Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! Day 1 #RRBC #RWISA

Welcome to Day 1 of the Watch RWISA Write Showcase, where each day a different author will be featured!

It is my pleasure to start off this tour with Author, John W. Howell!

The Road

by John W. Howell

Just a couple more hours and I’ll be able to rest my eyes. Been on this damn highway for what seems like forever. His head slowly nods until the rumble strip noise causes him to jerk awake. “I have been asleep,” he yells. He yanks the wheel, and the tires screech in protest as he swerves back on to the highway. He can feel his heart in his chest and pressure in his eyes. In an instant, he regrets being so weak as to give in to the physical need. He also becomes alarmed since now he knows that sleep could overtake him without notice.  One second, his eyes could be open and the next closed. Thank God for the jarring and noise of the rumble strips since without its alarm, he is sure he would have ended up piled into a tree.

As his heart settles down, he concentrates on the road ahead. There’s someone at the side about a half mile away. A hitchhiker by the looks of a backpack. A sign in the person’s hand is not readable at this distance. The thought occurs that It would be a good thing to have someone else in the car to help him stay awake.  Of course, there are dangers in picking up a stranger. As he gets closer, he can see that the hitchhiker is not a guy like he thought. It’s a young woman about his age.  She is wearing some kind of overalls, but the distinctive female form still comes through. He decides to slow down and assess the situation. A girl makes all the difference in trying to reach a decision for or against a pickup. After all, who knows where this could lead? He does know that in all probability, she is not likely to stick a knife in his ribs and demand his wallet after a couple of miles down the road.

He eases the car to the shoulder and can’t help kick up some dust in the process. The sign is facing him even as the person turns away to avoid the dust storm he has created. Kansas City in black marker on cardboard is all it says.

He opens the passenger door and waves her over. “I’m going to Kansas City. Want a ride?”

The young woman looks back at him, and he can tell she is doing an evaluation on the safety prospects of accepting a lift. She slowly hoists her backpack on to her shoulder and walks with hesitant steps toward the car. She puts her hand above her eyes to cut the glare of the sun and stops short of the door. She leans in. “Did you say you’re going to Kansas City?”

“Yes. Yes, I did. I also asked if you would like a ride.”

“That all depends on your intentions?”

“My intentions?”

“Yeah. You are offering a ride. How much will it cost me?”

“Cost you? I’m going to Kansas City. Your sign says Kansas City. Why would it cost you anything?”

“Just want to make sure is all.”

“No charge. I’ve been on the road forever, it seems, and I would welcome the company. My name is James.”

“Sorry, James. I know I sounded a little ungrateful, but I have also been on the road and have met several guys that think I owe them something for a ride.”

“I can understand that. Let’s just say you can ride or not it’s your choice. No other decisions to be made.”

“Fair enough. I accept your offer. My name is Sarah.” She slides in and slams the door.

“Nice to meet you, Sarah. You want to put your backpack in the rear?”

“No, I’ll just keep it here in the front with me. You can never tell.”

“Tell what?”

“When I’ll have to bail. Everything I own is in this pack, and I sure wouldn’t want to leave it behind.”

“I get it. No use trusting someone just cause they say you can.”

“Right. I think I like you, James.”

“Wainwright. My last name’s Wainwright. How about you?”

“Not sure I have a last name. I go by Sarah.”

“No last name? How can that be?”

“You going to start this car or is my fear well founded.”

James flushes as he turns the ignition. “Yeah, here we go.” He looks in the side mirror and signals as he pulls back on the highway.

“You are a cautious one. There’s no one for miles.”

“I guess it’s a habit from city driving.” He keeps checking in the mirror until he is up to highway speed

“Where you from, James?”

“New York. You?”

“I think I was originally from down south somewhere.”

“You don’t know?”

“Well, it’s been a long time.” She pauses.

James glances at her and sees that she is lost in thought somewhere. Her skin is fair, and she has the high cheekbones and lips of a runway model. She looks vaguely familiar, and he compares her looks to Joni Mitchell. There is that innocent, fragile look that makes you want to take care of her.

“I’m sorry. What did you say?” She is back.

“I didn’t say anything. I’m amazed you don’t know where you are from.”

“Well do you remember where you’re from or is it someone told you?”

She has a point. James only knew he was born in Chicago because his parents told him so. He lived in New York for twenty years so unless clued in he would have thought he lived there his whole life. “I guess I should rephrase the question. Where did you last live?”

“Yes, James. That makes a little more sense. I last lived in Dubuque, Iowa.”

“What a coincidence. I am driving from Dubuque. Do you believe that?”

“I can believe that. Someone once said there are only six degrees of separation of everyone on Earth. You and I traveling from Dubuque at the same time certainly falls into that realm.”

“Aw come on, Sarah. We are both going from Dubuque to Kansas City. That has to be more than a coincidence.”

“I never said I was going to Kansas City, James.”

“Wait. You have that sign that says Kansas City.”

“Doesn’t mean I’m going there.”

“What does it mean?”

“You think I know?”

“I’m getting a weird feeling here, Sarah. Like you aren’t telling me something.”

“Do you remember swerving after you ran off the highway?”

“What? Back there. Yeah, I remember almost falling asleep. Hey, wait a minute. How would you know about that?”

“Think a minute, James. How do you think I would know about that moment?”

“Sarah I’m too tired for guessing games. What is this all about?”

“Do you feel okay, James?”

“Yeah, just tired.”

“Look around. Do you see any other cars?”

“No, but I haven’t for a while. What are you trying to tell me, Sarah?”

“You fell asleep, James.”

“When did I fall asleep? I know I nodded off, but when did I fall asleep?”

“Just before your car went off the road and you hit a cement culvert.”

“Now, you are joking. Right? Right, Sarah?”

“No joke, James. Look ahead. What do you see?”

“Uh, up the road, you mean?”

“Yes, up the road.”

“Nothing, but what looks like a sandstorm.”

“It’s no storm, James. It is nothing.”

“Who are you anyway?”

“Do you remember that little girl who went missing in the second grade?”

“Yeah, what does that have to do with you?”

“Does the nickname Jimmy Jeans mean anything?”

“That’s what Sarah called me in the second grade.”

“How did I know that?”

“You wouldn’t unless.”

“Unless I’m Sarah.”

“Oh My God. Sarah. It is you. Where have you been?”

“That’s not important. What is important is you were broken-hearted when I vanished. You prayed for my return and made promises to God if only I would come back.”

“I never got over that either. I think of that little girl. I mean, I thought of you almost every day. Why didn’t I recognize you?”

“’Cause I’m all grown up. There would be no way.”

