Writing Exercises


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


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)



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.






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




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.