Scriptic Collective

This one requires some serious background work for the editors. Not only do they run an online magazine where they feature submissions, they also setup the challenge so that we challenge each other without knowing who our challenge will go out to. I put my challenge into the hopper, and it gets assigned to another blogger, and some other blogger’s challenge gets assigned to me. The writers in this group are extraordinary, and I am constantly inspired by their work as well as by their challenges.

Sitting on the chimbley

Last modified on 2012-08-02 21:40:37 GMT. 10 comments. Top.

Elizabeth slammed a pot on the stovetop.

“Be careful,” said Lurvey. “You’ll break it.”

“I’ll break you.” She smashed down a skillet next to the pot and added oil, then turned on the burner.

“Maybe we could just eat out.”

“I will not waste money on a meal I can’t enjoy.” She hefted the pot again and filled it at the sink.

Lurvey smiled. “How beautiful you are! You are more beautiful in anger than in repose. I don’t ask you for your love; give me yourself and your hatred; give me yourself and that pretty rage; give me yourself and that enchanting scorn; it will be enough for me.”

“Gah! There! You’re doing it again!” Elizabeth slopped the pot back to the stove. “I can’t have a conversation with you, not a single exchange of ideas without a barrage of obscure English literature!”

“That was Dickens! How can you call Dickens obscure!”

Elizabeth stormed to the refrigerator and snatched out the carrots. She shoved them into Lurvey’s hands. “Here, you cut them. I don’t trust myself with a knife. All I asked was what you wanted for dinner!”

“Now good digestion wait on appetite and health on both.” Lurvey looked down at the carrots and then went for a peeler.

“Stop! Stop it!”

“I’m sorry, Lizzie! They just come to my mind unbidden…”


“That wasn’t a quotation!”

“I can’t even tell anymore. Just stop talking. Don’t say another word to me.” She went back to the fridge and took out some kind of meat. She threw it in the skillet, and hot oil splashed up with a sizzle. “Ow!” She thrust her hand in her mouth.

Lurvey said,  “When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.”

“God damn it!” she shrieked around her hand. “I said stop talking. I’m sure that’s another quote.” She went to the freezer for ice. “Just slice the damned carrots.”

When she walked away from the stove, Lurvey realized that the same oil that had splashed her had landed on the burner. “Odds, bobs, hammer, and tongs! It’s burning!” He hastened to turn off the heat before the smoldering smoke became something more serious.

“Lurvey, this is all your fault!” Elizabeth ran the ice over her scalded fingers.  “I hate you sometimes!”

“Lizzie-bear, let me make dinner. Go sit and watch one of your shows. I’ll bring it to you in the living room.

“Fine.” She snatched a dishtowel to hold the ice and left the room.

To her retreating back, Lurvey murmured “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

Scott gave me the idea for this one. And the quotations from this piece are as follows. I got them all from LitQuote, rather than dragging down the originals and finding them. And let’s be honest. Although I own it, the only Dickens I have read is A Christmas Carol. I cannot abide his other works, though I periodically try to get through one. (I haven’t in awhile. Probably time to go after him again.) The Shakespeare is actually printed on an apron I won as an undergraduate for writing the best paper in my Shakespeare class. Yes, I still have it.

“How beautiful you are! You are more beautiful in anger than in repose. I don’t ask you for your love; give me yourself and your hatred; give me yourself and that pretty rage; give me yourself and that enchanting scorn; it will be enough for me.” – Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Now good digestion wait on appetite and health on both. – Shakespeare, Macbeth 3.4

When angry, count four; when very angry, swear. – Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” –Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance


And, with slight manipulation, the one from my prompt

“Odds, bobs, hammer, and tongs. I’m burning!” – Captain Hook … erm … J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Cameron gave me this prompt: Odds, bobs, hammer and tongs!.

I gave Maya Bahl this prompt: “What are you going to tell your Mom?” “I’m not.”

Sam’s Old School

Last modified on 2012-07-26 21:26:52 GMT. 26 comments. Top.

The director pounced as soon as I walked in the door. “I’m not sure what you expect us to do.” He held up some other child’s shirt, cut to ribbons.

“I’m sure you’re doing everything you can.” And I also need to get him to therapy. “I’ll be happy to pay for the shirt.” And if you didn’t have eighteen kids in that class, he’d never have been able to get that many holes sliced before somebody noticed.

“Oh, we’d never ask a parent to pay for…” Bullshit. I still have the demanding note with the receipt for the cost of replacing someone’s sleeping bag. “…but if you’re willing…”

“Just give me the bill.” And let me get my kid out of here for  a little while. I finished signing Sam out and turned towards his class.

But the director wasn’t finished. “And when Miss Henry asked him why, he said ‘because you won’t let me cut up my own shirt!’”

“Really, that sounds pretty typical.” This is why we told her point blank that Sam can’t have scissors at all. And that was before the sleeping bag incident. “You have to be extremely specific with him. He’s very good at finding loopholes.”

“It just seems like he needs… well… discipline. He’s at an age where…”

“He’s four.” My right hand was on the knob of Sam’s classroom door. I squeezed the metal and thrust my other fist in my pocket.

The director said, “You know, consistency. If a kid touches a hot stove one time, they know they’re going to get burnt, so they don’t do it again.”

“Actually, Sam had to get burned four times before he figured that out.”


I opened the door and collected his lunchbox. The child himself was out on the playground, sitting beside the teacher. “He was throwing rocks again,” she said.

“Can’t do that.” I told him. “It hurts people.”

“I hate Miss Henry.”

“Well, I like her.” No I don’t. I took Sam’s hand. “ She takes care of you so I can get work done so we can have things.”

“I want to break her head with a rock.”

“Come on, let’s get you out of here.”

The director was standing at the playground door. “Really, it’s things like that. Shouldn’t there be some sort of consequences…”

“His psychiatrist advises against feeding into attention seeking behaviors.” And I want to break your head with a rock, so really, can you blame my son?

“Well, he’s going to have to go home today and try again tomorrow.”

“I’d kind of figured that.” I held up the lunch box that I had already collected. “If we were just going to therapy, I’d have left this behind.” And what the fuck do I pay you for? You send him home more than you keep him. He considers this a reward.

The director followed us out. As we exited the building, he said, “I’m just concerned…”

“You know, you’re probably right,” I told him. “Miss Henry should be more consistent with him.” Discipline does not cure autism!

I pulled Sam across the parking lot to the car and buckled his seatbelt. When we drove away,  the director was still watching us from the door, the other child’s shirt in his half raised arm.


Note. This is all stuff I couldn’t even write while Sam still had to go to that shithole. But I’m posting it now. It fits perfectly with my Scriptic prompt…

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, kgwaite gave me this prompt: Beneath the surface.

I gave Tara Roberts this prompt: And I heard her song wherever I went, filling my ears, filling the night.

Ode to Popcorn

Last modified on 2012-08-05 01:07:49 GMT. 10 comments. Top.

Terms of an engagement: An ode to popcorn

I think I’ll make the popcorn on the stove
and melt a little Cabot on the side.
And if then through our pantry I do rove
I might grate us some dry jack to divide.

Though maybe the air popper is enough
for those who do not like my stinky cheese;
the butter will melt smoothly in the trough
that sits above the greatest blast of heat.

But understand this now my love. I’ll give
up Roquefort, Camembert, and even Brie.
But pop  me no corn in that monster. Dine
alone if you engage that dread machine.

Pray don’t suggest it; I’ll turn a deaf ear.
No, I’ll not use the microwave, my dear.

NB: I know perfectly well that my ‘ode’ is really a sonnet, but it DOES celebrate intellectually and emotionally the joys of popcorn. Who but a purist would care how the popcorn is popped?
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Bewildered Bug gave me this prompt: Write a romantic poem ‘an ode to popcorn’.

I gave Michael this prompt: The shutters slapped against the house with every gust of wind, and I felt the house watching me. This was alone. This was bad.



Last modified on 2012-07-14 04:07:19 GMT. 9 comments. Top.

Renee woke from a dream about a bee swarm to find the temperature had gone up in the night and the kitten had become embedded in her left arm. “Get off, Tabby. I hate these pills,” she muttered. But she didn’t. Although they put her into such a deep sleep that she had twice now slept through kitty claws, the pills made it possible to get out of bed at all by the light of day. Groggy, she could manage.

