Two Bottles and a Revelation

This year for my father’s birthday I decided to write a story for him. This is a flash fiction glimpse into the life of a beer drinking priest. I was inspired by my father who loves both beer and God. I hope you enjoy.

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Two Bottles and a Revelation

By Lauren Sisley

-To my dad who taught me to follow God’s calling

Father Roberts loosened his collar after a long day’s wear. He shut the door to his study and took a seat behind the desk. There were no easy days leading his congregation. Each day was packed with meetings to attend, hospitals to visit, and house calls to make.

With tired hands he opened his Bible. It was time to focus on his own spirit. In his line of work it was easy to pour himself out. It was more difficult to fill himself back up. As he began to pray for direction in his work his stomach rumbled. Hours of running about herding the sheep caused him to forget about lunch.

The prayer ended quickly. He resolved to move his work into the parsonage where he was free to shed the collar and to fix himself a plate of spaghetti. Behind the desk was an old creaky door which adjoined his parsonage to the abbey. Minutes later, as he stood over the stove stirring the pot of minced onion and tomatoes his heart was heavy with an encounter from that day.

 

“Father, I’m not sure that I am living in God’s favor.” Sampson, a young man from the congregation admitted while sitting on the other side of the desk.

“What makes you unsure?” Father Roberts questioned.

“Lately things have gone from bad to worse in my life. Like, no matter how hard I pray or how righteous I try to be life just sucks.” Sampson’s shoulders sank and his eyes dropped to the floor where his toes tapped against the carpet.

“What is it about this life that sucks?”

“I’m drowning at work. I try to do everything right, but it’s just never enough. There was a promotion I was really hoping for. It would help my family so much. Now, I have to go home and tell my wife the bad news.” His hands were beginning to fidget.

“Have you prayed for God’s will?” Father Roberts opened most sessions with this question. Many of the people he had spoken with throughout the years wanted more, but rarely did they seek the counsel of the Lord.

“Well, not really.” The young man admitted. “I just sort of assumed that if I worked hard I’d get it. God knows it would help with the kids.”

“Ah, yes. But sometimes our will and God’s are not the same.” Father Roberts began to run his fingers over the stubble growing on his chin. When he looked into Sampson’s eyes he was taken back to his twenties. The man was so familiar.

“But I’ve been doing everything right.”

“It isn’t about our acts, Sampson. It’s about our faith.”

 

Father Roberts opened the refrigerator and pulled out a cold beer. As the noodles boiled he stirred his homemade sauce while also taking long drinks from the refreshing bottle. He felt the weight of the day lift with each gulp.

Moments later his phone rang. He put down the bottle and turned down the stove top to allow for a simmer. He reached for his phone and realized that the call coming through was Sampson.

“Hello.”

“Hello, Father Roberts. It’s Sampson again. Would it be okay if I stopped by the parsonage tonight?”

“Well, of course it would be fine. I’m working on dinner. Would you like to join me?”

Sampson agreed to be there shortly and to bring his appetite. It had been a while since Father Roberts welcomed someone into his own home. It was his place of retreat from the beckoning of the church, but he sensed Sampson’s distress and happily offered a meal.

 

The two men sat across from one another for the second time that day. Father Roberts was on one side of the table finishing his bottle of beer and watching his guest. Sampson twirled the pasta on his fork for longer than any hungry human ever would. Something was on his mind and once Father Roberts fed himself he was sure they would get to it.

“So, please, tell me what has brought you here.”

“I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier. About God’s will.” Sampson said. He began to wriggle nervously in his chair. “I left your office and went home to pray.”

“That’s a start.” Father Roberts acknowledged.

“As I prayed there was something that I could not get out of my head.” Father Roberts desperately wanted to return to the kitchen for another beer, but decided against it in the midst of Sampson’s discourse. “While I sat in my car praying about God’s will for me all I could think about was your collar, Father.”

The cleric was intrigued and searching for an explanation.

“What do you think it could mean?” Sampson’s fork stopped circling the plate of noodles. His eyes moved from his dinner to the priest along with his question.

“I can’t say I know.” Father Roberts admitted.

 

They finished their meals and Sampson left with the promise that Father Roberts would pray about the situation as well.

While he cleaned up their meal and did the dishes Father Roberts opened a second bottle. He let the aromatic brew warm his stomach. The bubbles fizzed and the stress of his day started to dissolve once again.

Sampson was a younger version of himself. Father Roberts remembered when he had first heard the call to priesthood. It wasn’t at a seminar or in the sanctity of a church. He was a student who enjoyed his beer like any other. He was up late studying for an Economics final with two beers already in his system. His heart became heavy with questions about his purpose. And in those moments as he pondered the direction his life was taking he heard the still, quiet voice of God. It was a call to lay it all down. In his dorm room he committed to the call and became a priest years later.

He was glad to serve a God that called him, but also allowed him to drink his beer. God accepted him twenty years ago for who he was. And now as his fingers wrinkled from the dish soap he recognized the calling of another. With the towel beside him he dried his hands off and called Sampson.

