Solitary

The years had not been easy, in truth they had been hard. Countless times we lived on the edge, we came face to face with death. One by one they succumbed to the trials and I wept, grieving them each in turn. I wore the scars on my body, but deep in my soul, the wounds did not heal. They forced me forward, gave me a strength I didn’t have. Solitary, I stood, a testament to the past, but I was not alone.  Their spirits stood with me, coiled around me, protected me. They dared death to take me and we knew he would not.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Foggy Venice Morning

Photo credit: AjayGoel2011 on Visual hunt / CC BY

It was Matteo’s favorite time of day, the evening revelers safely in bed, his shift complete. He watched the early morning sun as it kissed east facing facades and gently blew away the rising mist. This was not the shortest way home near Casa di Marco Polo, but he had business before he could sleep. His gondola slid across the Grand Canal’s calm water without making a sound. The dome of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute lay in front of him. There were many churches in Venice, but Matteo selected the Salute on purpose.

Construction began in 1631 after the plague subsided. They built the Salute in gratitude, praising God for saving Venice from the latest outbreak of Black Death. In 1681 the Basilica finished, its dome became a Venice skyline hallmark and the subject of many noted artists. It was Matteo’s manifestation of any remaining hope.

It didn’t take Matteo long to offer his daily prayers and return to his gondola. He crossed the Grand Canal, slipped into the Rio de Palazzo de Canonica, behind Palazzo Ducale, and under the Ponte del Sospiri. His gondola shifted from sunshine to deep shadows where buildings blocked the questing fingers of light. Shadows encased his home, and he shook, chilled, as he secured the boat before heading upstairs.

“Sophia,” he said kissing her on both cheeks. “How is Mama?”

“She slept through the night. You should sleep before she wakes.”

Matteo nodded and headed to the bedroom. He stopped at Mama’s door to look in at her. She was peaceful as she slept, innocent as a child, her cheeks puffing in and out with her breath. He wiped his hand over his tired face, hoping and praying this would be a good day, aware the good days were coming less often now. On a good day, Mama knew where was, recognized Sophia and Matteo and remembered Papa died years ago. The bad days were challenging, leaving them in dark places, searching for even a single ray of sunshine.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Psychic House

Photo credit: Nick Douglas on Visual hunt / CC BY

The speedometer read eighty-five miles per hour as my onyx black fully restored 59 Chevy El Camino swept down the narrow two-lane country road. Tonight, was black as my car and there wasn’t a streetlight for miles. I listened to 348 Tri-Power V8 pulsing under the hood, begging me to push the pedal harder. The restoration included a new 700R-4 automatic transmission and dual exhaust. I had kept the OEM parts on the dash and recovered the bench seat in black vinyl.

My 59s headlights set wide on the grill were the only lights that kept my baby right of center. My destination was a good ten miles from town, ten lonely miles. A faint blue light hovered on the horizon, I glanced at my odometer and guessed I was fast approaching the end of the line.

I eased off the gas and felt the engine throttle back before the TAC dropped. El-Cam coasted the last mile and onto the gravel driveway. I tapped the breaks, and she came to a full stop in front of the house.  A floodlight lit the end of the house and red, three-foot-tall letters that spelled the word “Psychic”.

I slid her into Park, shut her down and stepped out. This place wasn’t in my wheelhouse, but I didn’t have a choice. I pulled my cell from my pocket, the time read five after ten and the sign on the door said they closed at ten. I had come this far, so I knocked.

“Come on in, Sugar. They said you’d be late.”

The voice started me, but I opened the door, releasing the smell of burning incense.

“Don’t be shy,” she said.

I stepped in greeted by the stereotypical décor items you see in the movies. Crystals, books, and labeled jars crammed the shelves lining the walls. An antique chandelier hung from a ceiling painted with constellations. Heavy purple damask drapes with gold bullion tassel fringe hung at the windows. Strung across the top were plastic pumpkin patio lights.

A circular table covered with the drapery fabric stood in the center of the room surrounded by four purple velvet upholstered chairs.  A young black woman dressed in jeans, a tee shirt, and flip-flops sat in one chair. She didn’t match her surroundings, but she motioned for me to sit in the chair opposite her. As I took my seat, she cocked her head and stared at my blouse. I realized I hadn’t removed the diner’s name badge when I left work.

“What can I do for you, Ellen?” she asked.

“I thought you were psychic?”

“And so I am.”

“Then why did you have to read my name tag?”

“The spirits say, ‘someone is coming’. No names.”

“Did the ‘spirits’ tell you why I am here?”

“Sugar, you have questions. Everyone who comes has questions.”

This was ridiculous, a waste of time, and I stood ready to leave.

“Now, now darling. I see you need proof to believe.” She leaned back and held her hands, fingers spread wide, in front of her face. Her eyes rolled and when she spoke her voice was different.

“You have a baby. She is everything to you. El-Cam,” her hands dropped to her lap and her chin sank to her chest. For a moment, she appeared to be asleep, but her eyes fluttered, and she looked at me.

“Do the spirits lie?”

I sat in the chair, my eyes never leaving her face.

“That’s better Sugar. They say you need me. You wait,” she said. She stood, disappearing through the swinging beads hanging in the rear doorway. In a few minutes, she returned with two large roller bags, a backpack, and a second large purse slung over her shoulder.

“You’re taking a trip?”

“Yes, Sugar and you must too. You will help me with these bags.”  It was not a question, and she shoved one of the roller bags toward me. “I packed enough for you, but we must be going.”