As soon as she had peeled the little cat away from her forearm, she lumbered off to the bathroom. A series of pathetic and increasingly louder mewls followed her when she shut the door with the feline on the other side. She ignored it and shot back her morning dose with a little paper cup full of water. Then she cleaned the cuts in her arm.

But the moment she opened the door, Tabby shot up the leg of her pajamas, forcing Renee to strip out of them. She left Tabby snagged and meowing so she could close the windows (and hopefully shut out the rank odor she had just noticed) and crank on the air.

Tabby freed herself long before the task was finished, and this time she attacked Renee’s head and became lodged in her hair. When Renee finally worked the kitten free, her alarm was finally bleating good morning, and her left arm was bleeding in two new places. She slammed the machine off with the right hand while she held Tabby up by the scruff of the neck in her left. It was the only pose that morning that made the little monster go limp.

“Today, we find you a home,” Renee said. Then she carried Tabby very carefully to the kitchen and tucked the cat into her carrier. As an afterthought, she snaked in some breakfast kibble. Now, Tabby did not mewl; now she howled. Renee had not known cats could howl, and she decided to skip her own breakfast in lieu of getting the creature to her vet that much sooner. They had known her for years at that office, and had promised to get a new home for this absurd little foundling who was not a replacement for the vast and sedate Petunia who had lived much of her life under Renee’s bed.

She dressed quickly, then picked up the carrier and went out front, pausing only long enough to lock her apartment door.Between the dream, in which a thousand hot bees had stung her flesh with burning needles, the kitten, which was positively wailing now, and the lingering smell, Renee found it impossible to escape a sense of malaise as she went down the sidewalk. She set the carrier down to unlock the car, then turned around to look at her building.

The roof was on fire. She saw smoke pouring up into the sky. “But the drugs were working!” she protested.  It had been months, and she was on her own again, and she would not see this fire. She willed it out of existence and climbed into the car.

The fire did not go away. She could still see the smoke out of her peripheral vision, and now she knew what the bad smell had been. She had known what it was all along. She had to call Dr. Archer. That was the responsible thing to do. But the caterwauling in the back seat changed her mind. Tabby saw it, too, or she wouldn’t be bleating this way. When she got out her cell phone, she dialed 911 instead of her psychiatrist. She told the dispatcher, “I think my apartment building is on fire, but I’m not sure. It might be a hallucination.” She had never hallucinated wounds before. And the kitten had been even more insane this morning than it had been yesterday. Surely she hadn’t imagined its attack to her head.

She hung up and got out of the car, replaying now the moments in the bathroom before she took her drug. Had it only been the kitten’s mewling she heard? Or had there been something else?  The couple upstairs had argued again last night. She remembered that. And now, she thought it might have been a woman’s distant moans, not just the frightened cat’s cries.

She couldn’t hear any sirens, and she felt almost sure she had heard her neighbor through the ceiling vent. (Of course, last Christmas, she was sure the tree was telling her to eat its needles, but that was last year, and the medicine was working now.)

She went back into the building. How could she have missed this haze? Had her open windows really kept her space so clear? She nearly went upstairs, but then instead detoured into her own apartment. She went back to the bathroom, throwing open windows along the way. “Hello!” she called. “Can anyone hear me?” The power went out just then, leaving her standing in the dark.

Yes. There it was. Faint. But human. Someone was trying to answer her. But normally, she could hear every word her neighbors screamed. This sound was barely audible. “I hear you,” she said. “But I don’t understand you.”  And that was when she knew it was real. Her hallucinations had voices. Always voices. But never this. Never muffled groans. “Never mind, I’m coming,” she shouted. Tied up. The upstairs neighbor was tied up. She had a gag in her mouth. Renee felt certain of it.

She dug under the sink for her toolbox and a hammer. She hoped it would be enough to pound through the door up there. As she stepped back out into the smoky hall, she made a mental note to cancel Tabby’s appointment with the vet. If she lived through the next half hour, she thought she saw herself with a long future of cat claws. “I owe that kitten some fish,” she said as she mounted the stairs, hoping she could pound faster than a fire.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Grace O’Malley gave me this prompt: Malaise..

