Writing Exercises

 

The Little Girl and Her Dog Part 2

Grace Marshall - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

 

"Arf Arf" or "Stop stop, you crazy girl!" Scottie called after his charge. The headstrong seven-year-old Emma was dashing through the orchard between blooming cherry trees with white painted trunks. Scottie pursued the girl as fast as his four little legs could carry him all the while calling to her to slow down.

Emma glanced over her shoulder at the barking dog and laughed. "Come on! Catch up! I'm going to the house to tell momma what cake i want! I forgot to tell her i want chocolate!" She wanted chocolate every year, but she had to make sure her mother remembered. Chocolate was her favorite. But what about Scottie? He couldn't share that cake. "Would you like her to make vanilla cupcakes, too?"

Scottie stopped and sat, cocking his little head sideways. "Of course I want cake!" He barked enthusiastically. Doing a slight prance in a circle before sitting again staring up at the girl. "But chocolate sounds good to me as well!"

Emma stopped her frantic run toward the house as she waited for the dog's response. Sometimes it was as if he was trying to talk to her. At least he was certainly excited about cake! She giggled, "Okay, let's go tell Mom!" She led the charge up the back porch and then paused by the back door. She poked her head around to look in the kitchen. If dad was around he'd probably give her chores to do. Coast was clear, just mother, she raced through the door.

"Hey wait!" Scottie yipped. "We haven't decided on flavor!" Scottie dashed after the girl into the house. This was important! How could she rush into this?

"Mom!" Emma chirped.

Her mother turned from hanging streamers across a kitchen cabinet. "Yes, dear?"

"Can I have chocolate cake?"


"For your birthday? Of course."

"And vanilla cupcakes for Scottie!"

Her mother climbed off the chair she was standing on and looked thohghtfully at the dog. "Come here, Scottie!" She called to the puppy. "What would you think about a meat cupcake instead?"

Scottie tilted his head and licked his upper lips and nose staring up at the older woman. "What is this? Meat cupcake? Why yes please!" He whined tail wagging on the floor where he sat respectfully. "But if it's too much trouble, the chocolate sounds just as good!"

Emma's mom gave Scottie a rub on the head with a smile.

"Thanks, Mom!" Emma hollered and head to the back door. "Emma!" Her mother hollered. "I need you to sweep out the shed!"

"Aw, Ma," Emma whined.

"And change the cat box when you are done with that. And make sure to wash your hands when you are finished!"

"Okay," Emma pouted and headed outside. So much for avoiding work by avoiding Dad.

Scottie ears twitched when he heard "cat box". Turning he slunk under a couch, hiding. "Poor Emma," he whined. Despite his best efforts to accompany his charge everyone, the domain of the gigantic orange tabby was off limits! Especially where that detestable villain did its business. Scottie made it a habit to find a dark quiet place out if the way whenever Emma had anything to do with the cats! "I'll just nap here, after all, she's inside and perfectly safe. Job well done, me boy!" He consoled himself curling into a little ball under the living room couch. Within minutes little Scottie snores were emanating from furniture.

~Grace & J. Lindsey Marshall

 



 

The Little Girl and Her Dog

Grace Marshall - Monday, October 31, 2016


Emma rolled off the trampoline and took off running as soon as she found her footing. The six-year-old girl had a birthday in two days and she was eager for it, but the party preparations were driving her crazy. She figured the easiest way to keep from getting work from her parents was to stay out of sight. So she headed for the trees in the back part of the yard, her blonde hair bouncing on her shoulders as she ran.

'Oh bother there she goes again,' Scottie grumbled to himself as he leveraged his squat bulk of the ground and dutifully trotted after his charge. Aged, and not in the best shape from a lifetime of successful table begging, Scottie still considered himself the family's trusted guardian and he'd taken a liking to young Emma. But somedays he wished the energetic 6-year-old would just sit quietly, taken him in her lap and stoke his hair or starch his belly as he so liked. But today didn't seem the day. His charge was bursting at the seams with excitement.

As he followed after the young girl he braced himself to endure one sided inane conversations humans have with their pets because they think the pets can't understand. 'Humans are so silly. They act all knowing because they can speak their own language, but seldom understand others,' Scottie huffed. As he came to a stop beside Emma and sat back on his haunches staring up at the girl.

Emma smiled down at the faithful dog sitting next to her and then turned the attention of her wide brown eyes to the tree in front of her. It was bigger than what she was used to climbing but that made it extra sturdy. Only issue was figuring out how to get ahold of the first limb. "What do ya think, Scottie? How do i get to that first branch?" She pointed accusatorially at the branch in question.

 

 

Scottie looked at the tree and cocked his head before growling. 'You don't. You should stay on the ground and rub. My belly.' He paused before rolling over on his back on the grass four legs in the begging up at the girl with a pleading whine. 'Rub me!'

Emma giggled. "You're so cute!" She turned away and took a few paces before turning back. She took a deep breath then ran at the tree, leapt in the air and her hands clutched at the branch. Success! She was glad for the pink gloves on her hands that protected her skin from the bark. She looked down at Scottie with her feet dangling and giggled.

Scottie rolled to his feet running around the tree in agitation. 'Silly child! Come down at once!' He barked. The girl's face was laughing down at him. Scottie thought how comical he must appear and came to a stop under the girl's feet with an irritated growl. 'Fine, you have your fun, but don't expect sympathy if you fall!' Scottie barked and put his head down between his forelegs sulking.

