My very first story in a real book (or, here comes BOFF2!)

I think almost everyone who has any bent for words writes when they’re in high school. Some of it’s good, some of it is hopeless self-pitying teenage blather (raises hand sheepishly — ‘yes, your Honor, I’m guilty of that!’).  I did.  I wrote poems, mostly, with the occasional short story and even, in 8th grade, I wrote a Mary Sue novella about a high school girl who helps an undercover cop expose  a drug ring in her high school.  (I can only plead a bad case of “Starsky and Hutch” and “Adam 12” and all those 70s cop shows).

About 3 years ago, I started writing again. Initially, it was fanfiction for the 1960s series Combat!  Then I stumbled on a new (to me) thing called “Flash Fiction”.  That’s the idea that you can write an entire story in 1000 words or less.  This was followed by the discovery of a hashtag (I believe I can give Tony Noland credit for pointing it out to me) on Twitter called “#FridayFlash”.  People write flash fic and post it on their blogs. Then they post tweets about it (and now can also publicize it on the eponymous Facebook group). I enjoyed this a lot — I’m something of a minimalist when it comes to writing and the very short form suited me.

Jon Strother, who started the whole megillah of #FridayFlash, collected a number of the best of the stories that are posted back a couple of years ago.  It was enough of a success that he’s done it again, with the help of Jody Cleghorn, another member of the club, and has produced a new book called Best of Friday Flash 2.  I’m pleased and honored to say they found my story Boarding Call worthy of inclusion alongside some very fine writers whose work I have enjoyed reading over the past couple of years.

You can find the book here, if you’d like to order it:  Best of Friday Flash 2.  I hope you will, not only for me, but for all us authors who are finding our voices and sharing our work out here.  It can be hard to be heard — the Internet has so many voices — but I know the people here who contributed their work deserve the effort.  Let the good work continue.

Waste Not, Want Not – Threewordwednesday

[Author’s note:  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a Friday Flash called “When the Sky Was Blue“.  Some of the commenters said it felt like part of a longer story and after a lot of thought, I came to agree.  This is a first pass as to how that universe and some of its customs might have had their beginning.  I think I might feel a novel coming on… :)]

John Proctor cupped his hands around the tiny plant in a futile attempt to nurture and support it. But first one leaf dropped, then another and the forlorn stem sagged.

He sighed and sat back on his lab stool.  Well, that’s that. He’d been diligent in collecting and filtering water samples and had done his best to refine the outdoor soil samples he’d collected, but no matter how remote his travels were, he couldn’t get away from the toxins which had spread, like tumors, from hundreds of years of industrialization and all that went with it.

A child’s amateur interest in green and growing things had become the man’s profession. For most of his work life, he’d gone from radio show to talk show to television interview to newspaper interview, preaching about the damage humans were doing, not only to their world but to themselves. As a rule, he was dismissed as alarmist and a “crackpot”.  Most people liked their lives as they were and weren’t willing to make the major sacrifices needed to fix the damage. Now they were dying by the thousands, born and unborn — quick and painful deaths, untreatable and for which there seemed to be no anodyne.  His scientist’s mind calculated that at the present rate, Earth’s population could become non-sustainable in less than five years.

Proctor held face up to the weak sun. That was another issue.  He sighed again.  There were so many – but it was time to stop weeping over what was done and uncorrectable and salvage as much as possible.  He spun his laptop around, and in a few decisive keystrokes, he started a new email.



Subject: Project Ark

Per our discussion last week, my last experiment just died.  There is no time left, and you must begin the procedures I outlined when I was in Washington DC in February.  What good resources we have need to be collected and rationed. Use must be rationed.  It’s time to revive that good old Yankee saying our great grandparents lived by: “Waste not, want not”…

Lisa and Philippe #3, Three Word Wednesday, 9/28/2011

Cherish, Guarantee, Nausea – Thought I’d have some fun following up Cherries and this story

Lisa clenched her teeth tightly as the wave of nausea passed over her.  She glanced at the timer set on the bathroom sink and closed her eyes. Just five more minutes… Not that there’s any real doubt, is there?

Philippe peeked around the corner of the door, wary. Lisa’s temper had been a byword for the last week, and he didn’t want to set her off.

She smiled wanly. “It’s okay. I won’t snap your head off.”

He entered, sat down beside her on the side of the bathtub and handed her a mug of steaming hot licorice tea.

“Are you sure this will work?”

“Yes.” He gave her a sideways glance. “I guarantee it. I remember… Maman… Stephane.  It’ll help.”

She sipped slowly and he put his arm around her to pull her close.

“I love you, Philippe.”

“I know, ma belle. And I cherish you.”

The timer chimed. They both started, and then exchanged a long look.

“You look,” she said. “I can’t.”

Philippe stretched out one long arm and picked up the stick. “If there’s a line, yes?”


A smile slowly spread across his face, like the sun dawning in the bathroom’s small window. He pulled her to him more tightly and kissed her on top of her head.  “So, what shall we name him?”


Lisa and Philippe #2, Three Word Wednesday, 9/7/2011

Erode, Heart, Observe – Three Word Wednesday, 9/7/2011

“Twenty years isn’t all that long.”

“It’s more than a lot of people get.” Stephane lifted three loaves of bread out of the oven on the peel, put them on the cooling rack and turned to look at his brother. “I can’t believe you’re walking away from something this good because it’s only going to last the rest of your life.” He shook his head and moved to the next oven. “Besides, she’ll probably outlive you.  So what are you worried about?”

Philippe stared at Stephane.  “Thank you.  I feel much better now.”

Stephane shrugged and grinned. “Well… you were the one who was crying doom.  I thought perhaps you’d like some company.” He observed his elder brother fondly, as Philippe carefully wrote birthday wishes on the cake he was decorating. “Look, mon frère, you have two choices as I see it.  Risk your heart – marry this lady you’ve been wooing all this time with tiny desserts and sweet words – or spend the next twenty years alone.”

“After Suzanne –“ Philippe stopped. He didn’t have to say any more.

His brother leaned back against the sink. “I know,” he said softly. “You locked your heart away, kept it safe from wind and weather, careful to never let time, life or love erode it.  And what has it gotten you?”

“Not hurt.” Philippe retorted, finishing the lettering with a deft flourish of the pastry bag full of frosting.

“And not living, either.  Not really.” He put up a hand to stop the older man. “And you know it.”

“Stephane, if I do it, if I ask her and she says ‘yes’, will you–?”

“Stand up with you? Need you ask?” The grin reappeared, wider than before.

“Then I will.” He met his brother’s eyes, nodded once and left.

Perilous Times

[A/N:  The title of this story comes from a line in Frank Herbert’s classic book Dune: “Beginnings are such perilous times”.  I need to acknowledge the authors of Cajun Country, whose explanation of late 19th and early 20th century courting rituals among Cajuns gave me this story idea.]

Fourteen-year-old Pierre LeMay watched his brother Denis button his collar and put on his tie.  He cleared his throat, as was only appropriate for a young man who had news as important as his.  “I saw Jacques Dubois jus’ finish paintin’ his chimney top and gate blanche, moi.”

Denis froze.  “What did you say?”

“You heard me,” Pierre replied with amusement.

“I – but – mon Dieu.” He took two steps backwards in shock and sat down abruptly on his bed.

“Denis, you’d better not let Maman see you sittin’ t’ere.”

The young man looked around dazedly.  “Oh.  Yes.” He stood, and made motions at smoothing down the duvet, which only wrinkled it more.

“So, are you going to rush over so you can beat Lucien Hébert?”

Ferme ton bec, Pierrot.”

“Shut up? T’at’s a nice way to talk to me, Denis. Especially after I ran all t’e way home just to tell you.”

“Ah, I – I just – oh, merde.”

Denis! Such language!” Aurelie LeMay stood in the doorway, watching her sons with mingled amusement and disapproval.

Denis bowed to his mother. “Maman, excusez-moi.” He took one more look at himself in the mirror and left hastily.

Aurelie looked at her younger son and shook her head.  “You shouldn’t tease him like that, cher. He’s going to be in such a hurry he’ll probably fall down along the way.”

Pierrot shrugged and grinned at her.  “All t’at fuss over a girl.  Catch me runnin’ like t’at!”

She hid a smile. “Of course not, ‘tit fils.  It couldn’t have been you I saw carrying Francie Robichaux’s books home t’is afternoon, could it?”

He blinked at her.  “Well, maybe.  But I didn’t have to chase her to do it.”

We’ll see when you get a little older, cher, who’s doing the chasing.Mais, Pierre, don’t tease him.  This is a very important thing he is doing.  Much like your chores.”

Pierre had the grace to look abashed. “Oui, Maman”, he said, and left to do them.

* * *

On his way to the Dubois house, Denis tripped twice, ran into the bald cypress in front of Antoine Thibodeaux’s house and apologized to it, and nearly snagged the sleeve of his best jacket on a salt matrimony vine he’d seen nearly every day of his life but somehow missed today. In sight of his objective, he stopped and brushed himself off and took a leaf off the vine, trying his best to clean the dust from his newly-shined shoes.  Finally, he took a deep breath and marched determinedly toward Jacques Dubois’ house.  Sure enough, he saw the marks that told a Cajun boy that a Cajun girl of marriageable age was on the premises.

Stop bein’ so nervous.  You’ve known M’sieu Jacques all your life and he’s Papa’s best ami.  Just go in and be yourself.

He lifted the latch of the freshly whitewashed gate and walked up the flower-lined path to the front door. “Tell him Papa told you about t’e shrimp.  Tell him about t’e shrimp …” he murmured repeatedly as he waited for some one to answer his knock. “Tell him …”

Jacques Dubois opened the door so abruptly that Denis finished the sentence to the older man’s face. “ – about t’e shrimp.”

Bon soir, Denis.  What about t’e shrimp?”

Startled, Denis said, “Oh. Ah. Bon soir, M’sieu’ Jacques. Mais, Papa said for me to let you know t’at Pierrot and I were going to go shrimping tomorrow and to ask if we could bring any back for you.”

“Could be I could use some, me.  Why don’t you come in and have a cup of coffee and we’ll talk about it.”

Isabelle Dubois looked up as he came into the kitchen.  “Denis, how nice to see you. Is your mother well? I haven’t seen her in awhile.”

Bon soir, Madame Dubois.  Maman est bien, merci.”

Bon.  I believe you like your coffee black, no?”

Oui. Merci.”

Isabelle hid a smile and went for the coffee. She came back with the pot and a plate with a piece of cake on it.  “Our Annette baked this today. I thought perhaps you would like a piece.”

Oui, merci.” Oh, ye yaie.  I think I just said that.

Jacques stifled a smile. “So, you were tellin’ me about some shrimp, you.”

“Yes, sir. Pierrot and I had a full day planned.  Papa had said that we should bring back some for both families, that you might need some and that I should check with you so that we have enough.”

The two of them discussed it further, and as they did, Annette came into the room, hung towels from the hooks on the wall and walked back out without saying a word to her uncle or to Denis.

Denis managed to choke on his coffee and cake. Amused, Jacques slapped him on the back until he could talk again.

“You bien, Denis?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I hear you been fixin’ up your Nonc Joseph’s old house.”

“Yes, sir.  It’s done.  I just need to pick the color to paint it.”

“Maybe you’ll be wantin’ someone to help you make t’at decision, you?”

Denis flushed a little. “Well, yes, sir.  I might, at that.”

“Your Papa tells me you are goin’ to work in an office in t’e ville, you. T’at right?”

“Yes, I am. It’s an accounting firm, Johnston and Buford.  I’ve always been good with math. Mr. Johnston knows my teacher, and he agreed to take me on as soon as I graduate in June.”

“Good for you.  Will you make a good salary, eh?”

Denis knew Andre would have already told Jacques. “Well enough –“ He hesitated, and then dove in. “Well, enough to be able to think about my future. About a family.” It’s not like he doesn’t know why I’m really here.

“Sounds promisin’.” Andre rose, and Denis stood as well. “I’ll look forward to gettin’ those shrimp, me.”

He walked Denis to the door. As the young man started to leave, Jacques spoke again.

“So, Denis. You free on jeudi soir?”  He laughed to himself at Denis’ reaction – I t’ink you could light up a whole house from t’at boy’s face.

Oui! – I mean, yes, sir. Jeudi soir.”

Ça, c’est bon! We’ll see you t’en.”

Denis had to go down the steps very carefully – he wasn’t sure his feet were touching the ground.  As he walked away, he waited until he was sure Jacques was back inside – and then took the path that went around the house.  Annette stood at the parlor window, and she waved at him, shyly.  He smiled warmly at her, his whole heart and future hopes in his eyes, waved back once and started for home.

– 30 –

[A/N 2:  Jeudi soir means Thursday night.  According to Cajun Country, that’s the night proposals were delivered.  Bear in mind that Denis and Annette haven’t just met. This is a part of my Guardian Angel universe.  All the other stories, save one, from this universe are on my website at]

A Little Light

Jane lit a candle, put it in the holder and placed it on the windowsill, careful that the curtains were well away from it. It’s not going to show up against the lights of this city, but maybe someone will see it anyway.

