Women's Suffrage - A Short Story

“Ain’t no coincidence, Henry. Ain’t no coincidence at all,” Rulon Taylor said as he lifted a wooden crate from the dirt floor of the farmhouse barn. He wore a derby, and a brown vest, unbuttoned. 41 with the build of a much younger man, he lifted the crates without much trouble. The bottles inside rattled as he strode across the straw-covered ground and carefully set it inside the back of a milk truck backed up in open barn doors.

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Henry Sterne, years Rulon’s junior but with the build of a much more indulgent man, huffed as he lugged his load of bottles into the truck. He pushed it further into the body of the truck, turned around and sat on the steel bumper. He dabbed his brow with a handkerchief, wiping away a layer of sweat formed under the muggy rural Illinois summer sun. “Is that a fact?”

Rulon, already coming toward the truck with another crate, paused and motioned with his head for Henry to move. “Either move or take it, boy. As long as you get off your ass, I don’t care which.” Henry pulled himself up by the truck’s door jamb. He hung onto the side of the door and Rulon slid the last crate into the truck. Rulon clicked the truck’s rear doors shut and motioned with his hand toward the front of the vehicle. “Let’s get moving. We got deliveries to make before nightfall.” Henry nodded, shoved his damp handkerchief into his rear pocket, and the two were off.

“Like I was saying, ain’t no coincidence. The government takes away our right to buy and sell libations,” Rulon said as the truck barreled down the country road, kicking up dust. “Which, is a God-given right, mind you. But then they go and give women-folk the right to vote not even a year later.”

Henry chuckled, putting his head against the inside of the truck’s door in the passenger’s seat and staring through the open window. “Women voting ain’t a bad thing,” he said. “The way I see it, they people just like us.”

Rulon shook his head and then rolled down his window, waving to a young man on a street corner. He turned the wheel and pulled up to a loading door for a small restaurant. The two of them unloaded a pair of crates and climbed back into the truck.

Rulon wagged his finger at Henry between shifts of the transmission. “I never said they wasn’t people, Henry,” he said as they rolled through the sleepy streets. “But they don’t know how the world works.” He shifted again. “They just don’t have the worldly knowledge necessary to make those decisions for the rest of us. Just the way it is.”

The remainder of the ride to the next location was in silence. As Rulon navigated the truck into a small residential neighborhood, Henry raised an eyebrow. “We doing a home delivery?” Rulon pulled the truck up to a modest two-story home and turned the truck off.

“This ain’t a regular home,” Rulon said as he got out of the driver’s door and circled around to the back of the truck. He popped open the door and grabbed a crate. By that time, Henry was at the back as well and Rulon handed the crate to him and pulled out another. Rulon took the lead up the well-groomed flower-flanked cement walkway as Henry huffed and puffed behind him. Rulon placed the crate down on the wooden porch and knocked on the carved wooden door. He pulled the hat from his head and drew his mouth into a well-practiced smile.

A moment passed. Rulon’s smile faded and he shot a nervous look to his new employ. He put forth his hand to knock again, the first rap barely registering before cracking harder on the next two. “Miss Jennie?” he called through the door. Another moment passed. Large sweat beads formed on Rulon’s forehead. He wiped it with his palm and wiped the sweat on his slacks before replacing his hat and lifting the crate. “Something’s wrong.”

Suddenly the door swung open and a beautiful woman stood in the opening. “Well hello, Mr. Taylor! What a pleasant surprise.” Miss Jennie, a tall drink of water, glanced at the boxes but remained in the doorway, hands on her hips. “I won’t be needing anything today, though. A bull seems to have camped out on my property,” she said exchanging a knowing look with Rulon.

“Yes ma’am. Pardon the interruption. We’ll just be on our way then.” And with hat, Rulon turned to leave, crate in hand.

Henry’s brow furrowed. “I can take care of a bull for you, Miss. I used to work on a ranch and…”

“Henry,” Rulon said, “Lady don’t need our product. Now get in the truck.”

Confused, Henry retraced his steps back to the vehicle, but Rulon quickly outpaced him. They sped back down the walkway and opened the rear doors on the truck. “What’s going on?” Henry asked. Rulon put his crate on the ground and yanked the back doors open.

Rulon shoved his car keys at his subordinate and said, “Start the car,” as he took Henry’s crate.

“Mr. Taylor…”

“Shut up and start the damn car, boy!”

Rulon had brought up one of the crates into the truck and was climbing into the back with the second one when another female voice called out to him from down the street.

“Hold on, Mr. Taylor,” she said, her aim trained on his chest. “We need to have a little chat.” She pulled a badge from his jacket pocket and a handful of uniformed officers joined her

Rulon nodded. “Yes ma’am. Just let me secure this box and I’ll be right with you.” He pushed the crate to the front of the vehicle, where Henry sat in the driver’s seat, the trucks engine idling.

“Step on it, son.”

“Oh Jesus, oh Jesus.”

“Leave the prayin’ for later, boy! Go, go, go!”

A Little Problem - A Short Story

“Astonishing,” Dr. Alice Gelding said, squinting through a high-powered magnifying glass at the walls of an ancient Egyptian chamber. Alice’s long brunette hair, grey with dust, tucked away from her round face. Sweat dribbled from every pore, caking mud on already drying layers of dirt.

            “What did you find, doctor?” her colleague, Dr. Tim Shoshlefski, asked as he positioned a large spotlight on Alice’s position of the dig. He was tiny by every measure that could apply: tiny eyes, tiny body, tiny mind, tiny everything. He stood next to another man, Gary Toulouse, a lanky university student looking fresh off the boat and mostly unsure of anything at all. “Did you find the Egyptians liked cake as much as you do?” Dr. Shoshlefski said, nudging Gary as he engaged in his favorite pastime: teasing Alice for her weight. Toulouse looked at him and smiled uncomfortably for a moment before his countenance dropped back into unease.

            “Nothing wrong with a little indulgence from time to time, Doctor. But what I’m seeing here indicates they loved cake almost as much as shaving their servants head to toe and lopping off their genitals.” She turned her own small flashlight on the two, the light reflecting off Shoshlefski’s nearly hairless cranium. “Seems you’re halfway there, Doctor.”

            She clicked the flashlight off and tucked it in her shirt pocket. She picked a small brush from her back pocket swept it over the stonework. She focused the magnifying glass on a section of the wall and ran her fingers over what appeared to be unusually small carvings.

            Her belt buzzed. Startled, she dropped the magnifying glass. She unclipped her pager from her belt, the screen illuminating an unfamiliar number. Shaking her head, she clipped it back into the holder and retrieved a fine brush from her cargo pant pocket, dusting off one of the tiny panels of etchings. Her Motorola rattled again in its case. Same number. “Is that a pager?” Gary asked, “How does that work?”

            “It’s a pager. Haven’t you ever seen a pager before?” Dr. Shoshlefski replied.

            “Of course. I know what a pager is. But how does it work down here?” Gary replied, gesturing to the thick earth and stone ceiling and walls that surrounded them.

            Alice, pager in hand, pushed past the two of them and up the excavated corridor to the daylight. She entered a nearby tent where a handful of other people from the dig examined artifacts and wrote in their logs. “Phone?” she asked.

            One of the veteran archeologists, Donald Alder, nodded toward a large black box.

            “Thank you,” she said before picking up the large handset and dialed in the foreign number. It rang and rang on the other end, but there was no response. She hung up and dialed the number again, letting it ring a little longer this time, but still no response.

            “Doctor?” Donald said after she placed the phone back in its cradle.

            “Yes. What is it?” she replied.

            “I hope you don’t see this as me being rude, because I have the utmost respect for you, Alice,” he paused, finding his words and scowling as if trying to comprehend a mystery. “But have you… gotten smaller?

            “Oh god, not you too,” she said with a sigh. “I expect it from human garbage like Shoshlefski, but not from you, Donald.”

            He smiled a gentle smile and scanned the other archeologists in the room as if asking for confirmation. “No, my dear. Not your weight. You’re beautiful. I’m sure I’m just seeing things. I’m sorry.” He dabbed the sweat from his brow. “The desert heat playing tricks on me.”

            Alice clipped the pager back into her waistband and exited the tent. She walked down the passageway to the chamber to continue her research, but it felt a little bit longer than before. Desert heat for sure. By the time she got back, Dr. Shoshlefski was nowhere to be found but the university student, Gary, sat, alone on the ground, asleep. The spotlight was propped up on a small rock on the floor of the chamber.

            “Christ, I haven’t been gone for more than five minutes,” she said under her breath as she kicked Gary with her foot. He awoke with a start. “Hey. Can you hold the light for me?” He nodded, eyes darting around the room. “What? I… Where?” he stammered and stood up, picking up the light and aiming it at the site and then rubbed his eyes with the palm of his hand.

            Alice returned to the corner of the site and looked into the sandy area where she had dropped her magnifying glass before. She wrapped her hand around the handle, and soon discovered this was not the same magnifying glass she had before.

            “Gary! Did that balding monkey run off with my other magnifying glass?”

            Gary just stood there, staring at Alice. He started trembling and urinating down his leg.

            “Gary!” she shouted. He dropped the spotlight and ran as fast as he could down the corridor, shouting.

            When Alice turned her attention back to the dig, she found the once tiny carvings had become larger. They now took up most of her height. She found she could read them now whereas before they were much too small to even see.

            “Only the worthy can venture into the world of the lost…” she said as she ran her hands across the hieroglyphics, her pulse quickening. “This was not here before.” The carvings continued past the adjoining wall, which appeared to now be barely wide enough for her to slide her body in between. She turned her body sideways and slipped herself through, taking her flashlight from her breast pocket to light the way.

            After what felt like a thousand steps, she emerged into a large square room. Orange light from blazing torches danced with black shadows on the walls of the enormous edifice. Six bare-chested men surrounded a carved stone altar with a woman in white and gold ceremonial robes and a mask looming at the far end of it. A single, writhing human form lied prone on the slab before them.

            Alice moved closer, the unreality of the situation coming into focus as she spied Dr. Shoshlefski’s face through the bodies of the men surrounding the altar, his mouth stuffed with a cloth. The woman in the mask raised an ornate golden dagger above Dr. Shoshlefski’s body. Alice let out a no before she could stop herself.

            The men turned, their eyes focused toward her, but their smooth, hairless bodies remained in place. “Oh, shit,” Alice said under her breath.

            The masked woman’s head turned toward Alice’s, pausing only for a second, then brought the dagger down, burying it up to the hilt in the good doctor’s chest. His writhing ceased.

            Alice turned back to escape the same way she came in, but found the way blocked by another servant. She threw her fists against his chest, but he absorbed her attack and caught her by the wrists, holding her fast. He wrenched her around and she watched as the priestess crossed the room toward her with her now crimson-tinted blade.

            Alice kicked and bucked in an attempt to get free, but she could not overpower her captor. She collapsed into tears. “Please— please. Just let me go. Just let me go.” She closed her eyes.

            The priestess approached and removed her mask. She knelt in front of Alice and offered up the dagger, raising it with both hands and bowing her head. The servants followed suit, kneeling. The priestess began chanting a single word and the servants soon followed. Alice opened her eyes and realized what they were saying. Her studies of ancient Egyptian language had not gone to waste. For these tiny Egyptians were now calling her… Queen.

Good Kitty

Jake strolled down the same street he did every night since he scored an internship at Polydor Japan. He spun a pen around between his fingers as his Converse All-Stars shuffled along the damp city streets. He smiled to himself as he ran his hand through his dirty blonde hair, pushing it back behind his ear. He couldn’t remember the last time he cut it.
 
In mid-thought, he spied a cat scrambling up a wooden telephone pole as if it’s life depended on it, but Jake didn’t see anything chasing the feline. Stupid cat. 

Jake was a dog kind of guy through and through. Dogs were loyal. Dogs were trustworthy. Dogs didn’t leave claw marks on your face if you fell asleep or steal your breath like in that cheesy Stephen King movie. What was it? Cat’s Eye? Doesn’t matter. Stupid cats.
 
The cat’s eyes flashed in the moonlight as Jake looked up to the roof, following its path of escape. It hissed at him. He shifted his gaze backward but saw nothing but shadows flirting with the light of a dim street lamp. Stupid cat. Jake chuckled to himself and stomped in the direction of the animal, making a hissing sound of his own.  

The cat stared at him, unfazed, then licked its paw.

Jake yelled at the tiny beast. “What’s the matter cat? You no likey Americans?” he said in what was possibly the worst Asian accent ever spoken. The cat looked up for a moment, then started kneading its paws as its eyes widened further. Jake felt his stomach sink, turning his entire body around toward the darkness this time. Still nothing. Stupid cat.

“You no likey Americans?” a gurgling voice warbled over his shoulder. Jake spun around and found himself face to face with the darkness. It had no face and no features; just a lithe, lanky form that extended its spindly arms toward Jake, and a stench that smelled of rotting meat emanating from where its head should’ve been.

Jake shrieked and fell back on his butt, scrambling away as he tried to escape the thing in the darkness. It caught him by the left heel and yanked, peeling his sneaker away. He tried to kick at it with his other foot, but it grabbed it too and dragged him back, regurgitating the same words over and over, “You no likey? You no likey?”

Jake screamed for help, but the back street was empty; save the shimmering light reflecting in the cat’s eyes. “Please!” Jake begged as the cat’s eyes disappeared. Sharp claws punctured his leg.

A confused shriek tore through the darkness. Hissing and angry growls followed.

The claws retracted and the incessant repetition of his own words by the dark stopped just as suddenly as they began.

The sounds of a scuffle, followed by a whimper and shuffling of feet reached Jake’s ears. He squinted and sat up, feeling blood trickle down his leg, but again, saw nothing. Nothing but a small black cat, mincing its way toward him, purring. The cat sat down and licked its paw.

Jake laughed through his tears.

“Good kitty. Good kitty.”

 

Bad Reception

Dallin Baker’s 1999 Ford Focus sputtered to a stop on a dusty highway. “Dammit,” he said with a huff, pressing the brake and shoving the gearshift into park. Gwen Hammond, his girlfriend, stirred from her reclined position in the passenger seat. She wiped sleep saliva from the corner of her mouth as she looked around the desert landscape.

“What? Where are we?” she asked. “Why are we stopping? Did something happen to the car?”

Dallin grabbed the round plastic handle and lowered the driver’s side window. “I don’t know. I think it’s something with the radiator,” he said, popping open the glove box in front of her knees and rummaging for his Leatherman tool.

“It’s really hot,” Gwen said, her large bug-eye sunglasses covering her eyes.

“I know it’s hot, babe,” Dallin said through a forced smile. “I’m going to try to fix it before we call for help.” 

Gwen rolled down her window, flopped back into her seat in her dress, and kicked her heels up onto the dash. “Hurry and fix it. It’s nasty out here.”

Dallin pulled the lever to pop the hood and opened the door to assess the damage. He rolled up his shirt sleeves and went under the hood. He tugged on various cables and shook rubber plastic tubing, doing his manly best to fix whatever was wrong with the engine.

“I texted Stacy,” Gwen shouted from inside the car. “She’s pretty pissed that we’re gonna be late for her reception.”

“Yeah well it wasn’t the plan to have the car break down in the middle of nowhere,” he replied, still fiddling under the hood. “So. . . sorry!”

She thumbed away on her phone as she replied, “Yeah, well it wasn’t the plan to still have this shitty car either, but here we are.” She wiped sweat from under her eyes and wiped it on the seat with an “Ugh.”

“It’s not a shitty car,” he mumbled from behind the protection of the hood. “Maybe if you helped with the rent and bills, we could afford something better.”

“What was that? Did you say something, Dal?”

He gritted his teeth and tightened his fist around his Leatherman. “No.” He hated that nickname.

“Are you going to be able to fix it?” Gwen asked, still texting with the wedding party. 

Dallin replied, “I don’t know. If I were back at the garage, I could.”

“We’re not at the garage, Dallin.”

“I know that, Gwen,” he said, sniping back. “I was just sayin'.”

“Stacy says she’s sending her little brother to pick us up.”

Dallin sighed, slid his Leatherman into his pocket, and walked back around to Gwen’s side of the car. “What good is her little brother gonna do? Does he have a tow-truck?” 

Gwen turned her head toward Dallin, he could almost see her eyes roll behind her white sunglasses. “No. Stacy’s seventeen-year-old brother doesn’t have a tow truck.”

Dallin knelt down to her level and clamped his hand on the door sill. “I can’t just leave my car here.” He cursed as he yanked his hand back, the metal of the door singeing his palm.

“Like it’s going anywhere. No one is going to steal this piece of shit.”

“It’s not a piece of shit and I’m not leaving my car out in the middle of nowhere, Gwen!”

Gwen’s thumbs flew across the phone screen as she replied, “Well I’m not missing my best friend’s wedding, Dal.” She finished up her message and looked up at him with a terse smile. 

“I’ll call a truck.” 

“I’m not pulling up to the reception in a freakin' tow-truck!” she shrieked. “It’s bad enough I was going to show up in your stupid Focus!

Dallin balled up his fists, pulled his lips taut across his teeth, and stood up. He took the tie from around his neck, walked to the trunk, and popped it. He threw the tie inside and sat in the opening. He pulled out his phone and called for help. “Yeah. Route 163.”

They spent the next half an hour on opposite ends of the car. When Stacy’s brother arrived in a silver BMW, Gwen got out of the car and wobbled around to the trunk where Dallin was still perched. 

“Let’s go. Nick’s here. We can still make it in time. He brought their nice car.”

Dallin sat, his shoulders slumped, and looked up at her. “You go ahead. I’ll wait for the tow truck.”

Gwen glanced over at her silver chariot, then back to him. “Are you sure? I’m sure they’ll be able to tow it without your help.”

“It’s fine, Gwen. I need to give them my insurance and information and everything anyway.”

“But—”

“I promise. I won’t have them drop me off at the reception hall. I’ll have the driver drop me off around the corner or something.”

Gwen nodded and smiled. “You’re such a good boyfriend.”

Dallin shrugged and chuckled.

Gwen’s legs wobbled and buckled like a young foal’s as she navigated the rocky roadside in her heels to Stacy’s father’s car. She climbed into the BMW and Dallin watched as the car disappeared over the horizon. 

Dallin got up out of the trunk and closed it. He went around to the front of the car and lowered the Focus’ hood with thunk and a click. He pulled the keys out of his pocket and slipped into the driver’s seat. He plugged the key into the ignition and turned the key and the four cylinder purred back to life. 

Dallin flipped the turn signal on and pulled a U-turn.

 

The Sunshine Blogger award!

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award? The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are inspiring and bring sunshine into the lives of their readers and fellow bloggers through their blogspace and/or their social media. 

I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by one of the most fascinating people I know: Holly Evans. Holly is a seasoned writer who knows both the nuts a bolts of writing, but also is a expert at the business side. (I pick her brain. A lot.) She is polishing up a new Urban Fantasy series that is releasing on July 1st which you can pre-order here. Also, follow her on Twitter or on her site here

Now let's get on with it. 

The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award:

  • Name drop and link to the blog of the awesome person who nominated you.
  • Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write (or borrow/steal) eleven questions for them to answer.

So now I'll attempt to answer her questions and then see if I can't dig up a few of my own to ask and pester people with. 

  1. What would your dream home look like?
    My dream home. It would be large, but not enormous. Enough room to relax, entertain, and do just... so many activities. A huge garage with at least 4 or 5 classic cars and maybe a new one too housed within too. Preferably it'd be within spitting distance of a beautiful beach but be near the niceties of civilization as well... I think I just described Tony Stark's house. Okay yeah, short answer: my dream home would just be Tony Stark's house from the Iron Man flicks. 

2. What does your muse look like?
Like Dave Grohl. Quite skinny and hairy. And shouty.

3. How do you silence your inner critic?
It doesn't rear it's ugly head often, but when he does I tamp him back down into his hole by reading back to myself some of the work I've written. (I'm very convincing.) Failing that, I usually reach out to one of my close writer friends to tell me I am being stupid and that what I am doing is awesome. 

4. If you could escape into any fairytale, which one and why?
Hrm... fairytale. I don't know if it counts, but I'd call Captain America my fairytale. He goes from tiny, scrawny, and sick to big, powerful, and awesome. Thing about him is, he never loses his inner goodness and desire to help others. I think that's huge. I'd love to live in a world where that kind of awesome is possible. 

5. If you could choose one celebrity to play you in a movie of your life, who would you choose?
Hahaha well knowing that Holly wrote this list of questions, this one is a loaded can of psychological worms but why not? I want Jason Statham to play me. There. I said it. I want Handsome Rob, star of three Transporter movies and two Crank movies to play me in a movie. 

6. What’s your biggest flaw & how do you make it a strength?
Biggest flaw. Hmm... I'd say it's my ability to procrastinate a work. I can make any number of excuses as to why I am not working on a specific work at any given time. Solution? Be writing many things concurrently. Not sure why my brain works like this, but if I start petering out on one work, I can kick into a different one and step on the gas.  

7. If there were no limiting factors, where would you live in the world?
I'm pretty sure the question above covered this. Big house. Beach. Lots of cars. Iron Man House. Location-wise I'd likely say someplace beachy like Fiji or San Diego.

8. Which of the 7 deadly sins do you suffer from the most?
Envy. I tend to see others' successes and position in life and ask myself, "Why them and not me? They must have done something underhanded or dishonest to get there." Rather than praise them for the more likely causes: hard work, determination, and a dash of luck.

9. If you could become immortal, how would you spend your time?
Bowling, probably. I'd rather not be immortal. Living forever never appealed to me, though I would like to make it to 80 or so. 

10. Which one book had the biggest impact on you?
The Gunslinger by Stephen King. I picked it up completely unaware of the content, only that it was written by my favorite author. I have been in love with the book and the character of Roland ever since. He's not an invincible hero, as a matter of fact, he does some very non-heroic things. I won't spoil the series for you, but yeah... he's not always the good guy. 

11. If you were an ice-cream flavour, which one would you be?
Chocolate and peanut butter. I leave the interpretation up to you, my friends. Heh. 
(But probably include something about how it's sweet, with ribbons of salty thoughtfulness throughout. Maybe.)

 

I'll nominate a few people for this, and if they are so inclined they can answer my questions. Let's begin with the questions first (Some of them are recycled, so sue me.) then on to the nominations!

  1. Name the author you look up to the most or would like to emulate as you begin your Authorial Rise to Stardom?
  2. What is your writer's fuel? Besides Coffee/Caffeine. Because let's face it that's like oxygen for a writer. 
  3. What is one writer's rule you know you probably should follow but you love to bend/break?
  4. You have unlimited resources. What do you do with all of your wealth?
  5. Do you have a book or author that is a "guilty pleasure" for you? You know... THAT one. You can tell me. I won't tell a soul. 
  6. Many writers put snippets or pieces of themselves into their work, whether it be experiences, places they've lived, or people they've known. Roughly what percentage of You is in your work? 
  7. What will make you smile, without fail, even on the worst of days? It can be a thing, person, or even a thought. Everything is on the table. Whatever puts a grin on your face.
  8. Cats. Am I right?
  9. How long have you been writing, and why did you decide to take a run at it despite it being a very challenging career choice?
  10. You wrote a best seller. Hollywood wants it and they're willing to pay you over a million for it. But they want the rights to sequels, spin offs, and remakes. How do you respond?
  11. Enough complicated questions. What is your favorite vacation spot?

 

Now on to the bloggers I'd like to nominate for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Follow them, enjoy their posts, you will not regret it! 

  • First off, I'd like to call out to one Amy Marie. (Twitter) She is a brand new writer who I just recently began following and am looking forward to seeing more of her work. She started a blog where I'm assuming the answers to my questions will be posted so keep an eye on that. She also informed me that she's made a total of two posts so far. Happy to give her a reason to up that by 1/3rd and get to know a new author at the same time. 
     
  • Next, I'd like to nominate Josie Jaffrey. (Twitter) A charming author who also happens to be a lawyer for a UK pub as well. Oh yes, and she's got three books plus a short story on Amazon just waiting to become your next favorite stories. Don't let her serious writing resume fool you, she's a pleasure to talk to on Twitter so look her up there, or check out her website and you won't be disappointed. 
     
  • Third up, we have a saucy author who won't tell me what she wrote before she adopted her current moniker, Rachel Lovefist. (Twitter) However, she assures me she is hard at work on a new set of books that she will be putting up for pre-order soon. Until then you can follow her on Twitter or start following her new blog. (Are you sure you won't tell me what you used to write under, Rachel??)
     
  • Fourthly, I submit that Melissa Elledge (Twitter) should be subjected to the intense questions listed here. She's a young college student studying in England's University of Winchester for her MA in Creative and Critical Writing. She is a gamer, writer, and a self-proclaimed geek. She is also a joy to talk to and has a blog that has all sorts of useful content so follow her!
     
  • Last but most assuredly not least, I'd like to nominate Jessica Grace Kelley. (Twitter) She's a writer who just recently won an award for her book, The Seductress. So yeah, you know. No pressure, everyone. She's definitely one to follow either on her blog or on Twitter and watch her rise to fame as it happens!

Have fun!

Friends 'Til the End

And I wonder
When I sing along with you


    “Stop what your doin’, ‘cause I’m about to ruin,” Amanda yelled from the back seat of the Jeep startling her two friends in the front seats, Erin and Holly as one of their old school jams came on the radio.

    Holly grinned, whipped her head around and shot a villain’s squint at Amanda, belting back, “The image and the style dat ya used to. I look funny, but yo I’m makin’ money, see! So, yo world I hope ya ready fo’ me!”

    Erin wasn’t having it.

    “Come on, Erin. Don’t act like you don’t know the words,” Amanda chided, grabbing the back of Erin’s driver’s seat and popping her head around the side.

    Erin smirked but held her ground. “What do you guys want to eat?”

    “Not hungry! Erin! Sing along with us!” Holly replied, cranking the volume of the stock stereo up until the speakers crackled.

    Erin ignored their pleas once again. “Taco Bell? I hear they have this new cheesy meaty thing,” she said, knowing that Amanda hated Taco Bell.

    Amanda doubled down on the music and pushed her face into Erin’s, Erin doing her best to maintain a straight line in the lane. “I drink up all da Hennessy ya got on ya shelf, just lemme introduce myself!”

    Erin couldn’t resist any longer. “My name is HUMPTY! Pronounced with an UMPTY! Yo ladies, oh how I’d like to HUMP thee!”

If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again


    Erin took the jar from the shelf, dumping the spare change from the day’s shift into it. The “Party Fund” jar stopped being a party fund a while ago. By finals, most of the partying had ended.

    “What’s the point of partying anymore?” Erin postulated to Amanda. “We’re adults now. We should act like it.” 

Holly stopped coming around when she landed a job as a photographer in the next town over. Studies and work took over Erin’s life and held her hostage. Amanda seemed to be the only one still living in the past. Trying to hang on to memories like a child clings to a comforting blanket. She failed a few required courses and was there for another semester.

They planned to have one last hurrah before they all left. A nostalgic farewell that never materialized. The best years of your life, they said. Enjoy them while you’re young, they said. Weren’t they still young? If these were the best years . . . 

The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You've got to promise not to stop when I say when


    Erin looked out the small window beside the door and saw her old friend standing there. Her eyes sported dark circles, her hair wrapped up in a greasy bun, sweat pants and a baggy tee shirt replacing her signature bike shorts and tank top combo of prior years. “Amanda,” Erin said as she opened the door. “What are you doing here?”

    “Hey Erin. Come with me,” Amanda said through a glassy-eyed haze, “I’ve got something so amazing to show you.”

    Erin wrapped her plaid shirt tighter around her shoulders, a bruise still visible above her collarbone. “Amanda, what is it? I can’t leave right now. My kids—”

    Amanda laughed and covered her mouth. Tears overflowed her eyes as she did so, which she flipped away into the overgrown bushes when they reached her hand. “It’s okay!” She glanced back at her dilapidated Chevy Cavalier. “It’s fine! I’ve got it in my car! You have to come see. Pleeeease, Erin. Puhleeeeeeese!

