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

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter Q

AtoZ2019Q

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Quixotic: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals especially, marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action

Maul was an exceptional man. Large well-developed shoulders, sculpted abs and toned quadriceps attested to the hours spent in the gym. He towered above most men and his formidable appearance caused many to avoid him. The respect he commanded carried a price. Forged in the fire of self-preservation, Maul trained in self-defense, marshaling his strength and his anger.

He remembered when things were different when his life dangled over the abyss. Only his will to survive saved him. He had been a small frail child, happy and surrounded with love until he went to school. The trouble began when the teacher called attendance, asking the children to stand and introduce themselves to the class. Meredith Alison Lacey the fourth, stood. Jeers, laughter and snide comments from his classmates filled the classroom. She tried to silence the uproar, then ordering him to sit, she hurried to the next name on her list.

The day marked the start of his miserable life. Throughout school, Meredith endured hateful jokes, pranks, and ridicule. Battered, bruised and bullied, he determined they would not break him. When he was ten, they nearly killed him. A ruptured spleen and a broken arm sent him to the hospital for emergency surgery. He would never be the same.

Rehab introduced him to his mentor and together they developed his physic. Back at school, he won against the bullies, and they tried to move on to terrorize others. He earned his name by defending their new targets. Maul determined they would not suffer as he once had.

Maul became the quixotic bad guy. He launched himself on a quest to protect those who couldn’t fight against intimidation. He turned into the lovable brute, the minority of one intent on righting wrongs and converting those whose goal was to persecute and oppress.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter P

AtoZ2019P

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Perspicacious: of acute mental vision or discernment, Keen

Aunt Edna and Uncle Charlie never had kids. I never asked, my mother would have slapped me upside the head if I ever had the audacity to ask such a personal question. There was a story there, my bones told me. I saw it in Aunt Edna’s face when she held infants and played with small children. Perhaps it was the reason she became a schoolteacher. She wasn’t the normal run-of-the-mill teacher either. She kept in touch with her students over the years, exchanged Christmas cards with them, and attended their college graduations.

I remember little about Uncle Charlie. He died of a heart attack when I was a teenager. If she mourned his death, she didn’t let on in front of me, but she never remarried either. Mother made it my job to check on Aunt Edna after he passed. Once or twice a week I stopped. I visited her on Wednesdays after school and at ten o’clock on Saturday mornings, rain or shine.

My friends felt sorry for me, but Aunt Edna and I settled into a routine of sorts. There were times she helped me with my homework, and times I helped her with housework. She fearlessly taught me to drive with her car, and when I got my license, I drove her to the store or her hair appointment. One summer we painted her whole house. Before Christmas, we spent hours baking for the annual teacher’s cookie exchange. On special occasions, we traveled to the city to visit the art museum.

When I went to college, we began new rituals. I think she realized I missed checking on her and she mailed me letters and care packages. Her notes brought a smile to my face, and the parcels eased my homesickness. I understood why her students loved her. She believed I could do anything, even when I struggled and lost faith, she never did.

Time moves on and it changes us. I graduated, took a job in another town, got married and started a family. I saw Aunt Edna whenever I came home. She made it seem as if we had only been apart a few days, not weeks, or months or years. I never expected the call. The one telling me Aunt Edna had gone to join Uncle Charlie.

Her will left me everything, but it wasn’t the biggest surprise. Aunt Edna’s love of art ran deeper than I ever suspected. She had been perspicacious in acquiring pieces for her collection. I knew she bought artwork, but it never occurred to me that she had developed relationships with the artists. They attended her funeral and spoke as if we were longtime friends. We were, in a way. She included our stories in her letters. The artwork’s value was astounding, but Aunt Edna’s real legacy is all the friends I inherited.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Essential People – Friday Fictioneers

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

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

They canceled schools, closed businesses, and ordered nonessential people home. Six inches of snow fell, and the prognosticators promised more.

Georgie refused. Lives depended on him. He considered his job essential and left for work as usual, at a quarter past three. His daily walk was quiet, but this morning he could hear the earth sigh.

He unlocked his shop doors, flipped on the lights, and began. Incorporating simple ingredients, flour, buttermilk, eggs, yeast, and sugar, he moved with the grace of a ballerina.  When the shop bell jingled, his yeasted donuts were ready, guaranteed to warm his customer’s hearts.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter O

AtoZ2019O

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Opportune: suitable or convenient for a particular occurrence

Tierha left his meditative realm and rejoined the monks as they prayed. The temple hummed with their soft chanting. Tierha let the sound sooth his spirit as he prepared himself. His revelation would cause dissent.

He inhaled, and in one fluid movement, he stood, silent among them. Their melodious devotions ebbed then ceased, and their attention resting on their lama. The room was silent for many minutes before Tierha spoke.

“The grey ghost of the mountains visited me,” he said and paused. “I am to undertake a journey to the Great Cave of Conquering Demons.”

A breeze caressed the monks, touching the nape of a neck, quieting a restless hand, and soothing the shoulders of the fearful.

“We will start preparations for a spring departure,” one monk volunteered.

“Make the arrangements, but I leave at dawn,” Tierha replied.

The once quiet prayer space erupted with works of concern and admonishments for his trip’s delay.

“We are entering winter—”

“You can fight demons anytime, anywhere.”

“Wait until the passes are free from snow.”

“The envoys won’t be able to reach the supply drop.”

“You’ll starve—”

“You’ll freeze—”

“You’ll die.”

Tierha’s hand gently petted the air and their voices stilled.

“The opportune place is the Great Cave of Conquering Demons. The moment is upon us,” he said.

