Thursday, July 30, 2009

Friday Fiction for July 31, 2009

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Laury. Be sure to visit her blog, “In My Daddy’s arms,” for the links to the other Fiction submissions posted.

This week’s submission is the first Challenge Entry that landed me in the Editor’s Choice list, and one that I had a lot of fun writing. I enjoy writing about married couples, and particularly coming up with different little twists on some of the popular themes.

Something to Share

Topic: The Game of Life

Challenge Entry, Week of September 11, 2008

2nd Place, Advanced Level; #9 in Editor’s Choice

The phone on his desk rang, and he glanced at the display to see who was calling. With a nervous twinge he hadn’t felt since that first date they’d shared, he answered it. “Hi, Peg.”

“A delivery guy just showed up here,” she said, skipping the pleasantries. “Have you completely lost your mind?”

“Did you read the card? I’m trying to apologize.”

“Don, you’ve done some crazy things before, but this takes the cake. You do realize most men send flowers when they’re trying to apologize, don’t you? I’ve never heard of anyone sending a silly board game and a box of cereal.”

“Then I assume you didn’t read the card.”

“No, I was too busy wondering if you’d taken up smoking strange weeds. I had to cut my bath short to answer the door, and I find this kid with a basket containing, of all things, Life cereal and the game of Life. Is this your idea of a funny way to tell me to get a life?”

He cringed at the question. “Peg, I said an awful lot of stupid things the other night in the heat of anger. My pride at that moment might have found them satisfying, but pride isn’t one of the better emotions to speak from. I was talking to my Dad yesterday, and I told him what happened. He reminded me that I was supposed to love you as Christ loved the church, and asked if I could ever imagine Jesus talking to the church the way I’d talked to you. I had to admit that, no; I couldn’t imagine that at all.”

“That still doesn’t explain this basket.”

“Dad told me life was much like the game. We can play it alone if we want, but what’s the point? There’s no one to laugh with when the foibles of the game turn funny. There’s no one to smile at when the game is over and say, ‘I enjoyed that’. There’s no one to push you or challenge you to do better, and no one for you to challenge either. The game is empty and meaningless unless you’re playing it with someone else.” He took a deep breath. “When we got married, I promised to go through life with you. The other night, in the middle of the argument, I forgot that promise for a moment. Maybe it’s just a silly board game, but sending it to you is my way of remembering that you are the one I want to go through life with.”

“What about the cereal?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Dad told me about the first morning he truly realized he was married. He said it wasn’t during the honeymoon; it was that first workday after the honeymoon when he sat down at the small table in their apartment, and Mom was sitting across from him in her old robe. Her hair was a mess, she hadn’t put on any makeup yet, and she had just poured herself a bowl of cold cereal for breakfast. He looked at her, and knew that was what he would see every morning for the rest of his life. He asked her to pass the cereal, and decided that if that was what marriage was, he could easily live with that.

“I was a fool, Peg. I said things that I wish I could take back, but I can’t. Maybe a game and a box of cereal aren’t as pretty as a bouquet of flowers would be, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to tell you that I’m sorry and to ask you to forgive me. There is no one in this world I’d rather play a game with or wake up next to each morning before going in and sharing a box of cereal with. I want to go through life with you, and I want to share my life with you, and I want to keep the promises I made in love rather than keeping the words I spoke in anger.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone.

“I’m sorry Peg. Can you forgive me?”

“Will you be home for dinner? There isn’t much in the house, but I do have an unopened box of cereal, and I have a new game we could play this evening.”

“You can bet your life, I’ll be there.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Friday Fiction for July 17, 2009

Friday Fiction is hosted this week for the first time by Sara over at Fiction Fusion. Enjoy Sara’s creative story and the other terrific submissions this week by following McLinky.

This entry marks one year that I’ve been participating in Friday Fiction. My first entry was for July 18, 2008, and I’ve had a great time selecting excerpts and writing new fiction for this blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.

