Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter Z

AtoZ2019Z

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Zealous: marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal

Reginald Malcolm Trueblood III descended the creaky wooden steps leading from his one-bedroom apartment to his street-level shop. At the bottom of the staircase, he opened the worn gate and stepped onto the cracked, soggy pavement. The sodden canvas, installed to protect his short journey, concentrated the raindrops and formed a continuous waterfall under the canopy. The latch clattered, and the jamb rattled as he slammed it shut, before plunging through the deluge to the unprotected sidewalk.

He shuffled along the twenty feet to the opposite end of the building, skirted the torrent and stepped into the alcove to unlock the entrance. It was a trip he had performed every morning for the last twelve thousand seven hundred and seventy-five days. The bell tinkled as he opened the door and the familiar aroma of old books greeted him.

The main aisle stretched the entire length of the building, shotgun style, to the back exit. To his right towered rows of bookshelves. They touched the twelve-foot ceiling and extended to the far wall. He had read, cataloged and loving found a home for every book in his collection.

He snapped the light switch, shaking the rain from his coat while the lights flickered, and the ballasts hummed. At the mid-point, Reggie had carved out a small space where he worked. Neat stacks of books and piles of paper graced a large oak library table at the back of the area. A tattered leather couch faced two bedraggled mismatched chairs anchored by a massive, once brilliant, Persian carpet. Behind the couch, a pair of identical lamps sat at each end of a console loaded with more arranged books.

He shrugged, freeing himself from his damp coat which he hung on the rack. He petted the coat’s folds, making sure it didn’t touch his extra sweater, or the two wool throws draped on the adjacent hooks. Satisfied, he turned, and stroking and adjusting each tall book column, he inched toward the single straight-backed chair at the table.

Reggie was a zealous reader and vendor of rare books, although he had sold nothing in his collection. Only the curious or the lost entered his domain. The former he dissuaded, and the latter soon left of their own accord. Today he was looking forward to following another clue. He sifted through his organized notes, ready to begin his work when the shop bell tinkled. Reggie tapped the papers back into place.

“Hello?” a female voice called.

Exasperated, Reggie smoothed the wispy silver hair that hung across his forehead, tugging and pulling at his black cardigan as he scuttled down the row.

“Hello? Is anyone here?”

Reggie poked his nose into the main aisle. It was empty.

“Eh,” he coughed and cleared his throat, “Who’s there?”

A slim girl popped into view from the second row of shelves. She was tall. Wiry. She wore a long dark cloak slung over the back of her shoulders with the hood covering her head. Ebony hair, brown eyes, black leather clucky boots laced up to her knees, and a charcoal colored vest covered with silver chains completed her look.

“Goth,” Reggie muttered.

“What?” the girl asked.

“Got nothing but books here.”

“Yeah, right,” she glanced around and pointed at the shelving. “I see that. But I am looking for someone named Reginald?”

She hesitated then moved closer. She closed the distance between them and extended her gloved hand.

“I’m Layla,” she offered.

“Of course, you are.”

“What? Why ‘of course’? Do you know me?” she asked as she searched his face. When he didn’t respond she looked at her outstretched hand. She turned it palm up and glared at him over the top.

“Social much? Like I said, I’m looking for a dude named Reginald.”

“What do you want with him?”

“I need to talk to him.”

“About what?”

“A personal matter.”

“Who sent you?”

“A friend.”

“He hasn’t got any friends.”

“Listen, mister, I don’t have time for this. It’s obvious you know him. His friend gave me this address and said I should ask him for his advice. Can you make it happen or not?” Layla placed her hands on her hips and waited.

Reggie stared back wondering who had sent her.

“Who are you?” Reggie’s gravelly voice broke the silence.

“I told you. My name is Layla. Remember?”

“No, I mean… Who are you?” Reggie paused, elongating each word.

The girl sighed. She scanned Reggie’s face as if she was trying to decide something important.

“I’ll make you a deal. If I tell you, you’ll let me speak with Reginald. Okay?” she asked and waited for his response.

Reggie nodded, and Layla took a deep breath.

“My full name is Layla Trueblood.”

