S10: Round Table Round Robin

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So, my creative writing class named ourselves The Writers of the Round Table. This week we did a Round Robin, where we each contributed to a story. I hope you enjoy!

“If I had known then what I know now, maybe things would have been different.” (GAINES)

She put her ballpoint pen to rest on the tray table in front of her.  Leaning her head against the window pane, her grey eyes stared dully over the rushing world outside. The train whistled hauntingly as it tore through the fog of the Appalachian countryside. (TAY & RAY)

I really wish they served fried chicken on these things, she thought, eyeing the overpriced bread rolls in the dining cabinet to the rear. (LYFORD) Not that even fried chicken could improve her mood (COPELAND).

“Hey,” her cousin Adam said as he took the seat across from her, fingers unbuttoning his suit jacket. He noticed her pensive, sorrowful face and sighed, looking out the window (MCHOPE).

“Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong, Latasha?  You’ve been sitting there silently for an hour and a half,” he said, bringing her out of her thoughts. (KENDALL)

Latasha gazed down at the crisp, blank pages in her journal.  Why won’t the words form on their own? (YOSHIOKA)

Adam’s voice broke in on her thoughts again. “Hey, I’m still here.” (COPELAND)

“May I offer you a cup of tea?” a young waiter coming up the aisle asked politely. The train suddenly rumbled, spilling his tea all over the table cloth and Adam’s white shirt. “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…I am really, truly, very sorry!” he gasped rushing to clean up the hot liquid. (Zuiderveen)
Adam jumped as the hot liquid soaked his skin, but he regained his composure almost instantly. (KENDALL) He let out his frustration in a quick breath then smiled at the waiter through clenched teeth.
“It’s fine,” he said in a genuine tone. “I’m sure it happens all the time on such a…bumpy train.” (NORTH)

The waiter sighed, and explained, “The newer trains are equipped with air suspension, but unfortunately, this one didn’t get it.  I guess that’s why people like, uh,” he glanced over, “authors ride the economy lines.” (LYFORD)

Latasha blushed hotly and shoved her notebook away into her satchel, out of sight. Humans. They were always jumping to conclusions. (COPELAND)

It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford to travel on the economy lines, it was that this train was the only one that could take her to where she needed to be. Where both her cousin and her needed to be. She could deal with a few bumps. (SCOTT)

Latasha stared out at the strange landscape rolling by.  Green trees, green grass, green flowers. Didn’t they have any other colors of vegetation? (Mr.SuSpence)

She shifted her gaze back to the cabin where, hopefully, a more interesting scene lay. (NORTH)

Most of the train was completely empty; people tended to prefer the newer and faster trains, but she spotted several other races that she recognized nearby. Across the aisle from her was the purple-skinned features of a Skorlax sitting next to another human. A few seats in front of them was a pair dark-skinned, white-haired Drow companions. (GARRISS)

“Ma’am? Can I get you anything?”

Latasha looked back at the waiter, wondering if this self-styled “economy line” carried anything fit for Martian consumption, let alone hers. (COPELAND)

“I’d like some hydrohydroxic acid,” she finally stated, opting for the safest bet. (LYFORD)

The waiter blinked. “Ma’am?” She asked confused. (SCOTT)

Adam covered a laugh with a cough next to her as she smiled and explained, “Sorry. I’d like some water, please.” (GARRISS)

Visibly relieved, the waiter hurried away. Adam raised an eyebrow, looking at his cousin. “That’s it? You feeling alright?” (COPELAND)

Latasha sighed, coming to terms with the fact that she’d have to tell her cousin at least part of the truth. “Adam,” she whispered, looking around to make sure there was no one nearby, “Adam, I want you to listen to me very closely. Nothing is as it seems on this train, so I want you to listen to what I’m about to tell you, and whatever you do, don’t ask questions.” (KENDALL)

“Okay?” he replied somewhat hesitantly. He almost had a smile on his face. He’s not even taking this seriously. (NORTH) Reaching into his pocket, Adam withdrew a glossy folded flyer. “Very cool, Latasha, but how about we check out some of these monuments and decide which ones we want to see when we get to — ” (COPELAND)

“No.”  Latasha cut him off.  “Look, I don’t think you want a bullet through your head so early on this journey–and assuming that, I think we’re on the same page here.  Let’s get started.” She pulled the notepad across the tray table and pointed it towards Adam, flipping away from the front page. Apparently, this wasn’t a journal at all.  (LYFORD)

Adam looked down uncomfortably at the detailed pages of the notebook. It contained drawings of some kind, things he didn’t recognize, and notes in a language he couldn’t read. (GARRISS)

“I’ve come across some things that maybe I shouldn’t have,” she began, scanning the pages. “Most of it is here, but I’m still missing a couple pieces that will give everything some clarity.” That was assuming she could find those pieces before someone else did. (NORTH)
“Oh, you came across something you shouldn’t have? Surprise, surprise,” Adam commented with a smirk. “But seriously, Latasha, what do you think you’re talking about?” (COPELAND)

Maybe the straightforward way was the best way.  “Ok, deep breath. And…” She took off her shoes, which she made sure to always wear wherever she went.  “…look at my toenails.” (Mr. SuSpence)

Adam hesitantly peered down and was greeted by what, at a glance, appeared to be regular feet but upon further inspection, were obviously not. The toenails were an odd shade of purple, not the shade of a bruise or other injury, instead a more unnatural, bright hue. He looked back up at Latasha, confusion evident on his face. (NORTH)

“I… I don’t know why they look like this…” Latasha’s voice trembled.  “I tried to rip it off, but it’s stuck!”

“Well, you didn’t try hard enough!” Adam accused as he reached for her feet. (YOSHI)

Latasha jerked her feet backwards, away from him. “I already tried to rip the toenail completely off, Adam. It hurts, and it doesn’t work.” She slipped her shoes back on before he could reach them. (GARRISS)

Adam stared at his cousin with concern.  He was done with the jokes. This was a serious matter. (YOSHI)

Taking a deep breath, Latasha pulled her notebook back in front of them again. “But look, I think I found a connection between the purple stuff that’s on my toes, and that brown goo that’s been taking over the forests.” (GARRISS)

“You mean there’s another color on Earth besides green?” Adam mocked, longing for the red dust back home on Mars.  “And what would brown goo have anything to do with the stuff on your feet?”  (YOSHI)

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out — I think I may be onto something. And even though you only really came to tour, I guess you’re stuck with me.” Latasha flashed her cousin a smug grin. (COPELAND)

“Looks like,” he said as his eyes wandered back to the journal that still lay open on the tray table. “But how do your purple toenails and the brown goo relate to all those drawings and stuff?” (NORTH)

Shaking her head, Latasha avoided Adam’s gaze. In the ensuing silence, the train’s piercing whistle shattered the air again, echoing in the small car. “None of it makes any sense,” she finally whispered, staring out the windowpane into the mist. (COPELAND)

“I went to what the humans call a spa,” Latasha confessed, earning a horrified gasp from Adam.  “That’s when the purple stuff first appeared on my nails. And then I was forced to bathe in the same brown goop we saw in the forest the other day — I think it i was called a mud bath.”  (YOSHI)

Adam stared at her, slowly shaking his head, his eyes wide. “Latasha, what in the Milky Way were you thinking?” (COPELAND)

“Nobody saw me, don’t worry.” Latasha shook her head and shrugged. “I’m tired of having to hide when Earth’s so different from home and I’ve only got a few more months to explore it all.” (ABLESON)

“But you could have been seriously hurt! What if the purple on your toenails spreads to your fingernails or your hair? There must be some way to get rid of it,” cried Adam completely exasperated. (ZUIDERVEEN)

“I know there should, but nothing seems to work. I tried baking soda, a sticky gel from the train bathroom, and scrubbing it until my feet were sore. Nothing seems to make it budge,” she sighed. (GUSTAFSSON)

“Okay, hold up,” Adam said, looking gravely into her eyes. “You have three months, Latasha. You can’t just do anything to yourself in the hope that it might work; you don’t have enough time for that.” (COPELAND)

“I know, I know,” she sighed, “but of course, there is one thing I haven’t tried yet.”

Adam’s eyes grew wide in horror.  “You don’t mean… you can’t possibly mean…” (KENDALL)

She nodded wordlessly, pulling a small, evil-looking vial from her personal storage module.  Nail Polish Remover, it read.  Adam gasped.  “Don’t breathe tha–”
She cut him off with a nod and a sickly smile.  She knew. (LYFORD)

The waiter chose that moment to walk by and set a magnetic-tumbler of water down on the tray in front of Latasha. Adam straightened his shoulders, assuming an impassive expression, and Latasha tried for a casual smile; neither attempt succeeded.

“Ah… is there anything else I can help you with, ma’am?” asked the waiter, staring at the cousins’ faces with mild concern. (COPELAND)

Latasha tried to conceal the vial in her hands as she shook her head.

“I believe all is well,” she replied, glancing at her cousin as if checking for his opinion. She just hoped that avoiding eye contact would leave the waiter unsuspecting of their situation. (NORTH)

As soon as the waiter left Adam turned towards Latasha and slammed his palm on the table. “You can’t be serious. That will burn your skin and melt your brain Latasha!” (SCOTT)

He had barely finished his sentence when the train lurched, causing the bottle to fly out of Latasha’s hand and roll down the aisle.

“Quick!” Latasha hissed. “If that stuff gets into the wrong hands, we’re all going to die.” (KENDALL)

Adam leaped to his feet and raced as quickly as he could down the aisle without raising suspicion. Thankfully, the bottle got stuck in a small notch on the side of another passenger’s seat. Adam was just breathing a sigh of relief when a hand reached down from the side of the seat and picked the bottle up. (GARRISS)

“Looking for something?” The man smirked, turning the bottle over in his gloved hands. (ABLESON)

Gritting his teeth, Adam straightened and forced a friendly smile. “Ah, yes, I –” (COPELAND)

“The human next to us dropped that!” Latasha interrupted quickly from behind him. “We were just grabbing it for him.” (GARRISS)

Adam winced as recognition flashed across the stranger’s features at the word “human.” With a smooth motion, the man dropped the bottle into the deep pocket of his traveling coat. (HIRCHERT)

Latasha tried to laugh and eyed her cousin worriedly. Adam’s strained smile faded from his face as he slipped back into his seat. Their only hope was gone… (ZUIDERVEEN)

“Um,” said Latasha, searching her brain for something to say. “So – you collect nail polish?” (ABLESON)

“No,” the man replied coolly, and turned away to face the window.

Latasha widened her eyes and raised her eyebrows at Adam behind the man’s back, trying to convey the general message of do something. Baffled, Adam only blinked in response. (COPELAND)

Remembering a phrase from a history textbook about Earth, Latasha attempted to casually say, “So, how ‘bout those freshly baked communists, huh?” (MCHOPE)

Choking, the man spun around in his seat, his eyes bulging from their sockets. All his chilly reserve had melted like butter. “Who are — ” (COPELAND)

“Unfortunately, I’m an abnormally large creature”, Latasha answered, winking.  That joke had always worked back home. (KENDALL)

“Dude, take a deep breath,” Adam told the man, who looked in danger of exploding. “Not with the diversity movement, I take it?” (COPELAND)

“Well, um…” Latasha searched for the expression she’d heard a million times. “Regurgitation to self… Not everyone’s as we expected.” (NORTH)

“Regurgi–” the man started. “What are you people, some sort of aliens?”  “HA HA HA”, Latasha laughed, glancing helplessly at Adam, “That’s soooo funny, isn’t it Adam?” (KENDALL)

But perhaps now was a good time to simply walk away. “I’d better get back to my, you know, notebook,” she fumbled, trying for a bright smile. “Got to keep jogging, you know?” (COPELAND)

The man arched an eyebrow and gave her a peculiar, suspicious, skeptical look. (MrSuSpence)

Adam mirrored it, turning to his cousin and saying,  “Never heard that one, Latasha.”

“These humans,” sighed Latasha under her breath. “They can’t seem to decide whether they’re journaling or blogging on the Internet these days.” (COPELAND)

“Excuse me,” a woman in the aisle over said, leaning in. She eyed the man with a wary eye, but she spoke to the cousins. “Did this man take your nail polish remover?” (MCHOPE)

At that moment, a butterfly the size of an elephant flew past the train window.  Latasha screamed, ducking down in the train aisle. Adam looked around, not knowing what in the Milky Way was even going on anymore. (KENDALL)

“Please, no butterflies,” Latasha whimpered into the train’s floor. “No butterflies.” (MCHOPE)

Adam crouched in the aisle next to his cousin, resting a hand on her shoulder. “If we stay calm, maybe it’ll just fly on by,” he suggested hopefully. (NORTH)

Latasha hesitantly glanced back at the window, a whole swarm of butterflies now buzzing past them.  “OH NO THEY’RE MULTIPLYING!” she screamed, grabbing her cousin by the collar and pointing at the ferocious beasts.  “They’re twitching their legs — ew look at that — THAT’S NOT NORMAL!” (YOSHI)

By now, Latasha wasn’t the only one yelling; everyone in the train car had noticed the strange sight. Some joined in Latasha’s screaming, while others simply stared out the windows in petrified fascination. As the sole passenger apparently unaffected by the butterflies, Adam decided he would have to be the voice of reason, so he (COPELAND) shut the window blinds.  (YOSHI)

Latasha, and everyone else in the car, now had something between them and the butterflies besides glass.  They could see the light flickering between the blinds as the flying monsters zipped up and down the car as it rattled on down the track.  (MrSuSpence)

Adam glanced around the quieting train car full of people who were still getting over their initial shock, and he spotted the woman who had made an inquiry before the whole crisis began. Remembering that, on Earth, it was rather rude to leave questions unanswered, he felt the need to reply, be it delayed.

“Yes, miss,” he said, leaning towards her, “this man did take the nail polish remover.” (NORTH)

The woman stared at him. “There were butterflies the size of elephants out there!” She whispered hoarsely, “I don’t care about the nail polish remover anymore!” (GARRISS)

Adam waved a hand in the direction of the window blinds. Humans were a little slow sometimes. “I don’t see any ‘butterflies the size of elephants,’ so maybe we can talk about the — ” (COPELAND)

Suddenly, the man that stole the vial from the cousins stood up and swiftly opened a window.  Ignoring the shrieks from the human woman, he pulled out the nail polish remover, twisted the cap open, and flung the contents at the evil insects.  The oversized butterflies hissed as the fiery liquid burned through their exoskeletons. (YOSHI)

The train car’s passengers watched in horror and relief as the remover exposed the malicious insects’ weakness – acetone? The specifics didn’t matter very much; many of the butterflies melted and many more began flying away from the threat. Crisis…averted? (NORTH)

“Latasha?  Lataaasha???  Hey!”

Adam snapped his fingers in front of his daydreaming cousin.  The young authoress blinked in surprise as the train cabin reverted back to it’s normal, boring, tea-stained state.  (YOSHI)

“Hm?”

“I asked how your Sandbox for Creative Writing was going,” Adam said, raising a curious eyebrow.

“Oh, I think I have the perfect plot twist,” Latasha said, suddenly laughing, “but I think that things would have been a whole lot different if I had learned early on not to procrastinate.” (KENDALL)

Adam chuckled, just as Latasha opened the worn pages of her notebook. “What’s that?” he exclaimed.

Latasha hid her face with the notebook, so he wouldn’t see her plans to take over the world. (CAYLOR)

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S4: Facing Fears Mad Lib

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Here is a mad lib for you all! The paragraph is taken from one of my short stories, Facing Fears. Try it out! Comment your results! 😊

Word List:

Verb:

Adverb:

Adjective:

Plural noun:

Adjective:

Plural noun:

Noun:

Verb:

Verb:

Adjective:

Mad Lib:

I _____ (verb) _____ (adverb) across the bridge, hoping to prove to Shauna that I was truly _____ (adjective). The layer of (plural noun) over the river was _____(adjective), but I didn’t mind anymore. I was elated at my discovery that my ______ (plural noun) could be conquered. A sparrow in a (noun) across the bank (verb) at me, but then (verb) away in a panic, along with its ______ (adjective) family.

Original paragraph:

I strode easily across the bridge, hoping to prove to Shauna that I was truly brave. The layer of fog over the river was heavy, but I didn’t mind anymore. I was elated at my discovery that my fears could be conquered. A sparrow in a tree across the bank winked at me, but then fluttered away in a panic, along with its whole family.

 

Cooking For Hollis

gaelle-marcel-101871.jpg(Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash)

In which my main character, Dahlia, of my fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun, finds herself on the TV show Chopped, on Food Network.

Dahlia paced into the room, heart beating quickly as the judges greeted her. She made her way to her kitchen set up, where she’d be fixing up a dessert to win the judges’ approval. She didn’t really know this man and this lady, but she had to do this, for her sister’s sake. She imagined Hollis at home, eyes glued to the TV, waiting for her beloved older sister to become the next greatest chef on Food Network.

Dahlia grumbled inside as a bubbly middle-aged lady named Freida with frizzy blonde hair came in, much more stylishly dressed than herself. What outlandish things people wore in the land of Autumn! (In Dahlia’s world, middle-aged people live in the land called Autumn.) The judges were middle-aged too, so surely they were helplessly taken captive by this lady’s charms. Dahlia hadn’t known what to wear or how to act—this wasn’t fair!

A young man named Jonas in a bright orange t-shirt followed, smiling to show his perfectly white teeth contrasted with his dark-chocolatey skin. He reminded her of Tarquin, but Dahlia had to shake the feeling off. She had to beat this man. She had to beat them all.

After that an older man named Carl with a gray beard and bright blue eyes entered, his shoulders stooped, but his genuine hand shake and kind words earning the judges’ quick admiration. His gentle, quiet manner reminded her immediately of Gesu.

At last, it was time.

The judge opened the picnic basket to reveal the three ingredients they must use in this dessert… Refried beans, pickle juice, and butternut squash.

What!?

Dahlia was sure her stupid expression was being portrayed to thousands of people all over the world this very moment. She laughed to herself. Including Hollis.

Quickly, she grabbed the sugar—always a good start for dessert.

She rolled in some flour, baking powder, and salt, then added the squash. A good thickener, maybe?

“Dahlia is making the base of her dessert, whatever it is. How are you doing, Dahlia?”

Never looking up at the man, Dahlia cut in some butter and added some milk, vanilla, and eggs to the flour mixture, whisking it frantically. “Um, yeah…”

The man laughed. “Dahlia is too busy to talk, and look over here, Frieda is making a luscious chocolate pie with the refried beans.”

The man’s voice droned on as Dahlia poured the flour mixture into a pan. But what would she do with the beans and pickle juice?

“30 more minutes!” called out someone.

This was insane. Hollis was probably laughing her head off right now.

Groaning, Dahlia quickly shoved the pan in the oven. She grabbed another bowl and threw in the refried beans and pickle juice, soon stirring it quickly. Sweat dripped down her face as she dumped in sugar and chocolate into the bowl.

Should she open the oven and put this bean mixture on the cake now? No, later. It could be the frosting or something.

“10 more minutes!”

Dahlia took out the cake and let it sit for a few minutes, as she eyed the others making ice-cream or pie—or something yummier than her ridiculous cake.

“1 more minute!”

What!?

Time had flown. Dahlia spread the bean mixture onto the cake that was hopefully cool, sliced two pieces for the judges and took a breath—just as the timer rang.

One by one the judges tasted the contestants’ desserts: Frieda’s chocolate pie, Jonas’ scones, and Carl’s ice cream with a thick chocolate-bean spread.