Without thinking, I caught the roller bag and stared at her.

“Going? Going where? I don’t even know your name.”

“Lulu,” she said tossing the backpack at me. “Ellen we must be far away if you want to live.”

She knew. Somehow, she knew. The voice in my head told me to trust her. I adjusted the backpack on my arm, grabbed the roller bag and followed Lulu out the front door. I lifted the two bags onto the mahogany boards of El-Cam’s bed and secured them under the cargo net before hopping in the driver’s seat. Lulu was in the passenger seat.

“This is your baby? An El Camino?”

I nodded and started the car.

“This baby better fly. Now.”

I nodded again, leaving the headlights off and gravel flying as El-Cam disappeared into the night.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

The April Fools — Friday Fictioneers July 27

Title:  The April Fools
Source:  Friday Fictioneers sponsored by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields-Addicted to Purple
Word count: 100 words

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz 😀 (Thanks, Ted)

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz (Thanks, Ted)

Ice floated in the lake, but the April Fools boats were ready. April Fool’s Day marked a spring ritual, two boat launches followed by a dinner at Dockers. As Bill, John and I walked the pier, I realized I had forgotten my jacket. Sitting on the water chilled me to the bone, and it had worsened these last forty years. John always insisted on sitting outside while Carol and I voted for an inside table. This year I wouldn’t object. Today there were tears in John’s eyes as we talked of other boat launches and how much we missed Carol.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Rescue at Sea — FFfPP Week 30

Title:  Rescue at Sea
Source:  FLASH FICTION FOR THE PURPOSEFUL PRACTITIONER
Word count:  170 words

MorgueFile May 2018 1365256807kyjpp

Shelly refused to address the situation. It was easier to sleep late, swim in the sea and toast the day with an entire bottle of chardonnay. Today reality hit, she was out of time, money and even excuses.  She needed a plan, one she didn’t hate.

She didn’t swim today. The sand was warm where she sat contemplating the horizon. It was a perfect illusion.  Her mind in turmoil, dark clouds filled the sky and mountains of waves swept over her, tossing her to a rip current she could not escape. Shelly fought, and as her strength drained, she realized she would drown.

Drown? The thought shocked her, yanking her from the self-pity tidal pool. She was a strong swimmer, a lifeguard and knew you didn’t fight a rip current.  You remained calm, swimming parallel to the beach until the current ebbed, and you could swim diagonally towards the beach. Shelly stood and dusted the sand from her pants. She had the answer and everything she needed to rescue herself.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

The Delivery — 100WW Week 81

Title:  The Delivery
Source:  100 Word Wednesday: Week 81
Word count: 100 words

Image by Bikurgurl

A black panel van parked on the street. Marcus and Ari checked the mirrors before unloading the six cartons. Ari carried his load down the walkway to where a dumpster obscured a side door. They stacked the cartons next to the door. Ari adjusted the top carton, nodded, and they returned to the van. No one noticed as they drove away.

It was two a.m. when the bar emptied. The hometown team won putting them in the playoffs and cash in Pete’s till. Tired but happy, he was locking the door ready to head home when the entire block exploded.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Fifteen-Minute Road Trip — FFfAW Challenge – 175

Title:  Fifteen-Minute Road Trip
Source: Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers
Word count: 170 words

This week’s photo prompt is provided by Yarnspinnerr. Thank you Yarnspinnerr!

It was a game, a stupid childish game that saved my life. My earliest memory is of me, my three sisters and Dad playing Red Light, Green Light. We always played games. The year I turned six, Dad introduced a new game. He called it “Fifteen-Minute Road Trip”. My sisters and I listened to the rules. Dad would set a timer and we had fifteen minutes to pack a bag with everything we needed for a weekend road trip. Our first attempts caused peals of laughter when we discovered missing clothes, or shoes or toothpaste. Gradually our packing improved, and one day Dad told us to get in the car. We left for the weekend and had to live with only what we packed.

Yesterday, the evacuation team knocked at the door saying the winds had shifted, and the wildfires were upon us. They gave us fifteen minutes to gather the lifetime of possessions from our homes, pack our cars and leave. Today I live with only what I packed.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Small Town (The Rewrite) — Friday Fictioneers July 20

Title: Small Town
Source:  Friday Fictioneers sponsored by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields-Addicted to Purple
Word count: 100 words

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

This is a story I posted a few days ago for Friday Fictioneers. One of the comments suggested it might have more impact if written in the present simple.  So here is both the original and the rewrite. Let me know which version you like better.

The Original Story
Moist sheets clung to my body. The sun beat on me trying to turn my bruises lobster red. The oscillating fan set on high evaporated the perspiration and raised goosebumps as the artificial breeze swept across my body. I closed my eyes, tired of the heat, tired of this small town and the smaller minds that lived here. Small townspeople talked about everyone’s business and buried their secrets deep. I hid my secret well, so they would never guess why I left. I pulled the drapes across the window. Neither the sun nor that man would beat on me again.

The Rewritten Story
Moist sheets cling to my body. The sun beats on me trying to turn my bruises lobster red. The oscillating fan set on high evaporates the perspiration and raises goosebumps as the artificial breeze sweeps across my body. I close my eyes, tired of the heat, tired of this small town and the smaller minds that live here. Small townspeople talk about everyone’s business and bury their secrets deep. I hide my secret well, so they will never guess why I left. I pull the drapes across the window. Neither the sun nor that man will beat on me again.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer