Friday, April 29, 2011

A Twitterpated Outbreak (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday fiction is hosted by Debra G. Elliot @ her blog, Writing with Debra . Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: I'm pulling this one out of a hat...well, sorta. It's now finals week--and I'm still furiously multitasking to keep a billion-and-one things together. So this week is a bit of a rerun, written for the FW challenge of "Outbreak". I simply had the urge to use the word "Twitterpated" in a story and this was the result according to the topic. Enjoy! 

When the colorful jar of swirled sand fell off her desk, Miss Saunders swallowed the cough drop she’d just put in her mouth. Pandemonium erupted in the classroom of twenty-four and as the screams and shrieks grew louder within seconds, she fumbled in her jacket for the plastic whistle to call together order.

It was supposed to be a fun science day—until Jamie Kingston had loudly proclaimed that the colorful sand in the bottle was love dust. The precocious eight-year-old had then explained that anyone who breathed it would fall in love with the person on their left.

Miss Saunders tried to explain that, when Kristi Milton interrupted to ask if the colored sand was “twitterpated” like the Disney movie she’d just seen. That’s when it started.

The girls were shrieking about breathing the twitterpated sand while the boys were horrified to think they might be forced into falling in love.

Miss Saunders found the whistle.

She blew the whistle.

The noise stopped.

Anxious faces stared back at her and slowly, the chaos settled.

Quietness trembled.

“Thank you.” Miss Saunders placed the whistle on her desk and walked around to the front to check the damage. Thankfully, none of the children had run up to the front, so the broken glass and colored sand were still exactly where they’d been.

“No more screaming.” She rubbed her forehead. “Do you want me to report this?” A chorus of murmurs reached her ears. “Good, I didn’t think so. Now then, I want you all to repeat after me—that was ordinary sand. Nothing strange is going to happen. Understand?”

Some of the children nodded, some of them squirmed in their seats, a few of them were looking pointedly to their right. “There is no such thing as twitterpated sand. Sand cannot make you instantly fall in love with anything. Repeat after me-”

They did—half-heartedly.

Miss Saunders mentally wondered if she had another cough drop somewhere.

“This is just dyed sand.” She tried to explain. “For geography today, we’re starting the section on habitats. I thought it would be a good way to learn about the different deserts if you could see some colored sand.” She pointed at the mess beside her feet. “Real colored sand isn’t blue or purple, but this way it’s easier for you to see. In real life, there are many different deserts with very normal, very ordinary sand in reds, yellows, whites and browns. I thought it would be a fun project for today, but it seems like-”

“It’d be fun, Miss Saunders.” Kristi piped up. “That sounds like loads of fun.”

Miss Saunders felt her eyebrows dancing upwards and she worked to keep her voice light and even to reply. “Really? Even though it might be…twitterpated sand?”

The little girl blushed a bright cheery red—the same color as her Minnie Mouse headband. “I-it just kinda slipped out.” She mumbled.

“Really?”

“I’m sorry, Miss Saunders.”

The young teacher fumbled for a smile and managed to pull it off. “That’s alright, Kristi, but next time—I’ll have to-”

“I know.”

Jamie shuffled his feet slowly beneath his desk, peering out from beneath his long bangs to see if any eyes were on him.

Miss Saunders perked a brow.

He looked down at the floor. “Sorry, Miss Saunders.”

Then he sneezed. Once. Twice. Thrice.

Miss Saunders stiffened.

Their eyes met and she gave a jerk of her head. He hurried out of the classroom and she excused herself a moment later, to join him in the hall.

“Jamie?”

“Sorry, sis.” He coughed again, slumping to the floor.

She handed over her last cough drop. “You should go to the nurse’s.”

“And become another test subject?” He wheezed. “No thanks.”

“Jamie-!”

“No!” He coughed, turning away. “Look at them. They’re clueless! They really thought sand could do something like that.”

Miss Saunders swallowed, then slowly slid to the sterile white floor to sit beside her baby brother. They sat, in silence, listening to nothing.

“You gotta go back in—before Dad catches you.” His eyes flickered meaningfully up and down the hallway. His worry for her trumped his own health.

She cracked a smile, reaching over to ruffle his short, choppy hair. Her little brother had guts. “Big deal. We were created with free will, Jamie. Not to be superkids with little nanobots in our brains--I don't care if Father has something to say about us taking a breather in the hall-”

“Sure, sure.” He smiled, weakly, but made no attempt to dodge the gentle hands rubbing in soothing motions over his aching head. “Go or he’ll yell.”

Rising, she gave the stiff, blonde strands, a light tug, brushing his forehead as she turned towards the classroom door and swiped the security card on the keypad.

It was just another day, another chart of data, another moment where she felt the lesser of two evils really wasn't all that little than it was made out to be. Jamie sat, panting softly, his head now tucked between his knees. He was recovering from one of his usual attacks--one of the side effects that their father had refused to acknowledge. She swallowed, resisting the urge to reach out and comfort him again, it would be bad for both of them if they were found outside of a classroom during school hours.

His head lifted, briefly, for a moment and he made himself smile for her as she forced herself to return the expression. “Take deep breaths. Come back if you can. I’ll write you a hall pass.”

