In this time of quarantine, author and art historian Cornelia Feye discussed in our Author Interview how to look at our time stuck inside in a different way. Cornelia found three parallels of being stuck at home to her time at the Tasahara monastery:
Like in the monastery, we can’t really go anywhere, see our friends, or dive into outside distractions.
We are confined to our homes and have to look inward because so many of our distractions are gone. As Cornelia said, “We like to distract ourselves so we don’t have to encounter what’s really there, and by staying still in one place, you kinda have to look at where you are.”
We can’t look too far ahead. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, so rather than worry about it, focus on the moment and enjoy what is around you.
Having this opportunity to gain new mindfulness, Cornelia suggests that we have to “renegotiate our interaction and our relationship with time because we don’t know what is ahead…can’t really schedule that much, and so we have to look at it much more in a vertical way, all the things that are happening right now in this moment, and instead of floating along and moving along through each moment, we almost have to settle in it, and that includes all the sensations that come in this moment, all of the feelings that may arise, all the thoughts, also all the influences around us from nature, maybe the sounds of the wind, or the sounds of the birds around us, they’re all part of this moment.”
Cornelia’s time at the monastery inspired the setting for her next book, Death of a Zen Master, coming soon. Here is the link for the rest of Cornelia’s written collection. Click here to see the rest of this interview. Be sure to subscribe and click that notification button to stay up to date with all of the upcoming author interviews and videos being released.
How many of us authors, readers, event planners, brokers, bakers, candlestick makers are presently dealing with working from home? There are a lot of challenges that we are facing in this new world, so here are some helpful tips that I picked up in an interview with organizational development professional, Dr. Ann Gladys, author of Mesmerize and The Invisible Leader:
Continue your daily routine of grooming and dressing professionally, even if you’re working on your couch
Wake up an hour earlier than normal to jump start your day and to give you wiggle room for those unexpected occurrences (like the toddler spilling Cheerios on that report you’ve been preparing)
Communicate; talk to your supervisor, talk to your colleagues. With all of the technology that we have available, don’t let distance be a reason to let communication slip
Show up and speak up in video conferences, otherwise, it’s like you’re not there.
Staying focused on our career goals is just another way for us to keep pushing and to keep driving through the present situation our world is going through. I took Dr. Gladys’ advice this week and woke up an hour earlier than normal, checked in with my daily calendar to see what my daily goals were and thus far, I’ve been able to check them all off the list. It’s been a HUGELY satisfying feeling and something I hope that, with the structure that Dr. Gladys suggests, you’ll also be able to avoid the quarantine-blues.
We are in this together and if you’d like the rest of the working from home tips from Dr. Gladys, click here to view the full interview.
For centuries, the blue dragon society was the force that toppled tyrannies and brought demons to their knees. Today, with their old enemies gone, life for the Dragons has become dull. However, a new monster has emerged to haunt the dawn. A new recruit must convince a former member out from retirement if they are to stand a chance against this shadow that lusts for blood.
The Blue Dragon Society is my current work in progress that is ready for alpha readers! Let me know if the first chapter catches you or your general impressions in the comments below! If you proceed, the following scene is graphic, so reader’s discretion is advised.
The Blue Dragon Society ~ The Road to Dova
With narrowed, unblinking eyes, the hunter leaned closer to his catch. The light from the fire licked his face, which remained handsome, even with the blood on his cheeks.
She was almost gone. The little lamb, so eager, so excited to come to him, now a whisper away from finality.
This was what she deserved.
What they all deserved.
A cruel smile arched his lip as he slowly squeezed one last time.
Her eyes widened. A soft moan escaped from those pretty, reddened lips. The light in those young eyes faded at last and now, yet another was completely his.
But he was not done with her, oh no, there was much yet to be done. Amid the dancing lights of a few dying candles, he continued to arrange the scene, which he thought this time he would leave just right. As he carved and arranged his art, he thought of the note that he would leave upon her to show them, to prove to them that this was neither the beginning and nothing short of his end. It had taken him ages to plan this and though it had not gone exactly as he had imagined, how many before had, the scale was tipped and the real game had at last begun.
He knew that they would never catch him, but hunting and being hunted was the real game he sought.
He had done this enough now to know what would follow. There would eventually be a period of regret. He would become fixated on the notion that this had not gone as he had imagined and then, at night, when he would try to lay himself to sleep, his dreams would take him back to the beginning when his original visions began. He knew that memories of the fall would resurface and that he would deal with those thoughts as he had before some other time.
‘There,’ he thought to himself after another hour in his latest creation’s company. ‘All done.’ Except, he had nearly forgotten. He kneeled beside her and reached to her throat. A charming, humble necklace lying so innocently on her chest called to him. His steady hand plucked it from her breast and he ran his thumb over the pendent, smearing her blood across its face. It was probably the only item of worth this creature owned. As if it sang a melodious lullaby, it called to him. In one, powerful yank, the thin rope broke from her neck. Standing, he tucked the necklace into his handkerchief beside a lock of golden hair that he had stolen from her head.
