Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Free Write Working with Wood

Today's free write was prompted by a young woman we saw walking down our street on our way to Mille et Une for a croissant and chocolate. She was carrying what looked like three pieces molding lumber. What is different, I am learning to do an AI graphics program, text to image, to illustrate the anthology of my work, that I'm pulling together of my short stories and poems (mostly published) called The Corporate Virgin.

D-L's Free Write -- Working in Wood

She'd show him. Mallory walks down the narrow village street with three long pieces of wood under her arm.

He'd mocked her, saying a woman would never be able to fix the molding around the bedroom door. He was the one who had broken it during in yet another one of his temper tantrums.

"We'll leave it. Remind you to behave," he'd said.

She wasn't sure when their relationship turned violent. After she'd quit her job at his insistence, sometime.

The first time she'd forgiven him and the second. After the third time her only thought was permanent escape.

Back in what would soon be her former home, she pried the damage molding from the wall. Using his tools, she measured the wood to fit.

She'd never told him how her father insisted she have basic skills usually attributed to a man. She could change a tire and the oil in the car. Why she hadn't said anything, she never could figure, just that it was a secret to guard.

She decided no to paint the molding. It would be her farewell message.

She picked up her suitcase and her phone with the tickets to Montreal. A job awaited her, given by an old friend who hadn't said, "I told you so," but," Thank God, you came to your senses."

Mallory knew how lucky she was not to become an abused statistic.

As she put her coat on she saw the sawdust on the floor and thought it was a fitting commentary on her short mortgage.

Rick's Free Write Woman with Wood
Cassandra was not known for her abilities in plumbing, electrical or carpentry. In fact, she had never done anything more challenging than fixing a ceramic vase with super glue. And then, she had gotten glue on her fingers, and it took a week to get it fully off.

But she had determined to surprise her eight-year old son, Thomas, with a railroad track for Christmas. He loved the Thomas the Tank engines animated character, but that was a British TV series, and she could not find the toys in any shop in the south of France, despite searching from Ceret to Narbonne.
How hard could it be? So she drove out to Weldom, which she had heard had cut-to-order wood in the back of the store, and tried to explain in her broken French the type and length of pieces she thought she needed.
By the time she got home, she had to hide the six-foot pieces of wood in her bedroom closet, as it was time to pick up Thomas at school. The project would wait until tomorrow.
The next day she laid the strips on the kitchen floor, and got started searching the internet for instructions for building a railroad. All seemed to involve saws and lathes  and other equipment she didn't have and couldn't afford.
Cassandra started to cry, when her new boyfriend Pierre knocked and walked in. "What's all the tears?"

In between sobs, she explained Thomas's yearning for a wooden train set.

"Why didn't you mention it? My cousin is a wood worker. Let's go see him."

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Time will tell

So often when we discuss our marriage Rick and I are shocked at how fast the 12 years have gone since he sent me a LinkedIn message, "I'm in Geneva. Do you want a coffee?" We are not shocked at how happy we've been.

There are three clocks in our French flat. Each is special as they tick away our lives.


The Seth Thomas Clock

A gift from a vendor, Massachusetts Envelope, from when I worked at Digital in the 1990s. The rule was not to accept any gift over $25, but I did anyway. (I asked permission to accept two tickets to a Laker-Celtics game the next year and it was granted).

Compared to the gifts Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Alito have taken, I feel no guilt. 

I had great loyalty to the envelope company for their service. Their prices were always competitive. What earned my loyalty was when I worked for NFPA I had approved a four-color envelope proof. I can't remember the quantity but it was over 50,000.

The president of the company came in, looked at the print job as it was running and threw out what had been printed because he didn't like the quality. He reprinted with an improved design at his cost. He had my business until I left the country a decade later.

The clock has moved with me. At first it was in my Boston condo. Later it was in my Nest, my French attic studio in a 400 year-old building. It oversaw dinners with friends, my writing and my daily life for several years. Now it is in my kitchen where I moved with my husband because the Nest was too small for two. 

Although I use the stove top and oven timers, I still check that clock when I'm cooking. My husband, who has learned to be a good cook, looks at it regularly. When we walk through the kitchen, we can tell the time of day or night. It is part of our daily life.

My Annie Clock

Annie is the heroine of my Murder in (Fill in the city) series.

Imagine my surprise when my husband and I were walking in Vieille Ville in Geneva to see a woman who looked exactly like I had envisioned Annie giving out hugs in front of St. Pierre Cathedral, Jean Calvin's church. 

We took her photo. 

An artist friend made me a clock using that photo as a guide. My Annie clock is the first thing I see each morning when I wake.

Cuckoo Clock

Rick wanted a genuine Cuckoo Clock. Wonderful, I thought, I can buy him one for Christmas. I went out immediately and found a perfect one in downtown Geneva. It had everything a good cuckoo clock should have: animals, people that came out from doorways and a variety of musical tunes on the hour.

We had planned a getaway to Gruyere (the home of the cheese of the same name and reeking of Swiss atmosphere.) "I can get a cuckoo clock there," my husband said.

I had two choices.

1. Be a bitch and dislike everyone he liked so he wouldn't buy anything and be surprised on Christmas day. Not a good plan for a getaway.

2. Give him his Christmas present early.

I decided on number 2. 

Although we can shut off the cuckoo, many days as we are writing, we listen for its time announcements and songs.

We measure time to organize our days. The weeks, months and years continue to fly by. But as time passes we take time to appreciate all the good things in life. Clocks aren't usually thought of as reminders beyond ordinary things, "like we need to get to the store before it closes," but they are.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

November was Nuts


November was nuts...good nuts like the hot chestnuts sold in paper cones on Geneva street corners. They warm hands and tummies.

FlashNano2023, is over, leaving a hole the same way when a friend goes away. Each day's eagerly-awaited prompt to stimulate a flash fiction piece was a stimulant.

I missed about five prompts because November was overly full. There are 563 writers that participate and I'm sure their lives are as crazy as mine.

November started with a trip from France to Geneva after greeting our dog sitter. The dog is staying in France. It's an eight hour drive.

The Geneva Writers Group three-day conference was not only full of inspiring workshops, but it was a chance to meet up with writer friends from the last three decades.

Especially wonderful was the hour I didn't attend a workshop spending the time with the GWG founder and a young writer whom I watched advance in her craft. Two women from different generations whom I respect not just for their writing but for whom they are as people.

Then it was off to Portugal for an aviation conference for my husband's work. The hotel suite offered total luxury, the food satisfying for gourmet palates. The hotel itself was full of history of spies, royalty and writers. 

Back in Geneva, we immediately returned to France to pick up one dog and then back to Geneva to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends, a treat when one lives in a country that doesn't celebrate it.


We spent the rest of the month in the Geneva countryside flat we love among the scenery that refreshes our spirits. We saw a very few select friends, because we'd been cramming our writing between other obligations. 

There was the tiny village Christmas market with its chalet filled with handmade crafts, the smells of melting cheese of fondue and raclette and pumpkin soup in a huge caldron.

We needed to be back in France to say goodbye to Canadian friends heading back to Toronto.

Now it is quiet as we await the arrival of my daughter for the holidays. The calm will allow us uninterrupted time with our laptops and projects, to be described as "Priceless."

The next trip to Geneva after Christmas will be for the winter where our writing projects will have precedence. We will do our sacrosanct Tuesday morning free writes which produces flash fiction too.

None of the above is a complaint. I do hope next year when it is FlashNano2024, other things in our lives will not back up on each other. Still, I'm grateful for being able to participate because it always reminds me of why I am a writer. 

Thank you Nancy Stohlman for FlashNano2023.


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

FlashNano2023 The wave


Prompt: Find a few moments to look at the image above, and let it sink in--wait until something in the image wants to be written--and write.

The wind almost blew him over as he walked along the edge of the Med. The waves were so big that they discouraged even the most accomplished surfer.

What a change from last summer. Then the sand was barely visible hidden under towels and umbrellas and cooking bodies glistening with suntan oil.

Someone should have seen Bobby swimming away from the beach. 

They didn't until it was too late.

The calm of that day versus the ferociousness of today. There has to be a metaphor somewhere, he thought swallowing his sadness once again. He just didn't know what it was.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Flash Fiction: The cat


We are back at Mille et Une for our Tuesday morning free write. It is cold enough to be inside. The croissants are fresh from the oven. I chose almond tea and Rick went for hot chocolate.

Rather than pick a person walking by, we picked the cat who sits outside a flower shop and spends his day curled up in a chair inside, once the shop is opened.

D-L's Free Write

They were late. The bells in the church tower had struck twice, which meant it was 8:30. People walked by, but not the ones who had a key to the flower shop.

The cat was cold. He had found a new place to sleep at night in a deserted house, protecting him from the Tramontane wind.

He hoped they would arrive soon. He had work to do, curling up on the chair where the owners put his cushion.

Clients would ooh and aah over him, putting them in the mood to buy more.

There he was, José, the owner. He was carrying a bag of kitty kibbles, the cat's salary for being the Official Store Cat.

There was kitty litter in the back room, but he preferred to use the grassy spot across the street later in the day.

José poured the kitty kibbles in the cat dish. "That should hold you."

The cat jumped down and tasted. One of his favorites. 

Life was good. 

Rick's Free Write

He was there every morning, well before the flower shoppe opened at 9. seated on the doorstep, mewing at every passerby: "Let me in please," or since he was a French chat, "SVP, ouvrez la porte."

No one remembers when Felix first appeared. Or whom he belonged to. Probably just one of the many semi-feral cats in the village who sleep rough but exist on the kindness of elderly women who put out kibbles and water.

No doubt he snuck in one warm, sunny day after the shoppe started and the gentile young couple who own it decided he was not much of a bother. 

Each day when they opened the door, Felix would bounce inside and head straight for the chair in the corner. He might easily be mistaken for one of the ceramic knick-knacks on offer he was so still.

Mostly black with a couple of strategic white highlights on the nose and tail, Felix fancied himself high class. 

After all, he did own a flower shoppe.

FlashNano2023 27 Nov. Going deeper into the woods


"How much more?" Ellie whined.

"Until we can't see any houses," Melissa said. 

Ellie couldn't see any.

She stormed ahead and a branch hit her in the face. Ellie almost dropped the box she was carrying.

The woods smelled damp from yesterday's rain. The path was narrow. Overhead only small glimpses of blue sky were visible.

"Here." Melissa stopped. Pine trees surrounded the small, muddy clearing. 

"I don't understand Mother wanting her ashes to be scattered here. She said terrible things happened in the woods." Ellie held the box tighter.

"She was talking about teenagers having sex. Mom was probably asexual," Melissa said.

"She had us." Wind blew Ellie's hair across her face, but she didn't want to let go of the box.

"Put it down." Melissa had always been the bossy older sister, the preferred one, not just by their mother, but by teachers until Ellie went to a university in another state. 

Now she was back in her childhood home, sharing a chore with her sister that she didn't want to do.

Melissa broke the seal on the box. "They said to be careful of the wind, or we would be wearing Mom."

Ellie stepped back as Melissa tripped the box onto the ground. Her mother looked like kitty litter. That kitty litter had made her unhappy for so many years. 

Why had she let her? 

She promised herself, if anyone did that to her again, she'd think of them as kitty litter.

She turned and walked back thru the wood not waiting for Melissa.

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Twisted Cigar


"You can blame me," Rick called out the car window as I walked to the store where we had bought the twisted cigars.

Our friend and my wantabe brother RB2 has asked us to pick up some Mauler champagne and the cigars from this Swiss store near our home and take it to him the next time we were going to Southern France where he lived.

We did, but RB2 only needed on box, not two of the cigar boxes.

Rick suggested I would do better trying to get a refund because of his hearing and my French.

I walked into the store with the box of cigars and the receipt.

At eight in the morning, the store was deserted except for the cashier behind the cash register. 

I did the smile and the customary polite bonjour before preceding. 

"My stupid husband bought two boxes of cigars when he should only have bought one," I said in French. "He's always doing that, buying much to too much. I did an eye roll unlike any I'd done since my teenage years.

The cashier called her manager. She repeated what I'd said without the eye rolls and the over-buying comments.

The manager checked it out, being careful that the seal wasn't broken, and told her to refund my 57 CHF, which she did.

I thanked her.

Back in the car I told him, I blamed him.


Sunday, November 26, 2023

FlashNano 2023 Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water

This is the 26th day of 30 days where participants write a flash fiction piece from a prompt. The 26th prompt was to include at least one of  the four elements of yesteryear earth,wind, fire and water. I've tried for all four.

James looked up from reading his book as his daughter raced thru the room. They should have named her Windy instead of Wendy, he thought. She sucked the air out of a room when she breezed through.

She created whirlwinds of activity wherever she went, never mind destruction of things she knocked over.

At four when his wife Maddie was planting tulip bulbs, Wendy dug a hole in the earth so deep, he could have buried an animal the size of a fox. When she played in her bathwater there would be floods on the bathroom floor.

They had always known she was active, but only when her day care owner said they could no longer keep her, did they seek medical device.  

The doctors called it ADHD, Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder.  They'd tried amphetamines and methylphenidate treatments, but when they didn't seem to help they went through a pharmacy of other drugs. None really helped.

Raising Wendy left him and Maddie exhausted.

At the same time, Wendy could concentrate when she was really interested. They'd given her a water color set and when she spent hours working on paintings, sometimes becoming angry when she didn't get the result they wanted, they sent her to art classes where she used acrylics. 

Her painting of a fireplace hung over the fireplace. Her teacher said she had talent. She wanted to go to art school. He and Maddie were investigating.

Wendy thudded downstairs, rushed through the room and as she opened the door called back, "Be back later." 

James went back to reading his book. His daughter was 18. He accepted it was what it was.