I had an idea for a scene in Precocious by Consent this week, inspired by a scene in the opening moments of a television show just before I turned the channel. The result is the following chapter, which takes place the night after Lara Schumacher is found (Chapter 7). The killer has called Agent Powell, and stayed on the line long enough to be traced. Powell, certain that the address will prove to be empty, and not having slept since chapter 7, has elected to go home and try to get some sleep.

Chapter 10

Sunday evening

Lloyd entered the house with gun drawn, following Agent Weiderman and flanked by another FBI agent. The front room was dark, but lights shown from one of the bedrooms, and the heavy beat of some rap song penetrated the walls. An odd smell permeated the air, like cheap incense or air freshener masking rotten food.

They swept through the living room and hall, checking the closets and bathroom en route to the lighted bedroom. The door was slightly ajar, and after a cursory inspection, Weiderman kicked it open.

The room was deserted, with a bare mattress on the floor and a portable stereo blaring out the rap. The lyrics were vulgar and misogynistic, and both the performance and the quality of the recording poor. Lloyd checked the closet. “Agent Weiderman? You’re going to want to see this.”

The agent came over, his weapon still in hand but lowered. “What is it, Timmons?”

“Our guy was here, and he left us some photographs.”

Weiderman swore as he took in the sight. The closet walls were covered in pictures of both Celia Moore and Lara Schumacher, taken at various times during their captivity. A printed note was tacked in the center of the collage. “He expected Powell to find this; the letter is addressed to him.”

Tell me what happened here, Celia.

She doesn’t want to talk to you, detective.

What about Lara, Ilsa? Will she talk to me?

I’m afraid you’re just going to have me to talk to.

Wait a minute; you’re all figments of my imagination. How can they refuse to talk to me?

We’re as real as you made us, lieutenant.

The agents that had entered through the back door arrived in the bedroom. “The rest of the house is clear,” the lead agent reported. “Nothing in the kitchen but some chicken left out and the phone that he called Powell from.”

Lloyd moved out of the way to allow another agent to examine the display in the closet. He wandered about the room, looking for any detail that might provide a clue to the killer’s identity. With a frustrated sigh, he slid his pistol back into its holster and crouched down by the mattress. Spots of dark brown covered the surface, and he expected the lab would find it was one or both of the girls’ blood. Not likely he left us his own blood to extract DNA from; if this guy had bled on the mattress, it wouldn’t still be here. Lord, we could really use something to help us. If the blood of the innocent cries out to You, then this mattress must be screaming.

Weiderman leaned his head out of the closet. “Would somebody please put an end to that disgusting racket?” he yelled.

“I got it,” Lloyd said, reaching his left hand for the ‘Off’ button on the stereo. He’d no sooner touched it, when there was a bright flash, and then nothing.



“Just lie still, detective.” The strange voice spoke close to his ear, and a siren blared in the background.

He drifted out again.

What are you doing here, Lieutenant?

Doing where?

He stirred again when he was jostled around, and this time there were numerous voices speaking around him. Before he had a chance to decipher what they were saying, he was back under.

“Lloyd? Can you tell me your full name?” Now a woman was talking to him.

He thought he’d opened his eyes, but saw nothing. “Lloyd… Timmons…” he mumbled.

“Good,” she said. “Just rest; you’re going to be okay.”

He wanted to ask why being okay was any issue, but couldn’t keep his thoughts coherent enough.

Everything was fine; he was sitting at his desk at the Sunny Grove Police Station, only it was his old desk from grade school. Feeling the stubble on his chin, he worried that someone might take him to task for not shaving before duty, but wasn’t concerned at all that he wore only underwear.

A skeleton he somehow knew was Ilsa walked up and handed him a cup of coffee. “Be careful; it’s hot,” she said.

He thanked her, and carried it to his bedroom, which was just a few steps from his work desk. The coffee vanished when the Facenet Killer started running from him, right past Faye as she sat brushing her hair at the dressing table. The Facenet Killer looked remarkably like Wayne Dille, and Lloyd tripped on something every time he got close enough to grab the man.

Faye was right beside him, crying about something. How she got there, when he’d left her brushing her hair back in the bedroom, was baffling, and he wanted to ask why she was crying, but he had to catch Dille.

The killer turned a corner, and Lloyd darted after him, only to find himself falling again. The ground rushed towards him, and he startled…

Awake. He released an involuntary gasp, and his body jerked from the abrupt ending of the dream. He was lying in a bed that was definitely not his own, with something wrapped around his face. He wanted to pull the wrapping from his eyes, and felt a surge of panic when he found his arms restrained.

A hand touched his shoulder. “Lloyd, sweetheart,” Faye said. “It’s okay; you’re in a hospital.”

“Hospital? What happened?”

“The FBI agents told me there was a small bomb in the stereo, apparently set to detonate when you turned the music off.”

“My eyes; what happened to my eyes? Why are they bandaged?”

“The doctor says your eyes should be fine; you got some cuts and scratches on them from the explosion, but nothing that should cause any lasting damage.”

“Was anyone else hurt?” His voice felt raspy and his throat dry.

“Minor injuries. They said you got the worst of it, because you were so close to the source.”

He took a deep breath. “I can’t feel much right now. How bad am I?”

“You’re alive, Lloyd. Praise God the bomb wasn’t any bigger, or you might have been a lot worse.”

“How bad, Faye?”

“You lost part of your left hand, sweetheart.” Her voice cracked. “I’m sorry, Lloyd. The surgeon said he tried his best, but the damage was too extensive. They had to remove your ring and pinky fingers, and part of the middle finger. They won’t know until you’ve started physical therapy how much movement you’ll get back in what’s left of your hand. He said there was a lot of damage done to the tendons, and they’re just going to have to see how well it heals.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Fiction for July 10th, 2009

Friday Fiction this week is a very short character sketch for the FBI agent in my current WIP, Precocious by Consent. I doubt this scene will end up in the book, but I wanted to play a bit with Sid Powell and get a little more grasp on the kind of man he is.

No deep drama or cliffhangers in this story, and I’m almost amused that its length would fit right in with the Weekly Challenge, if by chance it had coincided with an appropriate topic. Instead, it was written for fun and for Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Cat over at
A Work in Progress. Don’t miss the other stories, just waiting to entertain and enlighten you.

By Rick Higginson

FBI Special Agent Sid Powell arrived at his desk early, with a cup of coffee in one hand, and a bag containing a fruit danish in the other. He removed his suit coat and arranged it on a hanger, and settled into his chair before taking his first sip of coffee. The danish went onto a paper plate, placed to his left, and a pulp paper book took its place in front of him.

He opened the book to the middle, and pulled a pencil from his top drawer. With his left hand, he took a bite of the pastry, and with his right he began to work the puzzle. Okay; I’ve got 5 in both the first and second top blocks, and the only place for 5 in the third block is here. He wrote the digit in the appropriate box. Only place for 2 in the top middle block is here, and the 6 goes down here in the bottom corner. With the 2 taking its place in the top middle, that leaves only one spot for the 6 in that block. 8 has to go here, and 4 down there, which means the block above it gets a 4 in this place.

Simple deductive logic; that was all Sudoku required. Unlike crosswords, it didn’t test his vocabulary or trivia knowledge. It wasn’t mathematics or the luck of the card deal. There was one solution to the puzzle, and everything he needed to know to solve it was right in front of him.

For this column, 7 cannot go here or here. Considering this block, it has to go right there. That means this square gets a 3, leaving 1 and 9 to complete the block. 9 can’t go in the third row, so it has to go in the second, and 1 goes in the third. That leaves 8 and 4 for the third row, and this column already has an 8, so that completes the third row sequence with 2, 5, 3, 9, 8, 4, 6, 1, 7.

With that information, the sequence for the second row became apparent, and he filled in the numbers.

The rows, columns, and blocks could contain anything; any assortment of nine different placeholders would suit the puzzle. Numbers were just basic and nearly universal; most languages on Earth used the standard numbers, even those that had different number symbols in their traditional script. Still; it could be colors that needed sorted, or letters. Pictures of different animals. Flags. It didn’t matter; all that mattered was working through the known facts to sort the columns, rows, and blocks so that each had no repeats. 1 through 9 in each row, 1 through 9 in each column, and 1 through 9 in each block.

Just like sorting the clues to a crime; take what you know, and put everything where it fits. If there’s any confusion, you just need to work out a different part of the puzzle until it clarifies the confusing part.

There was always a moment with every puzzle when it seemed he’d hit a roadblock, and it was almost always followed by that moment when all the rest of the puzzle fell rapidly into place. Sid reached the block, and started looking at each empty square in the puzzle from what it could hold to fulfill column, row, and block needs.

Ah; this one has to have this; it’s the only thing that fits all three criteria. He wrote the number, and then followed that with the remainder of the squares in short order. Though it was almost pointless to do so, he flipped to the solutions in the back of the book and checked his answers. It was rare to find a mistake; if he messed up, it almost always became apparent well before he filled in the final square.

Finishing the last of his coffee, he put the book away and glanced up at the clock. Six minutes; not bad. He booted his computer and opened his latest case file, and started to sort through the puzzle of a violent crime.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Friday Fiction for July 3rd, 2009

Friday Fiction is hosted this week on Shirley’s Sunny Glade. Be sure to visit the terrific submissions from our wonderful group of writers!

As Christian writers, we tend to shy away from certain content in our stories. We have a general stigma against sexual content, and while I fully agree we shouldn’t offer the reader such titillating details as to risk offense or temptation, I do think we should be able to portray a healthy, happy relationship between married couples.

In fact, I not only think we should be able to, I think we should seriously consider it, because all too often religious people in general and Christians in particular are portrayed by the secular media as either too sexually inhibited, or hypocritical. God created this aspect of human relations, and He not only blessed it, He ordained that it should be enjoyed by His people, within the guidelines He established.

In this excerpt from “Her Father’s Star,” I wanted to examine the spiritual aspect of the physical relationship, as the Priestess B’Tra and her husband, Rev. David Cohen, share an intimate afternoon. There is no “bump and grind” to the scene, but still takes the reader into the bedroom in a manner that I think befits Christian fiction.

At the very least, I would be interested in your thoughts concerning how we deal with this very real aspect of humanity in our stories.

Chapter 14

‘Tis the set of the sail that decides the goal, and not the storm of life.
~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

B’Tra sat in the study, reading over Kimmie’s homework. A storm was moving over the area, and already the outside temperature had dropped and flurries of snow descended passed the windows. Looking up from the screen, she thought of similar storms she had endured back in T’Cha, when she and the other students in the priestess school had huddled by the fire to stay warm while they studied. The embassy’s climate control made such measures unnecessary, and she often thought it might be better if they did need to huddle close. The practice had helped reinforce the concept of the community of the priestesses, but any attempt to simulate it in their Terran home had met with resistance and the suggestion to just set the thermostat higher.

The approaching storm was the first of the late autumn season, and the forecast was for a serious one. She expected a thick layer of snow before the next morning, and if the storm abated enough, the youth of the church would descend on the embassy on the pretense of helping to clear the paths. In reality, it was an excuse to gather and play in the snow, and maybe get a chance to pelt the pastor with snowballs. David made a practice of allowing them at least one such chance during the snow parties.

