Category Archives: Story
If this keeps up, you’ll be able to build a snow man, Charlie.”
His red curls sparked as he ducked back from the brightness of the window, leaving a smudge from where his face pressed against the glass. Charlie turned and threw me a quick grin. That grin of his could light up a room, and it certainly lit up my heart.
I dreaded the Christmas holidays. Charlie and I were facing them alone. His father was in Afghanistan, his mother on the run from an abusive man, so Charlie and I had only each other. But with the wonderland those tiny flakes promised hope surged from deep within, and I gratefully accepted it.
Snow was rare in the South, but a white Christmas had been predicted by all the weather stations. Folks celebrate snow in Georgia! They even name it—Snow jam! Snow Jam ends all traffic, all work, and all residents are expected to engage exclusively in activities such as sledding, snowball fights, and lumpy snowmen competitions. All of this must be followed by cups of foamy, hot chocolate.
Charlie’s fascination with the falling snow gave me hope. This sad little boy facing the holidays without his parents needed a distraction. Six years old and adorable with his fiery curls and brown eyes that could cut glass or turn a little girl starry-eyed, my grandson had become my Christmas project.
Craig, my son and Charlie’s father, was deployed with the U.S. Army. His letters had arrived from both Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two years. A month before Craig’s letters had stopped coming from anywhere, so in addition to Charlie, I had that to worry about.
But my immediate concern was Charlie’s attitude. Charlie didn’t believe in Santa Claus. Not to mention the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny.
“They’re lies, Grandma!” he had screamed this at me, earlier in the month after I’d asked him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas.
“Why do you say that?” His little tirade had shocked me. Didn’t every child look forward to Santa Claus and gifts? I had to get to the bottom of this. In spite of Charlie’s problems, and he had a lot of them for his tender age, I thought the Christmas season would bring him into a happier place.
“Because Jack said so, and last year he showed me the toys I was supposed to get from Santa Claus!” Charlie plopped down in the middle of the living room and glared at me. “Jack didn’t want to wrap them, said it was a waste of time and he wasn’t my daddy, so he didn’t have to pretend he was an old fat man in a red suit. Then
Mama cried and Jack called her bad names.”
Charlie’s parents divorced two years ago, and until this past September Charlie lived in Memphis with Delia, his mother, and her boyfriend Jack, a thin, wiry type with his eyes set too close, and who never looked clean. That’s a feature I’ve always considered untrustworthy, and Jack certainly couldn’t be trusted.
Trying to still my anger at Charlie’s revelation, I said, “Let’s have grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, Charlie.” Cheese is a happy food.
While I prepared our lunch I sent all manner of silent curses on a beeline to Memphis and directly targeted to Jack and his weasel eyes. For a long time I’d suspected things were wrong in Charlie’s life, but my visits with him had been few. Because I was a sixty-three year old widow who worked part-time and had a modest income, I’d made very few trips from Stone Mountain, Georgia to Memphis to see him. Then one night in July a scared and tearful Delia knocked on my door. Tiny Charlie stood beside her, a frown on his face and an ugly, dark bruise on his right arm. Delia had a huge suitcase. The pitiful child dragged a bulging duffel bag.
I made a late dinner for them, and while we were having our dessert Charlie fell asleep in his chair. “He’s so tired,” Delia said. “He’s been so scared.” She twisted in her chair and stared directly into my eyes. “You have to take care of Charlie now,” she said. “Jack isn’t safe to be around anymore.” Delia had her own bruises, but she refused to talk about them.
She leaned down and wrapped her arms around her son, gently shaking him awake. “Baby, you have to stay with Grandma until we can live together again,” she told him. A tearful Charlie and I watched her get into a cab.
“I’m going to a shelter,” she told us. “and then wherever I’ll be safe.”
I was thrilled to have Charlie under my care. I’d spent restless nights worrying about that little boy and what he might be going through. Now that I had him I’d make his life so interesting and full of joy he would lose that frown and smile the beautiful smile I knew he owned.
Living with Jack had left its imprint on the little boy. While I looked forward to restoring a normal childhood to him, I had no clue of the obstacles I would face.
C. C. has a short story, ” End of the World Bar”, in Haunting Tales of Spirit Lake, http://Amzn.to/1oYOmF8
Shaman Woman, a novel by C. C. Ansardi, is available at Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1yzk8K4
Yours truly, writing as MJ Flournoy, has a new book out. A Matter of Trust is a romantic suspense with paranormal elements and was published by Renaissance Ebooks, Sizzler Intoxication Line.
The release date was September 22, 2013 and I am thrilled for Jolie and Mac to have their story in print. There is another character in the book that I found very compelling. In fact, she almost took over the book. It took both me and Mary Marvella to keep the Maniac under control. When a secondary character has a strong, compelling voice and the author really likes the character, they tend to try to take over. But that is something a good editor can help you with fixing. Often a writer gets so caught in the character, that she/he doesn’t realize when that secondary character is trying to upstage the hero or heroine.
Getting the balance right is often A Matter of Trust. Trust your editor, she or he won’t steer you wrong. Read below, you’ll see what I mean!
A Coke, a fat one, or an orange soda.
“Not gonna happen.” Jolie Wyngate shrugged, climbed from her car and hurried toward the convenience store to pick up a quick snack before continuing on her way south.
And why not?
“Because I have to drive another hundred and fifty miles, and I don’t intend to stop every half hour for potty breaks.”
You are so not any fun! It’s just a Coke, for Pete’s sake.
“And you, lady, are so predictable.”
Make it chocolate then.
Chocolate, a compromise with which she could live. “Right.”
And stop speaking out loud, people will think you’re crazy.
“Me crazy? Get real, Maniac, I’ve talked to you since childhood. If I haven’t landed in the loony bin by now, I hardly think it’s going to happen.”
Humor me, then.
Jolie shrugged, continuing toward the store. She’d pick out a chocolate bar to keep her unseen companion happy.
Serve you right if I quit talking to you all together.
“Put it in writing.” Jolie reached for the door handle.
A giggle erupted within Jolie’s mind. Then, in the tone Jolie hated hearing: Shush, pay attention. There’s something wrong in there.
Oh, hell. Jolie bit the soft flesh of her lower lip. Her hand tingled as if the door was electrified.
Shit, this was the real reason for the Maniac’s sudden thirst.
The cool, dry air of the convenience store surrounded her when she stepped through the open door. For a second, the young clerk behind the counter looked up from the newspaper spread in front of her. Nothing. Jolie expelled a breath of relief, exchanged a quick smile with the clerk, and then headed toward the candy isle.
Then she saw her. The little girl wandered listlessly down the candy isle, her small hand trailing over the rows of candy, gently touching, but taking nothing. Jolie watched her for a moment, then scanned the store and saw no one in sight.
The child turned, her gaze lifting until it found Jolie. She tilted her head to the side, her eyes searching Jolie’s for an instant. Then she moved closer and stared up at her. The expression on the small face caused Jolie’s heart to turn over. She knelt to the child’s level and touched the riot of red curls. A jolt of emotion skittered along Jolie’s spine, but Jolie forced herself not to pull away.
“Hey, sweetie, does your mommy know you’re out here alone?”
The little girl looked about three. She continued to stare mutely. Jolie smiled at her. “That your mommy behind the counter?”
She lifted the child into her arms. Unprepared for the sudden shock of pain and despair that engulfed her, Jolie almost dropped her. Instead, she tightened her arms instinctively around thefrail body.
Something’s not right.
Slowly the child shook her head. She lifted her small hand and traced a line down Jolie’s
cheek, her touch feather-light. Sadness engulfed Jolie at the child’s soft touch.
You feel it.
Jolie pushed the intrusive thought aside. With the small child still in her arms, she moved toward the checkout counter. “Your little girl?” Jolie asked. “Found her wandering on the candy aisle.”
The clerk focused a smile on the little girl. “I wish, got me two boys. Pretty little thing, ain’t she?”
“She’s here all alone?” Jolie tightened her grip on the child.
“Looking for yourself a new momma, are you, Elizabeth?”
A voice from behind her startled Jolie. Her grip tightened on the small child. She whirled
around. Her fight or flight instinct kicked in when she faced a man with long, dirty-blond hair, scraggly beard and dirty clothes. He reached to take the child from her arms.
The tiny body shrank deeper into Jolie’s arms. Her small hands gripped tightly to Jolie’s shirt. Her brown eyes widened and filled with tears, but not a word crossed her lips.
“That’s her grampa,” the clerk explained when the man pulled the resistant child from Jolie’sarms.
Panic filled Jolie. The child’s eyes never left hers while the man paid for his cigarettes and
beer. Large brown eyes, shadowed by a sadness much too deep for her years, eyes that tugged at Jolie’s heart.
Do something: don’t let him take her.
Not now, she silently warned the Maniac.
Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
We are storytellers.
From the earliest humans who painted on cave walls, to the Egyptians who sent their pharaohs into the afterlife with hieroglyphics, to the kids on the way to the newest movie at the metroplex, we have an affinity for stories which transcends all time periods, cultures, races, and religions. The ‘art’ of storytelling is not just for enjoyment. There are theories that, in fact, storytelling actually may have been more important in the evolution of humans than opposable thumbs.
Really? How could that be? According to Lisa Cron in her great book, Wired for Story, “opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” Humans are the only species on earth which can imagine the future and, through planning, prepare for it. We can anticipate and outcome – a successful hunt, the end of a long journey, even death itself – and understand the experience through other people’s knowledge. Story gives us that edge.
In fact, “the pleasure we derive from a tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it. In other words, we’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world.” We crave story to understand and deal with what is happening around us.
Like most writers – and readers – I love story. I’ve always loved story. Listening to story and making up my own stories gives me comfort in the crazy world we live in. And, in fact, the way I tell a story and the types of stories I read ultimately define me as me, as opposed to being you. We each are the sum of our experiences, the collections of what we have been, the hope of what we will be. The stories we resonate with become part of who we are.
Why do you like the stories you like? What story themes do you find yourself drawn to? Do you love the tear-jerkers? Or the funny ones? Or stories that make you shiver in the night?
Or, all of the above?
Oh, and opposable thumbs are nice too.