It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Veterans Day.
Yes, that’s right, the annual national holiday celebrating those who have served in the military. Trivia tidbit, did you know that it is “Veterans Day”, plural, no apostrophe? Because it’s inclusive, not possessive. Veterans Day honors all those who have served in the military, dead and alive.

Armistice Day, as it was originally called, marks the day that World War I officially ended. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It has been an observed holiday since 1938.

It’s a good day.
Flags fly proudly.
People thank those who have protected vital national interests.
We honor those who made sacrifices of time, family, and self.
There are parades, praise, and remembrance poppies.
There are handshakes, hellos, and tearful hugs.

So, yeah, it’s beginning to look a lot like Veterans Day.
Thankful, appreciative, and respectful.
The most wonderful time of the year.

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Fun Facts about the Fall Back

Having adjusted our clocks and lifestyles by an hour this past weekend, I thought it might be interesting to share a few fun facts about Daylight Saving Time (DST).

Fun Fact #1
We are currently on Standard Time NOT Daylight Saving Time.
That means, THIS is the Correct Time, lol.
Also, it’s Daylight SAVING Time, no plural, not Savings.

Fun Fact#2
The idea for Daylight Saving Time was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. It’s believed that the essay in which he references changing sleep schedules to get better use of daylight may have been in jest, a subtle mockery of lazy Parisians and a jab at new taxation opportunities. (Shhh, maybe I shouldn’t mention that part!)

Fun Fact #3
In 1905, Englishman William Willett led the first campaign to adjust the time by 80 minutes between April and October. He died before the 60 minute change was adopted in Britain with the British Summer Time (BST) act of 1916, following the first European country, Germany, who enacted DST as a direct result of World War I.
In 1918, the U.S. followed suit in an effort to save on wartime resources.

Fun Fact #4
It has nothing to do with farmers as is commonly believed. Since farmer’s work by the sun, not the clock, the practice proved disruptive to their day. So much so that rural interests fought for a repeal. Urban interests continue to win out with almost 40 states toying with the idea of making DST permanent.

Fun Fact #5
Two states, Hawaii and Arizona, do not observe DST at all.
Unless the federal law changes, states cannot opt out of Standard Time, only Daylight Saving Time.

Falling Back is my favorite. I LOVE that extra hour the first weekend in November.

No Fun, just Fact
Daylight Saving Time returns Sunday, March 8, 2020
We shall Spring Ahead (and lose an hour, sniff, sniff) at 2 a.m.

For more DST Fun Facts, also known as an easy way to waste the hour you got back,
check out these Resources:
History.com
USAToday.com
CNN.com
MentalFloss.com

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Wrapping up a month of Story

Keeping with the previous October posts, I thought I’d make a month of it and provide you with a sneak peek into Foe Be Us : Phobias Book 2, a collection of short stories (to be released at a later date), based on your darkest fears. Like Ombrophobia, the fear of rain.

Lucky Penny

Hannah and her grandmother walked along the sidewalk, arms laden with canvas sacks of cookie making supplies. The sky on the way to the A&P had been overcast and merely hinted of rain. The sky on the way home was heavy with threatening, black clouds.

The wind picked up, whirling twelve-year-old Hannah’s skirt, the one her grandma had sewn and her mother had insisted she wear for today’s visit. She scrunched it to her sides, fisting great handfuls of fabric as the bags hung awkwardly from each wrist. Sacks of sugar and flour knocked off her pumping knees as she silently cursed a great many things.

“Hannah, put your hood up,” Grandma Helen said, quickening her step as the first fat droplets began to fall.

Hannah released her skirt, slipped both totes onto her left arm and tugged the hood of her sweater over her head with the free hand. She hated being outside when it stormed. It grossed her out. The whole idea of a “cleansing rain” was disgusting. Basically, she was getting bombarded with the atmosphere’s bath water. She shivered with revulsion as a drip splashed her cheek.

Spots the size of quarters darkened the cement path. Grandma Helen adjusted her grocery sack and pointed at the ground. “Look, honey! A penny!” When Hannah did not pick it up, Helen said, “Find a penny, pick it up…”

Hannah rolled her eyes, “Gramma, it’s a penny.”

“All day long you’ll have good luck!” her grandma finished with a smile, the sprinkles audibly pelting her clear plastic hat.

Realizing they weren’t going to continue without retrieving the pittance, Hannah dipped with a great flourish and matching sigh, and picked up the penny. “Here,” she said, pinching it as if it had cooties. “Happy now?”

Her grandma chuckled and palmed the coin.

The rain came down faster and harder.

“Come on, dear, we need to get home before the sky really opens!”

Hannah hunched and groaned then picked up her pace, ducking and dodging in a fruitless effort to not get saturated with the earth’s backwash.

“It’s just rain,” Helen chortled. “You won’t melt.”

“Ugh,” she said, voice muffled by the sweater, “I hate the rain!”

Grandma Helen began to sing about pennies from heaven. She paused at a stanza break, perhaps awaiting a singing partner.

A duet was not to be.

When she got to the line about hearing it thunder, a mighty roar rolled loudly and finished with a sharp crack, interrupting the song and causing the girls to jump. Helen laughed, “Perfect!” she said and resumed her song. The rhythm of the rain drowned out most of the words. “Pennies from heaven—” Hannah’s grandmother belted through the downpour.

A resounding clank halted her chorus. Followed by another and another.

“Oh my! Look at that,” Helen shouted over the din of pounding rain. “It’s pennies!” She paused her granny-dash to get out of the rain and bent slowly to the ground to examine these gifts from the weather gods.

Interest turned to shock with the first, “Ow!”

Hannah rubbed her left shoulder, then her right, her bags swinging wildly. She looked up at the sky and a handful of pennies bounced painfully off her face.

A crazy bolt of white lightning shot across the sky as another crash of thunder reverberated through the air followed by a deluge of plummeting copper. The coins jumped and bounced on the sidewalk, rolling into the gutter with the sudden downpour.

Helen’s tote dropped with a clank and shatter of bottles and the quickly diluted aroma of vanilla wafted in the wet air. “Run!” she cried. Bleeding from head wounds, the rain hat proving to be no protection from the solid surge from the sky. The clear plastic held the blood in, tinting her normally gray-blue hair a lovely shade of mauve.

Hannah released her bags, the flour sack erupting in a puff of white mist that didn’t stand a chance against the wet metallic downpour, and raised her hands to protect her head from the pummeling pennies.

The coins’ speed and trajectory sliced skin and embedded in scalp and flesh.

The hair on their bodies was raised and wavering in response to the plated-zinc weather front as they ran full force against the gale of water and coinage. The walk was slippery, wet with rain and thick with layers of currency; the grass offered no better traction. Hannah skidded to her knees and thanked her Grandma’s excessive sense of fabric use for saving her from pocket change impaled knees.

More metal than water was falling now. Hannah turned to see how far behind her grandmother was and caught a hurling penny down the side of her face. Flesh began peeling away from the corner of her eye straight down to her jawline. She slapped a hand to her cheek, crying out in pain.

“Hannah,” her grandmother shouted against the din, “up there—.” As she pointed to a sheltered front porch about fifteen feet further, her limb was severed mid-forearm by a sluicing of coins. The old woman’s hand fell to the flooded sidewalk with a smacking splat, splayed fingers revealing the lucky penny.

***

This short story was inspired by a Prompt Club assignment to write a story based on song lyrics. As you probably know, that’s tricky business because of copyright laws. I wanted to write a horror story based on the very optimistic song, “Pennies from Heaven”, but could only infer the lyrics. Titles cannot be copyrighted.

Get it? Climate CHANGE! LOL

(Certainly NOT harmless. Just ask Helen and Hannah.)

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Hindsight

I considered sharing a story that’s not, how shall I say…um, creepy? Thrilling? Scary? Because I do write those, too. But then I thought, it’s October! It’s SPOOKY SEASON! So I offer you another short story to tingle your senses.

Hindsight

You know the moment it all changed. You remember it exactly. The beginning of the end, the creation of the conclusion, the birth of your demise.

You were staring through the bus window, your forehead pressed against the a/c vent-cooled glass. Yes, it occurred to you that many a traveler before you may have done this same thing and that you were potentially sharing head sweat with total strangers, but you didn’t care. The pane felt good, comforting as you watched the city blocks roll by.

You know the bus actually takes longer than hoofing it, but it had been a long day. Your legs were achy from a ten hour shift and the thought of walking was out of the question. Your back was sore and the hot summer humidity was weighing heavy, draining. The $1.25 was a small price to pay to ride in comfort. You just wanted to get to your house, put your feet up, and watch the news.

You never wanted to be the news.
Well, maybe…

You don’t own a car so when you don’t walk, you take the bus. You have the route memorized. When the driver turned left on Ranchero Boulevard instead of right, you sat up, suddenly concerned. You looked around, wondering if by some crazy and unnatural law of forgetfulness you had ventured upon the wrong bus.

You weren’t the only one wondering. Heads raised, arms waved, jaws flapped. Overall a very disconcerting shift in the usual limp after-work bus din.

“Quiet, ya’ll,” the driver yelled, flapping an arm behind him to hush the crowd like you were five-year-olds on a family road trip.

When you didn’t shush, that old driver actually had the audacity to jerk the steering wheel, sending quite a few riders either into the windows or the aisles. You were a window victim, your head connected briefly. The glass that had brought such comfort a few moments ago suddenly bringing pain.

You were one of several whose hands were yanking the cord. One of many whose voices hollered “Stop!” or “Let me off!”

And yet the bus drove on.

You took this opportunity of mobile unrest to close your eyes and take a deep cleansing breath. The others may lose their heads, but you knew there had to be a logical explanation. The driver’s wife just went into labor, and forgoing his civic duties, you were all on your way to the hospital. That would be acceptable, yes? You wouldn’t mind making the evening news as part of a fluff piece. Or maybe he just found out his mother had a heart attack. Or his dog was hit by a car. And then you considered, are there any worthy justifications that don’t involve medical emergencies?

You regulated your breathing, stretched your neck, and watched through the window trying to figure out where you were heading. You assumed once you figured out the where, the why would eventually reveal itself. You’re smart, not like most of the yo-hos that hang out on the city bus, if anyone was going to figure this out, to save the day as it were, it would be you.

As you were staring out the window, trying to make sense of this nonsensical adventure, you realized the driver was behaving quite erratically. Maybe it’s his own heart that had attacked. You stood, prepared to slow the bus and perform CPR, if necessary. I mean, you did take that class at the Park District last summer. Again, you had mental images of a feel-good local news piece and a smile curled the corners of your mouth.

You took only two steps down the aisle on your life-saving venture, your hero’s journey, when suddenly you knew the why. The gun in the hand of the passenger directly behind the driver was exposed, if only briefly, through one of the driver’s too fast turns.

It was then that you noticed the others on the bus. Sure, a couple of familiar faces, the regulars—oddly quiet at this time, but what you really noticed were the new faces, seated sporadically, each with more baggage than a city bus trip requires. You’d seen enough television shows and movies to know that the large duffel bags were filled with no good. Illegal weapons, drugs, or ill-gotten money.

Yes, you suddenly recall–the sirens in the distance as you had stepped aboard, swiping your card, and finding your seat. How were you to know you’d be connected to those whoops and wails? Who takes a bus as a getaway car?

You realized you were still standing in the aisle and all the faces, familiar and potentially dangerous, were staring at you. Time stood still. There was no sound, no air rushing through the a/c vents, no bus chatter or rude cell phone users. Then there was a click. Followed by a multitude of clicks.

The scream in your throat halted while you backpedaled to your seat. Too late, as several of the gun holders, deceptively pleasant looking young men with broad smiles and cheery bright t-shirts, swung their guns in your direction.

Sit down, you fool! you’d thought at the moment the first bullet crashed through your solar plexus, punching your body with remarkable precision. You dropped to the floor accompanied by the shouted announcement heard over the chorus of riders’ screams. You had just become a warning to others. You resented their learning at your expense and then chastised yourself for wasting your last conscious consideration on drivel like that as you were bleeding out in the aisle of Bus 213, Northern Route.

Should’ve walked.

***

First person, I, and third person, he/she, are the most common ways to show point of view in a story. Second person deals directly with YOU. It’s a tricky way to write and I don’t do it very often, but I find it interesting to tackle every once in a while.

I hope you enjoyed this, er, wait a minute…
You enjoyed this story.

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Another short story…

Keeping with the previous two posts, I thought I’d offer you a month of reading opportunities! This week I’m sharing a short story from Foe Be Us, a publication comprised of stories based on phobias released last year.

Exit Monsters

“Clancy,” my mother chuckled, “I went to school with a Clancy. He was my sister’s age, a grade ahead of me.”

We knew all about Clancy. This was a familiar vocal exercise for my mother. She detested driving on the interstate and distracted herself with monologue. She used the exit names as a guide on her miserable trek. Clancy Boulevard was only a few miles from our house. By the time we got to our turn off at Ulysses Avenue she would be babbling like a steep mountain brook.

“He was a very nice black boy,” she continued. Nerves rushed her words as she began recounting his math skills, basketball prowess, and eventually how she wondered whatever happened to him. The return trip she would ponder his current location and status and by the end she always hoped he did well for himself.

I gazed out the window at the passing traffic. Passing us. She drove fine in town and country, but not only did my mother hate to drive on busy roads, she had a treacherous fear of the exits. She stayed consistently in the left lane, furthest from any potential merge. At a steady seven miles an hour under the speed limit, she succeeded in pissing off every other driver. They honked and shouted and made unkind gestures. She sat stock straight, knuckles nearly blue from exertion. Loosening her grip on the wheel to use the turn signal, or god forbid, the wipers, was akin to letting go of a child over the edge of a cliff.

A weekly commute, we journeyed nineteen miles to a town called Thomasville, home of the Trojans. Did you know that the Trojan War began with the marriage of Peleus and Thetis? We learned it twice a week. We had to travel this route for my dad’s medical supplies. He’d do it himself, if his schedule allowed. Weekly my sister and I wished the store delivered.

We have asked her why she drives this way. Didn’t she realize she was more likely to cause a collision? What did she think was going to happen if she, you know, went the speed limit? She couldn’t answer when driving. She was incapable of discussion other than her road repetition.

Once at dinner, I asked her why she was afraid. She’d never been in an accident, never known anyone killed in a car crash. “What,” I begged, “is it about the highway that freaks you out?”

My mother settled into her chair, sighed, and over the comfort of mashed potatoes and meatloaf, she confided that her greatest phobia was Exit Monsters. My father gave a snort and shoved a forkful into his mouth. “I know,” she said, “Sounds crazy. But what can I say? If I could explain it, I could fix it.”

“I don’t get it,” said my sister, younger than me but ten times more obstinate.

“I don’t get it either,” mom offered. “I have this incredible fear of being sucked up the wrong ramp. That the Exit Monsters will lull me into the turn lane; force me up an incline, through an exit and…and I don’t know what else. I just know that’s enough to freak me out.”

She used my word to describe her condition and I appreciated that. It’s a word I used a lot at fifteen, and understood, even if my sister didn’t.

“But,” my sister continued, “if you take the wrong exit can’t you just turn around and get back on?” She ripped her bread and dipped the pieces into her gravy.

Again, my mom said, “I know. I’m crazy.”

Dad laughed out loud this time and I interjected with “No, mom. You’re not crazy.” I shot a look to my dad and asked him how the quarterback was doing; I’d heard he’d broken his arm.

Dad sat upright and told me to shut my mouth! If anything happened to that QB, the season would be doomed. I shelved an emerging smile. I knew it wasn’t the same, but I believed he’d just made my point.

When I started driving lessons, I promised my mom that soon I would be able to make the commute for dad’s equipment. She paled at the realization, smiling weakly.

I thought it was a good idea. With me in the driver’s seat, I’d be able to control our destination. And our speed. And if I should accidentally get caught up in the wrong lane and be directed to the off-ramp at Percy Road instead of Ulysses, well, I’d be able to control our turning around and correcting the path, too. I considered studying the maps as part of my driver education. I didn’t tell anyone of my plan to help my mom confront her fear; I didn’t think it was a big deal.

The day I drove to Thomasville for the first time, I followed my mother’s protocol and told the exit tales in an effort to comfort her. It didn’t work. I maintained the speed limit, in the center lane, and planned to ease to the right in time for the Percy exit. There was a toll there, followed by a mall. I had been a few times with friends and their families. My plan was to swing through the parking lot, maybe grab a coffee in a drive-thru, bribe my mother with steaming, liquid distraction, then circle back to the on-ramp and continue our journey. No big deal.

Caught in swift traffic and unable to change lanes, we were sucked up the Foley ramp.

“Your Uncle George was a Foley artist,” I mentioned anxiously. “He worked on the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

My hands gripped the wheel at 9 and 3 as I accelerated for the merge. Just keep going, I consoled myself, the exchange must be ahead.

“He also worked on other Spielberg productions like Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T.,” my sister chimed dramatically from the back seat, her voice floating above the rising tide of tension filling the car.

Beside me, the seat belt strained tight as my mother lowered her head between her knees, gasping.

***

There is no sense of time here; it feels like we’ve been lapping the jagged lanes of Hell, dodging fiery mid-lane explosions, careening around smoldering piles of auto carnage, and tuning out the echoing screams of the insufferably lost through torturous days, weeks…years. I’ve spent most of it contemplating my decision. And the obvious bigness of the deal. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Exit Monsters are real.

Despite my sister’s cries, my mom and I take turns driving straight at them, hoping beyond hope that one of them will swallow us up in their craggy maw and spit us out on the road to home.

***

If you are interested in reading more short stories based on fears–
FOE BE US : PHOBIAS is available on Kindle here.
And in print here.
Thank you for reading.

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A Story for your Reading Pleasure

Crazy busy weekend, too many thoughts to share, none cohesive, so I’m cheating and sharing a story I wrote for The Prompt Club many years ago. The prompt was, “The First Time”. I hope you enjoy.

The First Time I Killed Someone

Well, technically the first time I killed someone, it was an accident. Even though I had no intentions of committing murder and I wasn’t directly responsible, he ended up dead all the same. And I really liked that. No, I loved that he was dead.

His death was the result of a compendium of circumstances that I couldn’t have planned, or repeated, even if I tried. Poor old Mr. Linter tripped over an untied shoelace and stumbled into a pothole the size of Wisconsin while distractedly screaming at me on the cell phone for not remembering to pick up his shoes from the shoe repair. When you spend twelve hundred dollars on imported Italian loafers, you don’t just replace them, you have them fixed.

The real kicker is that I had picked them up; he just hadn’t bothered to look at the foot of his coat rack before heading out of the office for the day. Mr. Linter was the worst boss ever and I’d simulated his demise a thousand times, no a million times, in my head. Day after day until, well, he died. I’m glad he’s dead.

I’m not heartless, in case that’s what you’re thinking. Absolutely not. The first thing I did after Mr. Linter’s funeral was to patch that pothole myself. I took a big orange bucket, filled it with quick dry cement, and gathered up the chunks of concrete in the vicinity. I put his twelve hundred dollar Italian loafers in the bottom, layered the debris, and then poured wet cement over it. Then I smoothed it with a trowel and put those plastic yellow signs around it, the ones shaped like men, Caution! Cuidado! until it dried. Heaven forbid anyone else suffer his same fate.

But I digress, you wanted to know about the first time I killed someone. Well, after the lucky passing of my horrible boss, the next time I came into a circumstance where I wished the person would die, I took it upon myself to rectify the situation.

Poison is really easy. Only on TV detective shows, CSI and Perry Mason and stuff like that, do they ever really do a tox screen. Most people with a heart condition keel over clutching their chest, must be a heart attack, you know? End of story. End of Jack.

Jack was truly my first. I revel in the death of Jack. Potassium poisoning takes time and planning. Of course it helped that Jack was constantly complaining about all of the work he couldn’t do due to his heart condition. We work in the accounts department of a major manufacturing company. There is no heavy lifting. There’s barely heavy thinking, but Jack would tell everyone every day how he couldn’t be expected to carry his work load—even though carrying was a metaphor.

When Jack outed me for falling behind on my paperwork while I was helping him with his, and I was given a formal reprimand, well, suffice it to say that Jack-ass had signed his own death warrant, figuratively the most paperwork he’d done in months.

Sure, I was pissed, obviously, duh, but I didn’t let on in the office. I buckled down and worked harder, stayed later and paid very close attention to Jack’s habits.

Jack snacked a lot. A lot. Which was good because I was able to slip the potassium chloride pills into his food and drinks. Never one to turn down free offerings, I prepped the brownies, cookies, and rice crispy treats at home, loading Jack with tummy upsetting sugar overload. I soon came to realize he was just as likely to fart it out than eat a Tums, so I wasn’t concerned he would deny himself my homemade hand-outs.

The tricky part was to set it all up and execute between doctor’s appointments. I mean, Jack really did have a heart condition and missed work at least once a month for a mandatory check-up.

The best part of the potassium overdosed failing heart? It happened at work, late one Friday night with lots of witnesses–those dedicated to crawling out from beneath the mounds of overtime-required paperwork. Sure, several people called 911, eventually. But the first mention of tingly arms and chest clutches were considered Jack being his regular dicky self. Why was he even still there? I mean, there was work to do.

Honestly, he couldn’t have put on a better performance for me. I was quite proud to have orchestrated the show. But like I said, I’m not a horrible person; I attend counseling with a couple of the office girls, the ones genuinely stricken by witnessing someone die. I guess it’s not for everyone.

It’s definitely for me. You asked about my first… interested in my second? Tenth?

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Resurrection Rosie

My story is kicking off this year’s SPOOKY SHOWCASE!

“Oh my gosh, I loved your story!!!! I just finished it. I especially love the clever way you ended it. I love it so much it HAS to kick off the showcase!” Jolene Haley

Spooky Showcase is a collection of strange, scary, and occasionally humorous horror stories collected and published in October by author Jolene Haley.

I wrote Resurrection Rosie for this collection inspired by Urban Legends. Mine is a twist on the Resurrection Mary tale.

The #SpookyShowcase stories are posted on Twitter through the month of October.
If you like a quick scare, this series is for you!

I actually wrote an entire backstory to this short. Poor Dawn goes into the city with her boyfriend to see a concert in 1979…and a series of events that night lead her to needing a ride home. Still. Maybe I’ll share that work at a later date.

To read Resurrection Rosie on Jolene’s website, click HERE.
To find the link on Facebook, click here.
Like and share.
Find the link on Twitter here.
❤ and RT!

I had so much fun with this prompt, I may do an entire collection of Urban Legend based stories!

I participated in the Beware! Dark Seas: Spooky Showcase last year.
Read Seas the Day! here.

I hope you enjoy the spirit of the spooky showcase.
Thank you for reading!

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