The door beeped and she traded realities again.

(c) Sara Harricharan

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You (BBT)

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If you could see one book turned into the perfect movie–one that would capture everything you love, the characters, the look, the feel, the story–what book would you choose?

Dee Henderson's The Negotiator. That is one book I reread on a regular basis, just because the characters are so awesome, the storyline makes sense and believe it or not--there's an actual message inside. I also love the quirky touch of having a hostage negotiator being the main character, there is something unerringly interesting about that, not to mention the wildly unique family. I love the book, love the author's writing and would dearly love to see it in movie format. It'd be very, very awesome.

~Sara 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Changes for Camille (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the talented Yvonne Blake over @ her blog, My Back Door. Click here to read and share more great fiction! 


Author's Ramblings: I have homework. And tests. And finals...and oh yes, this is dead week. LOL. No, am not quite dead--but my brain is pretty scrambled as far as fiction is concerned. This was supposed to be an Easter piece, but I don't think it quite came out the way I wanted it to. Still, it's a bit light and fluffy, 'cause I wanted to write about these two. Enjoy the read!


“Is she back yet?” Camille grabbed at the tassels hanging off of her grandmother’s slippers. It was more of a distraction than a game as she lay on the front porch, making half-hearted swipes towards the puffy blue pom-poms as her grandmother rocked back and forth on her ancient rocking chair. 

“No. If she was, I’d have heard it and you wouldna be asking.” Grandma Luna turned the page of the morning newspaper with a deliberate calmness. “Stop doing that.”

“But I’m bored!” Camille whined, rolling over to lie on her tummy, propping up her chin with two hands. “It’s Easter and I’m not doing anything at all.”

“Anything like what?” Grandma Luna muttered. “Cavorting around in fancy new dresses you can’t afford, chasing plastic eggs with candy?” The older woman gave a rather unladylike snort. “That’s not what Easter is about.”

“I know what Easter is about.” Camille sniffed. “It’s about Jesus rising from the tomb and bucketloads of hope.” She thumped her head lightly on the wooden porch. “It’s also a holiday where people get off work and can come home.”

“She’ll be home when her shift is over. You know they don’t close stores like that for a simple holiday.”

“Easter’s not a simple holiday, Grams.” Camille murmured. “And I really am bored!”

“Then why don’t you go into the kitchen and-”

“Not that kind of bored!” The eight-year-old hastily interrupted. “I just mean…I wish she was home. Is she back yet?”

“She isn’t back yet and I doubt she ever will be!” The growled words came from the second rocking chair to Grandma Luna’s left. Grandpa Berr was stirring from the threads of his usual afternoon nap and their voices had been the trigger to bring him back to life.

“Berr.” Grandma Luna said, warningly, folding the newspaper, the calm having left her. “Go back to sleep if you don’t have anything good to say.”

Camille’s lower lip trembled. “Grams, she’s gonna come, isn’t she?”

“You’re both gettin’ yer hopes up for somethin’ that shouldn’t even be-”

“Berr!” A sudden sharpness had come to her voice. “The child’s got a right to hope just like the rest of us. If Aleana decides to-”

“She’s done enough deciding for everything and everyone.” Grandpa Berr said, harshly. “She runs around doing nothing, leaving us to care for some little brat that can’t even earn her own-”

The crunch of gravel in the driveway announced the newcomer as a dull red Toyota pulled into the front drive.

For a moment, there was pure silence.

Camille stared, her little eyes lighting up with every emotion in her eight-year-old self as she scrabbled to stand up straight. Grandma Luna placed the folded newspaper beside her rocking chair and tugged her baby blue apron ruffles straight. Grandpa Berr squinted, coughed and squinted again.

The driver’s door opened and a pale, skinny girl popped out, her black pixie cut matching her outfit of black jeans and a baggy T-Shirt. She cast a quick glance to the porch and flashed and smile, accompanied by a wave. “Yo!”

“Dami, Dami!” Camille was off the porch and down the stairs, meeting the figure halfway to the porch. “Dami!”

“Hey, hey, little sis.” Dami gave her an awkward hug, her arms laden with overflowing plastic bags. “Give a girl a hand, eh?”

Camille released her, standing impatiently while the plastic sacks were juggled so that she could carefully carry two up to the porch. “Happy Easter! I didn’t think anyone was gonna come. I was getting so bored and-”

“Grams, Gramps.” Dami dipped her head lightly, setting the bags down on the wooden floors and raking a hand through her spiky hair. “Mom and Pop say hey. Things got complicated so they couldn’t come.” She nodded towards her younger sister eagerly pawing through the plastic bags. “I came for Camille.”

Grandma Luna stiffened and Grandpa Berr sat up straight. “N-now?” He huffed, taking a wheezing breath. “Isn’t that a little soon?”

“Pop’s says it’s fine and safe now.” Dami shrugged. “Mom’s been missing her like crazy and I know she can be a handful.”

“I’m not a handful.” Camille pouted. “Are any of these mine?”

“Greedy.” Dami returned. “And why would I bring you presents when I’ve spent the night in three different airports over the past four days just to stand here?”

“Three airports?” Camille perked up.

