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Archive for May, 2014

Queen Victoria

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I made it into the final round of NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge.  I was very happy to do so, as many very worthy writers and stories did not make it this far.  I may have panicked a bit, to be honest, as it is my first time in this competition and I definitely did not feel practiced or good enough to make it this far.  However, I determined to give it my best go.

The final round is a 24 hour deadline, based on three random prompts.  The prompts for this round were:

Genre: Open
Character: A fisherman
subject: Jealousy

From that, this is the story I came up with.  I hope you like it.

***

The Loaves and the Fish

During a time of grief, loneliness, and regret, Camille gives up a life of abundance to join a Community that cares for her.

*

 

 

The interview room was warm and inviting.  Soft, deep cushions adorned the two large sofas.  A round wooden table with four chairs stood in one corner.  The walls, soothing greys and blues, held landscapes signed by a serene, if inscrutable, hand. Camille sat at the table, waiting for her questioning to begin.

 

“Tell me about yourself, Camille.” Martin tucked himself into the chair opposite Camille at the table, folding his hands properly in front of him.  His navy suit was tailored and subtle.   Gold cuff links in the shapes of crosses held the French cuffs of his crisp white shirt snug, and he wore a simple gold band on his left ring finger.  Camille gazed at these trappings briefly, then blinked and looked away.

 

“I grew up here, but moved to the city for college.” She paused, but Martin cleared his throat impatiently.  “I only moved back to Albany eight months ago. I…came back for a funeral.”

*

The casket was halfway lowered to its final resting place when Camille stepped to the edge.  Onto the casket, she dropped not flowers, but brightly colored, shining bass-fishing lures.  A little blue fish with a triple hook at its head, a rubbery frog with two legs that flopped and made a faint thud as it hit the highly polished wood, an imitation water plant that looked like a wig for a miniature Cousin It.  That one was the one that made her cry.  One of the few times she went out fishing with Dad and Adam, her brother had put the rubbery weed on top of the blue fish’s head, creating a pantomime for her.  She smiled at the rare memory of laughing Adam, who was too old to play with and too different to befriend. Only minutes later, bored with the slow sequence of cast and reel, Camille had snuck off to lie under a tree, gazing at cloud-shapes and losing herself in one of her countless books.

*

“You were close with your brother, then? And your parents?” Martin shuffled some of the papers in front of him, and then looked at her with a stern expression.  Camille lowered her eyes to the table, and pinched the flowers on her simple calico skirt between her fingers.

“I – wasn’t like them.  They loved me, but didn’t understand me. I felt the futility; I could be successful at everything the rest of the world deemed important, but I could never be Adam.”

*

The gulf between Adam and Camille seemed to grow with the years.  Camille was interested in academics, in the study of ancient worlds, in travel and in exploration.  Adam and her parents were content with their rural lifestyle, running their small bait and tackle store at the edge of Rensselaer Lake.  Returning from University on weekends, Camille watched her father and her brother sort their tackle boxes. They would peek inside the picnic lunches that Mom packed for them. They were easy in the way they talked and laughed together. Worst of all were Mom’s bright eyes whenever she gazed at Adam. The favoritism was apparent, and Camille’s resentment grew.  Mom passed away during Camille’s senior year, and Camille was left with Dad and Adam’s gruff, short phrases and held-back tears.

 

They looked confused, if cluelessly proud, when Camille landed her dream job at an internationally acclaimed museum in the City.  After that, weekend visits became fewer and the silences longer.  The last visit was after Dad had followed Mom to Albany Rural Cemetery.  Adam and Camille spent two silent days, Adam in his comfortable bedroom and Camille in the ‘guest room’, entirely cleared of her childhood toys and books. They ate together, meals brought to them by Adam’s neighbors. Adam attempted to break the ice by showing Camille his new Loomis fishing rod.  Camille realized that the rod cost the same as a pair of her Christian Louboutin shoes. Ridiculously, that made the divide between them seem endless.  When she left that day, it was the last time she ever hugged her stranger-brother, 10 years older and centuries removed.

*

“And how did you become acquainted with our little community, Camille?”  At that question, Camille perked up, smiling broadly.  “Oh! It was at Adam’s funeral.  Everyone had left, besides me.  And then Jenny just walked right up to me and wrapped me up in the most loving hug.  I knew her, back in grade school, you know.”

