Writing Exercises

 

My Pony

Grace Marshall - Sunday, December 10, 2017

 

"I'm gonna tell mom!" Little Wren cried, running down the path towards the house.

Thaddeus ignored the threat from his little sister. It only meant he had less time to deal with the real problem in the form of his sibling in front of him. Age seven, Thad was hot headed, and unafraid of conflict, even with his parents. He had an acute sense of justice which allowed no room for consideration of gray areas. Right was right, wrong was wrong, and God help whoever committed a wrong in his presence! "Tell me why you did that!" he demanded ferociously.

Abilene smoothed out her t-shirt, a smile plastered on her face. "Because, Thad, I -wanted- to." Her brown eyes pinned on her little brother by two years, did he really want to do this again? He must know by now she was stronger and smarter? But as she stared at her red-face little brother, she realized it probably didn't matter. She didn't even feel that bad. So what, she'd taken his pony for a morning ride instead of her own? He wouldn't die.

Abi's smug smile infuriated Thad more than he thought possible. He imagined her expression of fear if he were to pull nunchucks from his back pocket and begin flailing her. She was bigger than he, but the nunchucks would even the odds. Unfortunately he didn't have nunchucks in his back pocket. Yep, no didn't have em. "Storm is MY pony!" He stuck his chest out. "And if you keep riding her I'm......" he paused thinking quickly for a good threat in lieu of nunchucks. "I'm going to teach her to buck you off!" he stated, pleased with himself.


Abilene giggled and rolled her sparkling brown eyes. "And how are you going to do that without having her buck -you- off as well?!" she snorted. "Besides, you can take Joanie out for a ride since I took Storm, it's only fair." She felt a twinge of guilt at the suggestion, Joanie was too much pony for Thad to handle and she knew it. Joanie was a high-spirited show-jumper. Abilene sighed. "What does it matter? You wouldn't have ridden her today anyway!"

Thad scowled unhappily. "I don't WANT to ride Joanie! Storm is MY pony! I'll show you Abi!" He scowled fiercely. It was time to leave, little Wren had probably found their mom by now and he seriously didn't want a lecture now. Turning he stalked away across the yard, heading for the tree line and his favorite little woodland spot next to a gurgling brook. He needed time to think and plan. He had to figure out how to teach his pony to buck on command. The wonderful thing about being seven, is everything it possible at that age.

 



 

The Office

Grace Marshall - Friday, October 20, 2017

 

Lucy pushed a loose strand of fiery red hair behind her ear. No matter how much time she spent in the morning fixing it up, it would escape throughout the day. She stretched her long legs under the desk, discreetly slipping her feet from the confines of her heels. Her emerald eyes moved from the computer to the paperwork on her desk. This one was a puzzler and her brain was already taxed from a long day.

"You think you have problems,"Blake Roper murmured glibly, standing behind Lucy and leaning against the cubical frame. "Wait till I show you what top brass wants." Blake didn't like Lucy's aggressive firebrand style of one upping everyone. The office in front of the bosses. There was being competent, then there was showing off, but blast it, she was attractive and somehow he couldn't keep himself from chatting with her throughout the day. Women!!!


Lucy looked up at Blake. "You think I haven't?" she asked sweetly, a hint of sarcasm in her voice. She drummed her fingers on her paperwork, then leaned back, stretched, and wiggled her chair back from her desk to stand up. "Oh goodness," she said with a yawn, "I'm tired. Want some coffee?"

Blake almost winced. There it was, that better than thou attitude. He bared his teeth in a grin. "Uh, no thanks on coffee, but you'd better slip those high heels on and enjoy 'em, 'cuz their days are numbered around here." He smirked.

Lucy raised an eyebrow. And what the heck was that supposed to mean? As if he would even know if something was coming down the pike. She did sleep her heels on though, as she asked, "Oh? Why is that?" She stretched and looked around. Seeing that the office was almost empty, she let her hair out of it's confined bun, running her fingers through it as it fell, the scent of her conditioner and her perfume lightly wafting on the air as she did so.

Blake smirk grew more smarmy if it were possible. He wasn't management, but having been with the company a couple decades meant something. "Too provocative. New dress code for female personnel, no skirts, heels, or "provocative" blouses. We have our new head recruitment and personnel to thank for it too. You meet her yet? Real femanazi I hear!" Blake couldn't help grinning giddy with how ridiculous this gossip was. It felt so good to divulge it finally! He'd been waiting all day and carefully planning who to tell. Unfortunately, his first choice had fallen through due to a sudden illness, so now he was just getting it off his chest, and Lucy happened to be the unsuspecting confidant.

