#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 6th chapter

Hello, friends! I know I’m slowing down a bit with this scene, but I did so want to give a bit of history and had no idea where else to put it. (If you want some context, check out the complete list of current contents for What Happened When Grandmother Failed to Die.)

Writing Music: Philip Glass, Metamorphosis

Chloe’s father blocked her halfway down the stairs. Light from the grandmother’s room faded against the second floor corridor until it was just as dim as the rest of the foyer. The grandmother’s presence, however, hadn’t faded, not at all. Go to the desk near the fireplace downstairs, she’d said. Take ashes from the hearth, and with your own fingers make the sign. She refused to watch Chloe or her father leave, eyes still transfixed upon the window where the owl and clawed its own mark. Do it now, before he finds a way inside.

Not that the owl’s mark made much impression on Chloe’s father. Already he was grumbling about Chloe’s love of music. “Your momma got you that job to help jumpstart your journalism career, not to write songs other people are gonna sing without even mentioning your name.”

Chloe slumped to a seat on the stairs. “I didn’t want it to be like this,” she said, voice hardly above a whisper. She clutched the hem of her skirt, so carefully sewn by her mom to help Chloe to look like someone who was on campus to learn, not serve. “I wanted to surprise you both. Play the radio and tell you, ‘I wrote that. That’s my song Brenda Holloway’s singing.” Through the rails of the bannister Chloe looked down upon the crow bones on display, the hung feathers, the child drawings. How many had been pinned to those places and left, unmoved, for years and years? “Some friends at WNOV, they’re going to set up a meeting with representatives from Motown after New Year’s.”

“Song writing. Jee-sus. Chloe, I…” Thomas Watchman bit his lip, breathed deep. Chloe knew exactly what he was doing: he was looking at her as if she was a clock refusing to wind. “When you reported what happened at the Black Student Strike in Madison to the Milwaukee campus, your momma and I, we were so, so proud of you.” He knelt upon the stair to see her eye to eye, to hold her hands in his calloused palms. “You were in living history. Do you have any idea how powerful that is? How important that is to preserve for your own kids and grandkids?” 

Chloe swallowed back a hard lump of fear. So chilled, these stairs, like the sidewalk Chloe fell upon that day. The car horns, the words hot as acid on Chloe’s ears…Even Gwendolyn Brooks, a Black woman white men awarded, was almost run down while talking to the students. Yes, Chloe wrote a report and shared it on Milwaukee’s Black radio. But the real fire came in the words Chloe wrote after, words for a song, a song to hear with a piano and a microphone in a smoke-filled room, where tables are sticky with booze and old stories and the floor doesn’t care whose shoes walk its boards.

Thomas Watchman gave his daughter a little smile to tug her back into the present. “You’ve got the words and the soul to take on all those white men who think they know what deserves to be recorded and read by our eyes. Well they don’t. You.” He brought their held hands up to Chloe’s chin for a gentle nudge. “You do.”

Word Count: 542 Total Count: 10,540

The Black Student Strike was a real thing at UW Madison, as was Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks nearly being run down by a car. In this age of outrage and vitriol over merely not liking a YA book, let’s just take a moment to remember there are plenty of real battles worth fighting for.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!


#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 5th #chapter, part 3

Hello again, my friends. Not gonna lie–it’s been a helluva week, and the finals from students are nowhere near over. Let’s see if we can at least learn a little something from Yana Perdido and Chloe both before it’s too late.

Writing Music: Greenred Productions, Dark Cello Music

Dr. Artair laughed, his hands up in surrender. “Very well! Madame Yana, I shall take my leave–for now.” He gave them a curt bow and left, his laughter echoing up and down the foyer.

“That man is insufferable.” The grandmother picked up the tea left by the doctor and held it up to her veil. “Hmph. Medicine, indeed.”

Thomas Watchman shared a look with his daughter to head for the door, then said, “I’ll tell your children you’re–”

“Not yet.” The grandmother shuffled around the bed, thocking as she went, still holding the cup, still hmphing under layers of black lace. “Tell me, what do you know of crows? Apart from the laws.”

“Excuse me?” Chloe could see her father’s grip on the leather arm bond tighten, though his voice remained cool. A bit too cool. “I don’t hail from the South.”

The grandmother shuddered and gasped. It took a moment for Chloe to realize she was laughing. “Is sin limited to the South? I may be old, but I am no fool.”

No, she wasn’t. Chloe watched that gnarled hand carefully balance the cane against the wall, and reazlied that this woman practically read Chloe like a book in just seconds. “Crows eat garbage. Roadkill. Scavengers.”

