fiction, new from the book

new from the book: Chapter 2; October 30, 1857

read Chapter 1: Late October, 1857 here

William thought about turning back the whole ride over to Brockwayville. He thought it, dithered and pondered, but did not once turn the reins. Ambition pushed him forward. Pride, too. Without him, their little endeavor would be as cold in the ground as Black Hen. William puffed out his chest at that.

He deflated quickly, looked around to be sure no one saw. No one thinks highly of a man too proud of himself. Only twenty-one and nothing to be prideful about, anyway. William had enough sense to be able to laugh at his own self. Want to get it outta the way before she does, if I even catch a glimpse, he thought.

Uncle Junior at the livery stables gave him a beauty that morning. The kind of horse a man felt like taking when he went a-courtin’. Guess he was, in a couple of ways. William admired the horse with the sunlight rising through the trees. Some trees, anyway. Fewer than there used to be, said mama. Fewer than there were before he went Cincinnati last winter. Lord, but he saw some women there. His mind drifted pleasurably. William hauled up short, reminding himself of his vow.

No more women. Less liquor. No more trouble. I went to Cincy. I had as fine a time a poor man could have in a city, and kept Mama from hearin’ most of it. There’s something to be proud about. William threw out the kind of fine laugh he’s known for, startling the horse. She settled right back down, though, and only gave him sort of a look.

“I know, girl,” he said, patting the mare’s neck. “Penelope’s the only female fer me. Human, at least, anymore. I promised.” He’d come back from the only debauchery a man who’s been helping support his family could. The boys been determined to be men for their mama since they’s born. Cincinnati sure was fun, though. Playing around, learning, burning with ambition.

He’d come back to Brookville, spotted Penelope Clarke, and promised her he’d not feel another woman’s breasts, nor any of the other fun bits, ‘less they were hers. Well, excluding patients. And, well, he’d not precisely made that promise to Penelope, out loud, in person, or any other way. “Wouldn’t do to discuss delicate things with a delicate lady.” William said that last bit aloud.

The horse snorted. “That’s last of the flies, I suspect,” said William to her. Reassuring the mare.

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fiction, new from the book

new from the book: Chapter 1; late October, 1857

new opening, new tone, better story. still looking for a title.
warning: racially charged language, swearing

Henry swung in a wide arc over the creek, whooping and hollering. He left go and fell through the water to land directly on his ass. He came up sputtering, like the water was deep enough to drown, which it was, but it was not precisely deep enough that he’d gone under.

“Damnation, that water’s cold.” He raised his voice to be sure it carried to the boys waiting on the bank, making a fuss of splashing and wringing out his shirttails. No one bit. They knew he’d take the bet before they made it, and he knew he’d wrestle any one of them. No one suggests Henry wouldn’t grab that timber pulley rope and jump the crick without expecting him in the air ‘fore they’re done.

All of them had tempers, as anyone would tell you all the North Fork boys had. Barely did Charlie need to roll his eyes towards John before Henry jumped him. John couldn’t challenge both to shoot a running rabbit before they were arguing over whose shot killed it.

Most everyone thereabouts had a temper or some gumption or something that made them come to the hills and ridges and hollows of Western Pennsylvania. Sure, people started settling Brookville at the turn of the century. Henry’s momma had come with her daddy near as soon as anybody else, but even fifty or so years later with the trees coming down and more than a handful of doctors or barbers and lawyers and newspapers in the town proper, it was on the frontier of the East.

They sent their share of lumber and game down the North Fork and the Redbank to the Allegheny at the junction of the three rivers in Pittsburgh, and made men rich. Or they came for the land, and some said there was maybe coal in the hills, too. No matter why or how, people came from all over America and tried to have a life and family.

Eyes down on the rocks, Henry reached out a hand for a friendly pull up the bank or his gun, didn’t much matter which. “You fellers had best not’ve run off with my boots.” He grabbed air.

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musings on art, new from the book

finally ready – editing the book

about a year ago, I completed the first draft of a still untitled novel. It felt like I’d be ready to edit in a couple weeks and have things ready to be shown off impossibly soon. It’s been over a year, and the grammatical edits of that shaky draft are half-finished, buried in the depths of my desk.

The sun is metaphorically shining, though. I’ve been working on the “When Sheets Attack!” series, and sadly anticipating the end of some of my favorite television. That television was one of the things that nudged me along the path of a novel based on the history of my little town. I’m ready for re-writes now. Plotting will be changed. Facts will hew more closely to the historical ones, and focus has shifted. The fascination lies far less with the autopsy than the reverberations though the lives of the men involved. It is time the text reflected that.

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fiction

“When Sheets Attack! Part 4: Ridiculously Righteous Rage” {complete}

we get some answers. Do read “When Sheets Attack! Part 1,” “Part 2: The Cricket Conundrum,” and “Part 3: Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” first.

I smiled as I climbed into bed. With all my troubles sleeping and dreaming whilst I slept, I’d instituted a new bedtime routine. As much as I chafe to wander freely and live life free of encumbrances, a routine serves as balm for my soul. If I travel too long without access to a kitchen, I get twitchy in the manner of runners kept from a treadmill.

Only a couple of days in, and if the routine wasn’t exactly helping yet, I thought it was, which is all that mattered. I washed my face, I made my chamomile tea, and I climbed into bed with it, planner and pen ready to jot some notes on the day at the ready.

“oh, god, that’s hot.”

Predictable, really. Hot tea, cold night, comfortable bed, and me. And spilled tea.

I leaped up, shouting. To add insult to my burns, I kicked the corner of the bed with my tender, exposed big toe. I cursed, while Pepper picked one eyeball out of the nest of blankets in his bed. He blinked, put head back under the covers, and returned to his rest.

I took a deep breath and set about stripping the bed. I barely bothered to leave on the one light as I grabbed a dry set of sheets. Luckily, I caught all the tea with myself and my pajamas. The bed remained dry. I changed and dumped the cold tea down the drain.

I bounced into bed after turning the light off. No reading for me tonight I thought as I landed. Before I could be launched back into the air, something grabbed and held on tight. I struggled, failing a bit.

“Hold still, you horrible creature,” the nefarious sheets growled all around me. Continue reading

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“When Sheets Attack! Part 4: Ridiculously Righteous Rage” {incomplete}

in honor of International Women’s Day, I present the incomplete Part 4 of “When Sheets Attack!” Read Parts 1-3 here.

I smiled as I climbed into bed. With all my troubles sleeping and dreaming whilst I slept, I’d instituted a new bedtime routine. As much as I chafe to wander freely and live life free of encumbrances, a routine serves as balm for my soul. If I travel too long without access to a kitchen, I get twitchy in the manner of runners kept from a treadmill.

Only a couple of days in, and if the routine wasn’t exactly helping yet, I thought it was, which is all that mattered. I washed my face, I made my chamomile tea, and I climbed into bed with it, planner and pen ready to jot some notes on the day at the ready.

“oh, god, that’s hot.”

Predictable, really. Hot tea, cold night, comfortable bed, and me. And spilled tea.

I leapt up, shouting. To add insult to my burns, I kicked the corner of the bed with my tender, exposed big toe. I cursed, while Pepper picked one eyeball out of the nest of blankets in his bed. He blinked, put head back under the covers, and returned to his rest.

I took a deep breath and set about stripping the bed. I barely bothered to leave on the one light as I grabbed a dry set of sheets. Luckily, I caught all the tea with myself and my pajamas. The bed remained dry. I changed and dumped the cold tea down the drain.

I bounced into bed after turning the light off. No reading for me tonight I thought as I landed. Before I could be launched back into the air, something grabbed and held on tight. I struggled, failing a bit.

“Hold still, you horrible creature,” the nefarious sheets growled all around me.

“Damn!” I could blame no one but myself: in my haste I returned the sentient sheets to my bed. “You better have a rational explanation for grabbing me.”

I thought of the dream. The voices were so similar, could the sheets be the stranger in the stone bedroom of my dream? What worked once might again.

“I do not consent,” I said firmly. Success! I scrambled free, taking the duvet with me. The sheets gently held on to my ankle.

“There is no need to chill yourself, demon sprite of my dreams.” His tone had not improved.

“No grabbing, then,” I responded. Not only is it simply unacceptable to grab a person when she doesn’t want to be grabbed, but I have a particular aversion to it.

As a child, Mum wasn’t big on the idea of spanking me. She was still strict. I knew from a young age that inappropriate behavior would be tolerated neither at home nor in public, but especially not in public. At home, some yelling and time spent on a chair in my parents’ bedroom kept me from the delightful distractions of my own space and left me thinking of my bad behavior.

Making a scene in public was never something Mother tolerated for herself, let alone me. Possibly, it led to my own reticence today. She was never the type of mother that yelled or screamed or repeated admonitions to her child. That didn’t mean that she refrained from discipline. It only meant covert activities.

I was a ticklish child, anywhere and everywhere. From my head to my neck, along my spine and legs, especially on my feet, and even in my upper arms, the wrong {or right} touch could send me into convulsions of wiggles and giggles. Unfortunately, I never grew out of it. It isn’t exactly acceptable or fun to collapse into a heap of wheezing giggles at thirty, but such is life.

Mother can still send me into convulsions, but mostly of the get away, get off me, no I’m not in trouble variety. She had the glare down, and if that did not work, would firmly grab hold of my upper arm and take me to a private place for my dressing down. Somehow, her fingers unerringly found the precise spots to dig in without hurting every single time. It may not have hurt, but those bony pianist fingers of hers pushed through the tickling to disciplinary action.

The sheets had no fingers, but damn if they didn’t have my ankle in precisely the wrong hold. I lacked the patience to talk things through, cold, tired, damp, and still angry. I growled in return.