Lucy rolled her eyes as she turned toward the breakroom for coffee. "So she wants us to be men? You aren't being provocative just because you wear heels." She'd already started walking down the hallway but she paused to ask, "the bosses are letting this change go through?"

Blake frowned. "Seems like it." He murmured, absently puzzled. What was she talking about? "Though it's still in discussion, so please don't tell anyone I told you." His frown deepened. What the heck was she talking about?! "I don't wear heels!"

Lucy raised an eyebrow and laughed lightly at his words. She flashed him a humored smile and then continued her trek for coffee. "I wasn't saying 'you' wear heels. I meant women aren't provactive just because they wear heels."

Blake flushed slightly, catching on. Wow, how to recover? He followed her to the break room. "Oh yeah? Well guess females deserve it, pushing for equality and all that while prancing around the office in "seductive" skirts, low cut blouses, and high heels!" he taunted. He really did dislike the females who wanted to be treated as professionals yet didn't dress respectfully. Though he also didn't like the idea of them looking like men either. Blake realized he was in a hard spot.

A coy smile fleeted across Lucy's lips. "Well if a man can't concentrate because a woman is in heels, isn't that kind of his problem?" She shrugged, and now at the kitchen, poured herself some coffee. "You shouldn't have to dress like a skank to feel beautiful and you're right, it shouldn't be in the office. But women can be strong and independent, and should have the freedom to be proud and comfortable as a woman while they work."

Blake grimaced at the typical 'have it both ways line.' Maybe it was the months of putting up with this woman's superior "can do" attitude, or that he felt HR was finally adopting policies supporting his viewpoint which emboldened him to let out a derisive snort. "You feminists. You're just like the gays, you want the option to choose but the protection to escape the consequences of your choice! Either dress like a female and act like one and know your place, or dress like a man, be professional and deal, just like us men have to. But for Pete's sake stop this incessant complaining that 'it's not fair.' Blake felt incredibly good to get that off his chest finally. He was proud that he even managed to add a whinny tone and air quotes to the end of his performance. His glee suddenly turned to cold fear as he realized what he'd just done.

Lucy began to laugh, a laugh that expressed just how ridiculous she thought his statement to be. She hadn't intended to be rude, but his rant was ridiculous. "Be and act like a female and know our place?" She'd probably have been offended if she didn't find it too amusing to be so. "And what is our place? Licking your boots?" She rolled her eyes at him and after she finished pouring her coffee, she headed back to her desk. "I feel that I should press some sort of harrassment or discrimination charges, but for crying out loud Blake, we aren't in the 1800s. Women aren't less because they have reproductive organs on the inside." She kicked her shoes off as she reached her desk, unbuttoned the top button of her blouse and ran her fingers through her flowing hair as she turned to look at him. Her smile was nothing if not flirtatious as she batted her eyelashes. "Okay, there, I just lost 50 IQ points right? Because of the things I just did? Better find a man to help the oh-so-needy me."

Blake was taken back entirely. Anger flushed his face but the feeling of having dodged a very real danger of being dragged before HR to explain what would no doubt be viewed as negative "sexist" remarks stopped him from giving in again to the desire to teach this impudent woman her place. Instead he just curled his lips and turned and retreated to to his cubical.

 

(**Photo from Pixabay)

 



 

Falling From The Sky

Grace Marshall - Tuesday, August 01, 2017

(Monthly roleplay written by Grace Marshall and J. Lindsey Marshall.)

Lucy checked to make sure her red hair was secure. Despite the fact she had braided it incredibly tight that morning she was still afraid of it coming undone. She sat down at the table for lunch and smiled broadly. They had reached the end of her bucket list but she knew this would be the hardest item to convince him on. She opened her emerald eyes somewhat wider and tried to maintain a hopeful and encouraging smile that lifted her freckled cheeks. "So..." she began casually "just skydiving left."

"Dream on." Marcus growled between munching on a sandwhich. Swallowing, he set his lunch down with a sigh knowing what was coming. "Lucy, planes crash, parachutes malfunction."

Lucy heaved a loud sigh and picked up her own sandwich. She stared at it for a moment and looked back up at Marcus. Her green eyes glittered as she smiled, "Cars can crash, lightning strikes, heart attacks happen."

"Yeah, but Luce this is intentionally stepping out of a plane and.....and falling!" he gasped, staring at her incredulous. "I don't normally do this, but as your boyfriend, I'm setting my foot down! I forbid it!"

