Survivor

Julie sat on a rock at the edge of the lake. The moon was almost full. She could clearly make out most of the surrounding area without using the flashlight she had used to travel through the wooded area to get here. The moonlight glistened off the ripples in the lake. The gentle lapping of the waves against the shore was normally a soothing sound to Julie but it did nothing to calm her nerves tonight. She was here to buy a gun.

She visibly shook as she recalled the brutal beatings she had suffered at the hands of her ex-husband. She thought she was finally safe until she had spotted him hanging around the office where she worked and her apartment. He’s an FBI Agent. I should have known it would be hard to hide from him.

She had made arrangements through a friend of a friend of a friend to buy a gun off the grid for protection. If she had gone through normal channels, she feared her ex-husband would have ways to find out.

Julie checked her watch. The seller was late. Fog began to roll in off the lake and soon she could barely see anything. She switched on her flashlight but in the thick fog, the light really didn’t help much. She was turning and shining the light around when she thought she saw a figure in the fog. It looked like a man but it had a peculiarly shaped head with eyes that protruded out of its head. Then it disappeared. I’m starting to imagine monsters. This was a bad idea. It’s time to get out of here.

She was trying to get her bearings when she felt something slide around her neck and start to tighten. Her left hand flew to her throat and she felt a small rope. Her metal flashlight was still firmly grasped in her right hand. She could hear the man behind her breathing so with every bit of strength she had, she swung the flashlight over her left shoulder aiming for his head. She heard a very satisfying crack as the flashlight made contact. The rope loosened and she turned and kneed her attacker in the groin.

As he collapsed on the ground, she saw her attacker was wearing night vision goggles. She placed the heel of her boot firmly on a very sensitive part of his body. He groaned and clutched at her foot. She shined the flashlight directly into his goggles. He shrieked and ripped them off. Julie pressed down even harder with her boot heel.

“I suppose you didn’t even bring a gun,” Julie stood over him clutching the flashlight like a club.

He shook his head no as he continued to moan.

“So you were just going to kill a woman for a few hundred dollars?”

He just gave a loud groan as she pressed down even harder with her boot.

“If you want to leave with all your body parts intact, I suggest you get the hell out of here now.” She lifted her boot and listened to him run, tripping repeatedly, and yelping as he made his way back through the woods without a light. She heard a car door slam, a car engine roar to life, and the noise of tires squealing as he peeled out of the parking lot.

Julie sighed with relief and then chuckled softly as she picked up the night vision goggles that were left behind. She threw them in the bag with her money and twirled her flashlight like a gunslinger would twirl his gun. I don’t need a gun. All I need is a good sturdy flashlight.

As Julie made her way back to her car, she smiled and whispered to herself, “I am a survivor.”

The debate over gun control issues still rages on in the US. It’s a difficult topic to resolve for a multitude of reasons. I grew up on a ranch in rural Texas and guns were a necessary part of that life. As small children, my siblings and I got into all sorts of crazy situations like running through the woods barefoot and hopping over rattlesnakes. We learned to escape raging bulls by becoming experts at sliding through barbed wire fences. I could go on but you’ve got the picture.
We never touched the guns that were always around. Never. Until we were deemed old enough that my Dad taught us how to shoot and have a very healthy respect for the damage they could cause.
As an adult, I didn’t own a gun for years but I was given one by a relative for self-protection. A few years later I found myself staring down the barrel of that loaded gun. It was was in the hands of a man that I trusted. I managed to get away and call the police. I handed that gun over to the police and told them I wanted it destroyed.
I now have two new techniques for self-protection. A steaming hot cup of coffee thrown in the face of an attacker can buy you time to get to safety. The next weapon in my arsenal is my trusty 9 iron golf club. It’s far superior to a baseball bat based on physics.

If you liked this post, or even if you hated it. please leave a comment! If you have questions or comments on the physics regarding baseball bat vs, golf club, please leave a comment.

How Reading Rewires Your Brain

This is a great blog post I wanted to share.

M.C. Tuggle, Writer

Reading

There is no doubt in my mind that modern society traps its subjects in an unhealthy and unsuitable environment. That stark realization motivates many of my stories (see here and here, for example). The most disturbing symptom of how toxic our culture has become is the increasingly acerbic mutual distrust evident in current politics. Little wonder so many feel depressed, powerless, and alienated.

Rather than utilizing technology to better our lives, we let it rule us. Distracted by smart phones, buffeted by inescapable sensory overload, and hobbling our discourse in 140-character outbursts at each other, we’re incapable of understanding our own inner selves, much less that of others.