“No grabbing, then,” I repeated. “No touching, no stroking, and stay off me.”

“Agreed, poppet.” He seemed to have calmed. The sheets oozed away, giving me space as I gathered the duvet into a nest against the footboard of the bed. I felt safe again.

In their slithering, the sheets languidly propped up against my pillows, slowly sliding into the shape of a man. I stared: crumples and folds formed into a forehead and eyebrows, sloped over shoulders, and twisted into the cords of muscular arms.

to be continued…

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“When Sheets Attack! Part 3: Sleeping Beauty Syndrome”

the silliness continues. Read “When Sheets Attack!” Part 1 and “Part 2: The Cricket Conundrum” first.

I forced my way out of heavy sleep. I felt like I’d been beaten with a bag of nickels. My world was fuzzy around the edges, my body heavy and useless. I’d suffered not the deep restorative sleep of a good night, but the drugged fog of a bad one.

I scrunched my eyes and moaned. “This is not good,” I told Pepper. “Three nights in a row,” I trailed off, thinking. There weren’t any crickets. Where had the crickets gone? They had not been so demonstrative lately, but they still chirped occasionally.

Shrugging, I went about my day, hoping for a better night’s rest soon. Mother phoned that day while I was at lunch, wondering how I’d been. We kept in close touch, but something told her to check on me, she said. “Call it mother’s intuition,” she said.

A friend took me out to supper to celebrate. “It’s not every day one turns thirty, even if today were your birthday,” she said while refusing to allow me to pick up the check. A glass of wine with my food felt heavenly, and I supposed another couldn’t hurt in my quest for a good night’s sleep.

I poured one and searched out the light floral scent wafting through the house. “That scamp!” I exclaimed. “ooh, ow. Not so loud,” I told myself.

Mother certainly had been busy: she’d sprayed lavender and chamomile in my bedroom, changed the bedclothes, and left a little note. She wished me a good sleep and pleasant dreams of fairy tales.

“I think it’d be best to follow Mother’s advice, Pepper.” He gave me a look that clearly said, “feed me, then we’ll snuggle. Do whatever you like as long as you hold still on a comfortable chair.” That is one of his five favorite expressions.

Continuing on with my wine plan, I pulled down some of the lighter of Grimm’s tales. I read and read, sipping occasionally, and continued to scratch Pepper behind the ears as he demanded. When my glass emptied and I felt I could stay awake no longer, it was time to crawl into bed. My head hit the pillow and my eyes drooped. Sleep claimed me in the comforting, cricket-free silence.

I fell and jerked awake. “Ugh. That’s always terrifying, isn’t it, Pepper?”

“Who is Pepper and why are you in my bed?” He shoved me away and rolled over, grasping my shoulders and shaking. “Who are you?”

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“When Sheets Attack! Part Two: The Cricket Conundrum”

let the silliness continue just in time to celebrate my 30th on the 27th: the second {unedited} installment of “When Sheets Attack!” Enjoy, but don’t forget to read Part One first.

I flipped. I flopped. I yelled. I even tried holding very still, flinging up the switch, and pouncing where I last heard it. All I succeeded in doing was stubbing the third toe of my left foot badly and encouraging Pepper in what I am quite sure is the belief that the human who sleeps in the big bed is batty.

Crickets. Every August as my birthday approaches, crickets celebrate with a chirping chorus. This year, instead of an occasional chirping that sent me on search and destroy missions, they heralded neither the dawn nor twilight, but some typically quiet hour between midnight and four.

Oh, they still chirp here and there throughout the day. I’ll see a tiny baby one hopping in the sink. Pepper thinks the big ones are little guests. Sometimes I see him, lying down on the floor, his head cocked to the side, following the little black hopping creature with his eyes as it dances between his paws.

I quite enjoy light chirping, outside my window. It serves as an excellent reminder of the stark boring nature of our cold, dead winters. Summer means I only close my window when it rains. Summer means lush greens and filled branches. And, louder, and louder, and louder, incessantly, this summer means crickets.

For why it never occurs to me to kill them or spray some sort of insect poison, I blame my mother. She had a hundred little superstitions. “Its bad luck to kill a spider in the house.” “Don’t put new shoes on the table.” “You spilled salt. Throw some over your left shoulder with your right hand.”

We all rolled our eyes, me especially skilled at doing so even at four, but did her bidding. Not only was it easier, but I soon absorbed a number of those little rules. Never ever did I open an umbrella inside. I handled mirrors with extreme care.

I tried to pounce. There! I could just see the tiny movement. “I’ll catch you, my pretties,” I thought with a feigned evil chuckle. Too little sleep rendered me sillier than usual. The cricket got away. I heaved myself back into my bed, choosing to ignore the sheets’ warnings from weeks ago that his annoyance stemmed from my bruising assault on his stretched out form.

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