“Hello?”

“Sampson, it’s Father Roberts. I’ve had a revelation…”

It is unlawful to plagiarize any of the original work from The Ameri Brit Mom. No permission is given to reuse this text or ideas without written consent.

 

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The Smoke We Shared

This winter I took part in a writing contest through my online critique group. The prompt for the story was “Two Worlds” and the word limit was 1500 words. This is the story I entered in that contest.

The Smoke We Shared

By Lauren Sisley

The day we buried Archie was gray.

I had only known him for a few months, but I would never forget him.

“Almost there, Connor.” Bridget turned to me as she drove. She tried hard to be motherly during this time. After my own mother was caught with heroin twelve years ago Bridget became the woman assigned by the state to keep watch over me. “It was a lovely ceremony.” She tried to soothe my anxiety as we entered the grounds lined with tombstones.

I had no words with which to draw up a reply. Bridget gave up and continued the short drive to Archie’s plot without a word.

I watched as the hearse parked beside a red tent. I couldn’t take my eyes off of its cab. Something about the fact that Archie’s body was in the back of that car kept my attention.

Out of the row of chairs under the tent only two were occupied. Bridget sat beside me and grasped my hand as the men dressed in tailored suits brought the casket and set it above a six foot hole. The priest took his spot in front of the casket.

“Please join me in reciting the Lord’s Prayer.” He opened. My eyes did not divert from the oak casket as Bridget joined the priest in repeating a prayer. The words were foreign to me.

“Our Father who art in heaven…”

My mind went back to the first day I met Archie.

It was cold and I had just flunked my Algebra exam. I knew that bringing home the test score would mean undergoing house arrest with Bridget again. I was walking home along my usual route trembling from the frigid temperatures. I reached into the pocket of my coat and felt a small paper tube. I took it out of my pocket and lit it.

Three kids from school approached me from behind. I tried to keep my eyes down as they called after me.

“There’s that freak from school!”

“Yeah, that weird kid that doesn’t talk to anyone.”

There wasn’t enough time to run away. Before I knew it they had caught up.

I didn’t put up much of a fight when one of them punched me across the face. My vision went blurry as I was knocked around a bit more.

“What are you kids doing? Get lost!” I heard a voice from the house behind me shouting. “I’m calling the cops. Get off my property!” I took a few more hits to the face and the boys ran. They made off with my coat and cigarettes.

I laid on the pavement for a few more minutes aching from the beating.

“You alright, kid?” The man asked me. He didn’t touch me or try to help me off the ground. I took a closer look at him and saw that he was in rough shape himself. His face was leathery and scarred. His eyes were sad. Several teeth had fallen out.

“Who are you?” I questioned this stranger.

“Nevermind that. Let’s get you inside. We can call your parents in there.” The weak old man attempted to help me off the sidewalk, but in the end I had to muster the strength myself. We used each other’s bodies as crutches as we made our way up the path into his small home.

Entering his home was like stepping back into the 1940s. It smelled of molasses and his living room had wood paneled walls that were barren except for a crooked wedding photo.

“The telephone is in the bedroom. I’ll fetch it. Take a seat on the sofa.” I lowered myself gently onto his old fashioned sofa. The room was dark and there was no television. Instead, an old radio was standing in the corner of the room. From his bedroom down the hall I could hear him coughing loudly. It sounded painful. At the time I didn’t know that it was caused by the cells metastasizing on his lungs.

A few seconds after his cough I saw his silhouette emerge from the bedroom carrying something that resembled a house phone.

“What’s your house number? I’ll dial for you.”

“Bridget won’t be home. You will have to call her at work.” I answered still a little weak.

He returned ten seconds later brandishing a large book with yellow pages.

“Where she work?” He asked adjusting his bifocals on his nose.

“She cleans offices at Barrel and Dumm’s.” I replied noticing that my lip was bleeding.

The man thumbed through the book struggling to read the small print. Just as he located the number he turned and released another loud bark from his throat.

“You okay?” I questioned.

“I’m fine.” He said as though my question was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard.

“Who am I to ask for?”

“Bridget Morris.”

“Yes, may I please speak to a Ms. Morris?” I let myself relax a little into the sofa as I imagined Bridget’s reaction to these recent events. I listened as he assessed my state to Bridget and imagined she was quite frantic on the other end. The man provided Bridget his address and then hung up. “She’ll be here within the hour.” He assured me as he walked the telephone back to his room.

He returned with a pack of cigarettes and turned on the radio as he took a seat in the recliner beside me.

“Want a light?” He offered, but I turned him down. I wasn’t about to smoke if Bridget was on her way. That would add another month to the grounding. We waited for her arrival without speaking. He read the newspaper and I stretched out on the sofa.

I felt at home in the silence.

The doorbell rang thirty minutes after their call. I know this because I watched the arm of the clock on the wall make half a revolution around the dial as I listened to the grossly outdated music on the radio. The man removed his glasses and folded up his paper before opening the door.