“Did you know they are also extremely protective?” The grandmother pointed to a painting on the wall behind Chloe and her father. It was as massive as the ornate, gilded bed: a painting of crows flying after a lone owl, its eyes shut as it flees. “If there is a predator looming near a crow’s nest, a signal is called out, and all crows in the vicinity will work together to drive the predator out. Kill it if necessary.” She unhooked the brass latch of the window. Tendrils of sparkling night air curled into the room as she tossed the doctor’s tea out the window—

Screech! Harsh, sharp, grating, the sound came higher and higher. The grandmother cried out, tripping over her own shrouds, dropping the cup and shattering it with her cane. Chloe’s father ran round the bed to prevent the old woman’s fall—

A shape flew to the window. White, black, silver, wings stretched like the arms of a ghoul, eyes golden, too bright, too bright, Chloe can’t stop staring back, the refrains of a thousand songs filling her ears when she sees that gold, that gold—

Thomas slammed the window shut and latched it shut. The creature’s talons scratched at the glass, its beak clamped down on the window frame, but neither gave. Its feathers pounded the glass as hard as any blizzard, and the night air now in the room seemed to answer the feathers back, rising in the room, causing all three to shiver.

Not that Thomas Watchman was one to openly show fear. He put his nerves into his fist and pounded the window, yelling “Back! Get outta here! Out!”

Darkness.

The shape had flown away—no. No not yet. It hovered in place a few feet back at Thomas and Chloe, who’d joined him by the window. That can’t be the same owl from the truck, Chloe wondered. And yet its stare, it felt so familiar…

The owl lunged for the window, but not with its feathers. Screeee. It dragged three sharp talons against the glass right in front of Thomas’ face. Then it flew back into the snow, and the dark, and the quiet.

Chloe’s grandmother staggered back just enough to sit back down on the bed. Her words came out with what sounded like a froth brewing in her mouth. “Owls are the worst of the predators. They will hunt for crow’s nests. They will eat the weak, the young.” Chloe handed the old woman her cane, which she promptly thocked to steady her withered, laced nerves. “Owls are the boogeymen crow mothers and crow fathers warn crow children to beware.” The veiled face turned up to Chloe. “You, you must make the next sign. You, must, beware.”

Word Count: 666 Total Count: 9,998

Gah, two words short of 10,000! But supper calls, and family, and grading, and, you know, life. 🙂

For a current list of installments for What Happened When Grandmother Failed to Die, click here.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 5th #chapter, part 2

Good morning, friends! Between the swamp of final papers and the hours of breaking up fighting school children, I’m ready for some escape from reality–even if it’s back to the Crow’s Nest.

Writing Music: Kronos Quartet, “Little Blue Something”

A lone caw cried out in the dark snow. Chloe couldn’t see into the night, not with snow spinning in circles outside like toy ribbons from a parade. “My family,” she said curtly.

Thock went the grandmother’s cane. Yana Perdido pointed a gnarled finger at Chloe’s chest and said, “No. This family has already been claimed. What, is, yours?” 

Whimpering downstairs. Cawing outside. Muffled voices, closed doors, silent snow, golden eyes, and all beneath the tap tap tap of Dr. Artair’s ring as he sits, watching like all the white men who think they have the right to see her as less, as worthless, just some sooty the dean needs to throw out with the trash, all the snickers and the jabs and the tossed books and the mud kicked at her legs and the noise and the noise and the noise, Chloe has to cover her ears to keep out all the damn noise

“Music!” She was panting. Why was she breathing so hard? Sweat streamed down her back and chest. Her heart wanted to collapse from running, running from all the stupid whiteys who think they own the world but they don’t because of “Music.” There. She could speak without panic now, without that clawing on her brain. She slowly ran her palms down her skirt to dry them. “I write songs for the radio.”

“Since when?” Chloe’s father filled that decrepit doorway with his body and his voice. “That job at the station is for school, not–”  he paused when he saw Dr. Artair in the corner and realized the grandmother was sitting, unveiled, and staring. 

It takes a lot to unnerve a man like Thomas Watchman. The grandmother’s face came damn close…until he saw Chloe’s frazzled face. He clenched his jaw as he towered over the old woman on the bed.  “Make my wife or daughter a jabbering mess like that son of yours downstairs and I’ll use your own tools against you.” He pulled out the leather arm bond he found in the foyer and held it to the lamp. The large buckle flashed light in the old woman’s eyes, reflecting little back. “Understand?”

“Oh dear, oh dear.” Dr. Artair wore the face of a Santa Claus reading a naughty list. “Perhaps, Yana, it is time to make amends with your children. Should they not be compensated with–”
“Treasure?” Thock. The grandmother recovered her face with the veil, and she stood, a black spectre once more. “You think you can drug me enough with your silly medicines that I’ll reveal its hiding place, do you? Get out, you fraud.” Thock. “Out of this room, and out of this house.”

Word Count: 446 Total Count: 9,332

CONSARNIT! Sorry, folks, but I have to cut it here so I can grade before another teaching gig. Here’s hoping a little more time will come my way tomorrow.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 5th #chapter

Hi! So a day’s break from writing allowed a serious question to hit my face: What does Chloe care about? Here I’ve got this girl in the main crew of characters, we’re with her practically every step of this journey, and….I have no clue what matters to her. And if I don’t know, you sure don’t know, you awesome readers, you. So let’s see if this veiled grandmother can work a little narrative magic, as it were, so we can all learn what’s up with Chloe. (And for those who feel a little déjà vu while reading, it’s because I’m recycling some setting details from an earlier brainstorm shared in October.) Let’s go!

