Harvesting Childhood


I must give thanks to Rachel Poli for providing the prompt, Apples and Pumpkins. I’ve wanted to write a story based on one of her prompts for a while, but didn’t find one that fit my style until now. And seeing how I love the Fall season, I find this story fitting. Hope you enjoy. 

Ridgeway Farms is possessed. At least that’s what Mr. Ridgeway tells us. As he drives the tractor, he speaks about how the farm was built on old cemetery grounds, and yet, the crops flourish. Especially the Apple and pumpkin crops. He says around the fall, The apples and pumpkins spring to life while everything else withers and dies. He speaks about the summer of ‘76, when a big fire scorched the grounds. But somehow, the apple trees and pumpkins continued to grow. I chalk it up to dumb luck. He and Mrs. Ridgeway believe otherwise.

Mr. Ridgeway pulls the tractor up to the barn. My sons, Keith and Alex, and I jump out of the car. They circle around me, chasing each other and fighting over God knows what. I snatch them both by their arms. 

“Did you boys listen to anything that nice farmer was saying?”

The boys look at me with shaking eyes. They shrug. I don’t mean to be harsh, but trying to connect with them is like trying to squeeze the last drops of soap out of a bottle. You try and try until ultimately, you throw the bottle away. 

“Go. Go play.”

My boys scuttle along. All I can do is watch and wonder why I bother trying to reach out to them. Things haven’t been the same since Carrie finalized our divorce. I see them every third weekend. It was her that suggested taking them to Mr. Ridgeway’s farm. She says all I do with sit on my butt and ignore the boys. “Going to the farm will be good for all of you,” she says. I doubted it, but went along with her idea.

The boys run to the pumpkin patch. Mr. Ridgeway stands with his hands tucked in his overalls, smiling all the while. He tells them to pick one pumpkin to take home with them. Mrs. Ridgeway watches them while he and I take a break inside. He pours me a glass of his cold homemade cider. Carrie told me his cider is better than anything Starbucks will ever make. He hands me a stick of cinnamon and I dip it in the glass. 

“Let it soak for a moment,” he says. I watch the kids out the window chase each other. I recollect the days working on my grandfather’s farm. I was eight when my parents divorced. I remember Aaron and me staying with him every weekend throughout the summer. He wasted no time putting us to work. Aaron got the easy job watering the crops, while I had the arduous task of extracting weeds. My hands aches for hours and I think I stretched out my back on a few occasions. I didn’t understand why Grandfather made us work so hard. All we wanted to do was play. And whenever we complained, Grandfather always said the same thing.

“I’m teaching you youngens the value of hard work. Believe me, you’ll thank me when I’m gone.”

That was twenty years ago. I turn to Ridgeway. He cradles the mason jar like a child. The sunlight kisses the snowy beard on his wrinkled face. Something inside me wonders why. 

“I wish my kids would come to visit more often and bring my grandkids. They’re missing out on a lot.”

I don’t know what to say, so I nod. 

“Kids these days,” he grumbles. “All they do is sit and stare at a small screen. It’s like they don’t care about the world around them.”

As he speaks, I can’t help but to think about Grandfather’s words. All I wanted to do was play. I wanted to be a kid, but I didn’t have that luxury. I look down at my steeping cider, I think about my boys. I wish they’d take things more seriously. I wish they’d understood the world is not going to hand things to them for free. That I or Carrie are not going to be there for them all the time.

“…but I wish I wasn’t so hard on them,” Mr. Ridgeway says. “I wish I would have let them be kids. Maybe then, they would want to see us more.”

He looks up and I see a glimmer in his eye. I flash a smirk and take a sip of the cider. As I take in the sights of play, I feel a surge of sweetness and tartness down my throat. I feel the bite of the cinnamon. I can’t stop smiling. 

“What did I tell you?”

The screen door flings open. Mrs. Ridgeway pops out. 

“Carl, we need to go to the hospital right now.”

I rush out the house to the pumpkin patch. I see Keith hold his arm stiff. Alex stands over him, crying along with his brother. I kneel down. 

“What happened?”

“I’m not sure. I turned my back for a few seconds. Next thing I knew, the boys are crying.”

I look to the boys. Already I feel my blood heating up.

“What were you thinking? I told you you can’t run around like that.”

I feel a hand on my shoulders.

“It’ll be okay, James. Accidents happen. We’ll get them taken care of.”

The laser stare tapers. My tense body relaxes. I reach for my boys and hug them. 

“I’m sorry. I just don’t want you guys to get hurt. Your mom would freak out if anything happened to you two.”

I hear the car pull up just as the sun begins to descend. I carry Keith to the car with Alex following close by. I strap him in, making sure his arm is not caught up. I sit beside him and Alex scoots beside me. We fasten our seat belts as Mr. Ridgeway closes the door behind us. Once everyone is in, we move. The car shakes as we travel down the bumpy dirt road. I see the innocence in my boys. I smile as I embrace them. It’s in this moment that I decide to release the leash. I can’t hold onto them forever, but I can love them forever. 

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One More Minute

Courtesy of Flash Fiction Hive on Twitter (@FlashFicHive)

The Flash Fiction Hive Started a new series of prompts for the month of October. Here’s my latest story. 

Natalie had a problem with handling sandwiches. The bread crumbs. The juices from the slices of chicken. The knives covered in mixed mayonnaise and mustard. All this messiness overloaded her OCD brain. But still, it’s what Hannah wanted. And she thought it better handling sandwiches than venturing into her daughter’s germ-ridden bedroom, sick as a dog. Natalie cut the sandwich in triangle halves, just as she always done since she was five. She never understood why it had to be that way.

Natalie traversed across the hall, carrying the plate with her sandwich. She stopped in front of Hannah’s door and slipped on her mask. There was no telling what kind of germs would want to invade her space. But she thrust the door open anyway. Her forest green eyes were wide and droopy. She had not gotten even an hour of sleep. But she was willing to sacrifice it in order to make sure Hannah was comfortable. She saw her daughter sprawled out in her bed, with only her nightgown covering her.

“Hey sweetheart. How you doing?”

Hannah could only life her hand flat, shaking it side to side.

“I got your sandwich, just how you like it.”

She set the plate on her lap. Hannah reached for the sandwich closest to her, but couldn’t hold on. She lacked these strength and her hands were as frail as dried out branches. Natalie wanted to brush her thinning hair, but it was as if she was being repelled. 

It’s okay, baby. You don’t have to eat it now.”

She fretted leaving the plate on her bed. The crumbs could fall out and spill onto the comforter. But she resisted. It wasn’t about her and her commitment to cleanliness. Hannah was more important. She kept repeating that statement to herself. She pulled the sheet toward her chest, brushing it out so that it resembled some kind of order. The door bell rang, startling them

“I’ll be back.”

Natalie ran to the door, peeked through the peephole. A team of white-coated men and women stood in front. Natalie lowered her head. These were the last people she wanted to see. There was still so much she wanted to do with her daughter. She was ten years old. She shouldn’t be this sick.

“Mrs. Alstott,” one of the men shouted. “It’s time. We need the child.”

Natalie banged her head against the door. She felt the tears running down her cheek.

“Mrs Alstott, we talked about this. You had your time. Now it’s time to do our job.”

Natalie shook her head. She wanted one more minute. But the man was right. It was time. And there was no getting out of it. She opened the door and the team entered single file. One rolled a bed into the house. They made her way to Hannah’s room. Natalie shoved her way past the white coats.

“Let me speak with her about what’s happening. She deserves that much.”

“Ok. But be quick.”

Natalie slid into her bedroom and kneeled in front of Hannah. She explained the situation she was going to face. Hannah started to cry. Then she cried. She pulled her close, and cupped the back of her head. All the while, she repeated the sentence. “Hannah is more important.”


Weekend Coffee Share: Driving (Insert Here)

Good afternoon,

I finally have a chance to catch my breath and meet up with you all. I had an energy drink earlier today. (I know. I’m trying to cut them out of my diet.) I’ve been getting some pretty bad headaches in the morning. Probably stress-induced. I’ll go into detail in a minute. First, let’s get situated. There are K-cups, but I also have unsweetened tea and apple cider. Just don’t ask me to warm it up. 

So, I have some news. I picked up a new second job as an Uber driver. I’m excited, yet sad that I’m leaving Pizza Hut. It was an experience working in the food service industry. And I gained a better understanding on what goes into making great food and satisfying customers. It’s like retail in the sense you have to think about what will make your customers happy. Having the products they want. Being served in a timely manner. Going above and beyond to make sure they come back. I will say that working at Pizza Hut—especially as a delivery driver—doesn’t present as much opportunity to build an one-on-one relationship with a customer. The other thing I will miss is the crew I worked with in the year I was there. But like any other business, I saw associates come and go. I had a couple of go-tos if I needed help with something. And management was very accommodating with my primary job. I will visit whenever there’s opportunity. 

The time has come to turn the page. Like I said, I picked up a new second job with Uber. Unlike taxis, I’m driving my car to take passengers around. And so, I’m putting more priority on making sure the car is clean and running in peak condition. I had to purchase some accessories to make for a pleasant experience. Like a car mount for safety and needed to purchase a car mount so as to not be holding my phone all the mints and water bottles. The only thing I’m missing is one of those car fresheners. I’m looking into what would be ideal. 

In the week I’ve been doing Uber, there have some good and bad things. First, the good. I set my own schedule. I can drive for as long as I want. I get to meet some lively people. (So far, most of my passengers have been pleasant.) I can cash out my fares any time I wish. Especially handy when I’m in need of extra cash right away.

There are some drawbacks. For instance, it’s hard to say no when I’m on a roll. This is not necessarily bad, but sometimes I can end up not getting the proper sleep I need for the next day. Hence, the energy drinks. Also, I don’t know where I’m taking my passengers until I pick up my fare. So far, I haven’t come across an unsavory situation, but I hear stories. And being on call all the time, essentially, cuts into my time I would like to spend writing or doing something to unwind. 

But overall, it’s a fun adventure. I try not to think about driving with Uber as work. But more like I’m learning more about the city and meeting people different from me and getting a glimpse into their lives. Something that might come into handy with my writing.

Well, that is all for this week. Kind of a short visit, but like I said, doing these jobs doesn’t allow for a lot of free time. But I want to hear from you. What’s going on in your life? Anything new? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time…

Writing Update: An IWSG Post


Hello,

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s Insecure Writers Support Group Day. By this time, you know the drill. So I’ll go ahead and give thanks to the administrators of this group, which underwent some changes since last time. More details about the group can be found here. Have a look, see what the group’s about, and sign up. 

I can’t believe we’re in the home stretch of 2017. It’s been a tumultuous year as I’m sure you can surmise. Political unrest, protests, disasters. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this year to be over. But enough about the world. Let’s get to the writing. 

I had to look at the archives to remember all the goals I set. I had four main goals plus some I added midway through the year. And there are some more that I added in the last three months. But before I get to them, let’s discuss what progress I’ve made with the previous goals. 

Write a Short Story Outside My Genre. Success. I didn’t have a particular order in terms of priority, but this was a topic of conversation throughout the year. I’m happy to say that I succeeded in this goal. I have a fantasy and science fiction story in my notebook. And I actually enjoyed writing them. I think it helped listening to music put me in the right frame of mind. I haven’t written a second draft on either one. I put them aside for the time being. I certainly plan on revisiting them before the year is over.

And while I accomplished this “feat,” this challenge is far from over. I plan on taking on another genre. The superhero genre. After talking with some writers on Twitter, I decided that this will be the next challenge on my list. I love what Marvel and DC have produced in the last several years. And while it won’t be on the grand scale in terms of writing, I think I can create a good universe. Right now, it’s in the planning phase. When it’s done, I plan on posting it on my blog. More details to come as the project progresses.

Submit a Short Story to a Writing Contest or Magazine. Not Started. Next to the short story venturing, this was another priority. Unfortunately, I haven’t started this process. Blame procrastination. Blame fear of failure. Blame not trying new genres. Blame not having the right tools. Whatever. It doesn’t change the fact that I have yet to submit a story. There have been plenty of opportunities. I follow a Twitter handle that posts free writing contests. I follow a blogger that posts writing contests every month. And yet, I fold. I psych myself out every time. If I’m going to improve as a writer, I need to stop making excuses and get this done. 

Compile Stories For a Series. Fail. For over a year, I told you, my writing/blogging friends, that I would write a short story series and post them on my blog. In the three years I’ve had Project Blacklight, I had three ideas for short story series and they flopped. The first, and perhaps the more truthful reason why these failed to gain traction, is that I lacked the motivation to keep writing the stories. I wrote one story, but gave up on them when I found myself stuck.

In addition, I didn’t have a plan. I’m someone that has to have a plan for everything. Especially when it comes to writing. I can’t just write by the seat of my pants, even if it’s a short story. Consider it a lesson learned from this experience. 

Write Twelve Short Stories This Year. In Progress. To be honest, I forgot about the original goal until I pulled it up from my last post. It was to write a short story a month. I’m altering this goal for two reasons. One, I have drafts scattered all over the place. I have some on Google Docs and some in my notebook. And two, I wrote more than one story on various months. I’m guessing I’m three-quarters of the way through. I’ll have to flip through my notebook and check the time stamps on Google Docs to get a more accurate measurement. 

Read a Book Outside My Genre. In Progress. This was one of two goals that I added to my list this year. This coincides with having a plan for my writing. I have to have guidelines. Plus, it’s said the best way to write a lot is to read a lot. And not just within your genre of choice. I have to say this has been a struggle. I have choices. I asked for recommendations and received some good ones. And I borrowed books from local libraries. The real struggle is making the time to read. Like some writers, I have a day job and family responsibilities. So time to myself is very scarce. Even more so with a second job I picked up recently. 

And then, there’s the issue of losing interest. I’ve mentioned this on a few occasions that I’m in the firm belief that watching so much TV has spoiled me. I’m not very patient. And I’m very picky about books. AND my interest in genres wavers. Like right now, I’m interested in the superhero genre. I read one book this year, Wayne of Gotham, but haven’t read another superhero book since. But this is where I need to think about what I like and don’t like about facets of different genres and find books that mostly match my criteria. 

Write Every Day For a Month. Success. I was worried about meeting this goal. I decided on July to be the month where I set out to write every day. And it just so happened to coincide with Camp NaNo. With the lack of free time, I had to get creative on some days. On others, I had to hunker down to get words on paper. But I can say that it was a success. I’m actually thinking about taking on this goal again during the real NaNoWriMo, though I won’t participate in the festivities. (Don’t ask why.)

So, that’s my progress. The last three months should be promising for my writing. I would love to hear from you.

How has your writing come along? What goals have you yet to accomplish? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time, take care…

(Note to self: I need to come up with a better exit line.)

Reunion: Time to Move Forward

I think I can safely that high school was one of the most trying times in our lives. I know for me, it was. As a transplant from Ohio, it was so hard trying to fit in. There are things I regretted not doing. Relationships I wanted for myself. Yeah, high school was a time when while I had things going for me, it wasn’t enough. So you can probably imagine my feelings when I heard about my school’s 20-year reunion. 

I was excited at the beginning. I missed the ten-year reunion; I wasn’t going to miss this one. But as the date drew closer, the more feelings of regret and sadness creeped in. Sadness of not feeling like I belonged. That I tried so hard to be a part of the cool crowd, and ultimately failed. So I put it out on the school’s reunion page on Facebook. I wrote it just to get those feelings out. The responses I received were not what I was expecting. My classmates stated that I was one of the nicest people they knew. Some understood and sympathized with my lamentations. So I decided to go, and it was the best decision I made this past week. 


I had a wonderful time that night. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years. It amazed me that we hadn’t changed. Sure, all of us lead different lives. We got married. Had kids. Moved to different parts of the country, even out of the country. But we were still the crazy class of 1997. I was glad to introduce my wife and tell everyone about my kids. I felt proud. I felt like I had nothing to be ashamed of. I look forward to the next reunion, where impromptu or organized. Whether it’s with a bunch of classmates or a few. Going to the reunion made me realize that my life is better now than twenty years ago. Do I still have regrets? Sure. But I’m not letting them stop me from living now. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Short Visit

Good morning.

It’s nice when we get together for coffee and a quick bite. I’ve been trying to get back to a healthier diet. Having energy drinks doesn’t help, but I’ve felt it necessary because I’ve had to take my sister-in-law to work early in the morning. But I could do without and stick to making a cup of coffee to get me through the day. And eating foods that provide the protein I need for energy. Which is why I like these Jif To-Go packs. Makes for a quick snack, but like everything else, have to eat it sparingly. 

So, let’s talk. 

I really don’t know where to begin. There are a lot of things to complain about, but I’m trying to be grateful, especially with work. I must say that I’ve had issues with customers and their blatant disrespect for the associates and the goods we sell to them. I know I shouldn’t be so worked up over it. It happens all the time. But I can’t help but to feel—what’s the word? Upset—about it. We do all we can to make the store presentable to our customers, and they just wreck everything. It’s maddening. 

Ok. I’ve had my rant. Now to better things. 

My wife recently started a blog on our journey with our son who, as I mentioned before, has been diagnosed with autism. Some of the things she’s shared, I couldn’t agree more. There are a lot of assumptions made about parents of autistic children. She doesn’t shy away from addressing those issues. (Actually, she doesn’t shy away from a lot. That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her.) I encourage you guys to have a peek at her blog and let her know what you think. Here’s the link.

As far as writing goes, it’s been pretty slow. I have a few ideas for stories, so I’ve been writing them out just so I can get them out of my head. I don’t really know what I will do with them. But I figure it’s best to do something to keep my writing brain in shape. And I have been journaling more to express my frustrations. But that only goes so far. At some point, I have to put myself out there. I have a slew of unfinished pieces waiting for the editing block. And if I’m going to be a better writer, I need to get some–you know what–and get these stories into the wild. Be prepared for the inevitable rejection. So, wish me luck. 

Well, that is all I have to say about this week. It’s been slow. Next week, though, I’ll share my time at my 20-year high school reunion. I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, feel free to share your week in the comments. 

Until next time, take care and watch your step. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Getting Back Into a Routine

Good afternoon,

Nice to see you guys again. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Sorry about the mess outside. Haven’t had a chance to clean up after Irma blew through here. Help yourself to some treats, including some autumn mix candy. We love this stuff, but can’t eat all of it. I’m sure my sister-in-law won’t mind. 

Ok? Good. 

So, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen you. Last week, everyone was focused on Hurricane Irma. At my Walmart, people were buying water, portable battery packs, flashlights, battery-powered radios. Pretty much anything that could be of help when the storm hit. By the time my shift was over, the store was practically picked clean. 

I paid a lot of attention to the weather reports on the days leading up. I had a local weather app I checked frequently. I watched and listened to weather reports whenever I could. By Monday, I breathed a little sigh of relief when I heard the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm upon reaching my neck of the woods. Still, it was pretty scary and it was no time to rest. There was still the issue of winds gusting up to over 60 miles an hour throughout the day. Monday afternoon, our power went out and was out for a little over a day. School for Zoe, obviously, was cancelled the day the storm landed. And the following day. I assume the school had their power issues too. I was off of both jobs that day, thank goodness. But I had to come in at Walmart the next day. And they were still out of power. From what I understood, the power was out for two days.

The focus this past week has been on trying to get back into a routine. We had to buy some supplies we used during the storm, which wasn’t a lot. I spent some time with my grandmother last week, too. It was nice to get out of the neighborhood. And Colleen posted an impromptu reunion for some of her friends who went to Georgia because of the hurricane. But the day of, there was a change of plans. We went to meet with one of the friends and had the makeshift reunion there.

The one good thing that came from the storm is the amount I had for assessment. Trying to figure how to make things better for me and my family. One conclusion I came to was finding another second job. So finally, I pulled the trigger and applied for another job. I hope to hear something within the next week. Also, I need to be more diligent in taking care of my health. I’ve been lackadaisical in not only counting my calories, but also my gym attendance. I think that comes from not making a schedule for the week and not getting the sleep I need in order to have a productive workout session. Starting today, even though I can’t make it to the gym, I need to get back to the enthusiasm I had starting out. 

I haven’t done a lot of writing the past couple of weeks. Last week, my focus was on the storm and trying to keep the kids busy. But that’s not to say I haven’t been thinking about it. The past couple of chat sessions on Twitter have been very spirited. So much so that I’m thinking about a new project. I’m not going to talk about it now only because it’s in the planning stages. I can say that this will be something I hadn’t thought of before and it will be probably the biggest undertaking of my writing journey. And truth be told, that’s what scares me about it. But I am lucky to have some great supportive writers. I’ve been doing on research on not only the project, but on how to “publish” it. I thought about starting a Wattpad account, but I got a lot of negative feedback on the idea. So I’ll leave it to my blog. And with some perseverance, you will be seeing my work coming to life. 

So, that about wraps it up. My thoughts go out to those recooperating from Harvey and Irma. Feel free to leave comments on how you’re dealing with things after the storms. Did they give you some perspective on certain things in your life? Let me know. 

Until next time, take care…