“Can I help you?” He asked roughly.

“Yes, I’m Bridget, I believe you have my foster son.” I could hear the fear in her voice.

“Come in. He’s on the sofa. Not much of a talker that one.” He opened the door and pointed toward me.

“Connor!” She gasped as she saw my face.

“Thank you so much, Sir.” She turned toward the man. “Where’s your coat?” She questioned me.

“They got it.”

“Let’s get you home. You’re freezing.” Before we could leave the man went to a closet in the hallway. He brought out an old coat and offered it to me. I tried to decline, but Bridget thanked him and wrapped it around me as we made our way home.

A week later I was wearing a new coat from the thrift shop and decided I would return the old man’s coat on my way home from school. I rang the doorbell and could hear coughing and cursing from within his house.

“Can I help you?” He acted as though he had never met me before.

“Yes, Sir. You let me borrow your coat last week. I just wanted to return it and say thank you.” I stood freezing as we spoke in the doorway.

“Come in.” He ordered. I entered and was met with the familiar smell of molasses. “You don’t look like that same sorry sod was here last week.” He coughed.

“I’m doing much better.” I smiled. He coughed again as he reached into his pocket and brought out a pack of cigarettes.

“Want a light?” He offered the pack to me. This time, I accepted. I reached in and took a paper tube and pulled my own lighter from my pocket. I inhaled and felt myself relax. I took a seat on the sofa where I had laid last week.

“Was that your wife?” I asked motioning my cigarette toward the wedding photo on the wall.

“Ah, yes. Beautiful right until the end.” He took a long puff and let his mind wander back to her. Another loud bark interrupted his memories.

“Are you okay?” I asked again.

He shook his head this time opening up to me about the cancer.

I would stop there six more times over the next two months. Some days he would tell me about his wife or about the war. Other days we would sit in the smoke of silence that we shared.

A few days ago I stood on his porch with my lighter ready. I knocked. No one answered.

“Ambulance left a couple hours ago. Took Archie with ‘em.” An old lady called from across the street. I knew in that moment that he was gone. I turned to walk home and smoked a cigarette in his memory.

“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

I watched as they lowered Archie into the ground.

 

It is unlawful to plagiarize any of the original work from The Ameri Brit Mom. No permission is given to reuse this text or ideas without written consent.

 

Tragedy In Times Square (Part 2)

The month of November is coming to a close.

Although I did not participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I did decide to focus this month on creative writing. As a part of that goal I have developed the premise for two new YA novels: Tragedy in Times Square and The Walk from Winleigh. I have also joined an online critique group which has already helped me grow so much as a writer. My group is participating in a contest in December so you will hopefully see my piece from that contest in the early days of 2017!

All in all, it has been great to shift my focus back on to fiction writing. I love to blog and write about my life, but my first passion in writing is fiction.

Last week I introduced you to Clara, the main character for Tragedy in Times Square.

This week, I want to introduce you to her Uncle Mark in the second installment of this story. As always, I welcome critique and feedback although I also have brought this piece to my critique group and received feedback there as well. Enjoy!

Tragedy in Times Square (Part 2)

by Lauren Sisley

“Wait here…” I motioned to Aspen to stay in place as I began to move toward Mark.

“Where are you going, Clara?” Aspen asked. She was just as surprised and freaked out as I was. Mark stopped by a tree fifty feet in the distance. He was leaned to one side of the tree as if waiting for me to meet him.

“I’ll be right back. I want to check this out.” I strode past Aspen and toward the small tree and the unexplained figure of my deceased uncle.

With each step I could feel my heart thudding. It felt as though it may escape my chest. It was on it’s way up to my throat. I tried to swallow back the lumps forming in my throat as I walked. This is what fear does to the body.

As I approached the tree I was careful not to break eye contact with Mark.

He held a hand out to me silently. On impulse I reached my hand out to fill his. I watched as my hand cut the air where I should have made impact with his. There was nothing there. My face wrinkled in disbelief as I watched.

“Hello, Clara.” His voice was soft and gentle.

“Uncle Mark?” I questioned and he nodded in response. “But, you’re…”

“I am, Clara, you’re right.” I was beginning to feel like I had lost my sanity. I became aware of the others approaching on the street and how odd it must look to see a girl talking to no one under a tree.

“How are you here?” I asked with a shaky voice.

“That doesn’t matter. It’s why I’m here that’s important.” I began to look him over from head to toe. It wasn’t like the movies. He wasn’t illuminating there under the tree. He looked real. For someone that I never met he was so familiar. He resembled my mother in a great way, but also was familiar because his face filled the frames of countless photos around my house and my Grandmother’s home in Albany.

“Why?” I couldn’t even mutter a full sentence. This was such a surreal experience.

“I’m here to help you and your mother, Clara.” His eyes turned to a sad expression. “Nothing makes me more sorry than the way she is hanging on to me.” He spoke as though he had been present over the years-like he had seen the way she mourned him with ever fiber of her being.