At the end of one last act, he was ready to leave his nearly perfected masterpiece, leaving upon her a note scribbled on parchment in red:
To the king’s guard and those blasted Dragons, catch me if you can, or they will die again and again and again and again
He had wanted to be a centaur for Halloween. Instead, he was dressed in a white hospital gown with tubes sticking out of his arms. It wasn’t so bad this time around, Adam thought to himself. He could see out a window from his bed and wasn’t stuck around the other side of the boring ol’ curtain like last time.
Twilight was approaching and soon every kid in town would be scouring front porches, hollering “trick or treat” while he would be stuck in bed. The other lions and soldiers, dinosaurs and knights would busy themselves sorting out chocolates from peppermints, sours from those dreadful pennies, and toffees from the rest of the pile. Little Adam would not be able to partake in sorting his candy into a little mountain range this year, but that was alright. The pretty nurse who was always smiling had told him that this would be it. The last of the treatments. He had endured enough tricks for one little boy and from now on, he would be finding nothing but treats.
“Adam,” the nurse had said as she began his treatment, “After tonight, you could be a centaur, a king, an astronaut, anything you dream because you’ve already fought a dragon and lived to tell the tale.”
She told him that he would leave the hospital with the best treat of all – the courage that he had found within what most grown-ups had yet to find within themselves.
This story is a brief prelude to my latest novel, Foreign & Domestic Affairs, now available as a paperback on Amazon. While Foreign & Domestic Affairs centers around the king and queen, the story below takes us back to our Queen Gertrude’s home. To the land of Forsithyas and the country’s most renown healer, Galina Galiova…
Fruits of Their Labor by S. Faxon
The notoriety behind her name did not intimidate Marcus. Yes, she was regarded as an angel on earth for all the good her medicines had done over the years, but he was a businessman, and she was intruding on one of his longest-standing deals.
The Castin family had become partners with him years ago, selling him the fruits of their orchard to be sold exclusively to him. That relationship had helped made him rich, and this woman had somehow managed to obtain the orchard, stealing from him one of his most reliable products. Marcus would not stand for this. He had worked too hard to set up his business for his sons to take over, with the understanding that the Castin Orchard would carry on their partnership for many years to come. So, against the protests of his adult sons, Marcus hired a carriage to take him on the long two-day journey to Forsithya Valley, where that blasted woman called home. If nothing else, this would be his last act that would secure his trade and family legacy for many years to come.
Stepping out of the carriage, Marcus looked squarely at Forsithya Manor for the first time.
It was a beautiful entry. This had been the house of the Prime Minister, Absalom Kemen, before the divorce. The only matter that was well known of that affair, was that the people would have torn Lord Kemen apart had he taken this property from Galina. With times as tumultuous as they had been in those days between the masses and the upper classes, the smartest political move that Absalom ever made was to secede his home to Galina. Allowing Galina to keep this manor, the most centralized point in the country, she was able to expand her hospital wing, to serve the people of Vitenka, no matter their political or social backgrounds. She was a hero to the people, and here was Marcus, a retirement-aged merchant from the north, ready to take her on.
He gulped and ascended the stairs.
It was said that summers never set on Forsithya Valley. As legend told, anything that Galina touched was said to grow or to heal. That note was immediately evident as Marcus’ carriage passed through her valley. From the pines that lined the outer rim of the fields to the roses that grew to the side of the home, every plant here served a purpose; to keep the citizens of Vitenka alive and thriving with Galina’s guidance.
Marcus inhaled deeply. When he reached the door, his browline creased. In the city where the homes were tucked closely together, usually a nosey maid would already be opening the door to a visitor, and yet, here in the country, only the cries of the crickets beckoned any welcome. Straightening his vest and composure, Marcus reached for the rope beside the door that he assumed would call servants forward.
Marcus shrank from humiliation.
The two good pulls he gave to the rope sent a call of bells throughout the grounds. Though the sun was out, it was late. The summer solstice kept the daylight hours deep into the night and Marcus feared that he just awoke the entire valley. He suddenly realized how intrusive this would seem. He had sent a letter ahead so as not to drop in completely unannounced, but he hadn’t heard anything back. ‘MaybeI should have listened to my sons,’ he thought gravely. ‘Surely this woman is merely ignoring my letters.’ Her silence in the last few weeks had been driving him mad. This was the only way to obtain a clear understanding of what was truly happening.
The door opened sharply.
A kind-faced woman of about Marcus’ age, stood on the inside of the entryway.
“May I help you, friend?” the woman carrying an arm full of towels asked.
For a moment, Marcus was taken aback by this lovely woman’s smile and the glint in her green eyes. There was a motherly presence about her and it was welcoming.
Clearing his throat, he said, “My name is Marcus Amorosk. I’ve come to speak with the lady of the house in regards to her recent acquisition.”
“And which acquisition would that be?” the lady asked while maintaining a charming smile.
Marcus almost lost his way in that smile. “T-a-um, the Castin Family Orchard.” The second after he answered, he realized that it was strange for a maid to pose such a question.
The woman’s smile remained, but her charming eyes looked to and fro as she designed her next response. “And what business is this acquisition of yours, may I ask?”
Though he was not a lord, there were expectations of interactions between household staff and guests. Lovely as she was, her questions were a tad too invasive for Marcus’ tastes. “Forgive me if I seem presumptuous, but I believe it is more my business than yours. ” Marcus tried to say it lightly, hoping not to offend. “I’m sorry to be intruding at this late hour, but may I please speak with the lady of your house?”
The woman’s smile widened. “You are speaking with the lady of this house, Marcus Amorosk.” She almost laughed as she said it. “As such, I am well aware of this acquisition, but you see, dear, I am in the middle of my rounds.” She took a moment to look over her visitor. His hazel eyes, strong jaw, and embarrassed expression delighted her. “If you don’t mind talking while I work, you’re welcome to come in, but do try to keep up. There’s much to be done.”
Pushing the door open with her toe, Galina welcomed Marcus to follow her, not waiting to verify if he would. Galina took off at a fast walk down the hall.
Confused by what all-so-quickly surpassed, Marcus hopped after her. “Um, as I was saying,” Marcus’ words were shortened by his quick breaths. The haste the woman of this woman was extraordinary. “For years, the Castin Family Orchard supplied my business with ciders, wine, apples, naturally, and a variety of other products.”
The pair made it to the double doors that separated the infirmary wing from the rest of the household. Though Galina looked prepared to open the doors with a well-practiced bend of her elbow, Marcus jumped ahead to spare her the task. “Thank you,” she quickly said, bending under the arm that he extended to keep the pathway open.
The infirmary was a long hall with twenty beds. To the great relief of Galina, most were unoccupied but for a few beds on the far end of the hall. Curtains were drawn around those beds so to provide her patients a sense of peace and privacy.
A few oil lamps burned scattered about the room, giving the hall a soft, comfortable glow.
Galina walked to a cabinet and pointed to it to Marcus. Without direction, he opened the door of it for her. Using her mostly unoccupied hand, Galina grabbed a few pairs of sheets and placed them into Marcus’ arms. As she did this, he continued, “When I learned that the Castins were no longer making the decisions of the orchard, that the decisions of the products were pending…”
“I imagine you were surprised,” Galina interrupted, closing the cabinet’s door.
“Well, yes,” Marcus responded, following her with his new load.
“Is that then the justification for the letter that one of your associates sent?” Galina asked, her tone suddenly sharp.
Marcus stopped following and his brow furled. “What do you mean?”
Stopping her progression, Galina turned to face Marcus. She spoke in a whisper, hoping not to disturb her patients resting on the opposite side of the hall. “I received a letter right before the one announcing your intent to visit arrived, from Tusya Amorosk, suggesting that if I do not abide by the previous agreement, that your business would interrupt my orders from partner distributors, such as my suppliers of these linens.” Galina tapped her fingers on the towels in her arms. “That’s not terribly neighborly, is it?” The expression Marcus made convinced her well enough that he had not hitherto been aware of this letter. “It was from one of your sons, no? The letter? I imagine he didn’t discuss it with you first.”
“On my honor, my lady, I did not know about the letter,” his words were genuine and his tone remorseful. “I would never have allowed my son to send that if I had known. I assure you that no such threat would be seen through.”
Galina shrugged and then turned to resume her duties. With a flick of her brow, she encouraged him to follow.
An attendant emerged from the other side of the wing and approached, taking the sheets from him and the towels from Galina. In a hushed tone so not to disturb the patients, the attendant briefed Galina on the status of the room. Marcus was excluded from the briefing which he perfectly understood. What he was struggling with was the audacity of his son to go around his back to threaten a potential business partner. Had he learned nothing in all the years of apprenticing at his side? ‘No,’ Marcus rationalized. His son was a practical man. ‘This is different.’ This was a political matter and went back to the days when his son was a young fool, actively demonstrating against Galina’s daughter’s involvement in their country’s government. Shaking his head, Marcus couldn’t believe how clouded his son’s judgment remained to be, even though Galina’s daughter had quite possibly saved their nation from many years of darkness and instability.
“Marcus,” Galina beckoned in a whisper.
The attendant was walking away to dress a bed that had opened up this afternoon.
Galina motioned him to follow once again.
They walked in silence to the second to the farthest drawn curtains that enclosed a patient’s bed. Galina held up her hand flat to Marcus, indicting him not to follow. She stepped into the curtains and disappeared.
Before Marcus could begin to craft a heart-filled apology for his son’s stupidity, he heard hushed words pass between Galina and her patient. The sounds intrigued him. Try as he could to make out what they were saying, the words were too soft and sounded garbled. Almost like a different language. Marcus leaned in to try to hear better.
The curtains parted and a wee infant was outstretched to him.