“This has no flavor!” the lady judge cried as she licked the brown spread.

Carl smiled quietly, but Frieda broke into laughter. “That’s what you get for giving us refried beans!” she declared.

Finally, the judges sliced their forks into Dahlia’s cake. They chewed slowly, leaving Dahlia’s heart pounding. Hollis would be so sad. Hollis would—

“Mmm…” The man murmured thoughtfully.

“This is… wonderful!” the lady exclaimed.

They couldn’t seem to say anything else for five minutes straight. Dahlia grinned. So, she had left them speechless.

Hollis would be so proud.

NPO: True Friendship

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(Photo by Dương Hữu on Unsplash)

This is a pangram story, where each new sentence begins with a new letter in the alphabet. Enjoy!

A sharp wind cut through my jacket as I strode homeward, eager to lose myself to the rhythm of my footsteps. Boots had a special way of letting me forget. Clomp, clomp, clomp. Don’t remember. Even if you loved him, even if he was all you had—you have to forget.

Friendship. Goodness, what a silly word! Haven’t you learned by now that no one will stick with you forever?

I stomped louder in the puddles, splashing my brand new jeans with the murky rainwater.

Just then, a streetlight pole met my face, jarring me.

Kind features met my eyes, but I was no longer on 42nd St—I was lying on a warm, full bed with a familiar lavender smell.

“Lucy?”

Mom looked at me, concerned.

Not willing to tell her about what happened, I just mumbled a polite greeting, as if she were a stranger.

“Oh, honey, Xavier was a good friend, wasn’t he?”
Perplexed, I nodded slowly.

Quietly, she whispered, “His mom called and told me everything.”

Realizing she knew everything, guilt gripped me, sending my heart breaking into finer pieces.

“Shouldn’t have called him that,” I murmured.

Taking out my dusty Bible from a nearby bookshelf, Mom opened it in the middle. “’Unless the Lord builds the house’—or friendship—’the builders labor in vain.’”

Viciously, I tried to ignore her words, to block it out, but suddenly my selfishness, like a carefree, blazing comet, hit the rocky ground of truth.

Whoever the person, whatever the friendship, if God wasn’t there in the center of it, it was absolutely meaningless. Xavier wasn’t the right person for me if Jesus played no part in our interactions.

Yearning for comfort, I fell into my mother’s arms, crying softly.

Zooming out on the big picture of my life, I realized my truest friend—my mother—had been right here with me this whole time.

Joseph’s Story

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Photo by Dan Kiefer on Unsplash

I know Christmas has come and gone, but here’s a snippet of the Nativity story told from Joseph’s perspective, because when does he ever get any attention? 🙂

I tapped on the wooden door five times, eagerness pulsing through my veins. I hadn’t seen Mary in weeks, busy as I was trying to sell my carpentry in Jerusalem. I needed to make enough money for the stones to build the house we would begin sharing in the spring, after our wedding celebrations.

The door opened slowly, revealing Mary’s mother, Hannah, with a pale and withdrawn face as she looked up at me. Sighing, she opened the door wider to let me in. “Come in, Joseph, but prepare yourself…”

I rushed in the house, looking for Mary in earnest, yet concerned by Hannah’s glumness.

I ached at the sight of her gentle figure working the dough on the counter, with her long dark hair wound in a braid behind her. She was so beautiful. When she saw me, her face lit up with a warm glow.

She hurried towards me. “Oh, Joseph…” Suddenly, she dropped her hands to her sides and stared at the dirt floor.

Puzzled, I reached for her small hand. “Mary.” My voice was tighter than I wanted it to be. “I’m sorry I took so long. Jerusalem’s marketplace is competitive.”

“I imagine.” She didn’t look at me, but she squeezed my hand.

I searched her haggard, tear-stained face. My dear Mary. A woman of surpassing beauty… and fierce devotion to the Lord. Whatever was bothering her, I longed to comfort her, to wrap my arms around her and encourage her that everything was going to be all right.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, desperate to understand what she was hiding from me.

She turned her body away. “You wouldn’t believe me.”

“That’s right–and you shouldn’t believe her, for that matter!” Hannah yelled from where she sat across the room, grinding flour with a stone.

Baffled, I spoke hesitantly to my fiancé. “Mary, you’re one of the most trustworthy people I know. What is it that you don’t think I’d believe?”

Smiling feebly, she sank to a chair. “Sit down, Joseph.”

I obeyed, yet eyed her uncertainly.

She tucked a tendril of her thick hair behind her ear. “I’m not sure how to say this, but I… I saw an angel. His name was Gabriel and he told me–”

“–Wait a minute. You saw an angel?” I tried to keep my voice steady, yet I was overcome by the news of this wondrous event.

She nodded meekly.

“An actual angel–straight from God? What did he look like? Did he blind you with heavenly light?”

Mary didn’t even smile. “That’s not the point, Joseph. He told me I was pregnant.”

Her words jolted me out of my humor. I stood up. “You’re what?”

“I’m… I’m pregnant. But it’s not what you think, I–”

“–Mary, you know why I stayed in Jerusalem a week longer? So I could make money for our future together. Our future, Mary!”

I fumed with anger, wanting to set the whole world ablaze. During all those weeks of hard work, she’d been sneaking off with another man. Was I not good enough for her? Mary, sweet Mary… I adored her, but this? This was unacceptable!

I paced the floor, raking my hand through my tousled brown hair.

Mary stood up and pulled on my sleeve. “You don’t understand! I didn’t do anything wrong, Joseph. The angel said–”

“–The stupid angel!” I roared, yanking her hand off my sleeve. “What a pitiful excuse!”

Though I grimaced inwardly at my words, I couldn’t help but feeling betrayed.

Mary fell at my feet and sobbed. “You’re just like the rest of them. I thought I could trust you, Joseph!”

“The whole town is going to think it was a scandal–between you and me!”

“You have to trust me!” Mary cried. “The angel said that I conceived this child by the Holy Spirit. This child is the Messiah, coming to save the world from sin. Do you hear me, Joseph?”

I scowled, hurt that she would make up such a devious lie. “Yeah, I hear you. But your mother’s right–I’d be a fool to believe you!”

I stormed out of the house, trying to make sense of the lies spewing out of dear Mary’s beautiful lips. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t. I couldn’t blind myself from the reality that her display of goodness and love was no more than a false mask, covering a sinful, faithless person. And as I trudged home, tears streamed down my cheeks for the loss of the woman I’d thought I could trust.

***

That night I lay in bed, making plans to secretly divorce Mary in the morning. Continuing on and marrying her was out of the question. Her pregnancy would start to show before we wed, causing rumors to flood the whole town.

I had to admit I had been harsh with Mary. Perhaps spending time with some man was a mistake she regretted, a mistake that would bring a lifetime of shame upon her shoulders.

Whatever the case, her pregnancy would ruin both of our reputations, especially hers. However much she had hurt me, I loved her too much to let her become a disgrace to the town. Though she would probably end up one anyway, breaking off the engagement would at least put some of the rumors to rest.

As I drifted off into a fitful sleep, a voice called out to me in the darkness.

“Joseph, son of David…”

The gentle voice echoed in the night, until before my eyes appeared a shiny figure. An angel? My heart pounded in my chest. For a second I wondered if this was Gabriel, who had supposedly spoken to Mary.

“Joseph, son of David…” I was startled that he knew my name and the name of my much-respected ancestor. “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I stared at the angel, who illuminated heavenly light, but I did not go blind.

Then I woke up with a start. Sunlight poured through my small open window.

Jesus. The name pounded in my head like a small hope at the end of a tunnel. I was reaching for the light. Oh, Jesus, dear, dear Jesus. The baby boy inside Mary’s womb, the promised One of Israel, the Anointed One–the child… conceived by the Holy Spirit.

This wasn’t Mary’s fault. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. God gave Mary the baby. It was the greatest blessing a person could desire.

I shot out of bed, suddenly wide awake. Mary, my poor, sweet Mary. Regret gripped me for how I had treated her the other day.

I fled out of the house, determined to stand by Mary no matter the cost, along with the infant Messiah that grew within her.

Gabriel’s words taken from Matthew 1:19-21 (NLT).

Let this be a lesson to us– when someone claims they’ve heard from God, take them seriously. God does speak to us even today. And Jesus is the greatest miracle we’ve each been given to discover more and more throughout our lives.

 

 

 

J14: 3 Tips on How to Write Powerful Fiction

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I’m far from being a bestselling author, but I have been working on a book for three years, along with writing stories, poetry, and articles on this blog during that time span. Through those things, I’ve gathered some ideas about how to write well. When it comes down to it, if you want to write well, you probably want to write powerfully, making an impact on your readers’ life long after they’ve read your words. I could write on and on about how to write in general, but I thought these were the most important tips I have learned for how to write the most inspiring, long-lasting writing that fills both a reader’s mind and heart.

1. Write for a purpose. Writing with a purpose in mind is so needed in this age of useless, even harmful stories, that eagerly step in time with the culture of depravity. The most meaningful pieces I’ve written have not only meant the most to me, but have meant the most to those who read them. When you write for a Reason other than applause, a Purpose other than man’s approval, that’s when God steps in and moves people’s hearts. It’s not what you write that changes people, it’s how you write. If you only write beautiful sentences without any meaning, your reader may enjoy your writing, but they won’t learn from it—it will just go in one ear and out the other. If you want to impact people with your writing, you not only need to write beautifully, you need to write purposefully.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” — 1 Corinthians 10:31

2. Write from your heart. Along with writing for a higher purpose than simply pleasure, most writers long to draw their readers into their story, feeling the same way they do. Unfortunately, this emotional method if gone to far can have dire consequences, such as exciting sinful thoughts, so this aspect of writing must be carefully balanced. This might seem odd for me to say this, but I really think if you want to write for the glory of God, you must write as both His child and as a human being—as a Christian actually living out their faith, yet also as a human who has emotions they have to deal with. Because in order to create meaningful writing, there must be deep emotions that readers can relate with. If you express your emotions on paper, you’re drawing the reader into very real emotions that you yourself have experienced. Yet after shedding light on this darkness, if you reveal the Light of lights, the Lord of Lords, who overcomes all the fear, anguish, and despair we’ve ever felt, we allow the reader to hopefully experience true confidence in the gospel of Christ. Without darkness, the light seems normal, but with it, its anything but normal—its your last chance, your forever love, your absolute desire. So don’t write blandly. Pour out your heart on paper your crippling feelings, but balance it out by passionately writing about the gospel that pulls us through trials, allowing the reader to both relate and learn from your writing, especially helping them if they ever go through a similar hardship.

“Lessons of wisdom have the most power over us when they capture the heart through the groundwork of a story, which engages the passions.” — Laurence Sterne

3. Create dynamics in characters, scenes, and plots. Although this one’s a bit more on the practical side of things, I think it fits in well with this article because it is, I believe, a main part of how to write powerfully. So, what do I mean by dynamics? You need to create opposing forces, such as an extravert versus an introvert, a mouse blinking up at a lion, a bad guy dangling a little girl off a cliff. Simple, right? Now think further. Irony, the presentation of something that is the opposite of what we’d expect, is also a huge part of creating dynamics. For creating dynamic characters, think of the character Reepacheep in Narnia who thinks of himself as an honorable fighter, which catches us by surprise, because it’s the opposite of what we expect from a mouse (Usually when I think mouse, I think timid, weak, and afraid.)

When it comes to creating dynamics in scenes, think contrast. You don’t want the same thing happening, or the same feelings going on all the time. This one’s hard to explain, so here’s an example from a book I’m writing:

“Early the next morning, I awoke with a feeling of peacefulness, until the sharp odor of death filled my nostrils. Suddenly, I was hit by the horrific memories of the day before.”

Instead of the character waking up immediately terrified, she wakes up feeling at peace, only moments later to remember everything and grow afraid. This contrast in feelings within a scene creates dynamics and tension, making the reader much more in tune with the characters’ emotions.

For fun, here’s a picture of what I imagine the main character, Sigrid, to look like in my book, The Thrall’s Sword, which you can read about here.

chelsea-ferenando-203544.jpgPhoto by Chelsea Ferenando on Unsplash

Finally, you can create dynamics within the plot by having both moments of success and failures, both happiness and despair. You especially want to create that high climax, truly putting your characters at their wits’ end, so the grand beautiful happy ending (if you choose to have one) is much more realistic and satisfying.

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Overall, I’ve learned that writing powerfully has to do not with what you write, but with how you write. Are you writing for yourself or for something Higher than yourself? Are you writing mere words or are you writing from your heart? And are you simply writing a mild story with hardly any contrasting elements, or are you creating dynamics through characters, scenes, and the plot?

These are the questions I think every fiction writer needs to think about, and they can be applied to nonfiction, too. I hope you benefit from what I’ve learned. Now, fellow writer, the pages are waiting for you to shake things up a bit!

