New Cambridge for a new air conditioner.

I pulled the legs of my blue jean shorts away from my sweaty skin as I shifted from a sitting position to a reclining one on Mom’s plushy sofa. After finding a cool spot on the middle cushion, I leafed through another romance paperback from the bag of books Ted’s fiancée Jeanette had given me. Buxom women and muscular men seduced and cheated on each other in graphic description. I threw the book back into the bag and looked over at Krissy.

She lay semi-naked in pink bikini, sprawled out like a Hollywood corpse, her summer tan looking dark in the dim light of the living room. An oscillating fan blew on her every fifteen seconds and tried to lift her flaccid blonde hair away from her forehead and from around her sweaty cheeks. The arid breeze merely flicked the ruffles on her beachwear and rustled the pages of her beauty magazine. I dropped the bag of books next to her. She looked up with blue eyes opened in wonderment.

“What’s up, Nanny Lou?”

“Knock yourself out,” I said before I made my way to the kitchen.

My family calls me Nanny Lou—short for Nancy Louise, but I prefer to be called Nance. Nanny Lou’s more of a girl’s name and I’ve not been comfortable being a girl ever since I developed breasts and discovered boys stop looking at girls face to face when that happens.

The doorbell rang and took me away from peering into the refrigerator.

I’ll get it,” I said and headed for the front door. Krissy sprang up at my heels and followed me to the sun porch where my once long-time friend Dave Evans stood at the front door and peered in at me through the screen. I stopped and frowned when I recognized his face through the screen’s murky grayness. I crossed my arms over my chest if he should want to look there.

“Can we talk?” Dave asked.

I almost said no, but Krissy interrupted me to tell him the door was unlocked. I turned to her and replaced her flirty smile with a pout when I ordered her to return to the living room. She stomped away and when I turned back, Dave stood inside. Unlike me whose red hair and freckles seem to emit beacons of light and attract unwanted attention everywhere I go, Dave stood there looking average: medium height and weight, auburn hair, blue eyes and all—the kind of guy who blends into a crowd.

I started to ask him what he wanted, and then stopped. He wore a long-sleeved pullover shirt and heavy blue jeans and wasn’t even sweating! So okay, that part about him would certainly keep him from blending completely into a crowd.

“What’s up?” I asked, a little too icily.

“Can we talk?” This time his question sounded urgent instead of inquisitive.

“It’s been a while,” I reminded him.

“A long while.”

I pondered this before I nodded and led him inside. I pointed to the ceiling. “You don’t mind, do you?”

He managed a squeaky no and gave away his unease.

“Going to my room,” I hollered to Krissy.

“Turning on TV,” she hollered back.

Upstairs and at the back of the house, my tiny bedroom was a hotbox during summer afternoons. A small breeze coming through my window screen actually made the moment bearable. Dave sacked out in my beanbag chair—the one he bought me last year for my sixteenth birthday.

My dresser and nightstand were littered with swimming and softball trophies. He studied the softball batting trophy I had won two months earlier, the only Junior in our school’s history to ever beat out the entire Senior squad. Preparing to brag about my feat, he interrupted me when he cleared his throat loudly.

“I have something I need to get off my chest,” he said, and with that said he added, “I’m sorry.”

The apology seemed dry and forced, and I surprised myself when I accepted it. I cursed myself silently.

Dave sorely smiled at me and I launched into all the reasons I should have said no. After all, he had taken advantage of me during my time of need. I didn’t want him to think I’d completely forgiven him just yet. I wanted him to remember that our reckless time together last winter had tarnished our friendship. When I had needed him most, he had let me down. I still hated him for that!

He waved at me, caught my attention, and told me the date.

“August twenty-third,” he said. It’s tomorrow.”

I sat next to my orange tabby cat Ginger asleep on my bed and listened to his plan to go camping that night on haunted Myers Ridge. Dave and I had gone there since we were kids. First with my brother Ted and his friends, and then by ourselves. And even though we’d never seen any ghosts there, the legend of Ben Myers drew us there every year. In fact, Dave and I and a boy named Jerry Hopper ever camped there anymore, waiting for a glimpse of the hill’s namesake.

