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Friday, August 31, 2012


I've decided to share (over time) some of the short story "sermons" I'm writing.  If you read them, and then I come to your church and tell it from your pulpit because your minister's away and you ask me to fill in, your boredom is not my fault.

Ruth is told as a story.  As such, it engages our curiosity and remains strong in our memories.  It’s a pleasure to read Ruth, but it can also be frustrating.  On the surface Ruth appears to be yet another story about God using a woman’s reproductive abilities to get to the important people.  The men.  Men like her great grandson, King David.  But I think Ruth is about a great deal more than that.  It’s about loyalty.  It’s about women helping women.  It’s about God using even the most insignificant outsider to further God's will.  Without Naomi, Ruth would have disappeared into obscurity, never having experienced God’s grace in her life. 
The story (fictional) I have written is also about women who learn from each other's experiences and find grace in each other's stories.  What it isn't is a story about finding security in a man.
On the surface, you may think that's what Ruth is about and I've missed the mark, but I think the real message of Ruth is that faith is passed on from strong relationships.  God rewards love’s loyalty with blessings far beyond anything the world might have to offer. 

Take a moment to read the scripture from your favorite translation.  It isn't long, but it assumes you know much of the story of Ruth already.  
Ruth 1:16

            When Brook’s high school called saying she had not shown up that morning, Michaela thought she knew where to look first.  She was aware that her daughter snuck out of school from time to time and met her mother, Maxine, at local diners for coffee and tall tales.  Maxine was always good for a few of those.  But when Michaela finally got her mother on her cell phone, Maxine sounded genuinely alarmed by the accusation.
“She’s not with me, Mic.  You need to call the cops.”
Maxine, no matter how often she’d been gently coerced back to Stony Creek Convalescent home by some poor, hapless police officer, still insisted on calling them ‘cops.’  But never mind that.  Michaela wasn’t buying that Maxine didn’t know where Brook was.  Not for one minute. She pulled into Stony Creek Convalescent Home and charged straight for the administrator’s office. 
             “My mother is missing,” she blurted.
            The administrator, Mrs. Hanover, a diminutive woman with a short round everything, held up her hand as if taking an oath.  “We haven’t let her out of our sight, Michaela.  She’s probably just not answering her phone.”
            “Oh, she’s answering her phone,” Michaela said.  “From some coffee house or diner with my daughter in tow.  You can’t seriously think you’re keeping her locked in here,” Michaela said.  “I know my mother.  She’s escaped with my daughter and I demand that you help me find her.”
             “She’s with Dean,” Mrs. Hanover insisted.  “We assigned her a personal, um, attendant.  I assure you, Dean has not let her out of his sight.”
            “Fine, then.  I want to see her,” Michaela said, crossing her arms across her chest.
            Mrs. Hanover picked up an intercom mic and pushed a button on it.  “Dean,” she said.  “Dean Lamb, please call the front office.”
            They waited. No one called.  Mrs. Hanover was about to restate her demand when a young man with wide, opal-blue eyes and frazzled black hair burst into her office.  He looked distraught.  Poor fellow.
            “I… she’s…”
            “Oh, good Lord!” said Mrs. Hanover.  “You don’t mean to tell me Maxi has disappeared again.”
            Dean looked at his shoes.
            “And she has my daughter,” Michaela said.  “Now, what are you going to do about it?”
            Maxine sat down to catch her breath on a bus stop bench just outside Starbucks Coffee.   She’d been out walking for almost an hour now.  The last time she’d had such a hike was in 1996 when she was a mere pup of 67 and was looking for a birthday present for Michaela’s five year old, Brook.  They had to find a Tickle Me Elmo or die trying.  Maxine wished a Tickle Me Elmo were all she was looking for now.  Today, it was Brook herself she needed to find.
            After Michaela called, her first inclination had been to check S. Main Starbuck’s.  When Maxine escaped Stony Creek Convalescent and Brook escaped High School, that’s always where they met.  Then, over cappuccinos and triple berry muffins, Maxine would tell Brook stories about her life and Brook would fill her in on the latest High School drama.  But Brook was not at Starbuck’s.  Maxine’s next move had been to look for Sade’ Pembroke’s address in the phone book.  Sade’ was Brook’s best friend and Maxine was fairly certain she’d find Brook there.  450 Galloway Dr.  She knew the neighborhood, palatial Mcmansions on postage stamp lots.  It was a good three mile walk from S. Main but Maxine was certain it was here she’d ferret out Brook. They’d talk, and Brook would tell her Granny Max what was up.  They were close like that. 
            A police car cruised by and Maxine held her breath.  No doubt they’d issued a Silver Alert and Maxine was a wanted escapee now.  She smiled with pleasure at the idea, but the police car passed without stopping.  Close one! 
            Maxine rose from the bench, her knees popping and cracking.  She wondered what the good folks at Stony Creek were doing about now.  She’d probably gotten that sweet Dean kid in trouble.  She felt sorry about that.  But this was an emergency and Maxine would cover her tracks later.
            The sun was quite warm for April and Maxine had not been prepared for a hike.  She’d been unable to get to her purse with Dean hanging around her all the time, so she didn’t have her credit card and couldn’t call a cab. 
She was aware of how she must look, covered in sweat, wearing a moo-moo and house slippers, tottering down one of the wealthiest streets in Brownsville.  She passed a BMW parked along the curb and glanced at her own reflection.  She looked wild and a little crazy.  She felt a satisfied cackle rising in her throat.
            Sade’s home was the fourth on the left.  Holy cow, it was the Taj Mahal!  Maxine turned onto the walkway, textured concrete lined with dewy, red flowers.  The surrounding grass (what there was of it) was a perfect chemical carpet of jade.  Maxine stopped to catch her breath after she climbed the steps to the grand front porch and pressed the front door bell.  A few notes of Pachelbel played somewhere deep within the house.    
The door swung open and a tiny raisin of a woman in a black dress, white apron and, no lie, a tiny white cap looked at Maxine with a burst of alarm. 
“Need to see Sade’,” Maxine croaked, breathlessly.  “She’s my granddaughter’s friend.  I need to know if my granddaughter is here.”
“Aqui?” said the woman.
“Yeah,” Maxine said with extra volume.  “Donde-o is Sade’?”
Obviously, Maxine’s Spanish was faulty because the woman closed the door in her face and Maxine could hear quick, panicked footsteps walking away.
She’d done it now!  They’d call the cops and Maxine would be carted off to jail until Mic could come bale her out.  The thought was so delicious she almost cackled again. 
More footsteps within and the door swung open to reveal a tall, elegant woman whose dark eyes conveyed a haughty intelligence.  She smiled the kind of smile you give someone you’re hoping will soon go away and leave you alone.
“Maxine Ferris,” Maxine said.  She wiped her hand on her moo-moo and held it out to Sade’s mother.  “I’m Brook’s grandmother.”
“Oh!  I thought you…” Sade’s mother caught herself and took Maxine’s hand.  “I’m Geneva.  Please, come in Mrs. Ferris.”
“Ms.” Maxine corrected her.
“Yes, Ms. Ferris.  Come in.”  Geneva glanced beyond Maxine looking, Maxine supposed, for a taxi or some other mode of transportation that might have brought her here or might, in a moment, take her away again.
“I’m afraid Sade’ isn’t here at the moment,” Geneva said.  “Nor is your Brook.  School hours, you know.  If I may ask, Ms. Ferris, how did you get here?”
“Hoofed it,” Maxine said.  “But surely school’s out by now.”
“Still in session, I’m afraid.”  Geneva led Maxine to a silky blue love seat that was nestled against the wall of the entryway.  “Please have a seat, Maxine.  May I call someone?  Is Brook in some sort of trouble?”
Maxine plopped down on the couch.  Her feet, knees, and hips throbbed in response. 
“Brook didn’t show up at school,” Maxine said leaning down and massaging her own calves.  “Her mother hasn’t called the cops yet, so I’m looking for her. I don’t suppose you could get me a glass of water?”
 Geneva responded with the expected effluence of apologies and whisked herself out of the room to get the water.  Maxine considered snooping around while she could, but her legs refused to help her stand.  Momentarily, Geneva returned with a tall glass of iced water that Maxine gulped down too fast making her feel light headed on top of bone tired. 
Her thirst slaked, Maxine looked around the foyer, if that’s what this was.  It was bigger than the living-room of her last home.  A Tara sized staircase led to another grand landing that was lined with what looked like museum statues.  Nothing was out of place, so Maxine looked around for what was and she found it.  A bejeweled pink cell phone peeked out from under some bills and official looking mail on a glossy console table. 
“Isn’t that Sade’s phone?” Maxine asked.  In truth, Maxine had no way of knowing it was Sade’s phone except that she seriously doubted Geneva would bejewel her cell phone.
“Oh!  Well, yes, it is,” Geneva said.  “She must have forgotten it this morning.”
Maxine looked back up the staircase.  “This is a pretty big house,” she said.  “Are you sure Sade’s not hiding out in one of those rooms upstairs?” 
“I promise you,” Geneva said.  “Sade’ does not cut school.”
Maxine smiled as much at Geneva’s naiveté as at what she was about to do.  “Brook!” she shouted.  “Brooooook!”
Geneva took a step back and held up her hands as if to catch Maxine’s volume and contain it. 