    Erin ducked her head back inside. “Kevin, will you go upstairs and watch your sisters for a minute? Momma’s gonna be right back.” Her tone changed when the voice of her oldest boy, only nine, protested. “You get up there and do as I say or I’ll tell your father!”
 
    Erin reappeared in the doorway, pulled the door shut behind her, and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She looked at Amanda with a mixture of fear and pity as Amanda bounded down the path toward her car.
 
    Amanda pulled her keys from her sweatpants and danced in front of the trunk while Erin walked across the dead lawn to the street.
 
    “Okay, now close your eyes,” Amanda whispered as she swung her head around the area, scanning.
 
    “Amanda, I don’t have time for this— why— why is there blood on your hands— Amanda? No! Stop!”

We're Really Not Sure Who Dave Is

Hanna’s eyes flitted open, unable to see through the black sackcloth covering her head. A rope, snug around her neck, held the sack firm. She caught a whiff of disinfectant in the air.  Images of a hospital or doctor’s office flashed through her head. Zip-ties threatened to cut through her wrists as she struggled to free herself.

A clang from the other side of the room drew her attention and she whipped her head to the side. “Hello?” she said, her voice hitching. “Who’s there?”

“Uh— Hi?” a male voice returned.

“Who are you? Where am I?” she replied.

“My name is David,” he replied, his voice low and deep. “As for where we are, your guess is as good as mine.” 

“What do you mean?” Hanna said, her voice rising. “You don’t know?”

The clang she heard earlier was repeated in rapid succession and David replied, “I ain’t friggin’ Igor over here ringin’ my bell. I’m trapped here too.” His voice is definitely eastern U.S.; Maine maybe. “I heard them bring you in.”

“They? They who?” Hanna pleaded. 

“They! Them! I don’t know! The goddamn— bad— p— people!” he said, sputtering to get the last words out.

She swung her head around inside the bag, trying to get a piece of it in her mouth, but to no avail, making growling and gnashing sounds as she did so.

“That ain’t gonna help,” David said.

Hanna shouted back, “Well I’m not going to sit here and do nothing!”

“Let me know how yelpin’ like a mutt works out for ya,” he chuckled under his breath. “In the meantime, I think I almost got one of my hands free.”

Hanna’s heart was racing. “Really?” she said, “That’s great!” She paused for a moment. “You— You’ll help me get out too?” Sweat dripped from her sculpted eyebrows and into her eyes; the salt stinging them.
 
“Yes. Hanna.”

She bounced in what little room she had between her bonds and the chair. “Please hurry! I don’t want to know what they’ll do to us when—” 

She stopped her bouncing. “David? Your voice sounds different.” No response but the echo of her own voice. 

“David? Are you there? How— did you know my name?”

Silence.
 
“Where are you?” she said, her voice wavering. The sound of metal clanking to the ground was the reply.
 
“Are— are you free? David?”

An eternity seemed to pass in silence. She heard heavy footsteps come closer, plodding and slow. “You’re scaring me. Please! Say something!” she screamed, her voice shrill. 

“So lovely,” a low voice whispered in her ear.

She shrieked and tried to pull away. She could smell rancid breath through the black sack on her head. She began to sob. “Why are you doing this?”

A laugh followed by a sigh. “Why does everyone ask that? What does it matter? It’s either that, or ‘What are you going to do to me?’ which is just as stupid.”

She sniffled and coughed. “Screw you, asshole.”
 
She felt a hand grab the back of the bag and pull her head backward. Her skin of her neck pulled taut, her chair tipping back. The chair crashed to the floor with Hanna attached. She let out a moan and mumbled.
 
“What was that?” the man asked.

She replied in a whisper.

He stomped to her side, knelt down, and clamped her neck in his hand. “Speak up, Hanna. I’ll write your last words on the two-by-four that marks your grave.”

As he neared, she growled into his ear, “My ties came loose.”

Hanna wrapped one hand around her assailant’s wrist, still cinched around her throat. She felt his grip tighten further and stand up; lifting her up by her neck. Her other hand swung around, slapping him in the side of the head before moving to his wrist as well.

A slow gurgle replaced her words as her vision went black. She fell to the ground. Her legs buckled underneath her, the dead weight of her body snapping her right leg.

As Hanna laid waiting for death, the full weight of the man pressed down on her then rolled off to the side. A hand untied the rope around her neck and pulled the hood off. 

She gulped air as slivers of pain shot through her eyes. Her eyes finally focused.

A man smiled in front of her as a beast of a man laid beside her.

"Dave?" she croaked.

 

Things I’ve learned in writing my novel, Sakura Softworks

I started this journey a few years back, during a difficult time for me. I found a certain degree of solace and gained a new hobby as I wrote a few silly stories for friends, and more or less tinkered with the idea of writing something real. At the time I had no idea it’d bring me to writing a full novel.

 This book right here, in case you're new here

This book right here, in case you're new here

As a child, I’d always loved reading. I’d read and read and read and then look for more. Then in college, I fell out of love with reading. It could have had something to do with the amount of required reading for my college classes, though I really don’t know that that was the root cause of my disaffection. No, I think what happened was the literary world was exploding at the time with books that didn’t interest me at all. Harry Potter was the only thing going around that even slightly interested me, but not to the point that I actually wanted to commit to reading the canon of books. I’d watch the movies, but that was about it.

The Twilight series was an ever-growing behemoth then and despite the surge of excitement surrounding those books, I just couldn’t bring myself to finish even book one, much less the subsequent three. The Hunger Games was also being touted as a revolutionary series that was replacing the classics in some schools as required reading; but that didn’t interest me either. The YA boom was in full swing, yet it all seemed so… pretentious. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I am not a fan of pretentiousness. Music, movies, and books that are self-serious and self-important really don’t do it for me.

 WhY So SeRiOuS? Plus I haven't seen that fabulous of hair since the 80's

WhY So SeRiOuS? Plus I haven't seen that fabulous of hair since the 80's

In essence, the literature of the time just didn’t seem all that accessible to me. I say “to me” because there was no lack of people buying and devouring these books. Books were selling. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that there didn’t seem to be anything out there for me or people like me. (That’s likely my problem, but this is my site so I’m going to complain about it as if it’s the world’s problem for not supplying me with literary entertainment sufficient for my needs.)

I wanted something accessible. Something that knew it was entertainment and not abstract mythology. I wanted something that was fun. That last one especially. I may be in the minority here, but I want my entertainment to be enjoyable on a Disneyland-y, roller coaster-y, I-don’t-care-if-it’s-silly-and-stupid type of fun level. I don’t enjoy crying while reading literature. I don’t enjoy reading about horribleness. I will never pick up a book based on the amount of “social importance” it has. Sorry. Nope. I can see the merit in such books, and on a literary level, I can appreciate them. However, they don’t call to me. Nothing I sampled ever piqued my interest nor held it long enough to engage me.

The book that broke that slump for me was by an author that goes by the name of David Wong with his book, John Dies at the End. It was crude, fast paced, kind of scattershot, kind of gross, and an absolute blast. I burned through that book and picked up its sequel as soon as it was published. Both of them reinvigorated my desire to read and made me remember why I loved reading for all those years. It also drove me to think I could also write a book of similar feel and quality. At the time that was not true. I thought it was true. It was not even close.

I didn’t know the huge amount of work and effort it would take to bring the book to life. I thought that it was a quick and easy road to success. It is not. For every Stephanie Meyers that writes a book that takes her on a meteoric rise to fame and fortune there are thousands of authors that have been writing for years just to put food on the table. When we see authors like Andy Weir write their first book, self-publish it, and then see it become one of the top movies of 2015, we want that to be us. We envision that one day we will have the chance to tell our stories to people and that they will love them.

Some tell me, “I just want to get my work out there. I don’t care if it sells.” Bullshit. I understand not caring about the money and just writing for the thrill of the craft. People sell their books for free all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, what I call double bullshit on is the idea that people don’t care if their books sell. In my mind, a book that is selling is a book that connects. It’s another person taking a journey in the author’s mind and finding it thrilling, exciting, compelling, romantic, erotic, or life-affirming. 

You mean to tell me that you, as an author, don’t want that? Triple bullshit. When that connection is made and that person feels like their soul has been touched or that someone understands them, isn’t that why we write? So when a young boy reads about a character in a book, a character that is picked on or belittled, and he sees that character overcome and achieve greatness and because of that character he feels he can get up and go to school the next day, that's not important to you?

Of course it is. When someone reads the things you’ve put out on the page and they feel those characters are their friends; when they feel their joys and their struggles as their own, that’s magical. That’s a human connection. That is why we write. To share what we have inside with someone else and hopefully make both parties better for it. That is what keeps me doing this.

Do I want my books to sell? Yes. Yes I do. I want them to sell so well, people get sick of them. If that brings me fame and fortune, then cool. I kinda like those things. (At least, I think I do. I have neither as of this writing.) However, I want them to "sell" because it means that my soul has touched someone else's and helped them a bit when they needed it... and that's worth all the effort. 

 

When you care just enough . . .

The wood veneer on the countertop represented of the business where he had worked for nearly 20 years. Showing a veneer of authenticity while consisting of nothing but falsehoods underneath. More than a few times Andrew wondered how he could stage a freak fire to burn the whole place down. Some people fantasize about traveling to far off places, doing great things, or maybe cheating on a spouse. Not Andrew. Andrew wanted to erase his workplace from existence.