Lucy raised an incredulous eyebrow at Marcus but didn't say anything for several moments. She wasn't quite sure how to respond as she wasn't sure which of her feelings was strongest. Amusement? Anger? Confusion? Sympathy? As if he could forbid her to do anything. Yet he only said it because he cared, and that caused a conflict to turn in her gut. But this was something she'd wanted to do for a long time and she wanted it really badly. "You don't normally do that because you can't. There are backup parachutes and I'm sure I'll be connected to an instructor. And it will be amazing! Can you imagine?!"


Consternation filled Marcus's handsome face before he softened, reaching across the table to take her hand. "Look Luce, I'm sorry I'm being this way, but it's because I love you, and I know these groups have a ton of safety regs, and you'll be with an instructor, but I just can't stand the thought of 'what if?'. What would I do without you." He paused, earnestly gazing into her eyes. "It messes me up just thinking about it." Marcus finished. Surely she could pass on some of her "wants" for the peace of their relationship.

The immediate response that came to Lucy's mind was that he'd survive without her. But she didn't say that because she knew that was likely to just start a fight and would be rather insensitive. She sighed again, setting her sandwich down and the hand he had reached across the table to grab turned to gently hold his in response. "We do dangerous stuff all the time. Isn't this sort of a once in a lifetime experience? If we die we'll go to heaven and... and..." she grappled for words, "you'll let me drive motorcycles but not sky dive?"

Marcus grimaced. "Uh yeah, about that. Look, before we were dating what you did was fine, but we're together now, we have to consider more than ourselves." He rocked back into his chair. "Even with the motorcycle thing, being a couple means being responsible to each other, so I think you need to consider that a bit more in your 'go crazy jump out a plane' moments."

Lucy stared at Marcus for some time, unsure if she was understanding him correctly. "Wait, are you saying you are okay with my motorcycle, or you aren't? Because it's there you know, and I have no intention of getting rid of it."


Marcus could feel the ground falling out from under his feet, time to salvage and retreat to fight another day. "No no, Luce, yeah you've already got the bike, no point in arguing over it." He smiled as reassuringly as he could. "Just think that one day we may have kids, or I'd like to, but I have to think about the kinda mother they have, or might not have, if something happens when she jumps out of a plane." Well so much for retreating to fight another day. The words just came out, maybe the days of pressure to jump out of a plane had gotten to him.

Lucy sighed loudly in exasperation, her sandwich on her plate, she poked at it idly. "So you'd rather they have a boring mom that just sits at home all day and worries about things that may or may not happen?"

Marcus put his face in his hands. She wasn't getting it! This had gone from bad to terrible. "Luce, that's not what I meant, come on." He groaned. "And why does responsible mean bor-" he cut himself off, standing abruptly. "You know what, forget it, let's take a break, I have to get back to work, we can talk about this tonight if you like." Turning, he stalked away, feeling slightly more in control of the situation for it.

Lucy raised an eyebrow as Marcus spoke and shook her head as he stood up. He was being so pushy and it wasn't fair. So he cared about her but he couldn't control her, they weren't even married. Even if they were, they would have to be able to talk things out. She sighed, picking up her sandwich and slowly finishing her food. 'Okay,' she thought, 'we can talk later.'

Save Save Save Save Save Save


 

Canoeing?

Grace Marshall - Monday, July 03, 2017

Bethany kept running despite the sounds of her brother calling out for her. The woods was a safe haven, a place of unknown hopes and dreams. Somewhere she could be free and alone. Away from him. Away from his merciless teasing and superior looks. She just wanted to get away from him. Away as far and fast as she could. That's why her face clouded with disappointment when her dark brown eyes caught sight of the river rushing past the path in front of her.

James, or Jamie as everyone called him, caught sight of his sister. "Sis Ho! Ahoy you scallywafe! I'l toss you a line and you can help me pull this in!" Jamie called, backing water in the old red plastic canoe he'd commandeered when he'd seen his sister running for the woods. Sitting in the stern he sent his river ride to the bank nearest his sibling.

'Scallywafe?' She cast him a scowl. She would do no such thing. She didn't want to get into the water with her brother, into the confined space of a canoe. She wanted to get AWAY from him. She tucked her blonde hair behind her ear and turned on her heel away from the bank. Guess home was her only choice now.

"Wha? Wait! Oh come on, Bethy! What'd I do?" Jamie cried from the canoe as he carefully scampered from stern to where the prow was hung up on the bank. With a quick heave he pulled it half out of the water before running after his sister. "Come on, tell me what's wrong? Is it your period?"