But I was no longer that girl—the flat-chested tomboy who used to fit in easily with the guys until my DNA had decided in January to show everyone otherwise. And Dave was not really as medium looking as I pictured him. He had grown a few inches since our high school graduation and had filled out some in the shoulders and chest. Camping at night with an attractive boy seemed like an unwise thing to do, especially when that boy had told me he loved me and then tried to make out with me.

Before I could turn down his invitation, heavy footsteps and breathing drew close to my door. The footsteps stopped and meaty knuckles rapped against the doorframe. Then Jerry Hopper’s short, two-hundred pound frame entered my room and dropped to the floor between Dave and me. His red AC/DC T-shirt clung to him like soggy plastic wrap, and the waist of his blue jeans had fallen several inches below the tops of his bright white underpants. He gasped for air and tried to speak. After several attempts, he said to me, “Krissy said … you were up here.” He turned to Dave and asked, “Did you ask her? Is it okay?”

Continue reading “Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 2)”

Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 1)

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Those of you who have read my blog since its start in 2011 know I wrote a short story called “The Ghost Dogs” when I was 13 years old and an eighth-grader at my small town high school in northwest Pennsylvania. Until then, I was an avid reader who occasionally wrote stories for class assignments. Things changed when my parents bought me a portable typewriter. How could I not become a writer when I had such a wonderful tool at hand?

The year was 1970. Music was a big deal on TV as well as the radio, so I wrote a short story about a 13-year-old boy who played lead guitar in his high school rock band. From there, a continuing character was born: David Evans. David’s names came from the spooky TV soap opera, Dark Shadows. That show, along with reading Dracula and Eerie and Creepy magazines influenced some of my stories.

I fell in love with creating make-believe worlds the moment I typed my first story. I followed the conventions of storytelling, of course, but I rarely wrote endings to my stories. I wrote cliffhangers so my readers would want to read the next story. Comic books did this, so I did the same. My readers loved it.

I wrote all my stories in first person point of view. At first, Dave was the narrator in his fictional world, which I named Ridgewood. But then I chose to do something novel: write myself into the stories and interact with the characters I created. It made story writing a thrill to do. I loved every minute of it.

Dave and his best friend Leonard Stevens were in the same grade at Ridgewood High, home of the Fighting Eagles. Lenny’s names were a mix of my own (although Leonard was a stretch of my middle name). His last name would change to Armstrong in 1972, but he was rambunctious Lenny Stevens for two gratifying years of writing young teen adventure stories about Dave and him.

Night of the Hellhounds 1.0: The Ghost Dogs

Faithful readers of this blog may remember that Dave and Lenny were the central characters in “The Ghost Dogs” along with Dave’s twin sister, Amy, and her best friend, Verawenda Erickson. Except for Lenny and me, the others lived on Myers Ridge, a hillside farming community on the western outskirts of Ridgewood. Lenny was a “townie” and I was a visitor from a neighboring city called New Cambridge.

Myers Ridge was well-known by folks in and around Ridgewood for its caves, abandoned mines, a few sinkholes and precipitous hillside, and the occasional sightings of Norman Myers’s ghost. In 1891, Norman Myers found gold on his property atop the ridge. For a decade, he and his family hauled out ores and precious metals and occasionally squabbled over mining rights. Then, according to legend, Norman’s mines dried up ten years later, on the very anniversary of his discovery. Not long afterwards, Norman disappeared and was never seen or heard from again. Some suspected he was murdered by James McCoy, an angry business partner. Soon afterward, family claimed to see Norman’s ghost haunting the hill. They claimed his body lay inside one of his many abandoned mines, and would haunt the land until his body was found and given a proper burial. That never happened, so the ghost sightings continued throughout my high school years.

Another weird occurrence was the sighting of another ghost named Myers: Norman’s son, Benjamin. Ben Myers was a famous playwright who became even more popular writing blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood during the 1930s. He and his wife Cathleen (whose whole name was Ademia Consuela Ramona Cathleen Savakis) lived in California but summered at their estate on Myers Ridge until one fateful summer when he and his hunting dogs were found frozen inside the house. Cathleen died soon afterwards after either falling or by being pushed from a steep section of Myers Ridge called Widow’s Ravine. In “The Ghost Dogs” Ben’s ghost and those of his dogs haunt the estate grounds next door to Dave and Amy’s house. And Cathleen’s spirit cries from the depths of Widow’s Ravine.