“Yana, what ever are you doing out of bed?” Dr. Artair wagged his finger at the old woman and pointed at the wall. “Back to your room, my dear. I’ve brought your medicine as well as your granddaughter for a little chat while the others calm your son.” 

“‘Son.’ Hmmmph.” The veiled grandmother thocked the floor with her cane as she hobbled to somewhere on the left. “Refuse of the orphanages, they were, all of them. I knew he wouldn’t want them.”

Refuse? Refuse?! Chloe’s throat burned with acid and anger as she stomped up the stairs, nearly knocking the toadish doctor over. “My mom isn’t garbage.” She pounded after the woman, glaring down at her veiled back. “She’s smarter than any white man at her university. She knows more about the world than you ever will, and she’s smart enough to stay the hell away from you!”

A slow, gurgling cackle shook the old woman’s shoulders. Chloe should turn back. She should run. This woman can’t be human, not really. She’s a monster under all that lace, and that’s why Reg is practically foaming at the mouth. No wonder, no wonder Chloe’s mother never ever wanted to set foot in here and was ready to sleep out in the car in the middle of a blizzard. 

“And yet, she has returned.” The grandmother turned, slowly, straightened, slowly. By the time she faced Chloe, her head was high, almost regal. The outline of a face floated behind the veil, with two holes where eyes should be. “Why is that?”

Chloe clenched her jaw. “To help her brothers, obviously. A minute with you and one’s crying crazy.” Why WERE they there, really? They didn’t have to come here. Chloe’s mother could have hung up the phone and left it all alone…no. Chloe didn’t know as much about her mom as she’d like, but she knew one thing for sure:

Angela Perdido Watchman could never leave any past alone.

“Now now.” Dr. Artair blocked the doorway out. They were all in this grandmother’s room, Chloe in the middle. “Let’s not start off on the wrong foot.”

“And which foot would you prefer, you fraud?” The grandmother stiffly sat on the edge of her bed. It stood high with wooden globes for feet, globes carved into precarious connections along the frame and headboard. The blankets on the bed looked like cast-off ball gowns, all bright colors in expensive fabric stitched with gold. “I will take no more of your supposed medications. You’re simply here for money. You will get your dues in the post from my attorney, just like Dr. Caden.”

Dr. Artair chuckled as he set the grandmother’s tea on the bedside table. “I only wish you to be comfortable, Madame. But, if you prefer to be in pain…” He took an orange shroud off a heavy, ornate lamp, throwing a hard, yellow light upon the room. “…then so be it.” The light added dark cracks around his smile.  

Thock. “You care nothing about my pain or anyone else’s.”

Chloe had to blink, readjust her eyes. Everything, everything was golden–crucifixes, mirrors, even the very fireplace opposite the bed had gilded edges. So did the two wooden chairs framing it, right down to their scrolls carved with wings and talons.

Thock. “Sit, child.”

And lose her ability to look down on this witch? “No, thank you.” Chloe folded her hands primly in front of her.

“Well I should very much like to sit,” Dr. Artair said, and did so, “if you don’t mind.”

Now the way out was clear, and Chloe sure as hell wasn’t going to give that up. Only a couple more minutes before her father will come to rescue her. She would not end up like Reg downstairs. Chloe kept her face a mask, her heart calm. This heap of old lace won’t make her a wreck.

The grandmother certainly was staring at her enough, looking for something until thock.  “Hmph. You see all the gold, but you do not stare at it. You are not here for treasure.”

Chloe felt like the woman was digging through her head. Chloe’s mind raced through childhood, pausing only a couple times: listening to Etta James for the first time, her father pulling out a gilded but broken timepiece from a dumpster, a wall of golden records, her mother sitting with her in the Public Museum, gazing upon the Egyptian mummy encased there, telling Chloe tales of archeological sites in the Far East and what an adventure it must be to dig through time. Then the memories became a blur, a spinning blur, a blur like a carousel ride in chaos and Chloe would surely get sick all over this witch—

Dr. Artair’s ring loudly rapped the arm of his chair. “Oh, this really is so exciting, seeing distant family brought together at last.” And he shooed with his fingers at Chloe to make her look upon the grandmother again. “Go on, go on. Pretend I’m not here.”

The old woman had removed her veil. Her sickly skin was as peeled and cracked as the woodwork downstairs. But her eyes—those weren’t holes at all, but dark, night-dark, and they looked hungry for anything Chloe had inside her. “You are Angela’s child. That stubborn stare confirms it.” And she nodded, approving. “You would fight the world to protect your own, would you not?”

The sweat between Chloe’s fingers made her folded hands slip a little. “Yes.”

“Tell me, child.” She leaned forward, hair long enough to touch the top of her cane. “What is your own?”

WORD COUNT: 925 TOTAL COUNT: 8886

Gah, we didn’t get to Chloe’s motivation! Well, we sort of did. I bet you caught the hints. 🙂 Ah well. Let’s try next time, shall we? 

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!


#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 4th #chapter, part 2

Good morning, friends! Snow falls gently outside my window now, but the storm of school work is not far behind. Let’s get right to it, and see what Chloe makes of the grandmother she never knew she had.

Writing Music: Kronos Quartet performing Philip Glass

Chloe finally relinquished her coat to the coat rack and followed the doctor to the steps, straightening her turtleneck sweater as she went.

“Is it not a pity, Miss…?”

“Chloe.”

“Is it not a pity, Miss Chloe, that such a treasure of a place be treated so?” He gave the wooden crow carved into the bannister a light tap with his pointer finger. “Everyone ought to be allowed their eccentricities, but this—” his eyes rolled at the dozens upon dozens of crow drawings. “–is a bit much, even for me.” He grimaced, reminding Chloe of an angry toad.

Good thing he started chuckling so she could laugh, even falling in step with him on the stairs. “Guess this explains why Mom never wanted a pet.”

“Ha! Indeed. Your mother is a history teacher, correct?”

“That’s right, Doctor…?”

“Artair.”

“Dr. Artair. Yes, she’s even applying for tenure at the University in Milwaukee.”

“You must be very proud.”

“Mmm.”

Thomas appeared then. Chloe waved down to him, and he waved back with a cloth wrapped around ice. He continued on to the living room, quiet now but for hushed voices and crackling flames. 

“I wonder, then, what she would make of these.” Dr. Artair used the stirring spoon to point at the crow pictures. 

The second level was only half a dozen stairs away. Only one lamp seemed to be shining out of side onto dark green wallpaper. One door closed, who knew how many hid from sight. One of those doors led to her. The grandmother who made her children draw nothing but crows… “She probably hated having to make so many,” Chloe said.

But Dr. Artair tisked Chloe’s words, and rapped a few of the pictures with the spoon. “Look a little closer.” 

So Chloe leaned in, eyes squinting to see whatever it was she was meant to see. One drawing was just a series of hard, crude strokes with a black crayon. Another was more like pencil, a bit finer, with some shading. One had a peculiar smell to it, almost like sulfur.

“The corners. Look to the corners,” Dr. Artair whispered.

And there, finally, Chloe saw numbers smaller than a fly, written with precise, perfect lines: 1893. 

Chloe gasped. “These aren’t all Mom and her brothers. These…” She thudded down the stairs and back up again, scanning row upon row of pictures, finding more and more dates. 1923. 1947. 1882. 1904. 1950. 1867. “She had to make more. Someone was always making them…”

Floorboards near them creaked loudly. Thock. A shuffling sound. Thock. Another shuffle.

Chloe looked over Dr. Artair’s shoulders to the top of the stairs.

They were no longer alone.

An old woman, draped in black lace and bent as a question mark, hobbled to the top of the stairs with a knobby wooden cane clutched by a gloved hand. Knotted locks of silver hair peeked out from the thick veil covering her head and shoulders. “Yes.” The woman’s voice seemed to claw at the very air between them. “A Perdido must make the sign to be protected. You.” She pointed the cane at Chloe. “You will make the next sign.”

Word Count: 527 Total Count: 7961

Gah, I hate interrupting a story, but I’m afraid we have no choice this week. I do hope you’ll stay tuned anyway–I’ve a lovely author interview to share, and Blondie wants to talk about her current projects. (Oh yes–she’s got quite a few manuscripts flying around!)

For a complete list of installments for What Happened When Grandmother Failed to Die, click here.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: sharing an #AuthorInterview while #writing a 4th #chapter

Featured

Hello, everyone! Thanks for sharing your wishes and prayers–yesterday was a rough one, but today can and will be better. It’s been wonderful to write a little every day, so much so that I am going to let myself take it a liiiiiittle bit easier this week, as my university students are starting to submit finals and I know I’m subbing for at least two full days in other schools. So, be on the look out for an indie author interview as well as some guest writing from my awesomely sweet daughter Blondie.

Speaking of interviews, I was honored by fellow indie author and book blogger Colin Garrow with an interview on his site. Click here to check it out!

Now, where were we–ah, the mysterious doctor is stirring something while sitting next to a butchered rabbit.

Sumac pulled a long, dirty knife out of the kitchen sink and stabbed what remained of the rabbit’s abdomen. “Hungry?”

“You have got to be kidding me.” Chloe said, one foot already sliding back to the kitchen’s door. She stumbled back, and back, and lunged for the bare bathroom before the heaving started. At least the toilet wasn’t covered in animal blood, oh jeez I cannot STAND IT.

The doctor listened to Chloe puke, then said, “I may have something to help with that.”

“How—” Thomas’ hand swept from the shaven Santa Claus to the carcass and back. “How is this remotely sanitary?”

The doctor furrowed his brow and held up the spoon for inspection while the sounds of Chloe’s wretching lessened. “The dishes have been washed, if that’s your concern.” 

“You have medicine next to a dead animal in the goddamn kitchen!”

“And where else is one expected to prepare food and drink?” The doctor’s belly shook as he laughed. “All will be well, Sir, if you calm yourself.”

When Chloe returned to the kitchen, the doctor was politely patting her father’ limp arm. Thomas was standing, but not with the straight back he always kept when a white man talked to him. “Yeah…” The word dropped from his lips, vague and distant.

“Oh, I admit, this place is terribly morbid.” The doctor went to grab the teacup, sniffing it with disdain. “But it won’t do a dying old woman any good to raucous over stuffed birds and dirty stoves. What matters now is giving her a bit of comfort–like a pain reliever in her tea–and a bit of company.” He was only as tall as Chloe, so it was her he looked to with a smile. The scar running along one side of his shaved face almost connected the smile to his eyes–almost, but not quite. “Would you mind attending her with me? Just for a few moments while this brogue tidies up.” The doctor added a rebuking look at Sumac for good measure.

Not that Sumac seemed to care. “Look, the lady wants to keep the crows coming, and they won’t come if there’s no food.” With four slick moves, the rabbits limbs were severed. “There’s proper human vittles in the fridge anyway. Unless you put something off-limits in there.” And this plowman Sumac gave the doctor a snotty stare.

Weren’t doctors supposed to be respected? 

Chloe tugged her father’s arm. “C’mon, Dad, let’s—”

“Not your father.” The doctor raised a hand to stop them. He had a pretty fancy ring on, much like the professors who taught at Angela’s college. It reflected the light in their faces as the doctor continued. “Your father can find you something more appropriate to eat. I know I wouldn’t trust that butcher to boil an egg.”

“Hey!”

A low rumble: Thomas’ stomach, then Chloe’s. She could picture a full plate of chips, grapes, pb and j, cookies, milk…she must not have emptied her stomach, but her whole body of fuel, and she so needed fuel. Her legs felt like they could buckle right now, and the rabbit didn’t look gross so much as dinner-not-ready-yet…“Nothing with, you know, its teeth still in.”

Thomas smirked, and gave his daughter a wink. “No kidding. Look, I owe your mom some ice, anyway. Five minutes, I’ll be up to get you.”

“Five minutes?”

Thomas held up five fingers. Chloe clapped her hand against his, and said, “Okay.”

Word Count: 553 Total Count: 7434

I was going to go a bit longer, but the boys are demanding basement time, and those groceries ain’t gonna buy themselves. Guess we’ll all have to meet the infamous grandmother tomorrow. 🙂

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 3rd #chapter, part 2

Ugh, friends, what a day. I was determined to help sort and clean the basement; in the process I found correspondence from my grandparents, old friends…and from my parents in the weeks before I married Bo. I was an emotional wreck much of the day, so it amazes me I managed to write at all. I hope you enjoy this moment with Chloe and her father, the return of Sumac, and the introduction of yet another peculiar character…

Writing Music: Kronos Quartet, “Sigur Ros”

Chloe nudged her father away from the sliding doors and crying men. “So that Reg guy thought I was a monster?”

“I, I don’t know.” Her father paused to take in all the crows drawn or stuffed around them. “Childhood’s always been off-limits with your mother. Eating habits of ancient Egyptians, treasured relics of Spanish monks, secret treasure hoards of Celts…” Thomas approached the coat-rack with the decorative nest on top. His hand moved along the brittle sticks into the nest. His face changed as he lifted something out: a buckle attached to a strap of holed leather too short to be a belt.

Now it was his turn to swallow back his thoughts. “Any history but her own,” he said, and tucked the bond into his coat pocket.  A low whistled song began in the kitchen. “Must be that Sumac. Let’s ask him about gas for the morning so we can get out of here.

Chloe paused near the base of the stairs to study the crow carved into the bannister. The carving was slow, methodical, precise–the same painstaking pace her father would take when rebuilding a broken music box. Music boxes, they are special. They’re like magic you can call back again and again, and see how this one’s got a tiny compartment for some lucky little girl to hide a treasure in? And little Chloe would nod, following her father’s large fingers move with the delicacy of a danger among the pins, wheels, prongs, and cylinder. She always wanted that magic on her shelf, in her room, but too often the magic was for some other girl living in a far cleaner neighborhood. But that magic’ll never come for song that don’t play. One loose pin, one bent prong–one thing out of place, Chloe. It takes one wrong thing to break it all.

Chloe held her fingertip at the edge of the crow’s beak–sharp, knife-sharp. 

A pricking in her brain made her pull her hand back as though wounded.

“Chloe, you okay?” Thomas took her hands and checked for wounds. “Amazed that thing didn’t blind that Reg fella as a kid.”

“N-no, it didn’t hurt me.” Chloe tried to shake that pricking inside her, but she knew it meant something. Even now she could feel the golden eyes, just a scribble, and yet, those eyes were hidden under a mass of crow drawings.

And yet, those eyes of a snowy owl were drawn and pinned in this house of crows.

Why?

