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What’s in a Name? The Importance of Character Names

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I don’t know about you, but I spend way more time on baby naming sites now than I ever did when I was pregnant. Now, this could because the Internet was a baby itself the last time I had a bun in the oven, but you get what I mean, right? As an author, I spend A LOT of time choosing names for my characters, and it’s not easy, let me tell you! And, boy, have I messed it up a time or two…or three. But who’s counting?

 

Dreamer 3DIn my second novel, DREAMER, I needed to name the ladies that made up the Irish Seer Council, so I headed to one of my favorite websites, Behind the Name, and picked out some really great Irish names, such as Caiohme, Finnoula, Maire, Aine, and Eithne. Super-fun, but nearly impossible to pronounce, at least for Americans.

 

Seriously?? What the hell was I thinking??? I think it was in the final, FINAL edits that I finally figured out I had, like, four different spellings of Caiohme sprinkled throughout the book!

It’s in that same novel that I introduced one of my favorite characters ever, Rémy Giles. Now, I know there are lots of shortcuts for putting those cute little accent marks in Word or Scrivener (which is what I use), but it’s still a P.I.T.A. (pain in the ass).

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My vision of Rémy. What a cutie!

I often regretted my name choice, especially as he became a much more important character than I’d originally intended.

Lest you think my only character-naming foibles were birthed out of my love-hate relationship with exotic foreign names, let me tell you about my Brian disaster. In The Seeker Series, Ally’s mom has a boyfriend named Brian. Seems innocuous, huh? I mean, what could possibly difficult about such a normal name? Well, in the hands of an inept typist (me), it became Brain at least 60% of the time. And spellcheck never noticed! Argh!! I swore never to do THAT again! It worked pretty well until I decided to name my hero Gray in a recent short story. Gray is a sexy, 20-something with smoldering grey eyes. But have you guessed what I managed to do? Yep, it became Gary probably 80% of the time. Gary is a paunchy 50-something with watery blue eyes hidden behind reading glasses (apologies to all the hot Garys out there–you probably exist).

 

So, big deal, right? Why does this even matter, anyway? Who cares about a name? Well, I do. These characters become real people to me and I have conversations with them in my head. If I’m doing my job correctly, they become real people to my readers too. Nothing pulls a reader out of the story more than a typo that screws up a name. “Wait, who is this Gary person? I thought his name was Gray?” Yikes!

And don’t even get me started on the names I can NEVER use because that one kid I despised in elementary school had that name. Mine is Evan. He was a horrible bully and I can only use that name for a completely despicable character, like a cheating boyfriend.

 

Drop me a comment and tell me about your character-naming disasters! Readers, what do you love/hate about character names? #I’mCurious

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Day 17 of the Watch RWISA Write Tour: Rhani D’Chae

 

 

  

The characters in the following story are from my novel, Shadow of the Drill. After a moderately grueling assignment, they take a day off to enjoy a Sunday barbecue.

 

A Break in the Battle

 

   Charlene squealed, leaning to the side to avoid an airborne hot dog. She need not have worried, for the meaty missile bounced neatly against the chest of JT, who was seated next to her.

   “Damn it, Rudy!” JT grabbed a napkin from the table and scrubbed at his shirt. “That wasn’t funny!”

   “Really?” Rudy flashed an innocent grin over the top of barbecue grill. “I thought it was hilarious.”  He flipped a pair of hamburgers, then added a dash of seasoning to each.

   “You got hot dog grease on my shirt,” JT said crossly. “Next time, warn me so I can duck.”

   “Don’t run your mouth, and there won’t be a next time.” Rudy raised his right arm, pointing at the cast that encased it from wrist to elbow. “Even with this, I can hit what I’m aiming at.”

   JT shot a glare in Rudy’s general direction. “Can you believe him?”

   “You shouldn’t have said he was getting old, and you definitely shouldn’t have said he was losing his touch.” Charlene refilled her glass from the pitcher of lemonade on the table. Lemonade, and just the right amount of tequila.

   “Who’s getting old?” Decker stepped from the dining room onto the deck, leaning on a cane with one hand and holding a bowl of potato salad in the other. “You best not be talking about me!”

   “Don’t worry, Peter Pan, we weren’t.” Charlene pulled the chair to her left away from the table so that Decker could sit. “JT said it about Rudy.”

   “Well, that was stupid.” Decker set the bowl onto the table, then dropped into the chair, leaning the cane against the table before reaching for the pitcher.

   JT pointed to the stain on his shirt. “You’re not kidding! Good arm, bad arm, it don’t matter. He’s dead on.”

   He shifted in his chair, muttering a soft curse when his broken ribs objected.

   Decker smiled sympathetically, knowing from firsthand experience how he felt. “Give it a couple of weeks,” he advised. “You’ll feel better before you know it.”

   “I know,” JT replied. “But in the meantime, it really hurts!”

   “Your face looks better.” Decker reached across the table, tilting JT’s head to the right. “At least, the swelling’s gone down. You’ll have the color for a while, yet.”

   Charlene leaned back, tuning out the conversation while she thought back over the last six days.

   It had started as just another job, but it had quickly become so much more. Hired to find and retrieve a stolen Shelby Daytona Coupe, Decker and his team had landed in the middle of an auto theft ring that stretched from Bellevue to Portland. Finding the missing car had been difficult – retrieving it had been damn near impossible.

   The car had been located in Vancouver and liberated in the dark of night with considerable damage to all concerned. By the time the Shelby was safely in a truck headed north, Decker had calculated how much of a wear and tear fee he was going to charge his employer before the car was offloaded at its destination.

   Bruised and broken, Decker’s team had limped back to Tacoma and gone their separate ways. After checking on the Shelby, Decker had contacted the owner and arranged a time to meet.

   Charlene had greeted him at the door when he arrived home, the sight of his battered body bringing tears to her eyes. He had assured her that he was not seriously hurt, so there was no discussion of seeking medical help. He knew his body – and its injuries – better than any doctor, so she did not question his analysis of the situation.

   Injured and exhausted, he had needed rest. A great deal of rest. But, after only a day and a half, he was limping restlessly from room to room, and she knew that something needed to be done.

   The barbecue had been her idea, and he had willingly agreed. Though they often entertained, they had never invited more than two or three people over at once. The fact that it was JT’s first social visit to the house contributed to the uniqueness of the event, as did the presence of Decker’s old friend and occasional teammate, Hunter Grae.

   The side gate rattled, and Charlene jumped up to open it before Davis dropped his armload of Tupperware containers. The investigator gave her a warm smile, thanking her for her assistance.

   Charlene looked over his shoulder. “Where’s Bert?”

   “She’ll be along soon,” Davis told her. “She had to run her mother to the grocery store, so she’s a little behind schedule. But don’t worry, she’s not far behind me.”

   He handed over three of the containers. “Pasta salad, deviled eggs, and some sort of asparagus thing.” He shrugged apologetically. “Personally, I don’t think asparagus has any business being at a barbecue, but you know how Bert is.”

   Charlene laughed, then sobered when she noticed the manila envelope beneath the remaining two containers. “That better not be what I think it is.”

   “It’s everything I could find for the Palmer job. I promised I’d bring it by today.” He waved at Decker and JT, then slid the envelope from beneath the Tupperware to show he’d brought it.

   Charlene put her hand on his wrist, stopping him. “Not today, please. He’ll open it up, they’ll spend the rest of the day plotting and planning, and that’ll be it for the day off. You know it as well as I do. They just can’t help themselves.”

   Davis thought for a moment, then nodded. “You’re right,” he agreed. “Okay, I’ll toss this back in the car and give it to him tomorrow. I can’t stall any longer than that, but at least it won’t ruin today.”

   “Thank you,” Charlene said gratefully, then headed for the kitchen to unpack the Tupperware while Davis returned to his car.

   When she passed Rudy, he handed her a plate loaded with hotdogs and hamburger patties.

   “Here’s a first round. Is everything on the food table?”

   Charlene glanced over the long fold-up table that Decker had set on the grass. It held assorted buns and condiments, as well as paper plates and plastic silverware.

   “Just about. Hunter’s in the kitchen slicing cheese, and I have to put Bert’s stuff on plates, but it won’t take long. So yes, it’s pretty much ready. “

   “That’s a good thing.” Rudy pressed his fingers against the pieces of tape that held a long strip of gauze to the side of his face, checking that they were still secure. “So we’re just waiting on the cheese.”

   As if on cue, Hunter appeared on the deck, carrying a serving tray that had been loaded down with small plates of pickles, slices of cheese, and crisp lettuce leaves. He called out a greeting to Davis and Roberta, who were coming through the gate together, then headed for the picnic table to unload the tray.

   He was clad in shorts and a tank top, and Charlene could clearly see the stitches where the blade of a knife had cut into his calf, and the colorful section of bruising that a heavy object of some sort had left along his collarbone.

   She joined him at the picnic table, calling to the others as she set the plate down. She was able to get her hamburger onto a plate, along with potato salad and baked beans, before the table was surrounded by hungry people.

   Glad that she had escaped the swarm, Charlene returned to her place at the oversized table on the deck. Taking her seat, she enjoyed a moment of silence, knowing that a moment was all she would probably get.

   A light breeze brought the scent of roses, and Charlene closed her eyes, inhaling with pleasure. So far, the day had been wonderful, and she knew that the evening would be just as fine.

   Opening her eyes, she looked around at the people who mattered in her life. It couldn’t be more perfect, she thought with a contented smile. Fun, food, and the very best of friends combined to make a day that she would long remember. Especially since, for a few short hours, it was a fairly safe bet that no one was going to die.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

 

Rhani D’Chae RWISA Author Page

  

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

   

  

 

Welcome to Day 16 of Watch RWISA Write Tour: Nonnie Jules

 

“From one of her upcoming releases, Nonnie Jules presents…PRISON WIVES.”

 

PRISON WIVES

 

I am an unlikely character to tell these stories, but, I do know that each day that we are blessed to open our eyes, we never know what surprises, good or bad, that day will bring. No matter how much and how well we plan, the universe always steps in to show us just how much, we are not as in control of things as we thought we were.

These are real stories of moms, wives, spouses…those significant others who are left behind; those innocent, and maybe even not-so-innocents, who are left to pick up all the pieces that are shattered when their husbands walk out the door and don’t return in the time frame in which they are expected to.

No, he didn’t run off with another woman…he was apprehended somewhere between here and there by a law enforcement officer, and, for whatever reason, he’s now being held behind bars…property of the city until the state steps in to claim ownership. And, although these men are the ones incarcerated, it is the entire family that serves the time.

These are not sob stories to drum up sympathy for the accused. But, this book will serve as a doorway into an open dialogue, so that we are all aware of just how much children suffer when their dads are taken away.

These stories are but small ways to shine light on the effects of imprisoning low-level offenders for long periods of time, ripping them from their children’s lives, and the negative imprints left behind. This is a plea for reform of a justice system that will quickly parole a drug dealer, murderer, rapist or child molester, who will more than likely repeat-offend, yet hangs on to low-level offenders who may have made a one-time mistake or even worse, was forced to take a plea for a crime which he is innocent of, simply because he was too poor and couldn’t afford top-of-the-line defense. We do know that this happens, don’t we?

Lastly, this is so that we don’t forget those that are forced to soldier up and walk into battle each and every day, standing on the front lines of a war that they have been shielded from for far too long. These soldiers fight daily just to keep a roof over the heads, food in the mouths, and hope in the spirits of the children who are also being penalized in this war.

These are the stories of PRISON WIVES.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE – SAMMIE

Sammie was so excited about their upcoming road trip. Not for the travel element, but, because their son Jeremy, was about to lead his team to another high school championship for a third straight year. Jeremy was a senior and also big man on campus, as Rozdale High’s, 6’3, All-American Quarterback. The one drawback to Sammie’s excitement, was they had to travel cross country to play. Sammie hated to travel, she also hated to fly, so road trips were always the name of the game for her family. This year, she was especially apprehensive about their road trip and yet, she had no idea why.

The drive would take them 21 hours and 32 min to reach their destination of Clearwater, FL. from Lubbock, TX. And, since Jeremy had to be there on Friday, this would mean a full day and a half of travel prior to. Sammie, mother of three daughters and one son, knew that her husband Josh had a suspended driver’s license, yet, he would have to share the drive time with her anyway. This was not an option as none of their children were of legal driving age, and Jeremy, the oldest, would not get his license until he turned 18 in the following year.

On that hot July morning as they backed out of their driveway, Sammie sat in the passenger seat and prayed. “Dear Lord, guide my family safely from this place to the next and back again. Return us all safely to our home…together. Amen.” Sammie wasn’t what you’d call a deeply religious woman, but she embraced her spiritual side and she strongly believed in the power of prayer.

The family drove along Interstate 20, then passing through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, they finally entered into the state of Florida. There were many stops along the way, but it was the last one that they would never forget. With almost seven hours left in their journey, they heard the sounds of a police siren behind them. When Sammie looked over her shoulder from the backseat, which she’d retired to hours before to stretch her legs, her heart sank so low, she could almost hear it hit the floor of the rental van.

Pulling over into the gas station they were headed to for their next potty-break, Sammie’s mind raced wildly. Not only did Josh have a suspended license, but he also had an outstanding warrant back home for a false probation violation, which they were aware of.

“I know I wasn’t speeding, officer,” Josh offered as the policeman approached his door.

“Yes, you were, sir,” the officer responded, surprisingly with a smile. A lie, I thought. “License and registration, please.”

Knowing all too well that it was going to take a miracle to keep him from being arrested right there, Josh, ever-protective of his children and family, asked the officer if they could get out of the van to use the restrooms. If the worse happened, he didn’t want his children to see him in handcuffs or in the back of a police car. The officer said “Sure,” again, with the same smile on his face.

With his entire family inside, Josh tried to convince the officer to please let him get his family to safety and then he would return home to deal with the issue. His wife had no idea how to make the rest of the long journey without him, he shared. But, still being kind, the officer said that he just couldn’t do that. He had to take him in.

Sammie’s phone rang from inside the gas station. “He is arresting me,” came Josh’s shaky voice through the phone. Her heart sank again. “You are going to have to make the rest of this trip without me. Sam, you can do it.” His voice quickly changed and now held a firmness to it. He knew he had to appear strong or she would quickly become unraveled.

Tears filled Sammie’s eyes. She’d been married to this man for 15 years and for 15 years he’d taken care of her, done everything for her…made her life so easy. Now, he was telling her she had to continue on this long journey without him. OK, but when they arrived, what then? Josh had shielded her from the real world for so long, she wasn’t sure if she could take a breath without him. But, she had to…for their kids. If she had been alone, she might have given up right then and there.

Sammie stood in the parking lot and watched the officer drive away with her husband in the back seat of the car, while she had asked the kids to stay inside and away from the windows.

When she realized that she wasn’t dreaming, she wiped her tear-stained face with the tissue in her hand. Composed and in brave face, she walked back inside to collect her children, as they were now both her reason and her strength to get them through this long, arduous journey – a weekend without their father and then back to Texas, safe and sound.

Sammie had no idea how hard it would be once they headed back home five days later with the questions and comments from the kids about their father. “We can’t leave here without him,” said 8-year-old Vanessa. “How is he going to get home?” asked 12-year-old Maggie. “Why can’t we just stay here until this is straightened out? It can’t take that long,” added 16-year-old Zandra, the sassy one of the bunch. Sammie was thankful at that moment that Jeremy had chosen to remain silent. His un-asked question was one less stab to her heart.

Not knowing the severity of the situation, Sammie drove along, oblivious to all those words that could cut deep into her heart. How would she find the words to tell these kids, who had never gone more than 7 hours without seeing the dad they worshipped, that she didn’t know when he’d be coming home again?

 

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

 

Nonnie Jules RWISA Author Page

Welcome to Day 14 of the Watch RWISA Write Tour: Joy Lo-Bamijoko

Welcome Joy Lo-Bamijoko!

 

 

WOMAN

 

He calls me Woman because that’s the way some men refer to their wives in this part of the world. He calls me Woman! But I have a name.

Ngozi is alone in her house. She sits all alone in her well-furnished parlor, on a love sofa, reading a magazine. Beside her on a side table is a glass of red wine from which she sips. Her feet rests comfortably on a beautifully decorated ottoman. Her toenails are not painted, but are well-manicured, so are her fingernails. In front of her, a wide screen television shows a soap opera. The sound is tuned low so she can hear the dialogue as well as hear what is happening around her.  Calm and peace surround her, but not for long.

 

She hears a car pulling stealthily into her open garage. She knows who it is. Her moments of peace and reprieve are over. With haste, she quietly puts everything away; her glass of wine, the wine bottle, her magazine, and she wipes and cleans away the telltale signs like the reclining sofa that shows she was resting. She turns off the television and hurries into the inner room of her house.

 

Emeka walks stealthily into the house with his briefcase, without making any sound, as if to catch the wife in some mischief. He sniffs aroundand scans the house with his eyes looking for her. Everything is spick and span clean, and there are no signs of any mischief in his house. Finding nothing to hold against his wife, he tosses his briefcase onto one of the sofas. He walks to the switch board and puts on the fan, picks up the newspaper, flops down on the sofa, and pulls at his tie to loosen it. He crosses his legand reads his newspaper.

 

Ngozi returns to the parlor with a tray.

 

 “You are back!” She smiles and offers Emeka a glass of water. “Your food is ready,” she says, walking away toward the dining area.

 

You are back, you say.  What do you think, that I won’t be back?” He sucks his teeth and goes to the dining table to eat.

 

She serves him his food.

 

He finishes eating and withdraws to his room … mind you, they sleep in separate rooms—he changes into something comfortable; khaki shorts and a white tee.  He returns to the parlor, sits down again, and reads his newspaper.

 

Ngozi finishes tidying up the dining room and the kitchen and returns to the parlor, sits and picks up her magazine to read.

 

“Have you nothing to do, Woman?” Emeka frowns at her.

 

“Is there anything you want me to do for you?” she fires back without looking up from her magazine. Emeka looks at her with a frown on his face.

 

“What is this new thing about sitting around doing nothing?”

 

“I have finished my work, and I am resting!”

 

“Resting from what? Have you mended the button that fell off my shirt this morning? Have you fixed it?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And my socks?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Emeka tries to think of something else to say, some job she must have missed, and not coming up with anything, he shrugs. “Well, if you have nothing else to do, find yourself something to do.” He returns to his reading and, at the same time, waits for her to leave.

 

Ngozi doesn’t move. He wants me to leave?! He doesn’t even think of me as his wife. He calls me Woman. As if calling me his wife will give me the respect he isn’t willing to give me; the respect he has always denied me all through this marriage.

 

I know why he calls me Woman. To put me down, way below him, so that he can continue trampling on me.  He knows that as a wife, he will owe me the respect which will allow me to sit here with him, relax and read, if I want. But, as Woman, I will always remain his thing, his toy, his property to be bullied into subjection. I will not leave. Let him do his worse!

 

She sits tight, but alert.  She doesn’t know what her stubbornness this time will trigger, but she sits nervously, waiting for his next move. She fixes her eyes on the magazine, but lowers it enough for her to see Emeka’s movements. She has been on the receiving end before for less than this, with him throwing objects at her or whipping her with his belt.

 

Not anymore! This time, I will fight him if he tries to lay a finger on me.

 

Emeka is also jittery. He is used to being obeyed. He doesn’t understand this new attitude from Woman. After many years and four kids, she should know his likes and dislikes. Why is she being so stubborn? For much less than this, he would have taught her a good lesson. Where is she getting this courage from, enough to challenge him? Our people say that if you come out in the morning and your chicken begins to chase you, you better run because you don’t know whether the chicken grew teeth the night before. Woman has grown more than just teeth, she has grown wings!

 

“Did you hear me Woman?” he growls at her.

 

Woman stands up, slaps her magazine on the small center table, and huffs and puffs as she walks away.

 

Emeka tenses up with a level voice.  “What do you think you are doing, Woman?”  She doesn’t respond and continues to walk away.

 

“Stop!” Emeka shouts.  She stops, turns, her expression questioning. 

 

He fumes. “Can’t you understand that when I come home, I want to rest! I work myself to death from morning till night to provide for you, and when I come home, you will not allow me to rest.”

 

“What have I done? What did I say?”

 

 “You are disturbing me. Do you hear that? You are disturbing me!” he shouts.

 

“What do you want me to do?” Ngozi asks, feigning remorse.

 

Emeka glares at her and holds her gaze for as long as it suits him; then he shrugs and resumes his reading.

 

Ngozi returns to her seat, picks up her magazine, and flips noisily through the pages. Emeka looks at her with a twisted upper lip. He realizes that Woman is looking for a show down.

 

Woman on her part is thinking that after so many years of marriage and four kids, she has earned respect for herself. She deserves, no, she demands to be respected. This house is her house, too. She has every right to enjoy it as much as he does. She works herself too hard cleaning, cooking, and making the house comfortable, for her not to enjoy it, as well.

 

The days are gone when she squirmed at the sound of his car, his voice, his threats. Now, with her children grown, and in position to defend her from their father, she sure has grown wings. Her kids have warned their father of the repercussions of beating their mother ever again. She smiles to herself.

 

He cannot touch me anymore. I have arrived. Is he even sure that he can defeat me in a fight? I know I can beat him! After all, I’m bigger than him. Why should I find something to do when I have nothing to do? What is wrong with sitting down and relaxing? Why should he relax and not me? He doesn’t work more than I do.

 

Emeka stares at Woman some more, and then he gathers his things and walks off. Ngozi does not even raise her head from her magazine.

 

After casually turning another page in the magazine, she says, “My name is Ngozi.”

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

 

Joy Lo-Bamijoko RWISA Author Page

 

 

 

Day 13 of the Watch RWISA Write Tour: Amy Reece

 

Today is my day! Welcome to my blog! I hope you enjoy this super-short story!

 

 

CRAZY CAT LADY

by Amy Reece

 

CAT SITTER NEEDED

$50 CASH—One Night ONLY

Apply in Person

653 Silverwood Ln Apt B

 

 

Rita looked from the folded newspaper to the small adobe duplex in front of her. Well, here goes. My chances of getting murdered or sold into a sex trafficking ring are pretty good, but I need the fifty bucks. Need might be overstating it, but she wanted to go to the concert and she didn’t have the money for the tickets. Her meager paycheck from her work-study job didn’t stretch much farther than covering the bare essentials. If she wanted any fun money, she had to find other ways to acquire it. She’d done it all: research studies, selling her plasma, modeling for art studio classes. Answering a jinky ad in the college newspaper was nothing. She had left a note in her dorm room telling her slumbering roommate where she was, so at the very least maybe they’d be able to recover her body. She shook off the dark thoughts and approached the house.

A tall, thin elderly woman answered the door. “Yes? How can I help you?”

Rita held up the ad. “I’m here about the cat sitting job.”

“Oh, my dear, yes. Well, come in.” She opened the screen door and stood back to allow Rita to enter.

The living room smelled musty but looked tidy, with sagging, old-fashioned furniture covered with bright, hand-crocheted afghans and doilies. Several cats raised their heads from where they snoozed on the cushions, then lowered them disinterestedly. A tray with a flowered china teapot and matching cups was set on the coffee table.

“Have a seat and I’ll pour you a cup of nice hot tea. It’s so chilly out this evening, isn’t it?”

Rita sat and accepted the cup of steaming tea while she frowned at the woman. “Were you expecting someone else?”

“Oh, no,” the woman said breezily. “I was expecting you.” She smiled as she sipped her tea. “Or someone like you. I put the ad in the paper and I knew someone would be along presently.” More cats of every color had wandered into the room. There had to be nearly fifteen cats winding their way around her feet, perching on the back of her chair, and leaping into her lap.

“Oh.” Rita nodded dumbly and fumbled with the handle of the delicate cup, spilling tea into the saucer.  “So, when exactly do you need the cat sitter?”

“Well, tonight, of course. I need to go visit my sister in Santa Fe. I’ll be back soon after breakfast tomorrow. Now, let me show you where I keep their food.” She reached forward to set her cup on the table.

“But, but,” sputtered Rita, “don’t you want to know about me? About my qualifications?”

The woman laughed lightly. “It’s only feeding a few cats, dear. It’s not rocket science. Come along.” She stood, shooing the cats from her lap, and led the way into the kitchen. “The dishes are here.” She pointed to a row of small ceramic bowls lining a dish drain. “And the food is in this cabinet. They like to eat around nine and then you can wash up.”

“Okay.” Rita nodded and counted the bowls. There were only six. “Do they take turns eating? Should I refill the bowls after the first group eats?”

“I think you’ll find one round is more than enough. Most of these are ghost cats, of course. Poor dears.”

Rita stared at her blankly. “Ghost cats?”

“Yes. They seem to be drawn to me. They just can’t move on quite yet. They’re not like dogs, you know.”

Rita didn’t know. In fact, the only thing she was sure of was that this woman was obviously insane. Ghost cats? What the hell? But fifty bucks was fifty bucks, and if she had to placate a crazy woman to get it, she was glad to. “Great. No problem.”

“Now, feel free to help yourself to anything if you get a little peckish.” She led the way back to the living room, where she picked up a small, old-fashioned train case Rita hadn’t noticed before. “Be sure to lock up after me. Have a good night and I’ll see you early tomorrow.”

Rita stood in the middle of the living room and watched her leave. “Wait! How do I—” she wrenched the door open to ask her final question, but the woman was gone. She stepped onto the porch and looked upon and down the street, noticing red taillights at the stop sign at the far end. She must have had a cab or an Uber waiting. She shrugged and closed the door, locking it as instructed. Then she turned to address the room. “Well, cats and kittens, I guess it’s just us for the rest of the night. At least she keeps this place clean. With this many of you it could really reek.” She’d eaten an early dinner at the cafeteria so she wasn’t hungry. The remote was on a side table, so she grabbed it up and found a cat-free cushion to sit on. The woman didn’t have cable, but Rita managed to find a rerun of a show she enjoyed and sat back to while away the hours until feeding time. The cats, for the most part, minded their own business and left her alone. A few finally crept close enough to sniff her, but then stalked away. She’d never been much of a cat person, so she took no offense. Feeding time went off without a hitch and the woman had been correct: the six bowls were more than enough. Cats came and nibbled, but none cleaned out their bowls. Many of the cats simply came and stared at the food without touching it. Weird. Maybe they are ghost cats.

She got hungry around midnight, but found nothing but a few stale crackers in the cabinet. She took them with her to the couch, pulled one of the crocheted afghans over her legs, and fell asleep watching an infomercial.

The key in the lock woke her the next morning. She sat, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“Good morning! I’m sorry I woke you. How did everything go last night?” The woman set her train case by the door as she walked in.

“Um, fine. Yeah, everything went great.”

“Oh, good.” She rummaged in her purse for her checkbook and a pen. “Now, I’ll let you fill in your name. Here you go.” She handed her the check.

Rita glanced down at it, noting the spindly handwriting, but satisfied that it was indeed for fifty dollars. Sweet. Easy money. She sat up and folded the afghan and laid it across the back of the sofa. “Thanks. Well, have a nice day.” She waved awkwardly as she let herself out of the apartment. I’ll just swing by the bank and cash this, then stop to buy the concert tickets on my way home.

“Can I help you?” The voice came from the house next door. “What are you doing?”

“Huh?” Rita turned as the woman marched down her front path to confront her.

“Were you in that apartment? How did you get in? That door is supposed to be locked! Oh, I’m going to kill my husband! He never checks!”

“Excuse me?”

“What were you doing in there?”

“No-nothing! I mean, I was watching that lady’s cats for her.” She realized she’d never asked the woman’s name. “She paid me. See?” She held up the check for the other woman.

The woman glanced at the check and frowned. “I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but you better get out of here before I call the cops!”

“What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything wrong! I answered an ad in the paper to come and watch that lady’s cats for the night. She paid me fifty dollars. See?” She showed the check to the woman again.

The woman snatched the check from her hand. “Nobody lives there! The woman with all the cats died two years ago! We’ve had a heck of a time getting renters to stay because they swear it’s haunted or some nonsense! Now, if you’re not here about renting the place then I’m going to ask you to leave. Now. Before I call the police.” She glanced down at the check, laughed briefly, and handed it back to Rita.

Rita took the check and looked at it to see what could have made the woman laugh. Her eyes widened as she saw it was not a check at all; it was nothing more than a piece of torn newsprint. It fluttered to the ground as she ran, the woman’s laughter echoing behind her.

 

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Amy Reece RWISA Author Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Day 12 of the Watch RWISA Write Tour: Laura Libricz

 

Welcome Laura Libricz!

 

Denton’s Debby Dolls

 

The lunch bell rings and I set my brush aside, returning the unpainted porcelain Debby Doll head to the tray. A kettle whistles. Sarah runs to make the lunchtime tea.

“Thirty minutes and that’s all!” Mr. Denton barks at her as he hurries towards his production office, whacking his elbow on the filing cabinet as he slams the glass door shut.

The shocked moment of quiet is replaced by the delicate clinking of brushes against glass jars, chairs scraping on the concrete floor, and the idle chatter of the doll painters on their way to the break room.

Do you remember Denton’s Debby Dolls? The ones from the 1947 film “Ten Days Till my Birthday,” where Tammy James plays a little girl who got one for her birthday? Denton’s Debby Dolls Inc. make the dolls the same ever since. Tammy is well into her 80’s but is still loved and remembered for that tearful scene where she unwrapped the Debby Doll on her tenth birthday and said, “Well, gee, Mother, all I ever wanted was a Debby Doll!”

All I ever wanted was a Debby Doll but I didn’t get one on my tenth birthday. That year I moved from the city to Krumville, to Aunt Fay’s, and she said I was too old for dolls. She was a recovering heroin addict who hung photos of herself dressed as a vampire on all the walls. I was not allowed in the kitchen and had to eat my meals in my bedroom decorated with Aunt Fay photos. She said if I wanted a Debby Doll, I should petition the goddess Diana. I thought she was being funny.

Aunt Fay’s house was in the oak forest. She made oak dolls with hair from deer. The deer hair was arranged to look like human hair. She said these were petitions to Diana. Under an oak tree, Aunt Fay had an altar where she buried the dolls. Sometimes she burned them.

There were always gunshots in the oak forest. I never went outside that fall. In the city, there was shooting every Saturday night in our neighborhood and I was never allowed out. I don’t remember my city house much. One day Aunt Fay went outside and never came back in. Child Services came and took me away. I was now a ward of the State of New York.

What luck, I ended up in the same city as Denton’s Debby Dolls. When I turned eighteen, I went to work in the factory and I still do.

“Aren’t you coming to lunch?” Sarah asks.

“I’m working on my doll,” I whisper.

“Don’t let Mr. Denton see you doing that,” Sarah says. “He’s in a bad way today. I heard we’re 500K down this year. We have orders but there’s no stock. We can’t work fast enough.”

“I can tell Mr. Denton that I’m experimenting with new colors on my lunch break, which I am doing.” I stroke my Debby’s porcelain cheek with my pinky. “Look at her complexion. It’s lavender oil and China Pink pigment.”

“She’s not real, you know,” Sarah says. “I’ll bring you some tea.”

“Tea. Thank you.”

A year has passed since I’d first started working on my own Debby. I’d modeled what was to be the hollow shell of her head. Each hand painted layer and each firing was personally carried out by me. Today, I am ready to add the final details and fill her empty eyes. It’s ten days before Christmas. She’ll be my daughter, mine all mine. Mommy loves you, Debby.

There had been a man once, just once. He left a few hairs on my gingham pillowcase. And a legacy. My body changed in ways it had never before; swellings in places that had been unripe. Rosy cheeks, like a Debby Doll. I so wanted the child. Although I could not yet feel the child, I could. The growing presence of another life made me feel otherworldly.

But I was unmarried, alone, and I would lose my job when the baby came. Panic set in. It must have been eight weeks into the pregnancy when the fever came, followed by some mild cramping. During the night the cramping pulsed and intensified until I finally passed out. The next morning, the otherworldly feeling was gone. My unformed child had been born, its life over before it even began.

I forced myself up and out of the house, not wanting to be alone. I was working in the molding department that week and I would bear my child. From Denton’s secret mixture of minerals, bone ash, and alabaster, I poured the liquid clay. Before the first firing, I’d made a small imperfection on her cheek, like a chickenpox scar, so the other workers would reject her. I would always recognize my child. During lunch breaks, I stole moments to paint her face and sneak her head back to the kiln.

You’re here with me now, Debby, forever.

The lavender oil calms me as I blend your complexion to a natural sheen. I can almost feel your heartbeat. Light brown eye brows are added one hair at a time, your sense of humor. Would you like brown eyes like mine? Each brush stroke to your iris gives you another fleck of depth. Two dots of white on the left side of the iris ascertain your personality. I cover your eyes with high-gloss tears and now you have emotions. The creation process is almost finished.

See? I’ve made you a soft pellet body, into which I stitched your preserved mortal remains, hair from your Daddy, and oak bark—my petition to Diana. Your body lies hidden inside the top drawer of my workbench, along with your new gingham dress made from the pillowcase Daddy rested his head on. I forged a certificate from a midwife confirming your birthday, today, and your name, Debby.

Mommy’s here, Debby, don’t worry…

“What are you working on?” barks Mr. Denton. “Ten days before Christmas and you’re messing around with that B-stock? Those get smashed.”

I never saw him come up to my workbench. Debby, don’t cry, I’ll sort Mr. Denton out.

“You have a whole tray with these new dolls that have to be painted!” Mr. Denton’s face ran red. “You’ve been messing with that one since I came in!”

“Sorry, sir, it’s lunch,” I whispered.

Now Debby, be a good girl and get in my top drawer.

“You want to hide the thing as well! Is that a pellet body in there? Are you the one out selling B-stock on the weekends?”

“No, sir, I…experiment.” We may have to make a run for it, Debby.

“So, it is you! I’ve been told there’s a woman on the flea market every weekend with B-Stock Debby Dolls for real cheap. Give me that!”

“No, sir, don’t, you don’t understand…”

“Tea!” Sarah plunks my unicorn mug onto my workbench, brushes my Debby’s head into my top drawer, and slides it shut with her hip.  She grabs my hand and pulls me up. “Come on, we got pizza and it’s getting cold.”

 

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Laura Libricz RWISA Author Page

Welcome to Day 8 of the Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour: Michelle Abbott

Welcome Michelle Abbott! I love this story! Enjoy!

 

The 136

 

I can do this. I can make it. Wet hair plastered to my head, gasping, I propel myself toward my target. The 136 bus. My heel catches on a crack in the pavement. My ankle twists sideways, sending a sharp pain up my leg. Wincing, I hobble towards the stop, just as the bus closes its doors and pulls away.

“Ahhh,” I scream in frustration.

“Here, use my umbrella.”

His voice startles me. I was so focused on catching the bus, I never noticed him until now. I must have had a serious case of tunnel vision, because he stands out a mile with his cornflower blue, spiky hair. He holds a large, black umbrella out to me.

Leaning against the post of the bus stop, to take the pressure off my throbbing ankle, I shake my head.

“Thank you, but you keep it.  I’m already wet, and it would be a shame to ruin your hair.”

He shrugs.  “It’s only hair. My umbrella is big enough for two.”

I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. Is he hitting on me? What’s wrong with the man? He looks twenty-five if he’s a day. I’m twice his age. Old enough to be his mother.

Mother.

I pick tendrils of damp hair from my forehead.

“I know what you must be thinking, but I’m just trying to do a good turn. You have nothing to fear from me, I promise.” He shelters us both with his umbrella. “You look like you’re having a bad day.”

As I listen to the rain split splat, I lean down to rub my sore ankle.

“Please let me help you.” He slips his arm through mine. “We can sit on that bench. We’ll be able to see the bus coming from there.”

With his assistance, I limp across to the empty, wooden bench that faces the road. “I just missed my bus; the next one won’t be along for an hour.” I sit down, past caring whether I get a wet spot on my skirt. “Are you waiting for a bus?”

He looks so calm, and serene.

“Yes, the 136.”

“Oh no. You didn’t miss it because of me, did you?” I frown.

“I wasn’t running for it.” He gives me a kind smile. “I have all the time in the world.”

A car drives through a puddle, splashing dirty water onto the pavement.

“I’ve got no one to rush home to either.” Maybe it’s his kind smile, maybe I just need to off load. “My husband moved out last week, left me for a woman your age.”

I hope he feels every bit his fifty-four years every second he’s with her.

“I’m sorry.”

What has it come to when I’m sitting in a downpour, telling my sob story to a stranger with blue hair? “She’s all form and no substance. If his head was turned that easily, he’s no loss.” I hold out my hand. If I’m telling the poor man my life story, the least I should do is introduce myself. “My name’s Carol.” I look into his ice blue eyes, surprised by the wisdom I see there.

“Do you have children together, Carol?”

Babies.

I stare at my feet. My heel is scuffed, and my stockings are damp. “Two daughters, they’re both grown-up.”

“Nothing beats a mother’s love for her children.” He reaches into the pocket of his long black coat, and pulls out a pack of mints. “Would you like one?”

We sit in silence, sucking on mints. The sky turns orange as the sun sets. I pull my jacket around me to keep out the chill. Behind us, a shop owner pulls down the metal security shutters of his store.

I’m curious to know more about this man, who claims he has all the time in the world. “It will be late when you get home. Do you have someone, or do you live alone?”

The street lamps come on. I watch the reflection of the light in the puddles.

“I have a loving family.”

Family.

In this moment, I feel so alone. Tears mingle with the raindrops on my cheeks. “I’m pregnant.”

The events of last week replay in my mind. Me, feeling sick every morning. Me, looking at the blue line on the pregnancy test. Me, buying a second test that gave me the same result.

“How does something like this happen to a woman my age? I’m going through the menopause; I haven’t had a period in a year. How can I be pregnant? How? Why? Why did this happen when my husband has left me?”

“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” He rests his hand on my shoulder.

“That was my mother’s favourite saying.” I wipe my cheeks. “She passed away five years ago.”

He hands me a tissue. “I’m certain she’s watching over you, and that you make her proud.”

“Pregnant at fifty-one.” I blow into the tissue. “I’m sure she’s delighted.” I let out a hollow laugh.

“How old were you when you had your daughters?”

“I was twenty-two when I had Patricia. Diane came along when I was twenty-five.”

“You learn as you go with your first, don’t you?”

For the first time I smile. “Yes, I was clueless. None of the classes prepare you for being a mother. You hold the life of your child in your hands. It’s so much responsibility.” I turn to face him. “Do you have children?”

He shakes his head. “I’m sure you know more about parenting now, than you did then.”

“Yes I do.”

“It’s hard when you’re young isn’t it? You’re trying to make your way up the career ladder. Struggling to save for a home.”

I nod.

“Those things get easier as you get older, don’t they?”

“Yes they do.” I’m on a good wage. I own a spacious home in a good area.”

“You have more time, more understanding, and more patience.”

I nod.

“And you’re wiser. You know what really matters.”

I let out a laugh. “You make being old sound wonderful.” He really does.

He raises an eyebrow. “Isn’t it?”

I recall my childhood, how I hated having to do as I was told. How I would get upset at the smallest things. I remember my angst filled teenage years, being unhappy with my appearance. The heartbreak when the boys I thought I loved dumped me. I have a vivid memory of how stressful early parenthood was.

I study him. “You’re wise for someone so young.”

“Am I?”

The rain has stopped. He collapses his umbrella.

“Nothing is ever as bad as it seems, Carol. A child is a gift. A new start. Someone to love.”

Someone to love. A new start.

I sit up straighter. He’s right. I can do this. I have a nice home, money, and a heart full of love.

“Oh look, here’s your bus.”

Already? Have we been talking for an hour? I glance at my watch. Only twenty minutes have passed. The brakes of the bus screech as it pulls up.

As I root in my purse for my fare, I hear him say, “I’m glad I could help.”

“Let’s sit together.” I glance behind me. “I want to thank…” The words die in my throat. No one is there. I look left and right, but the street is empty. Goosebumps spread across my skin.

“Are you getting on love?” the driver calls.

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, to please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.  WE ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

 

Michelle Abbott RWISA Author Page

Day 7 Watch RWISA Write Showcase Tour–Jan Sikes

Day 7 brings you a lovely story from Jan Sikes!

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

By Jan Sikes

Henry Jacobsen ran gnarled fingers through 84 years of living and swatted at a fly that buzzed around his head. The sun warmed his old bones and he turned to face his longtime friend. “You know, Aaron, what the world needs now, is for people to show a little more respect to each other. Back in my day, if I acted or talked disrespectful, I got my hide tanned.”

The wooden boards underneath Aaron’s rocker creaked in syncopated rhythm with his movement. “Yep, Henry. Times are different nowadays.”

Henry timed his chair rhythm with Aaron’s. “Before I came to stay here, I had a house over on Boulder Street. There was a family a few doors down that was always borrowing things from me, but somehow they never remembered to return any of them.”

Aaron nodded. “I’ve had it happen to me many times.”

“I pulled into the driveway one day just in time to see the oldest kid unscrewing my water hose. By the time I parked the car and got out, he had it slung over his shoulder.” Henry’s frown deepened. “It’s frustrating when you can’t move like you used to.”

He gazed across the green manicured lawn of the Post Oaks Retirement Center as if viewing some long-ago forgotten scene.

“Well?” Aaron prodded. “What did you do?”

“I hollered at him and asked what in the world he thought he was doing. And you know what he had the nerve to say to me?” Henry screwed up his face.

“Nope.”

“He said that he was taking my water hose so he could wash his motorcycle.”

“Don’t that beat all?” Aaron clicked his tongue. “Didn’t even bother to ask you.”

“I saw red. I lit into him like nobody’s business,” he growled. “The nerve. Take a man’s things like they meant nothing.”

Aaron shifted to take the weight off his bad hip. “There was a day when I would’ve jumped a guy for pulling a stunt like that. But those times are over for me. At this point, I’m doin’ good just to make it from the bed to the bathroom without embarrassing myself.”

“Yeah, me too. But, I tell you, I didn’t take it lying down. I told him what a rotten, no good, worthless human being he was and that he’d better put the water hose down or I’d call the cops and turn him in for stealing.”

“What did he do then?”

“He laughed in my face…told me I was too old to use the damn water hose anyway and he needed it.”

“Why, the nerve!”

“I marched myself inside and called the cops. When they came, I gave them a list of everything they had so-called borrowed and said I wanted it all back.”

“Did you get it?”

“Yeah. In pieces. The weed eater was battered and wouldn’t start. My shovel was broken in half. The water hose was split in two pieces. All of it was in shambles. Just no respect. That’s what the world has come to.”

Silence spun a web between the two old-timers who’d seen more than a lifetime of battles.

“I remember when I was in the Army. Nobody ever pilfered in someone else’s belongings. I did two tours overseas, fighting for this country and now I have to wonder what for.” Henry’s voice trembled. “The way folks carry on is a shame. Just no regard for one another.”

Aaron halted the rocker and leaned forward. “You’re right, Henry. The mess things are in is downright disgraceful. Take for instance the presidential election. Now, I can’t say I agree with the candidate who won, but for people to go out and tear stuff up, turn on friends and family who voted for him, and get consumed with hatred is ridiculous. No one is willing to bend.”

“Never saw anything like it,” Henry agreed. “I remember when John F. Kennedy won the election in 1960. People spoke out against him because he was catholic. But, they weren’t filled with the kind of hatred they are today. It pains me to think about what kind of society our grandkids are growing up in. For old geezers like ourselves, it don’t really matter all that much. We’re on our way out.”

“Dinosaurs. Men like us with backbone and decency are disappearing just like those prehistoric creatures did. I’d sure like to see something that would give me hope for the future. Hope for our country.” Aaron’s rheumy eyes glistened.

Henry pushed up from the rocker and stretched. It troubled him more than he could say that his grandchildren were growing up in these unstable times. A tired old man needs salve for his weary soul.

Just as he was about to shuffle inside, he saw his grandson, Micah, bounding across the lawn.

Micah waved. “Hi, Grandpa.”

Henry waved back.

Breathless, Micah reached the two men. “Hey, Gramps, look at this beautiful spring day. How about I bust you out of here and we go fishing?”

Henry chuckled. “That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.” He turned to Aaron and winked. “There’s our hope. This young man knows how to respect his elders.”

With that, he joined his grandson. It didn’t escape his notice that Micah slowed his steps to match his grandfather’s or that he held the door while they went inside.

Respect. That’s what Micah demonstrated.

And, it’s precisely the healing the world now needs.

 

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JAN SIKES RWISA Author Page