Those spooky occurrences became part of my story’s theme and made it a delight to write. Another delight was developing a bigger role for Verawenda “Vree” Erickson. She got her nickname because of her initials VRE (Renée was her middle name). She lived as an only child with her parents in a farmhouse down the road from Dave and Amy.

The Story

It happened that my visits to Ridgewood became weird the Halloween night of 1970 when I sat at my typewriter after supper and went to visit Dave and Lenny. They were behind the barn at Dave’s parent’s place on Myers Ridge, roasting hot dogs on a stick at a fire that failed to advance any warmth when I stood next to it. Dave’s A-frame tent was still set up behind him and Lenny from our September get-togethers, and Dave’s twin sister Amy had her own A-frame tent behind her. Sitting next to her was Vree. My heart pattered while I stared at Vree’s long dirty-blonde hair looking golden in the firelight. She and Amy sat cross-legged on the other side of the fire, whispering and giggling. When Amy saw me, she patted her sleeping bag and told me to sit next to her. I did, sandwiching myself between the two girls and snuggling under Amy’s blue blanket, which she draped over our shoulders. I quickly warmed, all the while smelling hot dogs and wood smoke and perfume that smelled like oranges.

We all wore sweatshirts and jackets and Vree had on white furry mittens that seemed to make her all the more beautiful. I said hello to her and she nodded and smiled and remained silent while Amy controlled the conversation about a teacher she didn’t like. When she finished, I opened my mouth to make small talk with Vree, but never got a word out when Dave interrupted.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said from across the fire. “Take a look at the old Myers place and tell me what you see.”

I had to turn around since the old, burnt shell of Myers Mansion languished inside a thicket of property below the side yard behind me. The place was barely visible in the darkness. No moonlight broke the cloud cover above us, so I squinted to see the spooky remnants of the Myers house destroyed by fire years ago.

“What am I supposed to see?” I said. I knew that the once prominent house had been built ninety years ago by a famous Broadway playwright named Benjamin Myers who became even more popular writing blockbuster screenplays for Hollywood, before he disappeared.

“Dave thought he saw ghosts,” Amy said. She gave me her whittled stick and a hot dog to roast. “Always with the ghosts.”

I looked again at where a grand house had once stood, excited about this new turn of events. “You saw ghosts?”

“Apparitions of some dogs, actually,” Lenny said, grinning wide. “But ghosts all the same.”

“That’s right,” Dave said. “Three of them as plain as day. Then they vanished when I told the girls. But Lenny and I saw them again right before you came.”

“You saw ghost dogs?” I asked.

Although I had created this world, there was much about it I was still inventing and developing. Every visit was a discovery that got added to my notes.

“Myers bred hunting dogs,” Lenny said between large bites taken from a roasted hotdog. “Then one hot summer day he and his dogs froze to death inside the house.”

Amy groaned. “I can’t believe you think that silly legend really happened.”

“What legend is that?” I asked her.

She sighed and was reluctant to talk about it. Dave began to tell me when she interrupted him.

“It’s a dumb story that says the county sheriff found Myers and his nine hunting dogs frozen inside the house. I checked the town’s newspaper archives when I did an English paper about Ben Myers. There was no mention of anyone or anything frozen inside the house when he and his wife Cathleen disappeared.”

“You probably didn’t research hard enough,” Dave said.

Amy glared at him. “I researched it just fine. I even found their obituaries at the library. The police concluded that they died in a plane crash during a trip to the Caribbean.”