Emma kicked her legs out to use the tree as a way to push her up. Her feet scraped at the bark and suddenly her fingers slipped she screamed as she crashed to the ground.

Scottie yipped dashing aside just narrowly avoiding being a squashed Scottish Terrier. His startlement instantly turned to concern as Emma's body fell to the earth. 'Emmy! Emmy!' he yapped, rushing over to press his nose to the girls face his little paws on her chest as he sniffed. 'Are you okay?' he barked.


 

Emma moaned and wiped blonde hair from her face with her hand. She laid still for a few moments then smiled at Scottie. "I hurt myself Scottie. But have no fear, my adventure and courage are still there!"

 

Scottie buried his head in the girl's hair, licking her ears in relief. 'This is what you get for not listening to me. Now lie still and pet me instead of getting yourself into trouble.' He climbed ontop of the girl as little dogs do and snuggled unto her, lapping her with his tongue. 'Now you stay! Life comes full circle, I am the master! You listen to my commands, small one!' Scottie gibbered happy his charge wasn't badly hurt.

Emma relaxed under the weight of her trusted friend and scratched him behind the ears. She needed a rest.

 

 

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Library

Grace Marshall - Friday, September 30, 2016

Renee rested the light brown hair in her bun against the corner behind her and snuggled further into the bookshelf. She was always considered a nerd with the way she loved books, and a weirdy because of how she loved to read them behind shelves, on the floor of the library. She felt safe, as if in a cave where no one could hurt her. Being 25, single, and successful, most people suspected she had grown out of the phase but she secretly prayed she never would. She opened the cover of "The Count Of Monte Cristo" for the third time in her reading life and dove in.

"What are you doing back there?" Little Seth called at the young woman hiding behind the book shelves then noticed the book in her hands. "Why are you reading? That's isn't any fun." He wrinkled his seven-year-old face in a grimace.

 

 

Renee's brown eyes ventured from the page to look into the little boy's face. She gave him a soft smile. "It's fun in my mind. And if you don't like reading what are you doing in a library?"

The little boy scowled. "Libaries have more than books ya know, I can get on the Internet and take care of my business!" he asserted. "Books are old fashioned, everyone knows that," he finished disdainfully.

Renee smiled at the boy. "Whats wrong with being old fashioned?" She drummed her fingers on the open pages of the book she had placed in her lap. "And what sort of business do you have to take care of?"

The little boy frowned as he struggled with the questions. "The future is hand-held devices. My daddy says so. He says by the time I'm grown up, no one will read books. My daddy works in technology, he's really smart," Seth finished with a proud smile.

Renee smiled sweetly at the boy. "Is that so? Well, I'm sure your father is really smart but I hope and pray we don't lose paperback books. Even if we do lose paper books, they will still be available electronically so we won't lose books altogether. Books are moving into the future with us." Renee relaxed against the corner of the wall and bookshelf. "Where is your father anyway?"

Seth stiffened, looking around nervously as small kids do when reminded of their absent guardians, and suddenly worried of the consequences of breaking cardinal rules like no talking to strangers and not to stray out of sight. Edging away he waved bash fully and disappeared around some bookshelves in search of his parents.

Renee closed her book and stood. She poked her head around the edge of the bookshelf in curiousity but the little boy had already disappeared.

 

~Grace Marshall & J. Lindsey Marshall


 



 

Branding

Grace Marshall - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Jeff rubbed the sweat off his neck below his deep black hair. He let the branding iron swing from his hand as he watched the calf run off. Last one of the day. His working partner, Drake, took off as soon as the calf was standing. Jeff’s horse snorted at him and lowered his head, Jeff unsaddled and released him. The sun was sinking and he was glad for a cooling breeze that blew across the sandy pen. Supper crossed his mind and his eyes wandered toward the house, to his surprise, someone was heading toward him.


Mererthaballikawalik spotted its nemesis. The sweaty cattle torturer, Jeff, out in the field. It had just seen a bleating calf run away with a searing brand in its side. A heightened rush of energy that humans might call anger filled the Crk and it broke into a battle charge, pulling out its weapons, intent of ridding the world of the sweaty menace to cattle everywhere!

Jeff's eyes widened as the figure unsheathed a sword and begin running toward him aggresively. He looked around for a weapon and then glanced down at the branding iron in his hand. Better than nothing, it would have to do. As the figure approached, Jeff came to the realization it wasn't a human and his body tensed further as he waited for the sword to start shooting darts or lasers. What the heck was going on?

Mererthaballikawalik, the Crk, gained control of itself during the battle charge, processing what it must do to conduct its duty under the Human/Crk Living Organism act of 2045. Coming to a shambling halt five meters from its target it evaluated the branding iron the human wielded and made its challenge in a series of clicks and whistles which a translator box attached on a belt around the Crk's midsection repeated in basic, "Human, state your reason for torturing that calf and present your certificates of compliance giving you the authority immediately or you shall be dismembered." The Crk swiped the long blade in a menacing swish, as if preparing to make good it's threat. The Crk had four powerful legs under it and another two arms on its upper torso, similar to a praying mantis.


Jeff resisted the urge to take a step back, his brown eyes widening. He had never seen a Crk in person, what was one doing in the middle of nowhere where he lived? "I'm not torturing it!" he explained hurriedly. "It's just a brand, a way to mark that the animal belongs to me. In a way it is it's own certificate." He held tight to the branding iron, his knuckles turning white and thought of the rifle in his truck, useless to him so far away.