“Brook, it’s your Granny Max.  I’m coming up the stairs, sweetheart, and Geneva’s going to have to call the cops to get me out of her house.  Then it’s all up, sugar dumpling!  Your Granny will be in jail and you’ll be under house arrest for the remainder of your days in high…”
A door opened and shut upstairs. 
“Thought so,” Maxine said, looking triumphantly at Geneva who charged to the bottom of the staircase and looked up into the guilty eyes of Brook and her daughter. 
“Sade’,” she barked.  “What on earth…”
“It was an emergency, Mom,” Sade’ said.  “I’ll explain if you don’t get too mad.”
“Then come down here and explain,” she said. 
Sade’ plodded woefully down the stairs under Geneva’s harsh gaze.  “To your father’s office,” she said, pointing to a heavy oak door on the other side of the foyer.  When they were behind the door Maxine looked up at Brook.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to come down here, kumquat,” Maxine said.  “I’m pooped out.”
Brook descended the stairs and plopped down beside Maxine.  “I’m running away,” she said.
Maxine nodded.  “Figured.”
“With Proust,” Brook added.
“Figured that too,” Maxine said. 
“You understand, don’t you, Granny Max?  I can’t take her anymore.”
“I’ve never known a sixteen year old girl who could take her mother,” Maxine said.  “But they usually wait it out, Brooksy.  They don’t run off.  Especially with the wrong …” Maxine couldn’t believe she was going to say this… “kind of boy,” she finished.
The shocked silence of her granddaughter made Maxine take a guilty sideways glance at Brook’s face.  Sure enough, Brook’s mouth was hanging open and her eyes were welling up.
“But you said you liked Proust,” Brook said.
“I said he’s the kind of boy I’d have gone for.  I didn’t say I liked him.”
“But if he’s the kind of boy you’d have…”
“And that should tell you something!” Maxine interrupted.  “Why do you think I went through three marriages?  Why do you think your mother is so uptight?  You think she never had a rebellious bone in her body, don’t you?  How do you rebel, Brooksy, when your own mother has taken that role?  You become a conformist, get all traditional.  Cut her some slack; she couldn’t help it.”
“You don’t know what it’s like,” Brook said.  “She checks how low cut my jeans are before I leave the house.  She snoops on my cell phone.  She listens to my messages.  She quotes Bible verses to me and tells me who to hang out with.   I have to go to every church service there is.  If she had her way, I’d dress like Mother Theresa and never date again.”
Maxine couldn’t help but laugh.  “I know,” she said.  “But you could do worse than Mother Theresa and I’ll talk to her about the snooping.  As for the church stuff and the religion…” Maxine paused.  Religion had never been her strong suit.  The truth was, she’d always had the sense that church people were wagging their fingers at her, insisting that she give up every bit of color in her life in order to become… well, as dull as they were.   In every church she’d felt a sharp sense of disapproval.  She was an outsider, an intruder. Granted, when she’d come to church at all, she’d done so with a chip on her shoulder daring God to reveal himself in the faces of hostile church ladies.  But she had also seen her daughter, Michaela, find peace there.  A peace she’d never found at home.  Mic had found a foundation in the church that Maxine knew hadn’t come from her.
“I could have been wrong about that.” Maxine said.  “I think Mic’s religion grounds her.  I used to think it just limited her.  You know, her mind.  And I suppose it can if you get with the wrong group.  But Mic, she’s pretty smart about those things.  I have to admit, her faith has given her some good things.  I doubt you’d have turned out quite so strong and self-assured if you’d grown up with me.”
Maxine had never done this much confessing.  It was true what they said about it.  She felt a little freer, a little more centered.
“So be careful who you follow, Brooksy,” Maxine continued bolstered by her new sense of freedom.  “Proust, he’s a decent kid, but he’s wild and to be honest, I don’t think you can trust him.  He has a lot of growing up to do.  For now, you stick with your Mom, learn the things she has to teach you.  Even if it’s tough and even if she turns all churchy on you, it’s possible that she understands some things about God and real Love that I’ve never thought much about.  At least not enough. She has your best interest at heart.  She might actually be the only adult I know.”
For a long stunned moment, Brook remained speechless. 
“You get as mad at her as I do,” Brook said.  Her large grey eyes were boring a hole into Maxine’s head, trying to find the source of this unprecedented support for Michaela.  “Why suddenly change your mind?”
Why indeed.  Maxine knew and decided to be direct.  “Because my life’s coming to a close,” she said.  “Gives me some perspective, sweetheart, and boys, they’re nice.  They’re better than nice.  But they aren’t who you are.  Oh, I’ve had fun with being in love.  But maybe it isn’t always about fun.  Maybe it’s about the hard stuff too, and to be honest, I’ve never been very good at that.  If it was hard work, I always left it to Mic and I have to respect her for never ditching.  When the going got tough, I got out, but Mic, she just dug in a little deeper and stood her ground.  I hurt a lot of people who didn’t deserve it by running, Brook.”
Maxine looked at her granddaughter.  “Don’t be like your old Granny Max,” she said.  “Stay with Mic a little longer.  She has some things to give you I think you should take.”
Brook sat quietly for a long time studying the geometric patterns on the floor.  Then two things happened at once.  Sade’ and her mother came out of the study and the front door burst open revealing a ruffled and miffed Michaela.  Dean and Mrs. Hanover stood behind her, looking contrite and none too happy.
“Uh-oh,” Maxine said.  She grabbed Brook’s hand and said quickly, under her breath, “Follow my lead.”
“…and I’m just not sure we are,” Maxine said, doing her best little old person.  “Did you say we’re home?”  She looked innocently at Brook.
“Not quite, Granny Max,” Brook said.  “But I think Mrs. Hanover will take you back now if you want.  See?  She’s right there!”
“Oh!” Maxine said.  She squinted at Mrs. Hanover.  “Myrtle!  I thought you were dead!”
“Nice try Maxine,” Mrs. Hanover said. 
“May I ask who you are?” Geneva pulled herself up to her full height and took on that I’m in charge here look she’d had when she was first talking to Maxine.
“Why, don’t you know Myrtle?” Maxine said, still playing her role. 
“I’m sorry”, Michaela said.  “You must be Sade’s mother.  I’m Michaela, Brook’s mother.”  They shook hands.  “I promise, all of these people are going to be leaving your home.  Right now,” she added glaring at Maxine.
Dean stepped forward and leaned over to help Maxine stand.  “You got me in sooo much trouble, Maxi,” he whispered. Brook, overhearing, giggled. 
“And who are you, young man?” Maxine asked. 
He smiled down at her.  “Your worst nightmare if you do that again.”  He led Maxine out the front door. 
“Come on, Brook,” Michaela said.  Brook looked up at her mother’s stern face and followed her onto the front porch.  As Geneva slammed the front door, Brook gave a last I’m sorry look to Sade’.
“Sade’s mom will probably ban me from her house forever,” Brook moaned. 
Michaela stopped on the porch and turned to Brook.  “With good reason,” she said.  “What were you thinking, Brook?  You knew that if you skipped school again they’d call me and I’d come looking for you.  Then when I called them back to see if you’d turned up yet, they said Sade’ was missing too.  You had to know I’d come here.”
“Maybe,” Brook said.  “I was thinking about running away with Proust because sometimes I can’t take you anymore.  There.  I said it.”
“And Granny Max was helping you scheme?”
Brook looked at her mother, fresh anger hardening her mouth.  “She was talking me out of it.”
Michaela stared at her daughter for a long moment then took in a long slow breath.  She held it and then let it out between puckered lips. 
“Didn’t see that coming, did you?” Brook said. 
Michaela shook her head.  “Nope.  What else did she tell you?”
 “She told me how it was to be her daughter,” Brook said, “so don’t go raggin’ on Granny Max.”
Michaela looked skeptical.
“She said I should stay with you,” Brook continued.  “She said that you still had some things to give me that I should take.  She said I should learn from your faith and stuff.  She said you were the only adult she knows and I shouldn’t run.”
Maxine had not put it exactly that way, but Brook was on a roll and talking through Granny Max was easier than saying it herself.
Michaela eyed Brook with suspicion but decided to take an inch where she could get one. 
“She said I was the only adult she knows?  She said that?”
Brook nodded and dropped her gaze. 
“And that you should learn from my faith?”
            Brook bit at her fingertips and glanced at her mother’s face.  “I’m not sure about faith,” Brook said.  “But I’ll listen.”
“I see,” Michaela said.  “So when I drag you to youth group Sunday, you aren’t going to complain?"
“Maybe,” Brook said.  “But I’ll go.”
“Because Granny Max thinks you should.”
“Yes,” Brook said.  “Because Granny Max thinks I should.”
Well, it wasn’t what Michaela wanted.  She wanted her daughter to listen to her, to follow her lead.  But this was actually a great deal better than she thought things would go, so Michaela decided not to push back.  This time, she’d pull in the same direction as her mother.  She wasn’t quite sure how that would work, but it felt good to be on the same team for once. 
Michaela looked over Brook’s shoulder at Maxine as Mrs. Hanover helped her into the car.  Maxine caught Michaela’s stunned gaze and winked at her daughter. 
“Can you two hurry it up over there?” Maxine called, obviously dropping the confused old lady routine.  “My soap starts in half an hour.”
Brook headed for the car and Michaela followed, a prayer of thanksgiving rising in her heart.  “Thank you for sending Maxine to talk to Brook,” she prayed and then smiled at the novelty of her own words.  That was certainly something she’d never believed she’d say to God or to anyone else.  It felt pretty good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Thought Exercise was GOOD for Stress!!

