The Last Thing You’ll Ever Read

If you knew the world was going to end and you only had time to read five more books, which would you choose?

I found myself pondering this question today while looking at the long expanse of new bookshelves in my bedroom. Filled with so many delicious titles to choose from which of my many books (how many do I have?) would I pull off of the shelf and savor?bookshelf-clip-art-home-ideas-for-bookshelves-for-kids-clipart

 

Here’s my short list:

#1 Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. I see this book referenced everywhere and no I’ve never read it. Go figure.

#2 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Another one that is so much a part of our cultural lexicon and that I’ve never taken the time to read, and yet still own.

#3 The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Supposedly the quintessential horror novel and yet I’ve never read it–partly I think because of what my mind does automatically when I see the title. I turn it into Turn of the Shrew which must come from mixing it up with The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare. Either way the word shrew annoyed me away from the title.

#4 The Stand by Stephen King. This one I have read and it holds the number one most favorite book spot in my heart. Also, if the world were going to end this would almost be preparation for it.

Hmmm… #5.  I might leave that one open. Perhaps this one’s not on my shelf yet.

What would you add to the bottom of this list? What would be on yours?

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Skeleton in the Breeze

A Ray Bradbury inspired story:
Word count: 451

 

Tom discovered it first thing in the morning on the way to his mailbox.skeleton

It swung in the crisp fall breeze, covered in vapory thin clothes, bones rattling against each other, a macabre wind chime prominently displayed from the old tree. Tom’s cat hissed at it, skittering away from it into the bushes leading out to the old field.

The skeleton swung, unperturbed.

Tom stood silently watching it swing and twist. Occasionally, a lone leaf would fall off a branch above it and scrape across the old bones.

His wife joined him. “My God, Tom. Will you look at that?”

“I am looking,” he muttered, running one hand through his white hair.

“Do you suppose it’s some kinda joke? Bored teenagers, or something?”

He shrugged his shoulders, continuing to stare until his wife sighed, rubbing at an arthritic knee, and headed back towards the house. “Just get it outta here, will you?” she said.

Tom fetched the ladder but when he set it up he found himself unmotivated, stuck halfway up. Why did it even need to come down? He liked it, though he couldn’t say why. Its clothes were faded red, sleeves torn and pants ripped but it felt more alive to him than he, himself did. It didn’t hurt like he did, wasn’t bent and crooked, achy.

Its teeth rattled at him, seeming to talk, or maybe just chomp in his direction. He leaned closer to it and saw that there were wispy bits of white hair attached to its scalp, not unlike his own.

He climbed back down, leaving the ladder and the skeleton to the morning sun.

Into the night the skeleton danced among the bare branches of the tree. Frayed clothes knitted together, twisted muscles stretched across its bones.  Blood dripped from fingertips that covered slowly with skin. Eyes bulged, then covered with eyelids, teeth hid behind lips, wispy hair thickened and coarsened, turned dark.

The sun crested the old field and filled the little farmhouse with light, shining on Tom’s side of the bed, which was empty. Tom’s wife rolled over grasping the blanket to her chest, slumbering.

The cat stood in her place in the yard, swishing her tail back and forth, watching the slow and ponderous figure making its way through the field beyond the leaf littered yard. Watching its shoulders roll and the clothes on its back flutter and whip, the red plaid flannel shining in the early morning sunlight. Soon the figure walked more steadily, then confidently, striding. Youthful hands swept once through dark hair before settling over his heart. As light painted the meadow a golden hue he broke into a run, an old man turned young, and disappeared from view.Belle-In-The-Sun-Part-2.1

My Take on C

C is for Chocolate
Word Count: 841

 

Whispers on the playground. Too loud to ignore.playground

~Did you hear about that new chocolate?

~I think Justin’s Dad makes it.

~It’s really popular in Europe.

By the end of the week the conversation had changed just a bit, with everyone except Nick claiming to have tasted the chocolate.

~Sam gave me some yesterday.

~Travis shared with Mike and John.

~Rebecca had two!

Nick tried not to listen. He closed his ears, turned his head, whistled under his breath but in class, in the hallways, at recess, it followed him.  Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. And in the strange inimitable way of all obsessions, the more he tried not to think of chocolate, the more he wanted some. The more he could taste it, the slight snap as it broke between his teeth, the velvety feel of it on his tongue.

And everyone knew it.

He caught little glances here and there. Smirks out of the corner of his eye. Each and every one of his eleven-year-old classmates seemed intent on making him feel like the last kid picked for the team, except this was chocolate, sweet delectable chocolate and he was the last one to get it. He might, their glances suggested, never get any at all. Ever.

At home that weekend, his mother assured him– there was no special chocolate. The very idea was silly–didn’t he know that? Here, take this Hershey square and be done with it.

But Nick didn’t want a Hershey square. He wanted the special chocolate. The new chocolate.

By Monday at recess, the details had changed slightly. Now the chocolate came in a mug and that was the very finest way to have it, everyone said so.paper-cup-with-handle-hx0803

They asked him, their eyes big, you’ve had it, haven’t you, Nick? And then they smiled gently at him because they knew he had not.

Nick could only purse his lips and walk away and curse his luck.

Without friends, without allies, how was he to get ahold of the chocolate? It was impossible.

 

The solution presented itself on Thursday. The sun was bright, the clouds fat and cheery. By then everyone had had the chocolate, it was all they talked about, each claiming to have had it two, three, four times, even though Nick never saw them eat it. He wasn’t quick enough it seemed, never saw the evidence of it, no wrappers or empty mugs of chocolate in the trash.

Jeremiah, a boy Nick’s eyes followed day in and day out, claimed to have had it for breakfast all week, stating sadly to three other students (although not Nick, not exactly) –too bad it smelled so horrible. It was the chocolate’s only failing– a great stench to turn your stomach. But so good, so good.

Jeremiah had brought some to school to have during recess. Maybe he’d share it with someone he said, and Nick’s heart beat faster and faster. Someone special.

On that fateful Thursday the day was pregnant with expectation, heavy with it, straining with it. Nick’s hands tingled and he couldn’t concentrate couldn’t even hardly hear what the teacher said to him before recess.  He’d just nodded then followed the rest of the kids outside. Wandered over to the wall to watch the others from a safe distance, a ball from the ball bag tucked under one arm in case someone wanted to play with him.

When Jeremiah approached him, Nick was so surprised he dropped the ball and watched it numbly as it rolled away. Others gathered near creating a semicircle around him.

Jeremiah held a mug in one hand, one with a paper handle that must have come from the teacher’s lounge, that den of magic. Nick quivered, too nervous to hear what Jeremiah was saying to him but his intention was obvious. Jeremiah was offering Nick the mug of chocolate.

“Remember it smells awful but it tastes…heavenly,” he said.

“Heavenly,” others said and Nick heard that clearly and couldn’t stop smiling.

He looked in the mug and its contents were brown just as he expected and liquidy which was a surprise. He sloshed it around slightly and he could smell it. It did smell awful, terrible, horrible.

“It’s better to drink it fast,” Jeremiah said. “To get past the smell.” Then he nodded his approval and Nick looked around at all the bright smiling faces–all of them happy for him.  Happy that it was his turn to have chocolate and he lifted the mug and put it to his lips and opened his mouth and the liquid splashed across his teeth and over his tongue and down his gullet and before he knew it tears were in his eyes and vomit was in his throat and out of his mouth and he was crying, hysterically weeping and was immediately surrounded by the sweet tinkling sounds of laughter, pure light hearted giggles and he shut his eyes vowing never to open them again.

Never ever, not for the rest of his life.

 

All Children Except One Grow Up

This story came from a prompt given during my writing club. We had to use the first line from a famous novel. I chose Peter Pan, of course.

All Children Except One Grow Upunhappy_child2

Word count: 360

All children, except one, grow up.

Mags skated around her driveway. Her skates chaffed her ankles but she barely noticed. Her face was fierce; cheeks red, hair covered in sweat, her eyes narrowed and intense.

Inside of her house her parents raged. She could hear them, everyone could hear them. Occasionally another child on her block would stop, or at least pause across from her on the sidewalk listening only long enough to know that they wouldn’t stick around for more. No one ever hung around. It made Mags very lonely.

Her skates rode roughly over the pavement. The vibration gave her calves a pleasant almost numb feeling. Hot air rose around her. Like hell, Mags thought. That’s what Mom would say, sitting with her friends in the backyard under the shade trees. Then Mag’s father would roll his eyes and wink at her.

She, ten years old, was at the beginning of her life, but it was changing. She could feel the changes, sometimes. She could see them too which is why she abhorred mirrors, pretended they weren’t there, went selectively blind at certain times of the day. Like when she brushed her teeth.

They were shouting again. Mags closed her eyes. “You never loved me!” She could hear her mother shout, but she knew it wasn’t love her mother sought, not really. That wasn’t what was missing.

It was the elimination of the other stuff, the stuff Mag’s mother called stress. Things like paying bills, buying groceries, turning off the lights. Well, that was her father’s big thing–’turn off the lights, Mags’ he always said but she preferred the darkness anyway. It was her mother that wanted the light. It was her mother who sat up at night and turned on all the lights and left them until dawn, while she slept in the chair in the living room.

Those stressors, they all had one source: adulthood.

Mags knew that the root of all grown up problems stemmed from being a grown up.

The solution was easy; never grow up.

That’s what Mags planned to do.