Category Archives: Short stories

What Kate’s Reading: One Million Project Thriller Anthology

The recent publication of the three-volume short story anthologies from the One Million Project was the culmination of over a year and a half of work and coordination of over one hundred writers, editors and publishing professionals. Each week, I will highlight each of the anthologies to give readers a taste of how fabulous these books […]

via One Million Project Thriller Anthology — theonemillionproject

My Tribute to Father Bill

Two years ago, I made an effort to begin going to Sunday mass again.  I’d been absent more often than not during the preceding years for a plethora of reasons — weekend work schedules, out-of-town family events, and caring for my mother in her home in another state. Father Bill was the priest on the Sunday I’d returned to join the faithful.

I watched as he entered the church from the sacristy. Walking across the altar was difficult for him, I understood why he didn’t participate in the processional at the beginning of mass.  I lamented the state of the Church, and its continued problems recruiting young priests.  During that mass, Father Bill touched my heart with his thoughtful, quiet homily and the devotion and passion of his voice as he sung the hymns.

On the walk home, I confided in my husband how moved I was by Father Bill’s story which reminded so much of an event that occurred when we attended Midnight Mass in Rome over two decades ago. When I got home, I wrote a short story about that special night.

It has been over a week since Father Bill fell and broke his hip. After surgery, he seemed to be doing well and the hospital staff planned on getting him up to walk. Within a few days, his condition worsened, and Father Bill was called to his heavenly home. He will be sorely missed by the parishioners in our little village.

He struggled to walk, yet he bolstered himself to come and say mass each week even on the coldest winter days. The effort would waylay many younger people. When our pastor Father John spoke of Father Bill, he equated him with characters from stories similar to the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Lord of the Rings. Father Bill was the old king who went into battle when he was needed and fought valiantly in the service of others. Not a single dry eye in the church this past Sunday… Godspeed, Father Bill, this story is for you.

Midnight Song

The dimly lit courtyard held a snaking line of visitors IMG_6562.PNGwhich buzzed with muted conversations, the shuffling of feet, and an occasional entreaty by a youngster to the elders who accompanied them.  The group waited in anticipation to hear Pope John Paul II say Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.  Among the crowd were people of all ages, colors, and ethnicities.  Ahead of us, the melodic cadence of Italian came from an animated troupe while behind us stood a gathering of nuns with dark veils covering their hair and wooden crosses hanging from the rosary beads secured at their waists.

In our group were military families taking a trip to Rome on Christmas weekend.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime event for my small family.  I had purchased a crucifix to hang in our home and brought my rosary so both items could be blessed by the Pope during Midnight Mass.  Growing up in a Catholic family, my favorite mass of the year was this one celebrated on Christmas Eve.

When I was a young girl, we would get bundled up in our winter coats, boots, and mittens and crawl into our beat-up Chevy for the drive along snowy highways with the moonlight lighting the snow-covered fields until they glowed.  The country church we attended it’s a well-known fact you had to get there early because the church reached its capacity for Midnight Mass. If you arrived late, you’d have to stand in the back and for a young child, it was reminiscent of standing among a suffocating forest of human legs.

The choir would start off the standard hymns I’d learned when my dad would play the Christmas album, “Sing Along with Mitch.”  The voices of the faithful would swell with hope and love infused into their harmonies.  Our song was a prayerful offering to the Creator.

In that dark Vatican courtyard, as we tried to stay warm, stomping our feet and rubbing our hands together, our small military group began to sing Silent Night to keep our minds off the December chill in the air and to pass the time.  The Canadian nuns joined us and soon a trickle of other groups followed, providing a mixture of accented baritones, sopranos, tenors and altos.  Our song grew in strength into something so pure it connected us all at that moment.  One carol followed another until the stone walls surrounding us echoed with our words. Goosebumps popped up on my arms, and I felt a chill deep in my chest as I sang along.  We–the travelers to this place on this specific night–were one in song and in fellowship.

I remember that night like it happened yesterday and not twenty-four years ago.  We connected to strangers with our familiar song.  I haven’t any photos or videos to document the moment but they aren’t needed because the memories are permanently engraved in my mind and heart.  I wonder if the other people remember that evening as fondly.

My Jeeplopy

Jalopy is kind of an old-fashioned word.  I just bought a twenty-one year old Jeep Wrangler.  I have fondly dubbed her “My Jeeplopy”. I had a choice to pick out a newer model or a brand-new vehicle, but there was something about buying it out-right that appealed to my penny-pinching side.

I know many women who would look at the tattered and stained seats, dents and missing parts and say, “No way am I going to be caught in THAT piece of crap!” But, I could see the beauty in her.  A little cleaning and a few additions would have her looking respectable.  The engine looked good, and it started right up.

I felt like a teenager with their first car when I drove to the car wash and washed and waxed the Wrangler.  I pictured driving with the top off during the summer with the wind blowing through my dark — wait, a second — my silver tresses as I drive along the Great River Road.

Boxes of new accessories for my baby are delivered almost daily as I give her some tender loving care.  No worries, though, I tend to stick to desert camo and black accessories and avoid the pink and teal components.  I’ll save the bright colors for my Jeep-themed t-shirts and caps.

I’ve also received feedback from a fan (you know who you are!) that I can never get rid of “Clare’s Jeep”.  Trust me, I won’t, at least not for a very long time.


Music Makes My Elliptical Go Around

I have a love/hate relationship with my elliptical.  It wasn’t even that I’d paid a king’s ransom to purchase one.  My sister and her boyfriend carted it about 200 miles in the back of their SUV — FREE!

I was so excited at first… Then I realized I preferred walking outside to being inside on a machine, but I live in the frosty North which translates into “I either workout indoors or I get fatter over the winter.”  My dilemma was simple.  I’m a wimp and it was too easy to get off the elliptical when I got tired. When I’m walking I can be four miles from home, and I don’t have a choice but walk back.

I’d made great strides in my training over the summer and I didn’t want to regress.  I paced back and forth by the dusty gift contemplating whether I could succeed where I was unsuccessful for (Wait for it!) years.  Yes, it isn’t a typo.  YEARS!!

I’d tried several times over the years but after I exercised on the elliptical ten to fifteen minutes I’d stop stating that it was too hard.  Which is a crock of expletive.  I was in the Army.  I was a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do.  True, that was years ago, but I’d done the tough stuff.  I would walk for two to three hours in the heat until I was so tired I could barely put one foot in front of the other.

I wasn’t going to let a big, old, gray instrument of torture get the best of me.  I armed myself with my water bottle and my secret weapon — a music playlist.  I also prepared to go all drill instructor on myself if I tried to wimp out again.  My goal was to remain on the thing for thirty minutes.  Double my longest time.  I hit play on my phone put the earbuds in and preceded to conquer the gray devil.

I listen to many artists and different genres.  It’s music that makes me move, helps me to write and relax.  Here’s a sample of a few songs I listened to this morning.  I’m also happy to say I tamed that gray beast and I exercise for over 60 minutes at a time.  And yes, I did have to go all drill instructor on myself that first time.  It was ugly…

One Million Project’s Short Story Anthology is Available for Pre-Order!!

This project is near and dear to my heart.  My short story — Not Mama’s Little Girl — is in the Fiction anthology in case you want to check it out!

I am so proud to be associated with such a generous and talented group of individuals.  I’m pre-ordering my copies now at a special price on  Follow the links in the blog to get your copies, too.

Over a year ago, UK author Jason Greenfield decided to enlist his writer friends to join him in a literary effort to raise money for charity through the publication of a collection of short stories. Over the months since that initial internet message to his fellow writers, a thirty-member cadre of writers from a variety […]

via Short Stories for Charity from Around the Globe — One Million Project — theonemillionproject

Cold Days and Sneezy Nights!

I like winter.  I know, I know, a lot of people hate winter, the sub-zero weather, and snow etc. accompanying the season, but I enjoy many aspects of the season. Wood burning in the fireplace, hot cocoa, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and frost covered trees are all reasons I love this time of year.  Except for one thing–it tends to be the cold and flu season, too.

I’m a nurse who isn’t a stranger to nursing sick individuals back to health.  I’m also a big, ol’ whiny baby when I’m not feeling well.  I hate wearing hats even on the worst days and last week I headed out the door on a fairly nice day for this time of year without hat or scarf and proceeded to go on a long walk.  Five plus miles later, I returned home feeling energized, but by bedtime, I was starting to feel cranky.

Sneezy, stuff;y, scratchy throat and all the other joyful symptoms of a cold descended during the night.  I croaked out my good mornings, took a boatload of analgesics and searched for cold medicine.  Nope.  None to be found.  I could have walked to the grocers but I remembered suddenly that I’m a whiny ol’ baby and I was SICK!!  Instead, I sent a text to my hubby and put in my order for orange juice, nighttime “coughing, sneezing prevention so you can rest” medicine and something quick for supper.

My man provided.  Thank God!  Now, three days later and I’m on the road to recovery.  I’m ready to go out and shovel the walks without a hat and scarf or snowshoe (if only it would snow a little bit more…)  Yeah, I know.  I’m crazy, but I guess that’s why I love winter!

Birthday Wishes and Dreams

I started writing this short story for the One Million Project’s writing group’s Weekend Write-In Challenge.  This week’s prompt was “Birthday”. I wanted to do something different with the current chapter I was working on for my current work-in-progress — Never Show Your Hand.  The following is the result of my efforts.  I hope you like it!

Over a year has passed, and my heart still bleeds without him. Why didn’t I realize he never felt the same love for me as I did for him? 

Clare’s skis skimmed over the crusty snow as she pushed her body to its limits.  She initially used the intensive training for the Birkebeiner cross-country ski race as a way to burn off all of the anger, frustration, and pain from a broken heart but it became much more than a fitness goal.  It became a challenge to keep her promise to fulfill her destiny, to not look back, and to savor the feeling of being complete.  Not because a man was by her side, but as a result of loving the flawed, stubborn, fabulous woman that she’d become.

Her birthday was around the corner, and although Clare hadn’t celebrated her birthday for several years, she planned to make this year’s a memorable one by participating in the Birke and moving forward without her husband, Wyatt.  She dug into the hillside with her poles as she pointed the tips of her skis out putting her body weight on the inner edges of her skis as she climbed the steep slope, making a herringbone pattern in the snow.

By the time she reached the top, her forehead was beaded with sweat under her stocking cap and her pants formed frosty clouds of mist with each expired breath. The tiny hairs in her nostrils, now frozen, prickled inside her nose, and her lungs ached with the effort of breathing.  She pushed on knowing the actual Birke would be punishing in the extreme and she couldn’t quit because it was too hard.

When she reached the top of the hill, the sunshine reflected off the snow-covered countryside blinding her, and she squinted behind her sunglasses.  It made her a bit homesick and reminded her of the last time she’d cross-country skied with her twin brother, Noah. That day had been sunny and brisk much like the current one.  He would be so proud of her for pursuing this goal.  It had been something they’d talked about doing together.

Shit! Clare wished he could participate in the event with her.  Instead of wishing for things that could never happen she began her strong skating stride and pictured him skiing next to her — her skiing guardian angel — urging her to move faster and taunting her that he was going to whip her butt. Before she realized it, she’d reached the end of her practice run.

Bundling her gear into the Jeep, she headed for home. Clare let her yellow Lab, Max, outside as soon as she opened the door.  She’d finished removing her boots and padded across the floor to warm her hands by the radiator.

Her forehead creased with surprise at the sound of rapping on her door. The hairs on her neck raised when she realized Max hadn’t alerted her to someone’s arrival. Maybe it was Loretta or Dave checking on her. She couldn’t help the sense of trepidation as she walked towards the door. Her body was beginning to tense as her heart rate picked up. Freaking great. It wasn’t the best time to lose it.

Should I ask who it is? Or go for it and be ready to kickbox their ass into yesterday?
Clare went for it swinging the door wide as she positioned her body into a defensive position. Her hands trembled and black spots danced into her vision.
“Clare, babe, are you okay?” Wyatt stood in front of her. He was the last thing she saw before she passed out cold.