Undelivered Valentines: Part 2

A thrilling Thursday eventide to you! Here’s the second part of “Undelivered Valentines.” Part I can be reviewed, reread, rehashed, reanimated, or revived here. I had hoped this part would be a tad shorter, but it says what it needed to, I think. Conclusion will be posted, fingers crossed to ward off evil, tomorrow. Hope you enjoy this unfolding.


 

One in series of Lewis Hine's photographs of mill workers, mostly child laborers, in the 1900s-1910s.
One in series of Lewis Hine’s photographs of mill workers, mostly child laborers, in the 1900s-1910s. Here, a young woman like Gladys is at the spinning machine, circa 1908.

Undelivered Valentines: Part II

A Serial Story

by Leigh Ward-Smith

 

Sandy, our realtor, couldn’t provide any concrete information, but she pointed me to Mrs. Cole, who lived two streets over, “near where the Dawg’s Leg Tavern used to be,” she said, as if that would be helpful to a transplant like me.

I didn’t know how to begin, so I just took a gulp of air and knocked on the door. A fat red tabby one-eyed me from the sturdy rocker on the front porch but didn’t bolt as I creaked up the stairs.

I’d prepared my speech.

Hi, I’m Jamie Meadows, from two streets over. My daughter and I just moved earlier this summer and our realtor suggested we see you. We found an old—no, no, drop that word; it sounds negative and judgmental—letter in our house and wondered if you might help us find the rightful owner. It seems to be an undelivered Valentine or something like that.

I only hoped Em and I would be successful later today, when we tromped over to the town library and history museum.

The door opened and an elderly woman in a white and flower-patterned blouse and black pants stood before me, squinting. I wasn’t sure whether she got many visitors, but as I wondered, she began to smile.

“Hello, Miss. Can I help you?”

I folded my hands calmly in front of me and began my spiel.

“Oh, yes, I’d heard someone moved into the old Lincoln place. No relation to the former president, that I know of. Please do come in, hon. Sit a spell, and we can talk it over. I just made a peach cobbler that you’re welcome to share.” Continue reading

Undelivered Valentines: A Serial Story

As Halloween 2014 drags its bloated, or soon-to-be-bloated, body nearer, of course I thought it appropriate for a love story of a different kind. I’m splitting the skull of this story into three pieces, for your (I hope) ease of reading and enjoyment. Comments and referrals are always appreciated. :)


 

_Ghost_ photo
Image from Ghost Study.

Undelivered Valentines: Part I

by Leigh Ward-Smith

An icepick of a shriek rocked me free from my tendrily bedsheets. As I bolted out, almost tripping on their thin cotton arms, I was just able to clap eyes on the garish red numbers: 2:59.

“Em, what’s wrong?” floated out of me before I even felt my toes scuff the frayed, but dense, carpet in the hallway outside her room. It was an inky Indiana night, sticky as a state fair cotton-candy funnel cake.

The hallway light I’d brushed on my way past threw an elongated white triangle onto the dark floor that slunk up the side of the bed.

“Th-th-there,” she pointed toward the closet, her arm board-stiff.

Continue reading

Haiku Thursday: On a Theme of Release

October has become a candypalooza in many parts of the world. But for just a few minutes, why don’t we imagine something different. Perhaps even an Octo-beer. And in that vein, hope you enjoy these haiku drafted written for Haiku Horizons.


 

Frost, Fall, Leaves_20141022_1256

Growing

Do these trees release

willingly, in warm wisdom

learning to let go?

 

Laws of all

We learned from our souls’

terminal velocity

to embrace the Fall.

 

Manifesto

And I will free it

so I can soar, roar, risk it

all and fall, to rise.

 

Lush language

Writer, gulper of

overheard wisdom stolen

from wide-open taps.

 

Writer, brewer

What is writing, if

not distilling strong mood-shine.

Reader, want a jar?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six-Word Stories on Fun and Terror

Misc Kids & Such_20141016_1217
Pumpkin farm, by Leigh Ward-Smith

At the risk of being dubbed at sixes and sevens, today I will be having some fun with Halloween themes. If you’d like to participate in the contest by SMITH magazine (no relation), you can do their SixContest #38, wherein you comment on their Website and share your six-word Halloween-related stories—funny, silly, melancholy, petrifying, stupefying, or elsewise—by Monday the 27th of October.