The Crk chirped in its own form of disgust. "That is an insufficient argument, any form of branding the Kine race, which is subservient to Humans must be done under supervision of an authorized technician with the use of local anesthesia to prevent pain according to statute 05.1007.508 article B of the Crk/Human Farm Bill of 2040." The Crk pointed its fiery sword at the cowboy. "Identify who's authority you work under," the alien demanded. Mererthaballikawalik's dual brains were working in overdrive. It was a zealous enforcer and had been striving to catch these illegal branding cowboys for years. It just needed proof such as it had just seen of a cow in pain. If it could discover who the cowboy worked for, perhaps by confiscating the newly seared calf the Crk legation could bring charges in the courts. His past efforts until now had been stymied. The cowboy branders either insisted they had used the pain killers or the victim disappeared. And as of yet, despite the Crk races best efforts, they had yet to have any success questioning such victims, let alone presenting them in a court of law to testify of the abuse inflicted upon their race. But not this time, this time Mererthaballikawalik had fired a tracking dart into the fleeing calf, and once he has this cowboy's details and his boss, he would be taking the calf into custody.

Jeff grunted. "Who do you work for?" he demanded. "Not sure how things work where you come from, but you're on private property. You can't just tresprass and start demanding answers! I demand answers!" Jeff hated the bill and knew it wouldn't be followed as soon as it was passed. It was too expensive to use pain killers for every calf, they were investment animals, not pets.

Mererthaballikawalik thought quickly. Technically the cowboy was right. "As an enforcer of the Farm Laws, I am authorized to investigate on any property without notice," the Crk was becoming distracted. The transmitter beacon was growing distant, even though the cowboy was here, without the calf and its smoldering brand, it had no case. Growing agitated, it wheeled off towards the direction of the signal before turning back to the cowboy. "I am going to take custody of the victim, then I will be back to take you to the local law building, remain here until I return," it ordered, before skittering into a odd four-legged gate down the hill, into the fields, looking for the calf in the herds of cows.

Jeff watched the back of the alien creature as it loped off then he turned and headed toward his truck, where his gun was. Not that he figured he'd need it but he'd decided to take a drive, to anywhere but there for a while.



 

A Blind Date

Grace Marshall - Friday, July 22, 2016

Sylvia patted the back of the elaborate bun her black hair was in and pushed her glasses more firmly onto her nose. She wasn’t sure about the whole blind date thing but it was worth a try, right? She pulled her phone out of her purse and fiddled with it while she waited. Maybe she shouldn’t have arrived fifteen minutes early for… what was his name again?

Seeing the gorgeous black hair up in a very pretty bun, Sid paused in his approach to the table the hostess had directed him to. Glancing down at his impeccable white dinner suit one last time, he took a deep breath in attempt to calm his racing heart and tightening nerves. He'd better do this before he chickened out. Rolling the wheelchair up behind the woman he forced a smile and tapped her on the shoulder. "Sylvia?"

 

 

Sylvia swung around in her chair and had to consciously keep her mouth from falling open. Some warning would have been nice, Joyce! she thought. Not that she cared about the wheelchair, but then she could have mentally prepared herself. She gulped, "Ye-yes?"

Sid saw the shock in her eyes and felt a chasm opening in his stomach. He smiled hurriedly, desperate to salvage what he could already seeing this was turning into a train wreck. "Hi I'm Sidney Harris, call me Sid, did I keep you waiting? If I did, I do apologize, dang wheelchair slows things down, ya know?" he prattled while wheeling himself around to take a spot at the table opposite her. This required grabbing a chair and shoving it out of the way, which he did manfullly. "Did you order yet? Drinks? Would you like an appetizer?" Did you know I was a cripple? Pain stung him as he ran up against his oldest nemesis in relationships. Himself.

Sylvia smiled politely at him, recovering herself. "Hello, Sid." Should she mention she didn’t care he was handicapped or would that make things awkward? "I ordered a drink but nothing else yet."

He maneuvered quite well in his chair. He noticed she was fidgeting with her napkin so she put her hands on her lap under the table. "We can get an appetizer if you want, or just order, it doesn't matter to me."

She couldn't really think about appetizers at the moment. Her mind was reeling about what would happen if she married someone in a wheelchair. How would that affect her life? How would things change? "Give me a moment to check over the menu, please."

Sid bravely forged ahead despite that his furtive glances revealed his biggest fear had come true. She's thinking what it will be like to make love to a cripple, blast my body! His spirits fell as he scanned the menu without even seeing any of it. His mind was too preoccupied with how to impress the woman across from him. What use is it? his thoughts asked dismally. Beautiful women liked broad-chested, narrow-hipped Kens or G I Joe guys. He was a slim, geeky type with curly hair and paralyzed legs. All the advice to "put yourself out there" and "women become interested in men who are interested in them" was hoopla. Well heck. He might as well try to enjoy the dinner, ‘twould obviously be the last he had with her.

The waiter approached and asked if they were ready to order. Sid almost scowled at the man's natural good looks, not to mention functioning legs. 'Yes, I'll have the brain transplant for forty million, thank you.' Oh, if only he could trade all his money for a functioning body. Instead he inclined his head towards Sylvia, saying, "Ladies first," with a smile.