“So why did you come to me?” I asked confused about my role in all of this.

“Because, Clara, there is no one on this Earth more important to your mother than you. You are the reason she has held it together. Her love for you is deeper than you can imagine.” Mark was going on about my mother’s love, but after the morning I had experienced I found it hard to accept his words as truth. “If anyone can help her it is you.”

“Do you really think so?” I asked unsure of my own standing with Mom.

“Yes, absolutely. Plus, I never got to meet you in person.” He winked at me.

“Now you have.” I smiled back still unsure of this whole situation.

“And you are as wonderful and beautiful as I had hoped you would be.” A tear fell from my eye. I pretended to lean back and look at Aspen so that Mark wouldn’t see me wipe the droplet as it escaped my eye. “Who is your friend?” Mark asked gesturing toward Aspen sitting alone on the curb a few buildings away.

“That’s Aspen. She’s my best friend.” I couldn’t help but smile as I spoke about her. Aspen had proven to by loyal and caring time and time again. Both of us were looking at her now and Aspen could sense it.

“Ready to catch a movie?” She called out to me from where she sat.

“Just a minute.” I returned her call.

“It’s fine, Clara, go enjoy your birthday.” Mark smiled.

“But, you haven’t had a chance to tell me anything.” I pleaded.

“Oh, do not worry. I will be around for awhile.” He gave a slight grin. “I’m here until the mission is complete.”

“What does that mean?” I was confused.

“It means you will see me again. I won’t waste any more of your precious birthday. I will be back again soon.”

“But, how will you find me?” I asked with a worried expression.

“Clara, you of all people should know that I am always with you. It’s never been a matter of finding you, but more a matter of whether or not you would see me.” Something within myself confirmed his words. I had always been taught that the people who have passed never really leave us. Even though I had never met Mark I grew up under the impression that Uncle Mark was watching over me. Mom and Dad had relayed that message on numerous occasions. This isn’t quite what I thought they had meant.

“So I will see you again soon?” I wanted this answer before I would walk away.

He nodded. “Happy Birthday, Clara. I am so proud of you.” He gave one last bright smile as he turned and faded from my vision.

I turned toward Aspen who was patiently waiting for me, and I began to walk in her direction.

“Is everything okay?” She asked. I moved my finger tips which were freezing cold toward my face where a stream of warm tears were gathering. I nodded to reassure Aspen as she embraced me. I crumbled in her arms and began to cry aloud.

“It was Mark.” I sobbed.

“Did something remind you of him?” Aspen was reaching for a way to make sense of what just happened.

“No, he was here.” I realized how insane I had sounded and prepared myself for laughter or jokes from Aspen. I should have known better.

“What did he want?” She said supportively.

“To help my mom and to wish me a Happy Birthday.” I was still crying pretty hard. I saw a few other pedestrians pass us pretending not to notice my meltdown.

“Well, that’s not so bad, Clara. There’s no need to be upset.” Aspen was soothing. If anyone else had been witness to this event in my life I would have been the butt of jokes forever, but Aspen held me with an embrace that communicated understanding. She didn’t judge me or poke fun of the fact that I was claiming to have seen and spoken to my dead uncle. In that moment my gratitude for her friendship emerged to a new level.

“Thank you, Aspen.” I said as I began to gather my composure. “Let’s go see that movie.” I smiled as we broke free from each other’s arms and began to walk toward downtown.

It is unlawful to plagiarize any of the original work from The Ameri Brit Mom. No permission is given to reuse this text or ideas without written consent. Always give credit where credit is due.

Another Short Story: Tragedy in Times Square (Part 1)

As part of my commitment to fiction writing this month I joined an online critique community. With my membership to the group I get to submit one short story per week to receive feedback. I am so excited about having this weekly opportunity to hear from professionals in the field. I also have access to a writing coach and publishers through online forums. This week I submitted my first installment from a novella I’m working on called “Tragedy in Times Square.”

This novella is about a young girl who was born at the same that her uncle died in a terrorist attack just miles away. Her mundane life is thrown off when her dead uncle appears on her fourteenth birthday and offers her a chance to bring peace to the family which still aches from his passing.

Here is a look at the first installment. Please feel free to offer thoughts. I’ve already received so much valuable feedback from my critique group, but I’m always looking for ways to make my writing stronger.

Tragedy in Times Square (Part 1)

by Lauren Sisley

They say that the day I was born was a tragedy. Not because I took my first breath and began life on this planet, but because so many others breathed their last. Fourteen years ago a group of angry men stormed into Times Square armed with their faulty religion and began to open fire on innocent tourists. Amongst the innocents was my uncle, Mark. He had driven to the city to await my grand entrance into this world. He was sightseeing when unbeknownst to him Mom had gone into labor and was desperately trying to reach him.

Within hours 1,204 people were dead. Days later fifty more would be added to that count. Mark’s life was extinguished instantly. To say that it was a tragedy is an understatement. It was a curse to be born on such a black day in our country’s history.