Thanks to nepotism his new boss was also the original owner’s daughter, Harriet. Whenever she spoke, her words were like the sound of a dental drill in his ears. “Why don’t you post some of those new photos on our Instagram and delete the old ones.”

 Andrew replied, “Why would I delete the old ones? It’s Instagram—”

 “Because they’re old and because I told you to,” came the reply.

Andrew had been working there long enough to know how to pick his battles. For a split second he thought about explaining that wasn’t how Instagram worked, but then decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

“Sounds good. I’ll get right on it,” he said, deciding on the path of least resistance.

Andrew was hired to be a retail manager for the company years ago. Over time, the company added responsibilities to his plate without adding dollars to his paycheck. He did them willingly at first, thinking it would result in a promotion. Instead, it just became clear he had been used as “cheap labor.”

But Harriet wasn’t done just yet. “Also, while you’re on there, do something about us getting higher on Google. We aren’t on top, Andrew. We aren’t even on the first page.”

Andrew’s jaw clenched and his temperature climbed as he struggled to keep his composure. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to get our page higher than it is right now. I’ve done everything I know how to do.”

Harriet chuckled and her voice raised a notch. “Well I don’t know how to either, so I need you to look it up and fix it. You’re smart; you can figure it out.”

“No,” Andrew said, not taking the bait.

“No? What do you mean, no?” she said as she raised her hand out over his laptop, palm down. “That’s your job. I say it, you do it.”

Andrew slapped the screen of his laptop down, missing her hand by centimeters. “That isn’t my job!” he said, rising to his feet. “My job isn’t to do what you say, Harriet. My job is to run this store, buy for this store, and sell for this store.”

Harriet blinked a few times, as if to understand Andrew’s sudden outburst, then responded, “You’ll do it if you want to keep your job, Andrew!”

He took a deep breath, his six-foot frame towering over her five-foot nothing figure and in a calm voice replied, “And what if I don’t want to keep this job?”

Harriet’s eyes grew wide and her mouth opened though no words came out.
 
“If you’ll excuse me, I have pictures to delete off your Instagram,” Andrew said as he resumed his seat and opened his laptop.

 

The Christmas List

I have an excuse for not posting much within the last few weeks or so (OK, maybe more than a month) and I think it's a good one. 

I've been hard at work on my first collaborative effort with a fellow author and friend, L.B.Scott. We were talking about our writing and discovered that we both enjoy one another's writing and the styles are similar enough that it might be fun to try a collaboration. 

After a throwing a few ideas around and shooting most of them down, we decided on a Christmas story. In talking it turned out that both of is have a deep fondness for the Christmas season and the feelings it brings, so here we are. Presenting our first collaborative effort and launching it out just shy of a week before Christmas. 

It's an original short story that we wanted to write for all ages and one that people would want to share with friends, children and loved ones. We hope we have achieved that to some degree, and we hope you enjoy it as well. 

It will be up on Amazon shortly, so please  check it out and give it a read. From our families to yours, we hope this holiday is filled with happiness and joy. 

Here it is:

 Cover Design by Lana Pecherczyk Twitter: @lansi

Cover Design by Lana Pecherczyk Twitter: @lansi

And here's the hook:

It's Winter, 1957. The snow is piling up, the days are getting shorter, and children all over the world are eagerly anticipating the night when Santa comes to visit. Except for the children at the Happy Heart Orphanage. No, the children there don't expect visits from the Man in Red. The Matrons who run the orphanage make sure each child there knows that they don't deserve such love from Jolly Ol' Saint Nick.

Santa or no, Johnny is determined to make this year's Christmas something special for the rest of the children. While executing his Christmas plan, he is caught by the Matrons and thrown in the scariest part of the house on Christmas Eve. Will Johnny escape? Will the orphans of the Happy Heart Orphanage ever have a true Christmas?

Find out in this heartwarming story of friendship and the Holiday spirit by L.B. Scott and Douglas B. Wimmer.

Today's Accomplishments

The water rolls slowly toward me, then bounces off my body and the next wave rolls in. The faucet drips every few seconds; a repair I haven’t fixed despite it being leaky for a matter of months. Years even.

The stubble on my face is soothing as I run my fingers across it, although those miniature tree stumps will be gone in a matter of minutes when I drag the razor’s edge over my skin. It’s not that I like shaving, but I don’t like myself with a beard either, so I lather up and let it sit. I have no idea if it really does anything to let my man mane marinate before the shave, but I’ve got a few minutes so why not, right?

There are a few things I could be doing rather than sit in my bathtub, but I’m not worrying about them today. No. Not today.

I have a few books to finish writing, I have a few books to finish reading, and I have a few items that need editing but I will not do any of those. I have a blog to update, a faucet to fix, and as you already know: a beard to shave. That’s six things and I only plan on doing one of them. Lazy? Maybe. So I’ll end up doing two of them, because I could always post this rambling train of thought online for my blog. In fact, I will do that. So count that as two out of six. I accomplished 33% of my goals today. It’s not even daylight and I have yet to put on clothes so I’d say I’m winning at life today.

VICTORIES FROM THE BATHTUB!

A tiny black spot invades my vision. From the relative darkness of my watery wonderland I spy a minuscule harbinger of doom. It could be a trick of the eye. My laptop is bright and the room is dark, so there’s really no reason that it could be anything but- dammit it IS! It’s a tiny little vampire of blood and enjoyment: the mosquito! First ants and now this? Why has God forsaken me and Mother Nature allowed to have her way with my humble abode? I am but a man, soaking in his circa 1994 bathtub, and waxing poetic about how much stuff he’s not going to get done today.

Why now? It’s coming up on the holiday season. How evil are these little gnats of destruction that they don’t respect my sovereignty?!

Oh crap! He’s coming at me! Dive! Dive! Dive! He’s powerless under the water! Maybe it’s a she… it doesn’t matter! I can’t laptop while underwater so if you’ll excuse-

. . .

I’m back up. After staying under the water for as long as my untrained lungs could muster (around 20 seconds) I’m above surface. I wish I had bothered to lather up my hair before dunking myself into the warm watery bastion of safety; that would have been fortuitous. Productive even. No matter now.

It’s on the tiny Wal-Mart table I use at my tubside. Does it think it’s a thing it can bite? You can’t get blood from my $15 table, you stupid bug! Hahaha you think you can get blood from- OH! It’s airborne again! Come at me needle-face! I’ll drown you in my bathtub of emotions! I’m ready…

It lands again on my Wal-Mart table.

 The bloodless decoy. From Wal-Mart.

The bloodless decoy. From Wal-Mart.

I will no longer be a victim. I refuse to let this insect dictate my life. I will not sit back and wait for his or her inevitable attack on my person. I will go on the hunt! The hunter is now the hunted! How does that feel, itty bitty Hans Gruber? I will not tell you where the detonators are. But I will smear your blood… although I suppose it’s not his blood, because when you squish mosquitoes it’s usually someone else’s blood, but anyway. I will smear the blood inside of you and you will no longer disturb my baths!

I catch him as he takes flight, no doubt aware in some animalistic sense that the tables have turned, and I pulverize this tiny flying needle of a bug. Restoring calm to the world once again.

Make that three things I've accomplished this morning.

As writers, why are we so reluctant to seek out and find other good writers?

When I first started on Twitter, it was to find an audience.

I was writing, albeit not volumes, but I was writing and was eager to show at least a few people what I had done in the hopes that they might gain some enjoyment out of it. (If you've read my blog posts going back a year or so you already know the ups and downs and how that went.)

Once I had a handful of followers, (Whom I religiously followed back, because how else does one get followers, right?) I expected to have people finally checking out my work and gaining an actual reader base. To my surprise, that was not the case, at least not to the level I was expecting.

I didn't let it get to me, because I had heard these things would take time to happen. People would find my work, enjoy it and hopefully tell other people about it. In the meantime I was told that it would be best as an aspiring author to build an "author platform" so when my books are finally published I'll have a built in audience. That makes sense and it would help me kill two birds with one stone: build a platform and get more people whom I could entertain with my wordery. Perfect.

As the numbers on Twitter grew, I found a few bright spots. Made a handful of good friends. Even one or two great friends whom I still have even now, so there are definitely some things I can't complain about. What I didn't find was more people checking out my work. Even with the increasing numbers, I found it rare for one of them to have read my work or even be aware that I had a body of work to be read.

Why is that? As writers, we want people to read our work. Even if not for monetary reasons, just to have our unique voice heard. So why are we so unwilling to check out another writer's work? We shout out our blog posts, we participate in hashtag events, we posts links to our books, and we post links to our websites in the hopes that people will just READ what we have to say or buy our $.99 book... but by and large we don't provide that same courtesy for others in our same position.

What good does it do to have 3000 followers when they do nothing but post links... and never follow others' links? What good does it do to pour your blood, sweat, and tears onto the page, edit it, shop it or push the self-publish button... if you, yourself do not do what you hope everyone else will do and JUST F**KING READ? Take a chance on the product of someone else's blood sweat and tears and buy that book, read that blog post, visit that website. Why? Why is that so difficult for so many of us when it's what we really want from everyone else.

As a collective we love to post quotes. We love short snippets of wisdom from those who have been where we are and have felt our struggles. Not a day goes by that I don't see a quote that flies in the face of our reluctance to read others' work:

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
"Good writers read. Great writers read a lot."

There are countless more, but the point is, we, as writers, can change it and we should change it. We should stop acting like writership is a one-way street. You're not Stephen King. He writes a book and once it's published, it just immediately starts crapping money. That's not you. You aren't that famous. Even still, though he could just treat it like a one-way, he doesn't. He is a voracious reader, and advocates that everyone who wants to write needs to read.

