“An Angel in the Distance” Sequel in the Works

Hello All!

I hope you are all well and reading until your hearts are content.  In 2008, I began working on a story that started as a rewrite of one of me and my mom’s favorite movies: Andy Tennant’s Ever After.  After a little research, I found the story hidden in history, and I let the words flow.  Seven years later, in 2015, it was polished and published as An Angel in the Distance, a rags-to-riches story with humor, history, a classic humanism characteristic of the time, and a hint of romance.  About a year ago, as I was thinking about the end of the novel, I found myself wondering, What happens to Piero after the end of the book?  Does he meet his demise?  Considering his arc as a sympathetic character turned villain, I wanted to give his a second chance to redeem himself.  Knowing the he destructive path he began in the first novel, I knew it would take something catastrophic to redeem him.

Suddenly, catastrophic was exactly what I intended to do.

As we all know, sometimes we get caught up in our own plans and forget that there is someone who knows what the best plan is, the best option, and sometimes the only option.  If we would only seek it out, and ask for guidance, we would find more than we could have ever hoped for.

A cryptic preview, yes, but I am looking forward to introducing all of you to the woman who will be the catalyst for Piero’s redemption: Carita Del Cuore.

More to come!

In the mean time, here is the new video meme for An Angel in the Distance

Happy Reading!

– A. R. Conti Fulwell ><>

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10 Things You Learn After Being a Published Author for a Year

Many of you have reached out to me with questions about editing and publishing.  I do my best to give advice, and learn the tricks of the trade.  On August 11th of 2015, my first book, An Angel in the Distance, was published through CleanReads.  (Check them out at cleanreads.com they’re doing some amazing things!)  Since then, there are a few things that I have gleaned, and compiled in this list for all of you up-and-coming authors and authoresses.

10. PATIENCE

Okay, go ahead and laugh, or scowl, or throw something at the screen.  It is true.  We’ve all heard the cliché, “Rome wasn’t built-in a day,” well, your book won’t be published in a day, or a month, or a year, or maybe not a decade.  In this business, you have to be willing to stick it out, through the highs and lows, no matter what happens, or what people think or say.  Remember, God made you a writer – and NO ONE can take that way from you.

9. THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY

Most of us heard the song and dance in college or high school about how to get published.  Unfortunately, no one tells you what happens AFTER you get published.  The publishing market is changing, and it certainly isn’t what it was 30 years ago.  If you’re lucky enough to get published, be prepared to do some promotional leg work.  If nothing else, it looks REALLY good to potential agents/publishers.

8. PAY ATTENTION TO THE COMPETITION

Most of us have heard that in order to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.  I’ve lived by that for years.  (In fact I have more books that my two shelves can hold…. maybe I should do something about that).  However, it is so much more than that.  How do other authors do what they do?  Pay attention.  I can’t stress it enough!

7. MAKE AUTHOR FRIENDS

Do you have a friend who wrote a book?  Now you do 😉  Authors are a part of this secret pact that is kind of like, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”  Okay, so I’m oversimplifying, but remember, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, and always expect to give long before you ask for something.  And always, always, ALWAYS be gracious!!  Nobody likes a snobby author!!

6. IT’S OKAY TO WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

It never really occurred to me until after I had published something that there was a possibility that someone would read my book and go, “Oh, I know who she based that character on.”  If you look at your characters and see the reflection of someone you know, don’t panic.  That is actually a GOOD thing.  Before you tell me I’m crazy, here is why: sometimes the most real characters are the ones we know.  If you’re really worried about this, talk to the person you based your character on, and see what they think.  You may have to change a few things about your character, but in the long run, you’ll know who they are and no one can take that from you.  Besides, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so I hear.

5. PRAY. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!

If you don’t know the Lord and I just made you wrinkle your nose, calm down.  I’m a Christian.  I know Jesus Christ.  He’s taking me to where I’m going, and I wouldn’t be where I am without him.  Faith, (in any form), has A LOT to do with starting any endeavor, so if you don’t believe, you’ll never receive.

4. READ AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

I thought it was nuts when my high school English teacher suggested that we read in order to become better writers, and imitate techniques.  How wrong I was.  By reading, you GET ideas, you GET insight, you GET the chance to experience something different.  So what if you’ve never read a Star Wars spin-off novel – PICK ONE UP.  Different authors have different techniques, and that can be a game changer.

3. KNOW THAT THIS WILL BE A FULL TIME JOB

As I stated above, being an author isn’t like sending your dog to the kennel for a week while you’re in Fresno.  It’s more like sending your kid off to college – you’ll be checking in, holding on, and chatting them up every chance you get.  If you get published, this will be a full-time job promoting and building your brand as long as you want to have an audience.

2. BRING BRAG SWAG WITH YOU – EVERYWHERE!

Okay, so we all detest that chick who is handing out her business cards in an overtly opulent way to the cashier at the Burger King.  We all know who she is.  You don’t have to be over the top, but having something physical to hand to someone who hasn’t heard of you, is a great way to network and gain opportunities to grow your brand and your audience.

1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TELL THE WORLD

Probably the biggest mistake I’ve made in the last year was not shouting it from the rooftops that I got something published.  I’m a private person, and that just wasn’t me.  DON’T BE LIKE ME.  Build your brand NOW.  You’re a writer.  It is going to be your profession (at least one of them) so be PROUD OF IT.  Anyone can scribble, but few people can write something and endure the pain of rejection long enough to make it in the publishing world.

Shout out to Meg Cabot for inspiring the list writer in me though her best-selling young adult series, The Princess Diaries.  

If you have questions, feel free to comment.  At the risk of being redundant I will add a lyric from High School Musical – “We’re all in this together.”

#ShortFictionSunday : The Matriarchs of the Ravenna Porch Society

The Matriarchs of the Ravenna Porch Society

“Bring me some sugar, will you?”  Ethel Flannigan, a tall, Scottish-complected lady in her late 60s, smiled sweetly at the new waitress at Cuddy’s Diner.  The poor girl, no more than seventeen, skinny as a rail, looked like she had just seen a train coming head on.

“Are you new?”  Ethel asked.

“Oh,” she snapped out of it.  “Yes, I’m Matilda, but everyone calls me ‘Tilly’.”

“Everyone except your employer,” Ethel pointed a perfectly manicured finger at Tilly’s name tag.

“Oh, right,” Tilly nodded.  “Sugar?”

“Yes, Tilly, the others will be here soon.”

“Others?”

“Yes, Tilly.  Others. Don’t worry, we’ll each leave you a tip.  Now scoot!”  Ethel shook her head.  Youngsters.

At the sound of the bell on the entrance door, Ethel saw one of the ‘others’ had arrived.

Yolanda Fairway, an African-American lady in her early 70s, sporting a short, natural pixie cut in a distinguished grayish white color, pursed her lips at the sight of her dear friend.  Ethel swore Yolanda was somehow related to Hallie Berry.  “Ethel Flannigan!”  Yolanda let her purse drop into the seat of the booth across from Ethel.  “One of these days I’m going to make it here before you.”

Ethel snickered.  “Oh, Landa, you’re just upset because I took your parking space.  Sit down, Tilly is coming back with sugar.”

Yolanda sat down across from Ethel. “There’s only one handicapped spot in the whole parking lot, and you got to take it every time!”

“Landa,”

“What?”

“I let you have it last week.”

Yolanda let her shoulders sink.  “Honey, I can’t remember my own name most of the time – you think I can remember what happened last week?”

Ethel stifled a laugh.

“And who is Tilly?”  Yolanda asked.

“She’s the new waitress.”  Ethel explained.

“New waitress?  Who left?  Wait!  Was it that girl,”  Yolanda paused, searching for words.  “You know, little white girl, mid-twenties, dark hair, always smiling?”

Tilly appeared with a small container of sweetener packets, and quickly scampered away.  The bell on the front door rang again as the last and final member of the group descended upon Cuddy’s Diner: Angela Tolini.  Angela was tall, blonde (thanks to Madame Clairol), and in her late sixties.  With the legs of someone twenty years younger, (all the Zumba had definitely paid off), anyone could hear her coming a mile away with her heavy-heeled canter.  “Darlings!  How are you?  Sorry I’m late.”  Angela slid into the booth next to Yolanda.

“Well, my dear, fashion is never on time is it?”  Yolanda laughed.

Ethel took a sip of her tea.  “Alex?”

“Alex who?”  Yolanda raised an eyebrow.

“The girl you were just describing.”  Ethel explained.

“Oh, you guys are talking about Alexandra Mezzo!  She put in her notice at Cuddy’s, and she has already left.”  Angela poured herself a cup of tea.

“Yes!  That’s her!  Where did she go?”

“To work for her cousin, Vinny, at his transmission shop downtown.”

“How do you know this?”  Ethel asked.

“I just got off the phone with her aunt before I left for Cuddy’s.”  Angela explained.  “Vinny needed some extra help.”

Yolanda shook her head.  “I don’t know about the two of you, but I don’t think it is right for a little girl like that to working with all those men.”

Angela let out an exhausted sigh.

“I understand what you’re saying, Landa,” Ethel said.  “This just wouldn’t have happened thirty years ago.”

“Maybe,” Angela paused, her painted pink lips curving into a wry smile, “all she needs is the right guy.”

Ethel laughed.  “You think she could benefit -”

The bell on the door sounded.  Yolanda glanced back at the door, and instantly turned around to hush the group.  “Here she comes!”

The three matriarchs casually turned to assess their next subject.  Alexandra Mezzo stood just over five foot seven, had shoulder length dark hair, a pale complexion, and greenish-hazel eyes.  Her dark hair was stuffed in a bun up under a black baseball cap, and taking no time to change, she stood in the middle of Cuddy’s Diner in over-sized coveralls.

All of the matriarchs turned back to their cups of tea.  “You’re right,” Ethel said.  “She needs our help.”

“Right,” Yolanda whispered.  “Let’s watch.”

Tilly came to the counter where Alexandra stood.  “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” Alex said with a pleasant, distinctly female voice.  “Carry-out order for Miselli.”

“One second,”  Tilly disappeared into the back of the restaurant.

As if on cue, the bell on the front door rang again.  This time, a man came in wearing a look of disgust, giving the three matriarchs flashbacks of Marlon Brando’s character from A Streetcar Named Desire.  At the sight of Alexandra at the counter, his jaw tightened.  “Hey!  You work for Vinny?”

The matriarchs watched as Alexandra swallowed, and slowly turned to face him.  “Who wants to know?”

“I do,” Brando took a step closer.  “Tell your dad that he should stick to domestics, or fold up shop.”

Alexandra’s jaw tightened, and she raised an eyebrow, folding her arms as she did.  “I know you,”

“Oh, do you?”  Brando looked amused.

“Yeah, 2005 Toyota Celica, red,” Alexandra walked a circle around him like a piranha circling its prey.  “Landfill in the backseat – yeah, that’s you.  Oh, he’s not my dad.  He’s my cousin, F.Y.I.”

“Man,” Brando stifled a laugh.  “If you knew transmissions as well as you knew trash, you might actually be able to help me.”

“If you got your facts straight, and acted like a human being, I might be willing to help you.”

“Nah,” Brando folded his arms.  “Don’t want your help.  I’ve got your number sweetheart.  The only reason you knew I drove a Celica is because you read it on the deck lid.”  He turned to the door.  “Deliver the message, kid.”  Brando hit the front door, sending it sailing, the bell ringing ferociously.

The matriarchs sipped their tea nonchalantly, watching Alexandra clench her teeth, pay Tilly, and storm out of the restaurant.

There was nothing but the hum of the meat slicer in Cuddy’s restaurant for a minute or two.

“Well?”  Angela asked her friends.  “What do you think?”

“I don’t know,” Yolanda looked to Ethel.

Ethel folded her hands beside her cup of tea.  “It is obvious, ladies.  They’re perfect for each other.”

 

#ShortFictionSunday : “Just What You Ordered”

Just What You Ordered

Potatoes.  Mashed Potatoes.  Every Friday at four o’clock, Mr. and Mrs. Beaumont would wander into Doris’ Restaurant dressed like this place was the Ritz, just to order Swiss Steak and mashed potatoes.

Rita, the hostess, who boasted more than 30 years of loyal service, showed the Beaumonts to their favorite booth in the corner by the window.  It didn’t matter that the teal vinyl on the booth benches was split down the middle.  The little old couple would sit across from each other, smiling like they were on their first date.

“Can I get you folks something to drink?” Rita asked, handing them menus.

“Two un-sweet teas, Rita.”  Mr. Beaumont held up two stubby fingers in emphasis.  “Is Amora here tonight?”

Rita gave him a knowing look.  “She’ll be right out.”

Just like that, as fast as you could snap your fingers, Amora came out of the kitchen with two glasses of iced tea.  She was tall, around five foot ten, bright blue eyes, and black hair coiffed to curl in at her ear lobes.

“My two favorite people,”  Amora smiled, putting the teas on the table.  “How are we tonight?”

“Fine now. Just fine.”  Mr. Beaumont waved a shaky hand in dismissal.  “Have you heard from him?”

Amora froze, feeling the blood drain from her face.  “From whom, Mr. Beaumont?”

Mr. Beaumont gave her a fatherly, knowing look over his bifocals.  “That young man you were going with.”

There it was, like the dolly zoom effect in film, the focus comes right at you and nothing can stop it.  She should have seen this coming.  It was the same question every week.  How could she tell them the truth?

“No, I haven’t heard from him.  He’s pretty busy with work.” Amora pretended to erase a pencil mark on her order pad.  She couldn’t tell them.

“Then he’s a schmuck.”  The last word whistled through his false teeth.

“That he is,” Mrs. Beaumont agreed.  “Honey, you deserve better.”

For a minute, it looked like Mrs. Beaumont might take Amora’s hand.

She didn’t.

The Beaumonts placed their order, and the evening continued in ordinary fashion.  Amora stood behind the counter, rolling silverware into paper napkins, tucking the contents away inside the machined paper bundle.

“‘Mora,” Rita said.  “I hate to ask,”

“I don’t like where this is going,” Amora laughed, knowing full well what was coming next.

“My husband is sick at home.  My daughter was watching him, but now she’s come down with it.”

“You need me to close for you.”  Amora finished Rita’s thought for her.

Rita nodded.

“Sure, no problem.  What are friends for?”  Amora lifted the blue plastic bin full of silverware rolls onto the counter.  She turned, passing the deepfryer, and like a frog snaps flies out of the air, Amora snatched three french fries from the basket.

“Hey!”  Rita threw her hands up.  “What do you think you’re doing?”

Amora laughed like she had just played the grandest joke.

Rita tossed her hands in the air in dismissal.  “This is the price I pay.”

Amora went back out into the dining room to check on the Beaumonts one last time before handing them their check.

“Now, Amora,” Mr. Beaumont began.  “If I ever meet this boy, he and I are going to have a stern talk.”

Amora laughed, knowing that even if Mr. Beaumont spent the rest of eternity giving her ex a stern lecture, at the end of time, it wouldn’t change a thing.  “Get in line, Mr. Beaumont.”  Amora laughed.  “By now there is quite the queue, and I’m at the front.”

Both of the Beaumonts chuckled.

“Take care of yourself,” Mrs. Beaumont said when Amora brought their change.

“Thank you, and have a good evening.”  Amora watched them leave.  When the bell on the door chimed, resonating for the last time, Amora felt her spirit sink, wishing she could melt into the ketchup-and-salt-crusted, beige tile floor.  She glanced back at Louie, the cook, back in the kitchen, swaying back and forth to his favorite Todd Lundgren hits playing though his white ear buds.

Suddenly, the door burst open.  Amora watched as a man came in, and sat down at a booth by the window with a distant look in his eye, like he hadn’t even known she was there.

She stood there by the counter, just staring at him, as if there was nothing she could do to make her feet move toward him.  I have to move forward.  She thought.  It is my job.  She took a deep breath, standing up straight to her full five foot ten inches, but she couldn’t ignore the uneasy feeling in her stomach.  She glanced back at Louie, and he was still bobbing away packaging up left over food.  Her eyes darted to the clock by the door: 8:55PM.

Her jaw dropped.  How long had she been standing here?  Had time really passed her by that quickly?

She looked at the man sitting in the corner booth, staring longingly out the window, and smiled.  There was something . . . familiar about him.

“Hello,”  she came over to the table, pencil and order pad in hand.  “Can I get you something to drink?”

His gaze jerked over to her, like she had truly broken whatever bond had sucked him into the windowed booth.  Just when the look of bewilderment had settled on his face, he answered.  “I don’t know.  Can you?”

Figures.  She thought.  A wise guy.  “I have two legs, and I’m on the clock, so I think I’m able.”  Amora unconsciously folded her arms.  “Now what will it be?”

Half of a smile appeared on his face.  “Do you have iced tea?”

“Yes, we do.  Sweet.  Unsweet.  Raspberry.”

He shook his head like she had overwhelmed him, then looked her square in the eyes.  “Unsweetened.”

There it was. Like a magnet, Amora started staring again.  He had the darkest eyes she had ever seen.

“Unsweetened?”  She asked, trying not to look like an imbecile.

A rumble of tenor-pitched laughter escaped from his mouth.  “Yes.  Has anyone ever told you look like Elizabeth Taylor?”

Amora closed her eyes, feeling herself blush.  “Yes, I hear that at least once a day.  I don’t believe it.”

“Don’t.  Don’t believe them.”

Amora felt the blow, and remembered her place.  “I’ll go get your tea.”

“You’re prettier than she is, was, she’s gone now isn’t she?”

Amora shook her head, trotting to the back to fill a glass with tea.  She brought it back to the table, setting it down in front of him.  She studied him, noticing how much he looked like an actor from a fairy tale spin-off show she used to love.  “Can I ask you one question?”

He grinned like a Cheshire cat, sitting back in his seat.  “I think you’re entitled, after I almost insulted you.”

“No, you did insult me, then you turned it around.”

“What’s you’re question?”  He took a sip of his tea and nodded.  “This is really good.”

“No it’s not.  It’s made from powder.”  She gritted her teeth.  “Do I know you?”

“Nope.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jack Beaumont.”

#InspirationMonday : An Excerpt from “Good-Willed”

When I started writing in 2005, I began with a novel that I now call An Angel’s Story.  About six years later, I decided to rewrite it into what I now call, Good-Willed.  

Set in Syracuse, New York, 2010.

____________________________________

I glanced at the clock for the last time.  I still had five minutes.  One of the older librarians caught me looking.

“Why don’t you go home Angie, get a head start on the summer!”  Tammy said “I’ll lock up.  I’m sure you have a lot to think about now.”

I laughed.  “You know me, Tammy, I’m always thinking.  Don’t work too hard.  See you Monday.”  I picked up my book bag and headed for the parking lot.

I threw my bag into the back seat of my 2003 Pontiac Grand Am GT and headed for home.  I was proud of my car.  Jo had helped me pick it out.  He had said that it was top-of-the-line in 2003.  I trusted him, so I had dad cut the dealer a check.

I drove down Main Street and turned left down Prospect Avenue.  I heard something intriguing on the radio.  My inner-self was a force sitting beside me smacking my hand on the volume control.  Be eloquent.  Be unaffected.  Be captivating.

Be those things… some other day.

I threw the volume control all the way to the right until the light came on.  With the volume at its max, I was blown away.  It was like meeting someone for the first time, and knowing that this person is going to be a big part of your life.  The melody was his aura, his smile, and the lyrics were his personality, his charm.  To me, a song was more than just words on the page.  A good song has meaning and purpose.  I bobbed my head to the beat, and drummed my fingers on the steering wheel at the stop light.  I looked over at the turn-lane next to me.  A lady who worked in the same office as my mother glares at me.

And we’re back to reality.

I pretended that something had gone wrong with my stereo and frantically turned down the volume.  I made a right turn onto Stargate Street, and pulled into our driveway.  I parked my car and headed for the house.

Our house was eerily empty, but that was normal.  Even when dad wasn’t away on business, it was never, “Hi, Honey!  I’m home!” when he walked through the door.

I went upstairs to my room, setting my book bag down by the door.  I noticed a note on my pillow.  I picked it up and sighed with annoyance upon recognizing my mother’s handwriting.

Angelina,

            Since I know you have a tendency to forget things like this, I thought I would remind you:

                        Dinner @LeCuisine

                        Reservation for three

                        6pm

See you there ~

 

Dinner with Aunt Beth – there was little chance I would forget that.  Aunt Beth was mother’s older sister, who had owned and operated her own publishing company for thirty years.  She only recently sold it, making millions on top of the millions she already had.

I groaned.  This was mother’s last-ditch effort to get me to nail down my future.  Sure, I’d applied and got into six different schools – Yale, Duke, Dartmouth, Sarah Lawrence, N.Y.U., and Ohio State – but I hadn’t decided yet.  Mother had arranged this dinner hoping that Aunt Beth would talk some sense into me.

I scoffed.  Sense?  What would their sense be?

They didn’t want me to have sense; they wanted me to be sensible.

Oh what a blessing a prior-engagement would have been.

I flipped through my closet looking for something appropriate for LeCuisine.  It was a French restaurant in downtown Syracuse, where no one got in without a reservation, or a platinum Visa charge for that matter.

I came across a mauve colored suit and gaged.  This is what mother would have me wear.  Very lawyer-like.  I imagined it with black alligator pumps and a French twist.

Super lawyer.

I threw it back into my closet.  When I reached the back of my closet, I came across a department store garment bag.  I anxiously grabbed the hanger and lifted the plastic cover.  It was a white sun dress with navy polka dots and trim.

Very Mademoiselle Hilfiger.

I smiled.  I’ll take it.

I zipped the dress, threw my hair into a French twist, and found my navy stilettos, and ran out the door only three minutes late.  I zoomed out of our allotment, barely getting by adults with small children and children with small adults.

Two red lights later, I was in the heart of downtown.  I spotted LeCuisine, and scouted out a parking spot.  I went inside, and the host led me to where my mother and Aunt Beth sat.  It was a secluded table right next to the kitchen door.  Mother sat wearing her pale pink suit, sipping coffee.  Aunt Beth was in a similar style black suit, eyeing the menu nonchalantly.  I tried not to laugh.  It was as if the two of them were having a contest as to who could sit up the straightest.  Aunt Beth spotted me first.

“Angie, darling!  Let me take a look at you!” Aunt Beth admired my dress while mother scowled at my fashion sense.

“I don’t remember that dress” mother said.

I pretended that I hadn’t heard her.  “Hello, mother.”  I could tell from the gilded smile on her face that I was in for quite an evening.

When the waiter came, Aunt Beth ordered canard – duck – and I ordered quail.

Mother ordered snails.

Aunt Beth and mother neatly nibbled at their entrees, while I, on the other hand, gobbled my quail as to not have to speak.

“Congratulations, Angie.  High school graduation is the stepping stone for success” Aunt Beth said over her haricot verts.

“Thanks” I mumbled.

Mother leaned forward as if to whisper.  “Aunt Beth has offered to pay your first year’s tuition at Dartmouth.  Isn’t that kind of her?”

I almost choked on my fowl.  “Aunt Beth, that is simply the most generous offer, and I thank you, but I really cannot accept –”

“– Oh certainly you can!  You’ve filed the proper paperwork, and you know what Dartmouth is offering you” Mother interrupted.

“Yes, but I’m not sure if that is what I want.”

Mother’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline.

“Have you applied elsewhere?” Aunt Beth asked.

“No, she hasn’t” Mother answered for me.

The check was paid, and we said our goodbyes, but when I found myself back in the driveway, I didn’t want to get out of the car.

After a fifteen minutes internal debate, I could no longer stand the suspense.  When I stepped inside the house, it was totally silent.  I moved towards the staircase.

“What on earth was that?” Mother asked, standing in the kitchen doorway.

I froze on the stairs.  I didn’t look at her.  “What?”

“Oh you know exactly what I mean!  I offer the world to you and you throw it away!”

I glared at her.  The dance had begun.  “You don’t know what I want!”

Mother crossed the dining room floor to the staircase and looked up at me.  “Do you know what you want?”

I couldn’t answer that question.  There simply wasn’t an answer.  Better to give no answer then to tell my mother that she was right.

Mother smirked and walked back towards the kitchen.  “I didn’t think so,” mother said “it might not be what you want, but if you’re living under my roof, you’ll learn to take my advice.”

Advice?  You mean your orders.  I gripped the banister.  “Maybe I’ll move out.”

“You wouldn’t last one second on your own, we both know that.”

“Really?  Because I think I have done a pretty good job on my own, mom.  Did I even exist in your eyes before now?”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You’re so concerned with your life, you have no idea what’s going on in mine.  Then you want me to go to a school because that’s what you think is right for me?  I may not have all the answers, but I’m pretty sure I know what I don’t want!”  I started up the stairs.  I heard her heels stomping on the staircase.  Suddenly, she was standing in my bedroom doorway.

“Hey!  Don’t forget who is the parent and who is the child!”

“Tell me,” I said turning around “how does that work?  I’ve never experience that before.”

“That’s enough!”

“Are you sure?  I’m just getting started.”

“I said that’s ENOUGH!”

The sound of her voice made the locusts in the yard grow silent for a moment.

“You have two options young lady, you either sign the papers and go to Dartmouth, or you get out of my house.”

“I’m not going to Dartmouth” I said.

“Fine,” she said, her dark eyes locked on mine.  “Get out of my house, and don’t bother coming back.  I don’t want to see you at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, I don’t even want to see you on Mother’s day! – Do I make myself clear?”

I gripped the car keys in my hand.  “Loud and clear.”

 

_________________________________

 

“I don’t need her” I said out loud to my reflection in my rearview mirror.  “You just wait.”

I zoomed down Route 81 South, taking my brother’s shortcut to New Hampshire.  My situation was simple – stay with Joe for a week or two until the argument blew over, and then everything would be fine again.  The only thing standing between myself and freedom was the night sky and a couple of toll booths.  I had an iron foot, and a full tank of gas – nothing would stop me.  I took my phone out of my purse, still wearing my designer dress and pumps, and called Joe.  It rang five times and then went to voicemail.  “Hey Joe!  I’m headed up to see you!  I’ll be there soon!  Love you.  Bye.”

An hour went by.  My eyelids were growing heavy.  It was one o’clock in the morning.  I shook my head, turned on the cruise and called Joe again.  “Hey Joe, it’s me again.  I’ll try not to fall asleep at the wheel.  Call me!”

I set my phone in the cup holder, and focused on the road.

BUZZZ.

My eyes shot open seconds before I headed for the guard rail.  I managed to get back in my lane, and shake off my lethargy.  I turned on the radio.  The upbeat pop music screamed through my speakers.  I put my eyes on the road again.

BUZZZZZZZ.

I awakened to a close-up of the guard rail.  Frustrated and fatigued, I centered myself on the road again, and called Joe for a third time.  “Joe, where are you?  Call me back!”

Loneliness crawled inside of me swarms of tiny spiders.  Was Joe even at school?  Maybe he was with dad.

There’s an idea.  I thought.  Call dad.  I dialed.

Straight to voicemail.

I threw my phone back into the cup holder, trying not to pout.  There was no sense in leaving another voicemail.  No one was awake.  No one was around, and even worse…

… no one cared.

Was there anyone out searching for me?

No.

Had mom called my phone since I stormed out?

I checked.

No.

I was alone.

Alone.  Singular.  Without others.

So alone that if I crashed into the guard rail, no one would even think to look until morning.

The thoughts stung me, and tore at me.  My eyes filled with tears, and I let them.

I continued onward down Route 81, not knowing where I was going.  It didn’t matter anymore.

Around five o’clock, my gas light came on.  I ignored it.

Fine, let me run out of gas.  It would just make giving up that much easier.

I took the first exit to Lord knows where.  I passed green signs for towns I’d never heard of.  I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to read Jameson Hospital.

I laughed so hard the sound echoed off of my windshield.  I was lost, completely lost.

When my gas light started blinking, I knew I was too far gone.  I pulled off to the side of the road and shut off my car.  I reached for the lever under my seat and scooted back all the way, pulled the lever at my left, reclined the seat, made sure my doors were locked, and went to sleep.

 

_________________________________________________

 

The next thing I knew, someone was pounding on my window.  It sounded like a cement block colliding with the door frame.  I jerked straight up and glared at the annoyance.

He was tan, about twenty years old, I guessed, with dark hair and a grim look on his face.  He was so tall, he was almost doubled over looking down into my car.

“Are you okay?” he yelled.  The sound muddled through my closed window.

I just stared at him.

“Open the door!” he grabbed the door handle.

Who did this guy think he was?  I cracked my window.  “I’m fine thank you.”

“Are you homeless?”

“No.”

“Then why are you living in your car?”

I looked around my car.  Other than my purse in the seat next me and my phone in the cup holder, I had nothing else.  “Where am I?”

He smirked.  “You’re lost aren’t you?”

“No, I just want to be sure.”

“You’re lost.  Don’t lie.”

I unconsciously flared my nostrils.  “Fine.  Where am I?”

“Admit it.  You’re lost.”

I gritted my teeth.  Great.  Of all the tour-guides, I had to get smarticus.  “Look, whether I’m lost or not, I’m still sitting here with no gas and no way to get where I’m going – ”

“– which is where exactly?”

“New Hampshire.”

He laughed.  “What’s in New Hampshire?” he leaned against my door frame.

“None of your business.”

“Fine.  Fair enough.  Where are you from?”

I squinted at him.  “What does that matter?”

He raised his eyebrows and shook his head.  “Look, I don’t know what your problem is, but I’m trying to help you.  I hate to tell you, but if you’re heading to New Hampshire, you may want to turn around.  You’re in Ohio, Sweetheart.”

I about collapsed onto the steering wheel.  “What?!  I’m in Ohio?”  How did I end up in Ohio?!

“Well, if you want to get out of Ohio, I suggest you get moving.  I can take you into town and get a tow truck.”

“And leave my car here?!”

He sneered.  “Lock your doors, sweetheart” he walked away.  I watched him in my rear-view mirror.  He got into his Chevy pick-up and waited.

I glared at my own reflection in the mirror, debating as to whether or not to take him up on his offer.  He leaned out the window of the truck.  “Hey!  Sweetheart!  Can we pick up the pace?”

I grumbled, taking my purse and slamming my door.  Why on earth do I trust him?  I wondered.

I didn’t exactly come across the Ohio welcoming committee upon my descent from Syracuse.  I saw smarticus lean over and unlock the passenger door of the truck.  When he sat up straight again, he had a large grin on his face.

Great.  A first-class hick.

I stepped up into the truck and slammed the door.

“Easy on the hardware, sweetheart!” he said.

“I do have a name, you know!”

Smarticus raised an eyebrow and leaned over looking me in the eye.  “As do I.  Where were you headed?” he asked playing with the navy blue crape that extended from the bottom of my skirt by my calf.

I smacked his hand.  “Hands off, smarticus!”

“Sorry, you just look like you’re heading to the President’s dinner party” he looked back at me, with a soft look on his face.  Just when I looked back at him, he turned his eyes to the road and started his truck.

“There I go…  Turn the page….”

The song emanated through the speakers.  It was infective.  I started tapping my foot.

“My name is Jesse,” Smarticus said.  “Jesse Rodini.”

I looked back at him.  He didn’t seem so scary.  “Angie Viviola.  Thanks for picking me up.”

He nodded.  “I’ll hit the gas station, and then I’ll call for you a tow.”

“That’s alright.  I don’t need a tow.  I just need gas.  Is there any way that you can get gas to my car from where it is sitting?”

Jesse looked over at me with smirk.  “You mean like a gas can?”

I squinted again.  “What’s a gas can?  Do you mean they sell gas in cans?”  Maybe in Ohio they do things differently.

Jesse laughed out loud.

“What?!” I demanded.

Jesse just laughed, hurling the truck around the corner.  The force threw me over towards the door, causing me to hit my head on the window with a low thunk.  I moaned and rubbed the side of my head.  “Hey Evil-Kenevil!  Watch the corners, would you?!”  I snapped.

Jesse just laughed.  “You do know this isn’t nineteen ninety-eight, right?” he looked over at me.  “Your reference is a bit dated.”

I glared at him, imagining a hole in the center of his forehead.

“Okay, okay.  I’ll grab a gas can from our garage, and we’ll go back for your car.  Okay?” Jesse said sincerely.

“Is there such a thing as a gas can, or is that some sort of hick joke?”

“Of course it’s a real thing!  ‘Hick joke’?  Good Lord, where did you come from?” Jesse laughed “really I want to know.”

I looked in the side mirror, ignoring the lump that rose in my throat.  “Syracuse, New York.  I was going to see my brother in New Hampshire, but I must have made a wrong turn.”

“At least one,” Jesse said pulling into a gravel driveway.  He shut off the truck and took the keys out of the ignition.  “I’ll be right back.”

I watched him walk over to the stand-alone garage.  He punched a code into the keypad and the garage door opened.  He grabbed a red container with a handle, and closed the garage door.  He headed back to the truck, throwing the container in the truck bed.

Jesse came around the driver’s side and got in.

“Thank you, Jesse.  I’ll pay you back” I said digging through my purse.

Jesse started the truck and backed out of the driveway.  “You don’t have to do that.  Keep your cash.”

“I was going to write you a check.  How much is gas down here?”

Jesse glared at me.  “You went west.  It’s ‘over here.’  Keep your check” he grumbled getting back onto the highway.

Suddenly, we heard a siren in the distance.  Jesse pulled over, and we watched a cop pass us.

“Wonder what that was all about” Jesse said.

“Do you not see cops much around here?”

“Not like that.  Something is up.”

Another siren blared behind us.  Jesse pulled over again as a fire engine passed us.

“This must be bad” I said.

“What?  Don’t see fires in Syracuse?”

“Usually we see an ambulance too.  If there isn’t one of those….” I hesitated.

“I see what you mean.”

I looked ahead in the distance.  There were clouds of smoke floating up into the sky.  “Aren’t you parked right over there?” Jesse pointed

My heart started to race.  “I thought so.”

We crested the hill, and that is when we saw it.

Three cop cars and a fire engine surrounding a smoldering fireball.  Jesse stopped the truck and jumped out.  I slowly got out, holding onto the truck to steady myself, unsure as to what I was seeing.  Jesse found a police officer and brought him to me.  Jesse explained to the cop that the car was mine.  The cop muttered something about an Impala slamming into the back of it, and the driver being asleep at the wheel.

I heard nothing but the crackling of molten metal.

“We’ll be in touch” Jesse told the cop.  “Come on, Angie.”

I stood firm, not ten feet away from my car.  That could have been me.  Not fifteen minutes ago I was asleep inside that car.  That could have been me. 

“Angie?”

I took a shallow breath.  “There’s nothing left?”

“No.  I’m so sorry, Angie.”

Suddenly, it was like I couldn’t breathe.  “But, Jesse, I left my phone in the car!”

“You can get a new one, Angie” he said trying to turn me away from the fire.  “Is there anyone you can contact?  Someone at home?”

I sniffled, but I would not cry.  I looked up at the sky in order to speak.  “Yes, I remember my home number, but that will only get me my mother.  Believe me, she wouldn’t want to hear from me.”

Jesse looked around, thinking.  “Why don’t you come back to the house.  We’ll get you something to eat, and think about this.”

“Back to the house?” What house?  Who’s house?

“Yeah, back to the house.”

Jesse headed back to the truck.  I looked back at the pile of molten metal.  I bit my lip, and headed for the truck.

#ShortFictionSunday : “To Take a Chance”

To Take a Chance

Have you ever wondered why we listen to music?  Where did it come from anyway?  What’s so great about it?  Is it the predictable rhythmic pattern that fuels our heartbeats to the pulse of greatness?  Could it be the lyrics — yes the good lyrics that steal the speeches from your mind that you could never voice without falling apart?  We all know, music is all that and more; after all, that’s why we can’t unplug from our iPods for ten minutes to pay attention to what’s happening all around us.

For instance, when you’re sitting in Starbucks trying to write a song, and you cannot seem to rhyme anything with the word ‘revolution,’ it becomes quite obvious that there are other things on your mind.  Perhaps it was the intense smell of boiling cappuccinos, or the panic evoked by the frantic search for “Roger” who had the skim Caramel Macchiato.  Like a slap in the face, the shot of cold air hit me in the face every time the door opened.  I definitely began to think something else was on mind.  I took a sip of my coffee and looked back at my masterpiece.  What was this feeling?  Exaggeration?  Of course it was.  I knew there was no way any producer in his right mind would buy my song.  There were so many things about it that I didn’t like: the simple ascending/descending melodic line, the rhyming of one syllable words over and over again, and my many complex metaphors.

I shook my head, I said I was going to do this, and I wasn’t about to back out now.  I erased my last line and swatted away the eraser shavings.  The guy from across the room looked up at me and smiled, rolling a pair of drumsticks around in one hand.  He had dark curly hair, and I kind smile.

“Sorry,” I said

“Why?  It’s not a library.”

I laughed.  “Yes, but I’m obviously putting a dent in your caffeine-absorption-aura; thus, excuse my eraser.”

“Well, for one thing the caffeine-aura is not currently functioning,” he said, pointing to the box on the side of his cup marked “decaf.”  “And you’re not bothering me.  What are you writing?”

“My opinion.”  I said

“Who are you kidding?” he laughed.  “You’re writing a song.”

“What makes you think that?”  I asked.

“You’ve been tapping your fingers and humming to yourself since you got here.”

I chewed on my tongue, had I really been humming?  Had he been watching me this whole time?  “Are you writing a feature on me or something?”

“No, I wouldn’t do that. I don’t even know your name.”

I looked down at my song again.  I wasn’t sure if he was kidding or not, completely unreadable.

“My name’s Roger by the way.”  he said

“Cassie.”  I said.  Slowly the flashing lights in my head died down, perhaps Roger wasn’t a stalker.

Maybe he was just a good liar?

“You go to school around here?”  he asked

“Yeah, Malone, just up the road.  What about you?”

“Yeah, me too.  What year are you?”

“Sophomore. You?”

“Junior. Transfer.”

“Transfer? From where?”

“Julliard.”

I closed my eyes to keep them from rolling out of my head.  “Julliard — music school Julliard? — New York Julliard?”

“That’s the one.”

“Why did you transfer?”

“I thought I heard the call to go to Julliard — I had the scholarship and everything.  I’m just not cut out for that.”

“Excuse my blunt opinion, but obviously you are cut out for that if you were accepted and with a scholarship no less.”

He laughed, “You’re very opinionated aren’t you Cassie?”

“Sorry, sometimes I think my thoughts are better kept in my head.”

“No, someone like you is hard to find.  There comes a time in your life when you need to be humbled.”

“I’m not sure I follow,”

He looked out the window at the world and paused.  “There comes a time in your life when you realize you can have everything you have every wanted, and have nothing that makes you happy.”

I paused, trying to breakdown the message.  “Wow, you must be a poet or something like that.”

“Lyricist actually.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope.”

“What are you doing in a Starbucks here in ‘no-man’s-land’ then?”

“I’m humbling myself.”

Still very confused, I couldn’t help but ask: “Were you any good?”

“Yeah, I was pretty good.  Still pretty good.”

“What did you write?”

He put his drumsticks down on the coffee table that divided us.  “I co-wrote with a handful of independent artists for a label in Nashville.  I spent last summer there.  Beautiful place.”  He looked up at me from the drumsticks on the table.  “So, are you going to let me have a look?”

“At what?  My song?” I sat back in the chair, surprised.

“No, I was kind of hoping to see your bottle cap collection.”  He laughed.  “Yes, your song.”

I held the notebook in my hands, fingers shaking at the thought of showing a stranger a piece of my soul.

“Better for me to tear it apart than those producers you want to send it to.”

I turned away from him.  “How is that?”

He raised a dark eyebrow.  “You can hit me.”

I pursed my lips, trying not to laugh.  “Right, and you won’t press charges?”

“Nah, sometimes we all need a good swat.”

I laughed, turning to face him again.  Maybe he wasn’t a liar.  Maybe he was just another guy.  Maybe he was just another guy, sitting in a coffee shop, processing metaphors.  Just like me.

“You never know.”  I said, looking down at my song, written in pink gel pen with doodles along the side margins.  “Fine, go ahead.  Laugh at my doodles.  Pick apart my word placement.”  I reluctantly handed him my notebook.

He flashed that smile again, taking my notebook from me across the coffee table.  “You’re right, you never know.  Sometimes you just have to take a chance.”

#ShortFictionSunday : The Heart of the Baldwin 

The Heart of the Baldwin


​To some people, music is background noise. Like that ridiculous kid on Sunday morning that has to take his Captain America action figure and smack it against the brown-carpeted floor until you think the kid is going to snap the poor doll’s head off, music has the ability to drive people nuts. I don’t agree with them. To me, music is a pulse. Any sound can be music. I see music as life, and if “life is our dictionary”, then music is our language. It’s more than the metaphysical mood ring that too many simpletons have made it into.

​If only I could convince my sister, Beth.

​Beth would be exceedingly happy if I would just sit in front of Grandpa’s Baldwin piano, (which by some miracle she inherited because it was my Grandpa’s dream for his favorite to play his piano), and play endless renditions of pop songs by Vanessa Carlton. I can only play “A Thousand Miles” before I start to involuntarily play it backwards and in a minor position, making the thousand miles seem so miserable that by the end of the song your limbs are perfectly content with severing themselves from your body and falling lifelessly to the ground.

​Beth never notices. I spent last summer staying with my sister in her apartment in Cuyahoga Falls. It was a good deal: I stayed rent free while caring for Beth’s two dogs, Elliot and Louise. And do laundry. And do dishes. And wash her car. Heaven forbid I should be unemployed for two minutes at a time.

​It was mid July, and I was still hopelessly unemployed without any remote source of distraction. The heat surged outside, like Ohio was pretending to be Tahiti, but without causing worry to Ohio residents who knew that the clouds of Cleveland would return tomorrow. As could be expected, the first rain drops hit the oblong window beside Grandpa’s Baldwin. Gloomy white daylight penetrated the oblong glass window beside the piano. I sat hunched over on the bench, staring at the keys as if expecting them to reach up with long white fingers and arms to embrace me. I slowly lifted my hands to the keyboard. The keys were cold beneath my fingers, but the heart-strings of the piano yearned for the warmth of resonance.

​Knowing my own abilities, I found the ‘E’ key beneath my fourth finger and walked my fingers through Fur Elise. When I had finished, the last note cut off subtly as I lifted my foot from the pedal. Baldwin seemed to bask in the sweet silence. I was not so satisfied. The silence was too loud for me. I started into Purcell’s Rondeau from Abdelazer. Feeling the transcendence in the melody, I closed my eyes, taking Baldwin by the ivory hand.

​“Anna!”

​I stopped.

​“Anna!” Beth screamed from the doorway.

​I turned to face her. Her bleached-blonde hair blended in with the bright white walls that surrounded us. So much so, that her blue eyes looked like giant sapphires lodged in a mound of liquid foundation. Beth flashed her just-whitened toothy smile.

​“Are you ever going to take out this trash?” she asked me.

​My eyes glazed over. “Sure” I said. Anything to get her to leave me alone. Like a good little girl, I dragged the three-week-old trash out to the cans by the road. The sound of black plastic rubbing against old faded gray pavement made me want to peel off my own fingernails. After I had dragged the bag about ten feet, I noticed that the dead weight seemed to get lighter. Puzzled, I looked behind me only to find a stream of molding trash pouring out of the bottom of the bag. Somehow between taking it outside and getting it to the can the black plastic bag had given-way and allowed the precious, stinking cargo to spill hopelessly out through the frayed hole in the plastic bag. Gritting my teeth in annoyance, I squatted down to put the used Ziploc bags and orange rinds back into the bag, but then stopped. There, lying on the pavement smeared with spoiled milk were photographs. Like a curious child I crawled towards them, picking them up one by one, aghast at what I was seeing. I recognized myself and one other person, Freddie Risoluto, standing in front of the Marshall Field building at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. I picked up the few photos, hoping to save them from a dishonorable death by spoiled dairy, and headed back inside.  

​Stealthily passing Beth again, who was still glued to her episode of Project Runway, I headed for my room and closed the door behind me. I took a tissue from the box on my desk, and laid it down flat, spreading the rescued photos across it. I took another tissue and wiped the disgusting dairy grime off of each picture, replacing each one to its original spot on the desk. When I had finished, I looked at the pictures for a second. I focused on one; it was taken on the last day of our trip to visit the campus.  

It was late May, and seventy-five degrees. The sky was absolutely indescribable. If you’ve never been to New York, you’ve never seen a blue sky before. The skies are so blue, as a child it is possible to imagine that it is one giant carton of Blue Moon ice cream that could fall out of the sky and into your open mouth at any moment. Freddie and I were looking at our friend Jane who was holding the camera, and insisted on taking a picture of us in front of the building that in a decade would be renamed after us. Jane had intended to digitally alter the photo to say Risoluto Music building, but she never got the chance. Freddie and I were arm in arm, wearing smiles so big that they barely fit on our faces.

Squinting, I analyzed the picture. There was a black rim around the blue sky. I bent the black rim back, revealing another picture, one from my senior prom. Stuck between them was a piece of notebook paper folded into a paper football. My heart began to beat a little bit faster. I carefully lifted the edge of the paper football, peeling it away from the photograph. Now thanks to rotten milk, there was a hazy triangle around mine and Freddie’s faces. Wonder where he is now, I thought. I laid the photos out to dry on my desk, leaving the paper football note on the desk with them. I sat down in front of my keyboard, sinking down onto my stool like a lanky, languid lump of lard. Perhaps I was more dejected than I thought. I scoffed; there was one quick fix for mild, irreversible depression – Brahms. I opened the score and poured every emotion and every bit of energy into Hungarian Dance No. 5.

Unexpectedly, I managed to get through the first phrase with ease, remembering the last time I’d played it almost five years ago. It was my last recital before I graduated from high school. My mom was at work, my dad was in Tuscany, and Beth was hopelessly uninterested. I didn’t even care. There in the audience was the one person who would not have missed the performance for the world. He’d even gone so far as to help me pick out which of Brahms’ masterpieces would best show case what he thought was “talent.” I remember walking out onto the small stage in my piano teacher’s church and looking for him. When I didn’t see him, I paused for a second and then sat down in front of the coal-black baby grand piano and whispered a prayer.  

Canti ami!

My head snapped to the right. Seeing a dark haired guy sitting within view just over my shoulder, I smiled. Freddie settled in his seat, content that he was looking over my shoulder.

Lost in my own memory, I played through the first phrase with ease, but when I accidently struck a white key instead of a black one, my rhythm was thrown off completely. The sixteenth-note runs sounded like multiple train wrecks that could not have been avoided, even by the grace of God. I tried to continue, but succumbed to my own frustration and misery, shattering my vicarious memory of the past.  

I heard Beth stirring in the other room. Setting me up was one of her favorite past-times, but tonight there was nothing she could do to persuade me to go out. She told me she was trying to educate me in the ways of the world, but it seemed like I was her own subject for a ridiculous sociological study. This habit was one that instituted itself when my dad returned from Tuscany and decided that Freddie and I were together too much, and that my GPA would suffer from my lack of concentration. He was right. My concentration was suffering. Instead of maintaining my 4.0, it dropped down to a 3.9 – what a tragedy. Freddie and I, and Jane and Tom went to New York that weekend to visit Sarah Lawrence right before I told Freddie that we needed to take a break. What I wouldn’t have given to go to New York and never return. To watch Freddie improvise for hours on their endless supply of Baldwin pianos, and get lost in the even the simplest melodies of silence was enjoyment enough for me.

“Anna!” Beth bellowed from down the hall.

I opened my door and peered out at her. “What?”

“Since you refuse to go come with us to meet Will, we’ve set him up with Lydia. I’ll be back in a while. Don’t wait up,” Beth angled her gaze with the ceiling, pointing her nose upward as if she were two feet taller than me.

Once Beth had left, I went back to my room to check on the photographs. Some of them had dried and still maintained their glossy finish, but others had white splotches. I stared at the picture from prom. The triangular frame left by the wet paper football perfectly framed our faces. I picked up the paper football, which was now also dry. The tab on the right side popped out without an effort. I unfolded it and gasped, recognizing the handwriting.

It was Freddie’s. It was the note that he’d claimed that he wrote me right before graduation that I swore he lied about. When I told him in New York that we needed to take a break, he said that he would think about it. The day before our graduation, he showed up at dad’s house expecting everything to be the same. In my naive stupidity I listened to my dad, thinking that I could leave Freddie behind, and look forward to my bright future. My dad’s threats did more than I would like to admit in persuading me. He said he wouldn’t pay my room and board at Sarah Lawrence if he knew that I was going to see Freddie there. Knowing that money was no object for him, I knew he was serious. When Freddie came to my dad’s house that day thinking that nothing had changed, ignoring my wishes, I couldn’t take it. I was stuck between the will of my dad, and the will of God. What about my will? Where was that supposed to fit in? Who was to win? Needless to say, Freddie left and never came back.

Sighing, I sat down on my stool, reading Freddie’s parting line:

If time is what you need – take it. Time will not change anything, believe it. Lock everything you’ve told me away, and come back to it when you’re ready.

Tears welled in my eyes, but I would not satisfy them. I scooped up all of the pictures from my desk and the note and threw my door open. I sluggishly walked down the hall, my heels hitting the floor in a rhythmic pattern, as a headed for Grandpa’s Baldwin. I set the pile of pictures and the note down on the bench, and lifted the lid on the top of the piano. One by one I proceeded to slide each picture between a string and hammer down deep inside the piano. Closing the lid, I saw one tear fall on top of the piano and quickly wiped the stream from my face. I lifted the lid on the piano bench, laid the note inside, and then as if saying goodbye all over again, I closed the lid on the bench, sat down, and cried. Out of my frustration and anger, I stopped my foot down on the sustain pedal.

Suddenly, the Baldwin’s hammers struck a few strings. I froze; still as a corpse, I reached out to touch one of the keys. I pushed down, asking for a response – nothing. I went up an octave, pushing down on a different key, sending the hammer straight for the string. Like a steam engine driving through the darkness on Christmas morning, the string resonated louder than I had ever heard. I struck another key – nothing. Frantically, I went back to the other key. Hearing a sound unlike any resonance I’ve ever heard. I held one hand down on the key, and lifted the lid on the Baldwin with the other. Catching my breath, I gaped at what I saw down inside the Baldwin. The hammer struck right in the center of my prom photograph – right in the center of the milk-made triangle that perfectly framed our faces.

I heard the door open.  

“Anna!” Beth’s voice was shriller this time.

Realizing that I had been lying across the piano bench as if wrapped in the side-panel arms of the Baldwin, I sat up, looking back at the keys of the Baldwin. I struck one. It resonated. I struck another. It also resonated.  

“Anna!” Beth stood in the doorway.

Instantly, I stood. Positioning myself in front of the Baldwin, I glared at her. “Why did you take Freddie’s note and keep it from me?”

For the first time, Beth looked away, backing away from me. “Before you say anything, I think you should see.” She motioned towards the foyer.

I stormed past her, ignoring the sound of footsteps in the hallway. A dark figure collided with me. I shoved him back.  

I stared.  

Freddie stared back.

“What are you doing here?” I said smiling at him.

“I wasn’t going to leave without seeing you,” he said glancing at Beth. “Will is my roommate. He said he had a blind date tonight with Lydia Steventon. I was curious.”

For the next hour and a half, Freddie and I sat in front of the Baldwin sharing stories from the last four years. Much to my surprise, time had changed nothing. It was laughable – finding someone who spoke my language – music to my ears.

 

 

 

#ShortFictionSunday Entitled “Chips”

“Chips”

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11 KJV

Cleveland, Ohio, 1966

This was it. The second hand on the clock with the broken face could tick itself into into infinity for all she cared. The silence spoke volumes on a subject she didn’t want to hear. For the last two weeks, what normally resembled the offices of the Plain Dealer, mice in a lab maze in an experiment gone horribly wrong. Mandy Miselli had watched and listened for the last fourteen days and counting, as the voice of the editorials, Rhys Shilley, had absolutely nothing to say. Known for their impeccable teamwork, Mandy knew what Rhys meant when he said, “Hey Mand, take a look at this.” One single phone call had sparked the whole hiatus. Mandy looked up from her desk every time Rhys stopped typing, watching him glare at the blank page, expecting him to rip the page from his machine and crush it into a tight misshapen sphere in his large white hand. Instead, he would sigh, remove his eyeglasses, and pinch the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.

That day, Rhys stared blankly out the window.

Mandy picked up a memo pad, stroking the edges of the pages in an impatient manner, as the act had calmed her nerves so many times before.

Then she heard him sigh.

“How was your date last night?”

She stared at her painted red fingernails, the stroking cycle of the pages coming to a halt. “What’s that?” She had heard every word.

“How was your date?”

Her eyes darted up from her desk. He sat leaned back in his chair picking feverishly at a hangnail.

“That was a date?”

He glanced over at her, tipping his eye glasses so he looked over them at her. “A guy buys a girl dinner – I think that is usually called a date.”

It was her turn to sigh. The gesture usually made her roar with laughter, but her nerves would not allow it. She picked up a pen, taping it on the pad in front of her. “You know, it is really endearing that you’re taking such an interest in my love life, but I wish you wouldn’t.” She jammed her pen into her makeshift pen cup fashioned from a tea tin. Feeling accomplished in doing so, she felt like a judge banging a gavel in a courtroom.

“Come on now, you have to understand,” he stood, putting one hand in his pocket as he strolled over to her desk. “I’m not trying to ruin your life, I swear. I just can’t understand why a girl like you is still single.” He stood opposite of her, his eyes searching hers.

A cadence of embarrassed laughter escaped from her lips. “A girl like me? That’s pretty obvious, Rhys -” The rest of her sentence evaporated, leaving her with the strong sense of discontentment.

“Now don’t take it that way,”

“What way?”

“Negative.” He said. “That’s not what I meant.”

She felt something flicker in her heart, like her spirit ignited again. “Then what did you mean?”

He looked at her with an unreadable emotion painted in his features – sadness? Longing? Annoyance? His blue eyes darted to his shoes and he bumped her desk with his foot. “Forget it.”

She folded her arms. No really, what did you mean?” She stood. “I’d rather hear the truth then a well crafted lie.”

He looked up from his shoes. “You’re giving me lectures about honesty? I’d love to know what you’re not telling me.”

She looked him in the eye. “You think I have something to say to you?”

“Yeah, you need to speak your mind.”

“You want me to speak my mind?”

“Yes, please!” He signed leaning against the wall.

She looked at him, knowing she had been beaten, knowing – as much as she didn’t want to admit it – he was right. Mandy looked at her own shoes. She hesitated. Was this thing, this feeling, this confession worth it? She looked up at Rhys, standing as straight as she could he was still a good six inches taller than her. “Rhys, can I ask you just one crazy question?”

“Shoot.”

“Have you ever wanted to tell someone how you feel about them, but were afraid of what might happen after you do?”

A weak rumble of laughter escaped from his lips. “Yep, I’m having a problem with that myself, though I don’t think I have a chance.”

“You can’t think like that. There’s always a chance right? But how do you play those odds?”

Rhys examined his shoes again. “Well, what could happen?”

“Rejection, ridicule, it could also ruin everything, or he could accept me.”

“What are you most afraid of?”

She swallowed. “All of them.”

“How do you feel about him?”

Mandy sighed, gathering her words. “Like he’s the only one who ever saw something in me, and never gave up.”

“Does he feel the same?”

She turned away. “I can’t be sure.”

“Then you need to tell him.”

She looked uncomfortably around the empty office, arms folded, turning slowly to face him.

The silence spoke the answer so clearly, Rhys knew exactly what she would say. She didn’t have to say a word, and yet she spoke.

“I just did.”

He stared dumbfounded, and then a hopeful smile formed on his face. He took her hand, laughing. “Well, Mandy, then let the chips fall where they may.”