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LJ Idol - Week 17: "Scare Quotes"

Wishful Thinking

The silence on the other end of the telephone line was disconcerting.  She had received the message to call her Aunt at this specific time, and after a quickly, and uncharacteristically uttered, “hang on”, had been sitting within a void of sound for what seemed like hours, but in fact had only been a minute or two.  It was weird, and her mind was in a panic, thinking something was wrong.  No, knowing something was wrong.  Her Uncle was in poor health, recently diagnosed with cancer and completing chemotherapy treatments.  God, she hoped he was alright.

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This is my entry for therealljidol Season 9, Week 17.  The topic was "scare quotes".  This is fiction, although some characters are based on real life people I know.  Bellbrook, Ohio is an actual town in Ohio.  It's demographics suited my needs and though I've never been there, and never intend on going, it sounds like a quaint place.  Well, according to Google and the bit of research I did it sounds like it is.  Please read the other fine entries this week here. Concrit is welcome.
Beauty Remembered

I never knew how beautiful my mother was until she went through chemotherapy.  It pains me and shames me to admit that as a young girl and teenager, her appearance embarrassed me.

My mother was fat, obese.  She didn’t look like the other mothers in the neighborhood, or at school, or at church.  She always wore dresses; pants wouldn’t ever fit right, and had these huge glasses because she was nearly blind without them.  Her hair, long or short, straight or curly, was a dull, dark brown, eventually streaked with grey, and she never wore make-up.  She wasn’t ugly, I just never saw her as beautiful.  I never realized, or understood, that she didn’t see herself as beautiful either until later in life.

This never stopped her from loving us or playing with us.  I remember summers where she would turn her three hundred fifty pound frame in a cartwheel to show us how it was done, or the times she organized kickball and softball games with the other kids and their moms in the middle of the street, where we would all run the bases barefoot, sticky with tar and sweat.

I remember her shouting “sun shower” and all of us running to change into bathing suits to dance in the rain before the burst moved on.

I remember the time the electrical outlet sparked and burned my fingers and within minutes she had the four of us safely ensconced in a neighbor’s house and the fire department on the way.

I remember the day she surprised my father by washing the car, squirting the hose on us more than the soap and suds, and starting a water “war” with the neighbor boy, only to have the car not start for three days because water got in some part or another and had to dry out.

I remember the day she came running and screaming into the house because she had stepped on a snake in the garden.

I remember her large arms enfolding me when one horrid teenage experience or another had set me to sobbing.

I remember the compassion and joy she taught the girls in our church youth group with.

I remember the numerous and inventive casseroles she would cook for dinner and how she never made brownies until the weeks I decided to go on a diet.

I remember the gastric bypass surgery and the drastic change to her, physically and mentally.

I remember the call in my dorm, two thousand miles away from home, when she told me they found a tumor.

I remember her telling me that she knew the reason she got cancer was to increase her compassion and understanding as she dealt with patients she nursed at the hospital.

I remember the wig she bought and the laughter at how silly she looked with all that hair and her decision to forego the wig, embracing her baldness.  It made her look that much more like her father.

I remember her will and strength not allowing her mortality interfere with my independence and the start of my adult life.  I remember her telling me not to worry, that all was okay, that I didn’t need to move back to be closer.

I remember the morning, the day after Christmas, when my sister called to tell me she was gone.  I remember somehow knowing that she waited until Christmas was celebrated before succumbing to the pain and failure that wracked her now shrunken frame.

She’s been gone for nearly sixteen years now, but I catch a glimpse of what she looked like every time I look in the mirror, and I remind myself that her beauty was always there, that it was me who couldn’t find it until something terrible took it.

me n mom chemo
Me and Mom, circa 1993

This is my entry for therealljidol Season 9, Week 16.  The topic was "A Terrible Beauty Has Been Born".  You can read other entries here.

The first drop of hot wax on her soft belly caused her to stifle a scream, the sharp reflexive movement from the shock of it causing a ribbon of burning paraffin to trickle from the spot where it had finally broken through its cohesiveness.

Mara had burned herself before, in the fire and against cooking pots, but always her hands, hardened and callused from hard work.  A quick “ouch” and reflexive pull back from the source, the pain had never been this bad before.  Perhaps it was the anticipation and the defeat that intensified it.  Maybe it was the softness of skin that had always been protected.  Likely, Jalon had put a spell on it.

Mara took a shallow breath, fear clogging her mind.  Another drop fell, another crack in the soft crust that had started to cool over the pool of hot wax and another small rivulet.  By the time a ring of wax formed around the base of the candlestick, despair had replaced the fear Mara felt.  Silent tears were falling from the corners of her eyes.

Bemoaning the fact that her hands and legs were bound to the bedposts, Mara resigned herself to the idea that she must do something, and must do so quickly or suffer further pain.  Forcing herself to focus, she glared at the flame topping the candle.  Staring, contorting her face and attempting to send a message of some sort to the flickering plasma accomplished nothing.  The candle continued to burn, eventually becoming a two inch stub.  The ring of melted wax had begun to harden, forming its own cohesive crust.

The mage entered and replaced the candle, as she had been told would happen.  He offered her encouragement, but no instruction and she instinctively knew that he did not know how she was to accomplish moving the inanimate object of torture.  She was left to her own devices.

She must have dozed off at some point because there was yet again a new candle burning.  She no longer felt the heat of the wax as it built upon itself around the candlestick.  It wasn’t until the wax broke through its seal yet again and pooled in her navel that anger replaced her despair and defeat.

If its own volition, her mind seemed to focus to a laser point and she had a clear understanding of what to do.  It wasn’t the flame, nor the candle itself that she must instruct, but the air around it.  She laid her head back on the pillow, closed her eyes and visualized the pocket of air around the candle.  Pursing her lips together, she softly blew in the air.  When she looked at the candle, the flame was extinguished.  Her torment was finished, but she was still a prisoner.  Focusing her energy, she flicked her fingers and the candlestick flew from her midriff and smashed against the wall.  The bond holding her arms and legs in place were a little more difficult to free, but with additional concentration and stronger focus, she was able to stretch them enough to slip her wrists out and untie her feet.

Putting on her shift, she began to practice her new found gift on other objects around the room where she had been held prisoner.  The small objects, such as the wine decanter and dishes, were easy.  The larger ones took more.  She moved the table, the chair and the bedclothes.  It was as she was levitating the bed that the mage came in again, dropping the new candle on the floor.

Mara had moved objects.  She had moved them to a large, organized pile in the center of the room.  The mage took a step back, watching in horror and fear as she moved the new candle toward the pile.  Blowing softly, she lit the candle and let it drop.  Wine soaked, the debris caught quickly.

She knew she no longer had need of the mage.  He had taught her all he knew.  She flung her arm in dismissal and tossed him across the room, trapping him behind the blaze.  Turning toward the door, she made the staircase reappear and ran down it.  At the bottom, she did not make it disappear again, rather shifted it so there was a ten foot gap between the door and the top stair.

Jalon had gotten what he wanted.  Mara's powers were awakened.

This is my entry for therealljidol Season 9, Week 15.  The topic was Checkhov's gun.  Thanks to an extended deadline I was able to get it done in time.  This is part of my serial featuring Jalon and Mara.  It jumps backward a bit and follows this entry.  Please read the other fine entries posted here.

Mara woke in the dreaming room fatigued from her appearance in Anya’s kingdom.  Anya was much easier to deal with because she saw the world as black and white.  Unlike her parents, she discounted the magical world, so while Mara found it much easier to manipulate her, it was exhausting projecting herself through dreams so she appeared corporeal.

She rose weakly from the pallet, motioning to the attending servant to bring her sustenance.  While the room remained dark out of necessity, she had made significant changes to its cleanliness and functionality since taking over for Jalon.  As she peered into corners, making sure the staff was doing their job, the servant returned with a plate of mutton, cheese, and bread and a goblet of wine.  She moved to the small table and chair and fortified herself with the meal.

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This is my entry for therealljidol Season 9, Week 14.  The prompt was Confession from the Chair.  It is a continuation from last week's entry. Thanks for reading.

LJ Idol Season 9 - Week 13 - Open Topic


As always, Anya announced her arrival amongst the audience audibly and auspiciously.  The accused stood before her, eyes wide with apprehension in the autumn sunlight.

Arturo read the litany of accusations aloud.

“What say you of the allegations against you?” the magistrate asked the accused.

“I did not do this,” came the reply.

“You have been accused of blasphemy, witchcraft, heresy, sorcery, harboring an enemy of the kingdom, malicious intent to harm, and attempted murder.”

“I did not do this.”

“You are aware of the evidence?”

“I am, but I did not do this.”

“What is your defense?”

“I have only done what was asked of me.”

“You confess to committing the acts?”

“Nay.  I did not do this.”

“You claim to be working under the power of another?”

“I have done what was asked of me.”

“Who has asked this of you?”

“Many.  Few.  One.  Another.”

“Ambiguity will not serve your fate.”

“Many asked, few compelled, one taught, another tried.”

“Will you name these others?”

“You know them.  You know all of them, daughter of Ellisandria.”

It was Anya’s turn for eyes wide with apprehension.  “What do you know of my mother?”

“She was beautiful and good and kind.  She was magical and she taught me.  If you convict me, you convict her.”

Anya took a few moments to compose herself before she continued, “And what of the others?  Those who were not good and kind?  Those who’s bidding you did to the detriment of innocents?”

“There were no innocents.  They were deserving of their fate.”

“What of the other one, he whose name shall not be spoken?”

“Jalon was my mentor.  There are two sides to every story, and his is the one I know.  His is the one I lived.  His is the one I believed.”

“You defend him?”

“I have supplanted him.”

A swirl of smoke rose around the accused.  When it cleared, she was gone.

"Find her!" Anya ordered.  "Bring me Mara the Cunning!"

This is my entry for therealljidol Season 9, Week 13.  This week was an open topic and we were told to "bring our A Game".  This entry is a companion to these previous entries, taking place several years in the future from the last entry, however, it should stand alone.  Thank you for reading.


Aunt Hazie’s house had a particular smell to it.  It smelled like dust, polished with lemon scent, and years of Sunday pot roasts and holiday hams and turkeys.  There was a hint of fire places, once used daily to provide warmth for the residents of the house.  Of fresh fruits and flowers, and occasionally, when the wind blew a breeze just right through the kitchen window, baked deliciousness with a hint of cinnamon.

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This is my entry for therealljidol Season 9 Week 12.  The prompt was Barrel of Monkeys.  Thank you for reading!  You can read the other entries for the week here.  I'll edit in a voting link when the polls open.  Please come back and vote.

New Etsy Shop - Shameless Advertising

Some of you might remember me mentioning that I have a brother who is in prison.  Not proud of that, not going to go into details, but he is getting close to parole, which leads me to:

I've set up an ETSY Shop for him.  He needs to raise money to put away for when he does get paroled and transferred to a halfway house.  Over the past six years or so, he's been spending his spare time in the hobby shop, painting and drawing.  He's done enough to have a small inventory that I've put together in a shop to sell (hopefully - fingers crossed).  If anyone is interested, here is a link: DPDJArt

Warning: Some of the images are not PG.

Thank you for checking it out!

LJ Idol Season 9 - Week 11 - Recency Bias

Scandal in a Garden

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This is my entry for therealljidol Week 11.  The prompt was Recency Bias.  You can read the other fine entries here. I'll edit in voting links when the polls are announced. If you are so inclined, you can vote over here.  I'd love some constructive feedback if anyone is so inclined. :)

LJ Idol Season 9 - Week 9 - Keep Calm

Careful What You Say

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This is my entry for therealljidol Season 9, Week 9.  The prompt was "Keep Calm and end this meme".  It's a very early post for me, partially because I had this written as an option for last week's entry, but with a few edits I think it fits this one quite nicely.  Once again, I have to thank lilycobalt for a beta read, because she did have some very helpful suggestions on this piece last week.  You can read this week's other entries here.

LJ Idol - Week 8: Yes, and

Training Day

Mara dreaded the training sessions with Jalon.  They always started out calm but quickly progressed to a frustrated end for both parties.  She could sense that he was losing patience with her, and the mage kept warning her that time was running out for her training.

Jalon entered the room and once again placed the small golden sphere on the table.  He showed her how to harness the power and raise the ball, allowing it to hover above the table.  Once again, he lowered it and indicated it was her turn to try.

Mara closed her eyes and began to concentrate.

“Eyes open, child!” he chided her, frustration making its first appearance.  “You must visualize the sphere rising,” he further instructed.

Mara opened her eyes, vacillating between concentration on the sphere and fear as she glanced at his face.  Try as she might, the sphere wouldn’t budge.

“Focus!” he shouted.

Mara jumped as if he had struck her.  A memory, unbidden, came of a time when she was a child and her father had struck her.  She had not been afraid then.  She had been angry, so very angry.  She felt the anger as it took hold.  Anger at her father, anger at her mother, anger at the situation she found herself in.  The more she allowed it to smolder, the brighter it burned, and the brighter it burned, the more she could feel the power of it course through her.

She looked at the small golden sphere and flicked her wrist.  The ball flew off the table and smashed into the wall across the room.  Her eyes grew wide in surprise.

Jalon turned and picked up the sphere.  “Well done,” he said.  “Again.”

He placed the sphere on the table once again and indicated that Mara should repeat her feat.  Again, Mara tried, but the sphere did not move.  She tried to harness the emotion that she knew must have preceded the feat the first time, but she couldn’t find it.

“I can’t,” she sighed.  “I don’t know how I did it.”

“Again,” Jalon growled at her, her success only increasing his anger and frustration.

Mara turned away.  “I can’t,” she said.

“Mage!” Jalon called, and the mage standing just outside the door came running.

“Get her maid,” Jalon instructed, “and the bindings.”

“Master, she is so young,” the mage protested.  “Is she ready for the bindings?”

“You would do well not to try my patience any further,” Jalon replied.

“What are the bindings?” Mara asked, fear causing her to shrink smaller on her seat.

“You will move the sphere.  Or another object,” Jalon told her cryptically.

Within minutes, the mage returned with Mara’s maid in tow, both of them holding a set of braided cloth.

“Undress her,” Jalon instructed the maid.  “Come,” he told the mage, “help me affix the bindings.”

Mara trembled with fear and humiliation as her maid undressed her and laid her clothes aside.  It was cold in the room and goose pimples rose on her arms.  Her maid carefully piled the discarded clothing and moved to stoke the fire.

“Leave it,” Jalon said, not even turning around to be sure the maid followed his instructions.  “Come,” he told Mara.

“My Lord,” Mara began, unsure of what to expect next.  “I do not want to,” she continued.

“You will come to the bed, Mara,” he told her.  “Or I will make you.”

It was the first time he had ever called her by name.  There was something gentle in his voice when he said it, coaxing, drawing her to him.  It was as if she couldn’t resist.  Her bare feet padded their way over to the bed and she climbed up.

As if she was in a trance, she watched as Jalon and the mage bound her hands and feet to the posts at each corner.  She had no thought to fight them, and no will.  It was as if she watched from somewhere outside herself.  The bindings were soft against her skin even though they were snug.

When they were done, the fogginess left her mind and she found she could not move except for a slight swivel of her hips.  She tried to wriggle in protest and let the outrage build within her.  She allowed it to overtake the fear.

“What do you intend to do with me,” she brazenly asked.

“Not what you think or have heard, child,” Jalon lazily grinned.  “I am a monster, but my tastes run to someone with a bit more experience than what you have to offer.”

He turned to the mage, “The candle,” he said.

Turning back to Mara, lit candle in hand, he placed it gently on her belly, covering her belly button.

“The base is not wide,” he began.  “The hot wax will melt and before long it will drip on your smooth, young skin.  If you move, the candle will fall to the mattress and set it alight.  It is simple.  If you do not want to be burned, move the candle.  Once you move the candle, remove the bindings.  No one will come to save you.  It is up to you and you alone.”

“The candle will eventually burn out,” she answered, feeling a little smug.  I can surely survive the pain of one candle, she thought to herself.

“The candle will be replaced every hour until you remove it,” he told her.  “Choose how long you can sustain the pain.”

Mara watched in horror as the mage poured melted wax from another candle into the base of the candlestick on her smooth, pale skin.  It would not be long before the drops of hot wax started their torture.

Jalon walked out, followed by the mage and her maid, who turned back with a sad, apologetic look in her eye.

This is my entry for therealljidol Season 9, Week 8.  The prompt was "Yes, and".  Many thanks to roina_arwen and lilycobalt for their beta reads and suggestions.  I had actually written two pieces and had a difficult time choosing.  Each of my beta readers suggested a different piece, which effectively made the decision mine again.  I went with this one, because the other still needed work but I couldn't put my finger on what exactly it needed.  This piece is related to earlier entries, but should work as a stand alone.  Thank you for reading!  You can enjoy the other fine entries this week here.


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