Friday, January 20, 2012

Write On Edge: Salt Water Challenge

Once again, the challenge gives us 300 words. This time, the topic is inspired by a quote from Isak Dinesen (Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke) “The cure for anything is salt water….sweat, tears or the sea.”

I offer the following response: The Penitent

The ship pitched and rolled on the dicey waters while the wind pelted the bark with an unrelenting, briny slush. The captain ordered the yard to be braced for the coming storm. Men scurried on deck to secure loose articles and up aloft to adjust the sails. The crew, long seasoned by the dangers of the sea, manned their posts with precision.

With three days remaining on the voyage, the Rose Eleanor ran light in the draft as there was scant cargo aboard. She instead was providing transport for returning Crusaders, licking their wounds after the fall of Acre. The captain had shuttled crusaders before and looked upon them with guarded suspicion. Most he had ferried were little more than mercenaries, willing to pick a fight. The choppy seas did nothing to settle mounting tensions..

One of the battle-scarred passengers stepped in quietly as a makeshift sailor, helping to hoist lines and furl sails, quickly earning the admiration of the entire crew.

“Thanks, Lad,” Captain Corrick said, “but you needn’t feel obligated. You paid your passage in full.”

The quiet man regarded his calloused hands pensively, “Demons will make work for idle hands. I have faced more than my share of them to give them cause to seek me out.”

Attempting humor, the captain said, “I think demons would think twice about making work for you.”

"Perhaps," the crusader chuckled softly as the boatswain trilled another command on his pipe. “I have had my fill of war in God’s name. Now I seek peace, but I fear I am ill-equipped.” He added somberly, "I shall fail Him as we did in Acre."

“He will note the effort,” the captain replied earnestly as he turned his gaze towards the horizon, broken with angry waves, “or we are all lost at sea.”

Friday, January 13, 2012

Write On Edge: Flavor Challenge

in Red Writing Hood Prompts was inspired by a Facebook dialogue. With a 400 word limitation, we are challenged to write a piece of fiction or creative non-fiction that is centered around the definition of the word flavor. For more details on the criteria, please visit the amazing Write On Edge website and discover a wonderfully supportive community and some incredibly talented writers.

For this week's challenge, I offer the following: The Blind Tasting

The blindfold pressed against her eyelids with a light but uncomfortable pressure. Her hands were gently guided to the first of three wine glasses. She tipped the vessel beneath her nose and inhaled. A flood of nutty caramel surged through her mind, underscored by a hint of blackberries and citrus. A private smile escaped to her lips as she tilted the glass to take her first sip. Her taste buds were assailed with a tsunami of velvety liquid. There was the expected caramel, but something richer lay just beneath. She was instantly transported to the Paris metro, and the tray of toffee she consumed at the chocolatier on the Champs-Elysees. “I taste the almond and blackberries in this,” she uttered, trying to be objective. Port was her favorite, most expensive vice. “This is a blend, I think, from Jaspers on the Rhone.”

A flutter of giggles ebbed around her. Frowning, she added, “It’s only a twelve year tawny, and needs to mature some to truly come into its own.”

“You’re brilliant Jenny,” her sister’s voice reached her ears. “How can you keep track of all that?”

“Experience and patience, Heather,” she replied. “Next?”

Again, her hands were guided to the appointed glass, the routine repeated. “This has the same nose and texture,” she said frowning. “Bitter with almonds and sweet berry finish…same region, same blend…”

Heather said hastily, “I forgot to offer you bread to cleanse your palette.”

“No, this is the same port,” Jenny announced, her accusation firm. She broke her promise and removed the blindfold amidst scoffs and scowls. “There’s only one glass, Heather.”

She looked guilty, biting at her lower lip in an intense pout. “I honestly didn’t think you’d notice that it was the same port.”

The other bridesmaids, swaying in drunken unison like the tide, chimed in with a mixture of disbelief and cheers. Jenny shook her head and laughed. “What am I going to do with you, little sister?”

“I could open another bottle of port?” she offered, grinning sheepishly.

“Okay,” Jenny replied with determination, “but we’re going to do this right. Everyone grab a chocolate. I’m going to teach your taste buds to sing.”

Heather waited as the others rushed to the other room, surprising Jenny with an impromptu hug, “You’re the best ever!”

“And you’re drunk,” she replied, teasing. Together, they followed the others, eager for their share of the chocolate.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Write On Edge: Epitaph Challenge

in Red Writing Hood gave us 500 words surrounding an epitaph. My favorite has always been one found at Knott's Berry Farm: Here lies Lester Moore, 44 shots from a .44, No Less, No More. However, in doing a brief research of epitaphs on-line, I came across one that truly captured my imagination. Combining it with a fictional rendition loosely based on my family history was certainly a labor of love. I found 500 words, even though it was more than normal, truly difficult to stick to.

For this week's response, I give you Stone Advice

The late winter sun started its trek west slightly later than previous weeks. Jane wiped her brow and glanced up at the sky to gauge the time she had remaining. Aubrey, her granddaughter, seemed distracted by the Chotawa pottery marking one of the grave-sites. “Don’t touch those,” Jane warned her. “It’s rude.”

A puzzled look descended upon Aubrey’s heart-shaped face. “I just wanted to look at them,” she reasoned.

Sighing, Jane tossed the last handful of yellowing weeds into her trash bag and rose carefully from her knees, mindful of the catch that had settled in her back over the last decade. “I’ve told you about the Chotawa in this cemetery. They don’t use headstones. You need to be respectful of their traditions.”

Aubrey was crestfallen. Jane smiled privately, remembering her daughter at that age, savoring the recollection of scraped elbows and sprained ankles. “Let’s break, eh? Grab the basket, please, and we’ll set up next to Thomas Murphy.”

She scampered to the car as only a seven-year-old could do. Where did my time go? Jane wondered, watching the exuberance bounce happily to and fro. I once raced butterflies and danced with falling rain. She turned to the large oak where a solitary grave lay facing the eastern horizon with the slow, measured steps of her sixty years, rubbing at the dull ache of her hands absently. “Well, Mr. Thomas Murphy, we meet again,” she said to the headstone.

Aubrey sprinted back. Together, they unfurled the quilt and pulled the sandwich fixings from the basket. For the granddaughter, there was German bologna and yellow mustard and pickles. Jane chuckled as the girl smashed her potato chips into the sandwich, while she delicately placed the slice of pimento loaf into its bread jacket. “Gramma, that stuff is so gross,” Aubrey made a face.

“Your mother thinks so too, but this was a delicacy for me when I was your age. We were so poor, I didn’t always have shoes, and this tasted like heaven.”

“Why Thomas Murphy?” Aubrey asked unexpectedly. “Are we related?”

“No, but I think this is the most peaceful location a person could have.” Jane reread the stone for the millionth time. “Besides, he always gives the best advice.”

“Thomas Murphy,” Aubrey read aloud. “Why does the headstone say ‘Shh’?”

“His epitaph is telling us to listen,” Jane replied. “He’s telling us a secret.”


They finished their snack in silence. The wind picked up and the birds gossiped in the branches of the tree. The scent of earth still fresh in their nostrils spoke of the frozen soil and brittle grass of winter. A sense of pride flooded her soul as Jane surveyed the kingdom of the departed, at the graves she’s been cleaning since she was Aubrey’s age. Worried that her city-raised granddaughter might be bored, she asked, “Shall we call it a day?”

“No, not yet. I’m still trying to hear the secret,” she replied, her little brow furrowed in concentration.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year's Promise

There is a line from the movie The Teahouse of the August Moon that I have been focusing on for the last few days.

Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.

2011 proved to be a challenging year. While I had several celebratory moments, I struggled to keep positive during some potentially crippling, life-changing events, the pinnacle of which was the reduction-in-force that descended upon my place of employment. The end of the year closed with the end of my job.

I found an amazing display of good wishes from those I worked with. Words of encouragement and support flooded my inbox during the last months of my employ, and without those words it might have been easier to walk away.

It wasn't easy. I put on a brave face and I walked out of the building for the last time with my head held high, a feat I am infinitely proud of. I learned my work ethic from my father and his philosophy has carried me through each employment setback. From a time that seems an eternity away now he instructed me to apply personal initiative and discretionary effort in every aspect of my job. "It will show without showmanship and it will prove effortlessly your value as an employee, and that is the reputation you want to echo in the corporate arena."

Thank you, Dad. If I haven't told you lately, you are my hero.

The reduction-in-force was a business decision. I don't agree with it, but as a company girl, I can't really argue with the reasoning behind it. Does it suck? Yes, it sucks big, monster, sour pickled eggs. The experience, however, of working in a critical function for a global company, was a remarkable one, and I leave a better person.

So, if pain makes man think, and thought makes man wise. I will endure..

The best part of the new year is that it's new. I have a clean slate. I have a million options, I have the world at my fingertips. And I have a new laptop. It still has the new laptop smell.

So, as many other people this year, I'm making a promise to myself. 2012 is going to be my year. Barring any unforeseen challenges, I intend to be a better person, a better writer, a better sister, and a better daughter. I promise to be a better wife, a better student, a better gamer, a better knitter, and a better employee. I resolve to take life as I find it, cherish moments I have found, and eagerly seek the adventures to come. I plan to ebb and flow with the tide, smile even when I don't want to, and ignore the insecure voice that haunts my self-esteem. I will stand against the wind, break through the walls I meticulously engineered, and above all else, I will be true to myself.

I will turn pain into thoughts, thoughts into wisdom, and wisdom into life.