“Here,” Galina said to Marcus as if he was the father meeting his son for the first time. She delicately placed the baby in Marcus’ unexpecting arms. “His name is Pavel. In case he gets fussy, he likes to be rocked while you walk about.” Galina disappeared back behind the curtain as quickly as she had appeared, sans infant.
Marcus held the little one close to his chest, not quite sure what just surpassed.
The babe began to coo and to fidget. As instructed, Marcus walked him up and down the small hall, rocking him gently. The button nosed baby opened and closed his eyes contentedly as he did so.
Though he had spent much of his life making deals and setting trade investments, Marcus was no stranger to babies. His eldest son blessed him with a second grandchild earlier this year. He tried to involve himself in their lives, but he had the distinct impression from his sons that they found his visits to be more of a burden than a help. Though his sons thought him feeble, he was still more than capable and sound in body and mind. It troubled him to think that his sons wanted so little to do with him, but here in this moment, this little one needed him now.
The infant distracted him to the point that he almost forgot his entire reason for being here.
“Marcus,” Galina’s voice softly called again from the standing curtains where she emerged.
There was something about how she said his name. It was familiar. As he crossed the room to return the child, he thought on how her call almost reminded him of the tender beckonings of his late wife.
“Here we are,” Galina gently took Pavel and gave him back to his mother. When Galina returned to Marcus, she informed in a whisper, “The boy’s mother is a young immigrant from Ruishland.”
‘That would explain why the language sounded foreign,’ Marcus thought. ‘They were speaking a different one.’
“She’s away from her home and family, so she’s feeling a tad nervous about it all. Thought it best to give the dear a moment to rest while I talked to her. She does love her son so, but,” with a shrug, Galina finished the thought that Marcus did not entirely understand. He decided it best not to ask.
“How’d you know I would do it?” Marcus inquired instead as they began to walk to the next set of curtains. “How’d you know I would hold the boy and not walk away?”
With a glowing smile, Galina shortened the distance between them. Touching her fingers to his cheeks, she answered, “Because you have a kind face.”
The warmth from a moment ago returned. It had been a lifetime since he had experienced a flirtatious interaction. ‘Is that what is happening?‘ Marcus thought, worriedly. ‘Or is she just trying to distract me?‘
The night continued, carrying Marcus and Galina to the last four patients. Marcus helped Galina in ways he certainly did not expect. From giving counsel to a young man who had broken his arm transporting goods, to helping Galina administer medicine to a woman experiencing debilitating headaches.
“Is this what you do every night?” Marcus asked as the pair of them settled down in Galina’s apothecary.
This red-velvet lined room was Galina’s retreat, her study, her stores. This was where she tinkered with chemicals to see what reactions would occur. Galina was a master of that, seeing how far she could push the line to see how fate would respond.
“Not every night,” she answered after pouring Marcus a glass of caramel-colored spirits, “But more often than not, I do have the joy of entertaining unexpected company, such as yourself.” Galina took a moment to study her guest again before saying, “You’ve come an awful long way to convince me to maintain a business relationship over apples. Is there no other reason why you came?”
This woman was highly perceptive. Leaning back in his high back chair, Marcus explained, “The short answer – my pride. My sons have been trying to oust me for some time and when this problem arose, I thought that I’d show them how it’s done and turn one of our most frustrating circumstances into something good.”
“By most frustrating circumstances,” Galina laughed, “am I correct in assuming that you mean me?”
Feeling ashamed, Marcus nodded with a simple ‘yes.’
“Well, I can’t blame you, but after tonight, I’d expect you’ve gained a bit more of an understanding as to why my responses have been delayed.” Looking him straight in the eye, she raised her glass and took a sip. “Of course I’ll continue your deal, Marcus Amorosk. Not merely for my benefit, but for the Castins. They traded the rights of their orchard to me when I was able to stop a nasty fungus from destroying their entire crop. However, their business and their business ways will all remain the same.”
Marcus felt like such a fool. He took a big swig from his glass. “Maybe my boys are right. Maybe I ought to just step down and give them the full reigns.”
“And what would your wife say to all of this?” Galina softly inquired.
Distracted by the spirits already tingling in his fingertips, Marcus quickly said, “Well, she would probably ask why I haven’t backed out and left the damn business to my boys already, that is, if she were still with me, that’s what she would have said. My wife passed a few years ago.”
Galina’s interest increased.
“I don’t know what to do, really,” Marcus confessed, feeling completely at ease with his company and not merely because of the spirits.
Peering over her glass, Galina took a measured sip, never removing her eyes from him. Returning her beverage to the desk, she found a suggestion worth saying. “You could stay.”
“Here?” Marcus hastily responded. “Are you serious?”
Galina’s radiant smile beamed. “Yes. I could use an extra set of hands to help me out around here and you’ve already proven yourself more than capable.”
“You probably won’t care much for the pay I’ll offer, but it will include room and board,” Galina inhaled deeply then added, “And, pending future negotiations, I’d be interested in pursuing a deeper partnership between the pair of us.”