Reggie gasped, his eyes bulged, and he hyperventilated. His knees buckled under him and he reached for the bookshelf trying to steady himself but only succeeded in dislodging books that tumbled on him as he fell.

“Dude, are you okay? Harry. Harry you’ve got to help me I think he’s having a heart—”

Reggie felt her grab his arm, as the gloom swirled around him. He tried to fight it, push it back where it belonged. His stomach lurched, and his ears rang. It was happening again.

“Please, not again,” he whispered. Terror surrounded him, as two strange faces filled his vision and melded with the darkness.
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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter Y

AtoZ2019Y

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Yummy: highly attractive or pleasing especially, delicious, delectable

“Grammy are you coming?” Christy asked as she pulled my arm and bounced on her toes.

“Where did you want to go?” I teased.

“You promised we could make cookies today,” she said as she tried to drag me toward the kitchen.

“Oh, I plum forgot.”

Christy dropped my hand, placed both hands on her hips and glared at me.

“No, you didn’t. You never forget nuttin.”

I laughed at her pouty expression and petted the tight auburn curls that bounced on her head.

“No, child, you’re right. I was joshing. I’ve been waiting for you.”

A grin spread across her face, her brown eyes twinkled, and she winked at me before turned to race into the kitchen.

“No running, in the house,” I called after her.

I made a special trip to the store for pink sparkling sprinkles and red food coloring. Baking sheets and mixing bowls stood next to canisters of flour, confectioner’s sugar, and spices. I had set out my stand mixer and butter earlier to let them come to room temperature, knowing she wouldn’t wait.

On a whim, I had whipped up a batch of chai spiced butter cookies for Sunday dinner. Christy had fallen in love with them. However, she insisted they would taste better if they were pink, her favorite color, and if they also had sprinkles. But, they had to be the pink sparkling kind, and she wanted to help me make them. Her mother agreed. Outnumbered, I complied with the request.

So, we spent the afternoon grinding cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg to create our Chai spice. We creamed butter and sugar until the ingredients were fluffy, before adding the spices, flour, and the food coloring. Christy petted and rolled the dough, creating perfectly shaped cookies before she pressed the all-important sprinkles onto each round. She examined each one to ensure they were evenly covered.

We rotated trays of the pale confections around the kitchen and she supervised while they cooked. Peering through the glass window she made sure none were over-baked. At last, we deemed the first batch cool enough to test.

Christy took a huge bite. Sprinkles and crumbs tumbled from the cookie and bounced from her shirt to the floor.

“Grammy these cookies are yummy,” she said around a mouthful of morsels.

I smiled and let the crumbs fall where they may.
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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter X

AtoZ2019X

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Xenial: of, relating to, or constituting hospitality or relations between host and guest and especially among the ancient Greeks between persons of different cities

Greek fire followed the drought. Desiccated vegetation flared and searing flames touched the skies. Hestia heard her devotees cries and took pity on them. She decided to visit them, test them to determine who deserved her grace.

Disguised as a crippled beggar she went from house to house, asking for shelter and a scrap of bread. At homes of wealthy families and businessmen, they told her the same story. There was no food to spare. She wandered through the entire town, but no one answered her plea. Hestia took the road toward the next settlement. Behind her, a fire destroyed everything.

She walked through the night. As dawn broke, she approached a hovel and knocked at the door. A woman greeted her warmly and invited her to join her household for breakfast. She sent her son to search the chicken coop for any eggs, then she bustled around her meager kitchen preparing the meal. The family didn’t have much. But they prayed and offered the gods a small sacrifice before they ate, sharing the sparse fare with their guest. Hestia asked her hostess about her generosity.

“I follow Hestia,” the woman replied. “She teaches us to honor our xenial duties.”

“Aren’t you worried you might starve?”

“The goddess will provide,” she said as she shrugged her shoulders and smiled.

“Everyone is welcome, my family,” she motioned to those sitting at the table, “my neighbors, and even travelers.”

Hestia nodded and finished her meal. She rose and kissed the woman’s cheek. The woman embraced Hestia, called her sister, and told her she would always be welcomed. They wished each other a good day and Hestia resumed her journey.