His face said they would not dissuade him.

“There is nothing to fear. The snow lion walks with me.”

The monks peered into the dark recesses, searching. A monk pointed beyond the door.  Silhouetted by dawn’s orange glow they saw tiger eyes surrounded by a turquoise mane. The snow lion bowed to them, then turned and walked toward the light.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter N

AtoZ2019N

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Neoteric: recent in origin, Modern

“Why is this so difficult?” Milford Bell shouted as he shoved the blueprints, pushing them away from him. They fluttered from his drafting table, gargantuan butterflies scudding across the floor before they settled on the worn oriental carpet.

Sissy glanced at him from the opposite end of the library and abandoned her work.

“Milford,” she sighed, “what’s the matter now?”

“I wish I had never taken this commission. If we didn’t need the money—” Milford’s words stuttered, then stopped as he shook his head.

“Mr. McCowan has been very generous. He’s a kind man, isn’t he?”

“Yes. Yes, he is a fine fellow. But he asks too much. Or too little.”

“The project is a house?” Sissy asked already aware of the answer. She stood and went to retrieve the drawings. She lifted each page, studying the designs.

“I don’t see the problem. These are competent studies. Surely, he likes one,” she said, as laid them on the drafting board.

“You would be wrong. He has rejected them. This drawing is too ornate, while this reminds him of his friend’s homes. He wants something neoteric, simple, different,” he gestured at his work as he spoke.

Milford rose, paced the room, and ran his fingers through his already disheveled hair.

“I am tempted to design a basic box. A cube containing rooms and windows and nothing more.”

“You might consider a porch?” Sissy offered.

“He will toss me out on my ear—”

“Milford, instead of guessing at what he wished to subtract, perhaps you should determine what he prefers to add,” Sissy paused letting her words drift before she continued.

“Draw your cube. Incorporate the interior requirements and present the sketches to him. Let him tell you the architectural details he wants to include.”

Milford puffed, muttered something incoherent, then fell silent. Sissy could see his mind working, the ideas were flying. Reaching his decision, he returned to his seat, pulled out a fresh sheet and set to work.

***

Several days later Milford burst into the house.

“Sissy,” he yelled. “Sissy, where are you?”

Milford entered the library as she reached the door.

“What? What’s wrong?” she asked.

“You will never believe it,” he said as he lifted her, and they spun in circles around the room.

“Believe what?”

“He loves it. He wants the home built per plans. A simple square box. He wrote an advance check to begin construction.”

  • -Note: The American Foursquare (1895–1929) was a Post-Victorian reaction to ornate Victorian elements and other Revival architecture. The simplicity of the American Foursquare was a popular mail-order house.
    “When one was ordered, it came in a boxcar with a book of directions and all the parts pre-cut and numbered for self-assembly.”  — Wikipedia

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter M

AtoZ2019M

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Munificent: very liberal in giving or bestowing, lavish

I watch the event unfold, horrified.  Sickened by the sight, my stomach churns, yet I cannot look away. I wonder why? Science tells the reaction is hard-wired into our amygdala. It is part of our survival instinct.  We search for information, attempting to decide if we are in danger. Do we need to trigger our fight-or-flight response?

When the event happens half-way around the world, why do we still gawk? Scientists have conducted studies to help us understand. They say we continue to stare to face our fears. Knowing our lives are not at risk, we can safely confront intense emotions. We contemplate what we might do in a similar situation. Would we be the victim? The hero? Could we endure the pain? Would we have the strength to recover?

Play the scene in our head, we fabricate different scenarios, grasping for control in an uncontrollable world. We imagine various outcomes. We experience relief when things turn out better than we expect, and it prepares us when the worst takes place. Disaster evokes our empathy and compels action.

And something beautiful happens. Munificent tributes, donations, support, outpourings of love and compassion we believe will help others recover. We might only be observers of an event, but we can offer comfort, and spark hope.

*** I had a slightly different version for my chosen word, Munificent. Yesterday’s fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, the bravery of the firefighters, individual efforts to rescue priceless artifacts and relics, and the pledges of millions of dollars for its restoration inspired me to alter the story.

Vive le cathédrale Notre Dame.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — Letter L

AtoZ2019L

Today’s Positive Adjective:
Lithe: characterized by easy flexibility and grace

Esme decided today was the day. The first step of her journey.

With a deep inhalation, she began.

Inhale. Tadasana. Exhale. Urdhva Hastasana. Inhale and hold. Exhale. Uttanasana. Inhale. Lunge. Exhale. Plank Pose. Inhale and hold. Exhale. Chaturanga Dandasana. Inhale. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. Exhale. Adho Mukha Svanasana. Inhale. Lunge. Exhale. Uttanasana. Inhale. Urdhva Hastasana. Exhale. Tadasana.

Her Sun Salutations completed Esme peered into the mirror and the two images reflected there. One reflection duplicated her as she was today. The second revealed a more lithe and limber body, graceful as a cat, she felt toned muscles, arsenals of inner strength.

With her goal fully imagined, she resolved to enjoy her journey.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Duped – Weekend Writing Prompt

Title: Duped
Source:  Weekend Writing Prompt #101 – Charlatan
Objective: Write a poem or piece of prose in exactly 61 words.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Lola O’Neill stood, eyes shut, as the wind whipped, tugging her skirts.

The old woman was silent. Still, Lola waited. She willed the return of her world.

A gull cried overhead.

“Are you done?” she asked, “Am I home?”

The gull replied. She opened her eyes. The crone had taken her money, but Lola was no longer blind.

“Charlatan,” she screamed.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer