Mercy Grove

I’m participating in the 13-Week Streak by Eilidh from Thain in Vain and Charlotte of Drafty Devil. I wrote this last week, but I’ve had some trouble with my dog in the past week and never got around to posting. Here’s my 2nd week entry for this awesome little event!


IMG_20170522_054502The fog was so dense this morning that Claire struggled to see. She looked back and considering the distance back to the campsite. It was an hour either way now. No point in going back.

A power transformer buzzed like an angry swarm of bugs. When did my music stop playing?

She pulled her phone out of her sleeve case and examined it. Smashed. From top to bottom. What the hell?

A light above her flickered, and for a moment she thought she could see a dark and wet streams across her arms and hands, but the moment passed.

Claire rounded the corner. The sound of a distant squeal of wheels sent a jar through her muscles.

 

“Why train so bloody early?” her sister had asked her yesterday – today?

“The marathon’s next month. I’m trying to get used to long distances,” Claire answered.

“But, really! Three in the morning? You’re insane.”

“All marathon runners are,” Claire laughed.

 

The echo of hard footsteps broke her revelry.

Claire turned around.

“Hello?” she called.

A scream from far away resounded back.

She shuddered. Just ignore it. It’s probably just a couple of pranksters.

Claire knew this path well. She had consulted many a map before she came here, making sure it would be well-lit and had little access to the main road. So when she found herself at fork and a sign with the words “Mercy Grove” painted on it, Claire was a bit surprised. She had never seen it on any map. The small cobbled footpath was surrounded on both sides by tall hedges. She glanced inside; the mist was all but gone here.

The smell of snicker-doodles and fresh-mowed grass permeated through the air. Claire was reminded of her grandmother’s house, before she passed.

She through the shrubs.

“He must have been drunk,” she heard someone whisper.

She scowled and turned.

A pair of headlights pushed through the bushes. Claire covered her eyes and braced herself.

The cacophony of squealing wheels, screams, the shattering of glass, and sirens rang across the garden. Claire’s muscles jerked; a single tear ran down her face.

“Let me at ‘im!” she thought she heard her sister scream.

She blinked. Nothing was there. The cobbled path was unblemished, but a shadow raced towards her.

With a shriek, Claire ran the opposite direction.

“Come into the light,” she heard a familiar voice whisper.

A brilliance beamed onto the path, and Claire saw a golden staircase. With a yell, she leapt at it. The shadow grabbed her foot and tried to drag her back, but she landed squarely on the stairs and held on, screaming.

The light glowed brighter until the pressure on her foot receded. With a guttural yell, the shadow faded away.

A soft, wrinkled hand touched her own and helped her up.

“Grandmother?” Claire said, blinking.

“You needn’t run ever again,” her grandmother whispered as they embraced.

Claire smiled. They walked up the golden staircase to the clouds, leaving the troubles of the earth (and the living) below.

 

The Run

I look at my phone for the hundredth time in the last hour. Five a.m! Damn. The day won’t even begin for hours yet. Restless. Alone. I can’t just sit here and wait.

I step out the hotel doors and wrap my arms across my chest. The cool Melbourne wind bites my hands and my face – the only spots of exposed skin. Tiny drops of mist leave sprinkles across my glasses. It’s cold, but I’ll be warm soon enough. I slide my hood over my head and set a slow pace as punk queen Gwen sings about running.

Travelling for work isn’t so bad. Your days are all but decided for you, but it’s the night, the early morning – when you’re brain dead or brain preparing – that’s the worst. You dine alone, you try to fill your time with shopping or walking, but most of the time, you read in bed until you fall asleep. Only to then toss in bed because you can’t quite find that right spot or if the sheets should be on or off.

The streets are quiet but not vacant at this hour. The sun isn’t quite up, and the streetlights let out a dim glow as if preparing for it to rise at any moment. I have the volume turned down on my phone and take in the sounds of my surroundings – the clatter of the trams, the buzzing of the power transformers, the chatter of people. There’s something beautiful about a city that is still sleeping.

Sleeping bags and big wooly blankets line the sidewalk in front of the shops. Some of the mounds are moving, but most remain still. Not awake, not asleep. Just existing.

I wonder at the resilience of man. That drive to keep going is certainly not unique but is inspiring all the same. This mind-wander continues until I round a corner and a man shuffles past me. His face and hands are dirty, his hair unruly. I smile at him. Smiles cost nothing, after all. He returns the smile with a big toothy grin.

“Run, run, run. You’re doing great,” he says with a raspy laugh in his voice.

I laugh with him.

He follows me, smiling and jogging alongside me for a hundred meters. I grin from ear-to-ear. I sense no malice, just joy. Maybe it’s only mine. Maybe not.

Later that day, a colleague will tell me how frightful that experience sounds, but nothing in my tone or telling of the story will show I am scared for my safety. She will go on to tell me that a woman should not go out alone in the dark. That I should protect myself – be more careful. 

For now, though, I enjoy the moment; I revel in it.

He stops, and I wave at him as I cross the street to continue this forward momentum.

When the moment passes, I let the next take over and then the next. 

I love every second of the run. I love the river and the way the water ripples with the light rain. I love the flat dirt track around the Botanical Gardens and the way it felt separate but still a part of this city. I love the fountain surrounded by golden leaves and a muted glow. 

I lose track of time and distance, traveling 7km before I realize I need to get back to my room.

The sun rises past the buildings, and first light lands on me just as I reach the hotel. I let out a happy intonation before I walk inside and lower my hood. Contentment never diminishes from lobby to shower.

I decide later that day that I won’t go out and do it again.

Still. I regret nothing.

Had I not gone out, I would have missed all those beautiful moments, and that would have been the true loss.  
 
 
 

The Hills

Today’s piece is brought to you by, Donna-Louise Bishop over at Newshound to Novelist. She is doing a weekly writing prompt challenge in which she provides a single word and challenges everyone to write a complete story in only 100 words. This week’s prompt is “Hills” and here is my take on that prompt.

*****

Lora intoned a sweet sigh as her eyes drifted to the window beside her bed. Buildings and houses covered the landscape. She frowned and watched a girl getting the water pitcher.

“There used to be nothing but hills there once,” Lora said.

The girl gave her a knowing smile.

“What was your name again?”

“Sarah, Mum. It’s Sarah,” the girl answered as sadness filled her eyes.

“Right, Sarah. I knew that,” she turned back to the window, “There was a giant apple tree on the top of one.”

Sarah dipped her head and whispered, “I know. You met Dad there.” 

Ocean Made Defense

At the eleventh hour, I finally am able to do my entry for the first week of  the 13-Week Streak flash fiction challenge. Thain in Vain teamed up with Drafty Devil to create this cool little challenge. The first challenge was released on Monday 5th June!


“Well, officer, it was an odd day. An odd day, indeed,” Mrs Stern said. She fingered the pearl necklace around her neck. The clink of it echoed through the small room.

Senior Constable Pruitt sat across from the blonde bombshell and studied his notes. Every one of the witnesses had said the same thing. It’s all a lie. To align their stories for interrogation.

He listened to her prattle on about the captain and his scarred face, the woes of the holiday in this remote island, and the tiresome gossip of the other two couples joining them.

He took his notes, watched her shifting eyes, and the fiddling of her necklace. All classic signs of a dishonesty.

“We all heard it,” she finally said. “The song. It was soft and sweet.”

Pruitt looked at Mrs Stern. Her face went dark. Her hands were folded and sitting atop the table, and she stared straight at him.

“We didn’t know, at first. We barely heard it. The whales were swimming around, and we were so focused on them. But we heard a girlish laugh. And then we went quiet,” she said in a whisper.

“What was it?”

“We weren’t sure at first, but as the sound grew, we started to see streaks of green across the ocean.”

Pruitt did an inaudible sigh. He refused to believe what the others had said.

“Mermaids, constable. It was mermaids,” she said.

Mrs. Stern slammed her fist onto the tabletop. “I’m not crazy! I saw it. I didn’t want to believe it, but we all saw it.”

“Calm down, Mrs. Stern,” he said quietly but with authority.

She took a drink of water. “I’m sorry.”

Taking a deep breath, she continued, “Our husbands. They all started to walk towards the end of the boat. Like they were under some kind of hypnosis. I tried to keep my Paulie. I pulled on his arm and tried to trip him. But he wouldn’t stop. He just…”

She coughed and shifted her weight in her seat.

“Then I remembered who I was and where I was, and no mermaid was going to take my husband from me! I punched him. Square in the jaw, and he tumbled to the ground.

“The other ladies saw me. One kicked her husband in the balls (they don’t work right anyway), and the other pashed hers. They stopped. Dead in their tracks.

“But we were all bothered with our husbands that we forgot to do anything about the captain. He jumped overboard and those terrible mermaids swam over, hissed at us, and took the captain down into the sea. Then we called the coast guard, and here we are…”

For crying out loud, what kind of defense is this shit? Pruitt closed his notebook and walked out of the room.

“I’m done,” he said to no one, as he set his badge and gun down on the captain’s desk. Fucking mermaids.

 

 

Dear Millennials

Dear Millennials,

It’s graduation time again, which means lots of unsolicited advice from random strangers. But mine’s different! I hope.

I’m not here to lecture you about laziness or entitlement, because I know you aren’t either of those things. In fact, I am one of your biggest fans. Just like every generation before you, you’ve been lumped in a group that only represents two percent of you, so I am not talking to the two percenters.

Instead, I’m looking at you: the adopters of new technology, the hard workers, the frustrated ones, the kind and compassionate ones despite a world that has showed you little of both. By now, you will realize you’re fighting an uphill battle. The world of your parents and grandparents is long gone, and there’s only so much you can do about it. Life is about to get super real, yo.

Unless you’re in one of those odd groups of people that knows exactly what you want to do and have been working toward it your whole life, you have come to the frightening realization that you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going. The clock starts ticking now, and no matter how many people tell you, “You can always go back to college”, the reality is that isn’t as true as you would hope. College is expensive, but life is more expensive. Unless you can live at home with your parents for another four to six years or come into a lot of money, life will get in the way.

Not everything is all doom and gloom, though, and I’m living proof of that. I had to leave college when life got in the way, and nearly 20 years later, I’m doing what I love. It wasn’t a fun road, and there were a lot of missteps. But I made it and so can you. Good things come to those who work their butt off. It just might take longer than you would like.

  1. Don’t Settle

    Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a job is just a job, and in the end, as long as you’re getting paid, you should be happy. Fuck that shit. Seriously. Your feelings matter. Rich people aren’t happy because they have money, right? Well, same thing here. Sometimes money doesn’t matter. Sometimes you can live a fulfilling life with barely a dollar to your name.

  2. Don’t Let Others Judge Your Worth

    You owe no one anything, and vice versa, no one owes you a thing. Spending a life worried that you’re not doing as well as the girl you sat beside in AP History will lead you to chronic unhappiness. Just remember that no one looks like they do on the surface. Especially the head cheerleader, Prom (or Homecoming) Queen, or the quarterback.

  3. Interviewing Skills are Sometimes More Important Than Actual Skills

    Every business professor and teacher out there will tell you the resume is the most important part of getting a job. It might be true, but the resume is also bullshit on top of layers of other bullshit. If your skills on paper get you to an interview, then you have only won a quarter of the battle. The interview takes up 50% of your success, with the last quarter falling to references. So bone up on that. Check out the multitude of interview questions available on the internet. Prepare your stories, work on your charisma, and make the recruiters see your worth. Every company has a different kind of interview model, so be sure to ask about how it is graded. Be prepared and smash it out. With that being said…

  4. There Is Always Someone More Suitable Than You

    When you are certain that you are the best candidate for a position, push that shit out of your mind, because you most definitely are not. All this means is you gotta sell them on why you are better. Convince them that what you might lack in skills, you will more than make up for in attitude. Because every manager will confirm it, knowledge can be learned. Attitude can’t.

  5. Never Undervalue Your Skills

    If someone says your degree is obsolete, ignore the hell out of them, because nothing is ever wasted. Except maybe a classics major. (Honestly, what were you thinking?) In my office, I’m known as the Excel guru. I’m not. I am soooo not. I know some stuff, but everything I don’t know I look up on Google. I tell people this all the time. I fake it til I make it, basically, but this is still considered a skill. You know why? Because I know enough to search the right thing and implement it to suit our needs. That Intermediate Excel skill turns to advanced in their eyes. The same could be said about absolutely every other skill. If you’ve worked in hospitality or retail, whether you accept it or not, you have conflict resolution and negotiation skills, and I’ll bet damn good ones too.

  6. “Grow Your Brand”

    If ever there was a corporate phrase that matters, this is the one that you should focus on the most. Working hard sometimes doesn’t matter. It’s about how you present yourself. The more people know you within a company, the more likely you will see some success. It takes a very long time, so just remember this: don’t get too discouraged. Use that frustration to fuel your career rocket. During your company life, you will see undeserving people move up. It sucks, but you know what? The reason it happens is because they network, they stand out, they don’t undervalue their skills, and they interview well. Be that person. As long as you have the right attitude, you will get noticed.


You’ve got this. So get out there into the real world and kick some ass!