I think it's a combination of things. I'm almost sure it isn't ONLY because I'm almost 50 years old. (OMG, just looking at that number makes me want to shriek!) But whatever the reason, I am not bouncing back into running like I used to. It's taking forever to progress back to 3.1 miles. And I'm s-l-o-w. Very.

A few days back, I ran maybe a mile on the road. Took about twelve minutes. The next day, I pushed it out a little further. Fourteen minutes. Today, I ran a mile and a half. Twenty minutes!! Grr! I need three miles in 35 minutes. At this rate, it's going to take me over 40 minutes to run just 3.1 miles. I have until April 9. Race day.

Right now, I'm just hoping I finish without having to walk part of it.

I've never felt this wiped out in all my life. I know that the uncertainty of the whole job thing and where will we be and what will we be doing is chewing on my life line. But I think it's interfering with exercise too.

I plod on, though. I will prevail. In fact, if we end up in Pensacola, I could return to SC in some of my previous awesomeness as I'd be able to run most of the winter. Unless... it really is that I'm almost 50 and...

Shhh. Hush now, other self. We are as young as we feel. Which right now is about 102.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Just saying

Oscar Wilde was weird.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I imagine that in the kingdom of God, where the new heaven and earth reign, there will be no winter.

No. There will be winter. I will not feel the cold.

No. I will feel the cold. It will not be unpleasant.

I will know it. I will even feel it. But it will not make me shiver.

No. I will shiver. But it will be from pleasure, not to keep my core temperature from dropping.

Today, even with the heat on as high as I dare turn it (what with trying to save money and all) I can feel the outside air drawing the heat from by body, demanding the warmth of my blood as a sacrifice. Winter is a primitive warrior, using ice cycles for arrows.

No. He is the archbishop of the other hell. The one that does in fact freeze over.

Someday, I will walk its banks and feel the cold and marvel in its beauty and it will not phase me. Not at all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Coffee Dragons

The thing is,when I'm overwhelmed with too much to do, I tend to do just the opposite and occupy myself with things that have no value whatsoever except that they amuse me. Which is no small feat, if you want the truth.

I have GOBS to do right now. So, I've been taking pictures of coffee dragons. It's like looking at clouds. Only it's coffee.