In the time since their discussion, Se’Ana had taken well to caring for S’Bu. The young priestess watched over the child almost exclusively, and the only thing that kept B’Tra involved was the regular nursing. It was a difficult thing, withdrawing emotionally from her child. Her inclination was to draw closer to her baby before the years of separation they faced, but she reasoned it would only make it more traumatic on the both of them. The earlier S’Bu bonded with Se’Ana and grew to associate maternal care with her, the more natural it would seem to the child to have the surrogate in her life.

The duty proved good for Se’Ana. In the time since she had accepted the responsibility for the child, her bouts of melancholy were less frequent and of shorter duration. She was still not back to the confidence she had displayed those first days following the ceremony in Auckland, but she no longer acted as though the attack had ended her life. The two priestesses spent more time talking with each other during the times B’Tra fed the infant, and she had more than once let the younger priestess vent her frustrations. Whether that helped the healing process or not, it seemed to relieve Se’Ana of the build-up of anger and improved her mood.

She forced her attention back to the homework. The creative writing project was simplistic, yet infused with a wry sense of humor that none of her other children expressed. The story about two dogs trying to figure out how to control the food system while their master slept was imaginative and contained jokes that were beyond a typical child her age, even if the composition itself needed some serious editing.

Kimmie relished her role as big sister, after being the “baby” of the family for so long. As yet, no one else had been told of the decision to send S’Bu back to Qi’le to be raised as a priestess. No one but she, David, and Se’Ana even knew the child had been named, and she wondered how the other children would receive the news.

It would not set well with her husband’s church, either. Many of the members of the congregation had been asking often when they were going to dedicate the baby, as though the delaying of the Christian custom would somehow condemn the child to a Godless existence. They would expect the vow to raise her daughter to be a Christian, even as their other children had been raised.

Not this one, she thought.

She made her comments on Kimmie’s composition and sent it back to her daughter. Leaving the study and heading to their bedroom, she broke into David’s thoughts and invited him to meet her there.

She needed him; she needed his touch on her skin, driving all distractions from the joining of their minds. The B’sela was always there, but never as intense as during physical intimacy. His anticipation built as he made his way through the hallways, feeding off of hers and fueling her excitement as well. Standing at the foot of their bed, she closed her eyes and encouraged him with the thought of his hands lifting the robes from her shoulders.

He entered the room without a word, closing the door behind him. She saw herself through his eyes as he walked up behind her; smelled her hair through his nose as he brought his lips close to her ear. She felt the fabric of her robes brushing against his arms as he wrapped them around her, bringing his hands up in front of her face. She trembled from the intimate touch as he brought all of his fingers into contact with her cheeks. She pressed back against him, aware of the sensations of both their bodies but focused on his touch as he caressed her face.

They sang the prayer for the B’sela joining together, inviting the third mind that was said to meet the couple during those closest moments. They had sensed the eternal presence a few times during their marriage, including the day S’Bu had been conceived, so it did not surprise them to have the awareness of God’s approval at the peak of the lovemaking.

It is time we tell them,” she thought, lying on his chest afterwards.

The idea crossed his mind and into hers; a flash of inspiration that frightened him as much as it intrigued him.

She smiled and approved. The church could blame her if they did not like it. After all, most still failed to comprehend the joining of the two minds; more than once someone had gone to David to voice a concern about her, thinking to share it with him so that he could address it with her without her knowing who had complained – forgetting that they could never truly keep a secret one from the other. Elizabeth and James would be out for the Thanksgiving feast; they would do it that weekend.

Things always seemed clearer after an interlude. They were in close physical contact and relaxed, with little to deter their minds from working together well. It was one reason she had needed him.

She rolled over and pulled the curtain back to look out the window. The snow was falling thick and heavy, piling up on the outside sill and sticking to the glass. Cold air fell from the space between the window and the curtains, raising goose bumps on her exposed skin. It was a good afternoon for a nap, and S’Bu would not need to be fed for a couple of hours yet. She released the curtain and drew the blankets up around her, drifting into a shared dream with David.