*

Jenny and Camille were friends when they were very young.  Theirs was the kind of friendship that was close for a brief time, and then dissipated as they matured.  Jenny was slight and droop-shouldered. She liked picking flowers and talking.  Camille was too caught up in the worlds of her books for much conversation, and eased away from Jenny’s loquacious overtures.  Camille was therefore surprised and grateful at the show of compassion Jenny gave at Adam’s funeral.  Over the course of the next several weeks, Jenny became Camille’s backbone; she began by helping run the bait and tackle store. She stayed a few nights a week at the small house Camille’s parents, and subsequently Adam, had left to her. She did most of the cooking and all of the cleaning.

Jenny was very religious, and spent a great deal of time reading her Bible and books of poetry, which she left lying around the house.  As Adam had not read much and neither had Camille’s parents, they were the only books present. Camille, wandering aimlessly through the house, first fingered the gilt covers of the bibles as she walked by them.  She began to pick up the books, reading snippets here and there. One day, Camille found a slip of paper tucked into a bible. On it was written a poem by Cristina Rossetti, which brought her to tears;

 

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?

Of labour you shall find the sum.

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?

Yea, beds for all who come.

After that, Jenny and Camille spoke every evening about Jenny’s church.  Within weeks, Jenny had shown Camille how to pray, and eventually they did so together.  Jenny introduced Camille to the Community, and showed her the growing farm where they all lived and worked together.  Camille found herself letting go of old resentments.  She felt at peace for the first time in her life.

*

“The six month waiting period is standard for all new members of our Community.  I know that Jenny has spoken to you of the conditions for Community membership.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.” Martin’s pen tapped, slowly but forcefully, against his notepad.

“Yes, I understand.” Camille replied carefully. “I believe in our Lord and Savior with all my heart.  I believe he sent me to the Community to save my life, to bring me home.  I realize how superficial life in New York is.  Even the hipsters are materialistic, though they feign disdain. I want to be here now.  I want to make a home, have chance again…a family.”

 

Martin looked Camille in the eyes for several long breaths.  Nodding, he pushed a paper toward her.  “Very well.  This document gives the Community all rights to the bait and tackle store.” He placed another next to the first.  “This one to Adam’s house. And this one,” he moved a third paper toward her, “to your apartment in the city and all assets within it.  Including any artwork, jewelry, and …your shoe collection.”

Camille smiled again.  “All shoes and fishing rods, yes.” Camille signed all of the forms in front of her. She stood to leave and Martin came to embrace her warmly.  “Welcome home, Camille.  Let us pray…”

*

Jenny waited until Camille left the interview room, and then approached Martin with a broad smile on her face. Martin had returned to his chair, and leaned back when he saw Jenny enter.  Jenny’s face shone as he praised her.

“Well done, Jenny.  Camille is lovely, and makes a great addition to the Community.  She has faith, because you brought her to a new home when she was hurting and vulnerable.  She will always associate you, and the Community, with the Savior’s peace and redemption.’

“Thank you, Martin! I am happy that my old friend has found the path with us.”

“As you should be.  Friendship is nearly as important as family. Family, second only to the Lord.” Martin stood, and then placed his hands on Jenny’s shoulders. “And now that you have a friend here with us, perhaps you’ll have a care about trying to leave us again?” His fingers tightened against her thin collarbones. The ring on his left hand – matched to Jenny’s own – dug into her skin.

Jenny held her breath, lowered her eyes and nodded her head.

“‘And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Martin laughed softly.  “And you didn’t even need a net.”

 

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Bugeye Jenny

When you’ve been done in by Jeff Buckley, it all sounds familiar.

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DP’s prompt for today was:  If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?

 

The answer to this is so easy for me.  The scenario is truly an expats dream.  The only thing that could make this more appealing is if you included a teleportation device to make the travel between the two places as simple and quick as possible.

Most readers of this blog know that I am an expat living in Liverpool, UK.  I absolutely love the city of Liverpool, as it is just large enough to have a fair representation of the arts and culture that I thrive on.  It is also small enough that I do not feel claustrophobic here, as I have in larger cities like New York or London.  Liverpool is small, but it doesn’t feel small.  It is large (really, it’s not a suburb, which is *just fine* with me!) but not too large.  The climate here is actually pretty mild, though you’ll hear everyone in the UK complain about the weather constantly (I believe it is the national sport).  Liverpool has amazing local bands, great museums, a proud history and the friendliest people I’ve met in the UK yet.  If you asked me what I love most about Liverpool, the answer is immediately going to be the people here.  We also have the best sports team ever.   (Ha ha, made you look! It’s true, though.  Very very true!). I am a train ride away from London, Glasgow, or Edinburgh.  I am a quick easy jet flight from Dublin (though I have yet to make that trip). I’ve had great food here and been to some great pubs.  And really – I’m near the water.  This is what I need.  It might be colder water than I am used to, with a sometimes bitter off shore breeze, but it IS the water, and that soothes my soul.

 

Image of Liverpool's skyline at night.  Attribution Unknown

Image of Liverpool’s skyline at night. Attribution Unknown

 

This is a shot of Bold Street, my favorite street in the city.  It's not where the chain stores or the posh stores are.  Most are locally owned artisan stores, and there are a lot of really good restaurants here.  My favorites: Kashbah, Leaf, The Custom Cupcake Company, and Passage to India.  Photo by Catherine Cavendish.

This is a shot of Bold Street, my favorite street in the city. It’s not where the chain stores or the posh stores are. Most are locally owned artisan stores, and there are a lot of really good restaurants here. My favorites: Kashbah, Leaf, The Custom Cupcake Company, and Passage to India. Photo by Catherine Cavendish.

Part of the city's rejuvenation projects nearly 10 years ago, the Albert Dock was restored and museums, cafes, and attractions were opened.  I love this part of the City almost as much as Bold Street.

Part of the city’s rejuvenation projects nearly 10 years ago, the Albert Dock was restored and museums, cafes, and attractions were opened. I love this part of the City almost as much as Bold Street.

 

This is the city, lit up in the night.  The Mersey River divides New Brighton and Liverpool.  So beautiful.

This is the city, lit up in the night. The Mersey River divides New Brighton and Liverpool. So beautiful.

 

The place I would split time with is unlikely to surprise anyone – my home-region (I will not say home town because we moved when I was young and there are several places within the region I could call home) of Southern California.  Specifically, I was born in Huntington Beach.  What can I say about Huntington Beach? Except that it can be paradise.  It can be crowded – the houses are small and close together and the population is high – but the beauty of the region is impossible to deny.

Yes, this.  Picture by me.

Yes, this. Picture by me.

 

One of my sons, enjoying the beach.  Picture also by me.

One of my sons, enjoying the beach. Picture also by me.

 

The food, oh the food! I can’t actually talk about it because I will drool.  I miss it so much.

There’s a lot to do in So Cal.  Every conceivable kind of beach or water sport, is, of course, obvious.  What few people know is how convenient it is to other types of sport.   Where we moved when I was 12 (and where my Dad and brother still live in Lake Elsinore) there are vineyards and lakes nearby, and a short bit of a drive further will take you to the mountains.  Idyllwild and Big Bear have skiing in the winter.  I used to hike there many weekends with my friend Denise from work. I spent one summer at Idyllwild Institute Fiesta, a leadership camp for girls.

One of my favorite places to hike, ever.

One of my favorite places to hike, ever.

 

Or, if you go a bit further south east, you can go to the Mojave desert and Ocotillo (where my great grandmother lived, and I spent some formative parts of my life).  I grew up with the sands of this place between my toes.  I learned what it was to cover my skin with the scalding sand in order to protect it from the sun, much more likely to burn it in the end.  My family grew up here.  My brother and his family still go here to ride their bikes and their sand rails and their buggies.

 

Ocotillo

 

Nearly every possible climate in the world is in Southern California (yeah, maybe not the rainy wet climate of Liverpool or Seattle).  Southern California is roughly the size of the entire UK, I’d say.  Don’t quote me on that, I haven’t done the actual measurements.

So Cal is where my family still live.  I miss them incredibly. The lot of the Expat is that no matter how they love their new home, how much they adore the people they meet, they will always miss those who are left behind.  So Cal still holds everything I was made from.

So yes, please.  Let me split my time between the two.  And get me that teleporter, ASAP.

 

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