Her Pen Pal

For my nephew

Her Pen Pal

Through the bay window
One eye may spy
Six humans, a chattering of chicks,
A Doberman duo, a duckling duet,
And one cat with a gimp.

Their lives orchestrated by
Slap shots, take downs, touch
Downs, layups, yellow cards,
Major scales, call times, and
Camping trips.

Still the boy finds time for
Dear Auntie,
To share about his day,
What’s keeping him busy,
How he celebrated Easter, and
That he relly enjoys when
She writes back.

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The Ultimate Party Crasher

The Ultimate Party Crasher

All impurities swept and mopped,
Tables ornamented with
Praying napkins in
Coordinating colors to
Match blue vases borrowed
From her sister’s summer wedding,
Now filled with flowers from
Miss Shelly’s stand at
Famers market.

Doorbells ring, guests arrive,
Stacking gifts, munching chips and dips,
And exchanging home renovation tips, concerning
Outdoor patios, stainless steel appliances,
And the latest candle scents.

Until he arrives,
The ultimate party crasher.
He’s never invited and never notices
How you’ve prepped and planned.
He sneaks in to suck and scavenge,
Slighting every party guest,
From person to person he
Indiscriminately pests, stealing
a taste from everyone’s plate.

And there’s nothing you can do
But wish you could,
Like him—fly.

Five dollar yoga

Five Dollar Yoga

Her eyes rise as
a soft tide amid a forest
of dreams. Her ears hear
dishes clink on the other
side of Shavasana. She envisions
a couple clasping hands across
an expanse with four legs.
For the first time,
she can sense time tick as
the fan breathes. Her eyes
should be shut, but she’s pulled
to praise. To exhale an
offering—all she has,
kneeling before her only need.
Her hands rise from her side
to rest on a hopeful
vacancy. She’s waited
to be filled, and at present,
she is.

 

In response to the daily prompt: forest 

Graduation

At the beginning of this year, I took a personality test.

I wasn’t at all surprised to find out that my type is mediator.
Never expect me to side with you. I’m always on the other side, and when I am on the other side, I’m with you.

Like all good personality tests, the website included a section called “Mediators You May Know.”

I was surprised to find J.R.R. Tolkien, Frodo Baggins, and Arwen on the list. I was also excited, because The Lord of Rings was on my professor’s syllabus, which meant I would read the novels in a few months. (I had seen the movies, but it had been a long time)

Little did I know that Arwen isn’t even in the books. I mean, she exists, but her role is minor. Therefore, I could not identify with her character.

I also didn’t feel very Frodo-esque while reading. He’s more mission-minded than I am. It’s also hard to tell what’s him and what’s the Ring.

Finally, one can only assume so much about Tolkien by simply reading what he writes. Although, I am now interested in reading his biography to see if I can spot any similarities.

It wasn’t until The Two Towers that I finally discovered the character most like me:

Treebeard. 

I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side . . .

I’m also not very hasty. 😉

But by the very end of The Return of the King, I finally observed a bit of Frodo in me. It’s the way he suffers silently. Although I’ve never carried a burden so great, I typically struggle alone. I  won’t share what afflicts me until I’ve reached the other side.

**

I also have a final thesis update for you all.

I FINISHED.

Yesterday, I graduated and earned my M.A. in English.

Again, I feel similar to Frodo. The Ring is destroyed. My academic quest accomplished, but I feel quite sad. An age ends, but I know a new one begins.

I’m excited to get back into blogging. While writing my thesis, I abandoned my blogging schedule, but now I’m ready to get back on track. To start, I’ll be posting new content every Friday. 🙂

Thank you all for being patient with me and lending me your support.

Happy Friday!

💜 T. Shaw

Perceiving Potential

I told my husband that I just wanted to look. If I could kill a miniature cactus, then maybe I should avoid anything too high maintenance. To prevent any casualties, I had devised a plan. I’d google the scientific names and discover how finicky they really were. I wouldn’t be deceived by a pretty appearance.

I perused every aisle, googling and storing the names of my favorite plants as I went. Until, I found a slightly sad looking plant, but the shapes of its leaves caught my attention. I googled the name: Spathiphyllum ‘Domino.’

A peace lily.

Its condition didn’t match its description, but the makings were there.

I kept walking, but the lily lingered with me.

A week later, we went back to the nursery and were recognized by one of the workers. After being asked if we needed assistance, my husband showed the nursery worker the lily I had seen the week prior.

We were told that the peace lily I desired wasn’t in the best health. In fact, none of the plants surrounding the lily were doing so well. The worker had isolated the plants that needed more attention.

He brought out another lily, fully bloomed, that we could buy, and he gave us the one I found for free.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. -Leo Buscaglia

💜 T. Shaw

Today is the day! I’m proud to announce…

I am finally able to share an original WordPress short story with you all: “A Dead Man Walking.”

This short story features 10 bloggers who contributed 300 words each. Each writer was given five business days to complete their part.

I’m so grateful that I was able to participate in this unique collaboration, and I hope you all enjoy the read!

Be sure to check out all of the contributors’ links!

I would also like to thank Denny and Em for making this project possible and to Liz Charnes for designing our cover!

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce…

DMW.jpg

Part 1 by Denny McBride, https://theceaselessreaderwrites.wordpress.com/

Darla Nyte plugged her PalmPal into her car’s navport and set her office as the destination.  The car drove, and she half-heard the radio report of the mysterious death of the young heir to the Bond family business fortune while she observed the faces of other riders as they passed.  Most were lined with worry or concern. Darla smiled, pleased with her own good fortune.

America had endured a long, difficult recovery following 20 years of the disastrous Great Again wars and the resulting Trumpocalypse that finally prompted the Joint Chiefs to forcefully remove the ancient, senile President from the Oval Office handcuffed to his hospital bed.  Darla was one of the MPs escorting the removal detail. She had been appalled by the corpulent, ranting despot as he raged, apopleptic and foaming at the mouth, unwilling or unable to accept his ignominious end.

While the country worked to heal and recover, Darla had remained in the Army.  When her final term of enlistment was up, she had enough money saved to buy a small apartment and an even smaller office in the city, where she achieved her dream of opening the Nyte Detective Agency.

She parked and took the stairs 5 floors up to her lobby.  Her assistant, Steve, greeted her. “You’ve got a doozy of a case in there today, Boss.”  She sat down behind her desk and was struck by the strange pair across from her. The older man wore a white lab coat with a name tag identifying him as a coroner, and the extremely handsome younger man was uncommonly pale.  He stood and extended his hand. Darla stood and shook with him. His hand was dry but shockingly cold. “I’m Franklin Bond,” he said, “and I want you to figure out who killed me.”

 

Part 2 by Jo Frei, https://eclecticexclamations.guru/

Darla covered her surprise by taking a sip of the coffee that Steve had left for her.  She made a face at the awful taste. She was going to have to teach him how to make a better cup of joe. Sighing to herself, she lifted her gaze to Franklin. “It would seem to me that if you are dead, you would be your own best witness,” she said.

Franklin gifted her with a beatific smile.  Her breath caught in her throat. He was completely not her type, but he made her heart skip a beat.  “I assure you that I am quite dead,” Franklin said. “I brought Dr. Dawson here to testify to that fact.”

Dr. Dawson, looking a bit shell-shocked, said, “By every scientific test we ran, he is dead.”  He handed her a signed death certificate. “Thank you, Dr. Dawson, I think you can leave now,” Franklin said.  Dr. Dawson, looking much relieved, headed out the door.

“So, Ms. Nyte, now that I have assured you that I am indeed dead, will you help me find my murderer?”

Darla tilted her head and looked hard at Franklin.  “Before I agree to accept your case, I will need to hear more,” she said.  “First you must to agree to this,” Franklin replied, pushing his PalmPal across her desk.  She looked down and saw what appeared to be a standard non-disclosure agreement. After reading it, she had the AI notarize it with her thumbprint and retinal scan, then handed it back.  Her PalmPal chirped to let her know that it had her copy and that it had been filed.

Franklin sat back looking satisfied.  “I am cursed with being a draugr until our family heirloom is recovered and returned to my family,” he told her.

 

Part 3 by Liz Charnes, https://lizcharnes.com/

A draugr?  That’s a new one.  Darla sat, careful to remain professional.  No need to vex the crazy. “What do you remember?”

Franklin ran a hand through his thick blonde hair, frustration marring his handsome face.  “I don’t know. It’s all a blur. The last thing I remember is dinner the night I died. It was at my Uncle Jeff’s home with him, his new wife Alina, my sister Ingrid, and her husband Malcolm.”  He grimaced. “It was bad. Ingrid and Alina were at each other’s throats.” He paused. “I’m sorry. That’s probably not relevant.”

It wasn’t, but it made for some lucrative gossip she could sell later.  One good thing that came of the Trumpocalypse was the demise of NDAs. These days only fools thought non-disclosure agreements had any power.  “Why doesn’t your sister like your uncle’s wife?”

“Alina was a strip… Uh, exotic dancer.”  He chuckled. “Jeff’s got a thing for exotic dancers.”

“Don’t we all?”  Darla winked, then swallowed a burp.  Damned acid reflux. Where are my Rolaids?  “Anything else you remember?”

Franklin shook his head.  “Other than the fighting, no.  I was tired, so I went to the summer house.  When I awoke, the room was dark, and I was dead.”

“That’s it?”  The Rolaids were hiding under her calendar.  She took two, then two more just in case. “You died in your sleep?”

He nodded.  “Pretty much.  Oh!” He snapped his fingers.  “And the Spear of Destiny was missing!”

Oh, for God’s sake.  Darla felt a headache coming on.  “You’re saying that your family has the Spear of Destiny?  The Spear that supposedly…”

“… killed Jesus Christ, yes, my family has…er, had, the Spear of Destiny,” Franklin finished. “My great-grandfather brought it back after World War II.”

Darla stood.  “Frank, you need a therapist, not a P.I.  I can’t help you.”

 

Part 4 by Kristian Fogarty, https://talesfromthemindofkristian.wordpress.com

“You must help me, Ms. Nyte.  I’d hoped you would do so voluntarily, but I took a precaution in case you wouldn’t.”  He smirked, “How was your coffee?”

Darla felt a cold feeling in her stomach, a feeling of dread, as she caught the threat in his question.  “What did you put in my coffee, you freak?!”

“Nothing that will harm you permanently, dear, there’s no need to call me names.  Have I not suffered enough? It’s not easy being dead, you know? I have a dose of the antidote to the potion, and I will give it to you if you help me.  Please find out who murdered me and help me retrieve the Spear of Destiny. Then I can rest.”

“I don’t seem to have much choice, now, do I?  I think we should start at your uncle’s home, the scene of the crime.  By the way, how did your uncle and the others react when you woke up dead?”

“I don’t know.  No one else was there.”

“Tell me more about your uncle, his wife, your sister, and her husband.  They are after all the chief suspects here.”

“Uncle Jeff has always been an eccentric, but then, most of us are in our family.  You don’t become guardians of a holy relic without it affecting you. Alina is a tramp on the make, nothing more.  I believe Ingrid, who’s ten years older than I am, rather resents me, the heir, but I don’t think she would have murdered me.  Her husband Malcolm has always been … distant. I never knew what went on in his head.”

“Well, let’s get back to your uncle’s and start looking around.  What is that stuff you put in my coffee going to do to me exactly?”

 

Part 5 by Melisa Lewis, https://fingerstosky.blog/

“It’s a hallucinogenic.  Ancient Mayans supposedly used it to see the future.  Some people say it opens your mind to unimaginable possibilities.”  Franklin stood, ignoring the perplexed and worried look on Darla’s face.  “Will you drive? The law doesn’t look kindly on deceased drivers.”

Darla nodded and gathered her belongings as quickly as possible, her mind counting down the minutes until she might start hallucinating.

On the ride over, Darla was increasingly uncomfortable, noticing her breath was the only sound between the two of them.  They arrived at a large stone mansion surrounded by wrought iron gates. Security cameras swiveled about and turned toward the car as they drove up to the intercom.  Franklin reached over her and placed his forefinger on a scanner. Darla arched her head back to stay out of his way. She noticed he smelled like sandalwood and citrus.  She quickly reminded herself that the shoulder that grazed her chin was cold because he was dead, not because of the weather.

The gates creaked open, and they drove just a few feet inside when a tall man with a fur coat and skinny blue jeans held up his hand to stop them.  His thinning hair was greased back, and he wore a gold ring on every finger.

Franklin stuck his head out the window and hollered, “Uncle Jeff! Is something the matter?”

“You’re not welcome here, Franklin!  You are a thief! I’m filing a police report!  Stay back now, don’t come any closer!” Uncle Jeff remained planted with his hands out in front of him. Darla checked Franklin’s expression, unsure if she was starting to hallucinate or if she really did see a smirk as he lowered his head back into the car.

 

Part 6 by Kara Bernard, https://bernardsbookblog.wordpress.com

Her gaze drifted back to Franklin’s uncle.  Darla leaned out of her window and directed the mass of fur blocking the driveway.  “Mister Bond… Do you mind if I call you Jeff?”

“You get away from here, you hear me?  I’m warning you, Franklin!” The rings on Jeff’s fingers clinked as his hands shook, the sound crashing like thunder in Darla’s ears.  She winced as she stepped out of the car. Her thoughts went … fuzzy.

She took a step forward.  “Look, Jeff, I need you to step aside.  My name’s Nyte, and I’m here to – oh, god. Oh, god!”  Darla sank to her knees, eyes wide, as the rotting corpse of an animal slithered its way out of Jeff’s fur coat.  Matted fur dripped off its skin like oil. A slimy tongue smeared itself between black, jagged teeth. A sound like bones on metal pierced the air as the creature fell to the ground and began dragging itself toward Darla.

A collision of sounds – screams, claws on gravel, dragging limbs – forced its way under her skin. She covered her ears and shut her eyes before an ice-cold slab of flesh gripped her arm.  Darla cried out, tried to pull away, and then … nothing.

She woke to the smell of cinnamon.  Slowly opening her eyes, she saw Franklin kneeling beside the couch she found herself on.  He held a steaming cup of tea up to her.

“Welcome to my humble abode.”  He smiled. “Well, Uncle Jeff’s humble abode.”

“What?”  Still groggy, Darla’s words slurred together.  “Wha’appened?”

“Well, you see, the thing about hallucinogens is, well, they make you hallucinate.  Sorry ‘bout that.”

Darla groaned and reached for the tea.  “Wait, you said we’re inside. He let us in?”

“Hm.”  The corner of his mouth twisted upward.  “Not exactly.”

 

Part 7 by T. Shaw, https://tshawwriter.wordpress.com/

“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’?”

“Shortly after you stepped out of the car and politely introduced yourself to nice Uncle Jeff, the hallucinations started.  You fell, and my previously unwelcoming uncle was so startled by your altered disposition that he bent down to see if you were alright.  Who knew you’d almost kill the guy?” Darla’s eyes enlarged as she sprayed Franklin with the gulp of tea she’d been about to swallow. Franklin reached for his handkerchief and annoyingly dabbed his pale face dry.  Darla would have apologized, but since Franklin was the reason she had lost control of her faculties in the first place, she held back. “Like I was saying, you fought valiantly. Unfortunately for Uncle Jeff, he got a little too close.  I’m pretty sure your punch to his throat is what sent you both into darkness, which is why I maintained my place on the sidelines.”

Darla set her cup of tea on a nearby end table that looked a few hundred years old.  “Before becoming a detective, I served in the Army.” Darla stood up; although still shaky, she was ready to gain momentum in Franklin Bond’s case.  “Is this the same room where you woke up and realized that you were dead?” Darla began her search before Franklin could respond.

“No, this is the parlor.”

Spying several gaudy antiques, Darla said, “Seems like you and your family really admire objects with a bit of history.”

Franklin smiled.  “Yes, but we most prize the Spear of Destiny.”  After perusing the room with no luck, Darla decided they should visit the kitchen and interview the cooks to determine whether Franklin had been poisoned, but before exiting the room she glanced back at a portrait on the mantelpiece.  The subject’s eyes reminded her of Dr. Dawson’s.

 

Part 8 by The Britchy One, https://bitchininthekitchen.org/

Leaving the room, Darla stumbled and had to lean against the door frame.  “Wait,” she commanded, “you want me to solve your murder, but you’re withholding facts.  Why did your uncle accuse you of theft and threaten to call the police? That’s not exactly the reaction of someone who thinks you’re dead.”

“Ahh, Ms. Nyte,” Franklin chuckled, “here are the shrewd deductions you’re famous for.  It’s true, I have been economical with facts. I was hoping you would solve my murder without incriminating me.”

Darla ground her teeth.  Coherent thought was becoming difficult.  “If you want me to solve this, give me the antidote.  I can’t proceed if I can’t think.”

“Very well.  I’ll give you half now, which will abate your symptoms, and the full dose upon revelation of my murderer.  If you take too long, I’ll be stuck as a draugr forever.”

He gave Darla a small vial of clear liquid.  She wouldn’t normally take anything without knowing what it was, but she’d never been in a situation like this.  She felt her mind sharpen. “Where were you when you started to feel sleepy? Were you in this house? Why did your uncle accuse you of theft?”  She had more questions plus the niggling feeling there was more to Dr. Dawson, but she had to start somewhere.

“You’re correct in guessing I wasn’t inside the house.  I was in the summer house near the tennis court.”  “I’ve had a bad run at the casinos lately, and my creditors were pressing for payment,” he whined.  “I’d arranged to sell a couple of treasures that I would’ve inherited anyway. It wasn’t really theft.”

Darla wasn’t surprised at his attitude.  She’d seen his type before. “Surely you weren’t selling the Spear of Destiny?  Is that why you’re still here?”

 

Part 9 by Rachel Ann, https://fitfulfearfulphantasmal.wordpress.com/

“Do you know how much the Vatican would pay for it?”  Arms crossed and frowning, Franklin’s façade of victimhood had vanished.  “Anyone would’ve done the same.”

Darla was reminded of the former president thrashing in the Oval Office.  His comb-over had flapped around like a wounded vulture’s wing, its white roots long overdue for a dye job.  “Don’t you know who you’re dealing with!?” Trump had railed. “None of you will ever work again! Believe me!”  The Velcro straps had held, but that hadn’t stopped his mouth. Nyte had to listen to that sewer-pipe overflow as she escorted his gurney to the waiting ambulance.

Why are the rich such egomaniacs?  Darla wondered.  If Bond is a draugr, she thought, it’s due to sheer stubbornness.  Everyone owes a death, but when his came due, he’d been too arrogant to succumb.

“You can’t buy your way out,” Darla said, wrinkling her nose. “And holding me hostage won’t change facts.  Your cologne won’t cover the stench of your decomposition much longer.” Franklin glared. “But you were murdered, and the culprit must be brought to justice.”

“Right.  To the summer house then, shall we?”  Franklin gestured. As they approached, they heard a woman’s screams.  Darla kicked the door in, gun drawn. A man had a woman pressed against the wall, in flagrante delicto.  Her screams weren’t of fear, but passion.

“Alina…really?” Franklin said. “With the gardener?”

The gardener’s pants slipped down farther than they already were. A metal object fell from his back pocket.

“The Spear!” Franklin yelled. “Thief!”

“What, this?” the gardener said, picking up his pants first then the object.  “This is just a Hori-Hori.”

“What did you call me?” Alina shrieked.

“Not you,” he said, brandishing the Spear of Destiny, “isn’t this a weeding knife?  I need it to weed the rose bushes.”

Darla stared at the gardener.  She felt her mind going fuzzy again.  “Doctor … Doctor Dawson?”

 

Part 10 by Em, http://earthlybrain.com/

“What doctor?” Alina squeaked.

“D-Dawson,” Darla stuttered, pointing a shaky index finger at the gardener.

Franklin shook with fury.  “That’s not Dr. Dawson, that’s our son of a bitch of a gardener who’s stealing MY inheritance.  Focus, Nyte!”

The gardener stared at Darla, his eyes burning a hole in her skull.  His lips slid into a crooked smirk. Darla tried to visualize his scheme:  he’d seduced the distressed Alina after dinner, coercing her while Franklin slept in the summer house.  “Let’s bend the rules a bit”, he teased, sensing that Alina ached to be mischievous. After acquiring the Spear, he had spiked the air purifier with Dragon’s Breath and zombie powder.  Overnight the substances numbed Franklin’s senses, made him pale, ghostly cold, and clouded his perception of reality.

“I am Dr. Dawson,” he’d whispered as Franklin lay in a drugged stupor, “you have been unjustly murdered and robbed of your most precious inheritance.  Seek revenge within 12 hours or forever remain a draugr. I have retained an apt detective to solve this mystery. Give her this potion, and she’ll be compliant.”

Darla’s vision swiftly evaporated into floating shreds.  The sound of cracking bones on metal reverberated in her ears once again.  She shifted her gaze, and the creature revealed itself anew, hauling a horrid pile of disintegrating flesh and bones.

Darla pointed her gun at the repugnant creature and pulled the trigger repeatedly without hesitation.

“NOOO!” Alina screamed.

Franklin dropped like a stone.

Uncle Jeff ran in to the room.  “What’s with all the—“. The sight of the half-naked Alina, the exposed gardener, and Franklin’s lifeless body in a spreading pool of blood scorched him mad. “MURDERER!”

Darla saw only stars, spinning in infinite spirals.

Dawson pulled his pants up and sauntered out, simpering as he fondled the Spear in his pocket.

 

**

You’ve reached the end! Thank you so much for reading. We would love to hear your feedback, and if you are interested in participating in a similar project, I encourage you to follow Denny. He will definitely initiate more collaborations in the future.

Take care,

T. Shaw

 

Upcoming Collab!

Hi ya’ll,

I have been MIA but for good reason! Currently, I am frantically revising my master’s thesis so that I can graduate May 3rd! After meeting with my committee, they believe it is 100% possible for me to finish on time. I can’t tell you how relieved (and stressed) I feel that I will be done with school in less than a month!

In other news, I want to announce that I will shortly be posting an exciting collaboration initiated by Denny from The Ceaseless Reader Writes and Em from Earthly Brain.

After Denny posted a compelling short story on his blog (which you can read here), Denny’s readers voiced their desire for a sequel. Instead of writing the sequel himself, Denny challenged his readers to write their own sequels. Em from Earthly Brain was one of many who decided to give it go! (Read her sequel here)

This mini collaboration inspired Denny and Em to create an even bigger collab that would involve eight other bloggers. I’m here to reveal that I am one of those lucky eight bloggers!

I can’t express how thrilling it was to work with such amazing and creative writers. I also can’t wait for you all to see the finished product.

Today, I give you a delectable tease!
Here is the cover for our project designed by Liz Charnes, a fellow contributor.

DMW.jpg

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming short story!

– T. Shaw

With you each step of the way

I have a thesis update! I completed a rough draft for all five chapters. 😅

If you’ve been following my journey, you know that after I finished the first chapter of my thesis, I celebrated by visiting Disneyland with my husband.

After having a fantastic time, I decided that I should celebrate just as big for chapters two, three, four, and five. I made plans to go to the zoo, a hockey game, and Universal Studios.

But, the writing process proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I faced setbacks and missed due dates, which meant that the days I set aside to treat myself quickly evaporated.

But after finishing chapter two, I came home to this.

I’m reminded of Proverbs 12:25, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.”

Worry is a heavy burden. This isn’t the end. I still have several rounds of revision to look forward to, but I’m so grateful to those who have supported me during this crazy process.

If you know anyone who is having a hard time right now, I encourage you to leave a post it or send a card. It might just be the very thing they need. 💜