Now Marcus was sure that she wasn’t merely flirting with him to dissuade him. His cheeks flared red. “What would my sons think? More importantly, what would your daughter think?”
“My daughter?” Galina almost laughed. “My Gertrude’s thoughts and time are occupied with far more important affairs than mine.”
The man from the north who had come to Forsithya Valley to ensure the legacy of his business raised his glass to his most exciting prospect yet.
The stairwell that led to the attic was unnerving even of itself. The seemingly innocuous items left along the side to the sides of the unfinished steps looked out of place in this space. To think that a victim to be recovered was somewhere behind that white door at the top of the stairs, chilled the hustling firefighter to the bone.
The gear that he bore was not what was weighing down the young first responder. He was a Southern California kid; attics were things you only heard of in movies and usually, they were in thrillers. People only ever found ghouls, goblins and ax-murderers in the attic. It seemed ridiculous for these fears to be creeping into an adult’s mind, but given the circumstances for bringing him here, Michael found the goosebumps on his arms to be fitting.
Shrugging away his childish thoughts, Michael opened the white door at the top of the attic stairs.
An oscillating fan was all that moved inside the room. A single, lone light from the spinning device shone down upon the scene. On the floor lay the woman in her night-gown who had made the frantic call to their dispatcher. Her eyes were wide, her gaze unfocused, but across every inch of her face was the touch of fear.
Michael fell to his knees and immediately rushed into the procedures given for addressing a downed victim. His own fears abated for the moment, he checked her pulse, he called out to her.
Michael’s partner came to the top of the attic stairs and seeing his partner’s outstretched arms begin their attempt to rejuvenate life into this woman, he called on his radio for aid. The following ambulance was but moments away. He could already hear the sirens.
The unprecedented levels of heat and humidity in town tonight made the confined space and the unrolling situation stifling. The fan did nothing to help.
“Why would she come up here?” Michael’s partner wondered as he ran back down the steps to bring the gurney bearers to the location. “She oughta have known that heat rises.”
As the partner ran by a variety of religious artifacts nailed to the walls of the house, he failed to realize that they were skewed or upside down. In his haste to rush out to the ambulance, he did not see the strange shadows moving about the house.
Sweat rained down from Michael upon the lifeless woman. The more compressions he did, singing, ‘Staying Alive’ to keep in rhythm, the more Michael began to realize that she was gone. The cracked-screen iPhone that was a few feet away from her outstretched hand had brought them here but in vain. And yet, Michael did not give up. He stared at the cross that dangled on a golden chain from this woman’s neck. It was tangled within her hair and the more he stared down at her, he began to realize the burn marks upon her neck. They looked to be in the shape of fingers. In the center of her forehead, Michael could see what looked like a welt – like a growing, inflamed mosquito bite.
Michael was suddenly re-galvanized with an intense desire to save this woman’s life. She had clearly endured an ungodly collection of hells to have run up here to this oven to find salvation. He could not accept her demise.
He was getting light-headed from his efforts. He could not wait for his partner to return to help carry this woman out of this pit.
The hum of the fan above began to change. The sounds devolved more and more into that of a buzz.
With steady, heavy pulsations, Michael continued his locked armed attempts to restart this woman’s heart. However, the song he sang to keep him in rhythm began to fade as the buzzing increased. The sound was not that of any fly or insect that he had ever heard in San Diego before. Looking up and around, in the soft light of the fan, Michael could see no bugs immediately around. ‘Is there a hive up here?’ he looked back to the woman’s forehead where the inflamed bite upon her brow lay. Her eyes were still empty of life yet wide with fright. ‘Was she stung? Was that what scared her so bad?’
No sooner had the thought passed, a swooping buzz flounced by Michael’s ear. The sound was so intense that he ducked to the side, half expecting a mosquito the size of a hawk to be after him. Wide-eyed himself, Michael looked all around. The buzz continued, but it was in the far corner of the attic where the light was void.
The adrenaline pounding through Michael kept him vigilantly trying to revive the victim. “Where the hell are you, Tim?!” Michael shouted.
No answer was returned. The rest of the house below was heavy, as if not merely empty but dead.
The horrible buzzing in the corner grew louder and more powerful as if feeding on his fear. But Michael knew that he had to keep at the CPR until his partner returned.
Though they had initially thought this woman to be on her own in this house, Michael’s heart and his head were quickly deducing that they were not alone.
Again, the wretched swooping ripped forward from the darkness. Once more he ducked, assuming that this time he would see the swarm coming for him, but there was nothing. What he felt, however, was far more disturbing. Through the bulwark of his gear, Michael swore he felt the sting of jagged fingernails ripping across his skin.
With one more look to the cross on the victim’s neck, Michael knew as if it had been shouted to him by a sky full of angels that he had to get out.
And he was not about to leave her soul in this trap.
