I am associated with a group of writers who participate in the WEP CHALLENGES that are simply magnificent. Most of them are published authors with many books that have been published, and one or two, like myself, are striving to get the first contract.
Writing is hard work. We spend days and sometimes nights working on three or four sentences, and sometimes even one sentence, trying to express ourselves and how our perception of the events and situations influence our lives––our worlds and our beliefs.
Writing demands courage because it tests who you are on the inside. It consumes and forces you to kick yourself upward when you are down. You find yourself writing even through the hard times.
I found out at 6:30 this evening per email that my flash fiction The Bridge of Hope placed as runner-up in the WEP BRIDGES 2017 CHALLENGE.
In recognition of this honor, I would like to thank Denise Covey and Yolanda Renée, who are the sponsors for WRITE-EDIT- PUBLISH WEP CHALLENGES and their team members Nilanjana Bose, and Olga Godim who work along beside them to make this challenge happen every two months. Their giving of their time, talent, and expertise to promote writers on a platform that is indeed outstanding is mind-blowing.
I would also like to recognize all the writers who participated. I have had the privilege of reading at least one or two books from many of these writers, and I can say these writers are par excellence. Knowing them reassures me as I trek through this lonely desert on the way to publication. I know that I am not alone. They have trekked through this same desert, and they made it through, and so will I.
Around her, disturbing sounds floated into her ears. Hammering against her head, beating against her heart, intorsions whined at the prevarications of her life over the past three and a half years. Hurts, disappointments, and scars gouged into her soul, buried beneath the bridge of callousness he’d built.
Yet, she had let him. Sinking into the never ever world of her fantasy, she had hidden herself as he lay stone for stone, by day and night, crushing her love. It took him three and a half years to erect this huge monster between them. Like the building of the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel, today he had lain the last stones.
“We’re not suited to be parents,” he said, haughtily,
“Why not? What about me?” She asked, hoping to loosen a tiny stone of compassion.
He didn’t answer. He walked to their bathroom to shower, leaving her lying on their bed. She turned on her side and watched him. His back toward her, she wondered why she had married him in the first place. Three and half years, she thought for him to build the bridge of callousness she tasted in her mouth, the rejection she felt in her heart, and the repudiation of herself that gnawed at her conscience. She placed her right palm on her small bulge. It didn’t matter that she was twenty weeks. The fact was, she was not able to hide it anymore. Girdles and corsets, wide dresses and baggy pants couldn’t swallow up her weight gain or her bulging breasts. He didn’t find it funny that she looked like a hippopotamus. He found it revolting and told her so.
She got up from the bed and walked out to the edge of their second story balcony, and she gazed down into the deep. The clear water in the pool below reflected the blue floor at the bottom of the pool. She blinked; it had turned a murky, dark, red. She shook her head, trying the shake away the surreal picture of blood that hyponagogically appeared for a nanosecond.
Shaking her head, she wondered why she had not seen him as he truly was. That he was demanding she got rid of the nuisance that would destroy her life with him didn’t disturb him.
“What’s twenty weeks in comparison to a lifetime with me?” He asked passing by the door that led out to the balcony on the way to his wardrobe.
She had said nothing. He took it for granted she would do as he requested. After all, he needed her to devote herself to looking pretty, not pregnant. She had to charm, not look like a bloated whale.
She stood there leaning against the rail, looking down into the deep. This was her chance, her only chance. His footsteps sounded behind her. So, close, yet so far away from each other. The bridge he’d built between them was too difficult for her to cross over. Could she tell him that?
“What are you thinking about?” he demanded as he put on his tie.
She turned to look at him but didn’t answer. To tell him about all the birthdays he would miss; to mention the first tooth, the first steps, the first signs of laughter, he wouldn’t understand, so she said nothing.
He went back into the bedroom, and she continued to lean against the rail of the balcony.
“Come, you can ride with me to the clinic,” he said.
“No, I’ll go alone,” she said regarding him, dressed up in his tailor-made suit and his rattlesnake shoes.
“I can cancel my appointment and stay with you until it’s over, but then I need to be in my office for three o’clock appointment. It’s with the senator.” He said smiling.
“No, it’s not necessary. I’ll go alone,” she repeated.
“That’s my girl. You’ll thank me for this later.”
She said nothing.
“I have to go,” he said, not even giving her a hug. He felt no sorrow, no regret. “I expect you to have it taken care of by the time I return. If you need a nurse, afterward, hire one for a day or two.”
She watched him walk to the door. He stopped when he reached it and turned and looked at her once more.
“Either it or me,” he said. “The uncomely bulge in the front of you has to go.”
Then, he left.
She leaned her head to her left side and thought about the large shoulders she would miss.
He would never understand. The bridge she allowed him to build was too narrow for two people to walk across. He had built it wide enough for her to walk to him, but he couldn’t walk to her; the damage to her soul was on his blindside.
Sickened by his demands, she turned and gazed down the path watching him walked toward his chauffeur. He didn’t turn to look back; that didn’t surprise her. He never did. He assumed she would carry out his orders.
Tears ran down her face as she walked back into the bedroom to shower and dress. She took her passport and three wrapped bundles of five hundred dollars out of the safe.
He was still commuting to his office when her taxi came. Walking out the door, she whispered goodbye as she turned away from the bridge of callousness she wouldn’t cross over. She laid her first stone to the bridge of hope, reclaiming herself and the life of the unborn within her.
The loft wasn't supposed to be a storage room for Giovanni’s things. It just evolved into one. Each anniversary, she would pack away his summer things, and they celebrated one more year of them, together, one loving one, them, loving them. He would laugh at her.
“All things are temporal, Kathleen Katy-bear,” he’d say, combining her birth name with the pet name he’d given her. “What we have is priceless. The things you’re stowing away can never compensate for the memories in our hearts.”
Then, he would take her into his arms. “Come sleep with me,” he’d say, taking her mind off the task she was doing. He would stress the present moments as he pounded into her body. Her screams of delight and his groans of pleasure, as he released his semen, had him falling on top of her after their climax, whispering words between breaths, as he pecked her ears, her neck, and her cheeks, planting tiny kisses in the aftermath. “This is significant, Katy-bear,” he’d say. “Nothing is more important than this. My lips on your lips. The warmth of our mouths as we explore each other, me pressing you close to my body letting you feel the heat you’ve generated in me. Only that counts, Katy-bear."
Kathleen sat holding his jacket in her arms. Three years had passed, but his aroma was still present like yesterday.
Tears covered her face as she unpacked. She was on the last box before the Salvation Army came to pick up his clothing. She gave them a call after he appeared to her in a dream. He’d admonished her for dishonouring their love by not remembering the sweet golden moments.
The smiles when they were both thinking about the same things, the hugs when she accidentally asked a question that pointed out an error in the planning of his next mission, or the late-night walks where she gathered stones and put them in her pockets, and he would remind her those stones were like him. Each time that he returned she collected the broken pieces of his soul and put them back together again. In the evenings, he would take her in his arms and hug her tightly, and say, "Let's go upstairs, I need you." And upstairs, they went and made passionate love with the full realisation each time could be their very last.
It happened. They both knew the time had come. Yet, Giovanni’s death came too soon. He was too young.
What do I do now? Even though I was older, you understood me. What do I do now, Giovanni?
"I hate you, Giovanni!” Kathleen cried out. “You and your honour for your country. Why did you have to go on that particular mission? Why couldn’t you let someone else volunteer? No one misses you as much as I do," she screamed.
Her tears flowed heavily; mucus ran out her nose, and her hands trembled as she pulled the things out of the last box and threw them on the mountain before her.
She picked up the jacket she mistakenly threw back into the box.
I'll keep this jacket. It smells of you.
She put her left arm into the left sleeve. Something solid in the left pocket of the jacket touched her hip bone. Reaching into the pocket, she pulled out a flat, jagged key.
NaNu, what do you open?
With the key in her hand, her gaze went to the box, and that’s when she saw the dark mahogany chest. She lifted the chest out of the box sat down on the floor; her back to the mountain of clothing.
Where did you come from? Why would Giovanni buy a chest?
Her hands trembled; the key shook as she put it into the lock.
She hoped the key wouldn’t fit. All her beautiful bubbles of their seven-year relationship could suddenly burst into thin air.
Laughter filled the loft.
Giovanni, are you here?
“Don't be afraid Katy-bear. Turn the key!”
Her heart beats became irregular; her chest ached.
People will think I’m insane if I tell them I heard Giovanni’s voice.
Her eyes grew large when she raised the chest top. Within were seven mid-size diaries, and she took out the first one.
Leaning against her mountain, she opened the journal and began to read the first page. She burst out in laughter. “You sneak!” She yelled out joyfully for the first time in three years. Her tears forgotten, she began to read aloud.
“Words for you, Katy-bear. Invisible conversations I’ve had with you on each mission. Each diary records my present moments when you weren’t there. I love you, Katy-bear. Always have, always will. Love is eternal.”
The anguished and inner turmoil she’d suffered, eased. The pain in her chest disappeared.
Yes, love is eternal.
Sitting by the box in her loft, her back against the mountain of Giovanni’s clothes, Kathleen read as she slipped over into eternity to be with her Giovanni.
First-moment experiences are never forgotten. They are the golden nuggets of success, which keeps you moving forward in whatever you have chosen to accomplish. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to record them in your heart in your treasure trove of memories.
Today, I have received a first-moment experience. I have been informed my entry, The Woman and Her Dream, is the winner of the 2016 WEP December Utopian Dreams Challenge. This challenge is my first win. I have participated in many writing challenges over the years, but this is my first win, and I am elated and thankful.
Many heartfelt thanks to Denise Covey and Yolanda Reneè. You have made my day.
The ocean waves rippled under the woman's belly. They tickled her stomach, gently. The red rays in the heaven signalled the ending of the day. Though she couldn't tell where the day began or where it ended. Unending was time. The reddish orange tint spread itself out upon the ocean. The width and breadth of its streams amazed her.
She lay on the atop of the ocean and observed the cold blooded mammals in the deep. Water drops touched her hair and ran down both of her temples. She gazed out into the vastness. Coming her way was a giant six-legged cirrata. Its arms splattering water as it moved toward her.
The strange singsong squawking of the eagle above her lulled her mind. Had she finally made it? She opened her eyes and turned over to watch the giant bird’s approach. The roar of the waves became stronger. A blue-black fin sticking up out of the ocean was gliding in her direction. A smile crossed her face; she should have known this was the way it would be. Embedded in nature, surrounded by water, the inner peace she sought overtook her, and she sighed and stretched her legs.
“I love this place. This is heavenly.”
“Indeed it is, Woman.”
“Is this real?”
“Is what real?”
The singsong squawking sound of the Eagle intrigued her. She laughed.
“He’s singing a song for you.”
“Yes, I know. That’s why I’m laughing, but you haven’t answered my question, Prophet.”
“Is this peace real or is it an illusion?”
“Do you like the eagle’s song, Woman?”
“Of course, I do. I already told you that.”
“You told me you were laughing at the sound.”
“Well, I like the Eagle’s song. He sounds like a chorus of frogs.” She imitated his sounds and then burst into giggles.
“Arms crawled around her neck and slid down her shoulders. “Octopus, what took you so long to get here? Did you dive down to the ocean floor?
The Eagle arrived and circled around her. The whale sprouted water and doused her.
“I’m a mess. I think I need to stay here.”
“Why’s that, Woman?”
“Oh what, Prophet?”
“Peace is a priceless commodity where you come from?”
“Prophet! A lion and a bear are dancing on the water! Are they friends?”
“Everybody is a friend.”
“Not where I come from.”
“This peace is transformative.”
“Yes, Prophet. The stillness. It’s peaceful.”
“No stillness down there, huh?”
“Too much talk.”
“Why talk, Woman?
“People are afraid of stillness.”
“What about you, Woman?”
She turned to answer him. A flash of light shone. Something buzzed loudly breaking the silence. She covered her ears with her hands, the sound getting louder as it came closer.
“Stop it,” she screamed.
The explosion burst down her door. The blast knocked out the window panes. Her body thrown against the wall, she landed a few feet away from her bed.
No, no, no!
The floor was shattered with glass. Her hands bled. In her confusion, she tried to think as she counted her fingers.
Slowly, she crawled to where her door once was and headed to the shelter beneath her apartment.
Stine typed away on her computer. That she had been downstairs in her office in her basement for a considerable length of time had not registered in her mind. Upstairs, she thought she heard someone kicking against her door and she stood up to go see if it was who she thought it was, not bothering to look in the mirror hanging on the wall, which encased one side of her stairway. If she had, her bloodshot eyes surrounded by dark circles, her growling stomach, and the tired, tense muscles in her neck and shoulders would have told her she’d worked through the night.
On her way up, she stumbled over a carton of milk she put on her the fifth step and almost collided with her black cat, Clay, who was fussing. Unlike Abbey, who waited patiently for her food, Clay thought he was the boss of the house; his meows were commands to do his bidding, immediately.
That must be Levi. He’s the only one who would have the audacity to kick on my door? She thought as she looked out the window. She scrunched her eyebrows, surprised; the sun was shining.
Either, I’m living through a long afternoon or the evening is awfully bright. No wonder you’re fussing, Clay.
“Out the way, Snuggle Poo,” Levi said as he walked into her house, ignoring her question.
“Levi, I’m not accepting your present,” Stine said to his back as she followed him to her kitchen. “So, you need to take it back to wherever it came from.”
“Snuggle Poo, where do you want to open your gift? On the table or the marble top counter?” He asked entering the kitchen.
“You’re not listening to me.”
“You trying to be difficult.” He placed the large package on the marble top counter. “Sometimes, new love reacts frigidly,” he said but I still love you, and I bought you the perfect gift for Valentine.”
“Levi, you need to stop talking like that.”
Stine looked at the man with the bright red hair and remarkable sea green eyes. He was the best kisser she knew and could kiss her senseless. Two heads taller than she, he made her glow all over when she was in his arms. She rolled her eyes and gazed up at him in exasperation.
“Stop trying to aggravate me, Snuggle Poo. Valentine’s Day is three days away...”
“Don’t interrupt me. Open your present.”
“You don’t have any choice in the matter, my dear Snuggle Poo.”
“Stop calling me Snuggle Poo!”
“My, aren’t we grouchy today. Be kind or I won’t cook your favorite dinner tonight. Open your present!”
“You know this is not going to work, don’t you, Levi?”
“Who says it’s not?”
“I do. We’re two different people.”
“I hope so.”
“I’m the first woman of color with a short stubby afro you’ve dated, and you think you’re in love, but it’s all up here," she said pointing at his head.
“My mind and body tell me differently, Snuggle Poo, and yours does too.”
“Now, you’re assuming things. Go find someone your age.”
“Is the ten-year difference between us really what’s bothering you?”
“Let’s just say, if I knew how old you were two months ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in my kitchen right now.”
“My luck. I’m hooked on you Babe,” Levi said and began filling Clay’s cat bowl with his favorite wet cat food.
Stine went to her kitchen cupboards and took out scissors and opened the gift-wrapped box he had placed on her counter. She gasped.
“It’s the Saeco Xelsis Evo Superautomatic Coffee Machine I fell in love with at the appliance store! Beautiful, but…”
“No, buts. That’s our first-ever-together appliance, and today, we’ll baptize it into ours.”
“Levi, you’re so sweet to me.”
“Then, say yes. Admit you feel the same way I do.”
“Don’t go there. What ifs are for ignoramuses, and we ignore ignorance.”
“Do you think it’s that easy?”
“Yeah, Snuggle Poo, I do. So, what do you say?”
“You’re calling me Snuggle Poo again.”
“Okay, what do you say, Stine?”
“I’m very sure.”
“Will you be my Valentine?”
“I thought you’d never asked, Snuggle Poo,” he said, stretching out his arms and bringing her into them. “Now, give me a kiss me.”
Riding horses in a back pasture, gone wild. Woods. Inside, on a hill, a house as black as dinosaur bones. Grass grows up through the driveway’s broken asphalt, but there is a car. This is the house of the oldest Judge in the world. The Judge has company.
John Gardner’s Prologue to The Sunlight Dialogues immediately drew me in. His first sentence, “Riding horses in a back pasture, gone wild” caught me up and I saw land no longer cultivated. His description, “grass grows up through the driveway,” gave me a picture of a driveway beaten down by weeds, and I laughed when he wrote, “but there is a car.”
My setting from Turn The Light On, WC:854 FCA
Puffy, dark clouds clustered together hiding the moon when Della opened the door to her apartment. She placed her keys on the large wooden key holder that hung on the left side of the wall without thinking about turning on her lights. Even though it was early October, it was extremely warm and she kicked off her shoes and carried them in her hands. That the hallway was dark didn’t bother her; she walked down it as lightning blitz across the sky; her shoes in one hand; her purse strap hanging over her shoulder.
Approaching her kitchen door, she stopped and noticed that the wind coming through her opened kitchen window had blown her letters that were on the kitchen table to the floor; the pictures and what-nots hanging on the wall were rattling their dissatisfaction, so she entered and closed the window and hurriedly picked up the fallen letters and laid them back on the table before going to her living room.
In her living room, the wind was tossing the thin translucent drapes hanging from the drapery rods high, lifting and tying them as it blew them in different directions. Her repressed anger matched the approaching storm, and she hurled her shoes off into the darkness; her purse followed. She heard the content fall to the carpet but didn’t make any effort to turn the light on to gather them. Confused and hurting, she walked to the large window to look up at the dark, angry sky.
Suddenly, she sensed a presence, and goose bumps broke out on her arms. She felt she was no longer alone.
You're here; somewhere, in my living room, she thought. It’s got to be you.
Infuriated at him for daring to enter her apartment; for leading her on for one whole year; in her anger, her stubborn spirit reared its head.
Two can play your game; I’ll just let you wait until I get ready to confront you. She stood before the huge glass window and the wind tossed the sheer drapes to and fro trying to envelope her; she felt no fear.
I was right then. You're back in town, so, why weren't you at the restaurant?
A feeling of relief ran through her body, and tears gathered in her eyes, and she brushed them away with her hands as they ran down her face. She had missed him––her stranger without a name. He had never left her for two months. She shuddered at the intimacy, at the emotional entwinement to a stranger, an assassin she didn't even know by name––her stranger.
He sat in the darkest corner of her living room, watching her. Observing her brought healing to his war-ridden soul. He desired to reach out and enfold her in his arms, but he didn't. Instead, he sat; basking in the tranquility her presence gave him. This was the intimacy he had been searching for, and he relished the fact that she was his. Like a mammoth in heat, within him raged a pressing need to cover her with his body as he lay in her arms.
Her tears forced him to act. As the lightening flashed across the room, he saw her brushing tears away from her cheeks. He’d never seen her cry, and surprisingly, it pained him. What little emotional balance he had left disappeared; he wanted to comfort her.
"Did you enjoy your meal?"
"No.” She said.
“Why weren't you there?" she asked.
"I had to de-brief."
"Oh. When did you land?"
"Four hours ago."
"Have you eaten?"
"No. I was waiting for you so we could eat together."
"I'm tired. I’ve had a long day."
"Why?" he asked, even though, he knew from CeCe, her live-in maid, that she’d been horrified at his occupation.
"Because I found out what you were. The newsflash this morning accidentally caught my attention, and I recognized you."
"By your eyes," she almost screamed.
"I've been walking around in a daze, asking myself how I could let myself play such a stupid game and get emotionally attach to a trained killer."
"You haven't been playing a game."
"What is it then, if not a game?"
"It's a courtship that’s about to end.”
Her heart began to beat swiftly; they were surrounded by darkness; she couldn’t see his face; she had no idea what he meant.
So, it's over, she thought and a sadness of great dimension overcame her and poked at her heart.
"Why is it about to end?" She asked, quietly.
"I need you."
"Oh, I see," she said, and joy banished away the sadness. "So, you want to sleep with me? Is that the reason you've followed me a whole year and showered me with gifts?"
"I do admit I want you in my bed on a permanent basis."
"And what if I don't want to sleep in your bed on a permanent basis? Would you force me?"
"No, I've never had to force anyone, and I won't have to force you either."
"At least you don't lack self-confidence," she said with a trace of sarcasm.