I gave FlamingNyx this prompt: I didn’t mean to steal it. It just followed me home.


The engaging kitteh up there is really named Cleo. She’s the newest house cat of my friend Jennifer, who is also mother to Socks (a giant compared to little Cleo) and Sophie (who is a dog). Oh and a couple of awesome human kids as well. Really awesome. Like two of the coolest humans on the planet awesome.


Bad Break

Last modified on 2012-07-05 23:13:23 GMT. 9 comments. Top.

Michael and Aura shacked up for six weeks in the seventies, but after a month of constant bickering, they made it to splitsville well before the altar. Michael was a poet. Aura was an accountant. Nobody was surprised.

After that, they were off-again-on-again during the eighties, until Aura married a guitar player and Michael tried to kill himself. They hardly spoke for twenty years. Then, they met at a New Year’s party and Aura reignited Michael’s flame with a drunken mistletoe kiss. Michael had been taking Prozac to cool the burning in his chest that was slowly drying up his heart. But she made it moist again with her lips and tongue, filled in the canyons with her scent.

The guitar player was on the road, so Michael came home with Aura. But he left before sunrise. He went to the desert. He said, “I want to stand in the Arizona sun and let it score you out of me.” When Aura’s husband returned the following week, she smelled a dozen women in his clothes, and he said something felt wrong on his side of the bed. Aura said, “Therapy,” but the husband said, “Divorce”.

Aura went to Arizona, where Michael was in a Phoenix burn unit.

“I didn’t think you meant it literally, idiot,” she told his white swathed body. He couldn’t talk. Moving his face hurt too much. And the salt from her lips would have scalded him, so she couldn’t kiss him, either. Instead, she sat beside the bed with a book of number puzzles. “But then, when you said you wanted to gouge me out, you went after yourself with a carving knife, so I suppose I should have known.” Then the nurses came with ghastly scrub brushes and silver tape, and she left so they could put him back together.

She sat by his side through the next month, while he healed. There was some possibility of his going to a psych ward after that. While Aura held Michael’s hand, the resident psychiatrist said, “Klonopin might help.”

Michael said, “Nothing helps.”

And then Aura laughed aloud at Michael. She laughed at him until the hairline cracks in his heart ripped violently apart, shattered into fragments smaller than grains of sand. She cradled his face in her hands and kissed his still raw lips and said, “Dear man, anything at all would help if you would only let it. If you would simply be a poet instead of trying to live a poem, we could have been engaged thirty five years ago.”

Then she left him with the shrink to figure out where to put the pieces of his heart, how to rebuild his own soul from its ashes. But she wrote her phone number on the pad beside his bed. She said, “I live in town now. Call me when you figure out what works.”

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, FlamingNyx gave me this prompt: She laughed at him until the hairline cracks in his heart ripped violently apart, shattered into fragments smaller than grains of sand..

I gave Barb Black this prompt: Ora wrote in his journal, ‘Sold 12 White Leghorn pullets for $45 and one yearling cock bird from breeding stock for $7.00. Tithe $5.20′. Then, he closed the books on September and turned over to a fresh page and wrote ‘October, 1919.’

Elbow Grease

Last modified on 2012-06-29 02:59:32 GMT. 9 comments. Top.


Mom and Dad were physical people. They changed their own oil, fixed up all our furniture a thousand times, and plumbed like they were born to the sewers. Dad even learned some basic wiring to avoid calling in an electrician.

Which made it that much harder to see Dad in his hospital gown, prepped for surgery. Mom held his hand, the one that wasn’t poked full of IVs, and I sat a little behind him. The nurse said, “Now, I need you to confirm that you understand the procedure we’re going to perform.”

Dad interrupted her. “You’re going to pull out some of the old wiring, plunge the line, and patch me up with what passes for electrical tape if you’re a surgeon.” In spite of the situation, Mom snorted laughter.


“Yes, I get it. You’re removing plaque. You’re putting something else in place of my vascular walls. Listen, you’re cute. What do you say I take you out for coffee and we forget all about this nasty heart business.”


Mom kissed his forehead. “You’re incorrigible,” she said.