Continue reading “Redoing “Night of the Hellhounds” (Part 1)”

Green Crystal, chapter 19 [fiction]

In this last chapter, it’s now June 29, 2013 and Lenny Stevens is on his parent’s front porch, trying to become a better artist by painting Sara Taylor’s portrait; she reminds him of Vree Erickson, though she is seven years younger. Lenny pines to have Vree back; the hope that she could return by magic glimmers in his eyes and he believes it could happen if he paints an accurate portrait of Vree. But to do so, he needs to practice … a lot. Discouraged by his lack of skill and troubled that Sara is attracted to him, he stops painting for the day and, upon her encouragement, tells her about the magic green crystal that Vree had found in the sinkhole of her backyard, how she became frightened of it, and that she threw it back before vanishing mysteriously. Sara kisses him before leaving for the day. Lost in memories and troubled thoughts, he sits on the porch with a shard of Vree’s broken mirror (a piece he took from her bedroom when Mrs. Erickson allowed him inside one time) and watches twilight turn to night, long after his mother calls him in to eat; he falls asleep and dreams about Vree.

Cracks In Time

We choreograph the crystal’s dance of light and color to mirror the dance of Creation.

Chapter 3 of 3: June 29, 2013

It was almost four o’clock that Saturday summer afternoon when Lenny Stevens picked a housefly from a mound of oil paint on his canvas. The north end of his parent’s front porch was now part of his makeshift artist’s studio. Heat blistered the air despite the shade and an electric fan blowing a cool breeze from one of three card tables. A young girl in a yellow summer dress reclined on a lounge chair covered in multicolored satin pillows. Her hair was the color of fine gold, her cheeks ruby-red, her smiling eyes like sapphire pools. She glowed of extraordinary purity like a summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies.

Well, maybe not the latter, but Lenny liked the poetic way it sounded and how much saying “A summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies” reminded him of Vree Erickson.

His newfound model, Sara Taylor, was nine—“Nine-and-a-half,” she’d told him—almost seven years younger than Vree and him. But she owned a beauty similar to Vree’s that he desired to capture on canvas—the way he should have done the first day he had met Vree. Yet the very thing he desired to paint distracted him, filled his heart with a want to have Vree back, to see her lounging on the chair instead of Sara.

The daughter of the woman who owned the bookstore downtown raised a delicate eyebrow and curled up a smile at the corner of her mouth.

“My parents say I can invite you to dinner tonight,” she said. “I hope you like Chicken à la caléndonienne.”

Her voice was the light tinkling of wind chimes in a gentle breeze; the very voice that had sung to him five weeks ago about his amateurish paintings of Vree being absolutely beautiful and emotional and heartfelt.

“With practice you’ll get better,” she had told him. “You can practice painting me, if you’d like.”

Now, anxiety passed over his face.

“Who am I kidding? Vree was the artist. No matter how well I try to paint her image, it won’t bring her back.”

Still, the hope that Vree could return by magic glimmered in his eyes. She had been his true love, the only girl in Ridgewood who had ever been able to reach inside and steal his heart. Being with Vree had made everything in his life seem perfect.

He sucked in a deep breath to help settle his anxiety.

“Chicken à la caléndonienne,” Sara repeated.

“Chicken à la caléndonienne?” Lenny said with a voice like a steel breeze from winter’s coldest hour. “What’s that?”

“Chicken baked in butter, parsley and lemon juice. It’s good.”

It sounded good but Lenny dared not admit it. He said, “Hmmm,” instead and adjusted his paint-splattered smock. Then he took a long flat paintbrush and spread white oil paint across his palette. The milky hue merged into a puddle of yellow, crimson and blue paint until he was certain he had the right color. He approached the large easel with its canvas positioned at eye level, dashed a shaky stroke of color across the fabric, and studied again the face of the young girl he was painting.

He saw it then, it was a look in her eyes: puppy love. He put down the brush, tossed his palette and other brushes on a card table and told Sara the session was over.

“Patience, she reminded him as she rose from the love seat.

“Yes, patience and practice, patience and practice,” he huffed, and then backed down as soon as he saw her amorous face peer at him.

“You’re a really cute guy, Lenny Stevens, and you have talent to be a great artist someday.” She smiled.

“I’m too old for you,” Lenny said.

Sara’s smile remained. “When you’re twenty-five and I’m nineteen, our age difference won’t seem like a big deal.”

“I have a girlfriend.”

“Tell me,” she said, releasing the smile and letting a frown crease her brow. “I want to know what happened to her.” She sat on a metal stool next to the card table cluttered with paint tubes and brushes, picked up an art book and rested it on her lap.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 19 [fiction]”