To me, the one pictured above is a dragon embryo. Actually, lots of them are dragon embryos. Maybe I should say this one is a dragon with wings. Albeit short wings.

Here's the skull of an eagle. Raptors are dragons sort of.

Here's one blowing smoke out of his snout.

This one's "The Wizard" dragon. I like the bubble eye
and the fact that he looks like he's wearing a robe.

There are more, but the photos are not loading the
way I want them to. Anyhow, I hope you too enjoy
the coffee dragons. What do you do with your "free"

(And btw, this is not the best thing for a person with
OCD to do. I now feel I MUST have my camera at the
ready when I make my coffee. I have let my coffee
get cold looking for my camera. I discovered that cold
coffee makes better dragons!)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Frank Part II

Well, that was interesting! Not only do I not really do mysteries, but I gave myself the further challenge of ending it with the sentence fragment and subsequent complete sentence, "Dammit, Frank. That was my coffee." It also had to be set in the Baskerville Hall Hotel in Wales. Yeah, go ahead. Try to figure that one out! It took a while, but this is the somewhat strange result. It doesn't suck, but I think that if I'd given myself fewer limitations, I could have done better. I mean, there's almost no description whatsoever of the main character. Given the 1500 word limit, it just didn't fit.
The thing is, I'm hoping the guy who is judging the writing thinks it's pretty damn OK, because the prize for this one is the first three modules of his "writing course" for free. The plan is to send in some stuff I've already written and get him to edit it. Sneaky, yes. But he says that is OK and he would look it over if I were taking the course.
Enough. Here it is.

(I have no title. Care to suggest one?)

