Thursday, July 26, 2012

Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

I'm back at the fiction wheel this week with a prompt from Details are at the end of this post.

I have to admit, when I first saw the prompt I'd been given I thought, "Oh, no way. Nuh uh." I live in what people refer to as "Rainland" and I'm supposed to write about someone seeing rain for the first time?! It took a while for me to see the character and to understand why he'd never seen rain before. But I'm really glad I discovered him, because I think he's an interesting fellow. With any luck, you'll think so too.

Read on....


Until I was 11 years old, I was raised somewhere in the vicinity of the Mojave Desert. I say raised, but that really paints too pretty of a picture. I was kept. I was kept hidden.

Back in 1967, when I was just a little over two years old a man I only know as Dwight kidnapped me from a park about an hour east of Seattle. It happened in one of those small seconds when my mother looked away, caught up in conversation with another neighborhood mom. I don't remember any of this, I only know it after the fact. Dwight kidnapped me to satisfy his wife, a woman I only know as Star.

That was way back before police had everything computerized and before Amber Alerts, and all that good stuff that helps people find criminals now. It was easy for Dwight and Star to just choogle on down the road, baby boy in tow. Besides, people had bigger things to worry about that year - war, riots, hippie freaks wandering around strung out on drugs. The whole world was chaos. A missing baby wasn't going to turn the world upside down.

Dwight and Star had no trouble crossing two state lines and driving halfway through California. They had already taken up residence on a piece of land that hosted nothing but an old house, chicken coops, goats and Joshua trees. Of course, I never saw any of this the whole time I was there. I was never allowed out of the old root cellar where they kept me.

Now, you could say, "Oh, poor Luke." But it's not necessary. For all those years, I didn't know any differently. My whole life was a dingy, dusty cellar. The only real light I ever saw was the hot Mojave sun filtering through the single filthy 6 X 12 window near the ceiling. And anyway, back then I wasn't known as Luke. I was known as James. Evidently Star had a real thing for Sweet Baby James Taylor. So, she called me James, or Jimmy T if she was in a particularly good mood.

Star wasn't so bad. I think in some ways she was as much a prisoner there as I was. Dwight was an odd mix of plan-for-the-apocalypse and laid-back hippie. He didn't much bother with me. I think a lot of the time he forgot I existed at all. He was either trying to scrabble something together out of that hard land, or working an odd job, or getting stoned. I was Star's pet and she could deal with me. Everything was copasetic so long as Dwight didn't have to lift a finger where I was concerned.  That's the feeling I got from him anyway. And that was okay with me.

Star taught me to read. She'd sneak books home from the library for me. When she couldn't manage that, she'd bring one of her own books down to the cellar and have me read from that. I was eight years old when I read Oliver Twist, nine when I fell into a vortex of Steinbeck novels. I couldn't get enough of his books. The Dickens stuff was fine reading, but that world was foreign enough to be another planet. The Steinbeck stuff, however... well, I don't know. He just had a way of making it sound like his world was just upstairs and outside the door.

Not that I ever went upstairs, much less out the door. Later I was told that I'd been taken on a fine day in May. It wasn't until June 13, 1976 that I ever saw the great outdoors, and that was a confusing, scary day.

Star had brought me breakfast, cheerios with raisins and milk, just like always. She sat with me for a while and let me read to her from a goofy book about rabbits. It was called Watership Down. It was really a pretty good book and a definite departure from the usual classics that she'd bring me to read. I don't remember a whole lot about it, but I do remember that when the rabbits would go crazy with terror, they'd call it "going tharn." I remember when the planes smashed into the trade towers, I watched people running through the streets - wide eyed, lost, disbelieving - it came back to me then. Look at all of 'em going tharn.

I've gotten ahead. By years, it seems. Yeah. So, Star and I were in the cellar and I was reading to her. All of the sudden we heard Dwight slamming in through the screen door upstairs, hollering his head off. I couldn't really make it all out, something like, "They come... bastids... here... fucked... we're fucked." And that was all mixed together with him bellowing Star's name in between. I looked at her and I remember her face in that moment. It was the first time I ever saw someone's whole face say goodbye. Her eyes were glazed with tears, her mouth shut tight like she was trying to hold in words, nostrils flared, and cheeks flushed. She jumped to her feet, bent and gave me a kiss on the forehead - a kiss so fast and soft that it felt like a tiny feather had brushed my forehead. Then she was up the steps.

That was the last I ever saw of Star, of either of them, although I couldn't tell you how many days or weeks it had been before that when I'd last seen Dwight. The next thing I knew, there was a whole lot more scuffling and noise upstairs. Lots of voices, and I can't remember ever before that hearing any voices except for Star's and Dwight's. I sat down there for I don't know how long. Finally the door opened and an ATF officer came down the steps. He stopped short when he saw me, mouth hanging open for a minute. Then he turned and yelled up the stairs, "Holy shit! There's a kid down here!"

So, for the first time in a little over nine years, I saw the outside world. I didn't see much that first day. They shielded my eyes because it was so bright out there. I remember squinting at the brightness even with an old t-shirt wrapped around my head. They brought me to a hospital where I was examined and kept for observation. Somewhere along the way the officials determined that I didn't really belong with Dwight and Star. A little more research and a week later, they figured out who my real parents were.

The whole time I stayed in the hospital. Kind nurses came and went and brought me all kinds of food to tempt my appetite. A volunteer came by with a little cart full of books. They were all too juvenile for my reading level, but I grabbed a stack anyway. It was something to do. The whole time I didn't talk. I wasn't afraid to talk, I just felt like a foreigner, like somehow the noise that would come out of my mouth wouldn't be the same language. It's difficult to explain.

Finally a nurse came in and announced that there were a couple of people who were anxious to see me. I nodded, indicating she could let them in. A woman walked in first. She had hair the same color as mine, and eyes the same shade of sea green. She had her hand clamped over her mouth and tears ran down her cheeks as she took faltering steps toward the bed. The man holding her elbow was tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, but I recognized the shape of his face as my own. The nurse and the social worker who'd followed them in came to the other side of the bed. "These are your parents, Luke." It was the first time I'd been called by my true name that I could remember. So began the slow process of rebuilding my place in the real world.

It was still another week before I spoke to anyone. I remember it well because it was a notable day in history for a lot of reasons. It happened to be the Fourth of July, the year of America's bicentennial. It's also the first day I can recall rain. My folks and I had gone to a parking lot that looked out on Mt. Si in Northbend, WA. Mom had packed a picnic and we had blankets and pillows and Dad's old transistor radio. We were listening to some rock n' roll tunes - I couldn't get enough of that stuff. After virtual silence for so many years, the beat made me feel grounded somehow, as if the bass thump was coming right out of the earth and into my shoes. Mom had just dished up some strawberry shortcake, having made it her mission to "fatten up our boy." The fireworks started at the old high school. Dad had explained them before we'd left the house, but they were prettier than anything I could have imagined.

Dad tousled my hair and I turned toward Mom, holding out my dish in a more-please gesture. That was when I felt it hit the top of my head. I flinched and dropped my dish. Again, something wet and cold slammed into my neck. Suddenly it was everywhere. I looked from one parent to the other, horrified, terrified. Mom understood first. "Luke... shhh.... shhh... it's just rain. Just a little rain..." The first word I spoke to my parents was, "Rain." I understood the word. I'd read about it enough in all the books Star had brought me to read. "Rain," I said again, and held my hand out in an attempt to catch it.

I jumped off of the tailgate and began to spin around. "Rain.... rain.... rain...." I laughed then. My mother joined me, mimicking my rain mantra, spinning along with me. I think I saw tears in Dad's eyes. Maybe it was a trick of the rain and the streetlight, but I like to think they were tears.

That was 36 years and a different lifetime ago. I don't think I was too damaged by Dwight and Star. A lot of my early childhood is just a blur that I don't really remember except for reading all those books. Every now and then some character in my dreams will call me James and it takes me a minute upon waking to recall that my real name is Luke.

What's funny is that although I spent much of my childhood in the desert I never saw any of it. Even so, I've never had any kind of motivation to ever want to leave the Pacific NW. It really doesn't rain here as much as people think, but it does rain more than they'd expect. I love the rain. I've never tired of it, even on my worst days. I welcome the rain every time. And I'll tell you something else, I'll die just as happy if I never see a goddamned desert.


For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Tara Roberts gave me this prompt: You live somewhere where you've never seen rain. You visit somewhere new one day where it is a common occurrence. What is your reaction to seeing rain, fall from the sky, for the first time? Joy or fear?. I gave Grace O'Malley this prompt: I guess we managed to dodge the bullet that time...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

All the Same

The other night an old gypsy woman came to me in a dream. I recognized her immediately. She was the woman I shared a bench with thirty four years ago at a train station in Győr, Hungary. In 1978 I didn't do more than nod and mutter a slight greeting at her in Hungarian. I was shy and I didn't want her to think I knew more Hungarian than I did - a common problem. My accent, because I'd grown up with the language, was nearly flawless. My knowledge of the language, however, left huge gaps in any conversation.

But, the other night in my dream was different.

We greeted each other, not as long lost friends, but at least as acquaintances from a similar journey. We sat in a field, a couple hundred yards from that old train station in Győr. She had a beat up old wicker basket from which she pulled a blanket for us to sit on, a loaf of that good, crusty, rustic Hungarian bread that I miss so much, and a bottle (yes, a glass bottle) of fresh milk.

We sat in silence for a few minutes. The scent of sun-warmed hay on the air was almost palpable. It felt like I ought to be able to slice through it with a butter knife and spread it on that beautiful bread. The gypsy woman pulled a hunk of bread off the end of the loaf and passed it to me, then pulled a hunk off for herself before setting the loaf down again. We ate, still in silence, chewing bits of bread that we plucked from the pieces, and passing the bottle of milk back and forth. I remember thinking, meals don't get finer than this.

She turned to me, finally, and asked in a broken mash of Hungarian and English, "You were a girl then, a school girl. What do you do now?"

"I'm an artist and a writer."

"I did not ask what your occupation is. I ask what you do."

Slightly confused, and thinking that she was probably equally confused, I answered, "Well. I make art. And I write."




"And I cook, bake."

With a barely discernible nod, "And."

"Um. And I read. I, uh, love my mate. Well, I love everyone, but him especially. I procrastinate. I laugh. I cry. I care, I worry, I think. I look at clouds and stars and the wind rustling the leaves."

I threw my hands up as if to say, what do you want? "I do a lot of things."

"Yes. All these things you do. All of these are you and you are all of these things. You are greater than the sum of the parts you are made of. And now it is time."

"Time?" I asked.

"Time." She gestured in the direction of the train station. "Time for you to go."


"Where you will."

I stood up, thanked her for the bread and milk. I turned and began to walk toward the train station, then stopped and turned back to her. "Will I see you again before another thirty four years goes by?"

She smiled enigmatically. "One thing more. Breathe in."

I took a deep breath.

"Nuh." She nodded. "Now you have taken tiny pieces of the entire Universe into you. Breathe out."

I let the breath I was holding out with a whoosh.

"Now you have given yourself to the entire Universe. In breathing in and breathing out, we are never apart. No one is apart."

"That sounds Buddhist." I said.

She shrugged. "All the same." And she waved me away with a flick of her hand.

I walked toward the train station. A conductor waited by a doorway to the train. He tipped his hat to me and asked, "Hova mész?" Where are you going?

I smiled at him, gave  him my best gypsy shrug and replied, "Mindegy." All the same.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I'm a day late and about $1.67 short, but this is my tribute to one of the greats, Nikola Tesla. He was born10 July 1856, and if it weren't for him, you might not be reading this at all.

You can read more on Tesla here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Write Choices

She asked, "So, are you ever going to do any regular writing on your blog again?"

My hackles went up. It reminded me too much of my Mom asking if I was ever going to get a real job. Regardless, I stayed calm and asked, "What do you mean by regular writing?"

"You know, they philosophical kind of stuff you used to write. The day in the life of Barb stuff. I mean, I like your fiction things you've been posting, but they're not the same."

Oh. That.

The answer is, I don't know. I honestly just don't know. There are a lot of reasons why I've strayed away from the so-called philosophical stuff, not the least of which is that I was getting really tired of listening to myself. Probably the most of which is that I've been enjoying the hell out of writing fiction. Besides, who am I to be telling anyone else how they ought to live? No, unless I get really inspired, or feel the need to say something, I'm sticking with fiction for the time being.

Oh, and did you know... I do have another blog: The Workshop At Black Ink Pad Designs. I try to post to it at least once a week with helpful tips and tricks for doing arts and crafts. I haven't been as faithful to it as I'd like to be, so I want to devote more time to that too. And, let me tell ya, technical writing wears me out! Plus... (*cue drum roll*)... I am now on the Design Team at Blockheads Paper Arts. As part of the design team, there are commitments and requirements in terms of creating art and blogging about it.

Although my fictional pieces are anything but (I hope) morality tales, I feel that if you're paying attention you can get all kinds of "Barb stuff" out of it. I write what I know. The people who've influenced my life, good or bad, combine to make up the characters that I (try to) bring to life. The situations my characters find themselves in are often situations that are very close to those I've been in.

The difference is, fiction gives me the opportunity to explore, to take that big What If? and scratch the hell out of it. It's the writing equivalent to doing artwork. And I just plain love it. For a long time, people have told me to write a book. I've always I wanted to, but had my doubts that I could really draft something that big. Now, especially after the past couple of months, I can see it. Even better, I can feel it.

So, the philosophical ramblings are on a back shelf for now. But... hang around at the table. You never know what'll happen here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Ledger

Happy Thursday! I'm at it again with When I first received this prompt (details at the end of the story) I kind of collapsed in my chair, thinking, "Huh. How the hell am I going to work that into something?!" And then I saw the farmhouse in my mind. The story just kind of tumbled right out of it - darker than what I normally write, but, damn, what a fun write it was!

It's also a longer story than usual, so pour yourselves a cup o' whatever and sit back.

Après vous, Dear Readers...

Ora wrote in his journal, “Sold 12 White Leghorn pullets for $45 and one yearling cock bird from breeding stock for $7.00. Tithe $5.20.” Then, he closed the books on September and turned over to a fresh page and, in a neat, tiny script, wrote October, 1919.

The opening strains of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, tinny and far away floated through the air.

Underneath the October, 1919 heading, Ora wrote in bold capitals: SIN WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

Again the opening strain of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir sounded.

Maggie blinked, startled. W’fuck? What was that all about?! She looked down at the cookbook in her hands and dropped it on the kitchen table as if it were on fire. That was a hell of a daydream. She looked out the dining room window. There was her Chevy, parked near the barn as always. That assured her that it was at least 1995, and the obvious mileage on the old beat up rig told her it was well past that. It was probably 2012, just like it had been when she woke earlier that morning.

Maggie went to the sink and with shaking hands splashed cold water on her face. Then she cupped her hands under the faucet, filled them with icy cold water and drank. Feeling better she looked out the window again. Yup. Truck’s still there. Get a grip, woman! It was just a dream. She looked back at the table. The only thing on it was her old Betty Crocker cookbook. She remembered that she had pulled it from the shelf to look up the recipe for apple pie. That was all. The rest of it was the dream about the old man and the chickens. And tithing, Chiquita. Don’t forget the tithe. Yes. The tithe. What an odd thought to insert itself in a dream. She hadn’t even been to church in at least twenty five years, didn’t remember when she’d last heard, much less used the word tithe.

Restless, Maggie wandered around the old farm house. It was really starting to come together. She had purchased it just two weeks ago. The place had sat vacant for a decade so she was able to move in right away. Now all her belongings were unpacked and it was starting to feel like it was hers, like it was home. The realtor had seemed surprised that she wanted it. “Are you sure? It’s a long way from the city. And it’s such a big place - what will you do with all that room?” Maggie had assured her that she wanted the peace and quiet. She wasn’t the kind of artist who took her inspiration from obnoxious city noises. In fact, the hustle and bustle gave her what her baby brother called cranial constipation.

Maggie thought that the place was just right for her. She had a beautiful room on the top floor with lots of natural light coming through the South-facing windows where she could do her art work. She had a smaller room on the top floor where she could write. Plus, there was another bedroom up there for guests, presuming she ever had any. The kitchen was a huge old-fashioned country kitchen with an attached dining room. The living room was a decent size too, and her bedroom, the original master bedroom, was off of that. The bathroom took up at least a sixth of the ground floor and had the original claw-foot bathtub still in it. Why would anyone not want to live here?!

Suddenly, Maggie remembered hearing Kashmir earlier - her cell phone ring tone. She pulled her phone from her pocket and flipped it open. One missed call and a message. It struck her as odd that she had missed the call -  she had it set to vibrate and ring, because sometimes when she was deep in the throes of creating or writing, it took a lot to grab her attention. She hit the message button and listened, “You have one new message. Message received at 10:45 AM.” Derek’s voice followed, “Heya Sis! You must be lost in the rabbit hole again. Put down the paintbrush and call a bruthah back, will ya?” Maggie smiled. Her “baby” brother was one of her best friends. She pulled up his number and hit the call button.

“Yo yo yo… wazzuhhhhhh?” he said into her ear.

“God, Derek. That is so nineties!”

“Hey. We can’t all be creative geniuses. What’re you up to?”

“I was thinking of making an apple pie. I bought a half bushel of pippins from the guy who owns the orchard out on Rt. 2. Want to come for dinner? I can throw some chicken and corn on the grill.”

“Sounds great. I haven’t seen your new place since you moved in. Love to see what you’ve done with it. I’ll bring grape juice.”

“Make it a velvety Malbec and you’re on!”

“Done! See ya six-ish?”


They both hung up. Maggie went out to the truck and pulled the basket of apples out of the back of it. It was a relatively cool, crisp day. Not cold, not yet, but enough to let her know that Autumn was coming. It was her favorite time of year - the colors, the cooler weather. Nothing fueled her creativity like an Autumn day. She set the bushel of apples on the porch just off the kitchen, picked eight of them off the top and carried them inside.

Before she started on the pie, she went into the living room. She flipped through a stack of discs and plucked one from the middle of the pile. Maggie grinned. Just the thing to get the woolies out of my head. She plopped the cd into the holder, pushed the cover shut, and cranked the volume a little. Stevie Ray Vaughan lit into Cold Shot. Maggie waved her middle finger in the air, laughed and said, “Take that no-sin-will-be-tolerated!”

Back in the kitchen she got out the big stainless steel bowl and started peeling apples and cutting them into slices for the pie. She always cut up more than she knew she needed because once she’d doused them in cinnamon and sugar, it was just too difficult to resist snacking on a few of them - the excuse being that just wouldn’t all fit into the pie shell. Munching on one such chunk and nodding her head in rhythm to Mr. Vaughan (who was now rocking it with Little Wing), Maggie pulled another big bowl out of the cabinet, got the flour from the pantry, and a stick of butter from the fridge. She found pie making ultimately soothing. Just as she dumped the flour into the bowl, she felt the telltale uncomfortable twinge in her belly. Damned period. But no wonder I felt a little whacked out this morning. She wiped the flour off her hands on a kitchen towel and went into the bathroom.

Ora stood at the kitchen sink, squinting out the window and sneering. He could hear the chickens raising a ruckus and he knew why. It was another coyote, he was sure of it. He muttered, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” He hollered to his daughter, “Ruthie! Bring me my shotgun! Devil’s bitches are in the hen house again! Ruthie!!!” When there was no response from his useless daughter, he stormed into his bedroom, grabbed the gun off of the wall rack, double checked to be sure it was loaded, then stormed back out through the kitchen. “I will deal with you shortly!” He hollered at the kitchen ceiling. “Sin will not be tolerated!” He opened the kitchen door and ran at a half jog toward the barn. Ora had built the chicken coop on the backside of the barn where it would get more shade. The coyote was hunkered at the edge of the brush, about twenty feet from the coop. It’s muzzle was bloody and there were feathers all around. Ora raised the rifle.

Maggie heard a loud bang just as pain pierced her right shoulder. “Ow! Goddamn!” She looked around her, perplexed. She was sitting in the dirt about twenty feet from her truck. Her dad’s old hunting rifle was about a yard to her right. How in the world… this is just… I don’t… Maggie heard something plopping onto the dirt. She looked up to see a hole that went through the grill on her truck and through the radiator. Fluid was leaking out of it onto the ground. I didn’t just… did I?… oh bitch in a buzz saw!  I shot my own fucking truck?! What the hell is wrong with me?

Maggie sat in the dirt, hung her head and cried. She knew something was so wrong with her, and just when everything should be so right. I wish Derek would get here sooner rather than later. Maggie’s eyes went wide. Shit! The pie! Is it burning? Maggie jumped up and ran into the house. She didn’t smell the pie baking at all. She went into the kitchen and heaved a sigh of relief. Whatever had happened to her, had happened before she’d made the dough.

Maggie went into the bathroom to wash her hands. She pulled a washcloth out of a stack on the shelf, ran it through cold water and scrubbed at her face. She ran the cloth through the water again and this time held it across her eyes. She sighed, feeling the cool compress easing the heat from crying. Then she went back to the kitchen and, with far less joy than usual, finished making the pie.

Two and a half hours later, she was curled up on the sofa, with an Annie Proulx book in her lap. The pie was out of the oven, the chicken marinating, and the corn was peeled. Everything was set and on hold until Derek arrived. Maggie turned a page, reading but not absorbing. She realized that she’d read half a chapter and had no idea what was going on with the characters. Movement caught her eye and she looked out the big picture window to see Derek’s car turning in the dirt drive. She went outside to start the grill and to greet him.

Later, as they were taking their dishes to the sink, Derek said, “Good grits, Sis. But I have to say, that’s got to be the quietest meal I’ve ever had. And you look whipped. You want to tell me what’s up?” Maggie heaved a heavy sigh and leaned against the counter. “You’re going to think I’m crazy…” Derek was quiet as Maggie poured out the day’s events to him.

“I don’t think you’re crazy. I mean, don’t they always say that crazy people don’t know they’re crazy? You were just very rational about everything that’s happened. You know, you’ve been through a lot in the last year and a half - divorce, you left your ten year career with Aside Graphics to do your own thing, bought this house and moved within a week. Those are big stressors, you know. I think you should call Dr. Figueroa in the morning and make an appointment for a thorough check up as soon as possible. Oh, god… your truck…”

Maggie waved that away. “The truck is the least of my worries. She was kind of on her last legs anyway. But… I mean… Jesus, Derek! I was wandering around out there in a total fog with Dad’s old shotgun! If that’s not crazy… I don’t… I just…” She shook her head. “You’re right. I’ll call Dr. Fig in the morning.”

“Are you okay on your own tonight? I could stay…”

Maggie shook her head firmly. “No, there’s no need. I’m going to crawl in bed with the heating pad. My period just started and my belly hurts, I’m exhausted. I know I’ll be out before my head hits the pillow. But thank you.”

Maggie packed up some of the left over chicken and pie for her brother. He hugged her and promised to call in the morning. She was shutting off the downstairs lights before his car turned out onto the road. She took the heating pad from a nook in the bathroom, plugged it in next to her bed, crawled into bed with it and was sound asleep in seconds.

Ruthie’s eyes were downcast. “Papa. I… I’m… bleeding.” She swept her hand across the tops of her thighs. “Down there.” Ora stopped his pacing back and forth in front of her, and lightning quick, raised his hand and backhanded her across the mouth. Ruthie rocked back on her heels, but didn’t cry out. “So you’re just another sinning bitch… just like your mother was.” He backhanded her again, this time hard enough to knock her to the floor. “Sin will not be tolerated! I will purge it from you, daughter! I will lead you through the burning fire until you are made clean, by Jesus!” Ora grabbed the kerosene lamp from the table and brought it down hard on Ruthie’s stomach. It shattered, throwing flame and fuel all over the kitchen, instantly igniting Ruthie’s cotton dress. The flames caught and spread immediately. Ora’s pant legs were aflame. Mindless of this, he continued beating Ruthie with the broken lamp, all the while screaming, “Sin will not be tolerated! Sin will not be tolerated!” The fire crawled across the floor and began to lick it’s way up the walls. “Sin. Will. Not. Be. Tolerated!” The blows he gave Ruthie punctuated each word. Flames stretched up the walls and began to tickle the ceiling.

Derek pulled up close to the barn. I was just here. Now she’s gone. Everything. Gone. I should have stayed. It echoed in his mind, should have stayed, should have stayed, should have… He stood by the barn for several minutes, staring at the charred remains of his sister’s house. Should have stayed. As he stood there, something fluttered in the bushes next to the barn and caught his periphery. He walked over to take a closer look. It was an old book of some sort. He pulled it out from where it was caught in the branches of the bush. The leather cover was old and worn. He opened to the first page. In tiny neat script was written: A Full Accounting of Prayerful Living Farms by Ora Anders, Year of Our Lord 1919.

Derek flipped through the pages. It was mostly a ledger of some sort, accounting for chickens bought and sold, household expenses, and tithes given to a church. He came to the page marked October 1919 and his blood ran cold. There, in large scraggly capitals that were divergent from the earlier neat script, was written: SIN WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. Halfway down the page after that were the words, again in the neat script: One coyote killed. One chicken lost to Satan‘s bastard. One shotgun shell used. About an inch below that, again in the angry looking capitals: RUTHIE TURNED. PURGE NECESSARY. SIN WILL NOT BE TOLERATED!

Derek pulled a pen from his pocket. He licked his thumb, and with it, flicked the ledger to a new page. His lip curled into a sneer as he squinted and wrote in a neat, tiny script: Hell’s Bitch taken care of for good. Buy new lumber. Rebuild. Replace chicken that got ate up. Sin. Will. Not. Be. Tolerated.


For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Jester Queen gave me this prompt: "Ora wrote in his journal, 'Sold 12 White Leghorn pullets for $45 and one yearling cock bird from breeding stock for $7.00. Tithe $5.20'. Then, he closed the books on September and turned over to a fresh page and wrote 'October, 1919.'" I gave SAM this prompt: Simon and Garfunkle sang, 'We walked off to look for America...' What do you think they found?