“Where have you been, Sarah. I have missed you so much.”

“Don’t cry, James. I’m here with you now.”

“Can you tell me what happened to you?”

“No, James, it’s not worth the time.”

“So why now? Why are you here now?”

“To help you, James.”

“To help me. How?”

“To understand what your life is like now.”

“Now? What do you mean?”

“You were in an accident, James. You ran off the road, and I am sorry to say your body didn’t survive. You are now going with me on an eternal trip.”

“You are saying I’m dead. I can’t believe that.  Look at me. I’m just as alive as you.”

“That’s right. You are.”

“Um, Sarah?”

“Yes, James.”

“You are dead too?”

“Yes, James. A man took me from school and killed me. They never found my body.”

“W-what?”

“Don’t think about that now. Think about the future. Because you prayed so hard and missed me so much, I was given the honor of escorting you to the other side.”

“Other side? There’s a future?”

“A wonderful one.  You and I for all time.”

“I would like that.”

“Take my hand then. Let’s be off.”

“I have more questions.”

“All in good time, James. All in good time.”

THE END

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

John W. Howell RWISA Author Page

A Story of Love and Time

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Rick Sikes original story and this one always touched me. Of course he writes in parables, but I see the comparisons clearly. Enjoy!

A STORY OF LOVE AND TIME BY RICK SIKES

     I can’t tell you why men write and I have been thinking pretty hard on it these past few hours. It could be a man finds something inside of him so damn beautiful that he wants to get it down on paper before it slips away. I guess it could be that a man stumbles onto a thought so damned earth-shaking he figures just about everybody should get a chance to hear it. Who knows? Not me. I ain’t no writer. I’m a cowboy…

     But, here I am writing!

     It all started last night. You see, when the whistling West Texas wind drives chariots of tumbleweed across this God-forsaken plain, a man finds his body creeping closer to the fire as surely as he finds his mind seeking the warmer memories of his past… and last night was black ice, raw and bitter… and as surely as my fire drew me to its warmth, one of my memories drew my soul… until… like a Roman Candle exploding in huge darkness, I saw that memory in a new light… and I was wanting to write it down… so I could share it… earth-shaking or not…

     So, here I am, sitting on my saddle, with a pencil in my ol’ paw and an empty stomach, doing two things I ain’t never done before…

     Missing breakfast and writing a story!

     But, sometimes a thought can feed what a meal can’t. Depends on a man’s hunger I reckon.

     I know the thoughts in the Good Book used to feed my mama, and I can remember a teacher I had once, years ago. They fed me so much poetry that my heart was filled to bursting because I couldn’t let it out for fear that my pals would laugh me to shame.

     Funny, ain’t it… how one thought leads on to another? And that brings me to the memory I discovered last night.

     I grew into manhood on a rocky Texas ranch. Pa died early. Ma still lives on the place. The soil ain’t good for nothing but cactus and windstorms on that place and it weren’t no different when I was growing up. But, we had some times on the old place worth remembering, and I find it’s true the older I get, a few things happened there a boy had to grow into understanding. My story’s about one of those things.

     There was an old billy goat on our place. He was wild and wicked, crafty and cantankerous and smelly and scrawny. He was also lonely. His smell would gag a buzzard and he was so scraggly looking that the horned-toads paraded their ugliness past him like it was finery. Pa used to say, when we’d catch a glimpse of that ol’ goat, he was so poorly looking that he’d force a train to take a dirt road. I always smiled and nodded.

     Pa died in the winter of my fourteenth year. Later the same year, April I think it was, I came up on a sight which I didn’t give much thought to ‘til last night. I was with our hired hand and his boy, Junior Bascomb.

     Junior was my best and only friend growing up. He was two years older than me and I always thought of him as a kind of god. I guess he must’ve known the answer to every growing-up question I ever wanted to ask.

     Anyway, we rode up on one of the prettiest roses a man could ever want to see. Right next to that rose, laid out and dry, was the bones of that ol’ billy goat. I can remember Junior Bascomb saying, “Well, now, ain’t that the purdy’est rose you ever seen?” And his Pa answering, “It surely is.” I can remember how we all noticed the skeleton of that ol’ goat and sort of laughed when Junior’s Pa said the old billy would’ve eaten it sure.

     Junior wanted to pick the rose for a little gal he was seeing in town, but his Pa told him to leave it where it grew. When Junior asked why, his Pa said, “Well, son, I think it’s kinda nice for old Billy, onery cuss he was, to have such a purdy flower growing there by his grave…”

     And we rode on…

     And I’ve been riding on ever since.

      I’ll be fifty come June.

    But, somewhere between then and now, I’ve come to look on that long ago day with a different view… and I guess my story is a little more than the story of an old billy goat and his rose. Just as a man sees things a tad different than a boy… because in my man’s soul I can almost see that old, lonely billy goat wandering through his empty days. That lonely little rose was solitary but splendid; nourished by a tiny stream and hemmed in by a few weeds.

    I can see the old billy goat coming up to that little rose, and I can see him wanting to eat it, but he didn’t because he felt something just in looking at it that he hadn’t felt in years.

     He felt younger, richer and less lonely.

     So, he grazed all around the area and he fell in love with the awesome intensity only an old creature can feel. The sight of the rose made him spry and the scent of the rose put him in a romantic mood. One day, he became so jealous of the weeds growing around his rose that he tore them from the ground and gobbled them down in a frenzy that he hadn’t felt in years. They tasted terrible in his mouth, but seeing them gone made him feel pure in his soul. He had never been so happy. At night, the warm breeze blew the fragrance of his rose softly into his nostrils and he slept well.

     The summer passed well. Every day began with the sight of his lovely, dew-kissed rose, and every day ended with perfume and dreams.

     But as summer ended and the rose began to fade, the old goat began to eat less and less and worry more and more. When the frost came, chilling and killing his love, it killed something in the old goat too. One by one, the petals dropped from the rose into the dust and the old goat followed soon after.

    Every year, around spring the rose returned to bloom beautifully, beside the bleached bones of the old billy goat. Eventually, the sands shifted, covering both Billy and his rose…

     But what is covered is not always forgotten,

     And what truly matters finds a way to bloom again.

     Even in the heart of an old cowboy.

For more about the life, times and music of Rick Sikes:

http://www/ricksikes.com

http://www.jansikes.com

What comes first?

April kicks off two separate short story writing competitions for me. So, I started going through my folder of ideas and characters and it struck me the varied ways stories come.

It made me wonder. Which comes first for you, as an author?

The story idea?

Or the Characters?

For me, it has come both ways. For my short story, “Maggie,” the characters came first, then the story idea followed.

For “Obsessed,” the story idea came first and the characters followed.

Is there any right or wrong way? Absolutely NOT! It is exactly the same concept with songwriting. Sometimes the melody comes first and the lyrics follow. Other times, the lyrics come and the melody follows. But, on rare occasions, both the melody and lyrics come together hand-in-hand.

That’s when there is magic!

And when the magic happens, the readers feel it. Or, in the case of music, the listeners.

In the first Creative Writing class I ever took, the professor asked the question, “What does every human have in common?”

Of course, the answers were that we breathe air, we drink water, we have to eat and require sleep. He agreed with all those answers, but he said the one characteristic that every human being possesses is the innate desire to feel something. The answers to “feel what?” are as varied as there are individuals. But, the desire to feel is present in everyone in some form or fashion.

As writers, it is our job to make sure that happens with our stories.

But, I’m curious. Which comes first for you? The story idea? Or the characters? Or, like with me, does it vary?

2018 The Year of the Short Story!

I’m still looking back at 2018, and one thing that stands out for me, in the literary world, is the number of short stories that were published.

Part of the reason for the large surge was a 90 Day Alpha/Omega Beginning to End Short Story contest sponsored by the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB.

While I didn’t read every entry, I did devour a good many and was completely amazed at the writing talent!

I’m going to list a few of the top reads I found and hope you’ll check them out.

I have to start with some shameless self-promotion. “Two Shorts and a Snort” won the GRAND PRIZE in the contest! Needless to say, I was speechless.

Purchase Link

This book consists of two short stories and a poem. The first story, “Obsessed” is a story about a man who will do anything, even commit murder to win a lady’s hand in marriage. The second story, “Maggie” is about a baby found in the snow. Could it be that Frank and Mary prayed this baby up? The poem is one that is all-too-familiar. When friends of the opposite sex cross lines and become lovers. “Well, I think I liked you better when we were friends instead of lovers.”

Next up is the first-runner-up from the contest, “Tequila Rose Virginity Blues” by Wendy Jayne!

Purchase Link

It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of Wendy Jayne Scott’s writing. And this short story grabbed me from the first page!

Here’s a short excerpt from my review:
“When Tequila Rose wakes up one morning with a hangover and no memory of the night before, things get even more complicated as a strange man is there with coffee and soup. Who is this incredibly hot and handsome man?”

The author of this next great short story is Rhani D’Chae. “I’ve Always Loved Women” took me by surprise and the twist that came was unexpected.

Purchase Link

Here’s an excerpt from my review:
“When a man falls in love for the first time and she is married to an abusive man, it can’t possibly end well. But, what happens next shocked and surprised. Is he an angel of mercy or a cold-blooded killer? You decide. Well-written and easy to read in thirty minutes or under.”

Another short story I read that was absolutely fantastic was “Open, Shut” by Nonnie Jules. It tells such a compelling story of the power of faith.

Purchase Link

Here’s an excerpt from my Review:
“This is an easy-to-read short story you can finish in around thirty minutes. It shares of one girl’s unwavering faith and the ripples of that faith long after she’s gone from this life. I loved the way so many people were deeply affected and changed in the short duration of this story. “

Another short story I thoroughly enjoyed came from Author, D.L. Finn entitled, “Bigfoot – A Short Story.”

Purchase Link

Here’s an excerpt from my Review:
“Many stories have been told about the mythical Bigfoot, but in this short story, D.L. Finn presents a different twist on every theory out there. With only a few characters, the author manages to weave an entire story including some backstory. Could it be that Bigfoot was from another planet in our galaxy? I don’t know. Read this short story and find out. This is a quick read and can easily be done on a lunch break. It will leave you wondering.”

I normally wouldn’t list two short stories by the same author, but this story was that good and I wanted to include “Hexed: A Purr-fect Catastrophe” by Wendy Jayne.

Purchase Link

An excerpt from my Review:
“I loved, loved, loved this short story! It has a bit of everything in the mix from magic to shapeshifters. When Cassidy finds herself with a big problem, she is determined to find out who has put this damnable hex on her and what she can do to reverse it. Warlock, Hunter Rutherford, wants Cassidy. He’s courted her for months and is no closer to getting intimate than he was at the beginning, but why? He can see the desire in Cassidy’s eyes.”

That’s six short stories you can read in a short period of time and be thoroughly entertained. I hope I interested you in at least one.

All these authors are members of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB and RAVE WRITERS INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS.

Hard Times – Part 4

This has been a short story based on a true incident that occurred to one of my older siblings and passed down from my mom. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as I wrap it up today.

When we left Ella, Walter and the children, they were in the doctor’s office where the doctor had removed the shards of glass from baby Charlie’s mouth. He is about to give them home care instructions. We’ll join them to see what he has to say.

Dr. Davis scrubbed his hands then pulled up a metal chair and sat across from Walter and Ella. “Even though I got all the glass I could see out of his mouth, we don’t know how much he might have swallowed.” He sighed. “And therein lies the problem.”

Ella leaned forward, cradling the now sleeping baby. “What can we do, doctor?”

“You may think this sounds crazy, but I want you to get some potatoes and boil them up. I’ll give you some cotton balls to take home with you. Tear off little pieces of the cotton and wrap the potato around it to make tiny balls, and make him swallow it. Do this several times a day. The cotton should grab any slivers of glass and he’ll pass them in his stool.”

The nurse had stood in the background, but moved forward. “Do you folks have potatoes?”

Walter shook his head. “But, I’ll get some.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to drop by your place later today to check on the baby,” Dr. Davis said.

“Thank you, sir,” Ella said quietly. “We’ll find a way to pay you.”

The doctor waved his hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s Christmas time and the least I can do.”

With a box of cotton balls in hand, Walter, Ella, and the children left the doctor’s office.

Inside the ragged old car, Ella let fresh tears fall. “Oh, Walter, I am so sorry. I only let him out of my sight long enough to hang out the washin’. He just can’t die.”

Walter touched Ella’s arm. “Pull yourself together. We’ll do whatever we can. We need to buy a few potatoes.”

Ella nodded and held Charlie close to her heart. She was grateful that Walter didn’t seem mad at her for not watching the baby closer. She didn’t think she could carry any more guilt.

Over the next few hours, together, Walter and Ella managed to get several potato cotton balls down little Charlie’s throat along with a few sips of water.

True to his word, the good doctor stopped by to check on him, promising a return visit the next day.

Ella sat rocking Charlie as the sunlight faded into cold darkness. “Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve, Walter. And, all I want is for our baby to be okay. If we can have that, it’ll be enough.”

Walter nodded. “I know.” He ran a hand through his thin hair. “It don’t seem to matter what we do, we can’t never get a break.”

Jane and Celie had been quiet since they’d left the doctor’s office. Jane sat in the corner with her doll while Celie sucked her thumb.

“Mama,” Jane said. “I’m sorry. I shoulda watched Charlie better.”

“Come here,” Ella said. “Now you listen here, Jane Smith. You are just a little girl. I shoulda never put that responsibility on you. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But, Santa won’t think so. He knows and he won’t bring us nothin’.”

Ella met Walter’s eyes over the top of the little girl’s head. Sadness crushed her heart. It was true. They had nothing for the girls and no hope of getting anything. Sadness turned to anger and she resented the folks that seemed to have more than enough. They worked hard and didn’t waste anything and yet nothing changed.

Throughout the night and the next day, Ella and Walter continued to poke the potato cotton balls down Charlie’s throat. He’d remained lethargic, only opening his eyes now and then and letting out a whimper.

Early on Christmas morning a car rolled to stop outside their tiny house. When Walter opened the door, he gasped.

“Merry Christmas!” Dr. Davis’ nurse said as she pranced through the door. “I brought you folks some things.” She sat down a large bag that included a ham and fresh vegetables.

Ella moved toward her. “Oh, dear! You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know I didn’t. But I wanted to. I’ve got a few things here for your girls too, if it’s okay with you.”

Ella nodded

Jane and Celie rushed forward. The nurse passed brightly wrapped packages to them and they tore into them like ravenous animals.

Squeals of excitement filled the small space, as they unwrapped new dolls, a set of jacks and a ball and a coloring book along with crayons.

Ella fought against more tears. In the midst of the chaos, Dr. Davis arrived.

He strode to Charlie and picked him up. The baby opened his eyes and smiled at the good doctor. After completing an examination, he turned to Walter and Ella. “I do believe we have a Christmas miracle. I think your little Charlie is going to be just fine. You folks did a fine job of doctoring him.”

And, so Walter and Ella along with their three children had a Christmas to remember.

For once, they filled their bellies with as much food as they wanted, and the future held hope…hope for a brighter day…hope for prosperity and hope for happiness.

THE END…

Ella
Walter

As I told you at the beginning, this was a true story passed down through the family. Above you can see Ella and Walter (my mom and dad, Marian and I.V. Smith).

I sincerely wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas! If you need a Christmas Miracle, I pray that you receive it. For, it is truly a magical time of year!

Hard Times – Part 3

When we left Ella and her three children, a kindly neighbor had driven them to the doctor’s office. Charlie, the baby, had eaten glass and was bleeding. Let’s join them in the doctor’s office.

Ella ushered the two girls up the steps and through the wooden door ahead of her.

A nurse dressed in a crisp white uniform and cap stepped from behind a desk.

“Oh my!” She gasped when she saw the child. “Doctor Davis, come quick,” she called over her shoulder.

“Please help my baby!” Ella cried.

The nurse reached for the bundle and Ella relinquished him into her arms.

“Tell me what happened.” The nurse quickened her steps toward the examining room.

Ella and the two girls followed. “I was outside hanging out washin’ when my oldest girl came screaming for me and said Charlie was bleeding.” She swiped a blood-stained hand across her weary eyes. “I was only gone for a little bit.”

The nurse laid the baby on a narrow table as Doctor Davis strode into the room.

He took one look at the baby and reached for cotton gauze. “Nurse Ingrid, fetch me the long tweezers, please.” He glanced up at Ella. “Your baby ate glass?”

She nodded, wringing her hands. “I don’t even know what broke or how it happened, I just got here as quick as I could.” Fresh tears streamed down her face.

The somber look on his face caused her heart to stop.

“This is very serious, ma’am.” He reached for the tweezers. “Nurse, hold him while I try to get these tiny shards out of his little mouth.”

Charlie kicked and screamed while the doctor worked. Ella moved to the table and helped hold his legs.

“Please tell me he will be all right,” she begged.

The doctor looked her in the eye. “I wish I could, ma’am. I wish I could.”

After what seemed like an eternity, Doctor Davis laid the tweezers on a tray and dipped cotton into a basin of water. He gently washed the inside of the baby’s mouth.

Ella sank into a chair near the table and dropped her head into her hands. The two girls moved to her side. Tears had subsided and Charlie finally closed his tiny eyes and slept.

They looked up when Walter dashed through the door. “What in tarnation has happened?”

While the doctor explained, the nurse finished cleaning the baby, wrapped him in a clean blanket, then laid him in Ella’s arms.

Ella barely comprehended the final words the doctor uttered to Walter. “He isn’t out of the woods by a longshot, sir. We don’t know how much he ingested or what it will do to his guts and stomach.”

Walter crossed the room to Ella and placed a trembling hand on her shoulder. “What can we do?”

TO BE CONTINUED

FINAL EPISODE SUNDAY 23RD

Hard Times – Part 2

I started a short story last Sunday that is based on true tales passed down from my mom and older sister. The story takes place during a time when the full raging effects of the Great Depression had displaced so many.

We met Walter and Ella Smith, who are living with their three children in a small wood-frame house that Walter built for $50 out of used lumber and bent nails. But, it was a sight better than the tent they’d occupied before the drafty tiny house. When we left them, Walter had gone off to work at the gas station and Ella had been summoned from hanging clothes on the line by her oldest daughter. The baby, Charlie, was bleeding. We’ll rejoin them now and see what has happened.

Ella burst through the door and gasped when she saw Charlie sitting in the middle of the floor wailing with blood running from his mouth. 

“Jane, what happened?”

The eight-year-old girl sobbed. “I don’t know, Mama. Me and Celie were playing and he started crying.”

Ella scooped up the crying baby and examined his mouth. Tiny shards of glass could be seen. 

A look back at the floor revealed more glass. 

She grabbed a quilt off the bed and wrapped it around him. “Jane and Celie, get your shoes on quick! We’ve got to go get help.”

Running like the devil chased her, Ella flew down the hill with the two girls close behind. 

She banged on the door of her nearest neighbor. 

A white-haired man opened the door. “What in tarnation is wrong, Ella?”

“Please, help me, Mr. Fagan, I’ve gotta get my baby to the doctor. He’s bleeding awful bad.” She swiped at the tears streaming down her face. “And he has glass in his mouth.”

The old man moved like cold molasses. “Well, then. Let me get my coat and I’ll drive you to Doc Davis’s.”

“Thank you, sir. But, can we hurry?” She attempted to soothe the squalling baby in her arms. 