As she walked away, the family shrieked with joy,  and praise the goddess. Rain fell, transforming the land into a verdant oasis. It washed the dirt and grime from the hovel, revealing the family’s sumptuous home. The woman and her family never forgot to honor Hestia for her favor.
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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter W

AtoZ2019W

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Whimsical: resulting from or characterized by whim or caprice especially, lightly fanciful whimsical decorations

Arianna grew up flipping through architectural and design publications. While other girls worried about the perfect manicure and impressing the boys, she plotted trips to Taliesin and dreamed of attending Bauhaus.

Everything changed when her parents died in an auto accident. Devastated and grieving they uprooted her, turned her world upside down and sent her to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt she had never met. Aunt Mara lived alone and resented intrusions and the responsibility of caring for a teenage girl. Arianna felt helpless.

Aunt Mara’s house was a one-bedroom vacation cottage she occupied throughout the year. The property was so overgrown it was impossible to tell the home sat on a crystal blue lake. Mara pulled a cord hanging from the ceiling and unfolded a set of creaky attic stairs. The bare, raftered space housed boxes of Christmas decorations, long forgotten trunks and now, Arianna’s bedroom. She suspected the uninsulted room would freeze in the winter and blister in the summer.

Aunt Mara considered her duty done and returned to her office job, leaving Arianna on her own. The nearest neighbor was a mile away, and the town was further. When her aunt left for work, she breathed a sigh of relief and explored her new world. The porch sported peeling paint and overlooked brambles and weeds. Hidden behind a stand of trees she discovered an old garage and several sheds in various stages of decay. A peek inside revealed odds and ends, with boxes and tools piled to the rafters. Arianna imagined abandoned treasures concealed in the cluttered mess. With hours stretching before her, she studied her surroundings.

The transformation was slow, but bit by bit the home and the property changed. Old wheelbarrows and toolboxes became unexpected flower containers. She established meandering paths with tantalizing views of the lake and built fairytale vignettes along the way. Arianna repainted the cottage with discounted miss-mixed paint samples, which highlighted gingerbread trim and shaped clapboard. Her dedication created a whimsical place full of nostalgia, and magic sprinkled with a touch of regret.

Aunt Mara saw the changes, and she changed too. She made contributions and interacted with her niece. Others noticed. Strangers stopped by to look and ask questions. It was the project which would launch her illustrious career.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Digging Deep – Weekend Writing Prompt

Title: Digging Deep
Source: Weekend Writing Prompt #103 – Vulnerable
Objective: Write a poem or piece of prose in exactly 21 words.

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Terrorized by demons, vulnerable, scared and alone, he dug deep into his soul. Touching his phoenix, he rose to fight again.
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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter V

AtoZ2019V

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Vivacious: lively in temper, conduct, or spirit,  Sprightly

My Dearest Mama,

I hope this letter finds you well. It distresses me to realize it has now been many months since I last wrote to you, and I am truly sorry for my lapse. As you no doubt have heard, I have been afflicted with the melancholia which has, at times, confined me to my bed for extended periods.

My recovery has been in no small measure, attributable to Mr. Sorenson. His attentiveness has, I am convinced, been the sole reason my illness was not much prolonged. He is most devoted, and I fear his attention must have kept him from more pressing business matters, although he assures me this is not the case.

I confess to you that my previous disdain for Mr. Sorenson has been completely reversed. Indeed, where once I perceived him as cavalier, petty, and frivolous, I now see the truth of his character. He is in my estimation, the epitome of kindness and concern for his fellow man. I have come to appreciate his intense optimism, his cheerful disposition, and his vivacious will. I finally understand why my beloved Jacques considered him a brother.

My grief at Jacques untimely death has eased somewhat. Though I doubt I shall ever think of him without pain and profound sorrow. I weep daily for the loss of the years of marital bliss we once envisioned and for the children it denied us.

Now that my health has improved Mr. Sorenson has proposed a trip to the seashore. While I am concerned with the exertions of such an adventure, he further suggested that you and perhaps Annabelle might be persuaded to join me. The very thought of seeing you has lifted my spirits beyond measure. If you were able to make yourself available, I would rejoice at the reunion. I will write Annabelle directly to see if suitable arrangements can be made.

