Author Archives: Patricia Flaherty Pagan

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Write, revise, pet the cat, submit, repeat.

Write, revise, pet the cat, submit, repeat.

I submitted a piece of flash fiction that I believe in to several journals and a contest. Nine months ago. Unfortunately, a well-written trendy novel with a very similar title was published five months ago. I received a rejection from one national market. I haven’t heard back from two others. I retitled the story and entered it into a contest. I received a nice response noting my writing skills, but no prize. I almost gave up on my piece.

Then... two weeks ago I received an email accepting the piece! The editors had received it, considered it, and ultimately accepted it based on my original submission on that rainy morning nine months ago. This taught me two lessons. One: Editors are very over-worked and need time to ponder work (as an editor at a small press, I can relate to this). Two: Never give up on a good story! Submitting work is daunting and when the rejections come in, can feel demoralizing. So I say, “Stay stubborn. Keep believing in that piece.”

I am thrilled to share my piece with you below. If you enjoy it, please rate it and feel free to share it. It will also be featured in an upcoming print edition of Dual Coast Magazine. I am very grateful to Dual Coast for this opportunity: http://dualcoastmagazine.com/gypsy-moth-summer-patricia-flaherty/

 

 

Travels

1909844_32102491672_7617_nSummer is a time for canvas beach bags, flip-flops, suitcases, long drives in sandy cars and making memories. In honor of summer trips-across the country to the lake house or across the city to the splash pad, I’m sharing my poem about a truly kind friend who left Jakarta before me and went to live in Vietnam. There are many comforts and adventures in expat life, but also unexpected challenges & confusing encounters, so this poem attempts to encapsulate all my feelings as a sweet and trail-blazing friend moved on to a new posting.

 Departure

Pack linen, hope and defiance,

Catch swells, heart palms,

Gray grit thieves-

Breathe in jasmine rain.

Shoulders back, standing tall

With grace on the tarmac,

Falling into sweat-stained seats

Cucumber water on your lips,

You forgive

All turbulence.

Creative Ideas Flowed at Writefest 2017

Discussing Flash Fiction with Kathy Fish

Writefest 2017 was a wonderful week packed with inspiring workshops and fascinating panels. Heartfelt gratitude to Layla Al-Bedawi and Holly Walrath for organizing the conference, and to all the volunteers who kept things humming along. I was honored to present an authors’ chat with flash fiction legend Kathy Fish! Skilled, modest, and creative, she offered helpful ideas and insights. She empowered me to experiment more with hybrid forms of flash fiction.

Reading my flash fiction at Cafe Brasil was also more fun than scary. The talented Julia Rios also read, and now I want to discover more of her work. Writer (and positive force in the universe) Jody T. Morse helped me woman the Spider Road Press booth during the Literary Journal and Publisher Fair. We spoke with many interesting writers who enjoy short fiction.

I can’t wait for Writefest 2018!

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Reading My Recent Flash Fiction

 

 

 

Sparkle & Butterflies

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It’s thrilling and terrifying to read new stories. You make yourself vulnerable. You share the characters who have stolen your heart with a room full of strangers, and hope that the characters’ journeys will move the audience, too. Reading aloud makes my stomach clench. The butterflies inside it aren’t merely fluttering- they’re beating their wings in protest. One of my sisters, a champion baton twirler, was at one point involved with a beauty pageant for girls of all sizes. I have never been a pageant fan, but I remember what my sister used to tell the girls, that it was their moment to “sparkle and shine.” When I read, it’s my moment to let my short fiction sparkle with hope or burn with intensity. I hope that I can push past the nerves, keep my voice slow and steady, and shine.

I will be reading tonight at 7 pm at Brasil café in Houston as part of the exciting Writefest literary festival. Hope to see you there!

 

 

Poet Spotlight: T. Haven Morse

Flooded By cover photo

 

Do you love evocative poetry? I am pleased to know poet T. Haven Morse, and I’m excited to tell you about her new book, “Flooded By: A Persona Poetry Collection.”

This unique read contains interesting glimpses into the psyches and souls of sixty emotionally driven individuals. People filled with anger, jealousy, joy, and wonder. I sat down with T. Haven Morse to learn more about it…

Tell me, T. Haven, what planted the seed in your mind for this moving and ambitious collection? 

When I woke up last Christmas morning, poetry gushing forth, something felt different. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill way my muse typically visited me. She promised something extra special this time. And she didn’t disappoint.

Twenty themes and sixty poems later, I stand at the edge of the release date of Flooded By with sweaty palms, a somersaulting stomach, and a stupid grin on my face. This is happening. My poetry collection—that didn’t even exist four months ago—is being published. Honest-to-God, it’s going to be for sale on Amazon!

As excited as I am for myself, as the writer, I’m equally as ecstatic for the sixty people in print and the readers afforded the opportunity to meet and connect with them. People like Adina, who kicks off the book, sucking us into the rush of adrenaline she gets when jumping off a cliff. Or Samuel, a multiple personality psychotic, trying to make sense of his anger and battling the voice of “Herbert” inside his head.

There’s also Trevor and Sarah Jane, whose poems make me cry every time I read them. No joke, every single time. Sorrow is where we find Trevor, who’s lost in the moment when he first sees the news footage, knowing his daddy works in “one of those giant towers”. Sarah Jane, Trevor’s first grade teacher, pipes up immediately, wrapping us in trembling arms of sympathy for him. Her closing words grab me by the heart and throat every time. “He’s just a little boy. Just a little boy.”

Can you tell I’m beyond excited and in love which each of them, even the ones that aren’t exactly likeable? Cough, cough – wait till you meet Sasha. If you have an ounce of a heart, you’ll h-a-t-e her. I’ll just mention one more then leave you to decide if you want to meet the rest.

Hallal. Keep an open mind with her. She’s a century-old vampire with dwarfism. Tiny but mighty. She may only be four-feet tall but her words and her teeth still pack a six-foot tall punch. There isn’t an ounce of timidity in her. And I think you’ll love her, like I do.

Get your own copy of Flooded By: A Persona Poetry Collection from Amazon on March 11. Visit the Bountiful Balcony Books website for more info on me, T. Haven Morse, and my literary labor of love. www.bounitfulbalconybooks.com

After you snag your copy, please consider leaving me a review on Goodreads or Amazon. They’re the lifeblood for writers these days and can make or break our success. Thanks!

Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep feeling.

This collection will be perfect to read and/or gift for National Poetry Month in April! Get your copy on March 11th. 

Writing in Times of Change

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Let’s get this straight, I respect fiction writers of all political opinions. A well-crafted story is a well-crafted story.

However, I do think that it is the writer’s responsibility to hold up a mirror to their society. This may be done directly in a poem or a memoir, in a story with characters going through change, or in science fiction set on another planet. In fact, many science fiction writers, such as Ray Bradbury, can be seen as raising important social questions.

So, while the writer can try to be objective, we are all creatures of our history. My concerns for the future of America in this time of uncertainty will be voiced here. I don’t strive to offend anyone, but I am who I am. A few readers may decide not to read my work. That’s their right. I value honesty in writing, so I will be honest about my feelings.

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Many of my friends and fellow artists want to raise their voices in this time of uncertainty. What will happen to health care for working families?  Will racism’s affect on government policy become more blatant? Will the rights of women of all backgrounds and of the LGBTQ community be tuned back? Possibly. And so, it is time for writers and artists to use our words as political tools…

Words are mirrors. Characters create empathy. I invite friends who, for many valid reasons, can not/could not attend Writers Resist or the Women’s March on DC or Austin, or do not feel safe at political rallies, to write out their questions, frustrations & fears for America’s future. Stories that challenge. Poems that protest. Memoirs that matter. Publish them yourself, on your blog or in an ebook, if no one else can. Let’s get our voices out there!

 

Happy Book Birthday to A Compelling Collection

 

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I’m delighted to announce the publication today of “Approaching Footsteps-” four suspenseful novellas that add up to one compelling read! Don’t miss these four tales by award-winning women writers. Get your copy today for $16 from Spider Road Press’s website or Amazon. Or download the Kindle ebook for only $2.99! Editing this suspenseful anthology was a busy and fun experience for this writer mama.

Poor some tea, settle into your favorite cozy chair, and get ready for a fun read. These four compelling novellas by women will keep you guessing! Best-selling novelist Donna Hill spins a gripping tale of desperation and danger in “136 Auburn Lane.” Author Jennifer Leeper puts a unique spin on noir fiction in “The Reiger File.” In “A Night with Kali,” writer & scholar Rita Banerjee blends a story of two unlikely allies trapped in a monsoon with a tale of murder and magic. In the historical novella “Brave Enough to Follow,” debut writer Megan Stuessloff tells the story of an interracial couple and the deadly price they must pay for freedom.

What more could you want? As a bonus, team Spider Road Press included the he highlights of Spider Road Press’ recent flash fiction contests. I know you’ll enjoy moving pieces like “Brigida” by Kate Spitzmiller. As always, five percent of the proceeds from this collection benefit rape crisis and veterans’ charities.

Get your copy from Spider Road Press or Amazon today: http://amzn.to/2goAoh0 

Thanks for supporting women writers!

AF Post Card

 

 

 

 

 

My Gratitude Book

Spider Road's New Collection of 4 Novellas & Bonus Flash Fiction

Spider Road’s New Collection of 4 Novellas & Bonus Flash Fiction

The first collection that I have curated since becoming a working mom comes out in less than two weeks! I am thrilled! And I am also a little nervous, very proud and pretty gosh-darned tired. I can’t wait for y’all to read the four unique and suspenseful novellas in here.

This book has been a literary journey taken with four talented writers who are clever, determined, responsive and willing to “kill a darling” word or two. I admire writers who take risks. I enjoy the work of authors who put a truly new slant on a satisfying standard. As an editor, I am grateful to writers who respond to questions about work and requests for help with promotion with consideration and enthusiasm. I recommend the fiction of these four writers. I also recommend hiring and/or working with these four writers if you ever get the chance.

The reader’s bonus flash fiction section makes my heart happy. The award-winning flash pieces featuring complex female protagonists will move readers. The editor’s bonus is that the award-winners and judges involved are also good people.

Another bonus-becoming a working mom has been amazing, gratifying, and humbling. We got my wee son into a wonderful Montessori program. Then he promptly picked up all the independently minded & skill building germs there, and he got the croup. Then he stayed home to get healthy and gave all his sweet boy germs and snot to Mama. So, as I watch the release of this wonderful book approach from behind my tray of chicken soup and vials of antibiotics and bronchitis-battling steroids, I want to thank some of the people who helped and are continuing to help Spider Road Press midwife this great collection into the world:

The writers. Skilled and brave souls all.

The Spider Road Press 2015 Kickstarter donors who generously funded the production costs.

The designers who did such amazing work. Heidi Dorey’s cover and David Welling’s interior design bring the stories to life.

Kessika Johnson-Spider Road Press worker bee and role model for caring working moms everywhere.

My husband! I can’t write the foreword to a new book and change diapers at the same time. Thanks, Papa Steve!

SRP’s deft consultants Lilia Fabry and Vi Moore.

My writing critique group. For every time I said, “Thanks for the feedback on my flash fiction. Can I ask you for a reader’s opinion on….” (Insert new idea about book design or book promotion).

The talents at SkipJack Publishing. For learning all the the nitty gritty, only sometimes pretty, truth of indie publishing. And then generously sharing it. And sharing it. And always being open to exchanging ideas.

The Houston Writers House & The Houston Writers Guild. For all that they do to support local presses and emerging writers.

Writespace Houston. For maintaining a creative haven.

The stellar, crunchy, loyal Goddard College MFA in creative writing community. For more than I can say in this list.

Jody T. Morse-for bursting onto the Spider Road Press scene with talent, an open mind, creative ideas, and enthusiasm just when the book launch process sped up. Girl, I owe you a bottle of wine for weathering the storm with humor and grace.

Our beta readers-both generous and honest.

Enos Rusell-eBook style whisperer. And a patient, patient writer pal.

My family & close friends. For all of your love, loyalty and support. If good karma counts, y’all will be rewarded with champagne and cheesecake in the next life.

EQ Heights Cafe- For fueling the process with mocha hazelnut lattes & good vibes. And for being so nice to my messy wee son.

As I snuggle under the multi-colored quilt my friend Amber made my husband and I as a wedding gift, and dream of boxes of fresh-smelling books, let me say to everyone on this list, everyone I’ve forgotten, and all my fellow lovers of books…

 

Thank You!

 

If y’all are interested in supporting feminist, indie publishing and great fiction by preordering Approaching Footsteps, please visit Spider Road Press: http://spiderroadpress.com/book-store/ 

 

 

Fear the Trees? A Chat with Author Tara Campbell

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I had the opportunity recently to chat with spec fic author Tara Campbell. I first encountered her two years ago, when I read her clever and fun scifi  flash fiction piece, “Happy Planet Nursery.” I liked it so much that I included it in the first anthology I edited for Spider Road Press, Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers. Tara is full of interesting ideas, and lately she’s been thinking about what would happen if the trees got angry with humans… Her debut novel, TreeVolution, pits genetically altered trees against their creators in a tale of corporate intrigue, corruption, and a little “eco-payback.” Where does she come up wth these unique ideas?

PFP: Was there a particular book or books that sparked your desire to write? 

I think it was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time that first sparked my interest in the wonder of science fiction. From there the Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology series deepened my love of the genre.

Name four authors, living or dead, with whom you’d love to have lunch.

I’d love to have lunch with Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Alice Munro and Ray Bradbury, but I’d be way too intimidated to eat.

I want to go, too! I was honored to meet Ms. Atwood at the Texas Book Festival, but your fantasy literary luncheon sounds amazing. Back to your writing… Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?”

TreeVolution was definitely more of a “pantser” situation. I’m trying to be more disciplined for my next one, sketching out storylines in advance, but I have the feeling the characters will take over and run the show there, too.

Do you write in the morning, afternoon, or evening/night?

I try to do it in the morning when I’m fresh, and before the events of the day overtake me. On a good day, I can ignore Facebook long enough to get on a roll and write into the early afternoon.

Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

These are going to be all over the map: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for its encyclopedic zaniness, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake for the depth of the world she created, and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I was totally immersed in that book while I was reading it, and haunted by it afterward

What inspired your new book, TreeVolution?

The initial idea came from a report I heard on the NPR show All Things Considered: The Sound of Thirsty Trees, about a team of scientists who had found a way to listen in on the circulatory system of trees. Using a translation device, they could hear which ones weren’t getting enough to drink, even when there were no visible signs of distress. That’s what made me start to wonder what else the trees might be trying to tell us. And the more I thought about it, the more certain I was that they’d be pretty pissed off with us by now.

If you had the choice, which English-speaking actor would you cast in the protagonist role of a movie version of your new book?

Well, my book has two protagonists of color, and it would be important for them not to wind up whitewashed. I could see my character Charlie as a younger version of Zahn McClarnon (sorry, Zahn, but Charlie is simply a little younger. I loved you in Fargo, though!). And Tessa Thompson was fantastic in Dear White People—I could see her as Tamia.

Considering all of your fiction, which of your stories was the hardest to write? 

The novel I’m working on now. It has been the hardest because it’s historical fiction, which is a new genre for me. The research has been fascinating, but the writing has been challenging. I can’t just make stuff up reimagine my parameters when I hit a snag. I have to make sure whatever solution I settle on is historically accurate or, lacking concrete documentation, at least plausible within the time and place I’m writing about.

Which was the easiest? 

I love the stories that start with a voice. I’ll hear a phrase or accent in my head, and the character creates his or her own conflict as I write. Sometimes I’ll set them aside when they back themselves into a corner, and the next day it will be clear to me what they should do next.

In the back of your mind, do you have a dream project? An idea for a story or a novel that you’d love to write someday?

It’s the historical fiction novel I was talking about earlier. It’s based on a group of 70 people from the Ashanti Empire (now essentially Ghana) who toured the capitals of Europe as an ethnographic exhibit in 1896. The fascinating thing is how they seemed to complicate the narrative of victimization that we’ve come to expect around these tours. The Ashanti were warriors in West Africa, and they seem to have carried a certain amount of power into this situation as well—they went for a second year with a bigger group, and eventually signed their own contract without a middle man to keep on touring. It’s been exciting to explore their motivations and agency in this bizarre situation.

Tara Campbell’s novel TreeVolution is available now on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2eEfqWM

You’ll find her piece “Happy Planet Nursery,” we well as other spec fic and literary flash fiction stories, in Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers. Signed copies ae available;able directly from Spider Road Press: http://spiderroadpress.com/book-store/

My Treat For You: A Free, Otherworldly Short Story

Happy Halloween! It’s one of my favorite holidays. Both sides of my family come from Ireland- so the Celtic holiday of Samhain and its roaring bonfires may still burn in my bones. To celebrate, I’m gifting you with my latest otherworldly tale. The bond between sisters is a common theme in my work, and you will read more about this in the months to come…

Forever Sisters

Forever Sisters

 

AFTERSHOCK ANGELS

Inside and outside, the earth quivers and quakes. My sister is with me, even after all these years.

Sweet Jarvis From State Indemnity has joined us for Chamomile tea, in our good Royal Albert cups, the ones with the pink flowers, but then he decides to go talk to his associate, who is assessing upstairs. Busy boys, to make calls on a Tuesday evening. Sammy clomps down stairs, grabs a very large black bag, crosses the room and turns up my radio. Jarvis returns. He sits calmly and quietly, sucking the dark chocolate layer off the biscuits and putting the shortcake layer covered in spit back on the plate.

I know that it is Tuesday evening because Lisa calls during their visit. Jarvis looks impatient, drums his fingers on his plate, wouldn’t want to break it, but he must be a busy man. As usual, I am too busy for Lisa’s rambling. She asks me, again, to move to Florida with them. She always calls between First News at Five and Wheel of Fortune, but before Masterpiece Mystery.

“I’m not moving.”

“Come on, mom. It’s dangerous up there. It’s all over The Weather Channel. And we found the cutest condo! Pets allowed. Partial water view!” She gushes.

“Around here?”

“Listen, Abe and I worry about you. All alone up there except for your cat. Ever since Aunt Bea was called Home…”

“Not interested.” I say. “I keep telling you, Bea is still with me.”

“How have you been feeling? Are you taking your pills?”

“I’m not an idiot, girl. Rain’s coming. Put sweaters on my grandsons.” I hang up.

The couch sits further from the wall than it did yesterday. My right calf burns, burns until I plop down and prop my leg up on the embroidered, green pillow. Where is that clicker? Bea hides everything. I wrestle a bulky rectangle from the space between the faded cushions. I point and push, point and push. Nothing happens. So I open the back of the remote and change the direction of the batteries. Positive becomes negative, negative becomes positive, and everything ekes out one more drop of juice. The TV screen blazes. Bingo!

“Daughter calling?” Jarvis asks, strolling over to the couch.

“Heavens, no. Daughter-in-law. Thick as molasses.”

“Good job. Just stay calm.” He gives the slightest of nods towards the receiver curled up in the cradle as if ready to spring.

“As a cucumber. Only way to deal with meddlers. Me, I’m staying put. I could never leave Bea alone here. But that silly mule Lisa just keeps asking.”

Soon my nice visitor and I are watching my program. Because the chubby schoolteacher is too chicken to solve the puzzle, I lose interest. Then that infernal alarm goes off that means some poor girl has been kidnapped. I don’t look up to read the text of the Amber Alert scrolling across the screen. I never notice cars, so I wouldn’t be able to help. I could read that romance with the half-naked man on the cover, the one that Mrs. Lemming dropped over, but my glasses have been hiding from me since the weekend. Sunday, probably. I weigh the comforting clarity of my Pearl Vision readers vs. the nerve tingle that will build and crest into a roar when I stand up. Bea will know where they are.

I slurp from a half-full can of Coke sitting on a neatly stacked pile of newspapers on the coffee table. I drink that weak herbal tea, and a little caffeine won’t kill me, no matter what that homely doctor says. Jarvis startles me by standing up. He walks through the living room, feels his way past the small painting in the antique brass frame on the wall, and asks to use the bathroom. I begin to remind him about his muddy boots, but a coughing fit seizes me. He can find his own way.

Why do I hear bells? Did I leave something in the microwave? Minutes dart. My coughs wander away. Demanding, the phone rings on and on. “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming.” I mutter. Patsy Cline’s still signing and heading out “Walking After Midnight” in the kitchen, so I guess I left the radio on. Or Bea did.

“You feel it?” A voice asks over the scratchy landline.

“What? Who the devil is this?” I spit on the floor.

“Alice, it’s me, Sandy Lemmings. Everything okay? Anything fall down over there?”

“Nothing fell. I’m as okay as I’m going to be, with this dampness creeping over the entire valley.”

“So you didn’t feel the aftershock? The earthquake is all over the news.”

I sigh. “Do you mean I have to go stand in the damn doorway again? Good Lord. My tuckus is killing me.”

“No, news radio says it’s over. Just a little one here, bigger down by L.A.”

“Good. It was on the radio? And not the TV?”

“I saw an emergency weather alert on channel eight. Can you hear your TV okay?” Mrs. Lemmings pauses. “Want me to come over and check on all your paintings and shelves for you?”

“Thanks dear, I must have dozed off. Two young men already came to help. I’m fine. Bea’s fine,” I hang up. I yawn.

I get a pencil and the cheap, orange spiral bound notebook that Dr. Horse Face gave me during my last appointment. He wrote “Sleep Log” and “Day, Month, Year” in tall, dark letters, in different columns, on the first page of lined paper. All the other lines stood bare. He creased the page, just slightly to separate the columns.

“Tuesday.” I write. “Slept during my program.” My “ts” waver and my “ds” droop.

Bump. I turn and look for the cat, Esther, or my sister, behind me, but I find Jarvis. Standing directly behind the couch, holding an empty brass frame and frowning. The kitchen door slams, and I remember his associate. Timmy or Sammy. My right ear starts to ache.

“We should be going now ma’am,” Jarvis says. White slivers of light pop out around his silhouette in the dim room.

“In this dark, I would think so.” I manage a smile just before the linoleum shifts beneath me. I fall. My head throbs. An antique Wedgewood pitcher crashes down off its shelf.

“Hey, what’s the hold up? What if there’s a biggie, a real earthquake?” Sammy asks, tromping down the stairs. He lugs a heavy bag and wears my best purse, black leather with a real gold buckle, on one shoulder.

Jarvis does not answer. Is he frowning at me? My eyes pull themselves further and further down. Is the young man looking at me or for the pitcher that also fell on the floor?

“Time’s ticking. No safe. I already checked the freezer, and under the mattress. Maybe check for coffee cans in the basement? With these Great Depression grannies, you don’t need a mask, but you never know where they’ve stashed their green.”

“Fine.” Jarvis says.

I moan.

“You okay, lady?” nice, young Jarvis whispers.

When I open my eyes, and remove the cool cloth that someone has placed on my forehead, Jarvis stands alone in the living room. The front door has blown open again. Jarvis stands by the roll-a-desk and waves something white in his hand.

“So did you want our senior plan? State Indemnity backs us, and that’s why we came. ” Jarvis looks down at his hand, and the paper, no, the envelope that he is holding. “That’s why we came, right, Mrs. Primrose? Mrs. Primrose?”

My eyes push themselves closed. Sweet sleep. I sway slightly. But he is still out there? I open my eyes and look towards him. “What are you selling again?”

“Life insurance.” He says in a far-away voice. He is clutching some kind of velvet pouch in his hand, the kind that you’d get at the jewelers. My patched tabby cat slinks in the open door, sees the strange man, and dives under the kitchen table.

“Not tonight, dear. Thank you anyway, Mr.-”

“Call me Sam.” Jarvis pockets the envelope, walks to the door and puts his hand on the door knob. The right side of his face creases upward in a lopsided grin. “I’ll come back then. Thanks for the Fig Newtons.” He pauses. Then after a second he shouts, “Thanks for everything, ma’am, but we have to go back to the office now!”

He waits. When his friend does not appear, he murmurs, “Take Care, ma’am.” He leaves something black on the floor, pushes in the button on the back door knob, and shuts the door behind him. Such nice manners. Rare these days.

Patsy, or Bea, sings “Your Cheatin’ Heart” as I doze off again.

By the time I manage to get up and back to the table, neither of my young guests remains. Time to tidy up. I see a brass frame on the floor. Hopefully the painting my father gave me wasn’t damaged. Before I make it into the parlor to check, dizziness grabs me, sways me, then releases me; we waltz to a country twang.

One of the pink flowered plates tremors. I change course, stumble to the table, and grab it for support. But then the earth’s vibrations flow out just as quickly as they flowed in. From the TV in the living room, concerned male voices rise with authority. I pick up the plate with my left hand, and slowly trace the border of it with two fingers. No chips. I put the plate back down. Not so bad.

A door thuds closed. Another thud follows, louder. The thieving salesman falls.

I putter over to the cellar door, ignoring the ache that has returned to my ear. I pry the door open and look down the stairs. Squinting, I see a twisted lump halfway down the steps. It could be a dead dog, except for the big open green eyes and mop of human hair. And his neck twisted at an odd angle. Aftershocks have caused worse. Then I see my black purse lying there. Is that the insurance agent’s nice friend? Is that, no it couldn’t be a gun. I have to stop watching that NCIS program with the handsome actors. It must be a reflection in the dim light.

Bea hums “Crazy;” it’s always been her favorite song. A sharp winter breeze, ice-kissed like in the Colorado days of our girlhood, whips up the stairs of our California retirement house. I catch a glimpse of white fluttering in the cellar. Could be laundry on the dryer rack. Could be the faint shadow of my sister’s thin frame, swaying as she sings.

Smiling, I shut the door and hum to myself. I feel steadier on my feet and make it to the couch fine. Queen Esther wriggles out from her hiding place beneath the sofa and rubs her furry, black body against my shins. “There’s our good kitty,” I tell her. She meows.

Using the clicker, I turn the volume down on all those smug professors and that dandy hosting the quiz show. I feel a dull pang, and then a quick spasm in my rump. Damn little pills Doctor Know-it-all gives me do squat.

“Mrs. Primrose! Mrs. Primrose!” the busybody from next door raps on the back door. I lean back on the couch and tilt my head back on the pillow. I fake a snore, two snores, and three. Queen Esther jumps up and curls up next to me. She purrs.

“Are you OK? A white van was parked in your driveway, and then it took off. Is everything all right in there?” Mrs. Lemming shouts through the door.

The knocking and prattling continue, but I pretend not to hear it. My ears are full of my sister’s clear alto, and I can almost see her snapping her fingers along to “I Fall to Pieces.”

The phone rings, and I’d bet every dollar I have in the cookie jar that it’s Lisa again with her whiny voice and real estate listings. As if the kitty and I could leave my sister and move to some palm tree town. The phone rings four times and then my answering machine picks up.

I close my eyes. Don’t want to talk to anyone. There has been enough commotion today already. Inside and outside, the earth quivers and quakes. My sister is with me, even after all these years.

THE END

More of my fiction about sisters will be coming in Summer, 2017. Stay tuned to my blog for more information.

Happy Halloween!

 

Reading my horror stories   in Houston.

Reading my horror stories in Houston