Do you have any writing advice you’ve learned? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

CW13: Discomfort at Hannah’s Party

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A short story about a girl who attends her cousin’s birthday party, only to unexpectedly discover that her cousin prefers a different sort of party than she does. Will she ever figure out what to do? …And will you ever find any e’s in this story? 😉

I stand, gazing from my bowl of chili in my hands to my drunk cousin and back to my bowl. Hannah is dancing wildly, as young individuals clap along to my cousin’s whimsical hair flips.

My stomach churns. I don’t know why I’m holding this bowl of disgusting chili. I don’t know why I’m at this birthday party for my cousin at all.

A young man slams into my back, groaning, so I swirl around in alarm, only to find him hopping off to a girl without saying sorry. This big room is discomforting. Colorful lamps hang on four walls; chairs sit in isolation from crowds who frolic about as if playacting as tiny, stupid kids who don’t know a thing about wisdom or dignity. Hannah’s notion to party in a ballroom in Wyoming’s top school did not sound fun to start with. Now this party, along with my chili, drops my opinion about such things so low that I don’t think I can stand watching my cousin’s companions’ dancing about for an additional hour or two.

I watch as a girl runs into this room holding a can of alcohol, laughing and soon putting an arm around a drunk young man, chatting with him flirtatiously. I should probably just run out of that door.

My aunt walks up, grinning, and says: “How’s it going—hard—I know, it’s—I think I’ll go d—so loud, don’t you think?”

Music roars loudly, so it’s hard to catch all words. I sigh, hoping Aunt Molly won’t mind my sulky mood. “Yup, it’s loud all right.”

“’—want to go?”

I shrug as if I don’t mind this party that much. I don’t want to hurt Hannah. I want to show favor to my cousin, but I also don’t want to just stand in this spot for hours and do nothing. Should I just play along with this mob, Lord? No way. Okay, so what should I do?

“You all right?” Aunt Molly shouts as a young man flips in mid-air, bringing on roars of approval.

I drop my cardboard bowl of chili in a trash can, forcing a laugh. “Just a bit put off by that soup.”

My aunt laughs.

Now I pinch my lips and act as if I’m thinking hard. “Um, Aunt Molly, you know about God, right?” My words burst out abruptly, as I am anxious for my aunt to show sympathy.

Aunt Molly shouts: “Is that what this is all about? Girl, you gotta stop worrying about all that and just show God’s light with your grins and hugs and dancing along with Hannah. A party isn’t gonna hurt nobody.”

My aunt’s words don’t bring any comfort. I turn away and scan trays of snacks and cans of alcohol. As I pluck a small bag of chips, my mind roams through mountains and basins, this way and that, doubtful about what I should do. I don’t want to look at Hannah or my aunt or anybody. It’s too much. My brain hurts from trying to think of a way to fix this. But I can’t do anything about it. Humans do bad things, and I am human, too. God wants this crowd to individually find out about Him. God wants His kids to follow Him, not to go along with any crowds that bow down to idols of lust, alcohol, and immorality. But I still shouldn’t call Hannah’s companions stupid. Dancing is amazing, and if anybody in this room only prays to God, that individual can worship Him with dancing now and always.

In this situation, I can’t do anything with my words or actions, but within my mind, I pray to God that His joy will bring Hannah to fall down in worship Him.

With a hug for my aunt and a kind grin to my cousin, I grab my handbag and walk out of this ballroom, slowly, praising God that His joy is crushing all my doubts and making my soul burst into a loud, triumphant song.

 

The White Stone

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” ~Revelation 2:17

Serena used to glide when she had no stones. She used to leap across the sky swiftly and easily, smiling to the world, until she came to the tall, oak-wood door of home.

Then the day came when Serena lost her home, her smile—everything. She trudged down a road, slowly, never looking back at the oak-wood door.

That was her first stone, her first burden. Ever since, a dull, gray stone was added every day to the burden on Serena’s back, as she took the path to who-knew-where.
Serena didn’t know who she was anymore.

She sang a lament of a song as she fought the tears from escaping her weary eyes that had lost all brightness. She felt the stares and the glares, and sometimes she had to run because the stones hit her—people hit her with the stones. The weight would grow heavier and she would hurt deeper as she would trudge more slowly on the path to who-knew-where.

Serena had enough stones. She didn’t know if she could bear the weight of them any longer.

Serena knew she wasn’t any good—the stones told her so. After all, sometimes she’d hit the people trudging beside her with stones too. So, maybe she was the one to blame.

One day, Serena didn’t care what the stones thought—what anybody thought. The heaviness she carried was just too much. Too much.

She tried to glide again—to be free. She made a running start, but her one feeble attempt added another stone to her back. More weight, more pain, more tears.

She had made a mistake, and everybody knew it. They blamed her for it. Everyone blamed her for trying to be happy again—for trying to escape the stones that burdened her, that were now apart of her.

This was who she was. How could she have thought there was anything more for her?
And even if her leap of foolishness had worked, they said, it was the wrong way—she had taken the wrong path. All this time she had been taking the wrong path, they said. That’s why Serena had to carry the stones on her back. But which was the right path?
So many steps for nothing. So much pain for nothing.

Serena wept. Didn’t they see the stones on their backs?

People surrounded her, each gripping a stone twice as big as their fist.
Serena shuddered. She shrank back from them, but they blocked her from escaping. She became the center of the circle—the one object of attention. She was the one to blame.
Another stone was then added to her burden, and she cried out from the weight of it. Her knees gave way as she fell to the dirt ground.

It was too heavy. They were jeering at her: “Serena, with the stones on her back!”
“She tried to be free, to glide off the ground like a little bird when she’s nothing but a stone-carrier!”

“So many stones, so many stones! She’ll never find the right path, that one!”
She held her knees to her chest and sobbed at the sound of the angry voices. They blamed her, when she was too weak to carry these stones anymore.

“Whoever among you has never taken a wrong path—cast the first stone!” A male voice declared in the midst of the jeering crowd.

Serena looked up to see an unkempt man standing an arm’s length away. Standing in the center of the circle, right beside her. Being surrounded—being blamed—right beside her.
She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the heavy blow of the first stone from one of those people who had somehow found the right path and never strayed. She waited, sucking in her breath, listening so carefully, but only hearing shuffling footsteps and low, murmuring voices.

No stone came. Serena exhaled slowly and opened her eyes.
The dirty man smiled down at her, and behind him, there was not a person in sight. She looked left and right. She turned around to look behind her—not a single one.

“They didn’t . . . they didn’t blame me?” she asked in a small voice.

“Of course not,” the man said, reaching out his hand to her. “No one can follow the right path perfectly.”

Serena grasped his hand impulsively, using his strength to help her to her feet.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling for the first time in many years. But as soon as the words escaped her, she realized what she had done. She was on her feet again! She reached with her hand to feel for the stones on her back. Nothing. The heavy, dull stones that had burdened her for so many long years had completely vanished.

She ran and leapt over the dirt; the relief and joyous emptiness inside her was too much to contain. She was free of the stones and of everything that burdened her. The joy overwhelmed her as she felt the air blowing passed her as her feet left the ground.
When she hit the earth again, the dirty man beckoned her to come to him, so she stopped in her tracks and rushed back to the man who had saved her from the crowd and the stones.

He held out something to her—a small, polished white stone with small letters written neatly on the smooth surface.

“Whoever delights in Me, I give to them a white stone with words written to them, which only they can read.” His face beamed like a lantern in the darkest night. “I see you have found the joy to glide again, Serena. Now pursue it—never lose it. And travel the right path that leads to Me. For I have taken your burden upon myself. I have done it for you, and I will do it for you for the rest of your life if you will only trust in Me.”

Tears rolled down Serena’s cheeks, as she looked up at him through her blurry vision. The man carried an enormous burden on his back. It towered to the clouds in the vast blue sky—stones bursting out from the largest sack she’d ever seen. How had she not seen it before? He must carry the burdens of thousands of people, yet He still stood upright, smiling. Why, He must be the strongest man alive! She thought.

But she knew better. She knew that her dirty rescuer was much more than a man.
Serena hugged the man tightly, not caring that his filth spread to her cotton dress. The right path was worth such little discomforts, after all. It was worth the big discomforts too. It was worth everything she had.

Finally, Serena remembered the white stone that the man offered to her. She took it and rubbed the polished rock in her hand, stunned by its beauty. She squinted to read the message on it:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Serena looked up, but saw that the man had turned away and had begun traveling a narrow path. She hurried after Him.

From that day forward, Serena glided on the right path, following the dirty man who walked not too far ahead of her, with the enormous burden on His back. Sometimes she stumbled, but always the small white stone reminded her that there was One who carried her heaviest stones, and that someday she’d reach the tall, oak-wood door of home, never to be blamed of traveling a wrong path again.

Message on stone from Matt. 11:28-29

CW12: The Mystery of the Scar, the Tomatoes, and the Dead Lady

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When a detective examines a dead old lady in a mansion and the three suspects: the butler, the cook, and the gardener, who will he prove to be the murderer?

The detective knocked on the tall, rusty door with one hand and gripped his notebook and cheap motel pen in the other.
The tall butler with a gash across his left cheek swung open the door.
“Good day, sir,” the butler said solemnly, ushering the detective inside to where a few police where surveying the crime scene in the main entryway. “Here’s Mrs. Washington, right over here.”
The detective looked where the butler pointed, his muscles tensing at the sight of dear old Mrs. Washington lying on the ground with blood oozing from her body. Her neck was lined with red marks as if she’d been strangled by a rope or necklace.
“Hello there!” said the cook, who came clomping up to the detective with his bulky figure and fittingly large black apron sprayed with some tomato substance. He shook the detective’s hand. “I can’t believe this happened, sir. I just can’t believe it. I hope you can sort this out and find the truth, exactly as it is.”
Just then, the gardener made her appearance, her floral dress and messy bun particularly drawing the detective’s attention. But as she reached out and shook his hand, he felt the stickiness and noticed the green stains on her fingers.
“I’m terribly sorry,” she said quietly.
The detective stared at the three in silence for awhile. The butler, with his scar and his austere politeness. The cook, with his tomato blasted apron and friendly smile. And the young clumsy gardener girl with her insecure demeanor.
“Does anyone else live here besides you three and Mrs. Washington?” the detective asked.
“No, sir,” the butler replied. “Mrs. Washington’s husband passed away a year ago, and her children have homes of their own now.”
“Where were you at the time of the incident—Saturday, that is today, sometime in the afternoon, according to my reports.”
“I was dusting the living room,” the butler said.
“I was cooking up some roast beef,” the cook said.
“I was watering the daisies,” the gardener said.
“Hm,” muttered the detective, jotting down some notes. Then he inspected the butler’s gash.
“How did you get that wound?” the detective asked the butler.
“Well, that’s the thing, sir. While I was dusting the living room and saying my prayers, I heard a scream, so I ran to the entryway where I heard the sound from and saw the cook strangling the old lady on the floor.”
“So, what about your scar?” the detective pressed the butler.
“Well, as soon as he got that old lady strangled, he looked at me and got so mad he drew out one of his kitchen knives he always has in his pocket and slashed me across the cheek.”
“May I see your kitchen knife you always carry with you?” the detective asked the cook.
The cook drew out his knife and showed it to the detective. “Just an ordinary knife, sir. Don’t know what the butler is making a fuss about.”
“Thank you,” the detective said, giving it back. All he needed was proof that the cook always had it with him.
“Now, cook, did you hear or see anything pertaining to Mrs. Washington while you were cooking the roast beef?”
The cook shrugged. “The gardener came by and gave me some fresh tomatoes to make salad.”
“Now, gardener, is there anything more to your point of view than that you were watering daisies?”
“Oh, yes,” the girl said. “I’m certain it was the butler. As I was watering the daisies, I heard a shout so I went running to the entryway. And there was the butler, standing above the dead old lady. He ran when he saw me. I don’t know how he killed her, though.”
“So you never stopped by the cook’s to give him tomatoes?”
“Tomatoes aren’t in season, so the cook uses store-bought tomatoes,” the girl said simply. “But the cook has a bad memory so I don’t blame him. He always thinks it’s tomato season.”
The detective was intrigued and scribbled down some notes.
“Now, do any of you know what Mrs. Washington was doing at this time, before one of you killed her?”
“Well, that’s easy,” said the cook, “she and the butler were about to walk out the door and go to Mass. They’re both Catholic, you know. But that’s when the gardener must have killed Mrs. Washington.”
“They were certainly on their way to mass, but I-I didn’t do such a thing,” stammered the girl. “I promise!”
“I know you didn’t,” the detective said, and then eyed the butler and the cook suspiciously. “But I know who did.”

Can you guess it before reading the answer below? Tell me what you think in the comments, or if you have any suggestions for improving my mystery-writing skills! 😉

 

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It’s the butler — The detective noticed that Mrs. Washington’s neck looked like it had been strangled by a rope or a necklace, and the butler is Catholic and even mentioned he was praying, so he probably used a rosary. Also, the markings on Mrs. Washington’s neck are evidence that the cook didn’t do it, because if he did it, he would have used his bare hands, or killed her with the knife he always carries around. The butler gashed his own cheek to try to put the blame off himself and on the cook who always carried a knife with him. If the cook had done it, the cook would have probably put the blame on the butler, after hearing the butler’s accusation against him. Furthermore, the cook put the blame on the gardener, so if the gardener had really done it, she wouldn’t have given the cook the excuse that he forgot it wasn’t tomato season. And if the gardener’s testimony that the butler had done it was true, it makes sense that she wouldn’t believe that it was the cook.

