Thursday, January 31, 2013

Prompt: Pirates / Ghost ship

“You awake?” Brian whispered.

“Yeah. You cold? I have some more hot chocolate if you want.” Danny fished around in his pack for the thermos and handed it over to his cousin. It was a rare weekend full moon night, and they had begged for a riverside campout. His mother set them up like kings in the popup tent, with heavy sleeping bags, pillows, a lantern, and enough snacks to feed his whole Scout troop.

“I fell asleep. Did I miss it?” Brian asked.

“I would of woken you, dumbhead. It’s not midnight yet. Almost. Keep an eye out, and listen. Hush…

They waited in nervous anticipation, until Brian whispered excitedly, “There, is that it? I hear it!” The creak of wood, the splash of water slapping against the hull, the snap of canvas. They leaned out from the safety of their tent with wide eyes as the schooner appeared, surrounded by mists that hadn’t been on the river moments before. It was beautiful, dark wood glinting in the moonlight, with tall sails taut in a wind the boys couldn’t feel. They clutched their pillows, half in excitement, half in fear, as it sailed in front of them.

“Do you ever see anybody?” Brian asked, his voice quavering a little. Danny shook his head. He never heard voices or saw any signs of life on board the mysterious schooner that sailed up the river every full moon.

Danny would never forget the first time he saw the ship, a few weeks after they moved to Jacksonville and into the house on the St. Johns. Their backyard ended on the river bank, and before the movers finished, Danny raced inside to find the box with his fishing gear and quickly got down to the business of fishing from the shore. School hadn’t started yet, and he begged his parents for a tent to sleep out by the river. That was before his dad got sick, before—

“I see something!” Brian’s excited whisper interrupted memories Danny didn’t want to think about anyway. Danny stared harder. He did see something moving. On the bow. A…a dog? Yes! It was a dog’s head peering over the bow.

“That’s new,” he whispered. Could it be real? Maybe he was dreaming all this. No, Brian was right there with him.

They watched the ship cruise past, and suddenly the dog saw them on the bank. Danny knew the moment its eyes latched onto him, and he could see its back and tail wagging furiously in excitement. Danny thought it would bark, but it made no sound. It ran along the deck all the way to the back of the ship and watched them until the mists rose up and swallowed the ship back into the moonlit night.

Brian jumped up and whooped with excitement. “That was awesome!” He exclaimed, pumping his fists in the air.

Danny sat on his blanket, still clutching his pillow, looking after the ship. The dog. There was no doubt in his mind. Danny knew sure as anything that he had to help it. He resolved right there and then that at the next full moon he was going to rescue that dog off the ghost ship.

“You’re what?” Brian said, staring at him. Danny didn’t realize he had spoken out loud.

“I’m going to get on that ship and get that dog. Wanna come?”

Dogs in house:

Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Carribean soundtrack

January word count:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Prompt: Another One Bites the Dust

Steve walked warily down the street. A lamppost flickered up ahead, sizzling in the drizzling rain. He hunched his shoulders and stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets, wrapping his fingers around the key. It was hard to see the numbers on the doors, but he still had a ways to go. He wished there were some moonlight, anything to keep the shadows and his nerves at bay.

No cars were on the roads this time of night. He’d seen a guy walking some little dog three blocks back, urging it to do its business.

What was that? He jumped and jerked his head to peer across the street.

Relax, you idiot. See? It’s just a cat.

Jeez, if he didn’t get there soon, he was going to have a heart attack. He peered up and thought the rain was coming down harder. He gripped the key so hard it dug into his fingers. The cold seeped through his jeans, both numbing his fingers and making them sharply sensitive to the metal bite of the key.

There. There it is, 122 on the right, just like she said.

Bending down as if to tie his shoe, Steve listened carefully for any motion, any sign of life on the street. Most of the windows were dark, and he didn’t hear a thing. Straightening, he reached for balance on the slippery steps, then jerked his hand away from the iron railing. He carefully climbed up to the door and pulled out the key. The top was wrapped in electrical tape, and he held firmly between his fingers and jiggled it in the lock.

She said it was tricky. No joke.

The lock finally gave and turned to the left. Steve looked up and down the street, then overhead, searching one more time for any sign of movement. He eyed the curved handle dubiously, then quickly pulled his sleeve down into his palm to cover the handle as he pushed the door open and slipped inside.

Whew! I made it!

Looking into the dingy lobby and up the dimly lit stairwell, he didn’t see the shadow slide through the open doorway as he closed the door behind him.

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Maize, Malachi

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.25 in C Major, K. 503, II. Andante

January word count:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Prompt: Pizza Face, part 2

Note: I hope you'll enjoy this continuation of Caroline’s high school misadventures, begun in “Pizza Face”.

Adam was our class star quarterback, and all around nice guy. I sometimes wondered how he ever made it through the halls, with everyone wanting to talk to him. He had such a way of making you feel like he had nothing better to do than say hello to you. Me, that is. Whenever he passed me, he’d look right in my eyes and say, “Hello, Caroline. Hope you’re doing okay today.” How did he even know my name? We didn’t have any classes together freshman year. I sat behind him in sophomore Spanish, so I got treated to that smile every day in 4th period.

Now it was almost the end of our junior year. I still wore the mask. No one knew why. The scars covered half of my nose, my lips, cheeks, and chin. I couldn’t feel sensation, just pressure. The first surgery was also the last. My skin refused the graft and the doctors said we’d have to wait for some new therapy technologies that were coming down the line. Years.

I never showed my face to anyone. Not even Stephanie. She’d been my friend since the first week of freshman year. We were outcasts together, and I never cared there wasn’t anyone else at our table. We hung out at the mall and did homework together and had sleepovers, and I never once took off my mask in front of her.

The Jim Hudgens effect never wore off—noone ever bothered me or teased me about the mask. The only concession anyone ever made was Adam. He started calling me “Doc”, partway through sophomore Spanish, but with such a twinkle in his eye, I never thought he meant it in a mean way. And since it was Adam, no one else said it in a mean way, either. Now half the school called me Doc, and I answered out of habit.

I guess the apple was too much for John Bashton, though. He started hassling me, bumping me hard in the halls, that kind of thing. I hadn’t realized what a protective bubble the Hudgens effect was until it evaporated. Weinberg and his other friends picked up the slack, and soon I could hardly make it down a hallway with my books in hand. I just ducked my head and tried to ignore it, tried not to give them any more fodder, any more ammunition. I figured it was just a few more weeks till summer, and surely by next year, please God, they would have moved on to more exciting targets.

Until Stephanie and I were back in the cafeteria line, and Bashton’s voice rang out. “Throw me an apple, huh, Doc?” There was a chorus of laughter. Ugly laughter.

I froze. I should have played it cool. I should have picked up a damn apple and tossed it to him nice and easy. Except…

Bashton came at me hard and fast, pushed straight into my back, slamming me against the tray line, smearing my food onto my favorite green Henley. I grabbed onto the bars and pushed back against him, hard, to get some room. I turned around, and before I could do anything, he ripped off my mask. And stared. Backed away. “Damn, Doc--”

I wanted to crawl in a hole and pull it in after me. Surprisingly, that thought stiffened my spine. I stood up straight and thrust my face towards Bashton. He backed up a step. I’d have to process feeling like a monster later.

“What’s the matter, John? Gotta problem with my pizza face?”

Some of his tablemates snickered. He reddened. Before he could say another word, Adam’s hand was on his shoulder once again. He stepped in front of Bashton, plucking my mask out of Bashton’s fingers. I’ll never forget the intense gleam in his green eyes as Adam shouldered Bashton out of the way and looked down at me. All of me. My uncovered face. I desperately wanted to turn away, run away, be anywhere but there. But I couldn’t move.

Adam put his finger under my chin. I could feel the pressure, gentle but firm, lifting my face up. He didn’t say anything. He leaned down and kissed my lips. I wished I could feel his skin, his lips, more than just the pressure against mine. My first kiss, in front of the whole school cafeteria. Suddenly I didn’t want to be anywhere but right here.

Adam lifted his head and smiled at me. “So, Doc, will you be my date to the prom?”

Stephanie whooped. Cheers and catcalls erupted around us. Adam slid his arm under mine put his hand on the small of my back. I lifted my hand to cover my face. He took it in his free hand and leaned close to whisper in my ear. “Let’s get out of here. We’ve given them enough of a show for one day, don’t you think?”

Dogs in house:

January word count:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Prompt: Pizza Face, part 1

“Pizza face!”

Stephanie and I were halfway through the miserable cafeteria line when we heard the catcall and following laughter. She started to turn around, and I put a restraining hand on her arm. She looked at me, and I could see the tears in her eyes. I shook my head and glared at her. She took a deep breath and I turned around to face the heckler.

John Bashton. Surprise surprise. Look up “dumb jock” in the dictionary. Yup, that’s his picture, right there. He waved at me. “Hiya, Doc. How’s it goin?” Why was that worthy of another round of laughter from his table?

I turned back around and saw the apples on top of the display case. I shouldn’t have done it. I know I shouldn’t. Before I could exercise my usual better judgment, I grabbed an apple, turned back around, and threw it straight at John’s forehead. Ear. Whatever. He’d already turned to laugh with his comrade-in-jerkdom, Evan Weinberg, and he didn’t see it coming. He roared when it hit and lurched up. A firm hand on his shoulder pushed him back in his seat.


“But--” John protested.

“Enough,” Adam repeated. And it was over. Evan scooted over a seat. Adam sat down and picked up the apple from the table. He nodded to me and took a bite. John’s face was still red, but Adam said something low that made him laugh, and we were forgotten.

Stephanie hissed at me. “Thanks! But you shouldn’t have done that! John’s not going to--”

“John’s not going to do anything to me. Don’t worry about it. Let’s eat.”

We made our way to an empty back table and ate in silence. Outcasts. Truth is, John wasn’t wrong. Stephanie had the worst acne I’d ever seen. The joke is, he didn’t know how right he was, just not about Stephanie.

I’d worn a mask since the summer before starting 9th grade at Riverside High. Not a metaphorical mask, a surgical one. The big kind that fits over your ears and stretches all the way across your face. My mom sent a note for the office the first day of school, explaining I had severe allergies. But it really was to hide the scarring.

June 6th, 2009. A date that will live in infamy. For me, anyway. Mom and Dad took my brother Ben and me out to celebrate the end of school. We went to our favorite pizza joint, the only place in town that served real deep-dish pizza, still in the cast-iron skillets. I could hardly wait for mine, loaded with pepperoni, sausage, and extra cheese. Except when our server reached across the table to put it in front of me, someone bumped her hard from behind. The pizza flipped out of the still-sizzling skillet and plopped against my face, covering my nose and mouth, burning into my skin. And when I opened my mouth to scream, it burned my tongue and throat too. It sounds like a joke, right? Trust me, it’s not. I wasn’t laughing. I couldn’t scream. Or cry. Or hardly breathe.

My Mom flew into action like my own personal superhero. She threw a pitcher of ice water across my face to chill everything down and get some of the mess off without touching me. She pulled me down on the carpet and started laying soaked napkins all over my face and chest, barking orders for someone to call 911, someone to bring more ice water and napkins.

I spent a month in the burn treatment center. What a load of laughs that was. Not so much for me. But for many other patients there. I mean, nothing gives you perspective quite like comparing percentages of burn coverage. I had to stay until my skin was healed enough to be exposed to unfiltered air, though still covered by a mask. I couldn’t have the first plastic surgery until the end of the year, so we planned it for Christmas break. The surgical mask served two purposes: it continued to protect me, and it hid most of the damage.

First day of high school, I was sure people would tease me about the mask. It was kind of weird that no one did. Then a few weeks into school, they put up the memorial for Jim Hudgens, the star quarterback who died of leukemia last year. In the photo collage, some of the pictures showed him in a mask. Oh, jeez, they all thought I was dying.

Note: This story is continued in Pizza Face, part 2
Dogs in house:

Guitar Adagios

January word count: