Thursday, February 26, 2009

Friday Fiction for February 27th, 2009

Friday Fiction this week is hosted at Beth’s Laughing at the Days. Beth posts delightful poetry, so be sure to visit her page for her latest wonderful submission, and for Mr. Linky to lead you to other terrific Friday Fiction.

Based on the reactions to last week’s story, I decided to write another installment for this week. This part offers a little different perspective on the events of last week, so without further ado, I hope you enjoy this week’s submission.

The Chase, Pt. II
By Rick Higginson

Rebecca crawled up the gentle slope to Eva’s Pool, and took a position next to the elder mermaid. Looking out over the Family Room, she made herself comfortable and said, “You wanted to talk to me, Eva?”

Eva nodded, but didn’t divert her attention from the various activities below. “I assume you’ve heard about the arrangement between Elizabeth and Richard?”

She giggled. “I’ve known for years that he’s been infatuated with her. I’m surprised he finally told her.”

“Are you okay with it? I don’t want anything going on that could create animosities among the Pod.”

“Why wouldn’t I be okay with it? I mean, other than the fact that Elizabeth is almost as fast in the water as you and Marta are, so Richard has just slightly better chances of catching her as I have of waking up someday looking like a fashion model, it’s fine.”

“Mmm hmm; so you don’t have a problem with the man that Dr. Marcel had planned for you, being interested in someone else?”

Rebecca snorted. “Dr. Marcel was good at many things, but not so much at any kind of romantic planning. I love Richard; I always have, but not that way.”

“You understand this may mean that there will never be a man for you in the Pod, don’t you?”

“Eva, you of all people should remember the decision that was made when Dr. Marcel disappeared, and we accepted that he might not come back.”

“We weren’t going to bring children into the life we had to lead,” Eva said. “Things are different now.”

“Things may be, but we’re not. None of the men in the Pod have what I consider an essential trait in a husband or mate or whatever we might call them.”

“What’s that?”

“Legs; Eva, if I can’t have a man with legs instead of a dolphin tail, then I’m fine with never having a man at all. It doesn’t matter that we’re told our children won’t inherit the modifications Dr. Marcel gave us; if I’m going to have children, I want them to have more of a life than this.”

“You’ve thought this through, then?”

“Look at the television right now, Eva. Yeah, it’s a dumb comedy, but the kids in that show are doing some kind of play or production, and their parents are in the audience, watching. Maybe our children could be those kids, but we could never be those parents.” She watched until the commercial break. “I can never be that kind of mother, but if I’m ever going to have children, then it has to be with someone who can be that kind of father.”

Eva watched the program in silence for a few minutes. “You know, it’s rather sad when we envy sit-com characters.”

“It’d be sadder still if we decided to act like them.”

“True; if this were a sit-com, you would be plotting ways to sabotage Elizabeth and Richard.”

“Sabotage?” She laughed. “I told Richard if he wants someone to help him work out and get faster, I’d be happy to do whatever I can.”

“You know, I believe you would.”

The Pod carried on their activities about the room. Some watched the television show, others rested away from the water and read books; still more than a few chased and played in the pool. Daniel and Suzanne teased about for a while, before disappearing through the tunnel for one of the old chambers where they could be alone.

Before long, Joshua Cardan would arrive with the large cart from the kitchen, bringing the dinner prepared by the former Navy cook he’d hired a few months earlier. Their meals had improved dramatically with the addition of the trained professional, and it was all but guaranteed everyone would be back in time for the food. It was just one more of the ongoing changes their lives had seen in the previous two years.

“The day may come,” Eva finally said. “When you’ll have the chance to make those choices. I’m glad to hear you’ve already put a lot of thought into them. I trust you’ll respect if other members of the Pod reach different decisions?”

“Have I ever given you a reason to think I’d try and tell anyone else what to do around here?”

“No, you’ve always been one of the quieter members of the Pod. I think Gretchen got all the assertiveness in your family.”

“What about you, Eva? What would you decide?”

“I don’t think much about it, Rebecca. I don’t believe it will ever be an option for me, and I’d rather not dwell on what I can’t have. I prefer to find my happiness in seeing the members of my Pod being happy.”

“I guess that’s where I’m at, too. Richard and I grew up together, and I’ve never seen him act so alive as he has since Elizabeth gave him some hope. I’m happy for him, and if he ever manages to catch her, I think I’ll be just as ecstatic as he will be.” She scooted towards the spillway leading back to the main pool. “I think I’ll go shower off before dinner, if we’re done.”

“Go on; we can always talk more later, if I think of anything else.”

Rebecca slid down the spillway and swam beneath the surface towards one of the two bathrooms. I’ll be fine if there’s never a man in my life, she thought.

It would be nice, though, if someone wanted to chase me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Friday Fiction for February 20th, 2009

Friday Fiction this week is hosted by Yvonne, on her blog, My Back Door. Don’t miss the other fiction submissions being posted this week.

This week, I’m happy to post an absolutely brand-spankin’-new Pod short story, finished just this evening. This scene is hinted at in the second Pod story, Marta’s Pod, and I had the urge to flesh out the situation a bit more. This story takes place almost directly between Cardan’s Pod and Marta’s Pod, about two years after the closing scenes of the first story, and two years before the second story.

Having watched “Fireproof” a week ago, I sometimes wonder what our relationships would be like if we had to work harder for them, much as Jacob labored so many years for the woman he loved. That which is achieved easily is easily taken for granted, and that is the one feeling we should never have for those we love.

The Chase
By Rick Higginson

Richard watched the teasing play between Daniel and Suzanne from the far end of the pool. Now that they were eighteen, the Pod rules allowed the young couple to take their relationship beyond the platonic. The occasional glance was sent towards him and Rebecca, since they were also now eighteen.

His glance, however, turned elsewhere. Elizabeth had long, inky black hair that flowed straight back until it tickled to either side of the vertebrae ridge at the base of her tail. Her human skin was a lovely shade of brown, highlighting the mix of Hispanic and Native American heritage that Dr. Marcel’s records said she had.

She made a low leap, heading for the ocean outside, and Richard dove to follow. Random shafts of sunlight flashed from the surface through the shallow depths, illuminating the mermaid just ahead. Jumping for a breath, she trailed a glittering path of small bubbles, tracing her turn towards the old chamber.

He leapt for his own breath, leaving the water for a brief moment to feel the warm, summer air on his skin. Splashing back at a steeper angle than she had, he used the momentum of the jump to boost his speed towards the short underwater tunnel, where Elizabeth had just vanished out of sight.

Cassiopeia, Andromeda, and Aphrodite sped up beside him, eager to see if some game was about to begin. They were quickly passed by Perseus and Orion, two juvenile males who chased ahead after Elizabeth. The young dolphins would likely leave soon, once they discovered that no game was imminent, but he expected the three older females to stay and keep watch.

Reaching the chamber side of the tunnel, he found Perseus and Orion worrying a large crab in the rocks. The crustacean waved its claws, trying to keep the playful dolphins at bay until it could back into a deep enough crack in the rocks. Whether its defensive posture would protect it from becoming a dolphin toy remained to be determined, and Richard refused the potentially amusing distraction.

He surfaced in front of Elizabeth, hoping the arms folded tight across her chest were not a bad sign.

“Are you following me?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Did Eva send you to tell me something?”


“Then, if you don’t mind, I wanted to just spend a little time alone, away from the noise in the Family Room.”

“I just wanted to talk to you alone, away from the noise.”

She sighed. “What is it, Richard?”

“I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a long time, and it just seems like the right time to do so.”

“Ask me what?”

He felt his heart pounding, along with a weird feeling in his stomach. “Would you ever consider – I mean, is it possible that you could ever love me?”

“Of course, I love you. You’re a member of the Pod.”

“I mean, love me like Suzanne loves Daniel.”

“Shouldn’t you ask Rebecca that?”

“I’ve never felt this way about Rebecca, and she’s never felt this way about me. Maybe Dr. Marcel had something else planned, but she’s always treated me more like a sibling than a suitor, and to be honest, she’s more like a sister to me as well.”

“I’m four years older than you.”

“I don’t care. For as long as I can remember, it’s been you that I’ve been attracted to. I’ve always done everything I could to try and impress you.”

She laughed. “Is that why you always tried to do better than me in our lessons and in the foraging?”

“I thought, maybe, if you saw that I was smart and capable, despite being younger, you might feel about me the way I feel about you.”

“And all this time, I thought you were just trying to prove you were better than me.”

“I was trying to prove I was worthy of you.”

She drew close to his face and lowered her voice. “You really want a chance to prove you’re worthy of me? I’ll tell you what; the day you can catch me in a fair chase in open water, I’ll consider a relationship with you.”

“I just have to catch you?”

“Yep; no tricks, though. It doesn’t count if you sneak up behind me, grab me, and say you caught me. You have to show you can swim faster than I can, and in the ocean, not in a confined area like this or the Family Room.” She poked a gentle finger in the center of his chest. “I haven’t really thought much about ever having a man, and I’m fine with my life staying that way, but if I am going to entertain the idea of spending my life with someone, he’s going to have to be able to keep up with me. Think you’re up to that?”

He grinned confidently. “I’m ready anytime.”

She drifted onto her back, opening some distance between them. “You think so? Fine; the chase begins as soon as we’re outside the tunnel.” She dove backwards, out of sight.

It took a moment for her words to register, before he made a low leap to dive after her. She was turning towards the opening, apparently having made a sweeping curve around the perimeter. He stroked hard with his tail, speeding straight towards the tunnel and closing the distance between them.

Elizabeth was only a few yards ahead when they emerged into the sunlit ocean. She gave a quick, backward glance at him and smiled. With her arms tight against her side, she darted deep along the rocky bottom.

Fish scattered as she sped past, and he increased his effort to catch her. The distance between them remained constant, even as she kicked towards the surface. He followed her arc through the leap, exhaling just before leaving the water and sucking in a deep breath before splashing through the foam in her wake.

What hope he had vanished as he watched her tail undulate faster, opening the gap between them with little apparent effort. With every bit of strength he had left, he tried to keep up, only to have her disappear in the deepening blue ahead of him.

He returned to the Family Room, surfacing to find her waiting just inside the gate. While he was winded, she seemed as though the swim had been no effort at all. “Were you just playing with me?” he asked.

Her smile was satisfied, but not mocking. “I am not going to make this easy for you; if you want a chance with me, you’re going to have to work for it. I don’t think you’d respect me if I just let you catch me, and I-” She teased a finger through his wet hair. “- won’t respect you if you give up trying.” Just touching the tip of her nose to his, she added. “You can try again next week.”

“Next week,” he agreed. Someday, he thought as she swam over to talk to her sister, the chase is going to surprise you.

He headed for one of the refrigerators for a cold drink. Someday, he promised himself.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friday Fiction for February 13th, 2009

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Julie on her blog, The Surrendered Scribe. Be sure to visit Mr. Linky for loads of terrific Friday Fiction.

This week’s submission is a character sketch I wrote a couple of years ago. While I didn’t want anything more from it than just to explore Josh’s past a bit, it turned out to be a short scene that really just seemed to click.

The Sound of Her Voice
A character sketch by Rick Higginson

“Do you miss your house on the mainland, Josh?”

He rested on his back, staring up towards the ceiling in the dark room, with Marta’s head pillowed on his chest. “There are a few features it had that I miss, but the house itself? I think of it as Cynthia’s house, and what good memories I have of living there are tarnished by what she turned out to be. It’s kind of hard to get too nostalgic about a place you shared with someone who wanted to kill you. I miss the home I grew up in far more than the place I shared with her.”

“What do you miss about where you grew up?”

He thought a moment, smiling in the darkness. “It’s the memories I miss, and it was the memories that made me sell it after my dad died.”

“Tell me one,” she said. “Tell me something about that house that you really miss.”

“Is there a point to this prodding through my past?”

She rubbed her fingers through the fine hair on his belly. “We’re trying to make a home here, aren’t we? None of us has much concept of what that is like for normal people, and I want to know what kinds of things stuck with you.”

“My favorite memory doesn’t sound like much; promise you won’t laugh?”

“No, but you’ll tell me anyway, won’t you?”

“Can I hold out for some nice persuasion?”

“I suppose you could, but you never hold out for long, so you might as well just go ahead.”

He caressed her bare shoulder with his fingertips. “I miss the library in my parents’ old house,” he said.

“You had a library?”

“That’s what Mom and Dad called it. It was just a modest sized room with a fireplace on one wall, a few old comfortable chairs, and all the bookshelves Dad could squeeze in without getting too close to the hearth. There was no television, or stereo, or videogames allowed in the library. It was just for books and reading.”

“Mmm,” she said. “That sounds nice.”

“My favorite memories are of winter nights we’d spend in there. Dad would build a fire, and all three of us would sit and read. Mom really pushed me when it came to reading; she said it was not just important to be able to read for comprehension, but also to be able to enunciate well when reading aloud.”

“She sounds like she was a wise woman. I wish I could have met her.”

He laughed. “That would have been an interesting meeting, but yeah; I wish you could have met both my parents.” He kissed the top of her head. “Mom had an incredible reading voice. I remember some nights when Dad would put his book down, close his eyes, and say, ‘what are you reading, Esther?’ Mom would just start reading aloud wherever she was in her book, whether she was in the middle of a chapter or a paragraph. She’d start at the beginning of the next sentence and read to him.”

“I think that would be confusing.”

“Sometimes, but it didn’t matter. Mom put so much into her reading that we enjoyed listening to her even if we didn’t have a clue what was going on. Dad told me years later that he was never interested in the story she was reading; he was just interested in the sound of her voice.”

“Was that why you liked listening to her?”

“For me, it was her voices. Mom would try and give each character its own sound, and it could get really funny sometimes depending on what kind of book she was reading.”

She was quiet for a minute. “I don’t understand something, though; your memories sound so wonderful, and yet you said they were why you sold your parents’ house after your dad died. Why not keep it if you remember things so fondly?”

“I couldn’t live with the ghosts.”

“Ghosts? The house was haunted?”

“In a way,” he said. “After Mom died, I would find Dad sitting in the library all alone with his eyes closed, and one night I asked him what he was doing. He said he was listening to the sound of her voice. He said if he listened real close, he could still hear her reading in the echoes of the room.” He shifted positions and rubbed his nose with the back of one arm. “Dad was sitting in that chair the night the cancer finally got so bad that I had to call an ambulance. He didn’t want to go, though; I think he wanted to just remain in that chair the rest of his life.” He took a deep breath and expelled it slowly. “He died at the hospital two days later. I continued to stay at the house, but there were too many times I thought I heard one of my parents say something, or I thought I would see them somewhere. There was never anything there; it was just the memories bringing back something that had been said or done years before, and my mind would fill in the blank by thinking one of them was in the room.”

“So that made you decide to sell the house?”

“That was part of it, but the decision was really made when I woke up for the third day in a row in the library, after having fallen asleep the night before sitting in there and hoping to hear the echoes my dad said he could hear. I realized that morning that fond memories were nice, but if I wasn’t careful I was going to do just as my dad did and end up wasting what was left of my life sitting in that room.”

“Do you think we’ll have a room like that someday?”

He smiled as he considered the question. “We already do,” he said. “This plain little room where we lie beside each other and talk and dream and share whatever is on our minds; these are the moments we’re going to look back on with such fondness someday.” He gave her a gentle squeeze and kissed the top of her head again. “Your turn; I’ve told you something that I remember from my youth. Tell me one of your favorite memories.”

She kissed the skin of his chest. “I remember the first time I was outside and saw a sailboat going by in the distance,” she said.

He closed his eyes as she recalled the memory, not caring whether the details remained consistent or disjointed. With a satisfied sigh, he listened to the sound of her voice.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Friday Fiction for February 6th, 2009

Since this blog is “Pod Tales and Ponderings”, it occurred to me that I really should add ponderings on a more regular basis. As such, I’d like to include some thoughts on this week’s Friday Fiction following the story. Be sure to visit Sherri’s blog, A Candid Thought, for Mr. Linky this week and more great fiction.

Just over six months ago, I took the plunge and entered the Faithwriters Weekly Challenge for the first time. The topic that week was “Patience”, and being one hundred percent new to the Challenge, I didn’t realize the topics each quarter all related to each other by a specific category. In this case, “Patience” referred to a game, not to the general concept of patience.

I wrote “The Watch” and submitted it, receiving quite a bit of positive feedback on the story despite it not placing in the final standings.

The Watch

Topic: Patience
Challenge Entry, Week of August 21, 2008

He stretched out in the cool grass and watched the door, keeping the old ball close between his front paws. The master would return soon, and he would be ready. Until then, he would do as he always did, and watch over the master’s home. For now, no threats were close, and he could wait in peace. The master always returned.

Nighttime came, and it was strange that the master wasn’t home yet. The master always opened the door and called for him before dark. He would chase the ball for the master until it was too dark for the master to see it, and then they would go inside. They would have a meal, and then he would curl up at the master’s feet. It shouldn’t be much longer; he could wait. The master always returned.

Other houses in the neighborhood called their dogs in, and soon were dark. His ears perked at the sound of one of the strange, noisy vehicles wailing in the distance. The master had left in one such vehicle, carried to it by two men. Perhaps the screaming vehicle was bringing the master home, and he looked in the direction of the sound. It was moving away, though, not coming closer. With a yawn, he laid his head on the ball, returning his eyes to the door. He would just have to wait a while longer. The master always returned.

He slept, occasionally waking to one noise or another, wondering if he was hearing the master’s return. The door, however, remained closed, and the ball ready between his paws. The master had said he would be back, and would find him waiting. The master always returned.

When the sun began to warm the damp grass, he picked up the ball and trotted his rounds, inspecting the periphery of the yard for anything amiss. It was one of the jobs he did for the master, and he wanted the master to be pleased that everything was in order and safe when he returned.

His patrol completed, he sat by the door and looked through the glass, holding the ball so that the master would see it as soon as he came home. They always played ball when the master returned.

In the afternoon, he moved back to the cool grass and watched the door, ignoring the hunger gnawing at his belly. The master had missed their meal, so there must have been something very important to keep him away. The master was good and trustworthy. They would have a special meal when the master returned.

The day ended, and still the door remained closed. What could be keeping the master? The master had never been gone this long before, but no matter; he would be waiting and ready regardless of how long it took. The master always returned.

He slept, and dreamed of the master. He held the ball up, and the master took it, smiling and laughing before throwing it across the yard. He would happily chase the ball for as long as the master wanted to throw it, just so that they could be together when the master returned.

Walking his patrol the next morning to conserve energy, he sniffed at each side and corner of the fence. He dropped the ball beside the water dish, and was lapping up the remnants of the water when he heard a click. Raising his ears, he looked towards the door before snatching up the ball and bounding towards the house.

The master always returned.

I love dogs. My wife and I have five Australian Shepherds, and I have been amazed over the years at the lessons that God has taught me through these wonderful companions. I would not be surprised to learn that God created that bond between humans and dogs before we left the Garden, and that He did so to teach us about the kind of relationship we could have with Him.

You see, dogs are not stupid. While there are some breeds that are not well known for their intelligence, the number of breeds that are quite smart are numerous, including the Aussies. For the most part, the limiting factor in training a dog like an Aussie is communicating to the dog what you want him to do. It is in their nature to want to please, and while it might sound like pet industry propaganda, most dogs will do anything they can for their master’s praise.

A good dog waits for us, and earnestly desires being with us. We could be gone for days or just minutes, and the dog is thrilled by our return. We call the dog, and he runs eagerly to us. If you lose your temper with the dog, or accidentally step on his tail, he doesn’t hold a grudge. Call him in love, and all is forgotten.

Would that I were that kind of servant to my Master.

It was interesting to read the comments following this challenge entry. I worked on the theme of waiting patiently, having faith in the master’s return, much as we were commanded to watch and wait for our Master’s return. We were told to not lose heart, but to be ready at any moment for Him. The allegory was not lost on the readers, but I was fascinated by the way different people read the ending.

You see, I purposely told the story from the dog’s POV, and ended it before the dog reaches the back door. He hears the door opening, and runs with confidence that the master has returned, but the story does not say whether it really is the master, or whether someone else has arrived to care for the dog until the master does return.

Our master tarries, and at times we’ve thought we heard Him coming back, but still we watch and wait. Do we, like the dog, continue to wait for the Master even if the sound we hear isn’t His return, or do we grow discouraged and stop believing in His return? Are we ready to run at a moment’s notice for the door, or have we grown disillusioned, and we’ll just lie in our corner until He has to come looking for us?

The Master always returns.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Anniversary

It is now February 2nd.

Twenty-nine years ago today, Nancy and I stood before Rev. John Shumate and exchanged our vows, and started this incredible adventure called marriage.

Happy anniversary, my love. There's no one in the world I'd rather share my life with, or to look forward to each Groundhog's Day with.

Arise, my darling, my fair one, and come along.
I love you.