Today I turn fourteen.

Every year I hear my mother rise on my birthday and from her bedroom gentle sobbing can be heard. It’s hard not to take it personally that my mother begins my birthday in such downtrodden spirits, but I also can’t blame her for mourning her brother. She always tries so hard to hide the pain for my sake. I could hear her heavy breathing and sniffles as I entered the hallway outside of my bedroom.

Downstairs I knew better than to turn on the television set. Although part of my daily routine, April 5th was the exception.

“Good morning.” My father greeted me as I entered the kitchen. The smell of his usual breakfast tea and blueberry muffins filled the room.

“Hi, Dad.” I said as I opened the refrigerator to grab the carton of orange juice.

“Happy Birthday.” He smiled. As I shut the door to the refrigerator he embraced me in a warm hug which was not uncommon as a morning greeting from him. 

“Thanks.” I said once he withdrew. If there was anyone I could count on to treatment like royalty on my birthday it was my dad. He did well to overcompensate for my mother on this day. 

“Is your mother awake yet?” He asked trying not to insinuate his knowledge of her grief.

“I think I heard her getting up.” Although I really wanted to say I had heard her crying like a baby.

“Give her a few minutes and I’m sure she will be down.” Dad’s eyes went to the floor before he turned to pluck a fresh muffin from the pan. “But I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if we kicked off your birthday without her.” He tossed me a muffin. It was still warm on the bottom.

Several minutes later I heard the faint steps of my mother descending the stairs. And within seconds her small body sauntered into the kitchen.

“Happy Birthday, Clara.” Mom walked over to me to drop a kiss on the top of my head. Her eyes were surrounded by puffy skin and dark circles. Her flowing white robe was damp near the collar. It had been a hard morning for her as it always was on my birthday. She sat down at the bar stool beside me and Dad poured her a cup of coffee. Her tiny hand reached out from under her robe and grabbed mine. I stroked her fingers to let her know I understood and that I wasn’t upset.

After breakfast I showered and got dressed for school. Most people dislike going to school on their birthday, but for me it is a nice escape from the depression at home. It gives Mom a chance to mourn Mark so that in the afternoon she can truly celebrate my life. Just on time and like every other school day Dad slipped into the garage to start the car and I followed quietly and plopped into the passenger seat with my book bag across my lap.

“Do you have anything you want to do tonight?” Dad asked. It was his way of letting me know he had cleared his busy work schedule to make time for family that evening.

“Nothing in particular. I’m sure I’ll think of something at school.” I said with my hands folded across the bag.

“Let me know if there is any carry-out you’d like me to pick up or a cake that sounds delicious. I can grab whatever you want on my way back from Brooklyn.” He smiled as we backed out of the garage.

I leaned forward to turn on the radio to the usual station that served as a soundtrack for our morning commute.

“At exactly 2:05pm, our nation will observe a moment of silence today in honor of the victims of the Times Square Tragedy fourteen years ago.” Dad could sense my annoyance and changed the channel to an indie pop station and pretended to like it as he nodded along to the whimsical beat.

I don’t think it is a secret that I hate my birthday. Celebrations always seem forced. The mood is somber and bleak. Every single year it is a reminder of loss even for my own parents. I rarely hear an excited “Happy Birthday” that isn’t painted with overtones of pity. Instead of hearing, “I’m so grateful for you, Clara,” every pronouncement of birthday wishes sounds more like, “how unfortunate you were born this day.”

“Clara!” Aspen shouted from across the middle school yard. Classes were starting soon and I attempted to skip the birthday wishes that my friend Aspen would soon offer. With my head down and headphones in place I continued on my path toward English class. “Clara, wait up,” she called from ten feet behind me.

A few moments later I felt a familiar hand on my shoulder. I removed the headphones from my ears and pretended like I hadn’t heard her calling my name for the past thirty seconds.

“Oh, hey, Aspen.” We stopped briefly in the middle of the entryway, but were overrun by other students and walked at the pace of the rest of the traffic through the school entrance.

“How’s your birthday morning going?” She asked unsure whether a smile was appropriate.

“Like every other year.” I didn’t try to hide my disappointment.

“I’m sorry.” Her eyes were downcast. “I got you something.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a neatly wrapped pink bakery box. “Happy Birthday.”

“Thanks.” I smiled for the first time all morning.

“I know you love the long johns at Spencers so I stopped there on my way in this morning.” I opened the box and peeked in. The golden outside was painted with just the right ratio of fudge to fried dough. The confectionary smell wafted up to my nostrils. Even if my morning hadn’t gone as planned, I was happy for a friend who knew the right time for a donut. “Oh, and my mom said if you wanted to come and have dinner with us that would be fine.”

Aspen was one of those friends I couldn’t be rude to. She was always so happy and always tried her best to make me feel special.