Panic gripped her heart tight, like a vise around a ripe melon. She feared it might explode from the pressure. Guilt overtook the fear and she chastised herself for not taking the younguns outside with her. It’s just that it was so cold. 

Mr. Fagan hobbled out to the rusted 1934 Chevy coupe and groaned when he slid behind the wheel.

Ella wasted no time getting the girls into the car before joining them on the narrow seat. 

“Sh,” she rocked the crying baby. “Can we hurry, Mr. Fagan? I’m so scared.”

The old man ran a gnarled hand through his white hair and started the engine. “Don’t reckin I ever heard of a baby eatin’ glass before.”

“Me neither,” Ella managed. 

“Where’s Walter?” The old man asked.

“Working at the station today. Can you stop by there on your way home, and let him know?”

The old man nodded and pulled to a stop in front of the corner building where the doctor’s shingle hung.

Ella sprang from the car. “Jane, hold your sister’s hand.” They rushed inside the doctor’s office. 

                                                                             TO BE CONTINUED…………

Welcome to the Final Day WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW @NonnieJules)

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It is my honor and privilege to host the final story from the WATCH RWISA WRITE blog tour and the final guest is none other than the founder and CEO of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB AND RWISA, Nonnie Jules

Thank you all for joining us for this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase featured 19 talented writers, each having their own special day to be featured on multiple blogs.  Please take a moment after you’ve read the author’s work, to click on the link to take you to that author’s profile page on the  RWISA site.  On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest: Nonnie Jules

nj-5

EXCERPT FROM THE SEQUEL TO DAYDREAM’S DAUGHTER

(I’ve decided not to preface this piece with any details.  I’d like for the readers to try and “figure” out the direction this piece is going in.  Have fun!)

***

LEEZA

“Are you gonna buy me a drink or, are you just gonna sit there and stare at me?” Leeza asked the stranger at the bar.

“Uh, sure.  What are you drinking, pretty lady?”  Swirling to and fro, the man gripped the ridges of the bar to keep from falling from the bar stool.  “Hey, bartend, give this pretty lady what ‘er she wants and put it on my tab.”

Leeza looked him up and down.  Although not bad on the eyes, he didn’t strike her as a man with deep enough pockets to have a “tab” anywhere, but, who was she to judge?

“Vodka on the rocks,” she said, gesturing to the bartender.  When her suitor heard her request, his eyebrows shot up.

“Sure you can handle that strong of a drink, pretty lady?” he asked, still teetering.

“That’s not all I can handle.” Her suggestive wink was all the invitation the stranger needed to move a little closer, in spite of the fact that he could barely stand.

“So, what’s your name, pretty lady?” he slurred.

“Anything you want it to be, honey,” she replied.

“Really?  Well, I want your name to be Available.  So, are you?”

As he sat waiting for her response, she was reminded of her puppy, Scratches, paws perched on the windowsill, awaiting her return home from work.

“You gotta pay to play with me,” she nudged.

“Well, honey, you finish up that there drink of yours, and let’s head up to my room.  I’m in town on business and I would love the company of a beautiful woman going by the name…Available.”

In one fell swoop, she turned the glass up and the vodka was gone. The stranger’s eyes bulged again.  Clearly, he’d never seen a woman down a drink like that before.

Turning away from the bar and grabbing hold of his tie, Leeza led the way to the elevator of the hotel…the stranger following close behind, like a leashed dog.

“What’s your curfew, pretty lady?”

The elevator doors had only partially closed, when she took her hand and grabbed his penis through his pants.

“I’m a big girl, single with no kids…does that sound like someone with a curfew?” she asked, as the beep of the elevator signaled their arrival to their destination.

Stumbling ahead of her, the stranger swiped his key and pushed opened the door.  Leeza walked past him, falling backwards onto the bed.

“C’mon over here and let’s finish the party we started downstairs,” she said, kicking off her heels and propping her legs up on the bed…spread-eagle.

Balancing as he walked, the stranger stood over the bed with a huge grin plastered across his face.  Judging from the growing bulge inside of his pants, it was easy to discern that a grin awaited her there, too.

“C’mere.  You look as if you’re really happy to see me.” Leeza forcefully took him by the tie once again and pulled him on top of her.  When she began frantically unzipping his pants, he held her by the wrists to stop her.

“Whoa, filly…what’s your hurry?  You said you didn’t have a curfew so why the rush?  Don’t you even wanna know my name?” he quizzed.

“Well, I thought your name was Ready since that’s the way you came across downstairs.”  Leeza was no longer smiling – feeling a bit toyed with; and that was the feeling she hated most.

“You’re a funny one, aren’t cha?” he chuckled.  “Ok, well let’s ‘git to what we came here for!  By the way, my real name’s Jim.  Now tell me yours…”

“Nothing’s changed,” she whispered in his ear.  “I’m still…Available.”

Switching off the lamp, she proceeded to undress him by the orange glow of moonlight trickling through the window.   This was a typical night for Leeza.  Raunchy sex with yet another man she didn’t know, nor cared to.  After a while, she just lay there and let him have his way.

Then, just as quickly as it had begun, the party was over…at least, for her. The banging inside her head warned of the onslaught of another massive headache and there was no getting away from it.

Her enjoyment of the night’s events came to a screeching halt as the next one started to take over.

CHRISTY

Jim opened his eyes to a blonde pointing a gun in his face.  Startled, he scanned the room for the brunette he’d brought back with him the night before, but, she was nowhere to be found.

“Give me your wallet!” the blonde demanded.

“Who are you?  And, where is Available?” he asked, his eyes still searching.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t want to know what you’re talking about, capiche?  My name is Christy and I’m not going to ask you again.  Give me…your wallet.”

Jim pointed to his clothes that he’d been stripped of the night before, strewn across the floor.  “You didn’t ask me the first time,” he said.  “My wallet’s in there. Take whatever you want, just get outta my damn room.”

Christy stooped to pick up the pants, throwing them at him; the gun, nor her eyes, hardly ever leaving the target as she moved.

“Hey, I don’t take orders from you. Remember that. Now give me everything in there that’s spendable.”

Jim snatched the bills from his wallet and threw them at her.  “Here, this is all I have,” he muttered, his tone laced with anger.

“I saw plastic.  I want those, too.  And don’t make the mistake again of throwing anything at me,” she warned, raising the gun to remind him who was in charge.

Jim mumbled something as he gently placed three credit cards on the bed.  Christy snatched the cards up and backed slowly towards the door.  Her hands had barely touched the door handle when she heard Jim yell, “Get out, you bitch!”

Pushing herself away from the door and calmly walking back over to the bed, she could see the fear which had quickly taken up residence in his eyes…the moment when he knew he had pushed too hard.

The growing smirk across her lips catapulted into a full-blown sneer as she lifted the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

“Don’t you ever call me a bitch again.  I told you my name was Christy.”

The End

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Nonnie Jules’ RWISA Author Page

How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click

Day #16 Welcome to WATCH RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour #RRBC

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Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 talented writers, each having their own special day to be featured on multiple blogs.  Please take a moment after you’ve read the author’s work, to click on the link to take you to that author’s profile page on the  RWISA site.  On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest: Beem Weeks

Beem Weeks

Nightly Traipsing

By Beem Weeks

There might’ve been a dream. Or maybe not. Violet Glass really couldn’t recall. Probably, though. A dream concerning some stupid boy—or even a girl.

Whatever.

Can’t control what creeps through your sleep.

Her body stirred awake as the blackest part of night splashed its inky resolve across that part of Alabama.

Violet stared at the ceiling, tried like the dickens to recall a face, perhaps a voice—anything belonging to the one responsible for this latest agitation.

Nothing came through, though.

Even dead of night did little to lay low that sticky heat. Old-timers in town swore oaths affirming this, the summer of 1910, to be more oppressive than any other summer since before the war between the states.

Violet eased her body from her bed; the soles of her feet found cool the touch of creaking floorboards.

There’d be nobody to catch her—not at this hour.

Nobody, but Ruthie.

And Ruthie Sender?—she’d never let on of these doings.

Violet scampered through the kitchen, flung her blue-eyed gaze against the darkened parlor. Only shadows and silence bore witness to her planned escape, a girl’s nightly traipsing.

The back door gave up with only minor provocation.

Dripping moonlight splashed the yard with a silvery sheen; promising secrets lingered among the gathered glow.

Around the rear of the house she skulked, careful to hold close to the shadows, to remain hidden from the ones who’d blab, those others who’d hold it over her head for gain.

Back behind the barn she found her crouching spot, fell low to the ground, fixed sight on the direction of Ruthie Sender’s place a few hundred yards away. Traipsing just didn’t hold its fun without Ruthie tagging along.

Violet rushed her granddad’s cotton field without that hesitation she’d known only a summer earlier.

Shadows stirred and wiggled in the distance. Figures formed, made shapes around a low-burning fire. Even at the center of all that cotton, Violet could pick out words of songs sung by the coloreds, those kin to Ruthie Sender.

They sang about standing on wood, an old slave’s saying, drawing up recollections of a time they themselves belonged to someone else.

Belonged to Violet’s kin.

Wood smoke fogged the night air.

Violet hunched low, skirted the yard where those coloreds took up with their fire and song and whiskey. Friendly sorts, all of them. Always first with a kind word, an interest in Violet’s family, how the girl’s folks were getting on—even if that interest leaned toward pretend. But that’s the nature of the matter. It’s Violet’s great-granddad who’d once owned all those souls that gave creation to the very ones now singing and drinking.

She broke through shadows collected beneath an ancient willow tree, found respite behind the Sender family’s privy, and waited for the girl to either show or not show.

The colored girl’s legs appeared first, dangling from the pantry window, bare feet scrabbling at the air, searching for a solid thing to set down upon. The thud of her sudden drop wouldn’t wake anybody.

A dingy gray nightshirt clung to Ruthie’s body. Her dark-eyed gaze landed out where she knew to find Violet. If the girl offered a smile, it couldn’t be seen—not from this distance.

“Go out back of Tussel’s, maybe?” Ruthie asked, finding space in Violet’s shadow.

“Catch a strap across my butt, I get found by that saloon again,” Violet promised. “Daddy don’t say things twice.”

Ruthie said, “Chicken liver.”

Violet backed down a notch, weighed her options. “Who’s gonna be there?”

“Fella named Ferdinand something. Plays piano.” Ruthie tossed a nod toward those others out by the fire. “They won’t share us no whiskey.”

“Won’t share up to Tussel’s, neither—unless you got some money.”

*      *      *

They were born the same night, Violet and Ruthie, back during spring of 1895. Only a few measly hours managed to wedge in between them, separated the girls from being twins of a sort.

Close enough, though.

Ruthie came first—if her folks were to be believed.

“Where we going?” Violet asked, following after Ruthie’s lead.

“Lena Canu’s place,” said Ruthie.

“How come?”

“She got stuff to drink, mostly.”

Droplets of sweat ran relays along Violet’s spine, leaving the girl’s skin wet, clammy. “Awful hot, it is.”

“She a conjure woman,” Ruthie announced, laying her tone low, protected. “—Lena Canu, I mean.”

Midnight’s high ceiling lent sparse light to the path splitting the two properties. Violet’s kin, they’d once owned the entire lot. Her great-granddad, he’s the one took notion to make things right, gave half of his land to the slaves he turned loose after the war.

Ruthie’s kin, mostly.

Senders and Canus.

Couldn’t ever really make a thing like that right, though.

A small cabin squatted in the brush; the orange glow of a lamp shined in the window. Used to be a slave’s shack, this one here.

Moonlight dripped on the colored girl’s face, showed it round and smooth, lips full and perfect, eyes alive with life and mischief. “Gonna see does she have any drink.”

Violet leaned closer, her bare arms feeling the other girl’s heat. She asked, “Can she tell fortunes?”

“Like reading a book.”

That dark door yawned wide; Lena Canu peered into the night. “I’ll tell your fortune, white girl,” she said.

Ruthie gave a nudge, guided Violet up the walk and into the shack.

A table and four chairs congregated at the center of the bare space. Kerosene fed a flame dancing like the devil atop the glass lamp. A pallet in a corner threw in its lot with the scene.

Lena Canu tossed a nod toward her rickety table. “Have you a seat, now,” she ordered, “—both of you.”

Violet sat first. Ruthie found perch across from her friend. Beneath the table naked feet bumped and rubbed, each girl assuring the other this would be a good turn.

“You one of them Glass girls, ain’t you?” Lena asked, dropping onto a chair of her own.

Violet said, “Yes, ma’am.”

Lena waved her off. “Ain’t no ma’am. Call me Lena, is all. You the one runs wild.” A pronouncement rather than a question.

Ruthie asked, “You got any liquor?”

A clear pint bottle came into the moment; its bitter amber liquid promised that sort of burn a person won’t mind.

Each girl drew off a long pull, let the heat mingle with their blood. Neither girl had ever gone full-on drunk; only a swig or two is all they ever dared.

Lena Canu, conjuring woman, spread a pile of bones over the table and commenced to ciphering future happenings a girl might need to know.

Things about boys and marriage didn’t come up. Neither did mention of babies and such. All Violet heard portended mainly to trouble.

“Quit you runnin’ wild,” Lena proclaimed, “and you be just fine.” She took up her narrow gaze again, aimed to settle matters. “But you keep doin’ what you been doin’, things gonna go bad.”

The suddenness of gunfire echoed through that sticky air. Three quick shots chased by a lazy fourth that staggered along a moment later.

Lena jumped first, ran for the door. Ruthie followed after, peering into the dark, no doubt expecting to put a face to the one pulled that trigger.

Violet remained stuck to her chair, attentions tugging between the matters outside and those sayings left to her by that conjuring woman. Did she really believe in such things, or was it all just a mess of nonsense?

“What am I gonna do to make things go bad?” she asked, supposing it wouldn’t hurt to know—just in case.

But Lena had other notions to work over. “Sounds like they come from over to your place,” she said to Ruthie.

Ruthie tipped a nod, said, “Could be they gettin’ liquored up too much, huh?”

“Might could,” answered Lena.

It happens that way, boys and their whiskey, wandering along crooked paths of discontent, blabbing things not really meant for harm—just boasting, is all.

But boasting to a drunken fella is as good as a punch on his nose.

“Gonna go see,” said Ruthie, pushing past the threshold, pressing on toward home.

Violet held her ground, let the colored girl disappear in the night. Attentions ceased their tugging, settled on the one making proclamations concerning bad manners and trouble to come.

Lena came loose of her thoughts, brought one to words, said, “Go on home now, white girl. Nighttime belongs to devils.”

*      *      *

Clouds laid a brief smudge against the moon, stripped its shine right off the night, left Violet to wonder if it really might be footsteps stumbling along behind her, following that same narrow path toward home.

“Fool boys,” she muttered, tossing nervous glances over either shoulder.

Footfalls fell heavy—like boots hammering the earth. An eager thing born of desperation.

Violet bolted left, squatted low behind a pile of brush that had the makings of a snake shelter. She held her breath and waited for the one at her back to pass on by.

A piece of tree limb came to her hand, a long and heavy thing, able to put a soul right should he come at her with wrong intentions.

That smudged moon went shiny again, dripped light across the path, showed off the shape of a man loping toward home. Tall and thin, this one; he moved quick with purpose.

Going the wrong way, though, Violet thought, waiting for the man to pass.

She gained her feet, charged his retreat, swung that heavy piece of wood and caught that interloper straight between his shoulders.

“Jay-zus!” the man hollered, hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes.

“This is private property!” Violet informed him, fixing up for a second swing.

The fella pulled up on his knees, tried to reach for that spot on his back no doubt gone swollen. He said, “It’s private property only ’cause I say so.”

Foolishness seeped into the girl. She squinted against the dark, drew recollection of his face. “Granddad?” she said, hoping her recollections proved wrong.

“What the hell are you doing out here?” he demanded, giving his legs a try.

“Came out to use the privy,” she fibbed. “Heard gunshots, came to see, is all.”

“Liar!” the old man spat. “You been gallivanting again, ain’t you?” He moved closer to the girl, sized her up, made a big fuss over her running around in only a nightshirt and nothing else. “Your daddy’s gonna hit ya where the good Lord split ya—then he’s gonna move you to your sister’s room upstairs. Won’t be no sneaking out from there.”

Her gaze caught that glint at his waistband, a familiar hunk of blued steel. “Don’t matter,” she said. “Daddy’s gonna put you in the county home.”

“On account of what?”

“On account of you’re going senile, traipsing off, bothering colored folks again with that pistol of yours.” Violet leaned closer, continued her spiel. “Heard him and Mama talking just last week, saying how you’re a danger to yourself just as much as to others.”

The old man’s jaw fell open and slammed shut; intended words went lost to the night. He couldn’t tell on her now—not without personal risk.

Defeat fogged his eyes. “I won’t tell your business if you don’t tell mine.”

Violet seized the moment with both hands. “That depends,” she informed him.

“On what?”

“Who’d you shoot tonight?”

“Nobody. Just meant to scare, is all.”

“Gonna kill somebody one day—if you ain’t already.”

“Ain’t in my blood, killin’.”

“Don’t have to mean it to do it.”

The old man pulled back, let frustration have its way. “We got a deal or don’t we?”

“You gonna leave Ruthie’s people be?”

“Just want what’s mine,” he complained.

“But it’s their land, Granddad—been so for forty-five years. A hundred guns ain’t gonna make it not so.”

He never did wear misery well.

Violet’s arms went easily around the man. She pulled close to him, breathed in that familiar odor of sweat and tobacco.

He said, “I won’t bother them no more.”

“Then we have us a deal.”

 The End

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Beem Weeks’ RWISA Author Page

How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click

Day #11 Welcome to WATCH RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour #RRBC #RRBCWRW

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Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 talented writers, each having their own special day to be featured on multiple blogs.  Please take a moment after you’ve read the author’s work, to click on the link to take you to that author’s profile page on the  RWISA site.  On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest: Oh Look! It’s me! Jan Sikes

PARADISE BELOW

JAN SIKES

Emma Dupont shifted her backpack and lowered her head as she struggled through the crowded street. Panic struck as the sunlight faded.

It would mean sure death to get caught out after dark

“Watch where you’re goin’, you stupid bitch!”

Rough hands shoved her into the edge of speeding traffic. With great effort, she steadied herself, stepped back onto the sidewalk, and quickened her pace.

Making sure no one noticed her, she ducked into an alleyway and banged on the side of a blue dumpster with a series of raps. A camouflaged door slid open.

She tossed her backpack inside then hurried down the metal steps into the arms of a dark-haired man who held her while she sobbed.

“Susan, please bring Emma a cup of tea,” he instructed.

A tall blonde woman hurried away.

“I can’t go back up there again, Donovan. I just can’t.” Emma moaned. “They are no more than savages. Armed soldiers are everywhere, questioning everyone, barely controlling the mobs of hate-filled people. It’s awful.”

She didn’t tell him she’d felt someone watching her as she pushed through the street. The noose was tightening, but she’d die before she’d expose their hiding place.

Donovan rubbed her shoulders. “Don’t think about that right now.”

Susan appeared with a steaming cup and pressed it into Emma’s hands.

“Try to relax,” Donovan tucked a tendril of brown hair behind her ear.

Emma sank down against the cold concrete wall and let the warmth of the tea soothe her ragged nerves She watched while Donovan emptied the contents of the backpack.

When he looked up, his eyes shone. “You did good, love. We almost have enough.”

After the last election, conditions in the US had deteriorated. Humanity had gone crazy. Hate flourished and people killed each other over the slightest disagreement. Satan reigned.

Evil permeated every corner. Small handfuls of people banded together and escaped into underground tunnels determined to live in peace and raise their children.

Fed up with the insanity, Emma didn’t hesitate to join. Her group had one plan.

They had to get to Mexico.

The government’s restriction of money forced them to withdraw small amounts at a time. Emma’s experience of working in banks gave her the ability to gather the funds they needed to escape.

They were almost there, but nine months of living beneath the crazed streets of Dallas had taken its toll, especially on the children. Deprived of vitamin D, they grew lethargic and pale.

Resources, time and patience grew thin.

“I’ve been in communication with others in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. We’re almost ready to make our move,” Donovan said. “But, one mistake will mean death.”

Emma nodded. She didn’t care. The thought of dying didn’t frighten her.

Jasmine tea helped slow her heart rate and settle her nerves.

Donovan dropped beside her. “I never imagined that the ‘Land of the Free’ and the ‘Home of the Brave’ would deteriorate into such a state of evil, and hate.” He blew out a long sigh. “We’ve lost everything.”

Emma placed a hand on his arm. “But, we haven’t given up. And, we’ve kept love in our hearts.”

Susan and several others gathered around. “With trust in God and help from the angels who watch over us, we’ll survive,” she said. “We’re the future of humanity. We are the Lightworkers.”

They formed a circle and joined hands. In a melodic voice, a woman with straight black hair sang, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…”

Voices blended sweetly, and an essence of light filled the dank tunnel.

###

Melchizedek bowed his head overcome with the beauty and faith of the small group. He called Nemamiah and Charmaine to his side.

“It is almost time. We must rally everyone to watch over and help them. Please meet with the Ashtar Command and give them a report.”

Nemamiah folded his wings and nodded. Charmaine smiled and opened her wings to take flight.

“It is done.”

###

Emma barely survived her last venture above ground. When three hoodlums grabbed her and dragged her into a deserted alleyway, she fought hard, but they stuffed a dirty rag in her mouth and kicked her with the sharp toes of their boots.

From their sneers and insinuations, she knew they intended to take more than the contents in her backpack. She silently prayed.

The moment her attackers dumped the money out of her backpack, a flock of Ravens descended from nowhere, flapping their wings and pecking at their heads and eyes until they ran screaming from the alley.

Emma was sure they’d attack her next, but to her surprise, the birds hovered around her while she picked up the money, then flew above her while she ran for safety.

She shook her head when Donovan questioned her bruises and told him the angels had protected her.

Wheels were in motion. They would soon be away from the nightmare.

Donovan gathered the group for final instructions. “Travel light. Anything you don’t need, leave it. We have two vans, but there’s limited room.”

While the rest did the same, Emma gathered her belongings. She wouldn’t take more than she could carry on her back. She stared at a photo before tucking it into a zippered pocket. That life was gone. All she had left was her faith, strong will, and this family determined to live in peace.

By the time the twelve adults and four children were ready, the first shy rays from the sun graced the sky. It would be a long day.

They piled into the vans in an orderly manner. Donovan would drive one vehicle, and Michael the other.

Emma got into Donavon’s van. They’d grown close over the months of their confinement. She wouldn’t call it romance, but pure love. She’d grown to love all these gentle souls. Together, they would build a new life in paradise.

They slapped magnetic signs on the sides of the vans that read, “Hollow Road Baptist Church” and crawled through early morning traffic toward I-35 south.

They hit a roadblock a few miles outside Dallas.

“Remember what we rehearsed,” said Donovan as he pulled over.

Several of the group placed Bibles on their laps. Emma held her breath.

Armed soldiers approached. “Papers,” one soldier barked, “and state your destination.”

“Camp Zephyr, sir, for a retreat.”  Donovan handed him papers.

Soldiers surrounded both vans and peered through the windows. Emma was sure they could hear her heart pounding. She forced a smile.

Donovan stared straight ahead.

After what seemed like forever, the soldier passed the papers back through the window. “You can go. But, stay on the main roads. There are crazies around.” He motioned them on.

Donovan nodded and pulled away. “Emma, pull up GPS and find a back route, then tell Michael what we’re doing.”

The route took them through miles of open pasture and small Texas towns. Finally, their headlights pierced the darkness and lit up a rusted VW van shell.

Donovan pulled to a stop. “Everyone stays put until we know it’s safe.”

He jumped out. He and Michael hurried toward the VW, looking in all directions.

Emma chewed her fingernails and stared out the window. Nothing could go wrong now. They were so close.

Donovan had explained that a Coyote would escort them through the tunnel into Matamoros, where they would find papers and transportation.

When the men turned and waved, the group grabbed their belongings and exited the vans. One-by-one, they climbed down rickety wooden steps into a damp tunnel. Flashlights reflected off dirt walls supported by boards and rocks.

Painted on one board, “Paradise Below” promised a long-awaited redemption. The narrow tunnel forced them to walk single-file, and some taller men had to hunch over.

But, discomfort didn’t matter.

In an hour, they emerged onto a deserted side street in Matamoros where a dilapidated bus waited.

Without a word, the group filed onto the bus. The driver closed the door and ground the gears into forward motion.

Emma sat beside Donovan and reached for his hand. “We’re going to make it.”

He sighed and leaned back against the seat. “We are.”

A brilliant red sun rose over the ocean, bringing with it a new day, as the bus lumbered to a stop many hours later. Gentle waves lapped the shore and seagulls cawed as they swooped down searching for breakfast.

When the bus door opened, a couple dressed like American tourists greeted each person.

A woman with flaming red hair hugged Emma. “Welcome to Mexico. I’m sure you’re exhausted. We have rooms prepared for each of you.”

“Thank you,” Emma murmured soaking up the tropical scenery.

Paradise! They’d made it. No more hate, no more violence, and no more hiding.

They’d reached Pueblo de Luz, (City of Light).

A band of angels hovered above the group with tears of joy shining in their eyes.

There was hope for humanity.

Hope in these small groups that dared to keep love alive.

 The End

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And now for the winners in the giveaway on my 500th blog post! 

CONGRATULATIONS! 

MARK BIERMAN

GRACIE BRADFORD

Please visit the RRBC Catalog and email me at rijan21@gmail.com with your choice of eBook written by Suzanne Burke (aka Stacey Danson)!

You will find her books in these categories:

Biographies & Memoirs

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Paranormal, Sci-Fi & Fantasy