I am eager for your reply.

Your loving daughter,

Edna
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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter U

AtoZ2019U

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Urbane: notably polite or polished in manner

Sorcha didn’t remember when she first met Alastair. He somehow appeared, lurking in the background. He rarely spoke to anyone, and when he did his words were laced with bitterness. But when they asked, he would play his guitar and sing. It was the reason everyone attended these events.

Captivating and complex he embodied contradictions. Sorcha saw sorrow in his eyes, even when he sang of love. A consummate performer, his had crafted his ad-lib comments honing them over the years for maximum entertainment value. He was urbane, funny, melodious, and the crowd loved him.

When the applause died, and his encores completed, he returned to the background to fight the bitterness, alone.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter T

AtoZ2019T

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Transpicuous: clearly seen through or understood

Erivana knew she was in the hospital, but she couldn’t remember why. The doctor on his morning rounds said there was an accident. There was a knot on her left temple, otherwise, she felt fine. Still, there was something —

Banishing the uneasy sensation, she flipped the sheet back. She didn’t intend to stay a moment longer than necessary, and it was time to go. She needed to—Erivana paused. Well, she would remember when she got home. An image flickered. Bright sunny windows with a lake view. She grasped at the vision as it faded. She closed her eyes.

Relax,” a strange voice instructed her. Startled, the sight vanished. She looked around but the room was empty.

“Damn,” she said. She swung her feet over the edge and the room began a slow rotation. Her fingers clenched the fabric forming a tight, crumpled ball. Swallowed hard, breathing in ragged gasps, she fought to regain her bearings.

Deep breaths,” the voice said.

“Yes, yes.”

The spinning slowed and stopped as she focused on the needle embedded in her right hand. She picked at the tape holding it in place and traced the tubing which tethered her to the IV pole. She thought about pulling it, but they would frown and delay her discharge. Far wiser to play the game. Steadier now, she grabbed the pole.

“Better safe than sorry,” she stated as she eased toward the edge and stood.

An alarm sounded and Erivana fought the dizziness trying to understand.

“What are you doing?” the nurse screeched as she rushed into the room. “You can’t be out of bed. Sit,” she commanded.

“I, I needed to use the bathroom,” she said, only half lying.

“I’ll get you a bedpan.”

Erivana crinkled her nose and took two defiant steps. Having announced her intention, she would complete her mission.

The nurse faltered unsure of how to proceed. Erivana pushed forward while the alarm buzzed.

“All right then,” she punched a button on the footboard, silencing the noise and grabbed Erivana’s elbow.

Later, after being tucked safely in bed and promising not to get up alone, she considered her predicament. She would have to remember more than her name, phone number, and address. The doctor had asked a battery of questions and she had answered most without understanding how she knew the answer. He said, her memory might be restored in a flash, in pieces, or perhaps never. She needed them soon if she was to complete—.

“Complete what?” she wondered.

I’ll help you,” the voice said.

“Who are you?”

You’re right, you must remember. Can you see your apartment?

“My apartment?”

Yes, the memory from earlier.”

“That was my apartment?” she asked, but guessed it was true.

Yes. Return there. Locate the key. It will become more transpicuous with each visit.

“Why can’t you just tell me?”

There was no response.

“Some help you are,” she muttered.

She imagined the windows again, the brilliant light flooding the room and sparkling on the waves. She drifted, a force pulled her, and she didn’t resist. It deposited her in front of the giant panes. Erivana held her hands before her stepping closer. Her bare feet touched warm hardwood floors as she inched closer.

She gasped as her fingertips brushed the glass.

“How is this possible? I am in a hospital bed,” she said as she pressed her palms flat against the unyielding surface.

“It is real,” she marveled.

Her reflection regarded her with pity.

“You really have lost your memory,” the image said.

Erivana placed both hands over her face. It wasn’t logical.

It is enough for now. Sleep. Regain your strength.

She peeked through her fingers, to find herself once again in the hospital bed.

“I’m mad,” she whispered as she turned off the light before falling asleep.

A figure took corporal form and moved to her side. He brushed a strand of hair from her forehead and traced the goose egg beneath.