So I propose after you read this (Thank you, honestly and sincerely.) that you go out into the world and DO SOMETHING about it. If you want to find that treasured book that no one else knows about; that undiscovered masterpiece that touches your heart, soul, and mind... take a chance! Click on that link and if it interests you... buy that book, read that post, visit that website. If you find someone has created something amazing, then tell them. Then tell someone else. Tell EVERYONE else, because that's what you, as a writer, hope they will do when they find your work.

I Never Wanted to Write a Book.

I am neck deep in writing a trio of novels right now. (No, it’s not a series.)
However, I haven’t always had the desire to write. I don’t know what that says about me in general, but I do take note of so many writers, both young and old who say they caught the writing bug early on in life and haven’t stopped since. I had no desire nor drive to write a novel when I was younger, and why would I? I had bigger dreams, higher aspirations, and I was going to be rich and famous. What would I be rich and famous for? Well that depends on what stage of life we are talking about.

Plan #1 – Become a famous musician


When I was a young boy of eleven years old, the plan was to be a famous singer/songwriter. I even went so far as to record myself singing into my little tape recorder the somber and forlorn lyrics of an prepubescent boy. I do not know where this tape is. However, I do remember a snippet of the lyrics, because genius never forgets genius. This was an actual line from the song that was to make me famous:

Because I’m lost!
Lost in a twisted maze.
Without anyone to hold me.
Or to love meeee!

At this point I think it’s best to play it safe and tell the women in the reading audience to refrain from mailing me their undergarments along with proposals for marriage. This isn’t me anymore. And eleven-year-old boys still think that girls are mysterious cootie factories, so if someone had tried to hold me or love me, I’d have ran as far and as fast as my scrawny boy body could take me. Needless to say, despite my best efforts to write the quintessential love ballad, my musical career never took off. This was due in large part to it never leaving my bedroom. I would revisit this plan again in my late teen years, as I sung lead in a basement band who covered mostly Green Day and The Clash; once again destined to fail as we never left the basement.

 
Plan #2 – Become a famous movie director.


When you think about ultra-famous people who have more money than many small countries, it’s hard to not think about celebrities in general and for me, directors specifically. Some would lump my #1 plan and #2 plans together, but no. Those people are wrong. Becoming a famous director is an entirely different animal. Not only do you get to showcase your vision and tell stories (either your own or those of others) you get to tell those spoiled primadonna actresses and pompous actors what to do every day all day. Heh... and get paid literal truckloads of money to do so. Where’s the downside, right?

With those thoughts of grandeur in mind, I set out to film my first indie film on my parent’s Hi-8 camcorder. Somewhere in a shoebox at my parent’s home exists footage of me recording while driving in my parent’s car, recording nothing more than the streets in my hometown. That’s it. First-person shakycam view of the quiet suburban streets clipping by at 35-45 MPH. I don’t even think there are any people on the streets I filmed, because who walks in the Phoenix area? No one, that’s who. Next, I took to my ancient computer and overlaid ridiculously crude credits over the riveting passing-street scene. Yes, in my teenage mind, my first thought for my epic movie was to do the credit roll. Given, this may have been yet another exercise in vanity, as every single credit had my name by it, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you’ve known me for very long.

Again, this avenue would not yield the fruits I so desperately wanted. 

Plan #3 – Become a doctor

Clearly my attempts at fame were not going so well. It was at this point I decided that becoming a medical doctor was the way to go. If I couldn’t have fortune and fame then I would settle for fortune. It’s no secret that medical doctors in the U.S. are highly paid, particularly if they are in a specialized field. This plan differed from the previous two in that it would rely more on learning and acquiring a certain skill set and applying knowledge to achieve the desired goal. I’m a smart guy, that much I know. So my thought process was that as long as I apply myself, I could make it. There would be no need for luck or waiting for my “big break” because I would create my own opportunity. At the same time I would be enabling myself to help others in the most fundamental of ways: improving their health.

Those who know me for any length of time know that I am always looking to help others. Whether it be by being there for someone emotionally or lending a physical hand, I try to find opportunities to do so. I love helping others in any way I can, so this method of making a name for myself would allow me to become relatively rich (not small-country rich, but not-wanting-for-money rich) while sating my need to help others. As I went through the required coursework to prepare for the MCAT and continue on to medical school, I would find this road to success would not come to fruition either for a number of reasons I won't delve into now.

Plan #4 – Just write

Until I started this blog post today, I didn’t think my past aspirations held any bearing on where I am right now. Right now I want to write. I truly enjoy writing and the sense of accomplishment it provides, and I also enjoy entertaining others even if I am not aware of everyone that sees or will see my work. I love creating characters, places, and stories to transport myself along with the reader to a different time and place. Come to find out those are not too different from the other three goals I had. 

For Plan #1 and Plan #2 one of the goals was of course to have mountains of money; however, the underlying theme was one in which I could entertain and provide something memorable for others. Even though I wouldn’t get to yell at actors and actresses, I found that I could position my story’s characters to do what I want and say what I want them to say. Do they do it all the time? No. There’s definitely some improv going on in my writing, just as there would have been had my Hollywood dreams been realized. Sometimes my stories veer off course, but as the writer, director, set designer, and producer of the whole show, I can correct if needed. It’s not so different it seems. 

For plan #3, the underlying goal of being well-to-do was secondary to helping people once again. Making people happier, helping them to enjoy life more, and being a force for good in their lives is what a good medical professional does. 

In my mind, this is also the same goal I am striving for now (minus the fame and riches) when it comes to writing. I should have caught the idea sooner, because others were more than encouraging when it came to my literary skills, but my fame-seeking self wasn’t having any of it at the time. I’m now older and relatively wiser, and here I am, in the middle of three books and trying to make a name for myself in the world of books. I’m a late-comer, but I’ve never felt like an outcast, and for that I say thank you.

Barry and Godzilla

Barry rubbed his bald head as he looked at the long checklist of items to pick up from the grocery store and then glanced out of the living room window at the glory that was his 1976 Scout II. He usually reserved Godzilla for more exciting adventures than getting foodstuffs from the local Fry’s. However, the weather was a beautiful sixty-seven degrees and as he spent the morning removing the white steel top, he felt it would be a shame not to take the girl out for a spin on a day like today. 

He pulled on his boots and grabbed the keys from the hook near the kitchen whiteboard. The unique tinkling sound of antique keys alerted his wife, Marie, of his intention to fire up the green beast.
 
“Ahem.” She announced her awareness of his escape attempt.

“Hey honey. Heh. I- was just gonna go grab some stuff from the store,” he said with a nervous smirk. 

“Oh. How nice! What kind of stuff?” she said, crossing her arms across her chest. 

“Uh, groceries. I thought I would-“

She cut him off before he could finish. “You were going to go grocery shopping for me?”

“Yeah. Of course! Anything that I can do to help ya know.”

“You’re going grocery shopping in Godzilla . . .”

As he scanned her expression for approval, he rolled the keys in his hands, the metal of the keys clicking against the old keychain. “Heh, yep! That’s was what I was thinking.”

“Is it going to make it?” she chuckled. She uncrossed her arms and returned to the stove, where she was cooking up a fresh batch of the children’s favorite meal: macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. 

“Are you kidding me? I’ve been working on her all morning. Of course she’ll make it,” he assured her as he inched toward the door. 

She smiled and stirred the cheesy meat and pasta. Implicit approval in his book. 

He trotted out the front door and climbed into the rusty piece of America’s automotive glory days. He inserted the worn key into the ignition and turned. The solenoid clicked, the battery gauge twitched, but the starter remained silent. Barry turned it back and then forth again. Again, nothing but lonely clicks came in reply. He tried a third time. The starter replaced the solenoid’s click with the sound of an angry pit-bull springing to life, spitting clouds of carbon monoxide out of its twin tailpipes, and earning a grin from Barry’s chubby cheeks.

Barry donned his aviator sunglasses, shifted the nearly forty-year-old transmission into first gear, and drove the three miles to the neighborhood Fry’s Grocery Store. Within thirty minutes, he emerged from the store and loaded his prized booty into the open back end of Godzilla. He slipped back onto the tattered driver’s seat upholstery, turned the ignition, and the old truck growled to life. 

He shifted the transmission into reverse and toed the gas pedal, but the engine did not respond with more than its regular idle-speed burble. The once cool weather turned warm as the sun beat down on his hairless head. He toed the pedal again, this time noticing the pedal was resting flush with the floor. 

Something was not right. 

He pushed the gearshift into neutral, turned off the engine, opened the driver’s door, and crouched down with his head under the dashboard. The gas pedal moved freely forward and back, exposing a cable that once extended from the carburetor under the hood to the pedal itself. Frayed and black, the cable was now useless as was the gas pedal. 

Thinking himself defeated and his frozen goods becoming less frozen by the minute, he turned the engine off and dialed AAA. While on hold, he rummaged through the glove compartment. His eyes glimmered and he squealed as he withdrew a spool of car stereo wire he threw in the glove box months ago for a future project. 

“This is AAA, are you in a safe-” came the woman on the other end as he clicked the end button.

Barry popped the hood, sprang over the side of the vehicle with his spool of green wire in hand, and located the throttle lever. Threading one end of the wire through the hole in the lever, he ran the remaining wire around the windshield into the driver’s side and fashioned a loop for his hand to grip. 

Saying a silent prayer in his head, he closed the hood; leaving just enough room for the bright green wire to actuate.

He closed his eyes, turned the ignition, and the engine began its familiar low rumble. Wrapping the loop of wire around his left hand, he pulled toward his chest. The engine roared and rumbled in approval of his ingenuity. 

Barry triumphantly drove his makeshift grocery-getter home, resembling an old west stagecoach driver, and holding the reins of his pungent green stallion full of groceries as he went. 

“Everything go okay?” Marie asked as she helped him bring the groceries in from the truck. 

“Of course! I told you she’d make it!” 

 

The Waiting Room

Jake fidgeted in the vinyl chair of the doctor’s waiting room. The magazines strewn across the table were old and outdated, an unfortunate byproduct of the digital age. In an era when people read more than ever, they do it while staring into screens they move using their thumbs rather than turning pages.

    “Fulmer? Jacob Fulmer?” the nurse called as she swung open the door to the examination rooms. Jake lifted his hand and flashed a crooked smile before pushing himself out of the chair and following her through the doors. “Please, this way,” she said, leading him back into the rooms. The smell of disinfectant permeated the air, reminding him of weeks spent in the hospital before his mother passed away last year.
 
    They reached the end of the hallway of closed doors and opened the last one on the right. Sitting on the standard butcher paper was his wife of two years, Lexie. Despite her best efforts to hide them, saline trails outlined by mascara betrayed the fact that she had been crying. The doctor sat expressionless on her stool, typing on her laptop until she saw Jake enter the room with the nurse. 

    The doctor closed her laptop and placed it on the counter beside the sink. “You must be Jacob. I’m Dr. Shane.”

    “Yeah, that’s me. What’s- what’s wrong, doctor? What’s wrong with my wife?” he replied, a twinge of nervousness in his voice.

    “Alexis? Do you want me to tell him?” Dr. Shane asked, removing her glasses and placing a hand on Alexis’.

    Alexis’ voice hitched and tears resumed their course from her eyes to her jawline. “No.” She sniffed. “I can tell him.”

    “Baby, what’s wrong? Tell me,” he pleaded, moving closer and cupping her cheek in the palm of his hand, brushing her lip with his thumb. 

    Her voice hitched again as she tried to speak. “I’m- I’m pregnant Jake.” She tried to smile, but looked into her hands, ashamed. 

    “Pregnant?” he said, the words feeling foreign on his tongue.

    “Please don’t be mad, Jake!” she sobbed, the doctor rubbing the back of her hand. 

    “Mad? Why- Baby, why would I be mad?”

    Alexis’ sobbing abated and her lips trembled as she tried to compose herself. “Because now I’m gonna be fat and ugly and you won’t want me anymore!” she exclaimed as she broke down again. Jake wrapped his arm around her and pulled her into him as she buried her face in his chest.

    “I’d never leave you, baby. We’re made for each other, remember?” 

    “Even if I get fat and ugly?” she said, sniffling what mucus hadn’t already escaped to his shirt and looking up at him through blood-shot eyes.

    “Even if you get fat and ugly,” he replied before adding, “Now . . . if you get fat, ugly, and mean. Then all bets are off. Ain’t nobody got time for mean, baby.”

    She laughed and he wiped her tears away with his hands before pressing his lips to hers.

 

Things I Learned In College Writing Classes

About six months ago I decided to take a few college writing courses to gauge my skill as an untested writer. Having never had my work evaluated and graded in any professional manner, I took the classes to see if I really had the chops to make it as a writer or if I was just delusional in thinking I had any business in the realm of writing. 

These two courses, Creative Writing and Fiction Writing, were the first courses I had ever taken that focused exclusively on the craft of writing. I was nervous because despite my outward confidence level being high, the inner me whispers, "Everyone else was just being nice, these professors will laugh at the crapfest you call writing! BAHAHAHAHA!" 

Although I learned much about the things I was doing right or wrong when it comes to grammar, structure, and the art of writing fiction, that is not what this post is about.

Before I started these classes, I hadn't ever been tied to a deadline. Never had someone said, "You must sit down and write X number of words about X topic and you must submit it by X time." No, up until that point in time, writing for me was a thing that I had to feel "inspired" to do. It was an endeavor in which if I didn't "feel" the words flowing through my mind and hands, it just wan't meant to be. In effect, I'd give myself an out if I wanted to dink around on Twitter, play games, or Netflix the night away because I just wasn't inspired to write. 

My thought when I turned in these pieces on a deadline was that they were going to be terrible. The low marks would prove that inspired and quality writing couldn't be held to any arbitrary time frame! I needed the proper drink, the proper snack, the proper lighting! I needed to be seated at my desk, with the right music on, and wearing my writing sweatpants to create these worlds! Without all of those elements in place, writing... would simply be sub-par if not impossible. Expecting confirmation of my belief, I waited for my papers to be graded.

The grades came back. With instructor comments.

When the first grades were in the 95 percentile and up. I wrote them off as flukes. The instructors' notes were complimentary, but what does that even mean on an introductory paper? Surely they were just playing nice to keep students enrolled long enough to get past the drop/add deadline so their class size would remain large. 

So I turned in more papers, sure they were garbage and would be graded accordingly. Because deadlines

They came back with similar scores, with comments much more enthusiastic in addition to being helpful. 

As it turns out I am not delusional with regards to my writing ability. I have a strong skill set that I can now verify with scrutinized and graded coursework that says as much. The professors (one of whom has a masters degree in Creative Non-Fiction, a field I did not even know existed until I saw her credentials) are now friends who are active in encouraging me to get out there and write all of the things. They have had no problem telling me where I need to improve and where I excel, but enjoy my work on an academic as well as a personal level and that's a good feeling. After finishing the course, I now consider one of them a friend, and am unsuccessfully attempting to convince her to start up on Twitter.

As I wrote under soft deadlines each week, I found that the idea that I needed the proper time, place, and inspiration to write was obliterated. When the deadlines came, I had to turn these pieces in, come hell or high water. (Though to be fair, I did turn in a couple of things a day or two after deadlines.) 

So what does that mean to me now? Well, it means that I need to change my mindset. I can absolutely write whether I'm in my suit or in my jeans. I can most certainly write when I don't have my refrigerated Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups and ice water. I can definitely write when I'm having a bad day. I can write whenever and wherever I choose.

If I can crank out 16,000+ words on a schedule and deadline in a matter of weeks as I did with these classes, I need to stop making excuses and as my good friend Debi would say, "finish that shit!"

Shall We Play A Game?

“Please!” she pleaded as he held her hands behind her back, pushing down on the handcuffs. She arched her back in response; he drew a deep breath and filled his nostrils with the scent of her perfume. She bent her knee up and then drove her four-inch heel backwards; missing his knee. She crashed, face-first, into to the floor of the luxury apartment. 
 
Her arms wrenched back as he stood above her, his hands still gripping on the cuffs that now cut into her wrists. She shrieked in pain as he chuckled at her attempt. “I’m sorry but you did that to yourself,” the man said, wiping sweat from his forehead with his hand then wiping it across his grey button down shirt, leaving a wet smear in its wake. As she flailed her legs, her short black dress crept up toward her waist.

“Please! Just let me go,” she begged, her face still buried in the carpet; her wavy red tresses splayed out around her head. “I won’t tell anyone, I swear!”

“Oh, of course you won’t. I will,” he purred with a voice as smooth as soft Italian silk.

He released his hand from the cuffs, her arms dropped onto her back, and he circled around to her face. A professional shine gleamed from his leather-soled shoes; nary a single scuff visible on the stitched leather upper. He used the tip of one shoe to push the hair from her face. She flinched and tried to turn away.

He laughed again, louder this time. “I am not going to step on your face. Who wants to see that? That wasn’t one of the requests. Well, not from tonight’s audience at least.”

“What!? What audience? What are you talking about?” she said, her chest heaving and her head pounding; keeping pace with her racing heart as she wriggled on the floor. 

He placed an electronic tablet a few feet in front of her head, then clamped his leather-gloved hand on the nape of her neck and climbed onto her back. Keeping one hand on her neck and twisting the other’s fingers in the curls of her flame-colored hair, he yanked back. She screamed as the tension drew her head up to look at the black screen. 

He leaned in, his mouth millimeters from her ear. “Them of course,” he whispered, his voice both sinister and sultry. “Say hello to the fans,” he urged before lifting his head and speaking to the screen. “Everyone, say hi to this evening’s entertainment.” He wrenched her hair back. She winced and yelped. Dozens of small green squares lit up on the device, more than sixty in all, blinking in response.

“Help me!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, her tears mixing with mascara and eyeliner, blackening her eyes. The squares turned a unanimous red. 

He released her; her chin hitting the plush carpet with a thud. “I’m afraid they aren’t going to offer any help tonight,” he said as he sat on her back. She flung her legs backward again, this time her stiletto heel scraping down his back. A trickle of blood underneath his grey dress shirt. A dark crimson flower spread underneath the material. He arched his back, grunted in pained surprise, and chuckled. 

A handful of the squares went from red to green.

“Oooh, she’s a fighter.” The squares flashed a unanimous green. “What say we tie our little tough girl up and play, hmm?” he teased.

He untied the silk tie from his neck and planting a knee in the small of her back, wrangled her flailing feet; subduing them with the pink makeshift restraint. He unbuckled her black heels and removed them from her feet, throwing the heels to the side. 

“There,” he breathed, “that’s much better.” He stood and turned, announcing, “On tonight’s marquee is a triple feature! These fine folks have each paid a handsome sum of money to watch this . . . to see you,” he said, winding his leg back, “suffer.” He slammed the tip of his wingtip shoe forward and into the side of her stomach. She screamed in agony and rolled onto her side. The squares remained green.

“Stop." Her voice shaking and filled with fear. "Please!”  

He continued; his voice now a low husky tone. “To see you bleed.” He removed a small credit card-sized knife from his rear pants pocket and flipped open the blade. She squirmed and tried to roll away but he was to quick. Kneeling down beside her, he drug the razor sharp tip under her chin, a small cut opening and spilling red down her neck and chest. 

She sobbed. He looked back at the small cameras hidden around the room and at the screen, still green but now speckled with red squares.

“And in the end . . . to see you die. That will be the grand finale!” he triumphantly shouted just as the doorbell rang. 

“Well, shit," he whispered; his shoulders slumping in disappointment.

Her eyes widened and she shrieked, "Help me!" He pushed her head into the carpet with one hand and threw the card knife onto the coffee table with the other and grabbed a dirty sock from the floor, forcing it into her mouth. He put his finger to his lips in a silent shushing gesture and went to answer the door. 

After only a few moments, he returned to the living room to find only a small pool of blood on the floor, but she was gone. He turned to the hidden cameras and seethed. “Where is she?!” he roared. The squares glowed red. He felt his pockets for his knife, but found nothing. 

He glared at the pool of blood, finding a trail that went into the bedroom. It lead him into his large master suite, the trail arcing around to the opposite side of the bed. He opened the nightstand table closest to him and pulled out a 9mm pistol. Grinning, he pulled back the slide, releasing it with a click and following the red line until it disappeared underneath the bed. 

As he knelt down and pulled up the bed cover, he aimed the barrel underneath and put his head to the ground to get a better look.

She screamed; bursting from the nearby closet. Running at full speed, she landed on his back, her knee digging in; knocking the wind out of his lungs. She threw her cuffed hands over his head and then under his chin. She pulled back towards her, his arms flailed; dropping the handgun under the bed. His hands groped at his neck, scratching at the metal cutting off his air. 

She brought her face down and growled in his ear. “I asked you to let me go . . . you laughed at me. Now get up!”

She yanked him backwards onto his knees, his face red and drenched with sweat. She stood up, pulling him to his feet from behind and they walked to the living room. The tablet on the floor showed only red at first. Then slowly the lights turned to green until it was hard to tell which color was dominant. 

He choked on the chain as it dug into his windpipe. She jerked downward, bringing him to his knees. Looking at the tablet, she breathed out a question. “What do you say, freaks? Should he live?” 

The squares turned red.

“I’m sorry, but you did this to yourself."

Savannah (Sakura Softworks)

Author's note: This is a short piece that comes from the world of my work-in-progress, Sakura Softworks. I don't want to give too much away, but for those who read the final book, this material will give you a little insight into the story behind the story. 

Twelve-year-old Savannah thumbed the screen of her phone with one hand while her other arm remained wrapped around her backpack. With her yellow polo shirt neatly tucked into her jeans and her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, her mouth opened wide in an eye-watering yawn. 

Her mother craned her neck, pushing up onto her tiptoes in order to peer over the line of people ahead waiting to deplane. The look on her face was one of worry, and one that did not go unnoticed by her daughter.

A glance through the oval windows of the 747 provided limited views of men in white uniforms escorting passengers into white plastic tents set up on the tarmac. Idling Mitsubishi trucks flanked each of the tents, with a handful of armed guards at each.

“Mom, what’s going on? What are we waiting for?” Savannah asked, eyes still heavy with jet lag from the sixteen-hour flight.

“I don’t know, baby. I’m sure everything is fine. Just be patient.”

“Everything’s not fine. Stupid phone isn’t even getting a signal.” 

“That’s not the end of the world, Savannah,” she replied, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. “I know it was a long flight, but-”

“It took like three days! It was soooo long!” Savannah blurted. 

Through clenched teeth already sore from hours of grinding, her mother responded. “It hasn’t been three days! Dammit, sixteen hours isn’t even one day, Savannah!” 

Savannah rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to her phone. She pulled it so close to her face it almost touched her nose, attempting to lose herself in the glass screen.

Her mother’s scowl softened and shoulders drooped as she realized she had lost it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you,” she said, touching a hand to Savannah’s neck and caressing it, providing the healing touch of which only mothers are capable. “I promise, once we get through this queue, we won’t even check into the hotel. We’ll take a cab right to Dad’s work and surprise him there!” she said, smiling at her daughter through tired eyes. “Deal?”

Savannah nodded her head in silence as the two of them shuffled toward the flight attendant at the front of the plane. She was slipping her phone into her bag when the lavatory light on the bulkhead switched from green to red and then quickly back to green. She paused for a moment before the flight attendant urged them to continue deplaning, waving them toward the stairs.

Savannah’s mother gripped the handle of her carry-on and motioned with her head for Savannah to follow. She picked up her bag, made her way down the rest of the aisle, and exited the plane. The sky that hung over Chubu Airport was typical of a summer day in Japan: overcast and sticky. 

They stepped foot on the concrete and stood under a portable awning while awaiting their turn to enter the tents.  After a few moments, the flight attendant emerged from the door of the 747, walked down the stairs, and spoke to a nearby guard. The soldier tapped on his tablet and questioned the attendant, the content of which neither Savannah nor her mother could hear.

The soldier then made a swift motion and another two soldiers came running. They turned, marched up the stairway, and boarded the plane.

A man in a white uniform came up and assured the queue in stilted English, “There is nothing to be worried about. Please remain calm.” Although the rifle slung around his back told a different story. 

Savannah and her mother entered the tent together after what seemed like an eternity. The man inside the tent was a Japanese man, heavy-set, with a headful of thick black hair. He wore a lab coat left unbuttoned in the front and an empty plastic name placket hung from the grungy lapel. He sat on a stool next to a small, portable lab table.

“Hello,” he said, wiping his hands on his already damp trousers before dragging his right hand across his forehead and through his hair, slicking it back for a second before locks of it popped back up like obstinate weeds. “I’m Aki,” he said with an uncomfortable smile. “Please. Sit.”

Savannah looked around and noticed two armed soldiers standing just outside the tent. She squeezed the handle of her bag and turned her head back to Aki. Her mother was already sitting on a hard plastic chair and silently motioned for her to sit beside her. Savannah sat, her knuckles turning white as she clutched her bag in front of her chest.

“There is no need for alarm,” Aki said in monotone. 

“With everyone telling me not to be alarmed, it’s becoming more and more difficult not to be alarmed,” Savannah’s mother replied, her agitation apparent in both the tone of her voice and in her glare.

Aki’s head cocked to one side as he replied, “Of course. I’m sorry.” He looke down at the names on his sheet. “I only am here to help, Mrs. Miller.” His broken English more obvious now that he was off script. 

“Great,” she said, rapidly blinking as she forced a smile.

“Yes. It is, Mrs. Miller. I only need blood sample.”

“What? I’m not giving you a blood sample!” Mrs. Miller screamed. 

Savannah took one hand off her bag and slipped it around her mother’s upper arm just as the soldiers came in from their guard posts and stood at the corners of the interior, weapons at the ready. 

Mrs. Miller stood up, her eyes aflame. “Who are you people? I’m an American citizen! This is bullshit! I know my rights!” she yelled, facing the soldiers as Savannah’s eyes grew wide with worry behind her.

“P- p- please Mrs. Miller. Please calm down,” Aki stood up, pleading; his hands outstretched toward her.

She thrust a hand into her purse and yanked out her smartphone. Before she could unlock it, one soldier snatched it from her hand while the other gripped her by the elbow. 

“What the- You can’t do this!” she shrieked as Aki approached her from behind, unsheathed a syringe, and plunged it into a bulging vein, filling the vial with crimson. Mrs. Miller flailed and bucked but the moment the test tube was full, two soldiers dragged her from the tent.

Savannah screamed for them to let her go, jumping up from her chair and attempting to follow. She met with the muzzle of a soldier’s rifle, forcing her back from the lab tent flap.  

“Please. Sit," Aki repeated and gestured to the chair once again. Tears welling in her eyes, she backed toward the chair and sat, her hands crushing the handle of her bag. Aki smiled and returned to his stool, placing the blood sample in an electronic device on the tabletop. The device whirred to life as the sounds of the soldiers dragging Mrs. Miller away screaming evaporated into the background. 

Savannah grew silent, her eyes now glassy and distant. The soldier retained his aim on her while attempting to relieve her of her bag. She refused to relent and let out an eardrum-piercing scream.

“No! Stop, please! It’s okay. You can keep your purse. Sh- sh- she can keep her purse,” Aki said to the soldier as he swept the sweat from his forehead again with a trembling hand. 
“I’m sorry.” He paused, glanced at the device and then back to her. “Your mother is fine though. See?” he said, pointing to the device, now displaying a green light. “They will not hurt her. She is not sick.” He nodded his head at Savannah and smiled. “It’s okay.”

Savannah did not respond.

“I just need to test you. Okay?” Aki pleaded.

When the two guards returned to the corners of the tent, Mrs. Miller was not with them. 

Aki hesitated, drew another syringe from the tray and slid it into the clammy flesh of Savannah's arm. After filling the syringe, he covered the needle mark with a bandage and returned to the lab table, placing the sample into the testing device. It whirred to life and returned seconds later; the indicator light flashing red. 

Infected.