CW11: Facing Fears

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Fourteen-year-old David’s older sister Shauna takes him to a train track in the middle of an empty forest, urging him playfully to face his fear of trains. But David isn’t interested in her banter. He only wants her to deal with the truth she’s been avoiding for months. When David takes on Shauna’s ultimate dare, will they finally be able to cry together?

This place was so dead of sound, taking us captive into a terrifying dream, a nightmare I had so long dreaded. I imagined the sound of the train and shuddered, but my older sister pulled me down abruptly to sit on the edge of the train track, facing her.

“You’ve got to face your fears sometime, little bro,” she said, placing her foot right in the center of the track, right next to my two pairs of gray converse.

I tried not to flinch, putting my arms lightly on my knees and looking back at her, my face dead of emotion.

She smiled at me, brightly, as if sitting on train tracks was as natural as finding a flea in your cereal. “It’s not so bad, is it? Come on, there won’t be a train for hours, I checked the schedule and everything—just for you.”

I couldn’t stand up and leave, or she’d never forgive me for it. We had come to this empty forest to conquer my fears on a fun day trip, but I sensed there was more to it than that. She had fears of our own that she hadn’t faced for months.

“Mom is dead, Shauna,” I said in the same matter-of-fact tone I’d given her when Dad had died three years ago on my first day of sixth grade.

For a long, quiet moment she stared blankly at me, as if it were the first time she’d heard the news. Finally, she pinched her mouth into a frown. “I don’t want to talk about that. Please, Davie. I don’t want to.”

Her voice caused my heart to squeeze. She’d been calling me Davie ever since I could remember. Mom had called me that, too. Mom had raised us, cared for us, loved us more than I ever could begin to appreciate fully. How many times had I yelled at her or given her a blank face when all she wanted was a hug to tell her she was doing great at this ‘mom thing’?

Refusing to let the tears come out of me, I hardened my gaze. “Well, I don’t want to sit here,” I said, yet still sat there, facing her on that train track, facing my fears. I didn’t make eye contact with her.

“Just for a moment, look. Look at the trees and the sky and the fog touching the earth. It’s beautiful, isn’t?”

The train track led a path to nowhere, into the forest, where fog clouded the horizon. “We won’t see it coming—”

“—we’ll hear it, bro.” She leaned forward, smiling again, confounding me. How could she smile at a time like this? “We’ll hear it when it’s a mile off, don’t worry. You’ve got to be brave now, Davie. Remember when we used to play train ride? You always wanted to be the train conductor and I always had to be ‘coal girl’ who fueled up the train with coal. That was so mean of you.” She laughed. “Remember?”

“Yeah, of course I remember. It was all a stupid game.”

I grimaced, hating myself for my callousness, but at the same time annoyed at her for her rude intrusion into my pain. My grief. What about her own? Why is she trying to comfort me with fun day trips, when she herself is grieving just as I am, if not more than me?

“Come on, Davie, what’s the matter? Can’t we have just a little fun for once?”

“There’s no point in being here. I’m not afraid anymore.” But truthfully, I was alert to every bird’s call in the forest, every rustling in the trees. If I heard the train a mile off, I was ready to jump to my feet and drag Shauna out of the way. And I thought girls were supposed to be the more cautious ones.

Shauna grinned. “You sure about that? I dare you to walk along this track right in the center—for one, no, two minutes. Just a hundred and twenty seconds, and then we can leave. Promise me?”

Reluctantly, I rose to my feet and treaded forward along the center of the track, heading straight for the thick fog.

“Davie is so brave-y!” Clap. Clap. And on Shauna went as she strode alongside me, chanting in a high-pitched cheerleader voice.

When she finally stopped the annoying song, it had only been a minute. For a moment I breathed in the relieving silence as I plodded onward. Walking on the train track didn’t seem so scary anymore. And, much to my own surprise, I actually was feeling excited about this. Each step seemed to trample my fears.

But suddenly I realized why she’d stopped her song.

The train. The noise.

I kept walking. “Don’t worry, like you said, it’s a mile off,” I said, smiling for the first time today, yet not bothering to look at her. “Maybe we should do this more often.”

After all, we only have each other left, in this little family of ours. Maybe she has a point. Maybe we should play train ride together again. Or something.

“Davie! What are you doing?”

Shaken by the long-distance shout accompanied by the train’s loud signal, I turned to look behind me. While I had been focusing on each step in front of me, I had followed the train track onto the middle of a long, narrow bridge that crossed a river, leaving no room for Shauna to walk beside me without stepping onto the track.

The sound of the train was growing louder.

“It’s been more than two minutes, you can come back now!”

The terror in her voice unnerved me.

I kept walking. “Hold on, scared-y cat! I want to see what’s on the other side!”

I strode easily across the bridge, hoping to prove to Shauna that I was truly brave. The layer of fog over the river was heavy, but I didn’t mind anymore. I was elated at my discovery that my fears could be conquered. A sparrow in a tree across the bank winked at me, but then fluttered away in a panic, along with its whole family.

I kept walking.

Suddenly I heard a rush, rush sound of metal wheels on wooden tracks, and I froze, only feet away from where the bridge met the land.

God, help me! Help me move! Yet the danger excited me to the point I craved it. Maybe I wanted to die. Maybe I wanted to do anything but live in this awful world where both parents died in middle school and older sisters didn’t understand you.

“Davie!”

In the midst of the fog, I heard her voice approaching me, sending a shock of horror through me. I turned around and ran toward her. “No, Shauna! Get off the track. Do you hear me? Get off the track!”

“Davie, you get off the track!” she roared at me, but her voice was gripped with panic.
The train’s signal blared in my ears.

I ran toward her, seeing her tall figure rushing toward me in the fog.

Just as I stepped off the bridge, we collided.

“Davie, I miss her.”

Feeling the rumbling of the approaching train under my feet, I flung myself off the track, so afraid for my life that I almost fled as far as I could away from that terrible place.
But my sister didn’t move, lying on the track, clinging to the metal rails.

“Shauna, no!” What is she thinking!?

“Davie, I miss her every breath I breathe, every time I wake up in the morning. Davie, I miss her and I want to die.”

I dragged her off the track just as the train screeched passed us, blowing dust in our mouths, blinding us from the tears we both knew were streaming down our faces.