The nurse smiled brightly. She said, “Or we could go to a bar. I know this anesthesiologist who can mix up a mean cocktail.”

“Now you’re talking!”

Mom rolled her eyes and looked in my direction. “Don’t encourage him,” she told the nurse.

“It’s all right,” she said. “A positive attitude is what gets most heart patients through. We’re about to head back to surgery now.” Indeed, an entire team had materialized around the bed. They tugged and rotated, and soon, my father was on his way out the door.

Mom stood up suddenly. “Jim!” she called.

The whole parade stopped for a moment as she walked across the room. She took his hand again and said, “You come back to me, now. I love you old man.”

Dad smiled from the gurney. “My heart is going to be just fine,” he said. “All it needs is a little elbow grease.”

Then they let go of each other, and he rolled away down the hall. I said, “He’ll be OK, Mom.”

Mom said, “I know. Or I hope I do. I just hope he doesn’t tell so many jokes the doctor forgets how to operate.”

“That’s why they put him under, I think. So the doctor can concentrate and do his job.”

“You’re probably right about that. Anyway, let’s scoot back down the hall. That waiting room isn’t going to populate itself, you know.”

“I guess not.” I tried hard to think of one of Dad’s signature jokes to fill the silence, but nothing came, so I took my mother’s hand and we walked out together.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Barb Black gave me this prompt: All it needs is a little elbow grease.

I gave Kat this prompt: Chad followed me from room to room singing his cow song while I picked up dirty laundry and cleaned litter boxes.

Where It’s At

Last modified on 2012-06-21 02:07:24 GMT. 5 comments. Top.


Club Aqua burned on a Tuesday, and by Wednesday morning, the DJ and bartender were celebrities. Val, the DJ, wasn’t pleased. “I didn’t do anything,” she protested.

But Larry the bartender disagreed. “Listen, that whole fucking ceiling was coming in, and you was standing out on the floor directing traffic just like you was calling a square dance or something. If you hadn’t had your shit together, those people would have flipped out and stampeded. We’d all be dead.”

“OK, I wasn’t the one carrying people out on my goddamned shoulders,” Val snapped. “All I did was tell people where to find the doors. You were picking them up off the floor and hauling them out the front.  That’s saving lives. You want to call me heroic, you might as well say it about the builder who put the exits in there in the first place, right?”

The interview aired on the evening news,  with the expletives appropriately censored. Channel eight even scored a fuzzy cell video taken in the midst of the exodus to air with “Husband and Wife Team Save Scores in Five Alarm Blaze”.

They wanted to compare it to Rhode Island’s fire at The Station in ‘03, when the band’s effects triggered a real burn and sent a hundred people to talk with the Almighty.  But after a few days, when the fire inspector ruled Club Aqua’s an electric fire, the news anchors all had to fall back to discussing the DJ and bartender and airing the grainy cell pictures.

The other difference from The Station fire, the one that really kept the whole thing in the limelight longer than was perhaps reasonable, was that nobody died. And that was probably what kept the focus on the two employees. The fire inspector said, “Fire burns up, and this started in the attic. There wouldn’t have been any problem for the people down below if the smoke detectors  and sprinklers had come on when they were supposed to.”

In fact, when smoke started filtering into the dance floor through the ducts, the sprinkler system and alarms did kick in. “And that’s what saved people,” said Val. “That and Larry pulling his shirt over his face and getting those women out of the bathroom.”

“I’m telling you,” Larry contradicted. “It was like Val cast a spell on them. The sprinklers came on, and it was just… an annoyance.” The pair was on national news, by that time, wearing somewhat cleaner clothes and using slightly better language. “She had on that Beck song, right before it started raining inside…”

Val gave Larry the title. “Where It’s At.”

“Yeah. And that’s like her song. She jumped out of that booth and started talking to us and she was where it was at, you know? The sprinklers was just irritating, and people was looking for ‘out’, but then this huge chunk of the ceiling fell down, and everybody screamed, but not Val. She said, ‘Larry, you check the toilets,’ and she sent the other employees to find people. And when her microphone went out, she just kept talking, until I had to pick her up and take her out on the third trip through. Like she got caught inside her own spell.”