She moved around the apartment with brisk efficiency, pulling her small, solitary meal together. Coming up here seemed like such a good idea at the time. She hadn’t been able to bear living in Cleveland after Terry died — everything she saw reminded her of him. There was nowhere to go that didn’t hold some memory.

But she forgot her own rule: happiness wasn’t a place. The loneliness that had plagued her before was nothing compared to being in a new city where she only had the most rudimentary grasp of the language, and where she knew no one.  It takes more than a few hockey games to make a city yours. No matter how much you love the sport.

Still, she refused to concede defeat. As she sat down to eat, she prayed yet again that she would find a place here; friends, a life — a home.

As she finished, and was washing the dishes, there was a hesitant tap on the door.

Jane peered through the peephole, and then unlocked and opened the door. It was her upstairs neighbor, whom she had seen on occasion, and sometimes exchanged brief greetings with. “M. Gagnon?”

Oui.” He smiled at her tentatively. “I’m sorry, Madame Prentiss.  I wouldn’t bother you, but I saw your candle …”

“Oh!” She glanced quickly at it around the door, afraid it had somehow managed to catch something on fire despite her caution.

“No, no.  Il est bien — it’s all right. It’s just,” he bit his lip and paused.

She studied him for a moment.  He came from a small town in the Estrie, she knew, and it suddenly occurred to her, that even without the language barrier, he was probably less at home here than she was.

“I was about to make coffee.  If no one’s waiting for you … would you like to come in for a bit?” she asked.

“Yes, merci. That’s très gentille — very nice — of you.” He came in shyly and stood for a moment, uncertain.

“Let me take your coat.” She hung it on the coat tree and gestured for him to sit in the small kitchen. “Do you take cream or sugar?”

“No, black is fine.”

They waited for the coffee to finish brewing. She would glance at him and then he at her, and finally they looked at the same time and laughed together.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you?”

“No, not at all.”

She poured the coffee for him and herself, and after a moment’s recollection, she brought a small plate of cookies over. “Cookie? I mean biscuit?”

Oui, merci.”

They didn’t speak for a bit. Well, this is exciting, she thought, and then rebuked herself. You prayed for company and He delivered. Why not make a little effort here?

“I know your last name, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard your first name.  Mine’s Jane.  Not all that exotic, but …”

“Ah. I am Michel. I am pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise, Michel. So what about my candle caught your attention?”

“Well.” He put his mug down. “My mother did the same thing. She was very devout, and it was meant as a greeting for the Christ Child — a welcoming.  No stranger would be turned away on Christmas eve, for who knew who the visitor really was?”

Jane smiled. “That’s lovely. Then you are twice welcome.”

Michel laughed gently. “I’ve been called many things in my time, but never a divine visitor.”

“You’re a blessing to me,” Jane said, and then blushed. “You’re the first person who’s been in my apartment, if you don’t count the people from Gaz Métropolitain and Hydro.”

“How did you come here?” Michel asked, studying her with his head cocked to the side.

Jane explained about Terry, and Cleveland, and her long-time love for the Canadiens. “It all came together and I wanted to come live here. I’ve been learning French for a long time, but it’s so different when you have to say things quickly. I’m sure people think I’m mentally deficient.”

“I doubt it. You are trying, and that means something. Give yourself credit for having the courage to start over. Most people wouldn’t have bothered.”

“I hope so. But you, you moved here from a very different place. How did that come about?”

Now it was Michel’s turn to explain about his small town, and how the company he worked for had fallen on hard times. “I never dreamed how truly different things would be. Where I came from, I knew nearly everyone. Here — ” he gestured his confusion.

“I know,” Jane responded softly.  “Believe me, I know.”

The floodgates opened then, and they talked together, sharing what they had come to learn about their adopted city, forgetting their mutual reticence, until Jane’s mantle clock chimed 12 times.

“Midnight, already?” Michel looked at his watch as though he expected that the clock couldn’t possibly be right.

“Yes.  It’s Christmas.”

He smiled broadly, and Jane saw that the eyes behind the wire-rimmed glasses he wore were clear and green and very attractive.

“Would you do me a great favor, Jane? I can’t travel home right now, and I was going to cook a special dinner for myself.  I would prefer to share it — with you, if you could come.”

Her face lit. “Oui, j’aimerais ça.” I’d like that.

Bon.” He grinned. “A une heure?”

“One o’clock.  Yes.”

As she closed the door behind Michel, Jane couldn’t quite wipe the smile off her face. 

She almost took the candle off the windowsill, but changed her mind and left it.  I think it’s safe, somehow. And maybe someone else will get a little light from it as well.