In one herculean transfer of his fear to strength, Michael swept the woman from the floor, carrying her over his shoulders like a shepherd a lamb. With the effort of a hundred men, Michael ran out from that place, trumping down the steps of the attic, through the torn home and down the second flight of stairs. Every step felt like ripping his legs out from a mire of mud. The hellish buzzing chased him from the attic, down the stairs, and through the long haul to the front door.
A lion-like shout pushed Michael out from that place, sending him diving across the porch to the sun-dried lawn. The second his ribs struck the hard ground, with the woman on his back, the buzzing halted.
Neither Michael nor the rushing ambulance responders would know if it was the efforts of Michael in the attic or the shock of the fall that filled the once motionless body of the woman with life. The woman was too quickly taken away to the tune of screaming sirens and a speeding ambulance to be questioned by Michael about anything.
Soaked through with sweat, Michael sat in silence as his partner asked him a litany of questions, the least of which, being, “What the hell happened?”
Seeing his partner unresponsive, the firefighter used his radio to call their dispatcher to alert them that they were also going to the hospital.
In the moment that his partner turned away, Michael looked to the eye-shaped window atop the house where the attic glared down upon him. There was no face, no shadow, no silhouette that could be seen, but Michael knew that whatever infested that house was looking straight at him.
Crossing himself, Michael kneeled before that accursed house. The poisoned energies inside would not go home with him, but the memory of this night would remain with him for the rest of his days.
Almost in sync, the alarms sounded on all of the house’s touch screen devices; “Someone is at the front door-bell.”
This had to be it.
Chase jumped up from the faux leather couch in his living room, simultaneously trying to pull up the image on his phone of who activated the chorus of security sirens, while trying not to step on his girlfriend’s cat.
“C’mon,” he demanded of his phone, but the walk to the door took less time than the live-video had to load. The package that Chase was waiting for required a signature and delivery vendors were not known to wait. But those pesky solicitors with their fliers and clipboards had been spotted outside earlier. The last thing Chase wanted was to be caught up in another conversation with one of them. His nerves were likely to burst if it came to that again. Though, the chance of this package not being left with him today outweighed the risks of having to shoo away solicitors.
Swinging open the door and holding his breath, all the hopes of this delivery arriving flooded his heart and head. However, in an instant, that hope came crashing down. Instead of a tiny envelope, the purple-sweatband wearing delivery person was holding a box that was far too large to be what he was expecting.
In Chase’s let-down, he barely noticed his girlfriend cutting him off to receive the organic, recycled-material cat litter whose arrival her smartphone had alerted to her, far before the alarms roused Chase.
Feeling defeated by this distraction, Chase slumped his way back to the couch where he plopped down. The faux-leather couch’s cushions deflated slowly, sinking like Chase. His girlfriend’s cat lept into his lap as if to assure him that the package would arrive before he and his human-mom would have to leave for their reservations. Or, the cat was simply expressing to him that he was hungry. Either way, Chase was feeling slightly less concerned.
It took but a minute to change that feeling of peace right back to panic. It had been custom made, flown halfway across the planet, it was perfect for her, and yet, it wasn’t here yet. If it didn’t arrive in time before they left for the restaurant, Chase didn’t know what he would do. He already had the box where it would live, the hand-carved, gold-filigreed box that her grandmother had passed on to her for reasons he could not presently remember, but he knew meant the world to her.
He pulled that lovely wooden box out from behind the pillow where he was hiding it and rested it atop the end-table beside him.
It was lovely. Her mother had delivered it to him (in a timely fashion) a few days before. Maybe it would suffice as a buffer gift, given its significance, but what good would it really be without something to put in it? Sure, he could recommend her to store her bracelets or earrings in it, but it was not what he had originally planned.
His knee began to bounce up and down so quickly from his nerves, that the hungry cat deemed it best to heckle the other human instead, leaping away from the man with an annoyed swing to his hips. Chase watched the cat bound upstairs to return to his mama who was probably just about finished getting ready for their special evening out.
“She doesn’t expect it. There’s was no way,” Chase reasoned with himself, his knee bouncing furiously now.
He stared at the landing from the stairs where she would be coming down any minute, heals in hand, but otherwise primed and ready to go.
Chase pulled the app up on his phone for the twelfth time in the last hour. It still read, “Two stops away.” How far away could those stops be?
“Have you ordered the car yet?” his girlfriend shouted from upstairs.
Chase’s heart dropped. He snatched the wooden box and shoved it behind him for fear of her running downstairs. If she was already asking about the car, he was done for.
“Not yet!” he hollered back, his bouncing leg was doomed to knock a hole through the floor. “Are you ready?”
Her lack of response told him that she was brushing her teeth. All that would be left was lipstick and grabbing those shoes.
And then, it happened.
“PING,” sang from his phone.
Whipping the screen to his face, he held his breath.
“Unfamiliar face at the front door,” the screen read, a second before…
“Someone is at the front-door bell.”
The sirens sang once more.