Fortunately, the tonic for the condition we find ourselves in is close at hand — if only we would use it, as this eye-opening piece in big think proclaims:

Research shows that reading not only helps with fluid intelligence, but with…

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Hurricanes & Earthquakes & Politics, Oh My

This month has been incredibly insane. The events that have occurred have made me want to bury myself under my bedcovers and a ton of pillows and not come out until October.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Katia combined with the Earthquake in Mexico (their worst in almost 100 years) have wreaked havoc through the Caribbean, Mexico, and the southeastern U.S. The deaths and destruction left in the wake of these disasters are devastating and heartbreaking. Recovery, for some areas, will take years. Some areas will never recover.

Millions of lives were affected by these tragedies, but it was very personal for me. My youngest daughter was trapped by floodwaters for days without electricity. There was no way I could get to her. That was terrifying and frustrating.

I had several friends that only survived because they were rescued by the National Guard. I also have friends that lost everything but their lives and the clothes on their back.

As if that weren’t enough to send me diving under those pillows, there’s the escalating rhetoric between Trump and Kim Jung Un. North Korea just tested their most powerful nuclear bomb yet and launched another ballistic missile over Japan. Add to that the dismantling of DACA, having it restored Wednesday night, followed by a reversal bright and early Thursday morning. I won’t mention the rest of the insanity in Washington because that would take too long.

One last item that I will mention is Hurricane Jose. It weakened to a tropical storm, but now it’s expected to strengthen to hurricane force again and the path is moving west toward the U.S.

Since I don’t have a 1950’s style underground bomb shelter, I haven’t found the yellow brick road and I’m positive there’s no Glenda the Good Witch to wave her wand and solve all the problems in the world, that pile of pillows is looking pretty enticing. Maybe I’ll try under the bed. The dust bunnies aren’t great conversationalists, but they’re really good listeners.

Why I write

A great post from Robin Leeann with which I think all writers can identify.

Robin LeeAnn

there’s no greater movement inside of me

than when their faces shine bright

from the something I’ve created from nothing

the something may make me cry

make me fall down and self-doubt

but there’s a beauty from the pain it brings

the beauty brings smiles on people’s faces

the smiles bring a rushed feeling inside me

the rushed feeling beckons me to write again

my writing could never be read

could be hated by the world

but that’ll never stop me from writing

there’ll always be a new piece from me

there’ll always be words coming from me

there’ll always be me, with a pen in my hand, writing

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Writing Through the Insecurities

In “Journal of a Novel,” John Steinbeck wrote, “I know it is the best book I have ever done. I don’t know whether it is good enough.” I’m no John Steinbeck and never hope to achieve the status he did as an author, but even he had insecurities about his writing.

Maybe my insecurities are justified. That’s one way to think and going down that particular rabbit hole is where I find myself too often. I constantly have to ferret out all the voices in my head that tell me that the last sentence, the last paragraph, or even everything I’ve ever written is just drivel. It somehow makes me feel better, and not so alone, knowing that even John Steinbeck struggled with such insecurities.

For the past few decades, most of my writing has been technical, nonfiction, or novels. I recently made the decision to pursue my passion for writing novels once again. I never tried to publish my last two novels and I’ve told myself for years that I was just happy with my accomplishment. The truth is that my insecurities held me back and have kept me from writing another novel until now.

Since I made that decision, I’ve set aside some of my reading time for articles and books about writing.  One of the suggestions I’ve read from numerous sources is that novelists should give flash fiction and short story writing a shot. Each writer gave lists of reasons for doing so, but the one that caught my eye was that it could stimulate creativity.

I was very insecure about this new fiction form. How could anyone pack a story of any interest into such a compact space? I gave it a whirl anyway with a lot of starts and stops. I didn’t count how many times I edited it.  Then I finally posted it on a website where I knew it would get serious reviews. I was terrified and expected to be shredded. I felt vulnerable and exposed.

I was torn between wanting to see my reviews and never wanting to even check them, but humans are inherently curious and curiosity won the battle. I had to see what kind of “train wreck” I had written. I was so shocked when I read my first reviews that I thought there must have been some mistake. There were genuine critiques of my story, but my aggregate rating was 4.5 out of 5 stars.

So, to all of the insecure writers out there, tell the negative voices in your head to shut up. Do it every time they try to sneak into your thoughts. I have to do it constantly. Remember that even John Steinbeck had insecurities and most importantly keep writing.

Maybe I’ll try poetry next…….Nope! Not a chance!

 

The Painting

Sara and Calvin sat at opposite ends of the couch staring blindly at the painting hanging on the wall. The room was illuminated only by the flickering light of the candles spread around the room.

“That painting’s crooked,” mumbled Calvin.

“No, it’s not,” responded Sara flatly.

“Yeah, it is.” Calvin’s voice rose a notch.

“As if you really care.”

“Well, it’s irritating me.”

“It’s been hanging there for a week. Now you care?”

“Never paid much mind to it before, but it’s definitely crooked.”

Calvin sat stoically on the couch as if willing the painting to straighten itself.

They were stuck in a room they had barricaded to protect themselves from the blood-sucking night stalkers. Some people called them zombies for lack of a better term.

The invasion of their town by the murderous monsters started about a week ago. The windows were covered with thick sheets of plywood reinforced by 2×6 pieces of lumber. The door was blocked with several 2x6s that they could slide out if they needed.

“Apparently you think that I can’t hang a picture right.” Sara’s volume now matching his. “It looks fine to me.”

“Did you use a level?”

“Of course I did! If it’s bothering you so badly, why don’t you go get a level and check it?”

“I will,” Calvin spat, but he continued to sit on the couch just staring at the painting,

After a few minutes, Sara jumped up from the couch. “Oh, for crying out loud. I’ll go get the level.” She gasped as she doubled over in pain clutching her abdomen.

“Your incision from the surgery?” There was no concern in his voice.

“The one for the teratoma that almost killed me you mean?” Her sarcasm was biting. She popped open a few of the snaps on her nightgown and stared down at the still healing incision running from her sternum down to her pubic bone. Calvin looked away and didn’t answer.

“Is the level in the closet?” He looked puzzled by the possibility.

She turned and gave him a chilling look. He looked away again. The sound of the glass windows shattering went unnoticed by the arguing couple.

“Of all the things you thought we might need in this room, you thought a level would be one of them?” Calvin asked sarcastically.

“It was already in here and, because you’re so obsessed with this painting, apparently it was necessary.” Sara pulled the level out of the closet and walked toward the painting.

“What’s a tera… whatever?”

“It’s a freaking tumor. Weren’t you listening when the surgeon spoke to us?”

“Oh yeah,” he mumbled. “It had hair and teeth and fingernails and stuff.”

“Of course you heard that part.” Sara rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“What causes that?”

“One of my eggs decided to try to become a baby without the help of your stupid sperm.”

Sara placed the level on top of the painting. “See, it’s perfectly level.”

“Well, it is now! You moved it when you put the level on it.”

“No, I didn’t”

There was a scraping sound on the wood covering the windows.  The couple didn’t seem to hear it.

“Yeah, you did. I saw it move.”

Calvin was still sitting on the couch. He hadn’t moved an inch. Sara threw the level at him as hard as she could, hitting him just above his left eye. He stared at the floor, still not moving as blood trickled down the side of his face.

The splintering of the plywood could be heard throughout the room.

“What was that for?” he asked.

“For being such an ass. That painting was straight and you know it.”

“No, it wasn’t, but it is now.”

“Yes, it was. I just proved it.”

“No, you straightened it.” Blood continued to trickle down his face but he still didn’t move.

“No, I didn’t,” Sara screamed.

The first night stalker burst through the splintered Plywood.  Sara and Calvin stared at the monster in shock, then they turned towards each other. They knew it was the end.

Minutes later their lifeless, blood drained bodies lay on the floor with their dead eyes fixed on the painting about which they had been arguing.

 

copyright ©2017 Liz Leighton All Rights Reserved

All in a Day’s Work

Billy had just arrived at the work sight in the dump truck. There was a rumble overhead and suddenly fish began to fall from the sky. The workers ran for cover while Billy sat safely in the cab of the truck. His jaw dropped and his eyes widened as he watched with astonishment.

There weren’t just a few fish. There was a ton of fish. The fish continued to fall for a full ten minutes or maybe more. Just as suddenly as it started, it stopped.

The crew peered out from the places they had sought shelter. Finally, they began to emerge one by one.  They carefully stepped over and around the fish which were strewn across the work sight while staring up at the sky warily.

Billy got out of his cab and then noticed the back of the dump truck was full of fish. They were still alive and flopping around. He turned to the foreman and said “I’m not picking up any gravel today. I’ve got fish to sell. Where’s the closest place to buy ice?”

 

copyright ©2017 Liz Leighton All Rights Reserved