Sylvia figured it didn’t pay to hide her appetite. Either things were going to work out or they wouldn’t. She ordered an appetizer and a large steak with mashed potatoes and coleslaw. Maybe if she acted like herself it would push him away and she wouldn’t have to worry about it. She couldn’t reject him for being handicapped with a good conscience, but if he rejected her then it couldn’t really be considered her fault and she could get out of dealing with the situation. She brought her eyes to Sid as she waited for him to order.

Sid barely noticed her order as he rushed to decide his own, desiring to look decisive and collected. After giving his order he smiled across the table towards Sylvia. "So tell me about yourself! Any hobbies?"

"I like horseback riding, hiking, and -" she paused, her mind racing. What did cripples do? Watch movies? Did she like anything he could actually do? Her mind grappled for an answer. She was going to say swimming but that was no good. "-reading." She finished lamely. At least she wasn’t lying. If they ended up together would she have to hang out with other people to do most of the things she truly loved to do? What was the point of being married if she couldn’t just have fun and hang out with her spouse? Was she a bad person for thinking of dismissing Sid for not having usable legs? She took a deep breath to calm herself and gave Sid a hesitant smile. She should get to know him first. Maybe they wouldn’t even end up liking each other and it wouldn’t matter anyway.

Sid tried to hide a shudder as she mentioned horses, being wheelchair bound made those powerful beasts intimidating. Oh? What books do you read? I love reading. One of the few activities I'm good at!" He winked and grinned.

What was his problem? Did he find it amusing he might saddle her with a handicapped person? She scolded herself for being unreasonable and decided to quit awkwardly avoiding the fact he was a cripple. "So, I hope this isn’t too forward, but what happened to put you in a wheelchair?"

Sid froze for a moment then let his face transform into a look of sorrow. "That's a sad story. My horse Raven, who'd I'd trained from a filly, one day while I was riding her, went mad. Bucked me off and reared up and trampled me. When my friend finally pulled her away, my legs were ruined." Sid sighed with a far away look. "Loved that horse. Vet said she had a brain disease." He could feel a corner of his mouth tug and manfully struggled to control it.

Wow. Now she felt uncomfortable for mentioning horseback riding. That must really suck for him. "I'm sorry to hear that," she said softly. Did he hate horses now? That would be way worse than him being handicapped. "So," she ventured, "do you still spend time with horses?"

Sid couldn't hold his twitching lips any longer and threw his head back in laughter so loud other diners around looked over at their table. "I'm sorry, that was mean of me. I just couldn't resist! No, I was crippled in a car accident. It had nothing to do with horses, nor quite so dramatic! Just a seat folded up on me. Manufacturer defect. Please forgive me for the tall tale." His eyes twinkled merrily. Making up unbelievable stories of his accident was a fun way for him to get some amusement out of the tragedy. It was always fun to see if people believed him.

Sylvia stared through her glasses at Sid in shock for a moment. Then she started giggling. Maybe she would like this guy after all.

~Grace Marshall & J. Lindsey Marshall

 



 

The Bus Mishap

Grace Marshall - Thursday, June 30, 2016

Skye smiled as she brought her hands down from adjusting her waist-length black hair into its ponytail. She glanced around the little bus after stepping unto it, it was going to the zip line and she silently wished once more she could have had someone go with her. When she had booked the nonrefundable trip to Colorado four months ago she still had Derek. Boys were so frustrating, it had ended two days later. No matter. She made her way down the bus aisle to find a seat and settled comfortably on an empty one by the window. Maybe she’d make a friend at some point? It was only day two of her trip.


Dressed in hiking boots, dun pants, and a flannel shirt, he was ready for adventure. And he'd just seen one step onto the bus. With a quick brush of his wavy hair he boarded the bus, eyes instantly finding the pretty little thing sitting by the window. Jace tossed his duffel bag into the storage compartment. Taking out his iPod ear buds he plugged them in, dialed the music up and walked back to flop in the seat next to the gorgeous girl. "Don't mind if I sit here do you, cutie?" He asked music still blaring.

Skye shifted uncomfortably at the endearment and cast a glance at the guy. She shrugged her disinterest and then diverted her gaze. Now she really wished she had someone with her. She pulled her purse closer to her and stuck a hand in it to feel around quietly for her mace. Just in case.

Jace grinned invitingly, removing his earbuds, letting them dangle from his neck. "Come on! You're not going to get all self conscious because a guy gives you a compliment, are you?" He offered his hand, still grinning. "I'm Jace."

Skye released her mace to shake Jace's hand but she continued to hold her purse on her lap with her other hand. "Skye," she responded quietly, "nice to meet you." As soon as she said the words she regretted them, so far it had not been nice to meet him. Not niceat all.

Jace's grin grew triumphant. "There! See? Not so bad." He sat back in the seat, content with himself. Picking up the left ear bud that had just recently been in use, he proffered it earnestly. "Want to listen to some tunes?"

Skye opened her mouth to answer but her attention was jerked forward when the bus driver hit the brakes. They squealed about a yard toward a crossing semi and then crashed into the trailer of it. Everyone was thrown forward as the front of the bus crumpled in.

"Son of a monkey fart!" Jace yelled, peeling himself off the back of the seat and looking around at other people similarly displaced. "Is our driver drunk? Flipping bajeebies! If he isn't dead, he's gonna be!" Jace knew he was overreacting from the adrenaline. Remembering, he looked down at Skye. "You alright?"

Skye grimaced and fought back the tears that had sprung to her eyes. Great, just what she needed, to be vulnerable in front of Mr. Tool. Somehow she had become wedged between the bottom of their seat and the seat in front of them. She tried to wiggle out and a piercing scream escaped her as she tried to move her left leg. The pain shooting through it was excruciating.

Jace jumped at the scream and cold sweat broke out on his forehead. Funny jokes, pickup lines, and arguments he could do. 'What do I do with her?' he thought frantically casting a glance around. The bus was a pandemonium of chaos. People yelling, whimpering, cries mingled with screams. Outside traffic had come to a halt, the bus’s crumpled windshield merged with the back of the semi. 'First aid,' the words came to mind. He looked back at the girl pinned between the seats. He didn't know a thing about first aid. Looking up towards the front he decided on a course of action. "You just stay there okay? I’m gonna find help!" he stated confidently. Yes this was the right course. Find someone who knew what to do. He turned and walked away, as approaching sirens began to be heard. And like many men who run when faced with uncomfortable positions, he never made it back to the beautiful girl before the first responders took over.

 

~Grace Marshall & J. Lindsey Marshall

 



 

May-2016

Grace Marshall - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

‘Staring at them, blaring music, or talking obnoxiously loud! It's a degenerated culture without common courtesy for their peers nor respect for the old,’ Mr. Humbol growled angrily to himself as he observed the packed subway car. It wasn't only the young teenagers! He saw smart looking professional men and sophisticated women all yammering away, tapping or otherwise focused on some electronic device! The days of a friendly smile and polite conversation with those about you were gone it seemed! He didn't like it! These small televisions or personal computing devices should be banned! 

Mrs. Milford patted down her white curls as she settled down on her subway seat next to some grumpy gentleman. She pulled out the iPad her grandson had gotten her after she had complained about her difficulty reading things on her phone. He had taught her a fun new game where you could build a city however you liked at your own pace. She hummed as she started to build a hotel.

Mr. Humbol growled inwardly. He knew he could complain and fuss but no one was going to listen to a crazy old fart. Ignoring the signs he pulled out a large cigar, lit it, and puffed the smoke into the air. He hid his smile at the annoyed glances cast his way, the coughs, and hand waving.

Mrs Milford wrinkled her nose as the gentleman next to her lit a cigarette. ‘Idiot.’ "Sir," she said calmly, "You aren’t supposed to smoke on public transportation."

Mr. Humbol looked over feigning concern. "Why? Does it bother you?" And took another drag on the smoldering cigar

"I’m pretty sure it’s bothering almost everyone and it’s illegal." She gave him a smoldering glare. "Not that I don’t enjoy a good Brazilian cigar myself on occasion but I do it at the proper time and place. This, sir, is not the proper place."

The cranky old man chuckled slightly. "Well, everyone else is bothering me, the loud talking into their phones, the obnoxious music, always texting or watching their little devices. Why is my smoking illegal? Well, because after years of research people have banned it as undesirable. Well it's no different with iPhones, iPads, whatever ya call its, in fact early studies indicate all this wireless stuff could be effecting people's brains! My brains! So you, ma'am, are degrading my brain with your little device! Everyone here is! But do I get a say in that? No! Because everyone's too ignorant to realize this is bad for society and a public health risk!" The old man sank back into his seat with a harrumph, finally happy to have had his say.

Mrs. Milford sniggered and shook her head at him. "They may cause brain issues if you use the device, which hasn’t been proven but I’m pretty sure the negative effects don’t fly through the air and latch unto innocent bystanders. Your smoking on the other hand," she pointed an accusing finger at the man's cigar, "does fly through the air and has been proven to do more damage to innocent bystanders than you even. So put it out before I put it out for you," she said coldly.

Mr. Humbol, who had been puffing away grouchily, paused mid-puff and looked over at her. Something close to admiration stirred inside. ‘By Jove, she looks like she really would snuff out my own cigar!’ he thought. Shrugging he began to comply then paused, looking back at the old woman with a wily glint in his eyes. "I'll do that on the condition that we can debate the social harm of these electronic devices. Do you agree?"

Mrs. Milford narrowed her eyes. Was he asking her out? Hm. She eyed his cigar and then him again. "Where?"

Mr. Humbol put out the cigar. "Why, right here and now, let's debate the social damage these," he stuttered, looking at the device in her lap with disdain. "These entertainment devices are doing to our culture."

Mrs. Milford closed her iPad slowly. "Okay then," she turned more toward the gentleman, "enlighten me."

The old man sat back with a satisfied expression. "Used to be you went out in public and you met people, like here." He waved at the occupants of the speeding subway car. "Used to be you would converse, maybe strike up a conversations, such as the one we're having, but without such extreme measures to initiate it, right? Nowadays everyone is into their own world, what's happening on their Facebook or phone conversation, are they even interacting with society anymore? These devices look to me like they have distanced people from real life meetings!"

"Maybe the amount of social interaction hasn’t necessarily changed but the way we do it and who we do it with has. For instance," Mrs. Milford leaned back and clasped her hands together, "with social media it’s way easier to keep in touch with my grandkids and their lives, and teenagers being communicative has always been an issue. So maybe I spend more time interacting with my friends and family instead of with strangers. Is that really so bad?"

Mr. Humbol harrumphed. He was a bachelor without any real close family. However, as a bachelor he'd learned to enjoy the chance meetings in cafés. "Understandable, however life is so full of colorful, wonderful people. If you are always focused in on the little group you know through a digital device, you miss the opportunity to meet people and hear their stories." He contended.

Mrs. Milford nodded her head slightly. "You are right in that way, but some stories people are better off without. I’m not sure you can justifiably say it’s degrading social life when it’s simply altering it. Beside, not everyone uses them so some grumpy old man like you can still meet other grumpy old men like you." She raised an eyebrow slightly.

Mr. Humbol's face creased into a ferocious scowl that would have sent a grandson running. "See! You've just proved my point, madam. As a member of the degenerated society your social outlet is through that device," he jabbed a finger at the woman's iPad. "And like everyone else here with their phones and ithingys you're manners and social interaction is woefully lacking and it's because you are used to interacting digitally! Well, here's what I have to say to your name calling!" Reaching into his pocket he pulled out the snuffed out charoot and relit it, disappearing into a cloud of smoke, not a cackling witch, but a grumpy old fart.

Mrs. Milford smirked. As if social media was the reason for her tartness. As if.

 

~Grace Marshall & J. Lindsey Marshall

 



 

April-2016

Grace Marshall - Saturday, April 30, 2016

Allison blew back a strand of red hair that had wriggled free of her ponytail as she stood up to stretch. "Hi!" She said to the unfamiliar face in front of her. She rested her weight on the pitchfork. "You new here?" Poor sap. When she had started she thought stable hand meant she’d spend time with the horses not that she would spend all day mucking stalls, transferring poop and hay. Yes, that was the glorious life she led at Hillford Stables.

"Uh hi, I'm Collin," he stared at the sweat streaked red head, a bit taken back. He'd never seen someone so lovely doing such dirty work. 'She's shoveling shit!' His mind gasped while another part of him cheered. When they told him she was working in the stables he expected polishing tack or brushing down horses’ manes. A job most girls adored. "Uh, uh," he stuttered, this was amazing! A hard-working woman! Putting a hand to his forehead he forced himself to remember his task, knowing he looked a fool. "I'm with the landscaping crew, they sent me to ask you to move your car," he finished lamely.

Allison gave him what she hoped was a passable smile. She needed the help of a new stable hand but that didn't mean she was going to get it. She wasn't sure whether to be amused or annoyed by the expression on Collin's face. She almost thought he was impressed for a minute but all she was doing was scooping poop. Maybe he was just shocked by the appearance of a girl that wasn't all gussied up. No matter. "Ah, sure. Right now?" She hoped she could finish cleaning the stall first.

"Uh yeah, if you would, not like you have better things to do!" He tried to tease her as he stepped back and bowed with a flourish towards the parking lot. A girl doing hard work, he was in love! It was almost like a fairy tale. Yes she was his Cinderella! Hm, Shiterella? Eh, better not go there! He shied away from the uncomplimentary thought. How could he suavely get her number before she got into her car?

Allison rolled her emerald eyes at him. "Maybe I do or maybe I enjoying shoveling manure." She gave him an amused grin. "Believe it or not, I didn’t know that would occupy the majority of my time when I took this job." She gazed at the man curiously wondering what he was thinking

‘Heh! Putty in my hands!’
Collin thought as he walked next to her towards the parking lot. He'd been worried she wouldn't get his humor, most girls didn't. Emboldened, he forged on. "So other than shoveling poo, is there anything more a girl like you aspires to?" He grinned shamelessly.

Allison couldn't help but emit a laugh. "Oh, being unequivocally successful, becoming rich, and taking over the world." She winked at him playfully and dug her car keys out of her pocket. "Just the normal stuff, you know. I figured shoveling manure would put me on the fast track."

Collin laughed. Was she playing off his line of humor? Did she like him? Perhaps the only way to know was to just ask. Soon as she got into her car he'd have to go back to his crew and labor under the foreman's direction. "Say, what time you get off tonight? I'd like to take you out," he sniffed conspicuously. "See what you're like cleaned up from all that." He nodded towards her sullied boots and trousers.

Allison raised an eyebrow. Well, nothing like getting to the punch. "I will if you do something for me." She returned her keys to her pocket and headed back to the stall. "Follow me," she tossed casually over her shoulder.

Collin stopped in surprise as he watched the girl head back towards the barn. He frowned, torn between getting back to his supervisor and the oh-so-interesting female. He tentatively followed the girl.

Allison disappeared into the stall then reappeared with a mischievous grin and her hands hidden behind her back. "You ready?" she asks Collin with a sweet, soft voice.

Collin stopped. "For what? In there?" He motioned to the stall. He didn't like not knowing things and that sweet voice made him suspicious.

Allison giggled at him and suddenly lurching forward she smacked a hand firmly against his cheek, the gooey, dark brown manure in her hand plastered against his face and squelched through her fingers. She quickly pulled back and took several rapid steps backward.

"Ugh!" Collin lurched back. The stink assaulted his nostrils. He wiped the crap from his cheek. "What was that for?" he yelped, still wiping filth off and slinging it to the ground to free it from his fingers.

Allison chuckled as she watched him, the mischievous twinkle in her eyes bright and defiant. "That's what I needed from you. I wanted to make sure you don't freak out from the small things." She couldn't help but continue to giggle as she wiped her hand on her pants to scrub off the manure.

"That I don't freak out?!" he roared. "Gosh, yah crazy girl! Now I have to go to work like this! Ugh..." He turned, looking for the water faucet. Finding one outside he pulled the handle up letting the water flow. He dipped his head under the flow, washing the muck off. That girl had some gall. Turning the faucet off he looked up at the girl still laughing at him. "I have to work, I'll see you later," he growled and stamped off towards his waiting work. He was pissed. He'd misjudged this girl and himself; that burned. However, he was also surprised. That was a very new feeling for him. Question was, did he like being surprised?

Allison watched him go and shrugged helplessly. So was the date on or off? She headed toward her car. She figured he'd find her if he wanted.

 

~Grace Marshall & J. Lindsey Marshall

 

 



 

March Writing Exercise

Grace Marshall - Thursday, March 31, 2016

"Look Miss Jules, it's a long standing policy that Boston Foods does not hire illegal immigrants. The word "illegal" I believe has something to do with that. You being in our legal department know this. And your questions concerning Jesus Gutierrez papers are not being received well, especially coming on the heels of his recent promotion." James Cane was already fed up with this young energetic woman from legal. "As HR Director I'm obligated to keep confidential information, it's my job, but trust me when I say that I regret I cannot release the information you requested, however everything is in order per the board of directors’ policies." That was some fancy wording to skirt around using "totally legal". Yes James had confidential knowledge, but he had to keep from perjuring himself. Or at least keep plausible deniability. The boards’ PR desires for more ethnic diversity in top management be damned, he wasn't going to jail because of careless words. And this young lawyer looked to have the idealistic fire in her to be a whistle blower. He tried to look casual and relaxed as he waited to see how she responded.

Lauren narrowed her eyes at James. She wasn't in the legal department because she was naive. Had he answered her question? She didn't really think so. She hesitated. Would finding out the answer be worse than not knowing? Could she claim plausible deniability if she didn't know and something happened? Then again, would a judge really believe the head of the legal department didn't know something like that? That's when her hazel eyes noticed James was still waiting for a response. She maintained a stoic face and answered, "Just don't expect me to deny or approve any paperwork in regards to Jesus until I see all the documents I requested are in order."

James sighed then leaned back into his chair pursing his lips to avoid revealing just how frustrated this woman was making him. His boss and the board were expecting him to grease Jesus's promotion through. The position was somewhat high level, but more importantly the PR value of promoting a migrant who started out in the fields to management was a PR stick his bosses desired. With a wink and a nod they'd entrusted the task of making it happen his. These were days he wished he was fishing. Did his bosses know Jesus's status? James didn't know 100% for certain. But never mind that, how could he convince this young firebrand to stop eating torches and get on board. Well, he'd tried coercion, maybe a change of tact was necessary. "Miss Jules can I be bluntly honest with you?"

“Oh, feel free to start at any time.”

James ignored the barb. “As you know our company policies for field laborers are pretty lax. Our crops need picked and we pay whoever will do the work. Our problem is the people who pay my, and may I remind you, your salary, desire to promote one of these workers to management for, as you know, PR purposes. I myself in this particular case was not consulted, management recommended Jesus for promotion and the board of directors and CEO want it done." James shrugged and held up his hands. "What am I to do?"

Lauren attempted to hide an amused smile from James. If he thought she was willing to break the law for a job he clearly didn't know her very well. And was there a hint of aggression meant as intimidation in his voice? With the amount of times she'd been in a court room he'd have to use better tactics than that. She met James’ gaze squarely, "Look. I'm not about to be prosecuted because the CEO might want to promote someone not up to par legally. I don't sign things if I don't know they are legal. That's the point of them going through me. I don't have any issue with Jesus but if he isn't here legally he is taking that job from someone who is."

“No arguments there Miss Jules! However I would like to point out that his legal status is unknown. We trust that the people who hired him did there job correctly since it is illegal to hire someone who isn’t in the country legally. I’m merely asking you to trust the people who did hire Jesus. It kinda looks bad that you are stopping a deserving immigrant from getting a promotion, and that you are questioning the competence of his bosses. It would be very unfortunate to make it look like upper management in Boston Foods is racists in any way and untrusting of it’s employees don’t you agree?” And before she could answer he pressed on. “And after all, what harm is there is letting this promotion go through? If we find out later that mistakes were made, we can rectify it then, no need to go looking for dirt now. Plus, we can always claim that we didn’t know, since technically neither you nor I hired Mr. Gutierrez.”

‘We can claim we didn’t know what?’ Lauren wondered. ’Claim we didn’t know whatever he isn’t telling me.’ “I never questioned the competence of his bosses, simply the legality of his bosses. And that’s my job so I don’t really care if you don’t like that.” Lauren’s face had hardened in frustration. Did he think he was better than her because he was a man or because he stood idly by or even actively participated in illegal activities? She had to suppress a snort. “You’re the head of HR Mr. Cane, aren’t you responsible for what goes on in your department? Don’t you care? And if you don’t know now but you do find out later will you rectify the mistake? Especially if it’s after Jesus is in management? Furthermore, if dirt comes out and we end up in court it will be too late to rectify mistakes. Are you prepared to go to jail for Jesus? Does he mean that much to you personally that you are willing to rot in prison for him?”

James stifled a curt retort. He wasn’t going to answer any of those questions, and she seemed intent to ride this band wagon over the edge. Very well, two could play that game. After all, James personally didn't give a hoot about the PR campaign nor this employee in question. And he'd be a fool to take a stand for it.

"Very well Miss Jules. You have us at an impasse,” he said with a half smile. "I can't release documents to you, however please continue your investigation and let me know when you are finished and the outcome. Until then I shall simply inform the board and the CEO, Carl Rictor, that you and your department are placing this on hold and there is nothing I can do until you green light it. Does that suit you?" He raised his eyebrows and stippled his hands, still leaning back in the office chair. 'Let’s see how she likes being the party to blame,' he thought smugly.

'They can go ahead and fire me for not standing by illegal activities. They will hear from me in court if they do,' Lauren thought but she gave James a forced smile. "Okay James, fine. How about this. As the head of HR if you sign off on all these documents saying they are good then I will push any paperwork through. Then Jesus can be officially promoted and we can all rest easy knowing everything is up to par." Hopefully that would work well enough to get legal responsibility off her plate and not have her be supporting illegal activity. Yet she didn't know if it would be over even with that. It seemed odd that everyone was being so difficult about this. Was there a way she could figure this out without alerting others and indulging in her own criminal activities? Maybe she could try to send out a mole? Obviously openly questioning things was just going to get her in trouble. She pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind. One hurdle at a time, she had to deal with James first.

James's smile hardened slightly. She was a very slippery opponent. Usually he could argue his way around most of the managers in the office. He was going to have to watch this feisty young lawyer. However, whether she knew it or not a stalemate had been reached. That position was not so intractable as it sounded. He nodded. "Very well Miss Jules, leave them on my desk and I'll go over them." He made a show of checking his watch and stood. "However, I’m afraid I'm about to be late to a meeting so they'll have to wait." He gestured towards the door as he came around the desk. He had no such meeting but did feel a need to stretch his legs while he considered what to do now. Blast, this woman was tenacious!

Lauren set all the files in a neat stack on James' desk. Her forced smile became genuine. "Okay, no rush on my end so no worries." She stood with her tablet and walked with confidence as he ushered her out of his office. 'Typical man,' she thought as she headed back to her own office. Her mind was reeling with different wonderings and ideas. Was Boston foods a bigger challenge than she originally realized? This was going to be more fun than she thought.

 

~Grace Marshall & J. Lindsey Marshall




 

February-2016

Jacob Marshall - Friday, February 05, 2016

Corinthia closed her uncomprehending eyes as she leaned into the piano and let the music flow over her. The sounds of the restaurant drowned out of her mind behind the rhythm of the music. It was just one more Friday night and Corinthia would have given up on this dream a long time ago if she wasn’t so enamored with the music and the feel of the keys as her fingers flew across them by memory.

"Hiya sweet cheeks!" Silas plopped down on the piano bench beside the beautiful pianist and pulled out a cigar, lit it, and joined in the song, making them a piano duet. He didn't know the woman next to him, but together they made beautiful music united in passion for harmony. Except Silas Trent was inebriated on sweet victory after closing a deal of a lifetime, cockily sailing beyond reach of any mortal man and reveling in his triumphs. Which meant being a giant ass to most anyone tonight, and the beautiful pianist was no exception.

Corinthia’s brow creased in irritation at the derogatory pet name. Her frown deepened when the man joined her at the piano. She was fairly certain she had never heard his voice before so her question of, "Do I know you?" was meant more as a, "Who do you think you are?" She remained poised without breaking stride on the piano as she impatiently waited for the answer.

Silas smiled sideways at the woman, very glad she kept playing. "I sure hope not! Because I haven't the dangdest idea who you are and if you DID know me," he laughed and shook his head. "That would just be awkward." And then added. "You play like an angel, you really are good! Let's drag out the last stanza at the bottom here." Silas played on merrily, unaware of the reaction he was causing. He was merely happy without a care for the world. For once.

Corinthia dragged out the last stanza as requested, unwilling to let her distaste of a human negatively affect her music. When the song finished she removed her hands from the piano and set them lightly in her lap. "If you expect me to share my tips with you then you are sorely mistaken," she said it softly in an attempt to be polite but her heart was pounding in frustration. What did he want? No one had ever sat down and just started playing before except a gentleman who was old and so inebriated one time that he passed out on the chair. She wasn't sure what this man was after but whatever it was, he wasn't going to get it from her.

Her only response was a solid snore from an arched body that had leaned against the piano in emphasis of the end of the song and instantly fallen into happy sleep.

Corinthia's mouth fell slightly agape at the sound of the snoring that rose to meet her ears. ‘How dare he...’ She hesitated a moment, internally battling between her desire and her internal compass of politeness. Eventually the urge won out and she gave the man a nudge, knocking him firmly off the stool. "Oh my!" She said in a high pitched tone. "I think he fell off!"

The crumpled heap on the floor that was Silas Trent continued to snore happily until a couple burly waiters being overseen by the hotel manager knelt beside him and shook his shoulders gently. "Wha?! Mey keep ijt doawn" he mumbled and fell back asleep. The stress lines and tightness completely relaxed but were still evident on his countenance.

The manager sighed. "Okay you two, let's get Mr. Trent to his hotel room, penthouse 3." He signaled and the two waiters began hoisting the unconscious Trent between them. "Gently does it!" The manager hissed as if guarding a precious charge. Turning to Corinthia he said, "my apologies miss, eh.....whatever your name is. Please carry on." Then he bowed and drifted away.

~Grace Marshall & J. Lindsey Marshall