Thursday, October 23, 2014

GHOST STORIES: "Walter's Sunday" Conclusion

Walter’s Sunday
By Judith Cullen

© 2014

By the time he’d finished the crossword the morning was well on its way to becoming afternoon.  He’d better get on with things.  He had chores to do, errands to run, and was expected for a family gathering that afternoon – the traditional Sunday after church lunch.  Walter only went to church when he felt like it anymore.  There were few things about the service that were engaging for him, and he got tired of people being solicitous of his maturity.  He’d never imagined himself as a “sweet old man” and he didn’t appreciate being treated like he was infirm.  It didn’t matter to him that he had the challenges of the old - he’d earned them!  And he didn’t mind being treated with respect.  He just hated being treated with solicitous consideration.  He knew the people meant well, but it just seemed fake to him.  It felt like they treated him that way because they felt they should, not because they really wanted to.

The dishes were washed and the kitchen scrubbed up in due order.  Walter was grateful for the Army.  It had taught him survival skills that had turned out to be far more valuable than marksmanship.  He watered the plants, marveling as he did most mornings that they seemed to thrive in spite of his neglect.  Jean had been the one with the green thumb.  He’d kept the plants because they reminded him of her.  It would have been easier to have chucked them out.  But he liked the way the morning light made the leaves shine.  He always heard Jean in his head, “Now don’t over water them, Walter!”  He smiled, always replying out loud “Of course not, my dear.”

Monday, October 20, 2014

GHOST STORIES: "Walter's Sunday" ~ Part 1

And now . . . *drum roll* . . . for this year's stories!  Here begins the first of two.  Enjoy!

*****

Walter’s Sunday

By Judith Cullen
© 2014

The alarm began its relentless beeping.  It continued for several minutes and Walter found himself wishing, not for the first time, that someone had developed a gadget so that he could turn the damn thing off from bed.  Then again, that would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?  His wife, Jean, had moved the alarm clock to its home on the dresser years ago, after an unfortunate incident in which he had hit “snooze” repeatedly for over 90 minutes.

She’d been gone for 8 years now, his Jean.  He missed her terribly.  She had always brought structure and order to their lives.  Walter was convinced that he would have made a mess of things if left to himself.  When she’s passed, he’d maintained her household regimen: running the vacuum and dusting the house on Saturday morning, laundry on Wednesdays, changing the sheets every Monday.  He did his best, but he sometimes forgot things.  Walter was 87, and his life was a dichotomy of a rigid schedule versus a firm belief that he’d earned the right to do as he pleased, when he pleased.  He missed his Jean, and he forgot things.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

GHOST STORIES: "Her Own Words" Concludes

Her Own Words
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2013

Conclusion


When she finally went to bed, sometime after three in the morning, she just stared blankly at the ceiling until the sun came up.  At eight she called her office to let them know she was staying at home.  She didn’t have any crucial appointments or deadlines, and she had plenty of time off coming.

Ten a.m. found her in the stiff cold air, opening her umbrella as the rain started to fall.  She had gotten the
name of the cemetery from the listing she had found, and the desk clerk had given her directions how to find the grave. The actual physical cemetery was a little more intimidating than the graphics on the desk clerk’s computer.  Elaine finally found her though.

Rebecca Jonas
Born August 14, 1962
Died October 5, 2006

There was no other inscription.  Elaine recognized the headstone.  There was a group of ladies at one of the big local churches who had started a charity to help people who died without means to have a proper burial.  They held bazaars, bake sales, and auctions all to provide monuments and obituary listings for people who passed and had no relatives, or whose relatives could not afford it.  What had happened to Rebecca’s family?  She had been an only child, but she’d had parents. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

GHOST STORIES: "Her Own Words" - Part 2

Her Own Words
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2013

Part Two


If Elaine had been correct, and it had been a practical joke, that should have been the end of it.  Middle aged woman annoyed – mission accomplished.  End of story.  But that was not the end of it. 

Two days later she walked into her workroom, put her bag down next to her desk, and dropped the mail on top of it.  She had avoided the room since the night of the storm, but there was work she needed to do from home tonight.  She had totally forgotten about the note.  She glanced across the desk as she began sorting the mail, separating the important things from those that would go straight to the recycling bin at her feet. 

Except it wasn’t there, the note from the other night.  There was a note there, but it was not the same note.  Or was it?  It was the same envelope, same old-fashioned looking paper, and the same familiar curvy handwriting “Elaine Harrison.”  This envelope, however, was sealed.  As it sat there on the desk, it was almost shouting at her already.  Elaine didn’t want to know what it said.  She pushed it to one side and went back to her mail.
 
Wait a minute!  If it was sealed and a new note, how the hell did it get there?  Could it have simply been the same note as before, and she just didn’t remember putting the note back in the envelope? It looked awfully neat and untouched teetering there on the edge of the desk.  There was only one way to find out if it was the same note.  She reached for it, tore open the flap, and ripped the note from inside.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

GHOST STORIES: "Her Own Words" - Part One

This is the third year in which I have written a ghost story for October.  In fact this year I write two.  The certain irony is that people who publish ghost stories actually are reviewing them in February.  So I suspect I am "banking it forward" with this work.

There is something undeniable about the effect late September has on my writing muse.  In 2012 I wrote my first ghosty story, "In the Mist", which was published in A TRIO OF IRISH TALES which is available on Amazon, and remains my most popular publication to date.

"Her Own Words" was last year's (2013) story took second place in a Ghost Story Contest sponsored y author Lissa Bryan. Since  this story is only available in paperback as part of TRIO TALES 2013, I have decided to share it here, in series, as it lends itself to that.  I'll follow with this year's stories, similarly eeked out in hopefully enticing bits.

Just a side note about me and scary stories:  if you are looking for the "blood-curdling-eviscerating-entrailing" kind of story from me, you are in for disappointment.  My stories have suspenseful, possibly thrilling moments, but my inner "Pooh-Bear" always asserts itself.  So you might best categorize my scary fiction as "Spooky-Sweet."  You have been warned - Enjoy!
*****
Storm Clouds over Brent Hill by Adrian Platt

Her Own Words
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2013

Part One

The wind and rain made the trees outside her window groan and rumble.  There was nowhere Elaine would rather be than right where she was: curled up under her warm, thick comforter.  She’d grown up with weather like this, and she loved listening to it buffet and batter as long as she could do so from safely under the covers.  The cat had a similar idea, hopping up once Elaine had pulled the comforter up.  It had stomped around before becoming a cushion of purring fur and lapsing into feline snores. 

Familiar as the sounds of the storm were, Elaine was not lulled into sleep.  Her mind would not shut down.  The wind and rain reflected her own unrest as she tried to close down the thoughts of the day to get some sleep. Instead, she tossed with the branches and leaves accompanied by the sounds of the cat, which let out a low howl of annoyance each time Elaine moved.

The sound, when it came, seemed so out of place.  It challenged Elaine’s coziness.  It entreated her not-so-quiet mind to get out of the bed.  It was the squishing thump of footsteps outside.  How remarkable that she could hear them from this end of the house, with all the racket of the storm.  But hear them she did, loud and clear, and seemingly approaching her front door.  Who would be out at this time of night in this kind of weather?  Elaine’s still-careening mind ascribed whomever it was an idiot, and rolled over again.

There were two sharp raps on her front door.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

AH, AUTUMN!

It's here!  For some reason this is a pretty prolific "story" time of year for me.  Witness that this year my annual traditional ghost story writing, which has been happening for several years, manifested itself into two different stories. I am planning to share those stories here, but first a little warm up.

Last year I got involved with Stephanie Mesler's Word Association Haiku Challenge, and for over three months I wrote haiku on a regular basis: single, double, cycles.  It was huge fun and I am still amazed that I stayed in as long as I did.  This ten verse cycle is from that challenge.  The task was to write ten verses with one repeating line in each to the prompt "Halloween" or "Samhain."

Blossom of summer

ripened to rich harvest gold
as the wheel comes ‘round

Damp, cold, and fall mists
creep in with bounty’s decay
as the wheel comes ‘round


Mortality knocks
beckoning our acceptance
as the wheel comes ‘round


Thursday, September 11, 2014

REMEMBERING

It has taken years to write this simple poem.  I actually think I had to learn how to write it.  I offer it today as a humble tribute in honor and in memory of . . . all of us.

Learned on 911
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

Early morning phone call
the unbelievable
forcing myself not to
lock into the TV for hours
Hoping
Praying
like the death of Diana
that it wasn’t true.

Pressing on determined
beneath skies
now menacingly empty
forcing myself not to feel
Guilty
Overcome
others depending on me
to be calm, and present.