Greg has seen the old place in his dreams. Now here it is on the Internet. A real place. It popped up when he searched Hound of the Baskervilles on his computer. It is a fortress of a building, all gray stone and ivy. He thinks it's too symmetrical, its windows evenly spaced and its false dormers rising like little domes, suggesting a pseudo elegance. Too dark.
The Baskerville Hall Hotel in Wales is said to have been the inspiration for Sir Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mystery. This intrigues Greg in the way the word "hounds" has intrigued him for months now, for he hears them, hounds baying as if on some far off mountain pass. Greg lives in Chicago. There are no mountain passes. There are no hounds. Yet everywhere he goes, he hears them or sees references to the sleek hunting dogs of England, their lustrous brown, black and white coats, their long snouts eternally sniffing the wind. Baying, baying. He dreams about them. They are in magazines, newspapers, television commercials.
It is possible he is going mad. Either that, or he is being pursued by the beasts in earnest and his dreams are a warning. Emily is in the dreams. She is so real that he wakes up grieving, wishing he could stay with her a little longer. She is beautiful again, opening her arms to him. He approaches her ready to embrace her, but then the tracks appear on her arms and she disappears. At this point in his dream, he feels the need to run.
But run where? There? To that place? Is she prompting him to go there? The question will not leave him alone. He would be wise to leave the country anyway. His crimes follow him and this is perhaps his best move. Go to meet the Hell-Hounds that want his soul. If they are after him, he has to admit, if only to himself, that he may deserve as much. He has not always been a good man. If this is his fate, then he will meet it no matter what. Why not on his terms?
He books the flight and makes plans. He will stay at the Baskerville Hotel in the Welsh countryside. Five days and nights. He packs his camera, three changes of clothes, a credit card with a $20,000.00 limit. He may want to stay longer and he should use some of the money he has creatively transferred to his many and various bogus accounts, let it disappear into the hands of the Welsh.
He should not leave a trail, so he travels under one of his many identities. Frank Cushing, says the passport. A man recently deceased, Frank will not begrudge the desperate use of his identity for just a little while longer.
Greg remembers little about the flight. He mostly sleeps. Even the crisp Welsh air and the lush, green, checkerboard farmland does not impress him. His mind is filled with howling dogs. A train takes him to the small town of Hay-on-Wye where he rents a car to drive the rest of the way. He does not ask directions. He seems to know how to get there.
It should be a warning sign to him, this instinctive, magnetic knowledge, but he cannot manage to turn around or think better of his plan. He hears the baying again as he nears the hotel at dusk, the air infused pink with sunset light. It gives the mansion a ghostly glow.
"Frank Cushing," he tells the proprietor who thumbs through a notebook, draws his finger down the page, nods his approval. "Five nights, five days," he says. "Welcome, Mr. Cushing."
Greg takes the key and smiles. "Nice place," he says. He means it. The exterior doesn't prepare the eye for the rich golds and reds of the lobby and main floor. Victorian furnishings, dark wood and glowing fireplaces give it a deep sense of history Greg is not used to.
In his part of Chicago, everything looks new. Or if it's old, it's crumbling and seedy. His is a culture that reveres what is novel and tears down what is established to make room for each new generation of buzzing, bright neons, flavored liquors and dazzling drugs. An every youthful, ever wasted generation. He should know. He has pushed it down the throats of everyone around him. He has used more people than he can count and he is rich because of it. Rich, but troubled. It is a combination he knows how to play. The poor rich man. People are suckers for it.
He lugs his suitcase up the carpeted stairs to a cool, dimly lit room with a four poster bed, a wash stand he assumes is for looks only and a bureau all made of deep, lustrous woods. The window looks out on green lawns, looming trees, garden paths. If the Hell Hound resides nearby, it has a lovely home.
Greg has not made plans to have supper, but he is too tired to go searching. Breakfast isn't that far away. Food will wait. He undresses, then stores his money, identification, and credit cards in a locked zippered pouch in his suit case. He falls into bed, his dreams already howling.
In the morning, Greg is aware that he has dreamed of Emily again. He also remembers that the hound was there. No, several hounds, circling him, menacing. One in particular sat quietly at her feet. The dis-ease of the dream has walked with him to breakfast where he asks for cereal and toast. He is also given bacon done the English way, limp and a little soggy, and coffee. His hands are shaking, and it is difficult to keep the cereal on the spoon. He eats alone. It is as if none of the other guests can see him.
Greg is good at being invisible until he is ready to be seen. He tries to imagine how he will play the part of Mr. Cushing, but his mind is circling to the dogs and to Emily. He cannot concentrate.
Someone at the next table is laughing. The laugh is startlingly like Emily's. Greg turns quickly and stares, but the woman who is laughing has her back to him. How stupid. "Way to lie low," he mumbles to himself and returns to his breakfast. Emily is dead. He will not be hearing her laughter again.
A man walks into the dining room and whistles as if whistling to a dog. Greg chokes on his toast and someone behind him slaps his back.
"All right, then?" comes the voice from behind.
Greg nods and waves off the attention.
A dog begins to bark and Greg can hear it running, toe nails against hardwood floors. It lets out a long and lingering howl just outside the room.
He stands and looks desperately around for an exit. The place is too much. The dream, the laughter, the dog. It was a mistake to come here. He is hallucinating. He is still asleep perhaps.
He turns, looking for the door through which he came, and there is no one left in the dining room but Greg and the woman who had laughed. There are no others. The man who just slapped his back, the man who had whistled for the dog, they are gone.
Greg takes a quiet step toward the woman, whose back is to him. She might know what is happening. It is crucial that he either wake up or come to his senses.
"Excuse me," he says. She turns her head slowly.
"Emily!" The same Emily he saw lying in her coffin, wasted from heroin. The same Emily he had loved in the only way that Greg knows how to love. A brutal, savage longing he uses to consume the very ones he hopes to possess. But she is here.
"Frank Cushing," she says. "Fancy seeing you here."
His mind cannot hold what it sees and hears. He makes a run for the door and almost slides into the largest, blackest hound he has ever seen. The thing bares it's teeth and Greg stops short, moving back into the room toward Emily. His heart is beating wildly and he cannot breathe.
"Looks like we aren't leaving," Emily says and sighs. "The puppy wants us to stay." She smiles beautifully.
Greg turns toward her, arms flinging out as if to push her and the scene before him out of his visual range. He upsets her coffee cup and the black liquid spills slowly across the table, thick as blood. His blood. Whether nightmare or reality, Greg understands that the hound has come for him, and Emily is here to see to it that the hound collects.
She runs her finger through the reddish brown liquid and licks it.
"Dammit, Frank. That was my coffee," she moans.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


What I have written so far given the prompt... Write a mystery. 1500 words, no more. Doesn't have to have a polished ending. A friend told me that if she had to write a mystery, she'd start at the end and work backward. So, here's what I have so far...

"Dammit, Frank. That was my coffee."