Here are a few of mine.

MEDITATIONS ON FUN AND FEAR (AND LOATHING) AT HALLOWEEN

Misc Kids & Such_20141016_1221
Pumpkin ball, by Leigh Ward-Smith

Dragon-souled moon looked through me.

Four: tiny tiger. Forty: colossal mouse.

Fear: Realizing they don’t come back.

Green skin still won’t scrape off.

Sadly, Mrs. B always gave apples.

It’s scary to be somebody else.

Hell is oneself. In saecula saeculorum.

Humanity: Spectral particles forced to coalesce.

“Haunted” houses much better than mine.

Neighborhood haunted house: “spaghetti is guts.”

Ugh, Uncle ate entire candy bag.

Halloween: The world’s dentists thank you.

 

 

 

 

777 Challenge: An Excerpt Concerning Bones and Balloons

Wow, would you look at that! I have been invited to take part in the 777 Challenge by the ever-so-thoughtful Norma, who writes and artifies over at the Emovere blog. I’m chuffed to have been asked. Thank you, Norma.letter_writi_24714_md

The premise of this challenge is that you go to page 7, line 7, of your work in progress. From there, quote the next 7 lines in a blog post on your Web site like so . .  .

Be sure to check out Norma’s slice of 777 heaven, and you can also view her other nominees’ links there.

My novel-in-progress’ page seven is a bit of a dud. It’s mid-dialogue, and I’m afraid it might not be easy to follow what’s going on. Instead, I have selected an excerpt from a longer short story that I wrote a couple of years ago and would still love to develop. It has flown through several title incarnations and has currently landed at “Wallow,” but I’m apt to change that.

I’ve given you an extra line or so at the end.

Without further ado, here it is.


. . . One time, I’d found a miniscule skull next to the stone ledge just under the pipe, as if the animal had recently put its head down only to rest and had decided, instead, to die. The bony head was so white next to the muddy ledge, and I’d accidentally tipped its ribcage over the edge with my toe before I saw all of the body. You couldn’t even see them slip silently like white strings of confetti dragged below the churning water’s surface; it was as if they’d never even been there.

Soon enough, I reached the pipe. I didn’t know what to do; I just knew I needed to get as far away from home, from my parents and all the reminders of the sister-who-never-was, as I could. Maybe I could go up to the abandoned barn my faraway friends and I’d found in the woods last summer. It was our makeshift clubhouse for a time, owl droppings, eerie noises, and all.

As soon as my foot was out on the slick, black metal, I began to slip.  . . .


Part of the 777 challenge is also tagging several other writer friends who might be interested in sharing 7 lines from a current, forthcoming, or, methinks, previous work (as long as it doesn’t violate any copyright or contractual obligations of course). From what I understand, you may alter the lines and tinker with them, in the event you want to get them published as never-before-seen text in the future.

I would like to nominate the following writers, and there is absolutely NO OBLIGATION to participate. It’s for fun, y’all. :)

Stephen at Stephen Thom Writing (if he’s not too busy with touring!)

Sarah at Sarah Potter Writes (she’s a busy writer who’s at work on a science fantasy novel, so she might be unavailable)

Andreé at One Starving Activist & Scribe’s Cave (she has a soon-to-be released title called After that you’ll want to see more about)

Ali Abbas, who has published two books so far: a collection of short stories, called Image and Other Stories, and Hajj – My Pilgrimage, which is a nonfiction account of his journey with his family to the holy city of Mecca

Dr. Joe in enchanting Dublin (hey, Joe, have you got any longer stories or poems you’d like to share?)

Syd Dent, who enthralls with his steampunk stories, including The Finder’s Saga, and shares author influences and more on his blog

Andrea Stephenson, who holds many awards and publication credits for her phenomenal short stories and who blogs at Harvesting Hecate

 

Art Effects: Flash Fiction for Grammar Ghoul Challenge #2

FrancisBacon-Pope Innocent X
“Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X” (1953) by Irish artist Francis Bacon.

“It’s by Francis Bacon,” Mialy pointed to the violet hologram and elevated her voice, “ ’cept for the shrieking, of course. That’s a modern addition.”

“Wait! The Francis Bacon? The one who invented everybody’s favorite sizzly meat that almost nobody is able to get their hands on anymore?” Joba snickered. “He sure did a lot of wildly different stuff in his lifetime.”

The screaming subsided as Joba spoke, but the New Memphis Art Museum & Distillery hum-spun sound within its walls, smothering the tortured yells for the next patrons.

The building itself had been dubbed “acoustically perfect” through stringent certification channels. One’s ears could only be thankful the hologram of Munch’s famous disconcerting painting was housed in a faraway room.

“No, goofball. It’s some other Bacon according to Teacher Farflung’s notes.” Mialy moved her neck from side to side and it cracked as she attempted to get the implant into better position. “I told you, you should have gotten the neural implant at the door. Teach will not be pleased, if it’s monitoring this field trip out there somewhere.”

Mialy thumbed over a shoulder, causing mauve hair to swing a seeming pendulum behind her head.

“Ayieargggggggggghhhhhhhh!”

“Hmm. I thought they were supposed to be motion- and heat-sensitive to a particular genetic pattern,” Joba muttered.

“Oww, that chair guy is giving me such a hunormous head-ouch,” she typed hurriedly onto the tablet, afraid the wailing would start up again at random.

Joba nodded. “Or maybe it’s the imp. I’ve heard of brains that reject the injection . . . “

“Nah.” She interrupted. “Just listen! Whadda you figure’s his problem?”

“Access your hoytay-toytay mind-friend, why don’t you? Harness alllll the benefits of your tech,” he mimicked the booming voice in the jingle for TechUnique Products. Mind-fiend is more like it, Joba thought.

Mialy nearly shouted again. “I know, but I wanted to figure it out myself. Art’s effect is personal, y’know. Some people get pain from art, especially this holo-painting. Some reap pleasure. Some get both. Art’s supposed to provoke, amiright?”

“Yeah, but with the whole pain/pleasure thing, art reminds me of drugs.”

“Uh, well, yeah, I guess it’s like those drugs that mold to a person’s genetic contours. Personalized psychotropics.”

Joba fiddled with his tablet. “Howya access the data on, um, what’d you say the artist’s name was again? Franks’N Bacon?”

Snickers seemed to trigger another blood-in-a-centrifuge moment courtesy of the now-popping hologram.

“Arrgggghhhhhhhhuuuuuhhhieeeeeee.”

“You know,” Mialy made a tunnel of her fist to amplify her voice, “I think the screams are changing. You hear it? But why?”

“Just a bug in the programming,” Joba offered.

“Anyway, let’s get going. We’ve got lots of art to partake of today, my lady.” He pulled Mialy gently by the hand and past the room sensors that guided the advanced acoustics of the 19th and 20th Century Modern Art pavilion of the museum.

*****

In an interior room adjacent to the artwork informally called “Screaming Pope,” two people are at work.

“Ay, Segala, you can go easy on the audio now,” Rayson shouted to his colleague from well across the room.

“It’s no use,” she called back, letting the arm drop to the side of the chair.

“Damn. That’s the sixth audio to crap out this week, and it’s only Wednesday.”

She shook her head slowly. “I know, tell me about it. Hope we don’t get a lecture from Kathy. She’s a beast when it comes to protocols.”

Segala tugged on the straps, but nothing gave.

“Ray, can you help me get the electric nails out? It looks like I accidentally blew a vein. Don’t slip on her hair . . . anyway, we’ll have to pick up another volunteer on the way back from the DR.”

“Yup, I sure hope the next one holds up longer, for both our sakes. And is less messy. You just never can tell by looking when you’re gonna get a spurter.”

“Yeah, and it seemed like those last patrons were beginning to suspect . . .” Segala’s voice trailed off.

The wet echo of a thump came, and then only a prolonged squeal-screech of a cart on wheels. As the two left the room, a resonant door slammed behind them, complemented by a piping up of hidden music, which was believed to encourage employee tranquility.

“I think to myself/what a wonderful world” serenaded the duo down the hallway, although neither had a clue who the singer was.

You Like Me? Really? Wow, Thanks!

2 of Our Ducks
“Do you think she understands what I’m saying?”

Thank you, Dhan’yavāda, Danke schön, Gracias, Merci, Arigatō, xièxie nĭmen, Shukran

Despite that headline and to take tongue out of cheek for a moment, this post is actually about two main things: being thankful and being forthright.

First, I can’t adequately express my gratitude to you all. Regular readers, irregular readers, once-in-a-whilers,  or those for whom this blog has been a one-hit wonder or no-hit blunder. (Oh, and might I also recommend Activia, kefir, or other probiotics? I’ve had kefir, but not the others, though I have heard they work well for sluggish colons. No, not the punctuation type.)

In truth, I began this blog as a “what the heck/why not” experiment, with really zero hypotheses. Scientific method and all that. I was encouraged by a family member to start it — probably to keep me sane and to preserve his last remaining wits that living with me hadn’t yet flayed away! — so I can’t even claim it was an original idea. Never mind all the excellent — many far more so — WordPress writing sites that already existed before Leigh’s Wordsmithery was a glint in this copyeditor’s eye.

I really expected nothing, except that it would be nettlesome. Even painful. To share oneself, even through fiction, as the old saw goes, is easy. Just open a vein at your keyboard. With or without the saw.

And so, I thank you for welcoming me, taking me in like the wordulous and scrappy orphan I am, and giving me the firm roof of friendship. It has been sublime to follow your blogs likewise, to see your comments gleaming in my e-mails like a prism where I can peek at other perspectives, and to learn about you and from you. Even from afar.

In short, you all have helped me grow (no pun intended). So, the sole reward or award that I need from you all is one big heaping helping of being-present, when and if you can. I haven’t always had that in my life. Many of us bloggers haven’t. So, lest I fall into my own pity party, I just want to say. loudly and clearly: I appreciate you all and wish each one of you the best and brightest life has to offer.

Honesty is Not a Lonely Word

Presuming you have read this far — hey, I said I was wordulous! — honesty is not a lonely word, because we’re here together, experiencing these slippery letters, which I think that we craft together (I engineer the form, you make it function; conversely, if I’ve goofed, you let me know). I hope we’re not sharing these moments in the Stephen Crane-heart-in-a-desert sense, mind you.

I owe a lot, just short of everything really, to you, readers and friends. I haven’t been ignoring y’all, but I do have to sheepishly admit that I’ve been nominated for a few awards since I started blogging at WordPress in January (2014), by several kind and generous souls.

In no particular order, these good folks have gobsmackingly nominated me, lo these 10 months of WP blogging: Frankie at Trucker Turning Write, Swoosieque at Cancer is Not Pink,  and the Exquisite Priyanka. I am awed and very grateful that the images and/or writing here have been meaningful to these readers in some way. These bloggers have made me blush, but in a good way. Please do visit these writers whenever you can; I’d be happy to know you did.

Now, I thought it might be fun (and I hope not tedious for you) for me to do a very brief interview with myself, since the requirements of so many of these awards are that you share yourself with your readers. (Gawd, the height of arrogance am I, a Q & A with myself! I have to smile.)

And now, seven “deadly” factoids about me, which you may later wish you’d never read:

Yep, that's me. Post-run.
Yep, that’s me. Post-run.

1. As a kid who was a “tomboy,” one of my early pastimes was baseball. Playing and watching (and collecting). I shared the love with my grandfather, whom I have old audio tapes of when I interviewed him about seeing Babe Ruth play.

2. Our family has 6 ducks as pets. They give us eggs, companionship, and fascinating vocalizations and observations.

3. I was once “arrested” for playing spy at nightime when I was about 9 or 10. The neighbors called the police for, presumably, “strange small person hanging out in a tree near our driveway.”

4. My husband and I took Shaolin kung fu for several years (as adults) and really enjoyed it. I also learned a smidge of Cantonese from Hong Kong cinema, which I still love.

5. I have a weird aversion to styrofoam and, perhaps not so weird, heights and flying. Also, flying in a styrofoam airplane.

6. In college I hoped to someday work as a writer for “The Simpsons” television cartoon/comedy. I have a partial episode or two I wrote still lying around somewhere.

7. T.S. Eliot is (directly/indirectly?) responsible for at least $400 of my lifetime writing income. A flip of the penny for the old guy.

Again, all the best to you. And my deep appreciation to Sally Field, from whom I cadged the headline. Have a great weekend and be kind to each other and our planet. :)