Archive for February, 2012

24th February
2012
written by amber

At the Airport in Paris

She and her cousin had just landed in France, the land of their ancestors. They emerged from the plane, dazed after the long flight. The airport looked like airports everywhere, sleek and modern in patches, undergoing renovations in many areas, requiring the arriving passengers to take detours down escalators and along underground tunnels on their way to the arrivals area.

Somehow Celeste and Jeanne got lost. They’d ducked into a much-needed washroom and when they came out, no one from their flight could be seen, the hallway was deserted. A red arrow pointed in what seemed to be the correct direction, so they followed it down yet another escalator, this one not operating. They stumbled down the unmoving metal steps and entered a dark tunnel with rough concrete walls.

“Is this the right direction?” Celeste asked her cousin.

“I think so. Look, there’s another red arrow. And see, isn’t that the silly plaid beret the woman two seats in front of us was wearing?”

“Yes. Let’s pick it up and return it to her when we reach the line up.”

On the other side of an arched doorway, the walls were no longer concrete, but rough stone, seeping moisture and stained green with mold.

“This is creepy. Let’s go back.”

But when they turned, they saw that a metal gate had closed at the archway. They had no choice but to go forward. The neon lights above, just bare bulbs hanging from wires, flickered weakly. Around the next bend, a warm yellow illumination beckoned. They hurried toward it and found blazing sconces affixed to the walls, yellow flame and sooty smoke blackening the arched ceiling.

“There’s another hat”

It was a furry hat, suitable to the Canadian winter they’d left behind just hours previously. The hat hung from a hook on the wall.

“We might as well take it too,” Celeste said, to reassure her cousin that the normality of returning hats to fellow passengers might be just around the next bend in the corridor.

But when they neared the hat on the hook, they saw it was no hat, but a head, grisly tortured face and tangled greasy hair. Jeanne began to scream, but Celeste put her hand over her cousin’s mouth. “Shhh – someone’s coming.”

They heard heavy footsteps in formation, and an odd clanking sound. Shaking, hands too slick with panicked sweat to hold their bags, they waited to see who would come around the tunnel’s curve.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

Thank you to Celeste for suggesting this first line.

23rd February
2012
written by amber

Worse Than a Shark Bite

Something bit me when I was just about to come out of the ocean – something big. A large dark shape glided away in the roiling surf, between me and the shore, so I paused to try to figure out what had happened and what I should do.

I noticed that all up and down the beach, people in the waves were crying out, “Ouch!” and “What the hell was that?” As they stumbled onto land through the cresting waves, no one on the beach came to their assistance because everyone on the sand was walking in the same direction in a lurching lock step, paying no attention to the wounded ones in the water.

And the wounded ones, once they reached the sand, no longer clutched one hand to their injury and one towards expected but unlikely succour; instead they joined the zombie march. Every once in a while, one of the walkers would spot a snorkeller or swimmer returning from the deeps and dive in, lurking in the surf break to catch them as they transitioned from water to land.

My blood stained the turquoise sea to magenta, yet my mind was still my own. What foul metamorphosis would consume me then the air contacted my wound?

And how long could I stay in the water?

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This story was inspired by ‘true events’ in the Turks and Caicos during my recent vacation…

22nd February
2012
written by amber

Man on the Beach III

I’ve never been a confident person; it’s just not in my nature. I taught art at an elementary school for a few years after college, but I found it very stressful. My parents had wanted me to go into education but I would have preferred to be an artist rather than an art teacher. I’ve always loved art.

Bill rescued me from teaching. He was my miracle, and he’s always supported my true vocation as an artist. Our plan was to live simply – he’d work while I stayed home and developed my career. But I got pregnant and it wasn’t an easy pregnancy and Stella wasn’t an easy baby.

We decided to finish our family quickly, rather than being burdened for years, so I got pregnant again when Stella was not quite two. We hoped for a boy and we got Michael, plus Michelle, our darling twins. They were good as gold.

When they started kindergarten, I was ready to resume my painting, but that’s when Stella’s childhood difficulties became more severe, and I was kept busy caring for her until she went into sheltered housing when she was 20. And even after that, I was volunteering at the shelter, plus looking after my husband and the twins, who were in university but still living at home. Suddenly it seemed as if I’d gone from looking forward to adulthood when my life would start, to looking forward to retirement for the same reason.

But Bill had a wonderful retirement planned for us. We owned a condo in the Bahamas. After Stella was settled, we used to spend six weeks there every winter and I loved it. The Bahamas aren’t like Mexico – they are very safe and clean, the language is English, you can drink the water and eat the food without worrying. I’d really get into painting when I was there, inspired by the turquoise blue sea, the palm trees, the coral sand.

Somehow our situation changed. I don’t understand finances but I guess some investments went bad and Bill had to sell the condo. He was still insistent on his early retirement in a tropical paradise, but when he chose Belize, I had no idea how terrible it would be.

The day we moved into our beachfront villa, the neighbours were robbed in their house at gunpoint. Believe me, I’ve tried to feel comfortable in this place but I just can’t allow myself to get lost in my art. As long as Bill’s in the house, I’m fine but – as he’s always said – he doesn’t intend to have an indolent retirement.

He dives and he snorkels. I don’t do either of those things, but I stay on the boat while he’s doing it. He opened a little real estate office and no local girl worked out for his receptionist, so I’m happy to put in the same few hours a week that he does.

And now he’s started going up and down the beach with a metal detector. He says it gives him the same thrill that playing the stock market once did. He’s found two Spanish gold coins, but otherwise mostly cheap junk.

I’m with him every step of the way. I’m bored but I just can’t stay by myself in the house. It’s hell.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

21st February
2012
written by amber

Man on the Beach II

My son would not leave his computer and go outside from the time he was six years old. By age 10, he was pasty white and overweight, with top marks in all his subjects at school except phys ed, and no friends at all.

He liked to buy things online, especially second hand things: old electronics, vintage board games, collectable toys. When he told us he’d found a used metal detector that he wanted, his mother and I were happy to foot the bill. I don’t think he realized that he’d have to go outside to use it.

Now, metal detecting is not exactly aerobic, but Jeff at least got some fresh air and sunshine. He met other boys – odd boys like himself, it’s true, but they were friends and they introduced him to different pursuits. Marc got him into paint ball. Haj taught him about competitive kite building and flying. Jeremy got him swimming.

My wife has a phobia about airplanes and for the first 20 years of our marriage, our holidays were always by car and never far from home. But I regretted the loss of the family trips I’d enjoyed as a boy, winter vacations to tropical spots where I could dive in the reefs. I love diving.

When my wife began to take spa weekends with her girlfriends, booking into a downtown hotel for two days of pricy pampering several times a year, I asked her if she’d mind if I took Jeff on a trip to the Turks and Caicos.

Jeff enjoyed diving but you can only dive a couple hours each day, and I could see that he found the rest of the time boring. We were on a remote key with no internet service and he didn’t like the beach – it was either too hot for him or too windy. He wasn’t a big fan of the food, since he doesn’t like fish. I felt certain it was our first and last island holiday together, but he surprised me by asking if I wanted to go again the next year.

I saw why when we unpacked our suitcases at the hotel. Out came his old metal detector.

We’ve had six trips since then and it’s always the same. We dive in the morning. After lunch I set up on a beach chair with a cooler of beer, tunes on the head phones and a good true crime paperback; Jeff covers himself with sun screen and heads on down the beach with his metal detector, a shovel and a little strainer to see what he can find.

It’s perfect.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

20th February
2012
written by amber

The Man on the Beach I

When my husband died, he left his metal detector to Danny. But I don’t think they give him much of a chance to use it at the sheltered living. He’s pretty busy there, going out to his job at MacDonald’s most days, going on shopping trips and to the gym with his worker, attending his classes. He doesn’t have a lot of unstructured time.

They contacted me last year to say that his regular holiday, to a horse ranch with 3 other men from the sheltered living, wasn’t going to happen because they had a staff shortage. In the silence following this announcement, I heard a question. A question I’d never considered before.

And my first impulse was to say no. I hadn’t gone on a holiday at all, since Horace died, and I certainly had no desire to go to a horse ranch. Tropical vacations are more my cup of tea. When I said this, the worker said that a tropical vacation would work as well. My grandson isn’t what they refer to as ‘high maintenance.’ He’s not crazy or dangerous, just more like a strange 9 year old with his obsessions.

When I went to tell Danny about our upcoming trip to Puerto Moreles and showed him the picture of the beach, he became very excited. He’d seen Horace’s beach finds, the gold chains, silver dollars, belt buckles. He’d heard Horace speak often about the possibility of finding pirate treasure.

Of course, I let him bring the metal detector, and it makes the trip so easy for me. I sit by the pool and read my book while he heads down the beach, intent on scanning every inch of sand. It takes him hours to get out of sight, and by then he’s hungry, so he comes back. After lunch, he covers the beach in the opposite direction.

We’ve had four trips now, and I’d never consider going without him. An unexpected bonus has been that he’s found enough valuable stuff to pay for most of his own way, never pirate treasure, but far more jewellery and coins than Horace ever found.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This story is inspired by someone I saw at Turks and Caicos, where I’m holidaying right now.

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