“Four days?” Grandma Luna stared for a moment, then began to rouse herself from the rocking chair. “Sit down, child. I’ll get some-”

“Cami, leave the bags alone.” Dami’s head snapped to the side. “Go get whatever it is that Grams was going for.”

The little girl blinked in surprise, her hands halfway to another plastic sack. “Get…?”

“Thirsty, hungry.” Dami traced a few shapes in the air with her hand. “Go now before I-”

Camille immediately sprang into action, darting towards the front door and letting it bang loudly behind her as she took off towards the kitchen.

“So yer takin’ her back?” Grandpa Berr’s shoulders slumped, resigned. “Tomorrow?”

“Tonight.” Dami said, quietly. She dropped to sit on the front porch steps, rummaging through the plastic sacks and their contents. “They sent some stuff and wanted me to grab the rest.”

“T-tonight?” Grandma Luna swallowed. “Isn’t that a bit soon?”

“Not soon enough.” Dami pulled out a package of marshmallow peeps. She tore through it easily and folded one confection into her mouth, handing the rest over. “Here. Happy Easter.”

“What’s happy about it?” Grandpa Berr snorted, turning away from the offered candy.

“Everything’s alright then?” Grandma Luna took the peace offering, swallowing one with a grimace. “The site and everything?”

“The dig’s fine.” Dami shrugged. “The expedition was successful and all of that. Mom is all excited thinking that we’ve found something huge, Pop’s trying to remind her that things like this don’t just happen normally that it could be a fluke.” She shrugged. “You know them.”

“and what about you?”

“I’m fine, Grams. I’m always fine.” Dami quirked a smile, turning at the sound of Camille’s hurried footsteps returning. With some effort, the little girl backed out of the front door, balancing a plastic glass with pink lemonade and a paper plate filled with apple tarts. “Wow, is all that for me?” Dami’s eyebrows arched appreciatively. “Thanks, Cami.”

The little girl handed them over, taking up a position sitting cross-legged beside her older sister. The reason was apparent in two ways, one, to share the treats on the large paper plate and two, to snuggle into the arm that soon rested comfortably over her shoulder.

Silence reigned again.

“A-am I going back?” Camille asked, at last.

“Yep.”

“Tomorrow?”

“Tonight.” Dami swallowed the last of her lemonade. “Brought some stuff for you.” She nodded towards the plastic bags. “You find them?”

Camille’s head bowed, the earlier smiles gone. “When tonight?” Her voice was very soft.

Dami shrugged. “I could spare a few hours to visit with Grams and Gramps, but you’d have to be getting ready. Can’t keep a plane waiting—or a bunch of planes, for that matter.”

“I thought you came for Easter.”

“Hmm?”

“Easter! I thought we could dress up and go to church and have the nice lunch and-” Tears began to pool in the corners of her eyes and Camille’s quiet sniffles filled the afternoon air.

Dami polished off the last bit of apple tart and set the paper plate beside the empty plastic cup. She wrapped her arms around her younger sister and hugged her tight. “Shhh, come on. It’s been a while, but not that long. Don’t you wanna see Mom and Pops again?”

The quiet sniffles turned into loud sobs.

“Aww, Cami.” Dami bit her lip. “They miss you.”

“She hasn’t seen ‘em in three years!” Grandpa Berr snarled. “and you expect her to-”

“Berr.” But Grandma Luna’s voice trembled even as she spoke.

Dami took a deep breath and let it out. She fumbled in the pockets of her black cargo pants and pulled out a cellphone. “Cami, look—it’s a video.” She pressed a few buttons and within seconds, a small, video clip was playing on the tiny screen.

Cami’s cries became hiccupping wails when it was over and her tear-stained face said more than her mouth could have. Grandpa Berr shifted uneasily and Grandma Luna made no more from her rocking chair.

“They miss you.” Dami murmured, tousling the small head. “But the campsite is closer to the city now and it’s alright for you to be there—plus, you’re old enough now. It’s going to be a great adventure.”

“I hate Easter.”

Dami’s hand stilled in stroking the soft tawny-brown curls. “No you don’t.”

“Yeah I do!”

“Camille, is Easter dressing up in fancy dresses and eating egg-shaped chocolates?”

There was no answer.

“Camille.”

She sniffled.

“Yes or no?”

“…no.”

“Is Easter going to church and eating brunch and-”

“No!”

“Good. Then we've established that it is none of the above which leads us absolutely nowhere.” Dami caught her younger sister by the shoulders, holding her up to look her straight in the eye. “You know what it’s not, so tell me what it is. You can't hate something unless you know what it is and what it isn't.”

Camille glared at her.

Dami pulled her into a hug. “and if you don’t want my theological side to come through, why don’t you tell me what’s really wrong?”

“I don’t wanna leave Grams.”

“And Gramps?” Dami added, helpfully.

Cami buried her face in the soft black shoulder. “’specially Gramps.” She hiccupped. “I don’t wanna go anywhere! I want to stay here. You’re always in Bible school, Mom’s always busy and Dad doesn’t even come-”

“Things changed.” Dami looked up as Grandma Luna handed over the box of marshmallow peeps. She took one of the treats and folded it over, holding it up to Camille. “It’s different now. I’m doing an independent study on Biblical archaeology finds, so I’m at the dig most of the time—right there with Mom and Pop. It’s kind of quiet and boring without you around.”

Small hands fisted in Dami’s shirt, Camille accepted the sweet treat, tears still trickling down her chubby cheeks.

“We’re going to come visit for Christmas though, so it’s not like you won’t see Grams and Gramps again.”

Grandpa Berr snorted.

“I also brought a laptop and a webcam.” Dami winked. “The hours I can spare are for setting it up and explaining how things work. I know Gramps will pick it up quick, that way we can stay in touch a little easier.”

“Really?” Grandma Luna gave a teary smile.

“And guess what? Josh is even there.” Camille stirred at the mention of her older brother.

“He is?” Grandma Luna placed a hand over her heart. “I’m so glad.”

“Yeah. He gets on my nerves a bit, but he says that he’s turned over a new leaf and all of that. Mom and Pop are okay with it, so he’s coming to stay for good. We’re all together now—‘cept for you, Cami.” Dami poked her cheek with one finger. “We’re all waiting for you.”

Camille looped her tanned arms around her older sister’s neck. “I don’t hate Easter.” She whispered.

Dami’s laughter rode on the wind as the sun began to set. 

© Sara Harricharan

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cover (BBT)

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CAN you judge a book by its cover?

Yep. If it has a pretty cover,  nice lettering in a font that I like, I'm more likely to pick it up and read it, or at least to skim the dust cover. In some cases, it is a fairly accurate judge of fantasy mysteries, the more magical the cover, or if the images actually relate to the title, then I know the book is going to be good, because the details that make it work--someone has already taken the time to figure it out.

 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Come and visit!



Come and visit!

I'm over at Jewels of Encouragement today, a wonderful inspirational team blog with daily snippets.


See you there!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pressure (Friday Fiction)

Hi everyone! I have the distinct pleasure of hosting Friday Fiction this week and I am quite thrilled. I am also amazed that I actually have something finished and ready to go. ^_^ To join, just add your name and url to the Simply Linked gadget below. Don't forget to read and comment on other stories--we all love the feedback--and there's some pretty neat stuff to read.



Author's Ramblings: This is a small piece of prompt fiction on the topic "Headache". I'm not quite sure why it took the direction that it did--but it was an interesting prompt just the same. I hope you enjoy it, because I sure had fun writing it. ~_^ Happy weekend and enjoy the read!


Headache. 

Throbbing, pounding, forcing my sanity just beyond the grasp of my cold fingers. I can see it. I can feel it. Watching me, mocking me, taunting me…just out of reach of my freezing hands.
I can wonder many things—like why I can’t touch it, why I can’t reach it and why on earth are my hands so cold all the time?

But instead, I sit there or stand there and do nothing. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to do something. I just know that I don’t want to be doing nothing all the time. Nothing loses its magic when I do it too often.

Nothing.

Something.

Everything.

One thing, maybe.

It’s circling somewhere in the back of my mind, carving the shadows from the wall and spraying the rawness with vinegar.

I feel pickled and salted—with nowhere to go.

Voices surround me. Reality compels me. But instead, I sit there or stand there and do nothing. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to do it?

I have my world spread out before me and I’m doing nothing, because I can’t get free from the hands grasping my head, with their tight, wicked claws digging into my brain and raking it through over and over.

I feel pain and no pleasure.

Pain of every degree and horror of every moment. I only know that I can’t think straight. I can’t think crooked. I can’t make it work the way I want it to, because I can’t stop my head from torturing me.

This constant, throbbing, pounding and prying that is threatening so deliberately to draw me to my knees. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to make it go away without a sigh. I want to be free. I want to be me. But this headache will not leave me be. I know not what to do. I do not think I care. 

I am tired of this normality mess. I am tired, exhausted and depressed. I want to find a different view of things, a place where my soul can sing. 

I want to get away from this personal prison of pain. I want to tear off these shackles and hurl them into the very pits of despair and watch them burn in the flames of hope. I want to stand there and  laugh at the very thing that is ripping me apart from within. I want to stare it in the eyes and dare it to live. Dare it to die. Dare it to lie there and try to take me one more time. I want to force it through the same mental gymnastics, though the same frantic fantastic—through the same, long boring game where I am never sane.

This pain is not my life.

I am so much more than it. I have so much ahead of me, but instead, I sit there or stand there and do nothing.

Why?

Why must I even ask?

There must be some purpose, some dream, some unspeakable heroic deed which only I am capable of doing, but instead, I sit there or stand there and do nothing.

But I am tired of this. I have decided at last. I have decided that I will not take another glass, another pill, another sample of someone else’s reality. I want my own. I want my life back. I want to see myself running faster and stronger, further away in the distance where my hands may be cold, but my head is clear.

Like train tracks, a familiar clickety-clack, a steady thrumming hum, a surety of security that remains.

I see the possibility, in spite of the pain.

I see the normality, in spite of the pain.

I see the fragility—that comes with this pain—and then I see the strength.

In the night when the darkness beckons me, I pray. In the morning when the sun’s light has not yet breathed in life, I pray. In the midst of twisted, torrid confusion, I pray. As the voices draw me in, calling my name, I pray. As the faces are watching me watching them, I pray. As the norms of this world envelope me, I pray.

For every prayer that I breathe, a strand of hope is returned. For every strand that I receive, I bind upon these chains. As the chains grow heavy, I find strength in the golden threads that are holding me together. As I stop stumbling after these chains, I find that I do not carry them alone. I find that as I fill my arms with these heavy, burning links, there is someone beside me, lifting, carrying and moving. I know who it is. I know why and now I feel very shy.

Struggling in my cubicle of pain, it is easy to think that I am worthless. I may be hopeless, clueless and completely dense.

But I want my Father’s help, I want to hear His wisdom and I know that He made me with more than common sense.

He will not rip away these walls unless I let Him do so. He will not take control unless I give Him these keys. I know that I must give it all over. So in the midst of nothing, I will not stand or sit there. I will do something. I will give more than I have, I will live deeper than I breathe and when this strangeness comes for me, I will not just give in.

Throbbing.

Pounding.

Stabbing.

Pain.

I am alive. I am alive to feel every throb, every pound and every little stab. But I am still me.

When He lifts the curtain of pain from my burdened shoulders, I realize the strength of His name. Because in the corners where the light does not reach, He can chase the shadows away—and as I ask and wait, I stand there or sit there and I stay.

© Sara Harricharan

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chai Time #2

Poetic moments and general randomness are some of the things that usually sneak up on me. This was probably one of those moments that I wasn't looking for, because when it did come, the first thing I realized is that I have a keyboard in front of me and a blank blog post. The same blank blog post I've been staring at for some time, so, for lack of anything sensible to add to this, I give you--a poetic moment--over tea.

Cup. Tea. China. 
Something about it
Reminds me of
Tea. Cup. China. 
Not India? 
Identify
Fortify
Make it stop the mystery
Make it write a tragedy
Stories of secrets
Secrets of stories
Cup. Tea. Cup
Tea. Cup. Tea. 
Something, anything
Make it into one thing
Make it stop
Bothering me
As I slowly drink it 
All

And that is my non-rhyming poetic brilliance at the moment. I'm off to bed, I think. Happy dreamstuffits.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Strawberry Rabbits (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Sheri Ward over @ her blog, A Candid Thought. Click here to read and share more great stories!

Author's Ramblings: This is a bit of prompt fiction from the sheer fact that I feel like eating bucketloads of Easter candy. You know, the kind in shiny pastel wrappers that are ONLY filled with chocolate and marshmallow stuffs. I kept it short and hopefully enjoyable as well. Thanks for reading and happy weekend! 


Reni twirled the keyring around her thumb, watching the metal flash in the sunlight. She stood at the front door, alternating her glances between the elderly gentleman in the foyer and the bright sunshine just on the other side of the door. Her quick movements and bright, summer clothes betrayed her teenage nature in contrast to the owner of the house.

He was putting his loafers on, with painstaking, slow movements that made her nibble her lip and twirl the keys a little faster in a not-so-subtle way to hide her annoyance. She couldn’t offer to help him in this moment and quite frankly, she didn’t even want to be there. The sigh was stuck somewhere in her throat and she was better able to swallow it when he finally stood up.

Relief showed plainly in the fresh smile she offered him, the door already open as she stood on the tiny front stoop, holding it open for him. “All ready?”

He returned the smile, the cobweb of wrinkles on his face stretching to accommodate the expression. His steps were shuffling and even slower than the movements used to put on his shoes. Reni didn’t mind that much, because now she was standing outside in the fresh air and not inside the stuffy-to-her house.

She let him hold her arm for support and quickly went about turning the locks on the doors and using the spare key beneath the stone frog to lock the last one. Turning carefully, she helped him down the stairs, taking it one at a time.

By the time they reached her old pickup truck, most of the tension had drained away and Reni cheerfully held the passenger side door open for him, waiting until he was settled and buckled in before skipping around to the driver’s side.

In a matter of minutes, they rolled down the old dusty driveway and turned out onto the country road. She fiddled with the radio and then readjusted the rearview mirror. “Music fine?” She’d turned it to a soft rock station with the volume on low.

Mr. Bearn nodded, the smile still lingering on his old face.

They rode to town in a companionable silence.

Eventually, buildings began to show and traffic increased. Within minutes, they were in the heart of the town and heading for the old grocery store near the post office. Reni circled the lot three times before she found a close parking spot.

On days like today, she wished that Mr. Bearn would apply for a handicap tag so she could hang it in the front and park where she liked. But he insisted he was well enough to walk and therefore didn’t need to bother with something like that, especially if there was someone else who might really need it.

Stepping out from her side, she trotted ‘round to hold the door open, pretending not to notice when he took a few moments longer to figure out the seatbelt buckle. She jammed the lock down and pushed the door shut, settling into an awkward half-pace to keep stride with his shuffling steps.

At one point, she moved ahead to wrestle a cart out of the usual gaggle of meshed metal and tested it for squeaky wheels and bad steering. She’d done this enough times to know that when shopping with dear old Mr. Bearn, it was best to find a cart she didn’t mind pushing for the next few hours.

“Find a good one?” He was soon standing beside her, puffing in soft breaths.

“Yep.” She gave it a little half-pull and twist. “See?”

He gripped the edge with both hands, resting for a moment before one shaky hand finally fell back to his side and he started forward. Reni took a deep breath and let him pull the cart for the first few steps before she started to push.

It would be a long three hours or more.

~*~*~*~*~

Progress was slow. The aisles weren’t as crowded as they would’ve been, that was the only good reason for going grocery shopping on a Tuesday. Important things never seemed to happen on a Tuesday and that meant calmer customers and almost no crowding to make up for the unusual day.

They’d finally made it to the seasonal aisle and here, Reni stifled a groan. She’d forgotten about this part of the shopping trip. Usually, there weren’t too many holidays to remember and she was always careful to charge her cellphone or MP3 player for the shopping trip.

Mr. Bearn was a special friend from church and by her parents’ decree, she chauffeured him back and forth to the grocery store once every two weeks. They’d worked out a decent routine and managed to come to a mutual understanding in spite of the obvious differences.

As far as Reni was concerned, it was an unnecessary exercise in patience and so she tried her best to endure it without losing her mind. At first, there was hardly ever any conversation between them, but as time moved on, the brunette teen realized that the old fellow was working on a budget and half the time spent staring at a product, meant he was doing mental calculations in his head.

She’d figured that out quick and nowadays when he stopped longer than a handful of minutes, she’d tug the cart to get his attention and ask what price he was dissecting. In most cases, she could solve them in her head or using her cellphone calculator. It was an additional chore she didn’t mind as long as it speeded up the whole grocery shopping thing.

“Easter candy.” Mr. Bearn observed, his hand clutching the cart tighter in excitement. “I had forgotten about Easter candy.”

Reni chewed on her lip then settled for nibbling on a fingernail. If she dared to speak now, she had a feeling some of her impatience would come bubbling out and then that would cause trouble for everyone, somehow.

She watched him touch every type of chocolate within reach and could already see him adding up the dollars in his head. Nearly every holiday, he would buy some sort of chocolate and after taking two pieces for himself, would gift the rest to Reni and family as thanks for their help.

It was just as much a personal quirk as a special treat for him. His staples were basic and habitual—just like his constant refusal to hand over a written grocery list and miss out on the shopping experience himself.

Watching him debate the various packages of chocolate candies, Reni checked her cellphone again, replying to the handful of text messages that had come in. She almost wished she were at the bowling alley with her friends, enjoying the free food and laughter that always came with the church youth group excursions.

It would’ve been fun, except for her conscience would’ve seared her on a live grill for ditching Mr. Bearns on the grounds of free junk food and company more her age. If she turned him down on a Tuesday, it just meant that her Wednesday and Friday would suffer for it and then it would become even more of a headache.

A half-hour passed before Reni realized that they were still in the candy aisle. She frowned. “Mr. Bearns?”

He was fingering a package of chocolate-covered strawberry marshmallow rabbits.

Reni looked from the package in his hands to the purple net bag filled with egg-shaped chocolate rice crispies. It only took a half second for her to size up the situation and do the figuring in her head. It was cheaper to have the mini eggs than the marshmallow rabbits.

 Her frown deepened. Surely a few extra dollars wouldn’t be that big of a headache to the old man and he could either substitute something or skip another thing if it was that important.

“Mr. Bearns?” She tried again.

“Hm? Ah, sorry Reni.” He made himself smile at her and reluctantly returned the package to the shelf. “I’m almost done.” He looked at the cart and then back at the shelf. The movements were repeated a few times and then he snatched the package of chocolates off the shelf. “We’re finished. Let’s go.”

Reni blinked. “Really?” He tried to turn the cart, but it was too heavy. She stared at him for a moment longer before the rest of it registered. A careful glance at the cart was proof enough. “What about your dairy stuff? You didn’t get milk or butter.”

“Ah, well, I don’t—I mean, I’m sure I can-”

“If you don’t want to walk all the way there, I can grab it for you.” Reni jammed her cellphone in the back pocket of her jeans. “You said you use it for the oatmeal and toast every morning, right?” She wrinkled her nose. “A half-gallon and a small pat?” She was already turning on her heel and heading down the aisle. “Stay here with the cart. Be right back.”

She left before he could protest.

Dodging easily through the half-crowded aisle, she was soon standing at the dairy case and selecting the necessary items according to the man’s favored brands. He was going to give up not one, but two of his staples for the sake of a present.

It left a sick feeling in her stomach.

Snatching them up from the cooler case, Reni hugged them to her chest and trotted back to the aisle where she’d left them.

“Got them.” She dumped the armful in the cart and turned it with practiced ease. She’d caught the fact that he’d put the chocolate back in the time that it took her to grab the milk and butter. “Ready?”

His head bowed and he merely nodded, giving no answer, his face hidden from view. 

Reni pushed the cart forward and at the last minute, she reached back and grabbed the chocolates. It'd be worth it if he smiled. She mused. For all his slowness, he wasn't the worst grocery shopping partner she'd ever had.

Taking the self-checkout—to ensure that she packed his groceries the way he liked them—she grabbed the purple net of chocolate and the special strawberry rabbit confections. By the time he stopped sorting the groceries long enough to realize what she was doing, Reni had already paid and bagged the sweet treats. 

"Here,  you wanted these, right?"

“Reni…!”

She shrugged. “Happy Easter.” Her nose wrinkled. “I thought you didn’t pack the green beans with the canned corn.”

For a moment, he stared at her and then he smiled so widely it reached his eyes.

© Sara Harricharan

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Visual (BBT)

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So … the books that you own (however many there may be) … do you display them proudly right there in plain sight for all the world to see? (At least the world that comes into your living room.) Or do you keep them tucked away in your office or bedroom or library or closet or someplace less “public?”

Tucked away in my "space". You will rarely see any of my books out in the open, but from the moment you step into one of my rooms/spaces/favorite places, there are books everywhere--or printed stories waiting to be read. I guess it is partially because I don't lend books--and probably because I treat them like chocolate. Precious to me and quickly, painlessly polished off.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wooden Guitar (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Julie Arduini over @ her blog, The Surrendered Scribe. Click here to read and share more great fiction. 

Author's Ramblings: I have no idea why this almost tangent seems to be the theme of my latest writings, but this one took a bit to write. I could not quite think of a name for this FMC, so I believe she will be nameless for the moment. I tried to finish it earlier--but--pesky homework. *sigh* If there is a student in your life, pray them through this last month/weeks leading up to finals. Happy reading and enjoy the weekend!


I don’t know why I did it. 

It took months to make a perfect replica and money I didn’t care to spend to make it look the right way. I measured twice, thrice and made each cut as if it were a carving knife through turkey—smooth, calculated and crooked. 

The wood was softer than satin and just as clear as honey that was set out in the sun. It was a brilliant sheen and a unique grain with tinges of chocolate around the jagged slashes of tawny brown.

It looked like a guitar. It had all the right things in all the right places. The sleek curves, the grooved fittings, the touch of flair that spoke volumes to its ownership. The one trophy that was always out of my reach.

It was a special edition, he’d said. It was very precious, he’d said. So that’s why he’d put it up where my grubby little fingers could reach it.

Or so he’d said.

I hated it.

After all that time, the more I saw it, the more I knew about it, the more I hated it. With a passion that could not be matched.

It was an example of yet another thing that I would never have.

Or so he’d said.

I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it.

I believed I was more. I believed that I had something better inside. Something that was just waiting to burst out. It was the kind of thing that I could not quite put my hands on. It was something I desperately wanted to grab ahold of.

That’s when he decided to go on tour.

He left me alone.

There were no calls, no notes, no anything.

I almost saw him on television. But I had detention that day. Some idiot called him something I wasn’t supposed to repeat, so I punched them.

Things blurred by a lot for that day. I don’t quite remember when school let out, except for one day it was normal and then the next, it was summer.

So I walked around the house in his oversized flannel shirts, with my feet in borrowed cowboy boots, wearing a cap that wasn’t mine and holding a guitar that would never birth a sound.

Summer passed slowly.

I spent my afternoons on the back porch, pretending to play the fake guitar and pretending that he was sitting somewhere beside me. I let my imagination take whatever liberties it pleased with the imaginary conversations we never had.

I told him about school.

I told him about making a guitar just like his own.

I told him how much I missed him.

Then I told him how much I hated him.

I played the model guitar with all the gusto I could spare. I traded my baseball cap for a rugged, smelly cowboy hat. It made my eyes water when I sat in the midday heat on the back end of the porch, feet hanging off the edge, matching cowboy boots drumming on the wooden lattice.

First I played the songs I didn’t have words for. Then I sang them out loud. When my voice tired of it all, I stopped playing the music in my head.

Next, I slept under the starry skies and counted every speckle of light at least a hundred times over. I could not make my eyes close and after some time, I did not care if I was awake or asleep. When the first lights of the morning came, I closed my eyes to try and coax the darkness to come back.

When that was all over, I had nothing left to do. I didn’t know what to do or how to do whatever it was I should’ve been doing. I guess that’s why I didn’t even notice until the urge was too strong to ignore.

It was wrong. It was right. It was terrible and it was something I had to do at night.

So I went inside and found thread from Mama’s sewing kit. She didn’t notice or if she did, nothing was said. I remembered her like a ghost in a mirror when I would brush my teeth after lunch. A face that was haunting because it was haunted.

Her dreams and hopes were sucked dry by his neediness and when she needed him, he was nowhere around. But she couldn’t hate him. She could not put him out of her mind, so I tried to do it for her.

She didn’t want me to. I tried to listen. I tried not to feel. I tried not to let it stay stuck inside my head, but then the screams wouldn’t quiet down. They would not shut up, they would not leave me alone.

I was surrounded by nothing and yet it was so stifling that I almost thought I could taste it in the air. A rank, staleness that could not be erased from the atmosphere. It was sickening, but I could not run from it.

So I sat indoors, waiting for the air to clear and stringing thread through my wooden guitar imitation.

As the afternoon came around, I walked out into the back yard, carrying that wooden imitation of his dreams and my fruitless hopes. I walked out into the fields until I could feel them brushing against my bare legs, tickling my knees where the cowboy boots ended.

The last rays of light spilled out of the sky and dribbled away to a grey blackness.

As everything changed, I smashed it.

With one deliberate stroke and all my strength, I smashed it into the ground. I ground it into the dirt and I stomped on it with those perfect cowboy boots. I bashed, smashed, crashed and destroyed it until there was nothing left. The satisfying crunch of wood was more than a release in so many ways. The tension drained away as if it rolled off in waves.

I waited until I was so empty there was nothing but an empty shell of myself standing alone in the dark, with the stars and God as my witness for the one act of rebellion in my whole, pointless life.

Then I fell back into the cold, thick grass, feeling the first stirs of the dew seeping up from the ground and soaking that borrowed, striped shirt of blue and red flannel. The hat popped off my head, somewhere in the nearby grass.

Staring up into the sky, I watched it until I didn’t know whether I was awake or asleep. I talked about things until I was sure that I was sleeping. I told him everything that I had to say.

I told him about school.

I told him about making a guitar just like his own.

I told him how I ruined it, smashing it to pieces, grinding it into the dirt—just like he had done with all my hopes and dreams.

I told him how much I missed him, how much Mama missed him.

Then I told him how much I hated him—for making her nothing more than a wisp of a human being. As he went about living his life, she had lived solely for him and when he was gone, there was nothing left.

Of the nothing that was left, I made myself live. I made myself come alive to a way that I could make something of. Then I slowly gave my life away.

I poured it out until she was what I almost remembered.

That’s why I’d made the guitar in the first place. That’s why I’d had to destroy it. I could not be anything more as long as I tried so desperately to make their dream lives into reality. I had given enough—or tried enough.

Enough.

Perhaps it was enough at last.

I wished so many things, pointless, useless wishes.

Then I told him how much I loved him and I cried until the dawn came.

When I made it back to the house the next morning, Mama was standing in the kitchen with the house phone in one hand and shock etched into the wrinkles on her face. She told me some sad story about how he was in trouble and how there had been an accident and how it was all wrong.

She told me he was in the hospital. She wanted to go, but couldn’t. She cried the tears I had given her and then the shock wore off.

She looked at me and I looked at her.

Then I went upstairs to my room and traded my plaid capris for a sturdy pair of blue jeans. I found a clean shirt in his closet and I exchanged it for the damp one I’d slept in. I used the wet fabric to scrape some of the dirt from the boots and polished it up nicely.

Mama held out a knapsack when I came down the stairs. I didn’t need to know that she’d packed sandwiches, cash from the cookie jar and a bottle of lemon iced tea. But she needed to tell me, so I let her.

I took the keys from her trembling hands and I held her face to kiss her cheek goodbye. I promised to call when I reached the city.

Then I walked out the front door and down the gravel drive until I reached the battered blue pickup at the end near the mailbox. I coaxed the engine to life and I whispered a prayer over the beaten dashboard.

Thoughts from the night before filtered into my head as I thought of nightmare that no longer hovered over me. I was free, somehow.

Free enough.

Enough.

Free.

Free so I could drive this pickup all the way to the city bus stop and take a plane several states away. Free that I could get on board, tickets paid, mind clear. Free so that I could walk into that hospital and tell the receptionist that I was there to see my father.

Free to tell them that I would be taking him home.

Because for all that he was and all that he had done, he had always tried his best and his best was good enough for me.

~*~*~*~

“I’m sorry, Miss, can I help you?”

“I’m here to see Mr. Richenbach.”

Papers rustled and the receptionist didn’t even look up at the little country girl standing  on the other side of the counter. “I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed, the famed Mr. Richenbach is not staying at this-”

“He should be expecting me. I have already called ahead.”

There was a pause. “He is not seeing any visitors at the moment. Doctor’s orders.”

“He will see me.”

“Miss, I will not be repeating myself. I’m going to have to ask you to leave if you keep on insisting that-”

“He is expecting me.”

“I have no mention of it and-”

“Excuse me.” The tall navy-suited man leaned over the counter, his brilliant smile oozing of charm. “It seems I am late. Please excuse us. I am here to escort Mr. Richenbach’s daughter to his room. Please keep up the good work.” The man extended a hand towards the girl.

She reached up with skinny, long fingers and brushed mash-brown strings of hair away from a blank, empty face. Her sharp green eyes glittered ominously as she looked from the hand to him and tilted her head.

The receptionist muttered a few words, but the man chuckled. “I’m sorry, I should’ve introduced myself. Brayden McClurn, I’m your father’s publicity agent. It’s nothing serious to worry about, it was just a little accident on set. He’s perfectly fine. Best stuntman we’ve ever had—and he bounces back quick. Why, he’s been in worse before and-”

She cleared her throat.

There was no answer.

An awkward silence followed and then Mr. McClurn ducked his head. “Not very talkative, alright. Come this way, little missy. I’m sure your Pops will be happy to see you.” He sighed. “Never stops talking about his precious little cowgirl.”

© Sara Harricharan