This time, Chase did not bother with checking who it was. Solicitors be damned! He would stand out on that porch and wait for that package to come until his girlfriend dragged him to the restaurant to meet their reservation. Let those folks with their fliers come at him, he was ready for the fight.
Opening the door for the third time today to see a stranger’s face, Chase thought he’d never felt more relieved, certainly never before from seeing a medium-sized envelope.
“Chase Hamilton?” the delivery guy asked.
“Yeah. Yeah, yeah, that’s me,” Chase’s voice quivered. He would later wonder how crazed he appeared to this delivery guy, standing in a nice jacket, with sweat beading on his forehead, and his hands shaking.
“I just need your signature, sir,” the delivery person extended to him his phone and Chase hurriedly scribbled the messiest signature he’d yet signed in his life. The delivery person didn’t mind – Chase was hardly the oddest person he’d delivered to today.
Then, in a smooth, quick motion that Chase would remember involving angels singing and heavenly clouds appearing, the envelope was finally in his hands. Chase breathed again for the first time in what felt like hours. Looking squarely to the man whose face he would never forget, he said, “You saved my life tonight, man.”
“No worries, man,” the delivery person said with a shrug. “Have a good one!” He hopped down the stairs and headed back to his car.
Chase did not waste a minute. He spun back into the house, shut the door, ripped open the vessel, grabbed its contents and flung the envelope into the living room, where his girlfriend would miss it, at least for now.
He ran back to the couch and in a ninja-like fashion, retrieved the special box from the couch and shoved it into his jacket’s pocket.
His girlfriend was now coming down the stairs.
He did not have a second to peek inside the newly delivered item, but he stowed that small, black box into his pocket with the confidence that now, everything was going to be alright.
“Who was that?” his girlfriend asked, sitting on the bottom step in her elegant blue gown to dawn her high heels. “And why are you so sweaty?”
Chase took a moment to let her take his breath away before answering, “It was just another one of those stupid solicitors. Are you ready yet?”
“Yeah, I’m ready. Did you order the car like I asked?” she stood gracefully and pulled her own phone from her purse. “Why don’t you go dab your face a bit and I’ll get the car. You smell really good, by the way.”
While his girlfriend pulled up the app to order their lift to the restaurant, Chase walked away to grab a napkin. He knew he wouldn’t be sweating any more tonight. With the newly acquired ring and her grandmother’s jewelry box in his pockets, he was completely at peace to ask her to be his wife.
A tremendous thanks to my friends Jennifer G. and Kitty C., respectively, for the photos and the inspirations for this story that they provided! Thank you, Ladies!
It was there for the taking. One yellow balloon at the top, right corner of the wall. It was hers.
Aiming the arrow to shoot at the balloon would have been much easier were it not for the substantial amounts of wine consumed earlier in the day, but it was the fair after all, and she had only recently left an unlimited wine festival. The fact that she could hold the bow and arrow properly alone was enough of a victory. She was fairing much better than her friends who were giggling uncontrollably behind her while trying to sit still on their haystacks. Their delight and laughter were not unwarranted, for not so long ago, they too had had their eyes on a very different prize…
The glass called to them from across the room. They had been feasting and laughing and drinking in a hall full of strangers for some time with endless cups of wine, but still, those glasses on the shelf remained in their minds. When they had signed up for the fair’s wine festival weeks ago, they had been told that they would receive a souvenir wine glass to take home for their collections. The plastic sippy cups that they had been given did nothing to flatter the otherwise incredible event or give them something to boast. No. They wanted the cup they had been promised, enticed with since the very first commercial for this event that they had seen. There were certainly enough of those coveted glasses, imprinted with the year and the name of the festival upon them sitting there on that emerald green table cloth just waiting to be taken. What’s more, the glasses were out in the open, it would be only too easy to claim that which was rightfully theirs.
And so, as the other hundred bodies began to shuffle out, they made their plans and they kept their eyes on the prize.
However, the security guard had her eye on them.
They stood on the platform where the glasses were behind them, holding the elevator for countless strangers waiting to board, letting everyone take a spot before them. After three loads of this, the security guard’s brow began to raise.
Seeing that they had caught her eye, they decided to change up their strategy…
They descended the stairs beside the landing where the sacred goblet stood upon the table, hoping to throw off the security guard, but she did not budge.
They ascended the stairs beside the landing, pretending not to care or to notice, but the security guard stared almost unblinking, right into their plot. This chore stretched their prowess to the limit, but the guard simply would not falter.
It wasn’t until they received a stern, “why are you still trying to do this?” look from the guard that they decided it best to give up their quest.
Heads hung low, the pair jumped back in the elevator to join their other friend who had abandoned them in their crusade over at the archery range.
The elevator ride down was slow, elongated in their misery for failing in their task. The elevator operator thought it strange that two people emerging from an unlimited wine festival would be so quiet, but he decided to respect their red-wine induced reveries.
The elevator counted out its last floor and their destination with a loud ping. The gilded, art-deco doors parted, releasing the two to the bustling, tent-city world of the fairgrounds.
The archery range was not far, but it did require looking up and out from their sorrows to navigate to said plain. And what happened when their eyes raised?
There they were.
Two abandoned glasses, the very prizes that they thought they had been denied, right there on the pathway’s wall, waiting to be claimed. Sweet, merciful fate had heard their pleas and whether out of pity or worth, there they were. Abandoned, left behind by undeserving souls, waiting for their true owners to arrive.
Looking left over her shoulder and then right, with her open backpack strapped over her chest, in three magnificent movements, the prizes were their’s at last!
How suavely they walked away. That mean ol’ security guard four floors above was none the wiser and the fair, none the worse.
It had been a risky move, but persistence left them victorious.
The yellow balloon met its end by the point of their friends’ arrow moments after they rejoined her side. Their laughter and hoots and hollers of rejoice filled the archery range. It had become a day of unexpected delight for the bunch, but it was just another day at their county’s summer fair.
Thunder and lightning roar and rattle across the skies this time of year in a beautiful, powerful spectacle. The rain is a sacred relief to the dessert and the people who call the town around the mountain their home. To my family, the showers, the downpours were a reminder that our wonderful Matron was still watching out for us, providing for us even though we could no longer see her at our sides.
A few short months ago, I posted about my great grandmother, Consuelo Herrera, and the incredible life she enjoyed in 103 years. Every moment with her, every smile, and every song shared was one filled with love, a remarkable gift she shared with everyone right to the end. Love was the constant theme of her services. My cousins and family members who spoke, told of the power of her love, her faith, and of her unfaltering loyalty to her family. While she has moved on to the next adventure, she will forever continue to be our guardian angel.
One of the many incredible aspects of my great grandmother’s legacy was the sweet blessings she would give all of us whenever travels were ahead. She’d sign the cross over your head and heart and say her prayers. It always felt like the most sacred ceremony, like her words were truly forming a shield around me that would guard and guide my every footstep. As we were departing from El Paso this morning, my sister posted about how strange it feels to not have received that blessing and yet, both she, my mother and I encountered an unusual occurrence as we were departing: as my sister boarded the plane, the movie announced for the passengers’ in-flight enjoyment was Coco. As my mom and I plugged in my phone in our rental for the first time, to Google-Map our way to the airport, my phone immediately began to play songs from Coco, a dozen songs of probably a thousand that are in my playlists.
After shedding a tear or two, we all knew why this was happening – this was great grandma’s way of giving us her blessing. She was letting us know that even though she is no longer with us, “our love for each other will live on forever,” as the writers of Coco so beautifully said, “in every beat of our proud corazons.”
I am so proud and blessed to have known and to have been loved by great grandma. Her legacy is her love and she will continue to live on through us, so long as we live as she did – with her optimism, her faith, and the unconditional love that she shared with all.
God bless you great grandma. We will continue to sing, as you taught us all to do, and we will never hear Cielito Lindo, without belting it out in memory and in honor of you.
A short story based on this year’s Del Mar Fair, where a particular band of adventurers found the incredible speak easy, but if you’ve been there, shhhhhh! It’s true location remains to be a secret.
One Fair Day
Amid the thousands of daily visitors to the fair, only a select special few would be capable to unwind the secrets of the speakeasy.
The news had announced the second annual hidden watering hole, a remarkable tease to entice the adventurers to meet the challenge to find their liquid treasure. The news casters performed their duties of informing the public of this hidden trove, but they honored the tradition keeping its location quiet. There were clues scattered throughout the extensive grounds of the ocean-side fair. It was an incredible, laughter filled journey, following the unwritten map that lead to the shepherd that would guide them the rest of the way:
The Pineapple Express.
It was an unrefined, but elated lot that stood in near silence from anticipation as their flight attendant announced that the pilot-less plane had arrived. She asked for their tickets and the password that was the true key to their departure. Armed with this knowledge from the clues they pursued, the first flight took off without hitch!
The first ten passengers listened to their flight attendant as she guided them through the turbulent fair toward their destination. The tall, young woman had no idea that applying for a summer job at the fair would spiral into this role of leading treasure seekers on their flights to booty. With hand in the air, she guided the group and chased away those who tried to sneak aboard. Through the throngs and to the elevator, they all ascended to the heavens to meet their well earned triumph, the speakeasy, the Coco Cabana.
Like eagles they had soared above the fairgrounds, like kings they sipped the beverages and soaked in their glories. Real or not, the magic and prestige of the fair did not disappoint.
Did any of you fair goers find any speakeasies this summer? Or have you found any other sweet spots you’d like to share with this reading lot? Feel free to comment or to share on my Instagram any other troves you think would help your fellow adventurers to find some peace or at least, a brief escape.
Until next time!
Your humble author,
P.S. – Looking for in-between escapes? Instagram’s a great way to catch a laugh with the daily shenanigans of this writer and her cats and it’s just one click away: s_faxon