“That sounds great. I’ll text my mom later and let her know. I’m sure she won’t care.” I was suddenly happy to spend my birthday away from Mom. I know it’s sad, but the reality is I want a birthday like everyone else. I want to go out to dinner, throw a party, and get sick off of too much sugar. But ever since the day I was born, April 5th has been a day of remembering for Mom. Sure, she gained a daughter on that day fourteen years ago, but she also lost her twin. Ever since, she’s been living with part of her soul missing.

I walked home with Aspen. She lives just two blocks from school and gets to avoid all vehicular traffic. I envy that luxury because she doesn’t have to hop into her dad’s car and drown in awkward silence twice a day.

“It was so hard not to cry in American History today.” She admitted. “The videos from the Times Square Tragedy were rough.” I thought back to a woman who was interviewed. Her husband had been a victim. Just like Uncle Mark.

“Yeah. So close to home.” I tried to not sound bored.

“I’m sorry, Clara.” Aspen meant it. There wasn’t much that she said that she didn’t mean.

“What do you think about catching a movie?” She asked trying to change the subject.

“Sounds great.” I said trying to remember any recent trailers I had seen on television. As my mind was trying to recall the name of the movie about the girl who fell in love with a half man-half eagle, I noticed a man across the street who seemed to be staring in our direction.

“What do you want to see?” Aspen asked, but my eyes had met the strangers and a weird feeling replaced the blood in my veins. From behind the vehicles parked on the other side of the road I could see the deep, dark eyes peering without fear directly into my own. My heart was racing and I began to feel fear coursing through my body. “Clara…” Aspen struggled for my attention.

“Oh, um I don’t mind.” My eyes were locked into the stranger’s who was now mimicking our pace across the street. Something about him was familiar. I felt as though I had seen him in a movie. I couldn’t put a finger on his identity.

“Clara, are you okay?” Aspen had picked up on the absence of my attention. “What are you looking at?” She followed my eyes.

“Do you see him?” I whispered careful not to drop the eye contact.

“See who?” She asked clearly beginning to freak out.

“That man over there?” I motioned with my head not my hands. I was trying to be subtle. He knew I was looking right at him because he was doing the same to me.

“Clara, there’s no one over there.” Aspen squinted, but saw nothing.

“You don’t see that man?”

“What man?”

And then it hit me. That man wasn’t a movie star. He wasn’t some actor I had seen relaying practiced lines and pretending to be a character. No, this man was one I had seen in my own house. In photo albums lined with dust and tears. His dark eyes resembled my mother’s and his small frame was only slightly larger than hers. Then, without thinking I let his name escape my mouth.

“Mark?”

“Mark, who’s Mark?” Aspen repeated still trying to catch a glimpse of the man hidden from her gaze.

“Mark is my uncle.” I admitted.

“You don’t have any family in New York, Clara. You’re freaking me out.”

“I did. My uncle Mark.” He was approaching the crosswalk parallel to us. And as he turned to walk, he nodded.

“But your uncle Mark…didn’t he die in the…?” Aspen started.

“It’s him, Aspen. I know it.”

It is unlawful to plagiarize any of the original work from The Ameri Brit Mom. No permission is given to reuse this text or ideas without written consent. Always give credit where credit is due.

The Faithful Daughter

Something other than an election is happening today all over the world. Today marks the 8th day for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.) I haven’t been participating in the traditional capacity of 2,000+ words a day, however, I have been trying to focus on fiction writing a few times a week. Something I haven’t done in a while is craft a short story. That is one of my favorite things to do so in honor of NaNoWriMo and my own interests I am going to publish a short story on here today.

A little background: This story is an allegory of the story of Ruth from the Bible. It seems like this story has been popping up a lot in my life recently and so when I sat down to write a story this is what I chose to use as a map. The characters reflect Naomi and Ruth and their relationship. If you are unfamiliar with their story check out Ruth 1-4.

The Faithful Daughter

By Lauren Sisley

“Mama, I’m home!” I called into the dark home as I closed the door behind me with one hand. In the other hand, I held the bottom corner of my dress. It was weighed down with my earnings from the field.

Mama’s short, round figure appeared in the doorway. She was covered with several shawls and carried a large woven basket when she met me in the foyer. As she flopped the basket down on the floor in front of me, I dropped the corner of my dress and a pound and a half of grain fell into the basket below.

“Bless you, child.” Mama kissed my cheek before taking up the rewards from my work. I bowed to show that the honor was not mine, but rather hers in this act. I brushed the dust from the grain off of my dress and took steps toward the sofa made from wood pallets and straw in the corner of the room.

My job was hard and laborious, but I would never complain to Mama. I lived to serve her. As I let my body sink into the furniture I heard Mama call from the kitchen.

“Tell me of your day, Ria.” Mama rarely left the home. Every night she loved to hear my stories about the people from the town. Oftentimes, I found myself embellishing the tales of my mundane days just to see the spark of mystery that formed in Mama’s eyes. She was a foreigner in this town and knew very little about its people and its customs. But Mama was safe in the walls of the home, and after all she’d been through she was content to be safe.

“Today I tailed the fanciest of harvesters in the field opposite the marketplace…” I began.

“Do tell of him.” Although I could not see her face in the other room I could hear her smile in the way she spoke. Mama was a romantic.

“He wore boots and denim. His hair was the color of a raven.” My mind drifted back to the backside of the man I followed through the field.

“Mmm…Papa wore boots to harvest.” Mama’s mind was going back to her youth and her true love.

“This man was tall, but strong. He was a man sculpted of bronze.” I reflected on his skin tone and his chiseled features.

“And his eyes?” Mama asked.

“Oh, Mama, he never turned around.” I said sadly. She met my response with silence.

“Pity.” She said sadly, “Papa’s eyes were of opal.”

“Bronze and opal. I remember, Mama.” I sat up from the stiff sofa chair and made my way into the kitchen behind Mama. The window behind the stove was open and steam was rising from a small pot on top. She stood absently stirring the contents of the pot.

“Papa was the fanciest of harvesters.” Mama’s eyes were sad. A single tear formed in the corner of her eye. I reached a hand out to touch hers. Mama stepped away from the soup and let me envelope her delicate hand with mine.

“Papa truly was the fanciest of harvesters. This man I speak of was only a reminder of Papa.” Mama began to cry. I took over the cooking from her and allowed her a second to gather herself. “This man I speak of was gentle.”

Mama’s eyes moved from the floor to me as I spoke.

“The longer I followed him the more grains were dropped.” I smiled. Mama allowed a grin to appear on her own face.

“If this harvester is meant for you, you must not delay.” She warned me. “For if his days are short like Papa’s then you mustn’t waste any of them apart.”

I let the advice sink in as the soup simmered. All through dinner and the evening I wondered to myself about this man. As I was preparing for bed on the sofa I looked up from my changing to see Mama. She wore a tattered sleeping gown and her hair was down. Her lovely locks were only seen just before she made off to bed. She came toward me sullenly and wrapped me in her arms.

“My son, Ramone, was a true match to you. And you have served me well after his death. I release you now to love again. Ria, my daughter, I was old when my husband was killed. Surely, I will be a widow forever. But, you are young. God may still grant you another husband. If he does, I want you to go to him. Serve him as you have served me.”

Tears were streaming down my face. I ached to speak of Ramone. He was too young to be killed. When the men from across the waters came for him and his father he was too young. We had begun talks of starting a family. With his death I felt destined to bear no children and to live alone with his mother.

“Mama, I could never disrespect Ramone that way.” I fumbled with the words. My heart was broken for this woman who was advising me to pursue something she would never have the chance for herself.

“You have been the most faithful, Ria. I cannot blame you for wanting a family of your own.” Our embrace was broken. Mama took a look at the tears that were melting on my face and used her calloused hands to wipe them. “Get yourself to sleep. Tomorrow I will help you win the favor of this harvester.”

I fell asleep quickly that night. My dreams were full of the man from the field and in the morning the vision of a small child bouncing on Mama’s lap filled my heart with joy.

It is unlawful to plagiarize any of the original work from The Ameri Brit Mom. No permission is given to reuse this text or ideas without written consent. Always give credit where credit is due.

 

A Short Story About Mermaids

Lately, I’ve been trying to work on honing some of my writing skills by sitting down to craft a short story for a fifteen minutes or so each day. With each story I am focusing on something. Sometimes I choose to focus on characterization and really take time to develop a vivid character. Other ideas I’ve focused on in my prompted ramblings are setting, conflict, dialogue, and grammar. A website that has helped me not only build my skills through short lessons on writing, but also provided me prompts for writing ideas is called The Write Practice.

Today, I’ve decided to share with you this part of my creative writing process. This particular story was written with a focus of revealing plot information through dialogue. It may be an off-the-wall topic, but it was a good way to practice a skill I desperately need as I edit my novel.

The prompt is fantasy in nature: Mermaids attempt to install a democratic form of government, but the cephalopods are causing trouble.

Here is a glimpse at a short writing I did and posted on The Write Practice website.

The Oppression of Squid

Lauren Sisley

“Mira, where are you going?” Alexandra called after her best friend. She struggled to keep up with Mira’s pace as they swam through the Coral Village.

“I’m going to set this all straight. I’ve had enough.” Mira called back. Her voice trailed off in the distance between the two mermaids. Alexandra looked ahead and saw the golden locks of her best friend as she swam toward the Village Square. Soon her friend would be lost in crowd of sea creatures so Alexandra kicked her fins as quickly as she could. She began to gain on her friend.

“What makes you think the Dictator will listen to you? Plus, how do you plan to persuade an entire panel of cephalopods? They hate the mermaids. That’s why we’ve been living in oppression for so long.” Alexandra did her best to talk her boisterous friend out of whatever plan she had secretly devised.

“I’m so sick of this. I’m sixteen. I’m old enough to make my own choices and decisions. Why must I serve these nasty creatures?” Mira slowed down to look at her friend. Her blue eyes glistened in the light of the sea. They were large and round.