You are not crazy. You are special and heroic, and I owe you my life. We all do. Tomorrow you will be stronger, and when you are well enough, you’ll find your memory. Then it will be clear. I pray it will come in time.
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Keep on writing.
Jo Hawk The Writer

 

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter S

AtoZ2019S

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Sedulous: involving or accomplished with careful perseverance

Costas was the black sheep of the family. He didn’t fit the family’s mold. His parents fostered a competitive drive in the children. They encouraged them to take part in every prestigious extra-curricular activity and demanded the highest grades. The goal was to achieve admittance to the most renowned colleges. They applied the same exacting criteria the children’s colleges, their jobs, and their lives.

They pushed Costas disappointed that he didn’t surpass the family’s ideals. Costas didn’t lack intelligence, to the contrary, he scored higher on the standardized test than his brothers and sisters and they, therefore, expected stellar performances from him. He didn’t understand their urgency, their mad dash from one requirement to the next. Costas preferred a less hectic, uncomplicated life.

When his grandmother died, she left her estate to her grandchildren. His brothers and sisters were interested in her cash. Her house and the acreage surrounding it had fallen into disrepair. The old Georgian mansion had been her home for fifty years. She had closed most of the residence after her husband passed and opted to occupy the front parlor, while the adjacent music room became her bedroom. Later, she added a small refrigerator, microwave, and a hot plate to the butler’s pantry, saying the kitchen was too far away.

The family accessed the old home as a tear-down, a building not worth saving. The cost of rehabbing let alone maintaining the site was daunting. It would be a colossal waste of money they said.  But Costas disagreed. He bought out his sibling’s interest, keeping the land and the house, while they fought over the remaining assets.

Costas closed the rusted gate which had once been the grand entrance to the estate and drove his jeep down the overgrown allée. He recognized the design’s magnificence. Long ago, manicured grounds lined the graveled drive as it turned and dipped, providing tantalizing peeks of the stately home. He planned to see it restored. How he would accomplish the feat was a mystery to him.

He wondered at his folly as he unlocked the front door and discovered it was swollen shut. He walked around the mansion, stepping over fallen slate roof tiles and detoured past vast bramble patches. The ancient servants’ entrance granted him access. The mansion’s dark, shuttered rooms overflowed with furniture draped with sheets to protect the pieces from the mile-high accumulation of dust. Cobwebs loomed, formidable sentries who challenged his every step. Costas bravely advanced.

The ensuing months found him working late into the night to devise a plan. He devoted his weekends to inventories, assessments and prioritizing the jobs vital for the home’s preservation and tabled the jobs which would have to wait. Securing the estate had depleted his finances, and he knew he needed to finance the endless work. He turned his attention to his fallow land. A local farmer agreed to lease acreage for crop production which provided funds. Next on his list was restoring the vineyards and orchards and upgrading miles of pasture fencing. He arranged a loan to repair and replace the expansive slate roof and prayed his calculations were accurate so he could repay the loan.

With sedulous planning, Costas made steady progress. He ran into setbacks, but they didn’t stop him. The community supported his efforts and were valuable resources. They provided guidance and supplied him with solutions from historical lore.

The mansion gained national acclaim. Artisans offered their skills with the restoration. Local businesses approached him with novel ideas for partnerships and soon they boasted a first-class restaurant, an art gallery, and became a popular venue for celebrations. As the estate blossomed, Costas’ payroll expanded as he hired people to run the estate’s various activities.

Costas hosted an annual family reunion to mark the anniversary of his grandmother’s death. Initially, they were small gatherings, but each year the event’s importance grew. Costas labored with love to pay homage to his legacy. His dedication and his drive impressed his family. He defined new family values and the once black sheep became a shining example.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter R

AtoZ2019R

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Refulgent: a radiant or resplendent quality or state, Brilliance

Errol only ever wanted one thing from life. He wanted to fly. Not like Neil Armstrong but closer to Icarus. His answer was the hang glider. He studied, earned his wings and left the confines of the earth whenever he could.

He trekked to the top of the mountain and strapped on his gear. The wind enticed him, calling him to his flight. One final check and Errol leaped. Under a vivid refulgent sky, Errol broke gravity’s grasp and flew free.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer