Category Archives: Short stories

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.

The Season of Lists

Old St. Nick has one, and so do I. His list deals with who is “Naughty” or “Nice”.  Mine is my own form of self-torture that I’ve honed over the years.  All of the “should-do’s” and “have-to-definitely-do’s” are on it.  Christmas decorating, baking, gift buying, and the dreaded Christmas card conundrum.

I love the whole experience of decorating for Christmas, and I’ve cut back on how much I’ve decorated over the years.  At one time, I had ten Christmas trees with different themes in various sizes throughout the interior and exterior of our home.  Now I am down to one medium-sized artificial tree and four miniature trees.  I used to have a minimum of one tree in each of the main rooms of the house, each bedroom and in the upstairs hall.  Now the trees are in the living room and on the front porch.

My SantaIMG_5491 collecting days are over, and I’m content to limit its total number to thirty Santas.  It’s not the largest Santa collection — I knew a woman who had over 1,000 Santas, but it is enough for my home.  I’m not one for a lot of outdoor lighting either (in the whole Clark Griswold of Christmas Vacation movie fame kind of illumination), but prefer a single candle in each window.

When my sons were little, we’d bake cut-out sugar cookies and gingerbread people decorating them with lots of colorful icing and sprinkles.  The mess in the kitchen was worth the fun.  Afterwards, I’d play some Christmas CD’s, we’d drink hot chocolate with plenty of mini marshmallows floating on top and decorate the largest tree together.

This year I’m almost finished with my Christmas gift list, having a few stocking stuffer items to purchase and a couple hard-to-buy-for people yet on my list.

So, what’s on the agenda now?  The dreaded Christmas card list.  Should I write a chatty newsletter to the people I know, make my own cards with my scrapbooking expertise or send off to a company for a photo greeting card?  Frankly, I did the fail-safe option and bought a couple boxes of old-fashioned Christmas cards.  Despite my card choice, the newsletter dilemma is still looming over me.

It is so easy to get caught up in all of the tasks and lists insteadimg_5352 of enjoying the finer moments this time of year offers to us–Christmas caroling, holiday parties, Secret Santas, watching the little ones as they sit on Santa’s lap or unwrap their gifts.  The wonderful Christmas stories and movies I enjoy year after year.  Eggnog! (It gets its own sentence, LOL!)  Midnight masses crowded with parishioners, the choir’s voices reverberating through the church, and participating in the sacred traditions with millions of people around the world.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday season.  Just try to remember the simple pleasures and try not to worry about the lists.

 

 

Small Town Holidays

I love living in the tiny village along the Mississippi that I’ve called home for over twenty years!

I don’t miss the traffic, the noise and the lines found in larger cities.  I can walk through our streets without feeling threatened anytime day or night.  I get to soak up the beauty of my surroundings without driving anywhere.  In fact, I can walk from one end of the village to the other a couple times without tiring.

Thanksgiving weekend is a popular one here.  The population increases dramatically as all of the children and grandchildren return for the holidays.  Not only is it the start of deer hunting in the area, but there is an alumni basketball tournament at the school over the weekend.

My oldest son has played in it since he graduated, and it has been a tradition for over a decade.  The players reunite with their high school teammates to play against both younger and older teams.  Generations of family members come to cheer on the teams.  At halftime break of each game, the court overflows with children dribbling basketballs and shooting hoops until the teams return for the second half.

I sit in the stands greeting the mothers and fathers of my son’s team.  It’s a bit of deja vu from days past when our high schoolers ran up and down the court.  Our hair has more silver and our faces a few more lines now, but the enthusiasm and goodwill are still abundant.

In the evening, a Christmas parade with lighted floats, fire trucks, horses, music and Santa is followed by fireworks over the Mississippi River.  It is a fitting end to our weekend.

I saw a post the other day where someone wrote that they didn’t understand why Americans had a “day” of Thanksgiving.  The tradition is one of being thankful for the harvest, especially in the rural communities so dependent on a good harvest before the long winter.  It is also an acknowledgment of our country’s early beginnings, and how the generosity of the local Native American tribespeople helped the early settlers survive their first winter.

But, Thanksgiving is about more than remembering to give “Thanks” on one specific day.  For me, it is a time for gathering as a family and a community.  It is a time to realize the shared blessings of being a part of something so much larger than yourself.  It is a time to reinforce the importance of giving of my time, talents and resources to those less fortunate and to those I care about.

Our small town holiday weekend reminds me of what is good in the world and how crucial it is to be an active participant in the world around me.  To recognize and speak out against inequality and injustice while doing my best to be a positive force in the world.

This work doesn’t happen on just one day, but every day.  It all starts with you, your family and your community.  Make efforts to improve each of these areas and the blessings will continue to spread.

The Sound of Silence, NOT!

At eighty-five years of age, Miss Lydia decided to get “one of those new-fangled phones” everyone seemed to be peering at with heads bent.  Several of the ladies in her church group had them, and they talked incessantly about “time facing” and “gaggling it.”  Whatever that meant, it sounded like a bunch of nonsense, but her nephew, Clyde, wanted her to have one for safety reasons.  A bunch of bull-pucky!

The nice young man at the phone store tried to explain the features available on the phone, including why the only user manual was “on the line” and not printed out like normal.  Frustrated, Miss Lydia returned home with her new gadget.  She set it on the table beside her and watched it like someone would keep an eye on a rattler.

Clarice Travers stopped by after getting off work at the library.  She oohed and aahed over what she called a cell phone, offering to help Miss Lydia set up some ring tones.

“It would be nice if a phone rang like a real phone.”  The octogenarian didn’t cotton to changing anything what wasn’t broken.

“I can set that up, and I’ll do a couple of other alerts for texts, emails, and Facebook.  You are on Facebook, aren’t you?”  Clarice glanced up with raised eyebrows, smiling when Miss Lydia made a dismissive wave with her hand.  “I’ll help you set it up another day if you’d like?”

Miss Lydia didn’t respond.  Her head had settled back against her recliner, and her eyes were closed.  She’d fallen asleep.  Clarice finished setting up the alerts and laid the cell phone on the end table by Miss Lydia’s chair before letting herself out the door.

“Be-doh, be-doh, be-doh!”  Miss Lydia sat up abruptly.  What in the world was that?  She listened intently for a repeat of the sound which woke her but didn’t hear it any longer, and she decided it must have been some whippersnapper outside making noise again.  Those teenagers were always driving by with their radios blaring day and night.

Getting up out of her chair took a bit of doing due to her stiff joints and rheumatism, she hobbled into the bathroom.  As she washed her hands, she heard that same “Be-doh” noise.  She stormed out of the bathroom as quickly as a woman in advanced years could manage.  Once more the sound had disappeared.

“Those juvenile delinquents made a loop around the block.  Umph!  Don’t they realize some people take a little rest in the afternoon?”  Miss Lydia knew she needed to…What was it Clyde would say?  Oh, yes.  ‘Cool my jets.’

She approached the recliner looking out the window for the troublemakers.  The sound of a bugle and the rattling of her new phone on the side table had her putting her hand over her heart in shock.  She prodded it with her finger, but it remained silent.

She did remember how to do one thing with her new phone.  Her finger pressed downward on a button at the side of her purchase.  Miss Lydia had an inkling on how to turn it off.


Written for the Weekend Write-In Challenge on May 14, 2017.  

Just Call Me “Ms. Organization”!

At the office, Barbara was known as the Post-It Queen.  The multi-colored, adhesive-backed bits of notepaper cluttered her computer monitor, her phone, and the calendar on her desk.  Her co-workers couldn’t believe she relied on an organizer/appointment book, so riddled with Post-Its and crammed with scraps of paper, coupons, and newspaper clippings, she had to secure it with a large rubber band.

“Why don’t you use the organizational apps on your computer and smartphone?” her friend, Dee, asked her after the rubber band broke and papers floated like confetti on the breeze.

“I like my system,” Barbara defended while scampering on her hands and knees to capture the intricate details of her life before she lost them.  The next day, she missed an important teleconference and realized she needed to change her ways.  A nearby bookstore had a section devoted to organization.  By the number of books on the subject, Barbara ascertained providing instruction to people so they could deal with their messy lives was a lucrative industry.

The more promising book titles were removed from their shelves for a thorough assessment.  A final selection was made, and Barbara walked with determination to the checkout counter.  Her life was never going to be the same after this important purchase.

Barbara cradled her pathway- to-a-new-reality in her arms as she went home.  A weekend spent in contemplation and enlightenment awaited her.  Next week, she planned to put into practice her new organizational skills.  But first, Barbara needed to remove some clutter from her coffee table for her new book.  She stuffed the newspapers and adverts under the table.

Wanting to be in a relaxed mood to enable her full concentration, Barbara took a bubble bath.  But first, she removed the dirty laundry from the bathroom and placed it in a pile in the hall.  Then, she searched for the expensive bath salts she purchased six months ago.  Barbara removed all of the items from under her sink.  She emptied the shelf in the linen closet with shampoos, moisturizers, and mouthwash.

She couldn’t find them.  Well, after this weekend, she wouldn’t worry about misplacing items.  Everything would be in its designated place.  How wonderful it would be!  She could already imagine the looks of envy her friends would give her when they saw her clean apartment.

Since a soothing bath wasn’t in the cards, Barbara decided a cup of tea messas she ingested the wisdom from ‘Organization for the Busy Professional’ would be just as good.  Her mother gave her some tea for Christmas.  Barbara checked every cupboard in the kitchen until she found it in its gift bag sitting on top of her refrigerator behind some other items.  Now, to find a teapot.

After a lengthy search, Barbara lay back on her couch tossing and kicking items off to make room.  Her new book sat under a layer of clutter.  When she awoke the next morning on the couch, she was unable to remember where she put her new book.  It took her most of the weekend to find it.  But she did find it under a blanket, some pillows and a newspaper or two.

Closing the book with a decisive thump, Barbara smiled in triumph.  Now she had the necessary tools to become more organized.  Barbara considered herself a free spirit, and didn’t feel the saying “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” was true.  A new way of life was around the corner.   Barbara was sure everyone would be calling her Ms. Organization before too long.

*Author’s Note:  This short story was written in response to the writing prompt — Organization.