“Mira, it’s all part of our history. You know why we serve the dictator and his team of tentacles.” Alexandra reminded Mira of the fact that Hostile Mermaid History was the only true subject that the girls were taught in school.

“It just isn’t fair. You and I were not behind the nasty stories that were passed down orally for centuries about the cephalopods. Why do we have to pay the price?” Mira crossed her arms across her chest bumping the teal bra that she had made herself from shells she had found at the discount shell shop.

“No one ever said it was fair or justified. Nothing ever is here. But, it’s their reasoning. Don’t think for one second that a head strong sixteen year old will change the way things have been for so long.” The two girls moved closer to the town square. Their tones became hushed as they feared being overheard by the average passerby.

“Then let’s run away.” Mira’s eyes drifted to the distance as she entertained the idea in her mind. A devious smile creeped itself across her face.

“What are you two girls doing in the square unaccompanied?” A large squid dressed in his official uniform came within a tentacle’s reach from Alexandra. She moved back subtly.

“We are sixteen, Sir. That’s of age. And we’ve only come to speak with the Dictator.” Mira spoke matter-of-factly.

“Sixteen or not the Dictator will never hear from two young mermaids unsummoned. Run along to the village and get to work.” The officer spoke haughtily toward the girls.

Before she could respond the squid made a lunge toward the girls. Mira acted quickly pushing her friend out of the squid’s grasp. Taking Alexandra by the arm she pushed her way past the squid toward the large public square in the distance. The squid was caught off guard and soon lost the two mermaids in the sea of creatures going to and from the shops and reefs…

The Bionic Neurosurgeon

Just a little fiction to wet your palette. This is a short piece I wrote this week based on a prompt from The Write Practice. It’s a bit random, but was fun to write.

The Bionic Neurosurgeon

The snowboard landed a few feet from Weston in a mound of thick powdery snow. For a matter of minutes he lay unconscious sinking slightly under the weight of his own body. He had allowed his inner-daredevil to take charge when he made the decision to scale his way up to the expert course despite the warning of his insurance agent, Miguel.

When Weston awoke face-down in the snow he used his neck to pry himself from his present circumstance. Glancing at the imprint of his facial structure he smiled at its resemblance to the shape of his notorious iguana, Reptar. Weston keeps Reptar in a cage in his waiting room which he uses as a mechanism to lighten the mood at his private practice. Reptar is known throughout the town for his unusually long tongue and his ability to freak out all of the skittish women who work in the office like Eugenie, the surgeon.

“Doctor Eastmoor!” Weston heard his name reverberating off the mounds of surrounding snow. Eugenie and a couple of nurses came running urgently to his aid. It had been Weston’s idea to take the employees of his practice on the grand snowboarding adventure as their annual trip even though Eugenie had seriously questioned his motive.

“Doctor Eastmoor, it’s only been a few months since your bionic elbow was attached. You need it to heal properly before returning to the snow.” Eugenie had cautioned. She had been the one to perform the surgery which allowed Weston to keep his entire arm. Frostbite had nearly stolen his arm, hobby, and professional abilities last winter. At the time Eugenie had told him he would likely never snowboard again let alone perform another neurosurgery. But one month after attaching his bionic elbow he was cleared to return to his practice.When he had suggested the annual trip to the Snow Club he was met by critique from Eugenie, who seemed to be constantly reminding him of his new limitations.

“Can’t you find a safer hobby, Doctor Eastmoor?” Eugenie began. “Can’t you start a collection? I quite enjoy my antique microwave collection. It’s a lot of fun to invest in something you love. No danger there.”

So even though it was ill-advised, Weston book a cabin for the weekend and brought along his staff more for his own insurance than for a need for companionship. He was bound to not allow himself to give up his passion because of the new bionic addition.

As Eugenie approached Weston laying in the snow he saw, “I told you we shouldn’t have come here…” written all over her face. Before she could utter a word, however, he stood to his feet, checked that all extremities were intact, and then spoke irritably, “Don’t say a word, Eugenie. I’m fine.”

Prescription for Ratings: The Committee

About six months ago I was asked by a fellow blogger to read and review a short story installment to their anthology based on futuristic society of City-State. The first story was entitled Prescription for Ratings: The Contestants. On January 9th the authors released another segment in this series entitled Prescription for Ratings: The Committee. Below is my review and a link to the Amazon page where you can purchase the story for $.99.

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Prescription for Ratings: The Committee

By: Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills and James Courtney

In this second installment to the Prescription for Ratings anthology, the characters of a publicly televised fight-to-the-death reality show begin to reveal the values of this society. Tyler is the youngest member of the committee behind the calling of the shots. New to his career in the medical field and with his own ethics still intact, Tyler struggles to make some tough decisions pushed on him by other members of this committee. Once again, this was written with much attention to detail. I recommend this short story for all science fiction enthusiasts who enjoy some of the recent best-sellers of the genre.