But it felt too weird to say to her dad–at least, at this point, it did. “I’m just thinking about Mom being a kid here. I can’t handle it.”

The father and daughter hugged as a shadow watched. “If I had to grow up in a place like this,” Thomas said, “I’d see monsters everywhere I look, too.” 

“Would you, now?” Sumac leaned in the kitchen doorway, drying his hands with a ratty towel. “Can’t imagine any monster taking you down.” The towel shrunk in Sumac’s hands, small into a ball into a— thwip. Sumac whipped the towel-ball at Thomas—

–who caught it without moving a step. “I should hope not.”

Not another showdown. Chloe nudged her father, hard this time, so she could get in between him and Sumac. “Our tank got really low driving up here. Is there a town we can hit in the morning for gas, or just, you know, pay you for some? I’d…” she paused to throw in a dramatic look over her shoulder. “I’d rather Dad not have to leave my mother with these people.”

“Heh. No one should be left with these people.” Sumac motioned with his pointer finger that they follow him back to the kitchen. “Closest town’s twenty minutes in the truck. We can leave at daybreak, Miss…”

“Chloe.” 

“Chloe. I like it.” He held the swinging door open to the kitchen.

Remembering Sal’s warning, Thomas and Chloe took their time going in.

The kitchen itself wasn’t overrun with crows, at least. There were more pictures pinned to the walls, sure, but there weren’t feathers pinned to the cupboards or beaks in a bowl. It was actually pretty plain in there–wooden cupboards too old for their varnish lined one wall, interrupted only by a window and a sink. A long, narrow butcher’s block sat in the middle of the room, and a simple ovular table with four chairs sat over by a row of windows along the far wall–the back of the house, Chloe figured, since there was a back door, a pile of wood for the fire, and an axe. A big axe stained with blood. Stained with the same blood, maybe, as the blood on one of the kitchen chairs. On the furthest cupboards. In the sink. Maybe the same blood as that which sizzled atop a coating of grease, of oil, of God knows what else on the old gas stove where a kettle steamed.

The body lay spread out on the butcher’s block, limbs spread, ribs cracked into sections, skin hanging over the side like a wet dish cloth, jaw snapped open to show a complete set of tiny teeth crowned with the two long incisors. Inches away from those incisors sat a teacup, a teacup being stirred with a spoon held by a man who looked like a Santa Claus who’d lost a bet.

“Ah,” the man said with a playful grin. “You’re just in time for the evening medicine.”


Word Count: 915 Total Count: 6881

Whew! Here’s hoping I can shine a light on things tomorrow…and find a smile or two to share with you. x

Catching up? Here’s the list of installments thus far.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 3rd #chapter, part 1

Hi, friends! Sigh…Well, so much for catching up. 😦 I mean, I’m glad I’ve got the extra teaching work to support my family, but still. It’d be nice to have a few free days to catch up with you on YOUR sites.

Writing Music: Ennio Morricone, The Thing

The man’s hands were curled as talons, saliva flying from his mouth when he screams for Chloe’s life.

Chloe thrusts her book bundle in front of her face just in time, blocking his first swipe as she staggers back, losing her shield, tripping on a small table in this room of eyes and crows, not knowing where to run—

THWACK.

Thomas Watchman cut in front of his daughter, fist damp with the man’s spit. The man’s glasses flew across the room and nearly hit the floor, if not for Sal. 

The man shook like a struck dog, wavering on all fours. The firelight couldn’t reach the floor beyond the couch, robbing his shape of anything human. He panted, moaned, “Aaaaang”

“I’m here, Reg.” Angela ran past her husband, pulled away from his own clawed plea, “Stay back, Ang, he’s dangerous,” and Chloe’s plea, “Mom he tried to kill me!”

But Angela did not stay back. “No, he didn’t.” She ran her fingers through the crumpled man’s hair. “Get Reg some ice, Thomas.”

“Like hell.”

“Thomas.” Angela undid her coat and folded it to lay upon the floor. “Please.” She looked at him, at Chloe. “Please,” she said again. 

The crumpled Reg  turned his face up to Angela’s, his eyes darting, constantly darting. Chloe hugged the back of father tight to stay as hidden from those eyes as she could. 

Sal gave a little cough near Thomas’ ear, and nodded towards the sliding doors out. Chloe didn’t want her dad to back away, to leave space for that crazy Reg to grab her mom, but…but the guy was just crying on her coat-turned-pillow now, thumb near his mouth like some little kid. Angela kept right on stroking his hair, humming the same melody chimed by the grandfather clock back home.

Thomas reached around and felt Chloe’s body shake against him. “Okay.” Not that it was actually okay, not with that growl beneath it. “Chloe and I will be right back.”

Sal walked with them to the sliding door and paused. “I’m so sorry you’re seeing Reg like this first.” He held the glasses in his palms like a child holds a butterfly. “He’s usually the gentlest of us, setting spiders free outside and rescuing rabbits from Mother’s traps, that sort of thing.” 

Chloe scoffed. “That doesn’t explain why he called me a fake, or why he tried to strangle me.” Damn, her books were scattered on the floor with her blanket from home, a real home with family photos, and laundry, and records not put away, and sketches of old machines’ insides, and piles of history books all cracked open to different pages with notes stuck in every one of them.  

Sal turned towards the fireplace, looking at a dark corner beyond it where a dented bucket sat, covered with old soot. “This place…Mother. She liked to scare us, you see. Keep us here with stories of, of monsters out to eat us.” He laughed nervously and lay Reg’s glasses to rest on a shelf next to the door. “They could take any shape, the monsters, and…anyway, together we three could handle it all right, especially because of Angela. But when Mother’d catch us alone…” A beastly sound warbled in Sal’s throat. “Well. You see what she did to Reg in just one hour.”

“One hour?” Thomas asks. His growl was gone.

“Yeah.” Even Sal sounded like he couldn’t believe it, “Doctor says I arrived just an hour after Reg. One hour alone with that woman…” Sal shook his head, and wandered away from Thomas and Chloe to stand and stare at the fire, hands and thoughts to himself.

Word Count: 608 Total Count: 5359

I wasn’t planning on going THIS slow here, but I do like how the next scene can focus on the “outsiders” Chloe and her father Thomas…plus maybe get Sumac and the mysterious doctor into the mix.

#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 2nd chapter, part 2

Pardon me, friends! I’m quickly uploading this while sitting in the teacher’s lounge for lunch. Most of the students are off to a soccer match today, so I’ve been given the fortunate job of watching the teenage stay-behinds. 🙂

So, where were we…ah. Chloe’s mother Angela is finally entering her childhood home, the Crow’s Nest.

Writing Music: Rob Simonsen, Foxcatcher (I really need to get a hold of this soundtrack)

Angela Perdido Watchman gave little attention to the crow-filled room. “I’m better now, really,” she whispered to Thomas, but Chloe knew her dad didn’t believe her. He dropped one hand down only to keep his other arm snug around his wife’s shoulders.

But still, Angela was smiling–and to Chloe’s relief, a real smile, at that. She even took off her mittens and tucked them into her coat pocket. “Hi, Sal.”

Sal blinked back a couple tears, making his eyelashes sparkle like the snow. “Hi, Ang.”

The two shared a nervous laugh. “You got tall,” said Angela, looking up into his face. If not for constantly bowing his head down, Chloe was sure he’d be taller than her father Thomas.

Sal laughed a little more. “You got a clone.” And he nodded at Chloe. 

For the first time since the phone call, Chloe felt like her mom saw her instead of whatever was going on in her head. All the black feathers and bones, all the fear around whomever called herself a mother in a house like this, didn’t have to matter, at least in this moment.  “Had a little help,” she said, and nodded to her husband.

This time, Chloe’s father didn’t prove himself with a strong grip. Handshakes are hard when one’s being hugged by a lanky scarecrow. 

“Uh, hi.” Thomas patted Sal awkwardly on the back while mouthing What the? to Chloe. Angela’s hand found Thomas’ on Sal’s back and threaded their fingers together to keep Sal close. He shuddered in their hold 

“This place, Ang…” he said, and sobbed.

“I know.” Now Angela was starting up again. Chloe bit her lip, looking around for something to stop the damn panic. Her dad, too, was whispering lots of “come on, now” and “it’s just one night, okay? We’re together, we can do this.” He even managed to nudge their huddle far enough from the door for Chloe to close it.

Then Chloe remembered the man who practically carried her in, the not-Sal. “What about Reg?”

That broke the huddle in a hurry, much to Thomas’ relief. “Reg!” Ang said. “How is he?”

“Reg is…Reg.” Sal bit his lip. “He got here first.”

“Oh no…” Angela’s eyes searched the stairs, her body began to shake—

“I think he went in there, Mom.” Chloe grabbed the iron handle for  the sliding door and tugged…and tugged…she even set her bundle down to try with both hands. ”I think he did.

Chloe’s dad joined her. “Let’s all look in here first,” he said, and with Chloe tugging and Thomas pushing, they finally managed to open the partition enough for a person to walk through properly. Three of the old scrawls of crows crumpled and broke free of their pins to fly a few inches before coming to a rest at Sal’s feet.

“We never did try pinning them to the floor…” he said absently.

Thomas stared at Sal until Chloe gave him a little kick to stop. “And you don’t have to now, either, because tomorrow we’re all leaving. Right Ang?” 

Angela walked by all of them without a word but “Reg?” They followed her into the living room, though Sal kept to the walls, fingers tracing the tattered paper decorated with a strange stencil of a “Y” with an extra line in the middle. 

The room had to be as big as the Watchman’s apartment if all the rooms were stacked in a cube. The ceiling was just as high as the foyer here, but thanks to the blazing fire in the large fireplace, Chloe felt warm enough to unbutton her coat and set it on the dusty couch. “Reg?” she said, joining her mom and the others. He wasn’t hiding behind the two easy chairs, or under the desk Thomas tapped. Even the few bookcases gave no sign of him…or books, for that matter. Instead, the shelves were pinned with more pictures of crows, so many they were pinned in layers upon each other. She lifted a few. Her mom must have made at least some of these. What a hell, to be stuck drawing crows over and over and over…

…and eyes?

Big, yellow eyes, squat liike eggs, with sharp black circles for pupils. They stared at from the paper like the snowy owl atop the truck, mindful, amused, curious—

Some distant door in the kitchen slammed. “Getting more wood!” Sumac called, and slammed away again.

“Who is that?” Angela asked.

Sal made a face. “Oh, you haven’t even seen the doctor yet. I’m sure he’ll be down shortly.”

Chloe backed away from the drawings and turned towards the mirror windows. A form moved across them in the dark–that Sumac, likely, for wood. Three worn, broken chairs surrounded a circular game table covered by a lace tablecloth. When Chloe lifted it, the dust left a perfect shadow pattern of the lace.

The grown man who carried Chloe in sat curled up underneath. Sweat beaded from his head down his glasses to drip on his knees. His forehead twitched as he spoke through gritted teeth. “You’re not Angela, you, FAKE!” The table flew back as he leapt up, hands out for Chloe’s neck.

Word Count: 865 Total Count: 4751

Break time’s almost up! I’m rather hoping I don’t have to sub tomorrow so I can 1) grade for the university and 2) finally catch up with you folks!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

#NaNoWriMo2019 #WritingLog: #writing a 2nd chapter, part 1

Sorry, no time for introductions because I taught all day and my kids are driving me NUTSO right now. Just read the previous stuff, or read on, or just…oh, take some deep breaths and drink some cocoa like I clearly need to do.

Writing Music: Bruno Coulais (yes, again), Coraline

“Mister, I’m not—” Just getting those words out was nigh impossible for Chloe. The man practically picked her up and ran into the house, leaving Sumac and Chloe’s parents out in the snow.

“I told you she’d come, Sal, see?” And just as quickly as he’d grabbed her, the man released Chloe and left her spinning in the foyer while he vanished into a neighboring room.

“Hang on!” said an irritated voice behind a closed door on Chloe’s right.

Chloe held her book bundle tight. A cold, lofty spot, this foyer, with an old, hungry smell that pecked at Chloe’s nose. The wooden staircase before her was losing its varnish, not to mention its red carpet. It crooked to hug the fall wall halfway up before continuing to the second level lit by a single lamp. 

No need to go there yet. 

Chloe took a few steps to the left, where not-Sal had vanished. Sliding doors stood open enough for a fast body to slide through; for now, out of them came more warmth, and the sounds of a crackling fire. Pinned to the wooden doors were at least a dozen pictures of crows. The paper looked faded, the lines and coloring like a child’s. 

The pictures continued onto the wood-paneled walls. The more Chloe’s eyes moved around the room, the more crows she saw: carved into the bannister. Statues on a narrow table beneath the climbing stairs. Feathers pinned behind glass with dates scrawled. Frames of wing bones outspread as if they fly on in death. A lit curio full of stuffed crows stood next to the closed door where the voice came from.

A toilet flushed, and the closed door opened to a beanpole of a white man–no, white wasn’t right. A speckled man, really, with messy red hair to match. “Sorry about the smell, Ang. You know how I am–” he paused, staring hard at Chloe. “Oh shit–I mean, crap–I mean, I’m not talking about the smell, in there—” he waved at the toilet behind him. “I mean, the old meat smell. You’re not Angela.” He bowed his head, so flushed his freckles were all but lost.

“She’s my mom.” She held out her hand and kept her chin up. “I’m Chloe.”

“Sal.” He held out his hand–took it back, glancing back at the toilet—

Chloe took it anyway and shook it just as her parents taught, quick and firm.

“That’s it.” Sumac stomped his way in and set the Watchman Family’s luggage next to the curio. “I’m not waiting for them. We may need a rescue operation for your mother, girl.” He hung his hat and coat upon a coatrack with a nest on top. “I’ll get the feed for the yard.”

Sal rolled his eyes. “You’re going to attract bears if you keep that up.”

“It’s your mother’s rule, not mine. Still…” Sumac scratched the last of the snow out of his hair. “Wouldn’t mind some bigger game than crows to wander our way.” With a wink to Chloe he vanished into—

“The kitchen.” Sal shuddered. “Wouldn’t make a sandwich in there right now, if I were you.”

“My stash of oatmeal pies might still be behind the egg collection.” Chloe’s mom, finally in the doorway, the tips of her boots just crossing the threshold. Chloe’s dad had his arm wrapped around her shoulders, his hand on hers, his eyes on Sal and Chloe and crows and stairs and everything all at once. Chloe watched him mouth Holy shit to himself while her mother took one last clean breath of wintry air.

“Thomas, this is the Crow’s Nest,” she said, and led him inside.”

Word Count: 616 Total Count: 3886

Here’s hoping I have a little more time to finish this family reunion tomorrow. x

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!