Embrace the Shadows #WOW555

The prompt this week for the #WOW555 contest is “write about what comes out of the shadows when the world outside goes quiet.” So, I didn’t focus a lot on the quiet part, but I did try to take a different look at the shadows. Perhaps you can relate..

Jose hated walking home at night. Ever since he was young he had feared the shadows. He knew there was something lurking in the shadows, watching him, just waiting to spring. He looked back, thinking he had seen something move in the alleyway that he just passed. Nothing was moving. He stared into the dark, willing whatever spirit or force that might be hiding to come out.

His gaze was interrupted by the clash of the trash can and the grunt of the man who had tripped over it. Jose pivoted to take in the scene. He saw him sprawled on the ground. He began stooping to help the poor guy when his heart stopped. He saw the knife just a foot away from the bad guy. He hadn’t heard the clatter because the trash can had drowned it out. He kicked the knife back towards the direction he had come and sprinted towards home. He didn’t want to be around when would be thief got up.

“It’s funny, isn’t it Clarence,” a voice from the shadows whispered.

Clarence nodded. “Yes Joseph, it is,” he replied. “Why can’t I just let him know?”

“You know the rules,” Joseph said.

Clarence nodded. Not that anyone but Joseph could see him. Jose seemed more adept than most at recognizing some sort of presence. Still they lurked in the shadows because sometimes children walked along with their parents and children were more likely to see them.

Clarence looked down at the would-be mugger who was getting up. He rubbed his shin and looked back at the trash can like he was trying to figure out how it had moved. He shook his head, grabbed his knife, and stuffed it in his pants. Then he slithered back into the shadows awaiting his next opportunity.

Clarence looked through the mugger at Joseph and raised an eyebrow.

“No! There are rules!” Joseph admonished him. “Now, follow Jose and protect him!”

Clarence looked up at some boxes on the fire escape wistfully and sighed. Then he flitted through the shadows to catch up to his charge. “I guess it’s true that keeping up with him is a full time job,” he sighed as he caught up to Jose and caused him to stumble.

Jose caught himself in the stumble and finally stopped running to take a breath. The car whizzing down the street paid no attention to the stop sign that would have prevented him from running into Jose. Jose’s eyes widened in fear; then he wiped his brow and chuckled. “My guardian angel must be working overtime tonight!” He looked carefully and crossed the street and headed home.

Clarence looked at Joseph and raised his eyebrows.

“No, Clarence, you still don’t get time and a half.” Then, Joseph laughed. “You did ok. Watch over him tonight on your own. I have a few new G.A.s to train.”

Anyone else think their Guardian Angel must be working overtime to keep you safe?

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Ready for Forever

The prompt for #WOW555 this week deals with the timeless nature of death and I took a far different tack than I normally take. This week, I wrote about a condemned prisoner getting ready to die. He has become comfortable with the inevitable nature of death and finds humor that others don’t. I also used poetry as the way to convey it – even though it’s non-rhyming…

Ready for Forever

Staring at the wall

Gray, flat, boring.

I sit on my bed and wonder

“Is there anything more?”

 

Some never know

Some see him come

“Which would be better”

I thought with a smile

 

“How could we compare?”

And then I frowned and pondered

“What if there’s a place to do that?”

I started laughing

 

Lightly at first

But then enough to annoy

And the guards came running

To see what I had done

 

They saw me with a silly smile

And scowled at me.

“Hey boy! Whatcha doin there?”

“Just thinkin’”

 

They wouldn’t understand

They couldn’t see him like I could

They would be surprised

I’d be seeing him soon.

 

I didn’t fear him anymore

I was at peace

Funny that I would be

And they would be so troubled.

 

It’s funny how

Inevitability

Makes it easier to accept

While ignorance breeds fear

 

“Then stop the laughing!”

They broke into my thoughts

I turned to them and smiled

They recoiled as if in danger

 

“I know,” I said

“I’m meeting death tonight.

While you have no clue

When you will too.”

 

Death takes all

He is not biased

No matter the color

No matter how good or bad

 

I would soon have

My “cocktail”

And be introduced

Face to face

 

I wonder if

I’ll slip away

And be welcome

At the party forever

 

 

 

Celebrating Freedom #WOW555

This week’s #WOW555 prompt was  write from the perspective of a character who is not free while others are celebrating their independence and, at the same time, they somehow become reunited with someone unexpected. Especially given the recent discussion on the Confederate Flag issue, my thoughts were drawn to the Confederacy. Let’s be honest: I grew up in the north. While not seeking to absolve the north of racism, because we had plenty of it, when I moved to the south and saw Confederate flags (before the internet mind you) they were usually on bumper stickers that said, “The South’s gonna do it again!” or some other such language. All I could think of was, “What? The South is gonna fight a losing war for a horrible idea again?” (To those who would argue the concept of “state’s rights” for this issue, let me refer you to this link.) The setting of the story is some southern plantation in March 1861 after the Constitution of the Confederacy was adopted.

That being said, I had a very difficult time with this story for many reasons; not the least of which was my use of language that I abhor. It was used because of an attempt to be as authentic as possible for the setting of the story.

“Oh Clyde, more wine. My guests’ glasses are almost empty and I’d like to make a special toast,” my master said.

I nodded demurely and quickly refilled the glasses. Years of self-preservation had taught me to avoid revealing my emotions, so the anger didn’t show. “Yes Marse Johnson,” I said.

He looked at me and sniffed contemptuously. “Gentlemen! This day will live in history. Today with the adoption of the Constitution, you will be able to tell your grandchildren that you were here at the birth of the Confederacy. To freedom!” He raised his glass and drank deeply. They all applauded.

I kept my feelings in check. Anything else could have brought me a severe whipping – or worse. James, who had held my job previously, got whipped because he didn’t look happy enough when he was serving Marse Johnson dinner one night. The next night, I had the job. I made sure that Marse Johnson thought I was happy.

I had missed some of what Marse Johnson had been saying. “…now take Clyde here…” he said.

“Yassir?” I asked.

Marse Johnson looked me, disgusted at first and then he laughed. “See what I mean? These niggers can’t understand how to get along in day to day living. If we freed them like the Yankees want they’d be in a sorry state without us. Ain’t that right, boy?” He stared at me, waiting for an answer.

“Yassir,” I said, glad that my skin hid the shame I was feeling. “Thank you for taking such good care of me, sir,” I added. I hoped they wouldn’t note my sarcasm.

Marse Johnson didn’t think I was capable of sarcasm. He smiled smugly. “That’s a good boy. I’ll take care of you, boy.” He looked at the others. “The cheapest way to get more niggers is to let them breed among themselves.” He turned back to me. “Clyde, I’ve bought you a wife.” He motioned towards the door as a frightened black girl less than half my age was shoved through.

I recognized her. I fought my emotions. Marse Johnson went over to her and pulled her head up roughly so that she had to look at me. “I’m gonna call you Tonya. Look at your new husband, Tonya. I want you to have lots of babies for me.” He laughed.

Her eyes widened as she recognized me. My look warned her to be quiet. She was so young that she hadn’t developed any defenses yet.

“Well, Clyde, what do you say? Shall we show your new bride off to my friends?”

I knew what he had in mind. “Sir, she’s new. I would hate for her to embarrass you. Please allow me to train,” I almost slipped, “uh… her so that you may present her properly.”

Marse Johnson smiled. “Good sense for a nigger, Clyde. Go ahead. My friends and I will talk so we don’t need you right now. Take your bride to your room and start the training.”

“Yassir,” I said, trying to avoid trembling. I walked away holding Tonya by the elbow. As soon as we were out of earshot I whispered to her, “Never tell anyone that I’m your father. I’ll figure something out!”

Of course, I don’t know of anything like this actually happening. That being said, the horrendous way families were broken up in the slave trade, I can imagine this being possible. I can even imagine that something like this could have happened without anyone recognizing it.

Joy in the Normal – #WOW555

This week’s prompt is designed to show joy. Specifically, “to provide some expression of joy.” My main character this week experiences joy in the “normal” everyday experiences in life. Some back story is needed – but I’ll wait til the end for that. In the meanwhile, look for the voting to go live on Saturday morning!

There was nothing more that John enjoyed than playing with his grandchild; well his wife’s grandchild that is. He held the two year old up in the air and smiled at his squeals.

“Put me down, pawpaw, put me down!” he laughed.

Finally, John gave into the demands and put him down. He was glad to be able to play with Freddy while Mary was out. “Mary,” he mused a bit and then laughed out loud. Only the family knew who Mary really was; it had taken a lot of name changes for her and the family to feel safe. Finally, life was normal.

The tug on his shirt brought him back to the moment. The two year old’s blue eyes shone brightly as he looked up at John. “Play hide n seek!” he insisted.

John laughed. “Ok. You go hide. But stay in the yard!” Freddy always hid in the same place when they played. He covered his eyes and counted out loud to ten. “Ready or not, here I come!” He looked around the yard as if he didn’t know where Freddy was. The giggles gave him away.

Then he saw three suits. He hoped they were Feds. They wouldn’t do anything in front of Freddy. Freddy didn’t realize that there was anything wrong. John picked him up and gave him a hug and kissed his cheeks. He turned around, displaying Freddy to the suits. He hoped that if they were mob they would respect family.

He’d been expecting this since he had heard that Morelli was singing. He had hoped he was safe, they found him anyway. While he was displaying Freddy, one of the suits pulled back his jacket to show his gun. Feds. They didn’t want him to try anything. He breathed a sigh of relief.

He sat down still holding Freddy. He motioned for the Feds to join him. “How can I help?” He asked, wondering which murders they were going to pin on him. Then he looked at Freddy and said, “Freddy, go play in the sand box for a few minutes.”

The lead Fed smiled as Freddy ran past, then she got serious. “Aldo Rossi, we want to question you in the murder of Frances Johnson.”

“You do?” he asked with a smile. He knew that Mary would be home any minute now. She would finally learn this part of the truth. “Freddy!” he called. “Come on back! Let’s go inside and wait for Nana.” Freddy ran to him. He turned to the Feds. “We’ll be more comfortable inside. Besides, you need to meet my wife.”

The Feds looked at each other and shrugged not understanding why Aldo was enjoying this so much. They followed him inside and sat down. “My wife should be here soon.”

The car pulled up in the driveway and Mary carried two bags of groceries in the door. She stopped when she saw the suits. “John?” she looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

“They know my real name, Mary. They just don’t know yours. Introduce yourself to these agents.”

She looked at him and he smiled and nodded. “Hi, I’m Frances Johnson. And you are?”

They would have a lot to talk about later.

So, the back story: John, aka Aldo Rossi, is a retired hit man. In fact, his wife Mary, aka Frances Johnson, was supposed to be his last contract. (Why would be a whole nother story.) While he was researching and preparing for the kill, he began to realize some of her fabulous qualities. He couldn’t make the kill and so decided then and there to get to know her personally and find a way to save her. Thus, the marriage, the name changes, and retirement from the hit man’s union. Imagine the amusement of John when the Feds want to talk with him about the murder of the only contract he didn’t fulfill; the person whom he actually married.

Finished! – #WOW555

The prompt for this week’s #WOW555 challenge is that we have to use the phrase “I’m outta here.” As I thought about that, and the end of the school year – today’s the last day with students for me – I couldn’t think of anything more fitting than a teacher finishing the year. Then I thought, what if she finished her career. (And yes, I used a female teacher instead of me as a male teacher.) What would it be like getting ready to retire. I’ve thought about it and decided to write about that dream.

Mary Alice Everett had given her life to teaching. She looked at the clock and noted that she just had 15 minutes left. Today she was retiring. After thirty three years of caring for elementary students, studying in the summer, dealing with principals, and working with parents, today she could go home, kick her shoes off and plan for the trips she had always dreamed of. She smiled to herself as she thought about her upcoming cruise. When she looked at her second graders who were getting excited about summer break she had to grin more widely. Their mouths showed remnants of the frosting from the cupcakes they had been eating at the going away party. They didn’t realize what “retirement” meant, but they were enjoying the party.

As time got closer for the final bell to ring, a few parents came by to pick students up early. But they stayed. These parents had once been her students, and they had come by not only to pick up their students, but also to say good bye to a teacher they had loved. Ms. Everett, as they still called her, got up to greet them and there were a few tears as they hugged.

The bell rang and the kids, knowing something special was happening, lined up to hug Ms. Everett with sticky hands. She laughed a bit, knowing that it was the last time. More parents came by to say good bye and linger in her presence. Lydia Perez came by to bid her farewell on her way to check in at the office. Lydia had done her student teaching under Mary Alice. The strong recommendation Mary Alice had given Lydia allowed her to get the job that was open on the second grade team that year. The two of them had taught together for the last five years.

Soon, the classroom was empty as students and parents made their way home to begin their summer break. Mary Alice took one last look at the room as she turned out the lights and locked the door. She’d have to come back tomorrow to clean up, but she couldn’t help smiling as she said, “I’m outta here.”

Lydia was heading back from the school office when she saw Mary Alice. Lydia gasped and then ran to her as she lay on the floor outside her door. Lydia knelt down and felt for a pulse, but found none. She screamed for help as she pulled out her phone to dial 9-1-1. EMS got there quickly, but not quickly enough. They said it was a heart attack. Lydia knew differently though. She knew that Mary Alice Everett had given her life to teaching.

Yep…I did go that way. That is, in a sense, a fear that I have that when I do retire, I won’t have that time I want to write, to photograph, or most importantly, to be with my wife. Someone noted that I tend to kill my characters a lot. I guess that’s just the way I roll.