Bethany shook her head and spun back around. Boys. "What is with you? No, it's not my period. Why is it everytime I'm upset I'm PMSing? As if it can't be YOUR fault?" She gave him a glare, her brown eyes fiery. "And who says I want to canoe? You never even asked."

"Well forgive me if you seem moody!" Jamie sallied on, undeterred by the ferocious display. "I just don't see that I've done anything to make you run into the woods faster than a rocket on rails."

Bethany shook her head and hooked her thumbs in her pockets rather aggresively. He never knew what he did. Was he that oblivious or did he just not care. "If you're so much better than me, why do you even want me to go canoeing with you?"

Jamie shrugged. "Amusement, it gets boring being a superior being, so I like to associate with the mere mortals, ya know?" he replied flippantly, struggling to keep a grin from ruining his straight face.

Bethany shook her head at her brother, heaved a sigh, and decided she might as well laugh it off. How did people live with brothers? But she knew she would never be happy if she dwelled on it and he'd never quit picking on her. "Sure, whatever," she huffed slightly with a roll of her brown eyes. Her eyes fell to the canoe. She really did want to go canoeing, she just didn't want to go with him.

Jamie frowned. Females. Going ballistic one moment, then the next blown off with, "whatever." Maybe he wasn't that far off in his joke! Wait, was she eyeing the canoe? If she was, he had to beat her to it!

Bethany couldn't fight the sudden urge that came over her as her brother eyed the canoe. And with a sudden leap and the full force of her smaller frame, she shoved him into the water.

Jamie yelped as he fell backwards into the river. Water closed over his vision, briefly igniting fear of depth until his head broke surface again. "You brat! How dare you!" He spluttered as he waded/lunged for the steep bank to haul himself out.

Bethany gave him her sweetest smile. "Sure, I'll go canoeing with you."

Jamie, finally gaining the level ground, soaking wet, pulled a dripping river weed off his head and gave his sister a glower. "Fuf!" and he stamped off down the path towards the house, muttering about females.

Bethany giggled at her brother wrestling with the weed. She hummed a soft tune as she took her sweet time going back home. 

 



 

So Close Yet So Distant

Grace Marshall - Friday, June 02, 2017

Renee finished folding the last shirt from the dryer before she carried the now full basket to the bedroom. She set it down on the floor before pulling her own clothes, that she'd purposely set on top, out and putting them away. She left her husband's clothes in the basket and moved into the kitchen to focus her attention on dinner. She wondered if he'd be home on time tonight.


Mark hit the door running. "Honey, I'm home!" he yelled as he pulled his tie on the way to the bedroom. He'd just gotten off work and had a challenging racquet ball game to get to. Hanging the tie on a hook he stripped off his shirt and pants, wadding them up before tossing them into the corner where Renee usually had a laundry basket.

"Welcome home," Renee responded as her husband moved past. The meatloaf she'd put into the oven was only halfway done but she didn't see why it'd be a problem. She brushed a strand of blonde hair from her face before pulling some plates out of the cupboard as she called toward the bedroom, "Meatloaf still has a while to cook!"

"Uh yeah, honey I'm going to miss dinner. I'm playing racquet ball with the director, it'll be evening before I'm home. Jenelle's pretty competitive."

Renee sighed and put one of the plates back. "Are you going to eat something before you go at least?"

"Nope, I'll grab something on the way." Mark finished pulling on some sweatpants and and his favorite sports shirt. "Can you check that my work clothes for tomorrow are clean, sweetheart? Thanks, see you tonight." Mark grabbed his racket and headed for the door, the upcoming match on his mind.

"They already are," Renee responded, moving in front of her husband's determined path. "Uh, honey? Excuse me, but you could have called you know. What am I supposed to do?" Maybe she should just let it go but she'd spent the morning at work then came home and laundered clothes, cleaned the house, and figured out dinner.

Mark came up short. "I tried to call sweetheart, you didn't answer." He glanced at his watch. He had to get on the road or he was going to be late. Mark frowned. "Don't you have a new season of that show you like?"

Renee was annoyed at Mark's apparent unconcern for her or her time already, his disregard for how she spent her evening, the way he was acting like he was in a busy hurry and his time was important whereas hers wasn't, was grating on her. Because all she did with her time was watch television? Was that what he was implying? "Oh, I'm sure I'll find something to do," she snapped. "Not that you'll care, you'll be too busy playing with your BOSS."

Mark heaved a strained sigh. Why did she have to be this way? She acted like he was running off to get some drinks with 'the boys' when she should know very well that advancing in his career depended on social interaction with those who could put in a good word for him. And it irked him. "Renee don't be like that, we talked about this before I started this job remember? We knew it would require lots of overtime on my part for a few years and you agreed it would be worth it, babe," he pointed out patiently. Even as he said it, a little voice deep inside observed that he'd been running out on his wife like this for months and he felt a twinge of guilt which irked him further. Mark hated second guessing himself and it made him annoyed that Renee was bringing this up. She was supposed to be supporting him! Did she think he liked kissing up to the bosses like a dog hoping for a bone?

"Yes, overtime. Overtime at the office. Overtime you would tell me about. But that's not what this is. This is all your time. You're at work or you're spending your free time with coworkers. I never know when you'll be home and pretty much my time with you is just sleeping. What's the point of advancing your career, making lots of money, if you never do anything but work anyway? Your job is becoming your family and squeezing your real one out." Renee took a few steps back from Mark and pulled to the side. She wouldn't stop him from leaving, she'd just wanted to be heard. When they got married she didn't realize she'd be spending more afternoons alone than she did when she was single. What would it be like when they had kids? Would she raise them alone? And did he not see the things she did, the cleaning, the cooking, shopping, organizing, it was for him, because she loved him and was trying to show her support in areas he was too busy to take care of?

Mark gritted his teeth trying to hold back his irritation. Glancing at his watch's accusatory minute hand didn't help but he took a few deep breaths. He didn't want this to turn into a yelling match. "Look Renee, maybe you have a point, but I can't just change this right now. I'll cut this evening short and be home around seven, can we talk about this then?"

Renee shrugged, maybe she had a point? "I suppose we can, doesn't sound like I have much say in the matter anyway." She ran a hand through her hair, her fingers sifting it in slight frustration. "Just make sure you grab yourself something to eat." And with that she turned away, either he'd be home by seven or he wouldn't, but they would, at some point, talk things over.

Mark grimaced as he watched his wife walk away. His thoughts were tied up with thinking over the confrontation as he slid behind the wheel of his car. He frowned as his memory replayed his wife's slender frame turning away at the end. When had they quit kissing goodbye? The thought troubled him. Up until this moment he thought he and Renee had one of those rare strong marriages. Could he have misjudged things? No. But he certainly was capable of getting so tied up with work and life that he didn't pay close enough attention to his wife he realized. His jaw clenched. He did love his wife, and even though he had originally planned to come home and point out how unfair she was being, obviously there was something he was missing. Renee was a smart, strong woman. If she was this upset then perhaps he'd really messed up. Well the racquet ball match was going to suck, but he was going to be home to keep his promise to his wife, and maybe they could get this worked out.

 




 

The Next Morning

Grace Marshall - Sunday, April 30, 2017

Corinthia sighed as she swirled the cup containing her orange juice. Continental breakfast, eh, could be worse. She had missed her bed last night and having fresh clothes; blasted snow. The roads should be cleared soon enough though. She'd just eat her breakfast and then go home. Hopefully no one would notice her.

Silas leaned up against the pillar in the entry of the hotel's breakfast lounge. His hangover was killing him despite the painkillers and massive amounts of water he'd been chugging since he'd woken upstairs in his room. He didn't remember much about last night, but as he surveyed the guests, he did remember someone. 'Well hello hello,' he thought as he noticed the attractive blond pianist wearing black shades. He straightened up, brushed out a wrinkle and ran a quick hand through his hair before striding confidently towards her table. Check out wasn't 'til noon, perhaps the fun wasn't over. Coming to a stop across from the woman he smiled his most dashing "woman killer" smile.


Corinthia paused in her eating as she heard footsteps approach and stop at her table. She took a sip of her orange juice idly but when the person didn't leave she set the cup down and asked, "Can I help you?" She thought maybe it was one of the hotel staff, needing something. Who else could it be?

Silas's smile faltered. 'Can I help you?' wasn't usually how women responded to that approach. He glanced down at his shirt, looking for whatever was putting her off about his appearance then back up into those big dark sunglasses. Then understanding hit him and he grinned. "Ah! Hung over too? I understand, I'm not much of a morning person either," he volunteered, forging ahead. "Silas Trent, nice playing last night."

Corinthia tensed as she heard the familiar voice of the inebriated man from the night before. Her mind mulled around the man's words, looking for understanding. Hung over? Why would he think that? She was working last night. Then she understood; her sunglasses. Her fingers fiddled with her fork. "Good morning, Silas," she responded in a voice she hoped was polite but not friendly. She couldn't argue with the not being a morning person part, she preferred to be past the cleaning up and picking out clothes part of the day. "Corinthia," she offered offhandedly. "And thank you." 'And please leave me in peace,' she added in her mind.

Silas frowned before catching himself and withdrawing his outstretched hand. Was she foreign and didn't understand in America people shake hands? She didn't look foreign, but looks could be deceiving. Perhaps she was offended he'd barged in on her performance last night? Ah well, here was the opportunity to rectify that. He smiled ingratiatingly. "I feel like I owe you an apology, may I?" He motioned to the chair opposite her.

The unseen offered hand was ignored and Corinthia fiddled with her silverware as she tried to figure out what he was asking. "May you what? Sit?" She guessed. Why didn't he just say what he was asking so she would know? And if that was what he was asking, what was her response?

Silas nodded. "Uh yeah, that's kinda what I was asking." Silas was perturbed. Was she slow or something? He never had this much trouble getting his intentions across to a woman.

Corinthia paused, everyone could be a potential fan of her music, right? "Of course," she said quietly, her fingers still playing with her fork.

Silas smiled and slid onto the chair opposite. "I wanted to apologize for last night, I was quite drunk on shall we say, success, and I fear I may have overdone it a bit." He pointed at her glasses. "But I see I'm not the only one that overdid things last night." He chuckled.

Corinthia's hand stilled on her fork and she frowned slightly. "I'm not sure what you're referring to? Are you suggesting I overdid my playing or..." Ah right, he thought she was hungover. "Oh no, I didn't drink last night. I don't tend to drink when I perform. Just snowed in so I couldn't make it home."

"Oh don't be prudish, I myself get hungover every now and then." He waved good-naturedly. "One simply must know how to cure it afterward! And that yogurt isn't going to do it! Let's have some eggs, and sausage over here! I'll have you fixed up and out of those shades in no time!.......psst waiter?" He called, raising his hand to attract the server's attention.

Corinthia blushed slightly and ducked her head, she was just getting food from the buffet, not bothering the few scattered servers. She suddenly felt kind of embarrassed for Silas. He had no idea. No idea. "I really don't have a hangover," she said the words but doubted he'd listen. "That's not why I'm wearing sunglasses."

Silas laughed. "Oh come come, you're wearing sunglasses inside, it's quite obvious, especially after a great night like last night, who could fault you!" He grinned. "And after breakfast, the next thing I suggest is a casual stroll, the sun is up, the morning is just lovely! Nothing like a little exercise to finish off the last of a hangover!" "Do you like art galleries? I know of a fine one quite close by, it's private but I'm a personal friend of the artist if you'd like to accompany me! It would be a rare treat I assure you, as very few people get to see his work.

Corinthia frowned, a bit dumbfounded that he would even ask her to go to an art gallery. It had become obvious he didn't know she was blind, but really? This guy was just rolling in bad luck. "Silas," she sighed. "I'm wearing these because I'm blind."



 

Clanks In Space

Grace Marshall - Saturday, April 01, 2017

Simon secured his suit and double checked the vitals squiggling across the reader attached to his arm. Then he triple checked. He triple checked everything. This was the fourth mission of the month but no matter how mundane things became, space wasn't to be toyed with. One mistake could suck you into an eternal vacuum. He was all set, everything looked good. He raised his aqua-colored eyes to check on the ready status of his partner.

Anya looked over at the American astronaut as she continued checking her readouts on the heads up display of her helmet. "Yankee is ready?" As the latest generation of cosmonauts, Anya found it humorous to tease the big Americans with their clunky low tech suits. Since Russia's resurgence, they'd partnered with Chinese tech companies to heavily invest in next gen space technology. "Come, Yankee. Ve must conquer space for the greater good of mother Russia!"

Simon shook his head at Anya's comment. Working with other nations could cause tension at times. "How do you concentrate with all that crap floating around your screen?" He glanced at the faint lights glowing on the side of his helmet, quickly notifying that everything is okay without blocking any vision. Maybe everything wasn't as electronic and beepy with the Americans, but it was well-built and sensible. "I was ready ages ago," Simon grunted and reached out to pull the lever for the exit.

"Easy, good training." Anya smirked through her helmet as the airlock door opened and she followed the man in. The door closed behind her and instantly the chamber began to depressurize. "For cosmonaut is very easy. How you get work done constantly looking at little screen on arm is question. Da!" She chided, reaching for the button that would open the outer doors. This was her favorite part, when the outer doors opened revealing the vast emptiness of space.

 

As her hands came to rest on the lever, something banged on the outer hull. Frowning, she looked over at Simon. "What that sound, Simon?"

Simon rolled his eyes, deciding the comment wasn't worth a response. He didn't have to stare at his arm, an alert would go off if anything went wrong and Anya knew that. He gave a slight jump as he heard the thud. "A snarky Russian," he muttered under his breath. "Not sure," he said in a concerned voice loud enough for Anya to hear.

 

Anya paused. If somehow they were being hit by space trash, opening the airlock could be fatal. The sound came again, this time in three steady taps. A chill ran up Anya's spine. The taps were far too regular to be space trash. She took her hand away from the lever and moved to peer out the door's little window into space. "I see nothing, space Yankee," she reported.

Part of Simon's heart was thumping in fear and part was thumping in excitement. He knew it would be stupid to throw the door open but he wanted to. He glanced at Anya, "What do you want to-?" His voice dropped off as something flew by the window.

Anya had seen it too. She instinctively backed away. "Simon?" She frowned as the clanks sounded again. Tap Tap Tap. "You read Apollo reports of 'space sounds,' da?" They were the only two souls aboard the station, the other two members having left this morning in the skiff to repair a damaged satellite. This was getting creepy.

Simon gave an involuntary shudder, backing away as well as he tensed. "What is it?" he breathed.

Anya shrugged. "Space boogies? No one knows." She was shocked this well-trained astronaut didn't even know. It was his nation that dominated space for the last several decades when these sounds had occurred. Anya was torn between caution and curiosity. No one had ever found a source for the sounds. Well, here was a perfect opportunity. Stretching forward, she touched the lever to open the outer doors. Vast clear open space greeted her; taking her tether, she clipped it to the safety ring outside the airlock before pushing herself out and began peering around.

Simon cautiously clipped his safety harness to the ring as well before following Anya. He couldn't ignore the tension rising in his body.

Anya scanned the entire station then pulled on her tether to reorient herself. Her helmet had state of the art thermal sensors running, if there was anything outside with a heat source bigger than a rat, it would glow. Nothing.

Simon turned to look at Anya. Whatever it was, they would never know.

 

~Grace & J. Lindsey Marshall



 

Old friends

Grace Marshall - Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Andrea blushed slightly as she was pulled from her reverie by the sound of footsteps. The flush deepened as a quick look revealed that which had occupied her mind was coming down the barn aisle. She'd known him three years, could him shaving his facial hair really change that much? He told the same jokes, had always been just as kind, and yet, somehow, it all seemed different now. Andrea forced a smile past her embarrassment as she stood straight and greeted him with a, "Hello there."

"My name is Kurt not "there," surely after all these years you would know my name, Andrea." Kurt grinned boyishly. "Or has shaving my peach fuzz made me unrecognizable?!" Kurt felt at his face as he ducked to see his reflection in the tack room window, feigning alarm with a twinkle in his eyes.

Andrea rolled her brown eyes with a shake of her head. "You can't be Kurt! I know Kurt, scruffy cave-man type," she teased, swinging the halter she had in her hand. Kurt straightened up with a frown, looking over at her. "Scruffy caveman?" Then a twinkle reappeared in his eyes. "So if I'm not Kurt, I guess I am free to reinvent myself! Aha!" He snatched up a lunge whip and cracked it within a foot of Andrea. "Be off with you brat!"

Andrea's eyes widened as the whip snapped the air and she scurried backward. "Don't make me sick Relay on you!" she used her oversized red mare as a threat.

Kurt threw back his head and laughed. "Don't bring the poor horse between you and this whip girl, that is almost animal cruelty!" He emphasized his point with another crack of the whip.

Andrea became rooted to the spot. What the heck was happening? She'd known Kurt for years and all of a sudden he was acting crazy. "Just put the whip down, crazy man."

Kurt's face stiffened into unusually serious lines. "Not yet, you silly chit. First, you must make amends with a formal apology. My dignity and pride has been trampled upon! Apologize for your offense and I shall relinquish this super weapon that strikes fear into equines and fems!" He couldn't keep a twinkle from his grey eyes.

Andrea blinked slowly at Kurt. He was joking but she felt so awkward and a blush emerged on her cheeks. "Relay!" she squeaked under her breath, as if that would somehow cause the horse to barrel through the pasture gate and run between them.

Kurt stepped forward, looking down at the young woman. Then he quickly ducked his head and kissed her.

Andrea blinked again, unsure how to respond. What was happening?


Kurt stepped back. She looked dazed. "Not bad for a scruffy cave man, eh?" He felt oddly pleased with himself. Dazed was good, right?

"Uh..." Andrea stumbled over her words. "You're not scruffy anymore?" Was all she could manage. She rubbed the back of her neck self-consciously.

Kurt grinned, merriment back in his eyes. "Consider yourself forgiven!" He chuckled then turned and began whistling as he headed out of the barn. He didn't have a clue where he was going or what he was supposed to be doing. The memorial of the first soft kiss had overridden his normal sensibilities. He felt like a good stroll across cloud nine was just the thing.

 

~Grace & J. Lindsey Marshall
(Picture from Pixabay)



 

Camping Adventure

Grace Marshall - Wednesday, February 01, 2017

James growled in frustration and turned to his hiking partner. "Okay so this is your idea of fun? Come out in the middle of the wilderness and get lost?!" James hated being lost. They had no compass, no GPS, and the map had floated down river with half their food when their canoe had rammed a rock and sunk. Who uses old canoes like that thing? Well apparently this crazy girl.

Rani held back the comment she wanted to say about how she had been lost the entire trip, she doubted it would help the situation. "Think of it as an adventure?" She offered. "We can follow the river down. Make our own map? Lewis and Clark did it." She tugged at her ponytail with one hand, her light brown eyes showing concern. He was probably overreacting. This could be fun. Right?

James couldn't believe what he's just heard and had to check himself strongly from exploding at the young woman. "Uh Rani?" He started. "You know people die this way right? This is serious ya know? We're lost, my GPS is gone we have only half our supplies and only one sleeping bag!" Has she thought about what they were going to do? James wasn't an outdoorsman, and was mildy freaked out.

'This guy needs to read 'The Hatchet' by Gary Paulsen and learn what adventure is,' Rani thought. Okay, so maybe he was right, maybe the would die. Or maybe this would be epic! "I'm aware your GPS is gone, James," Rani responded. "But I don't see how hollering is going to help the situation. Rivers tend to led to people or a roadway. Let's follow the river," she insisted.

James stared at her. "I'm not Hollering!" he yelled. Even as a small part of his mind noted the logic in her suggestion, he reacted poorly to listening this crazy woman anymore. Turning he marched back down the hill towards the waters edge where they'd left their wet packs and everything they'd managed to pull from the river.

Rani couldn't help herself. Standing there, staring at his wet, irritated form as he begrudgingly retrieved their supplies a small chuckle begin to bubble up from inside her. It rose more and more, fighting to be released and finally she broke out into a hearty laugh. This would be how an outdoor adventure would go for the two of them.


James looked over his shoulder startled by an unexpected noise. Then scowled darkly up at the petite figure wracking with laughter. Despite himself, he could help but to smile slightly. Blast! When she smiled it lit up the world. James remembered why he'd agreed to come on this trip. Suddenly his anger was gone and he shrugged, smiling. "Fine you win!" He hollered. Let's go!" He pointed down river and began walking.

Rani nodded at James' turned back and begin to walk after him, still fighting fits of giggles. All said, it was a beautiful afternoon. The sun was merrily shining down on them and their clothes would be dry soon enough. The river provided any water they would need, and if they conserved rations they should be good for a while. Rani caught up with James, a smirk on her face and matched pace with him.

James glanced beside him as he picked his way along the riverside. "I'm not sure how far we've come, but I'm sure the others will wait at tonight's campsite when we don't show up." They were on a three day canoe trip with the church group Rani attended. "So is this typical of what you guys do?" He nodded towards the river. "Go out in the middle of nowhere and have near death experiences to prove your faith in God?"

 

~Grace & J. Lindsey Marshall
(Picture from Pixabay)



 

Kittens and Christmas Trees

Grace Marshall - Friday, January 06, 2017

They were at something strange that Tenny had never seen before. The tenacious tortoiseshell calico kitten was always looking for new and interesting things to play with. And it seemed her wildest dreams were coming true. They had set a tree up in the main room and were places toys all about it. Shiny objects, soft objects, wriggling objects! Oh joy! This was going to be fun!

Amerigo Vespucci yawned and observed a disaster in the making. The rambunctious tiny fuzzball his slaves had brought home looked about to climb the Christmas tree. Older and larger Amerigo had long ago learned when to give to slaves more work and when it just made them chase him around yelling. It was nice a cozy right now, he didn't feel like hearing the excitable humans yell. Clambering to his feet he stretched casually yellow eyes never leaving the little kitten. If it moved any closer.....

As the two-leggeds walked away from the tree, Tenny crouched and stalked the green gift of fun. The two-leggeds settled on the couch just as Tenny pounced. The two-leggeds began hollering but Tenny ignored them, intent on her mission. Her paw swiped at a tassel, success! She pulled the object down just as a stream of water splashed the back of her head

 

~Grace & J. Lindsey Marshall
(Picture from Pixabay)