“Stop it. I wasn’t caught in any spell. I was so scared, it was all I could do to keep from screaming. I kept thinking “two turn tables and a microphone” so I wouldn’t smell the smoke. And I kept talking because I was too scared I was going to scream and start the riot. I couldn’t move. If you hadn’t picked me up, I’d have died in there. Now how’s that for heroism? I couldn’t even move.” Val got out of her chair and just stood there in front of it until Larry reached up and tugged on her shirt. Then she sat back down. “I’m still having nightmares.” Larry put his arm over her shoulders, and she rubbed her face.

A week later, some amateur video editor combined that clip of Val rubbing the bridge of her nose on national television and the cell phone footage of the fire. He wiped out the sound and replaced it with Beck singing “Where It’s At”. It went viral, and after that, bars and clubs around the country wanted to hire Larry and Val the bartending DJ team. But nobody seemed to be able to find them. They just disappeared after that interview.

And the searchers didn’t look too hard. The Club Aqua fire was nearly a month old by then, and the public attention wandered. One of their old neighbors said they bought a boat and learned to sail. Another one said it was an RV. A third, a new age hippie type, said they were never real to begin with, that they were spirits who rose up when called upon and simply returned to their natural element when the need had passed.

But on the video, they didn’t look all that ethereal. They looked real, grimy in every setting, even when they cleaned up for the show, like the smoke sheen never left their skin. It looked as if they were more real, in fact, than everything else around them. During the fire, in all the interviews, they seemed as solid and muddy as the very earth.

For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Supermaren gave me this prompt: two turntables and a microphone.

I gave Liz Culver this prompt: Monday morning, the sun rose, the world turned, and my dog brought me a fleshy human hand from the creek.

Ghost Camp

Last modified on 2012-06-16 02:36:20 GMT. 8 comments. Top.

Carly Groban bounded into the kitchen on lanky legs. “Oh, look!” she cried, reaching for the mail.

“Don’t touch it! It’s evil!” Her mother Sharon snatched the collection of brochures and ads out of the way before Carly’s hand made contact with the flyer on top.

“I just want the camp catalogue.”

You ordered that?” Sharon drank from her steaming mug then put it down and rested her temple against her fingertips.

“Dad said he’d pay for it, Mom. You don’t have to worry about…”

“This has nothing to do with the finances!”

Again, Carly reached for the mail; again, her mother moved it. “This is going to be another one of your ghost stories, isn’t it?”

Sharon looked up,  her eyes bloodshot and her cheeks streaked with red. “No,” said Sharon. “This is the ghost story.”

“Mom, I don’t think your meds are working.”

“I don’t take medicine because I see ghosts.” Sharon banged the coffee cup on the table and took several deep breaths. Then she got up and swept the mail into a trash can that materialized at her side.

Carly said, “I’m calling Gran.”

“Sit down.”

“I just want to go to summer camp…”

“Sit down.”

Carly sat.

Sharon said, “I was fifteen when I went to summer camp for the first time. It was wonderful.”

“I never knew you went to summer camp.”

“Sure. Only in my day, if you were a teenager, you went as a junior counselor. Senior counselors stayed in a house in the middle of a quad, and junior counselors lived in the cabins with the kids. So I had my own cabin of ten year olds to mind that first year. The next year, they promoted me to the twelve year olds.” As Sharon spoke, thunder rumbled outside, although the sky was blue. There would be no storm. Not out there. Inside, chairs, end tables, and boxes began to move around the house, all squeezing in around the table. She said, “Hello girls. Don’t knock over the coffee.”

“Mom, you need to take your Risperdal.”

“I took my Risperdal, Carly. How could I make this up?” She pointed around the table, to the assembled furniture.

“I…I don’t know. I want to call, Gran.”

“Honey, your Gran knows all of this. I don’t want to put her through it again.”

Carly didn’t reply, and Sharon went on speaking. “We lived with the kids, and we tried to keep them out of trouble and get action on the side ourselves. I think the junior counselors were crazier than the kids.”

“Yeah? How come you never told me you went to summer camp?”

“Because everyone died that second year, except the kids in my cabin.”


“It was in the news if you want proof, and I really think your Gran should have told you before she let you go ordering something like that catalogue.” Sharon tilted her coffee cup and, determining it empty, drifted over to the sink and set it down. When she moved, the entire procession of chairs came along.

“Well Gran never told me anything like that.”

“Of course she wouldn’t. She wants to protect you. But I think she should have, and I’ll do my best to tell you now.” Sharon turned to the rumbling furniture. “Sit girls,” she said. The chairs stopped moving, and Sharon turned back to the window.

She went on. “There was a woman killed in Atlanta, and one of the guys started a rumor that the murderer was hiding out in an old barn. The counselors scared each other with it, and of course scared the campers, too…”

“Oh my God. He was hiding there, wasn’t he?”

“Don’t get ahead of the story, Carly,” said Sharon. “As I said, we scared each other with it through a couple of sessions, until a bunch of the boys decided to raid the barn one night. The girls overheard and went to wait in the barn and scare them first.

“I was hot for Jim Waugh. But I saw him kissing Tina Belcher, and I had an idea they’d stay behind to make out. I wanted to jump out and get their picture. So I sent my girls to Jenny Simmons and went to hide behind the boys cabins. Only Tina and Jim never showed up, and I got bored waiting. So I went back to my cabin, and there were all my girls mad because Jenny left without them and none of the kids knew where the barn was.”

“Wait a minute…” Carly got up.

“Carly sit down and let me finish.”

“No, I remember now.” Carly found her legs jerked out from under her by an unseen force. “This is bullshit, Mom. GRAN!”

“Don’t bother your grandmother!

Sharon’s bloodshot eyes grew to swallow her entire face as she flew at Carly, who intoned, “Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!” like a magic spell until her grandmother’s arms shook her awake.

Carly’s limbs were at first too heavy to move in bed.  She was curled into a fetal shell, and she had cut off circulation to her right ankle by tangling it up and pinning it under the left one.

Her grandmother said, “You OK?”

“Yeah.” Carly breathed heavily, like she’d run a long way. “I was afraid you wouldn’t hear me.”

“No, I heard.” Carly’s grandmother sat down heavily on the chair beside the bed. “I heard. What was it this time?”

“Some damned summer camp story.” The logy feeling finally let go of her arms and chest, and Carly pushed up on one elbow. If she had ever wanted to go to camp, the desire had now officially passed. But she couldn’t remember ever wanting to go, even though, in that dream, she had ached to reach in the trash and pull the catalog back out. “She was all on about how everybody but the girls in her cabin died…”

“Well that one at least has a shard of truth in it.”


“Just a shard. Some girl killed herself at the same camp your mother went to.”

“And she blows it up into a massacre.”

“With herself as the heroine no doubt.”

“It was looking that way.”

Carly’s Gran got up from the bedside chair and went to the window. Then she whistled.

Carly said, “What?” Her legs were working again, so she swung them down to the floor, but she didn’t stand up yet.

“She bopped a hole in the glass this time.”

Now Carly whistled. “We’ll have to cleanse the house.”

“Well, that’s been coming. Your feet any good yet?”

Carly rose carefully. “I won’t be running, but I’m good to walk.”

“Come look at this.”

Carly limped over to the window. Her right leg tingled as blood flow returned to the foot. She squinted out and saw a slimy pamphlet outside on the sill. “I guess she brought me a present.”

“Don’t touch it,” her grandmother said, “It’s evil.”

Carly laughed, low and hollow. “I guess she knew you’d say that.” She looked out beyond the window into the night, “Mama! If you would have just taken your medicine it would all be fine. This isn’t my fault, and it’s not Gran’s. Go haunt Daddy awhile, will you? I’ve got a Geometry test in the morning.”

Carly’s grandmother patted her on the shoulder. “Do you think you can sleep any more tonight?”

“Probably. But I’m moving to the den, if it’s all the same to you.”

Gran nodded. “I was going to suggest that,” she said. “Come on. I’ll help you get your blankets moved.” They walked back across the room together, mutual victims of the same haunting, abandoning the affected room until they could cleanse Sharon from the house once more.


For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Supermaren gave me this prompt: Don’t touch it; it’s evil!.

I gave Grace O’Malley this prompt: Three dozen nightmares later, he finally had his answer. (No need to quote – just take off on the theme.)

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