The Barbecue

“Yoohoo!” A flash from the corner of the yard was the orange and yellow sun-dresses of the Bunting sisters, competing with the flowers for brightness and color. May had her hair in a crimped halo around her head, and bright geometric shapes on her accessories, looking like she walked off of MTV. Maggie looked a little more tasteful, but her bright colors still clashed for attention against the subdued, neutral tones of Betty’s guests.

Party crashers. Time to show what she’s made of. The pair of them might be gaudy, but who better to spread word-of-mouth than gossips? If she couldn’t make it on her own soon, maybe she could resort to catering neighborhood parties. She grabbed two flutes of champagne and headed over. “I’m so glad you decided to join us.”

“How kind of you, but we prefer not to be associated with scandal.” Scandal? This was a business launch, not a drunken frat party. The sisters smiled at her confusion.

A sudden metallic screech squirmed up her spine. She turned to see a woman sauntering alongside her shiny new catering van, a woman who idolized Madonna, in a black corset with a lace skirt, with her hair styled like Marilyn Monroe and holding a riding crop. Betty was so astonished, it took her a minute to realize that noise was the woman dragging a key in looping spirals across her van’s new logo. All chatter stopped as the guests held their breath.

The woman strode into her lawn, greeted by the roses as they sighed the last of their withering scent into the heat. She walked to a tray of barbecue themed appetizers. Weenies skewered with festive toothpicks were carefully arranged on an ebony tray garnished with swirls of condiments patterned like fireworks. She ran a lazy finger through the designs, smearing them. While while the well-mannered crowd watched in amazement, she sensually sucked her finger clean.

“What are you doing?” Betty’s voice was loud and frantic, her heels grabbed at the lawn and threatened to sprain her ankle as she rushed toward the invader.

The woman held her head high, and her walk was straight, but her breath smelled of brandy and there was a lazy swagger to her pace. “Oh, I see you’re having a party. How fun. I’m just here to talk to my boyfriend.”

For a moment Betty felt like a mannequin, frozen in a pose that was a parody of relaxation, stiff limbed with a strained smile. “I’m afraid you have the wrong house. The man who lives here is my husband, and all of my guests have families.”

“Yes, your husband, my boyfriend. That one.” She smiled, the shade of a nearby tree showering her with flashes of sunlight, the contrast between light and shadow across her face was nauseating, dizzying. “You do know, right? I know they knew.” The horrible woman pointed to the sisters, now doubling over with laughter.

They knew? Oh. They were gossips. But about her? But they knew? What this woman was claiming? They knew this was true, and they hid it from her? Their families had lived next door to each other through two generations, they grew up together. She flashed cold and weak, her focus and clarity fading in and out, as she struggled to understand the implications of what was going on.

“They didn’t tell you? I’m so sorry. I thought people liked you. I mean, how can you start a party business if people don’t like you?” Maggie and May finger-waved at her together while the horrible woman sneered. Betty knows this has to do with her son. This must be about her son, they were always out to get him, so spiteful to a child. Horrible people. Where is he? Was he seeing all this?

Her eyes scanned the small crowd, she felt herself blush at the expression on her guests’ faces. She saw a small figure dart from behind the bushes by the front of the house into the cargo door of the van. Was that David? What was he doing?

The music video reject in front of her tapped her whip against her thigh playfully. “Such a shame you don’t know how to show love to your family properly. If you can’t keep a hold of your man, I’m here to take care of him for you. He can come with me, and won’t be your problem anymore.”

It hurts, but still sounds like she could be talking about a different family. And she’s nuts anyway, calling herself a good better person while she’s crashing a party holding a whip. Maybe that’s why the sisters were laughing. There was no way Jim was into this woman and her drama. Where was Jim? He would clear this up.

He’s right where he’s supposed to be, tending the grill, one hand absently holding a pair of tongs with a hot dog grabbed between them, another holding an open bun, his mouth agape. She starts walking toward him. Behind her she heard the van start up, and she turned toward the sound to find it moving, her son at the wheel, his eyes wide in delight and his mouth open in laughter she could see but not hear, crashing through her roses, the appetizers, and the bizarre woman herself, her body bouncing from impact, only to fall under the still moving wheels, her hairdo frozen into place as a growing pool of crimson spilled beneath her.

PSX_20190625_151933.jpg

P.S. – So that a weekly post won’t distract me from my current focus, this is an excerpt from a larger project. Probably a flash novella. It was inspired by my first reading with my nifty new Housewives’ Tarot, using a spread that came in the booklet.

And with that, I’m a little bored of constraining my characters to tarot archetypes. After this project I’ll allow more sources of inspiration, though naturally I’ll still play with my decks occasionally.

Advertisements

Janice and Claire in the Garden: Knight of Swords

In the sunshine of the patio, they perched on white ironwork chairs, sturdy creatures forged in a pattern to imitate delicate lace. “I assure you, you’ve never had a treat like my cheese puff surprise. Lofty, and oh so sweetly sharp.” Janice beamed as she served her guest a tiny plate.

Claire accepted with a polite smile. She took a couple of delicate bites while making humble mumbles as she wondered how to phrase a comment that didn’t declare them too salty. “These seem like they have quite a bit of um, liquid smoke?”

“Yes,” Janice smiled and leaned on the table, slowly resting her chin on an elegantly poised hand, quietly crossing her ankles before continuing, “I used a heavy hand to cover the taste of the crab, but I rather like the smoldering edge it lends, like revenge served before it goes stale.”

Claire dropped her fork. “Janis, you know I’m allergic. Quick, where’s my purse? I need my EpiPen.”

“I put it in the closet. But your EpiPen isn’t in it. The police will find it, and some other small items that must have dropped out of your purse when you visited the bathroom.”

Claire’s voice was starting to sound scratchy, perhaps the crab, perhaps from confusion and panic. “The police? What police?”

“Well, I’m sure when your husband claims the life insurance, they’ll want to investigate. Don’t worry, I can tell them I didn’t know shrimp was related to crab. If I act pretty enough, they won’t think to much of it at all.” She tossed her head back and smiled like she hasn’t since riding that boyfriend’s Harley, the one her mother hated, purring with a low rumbling fire rising between her legs.

“Fuck your morbid humor. Where is it?” Claire fumbled with her mother’s heirloom pearls, pulling too roughly in a silly attempt to get more air.

Janice waved the cheese knife through the air as if she were tracing a lazy spiral, a distant smile on her face. “Oh look, your body is fighting against itself and forgetting your need for vital breath in the process.”

She leaned closer, her crimson lips reflecting an orange, fiery tint that made her teeth look aged and yellow, but seemed to match the gleam in her eyes, brightening them with a mad rage, “Your face will be too bloated and grotesque for an open casket.”

“Janis, why?” Her voice was thin, croaky.

“Well, Claire, maybe you shouldn’t have unfollowed me on Twitter.”

PSX_20190610_181034.jpg

Tarot deck: Archeon. Tarot Prompt: Knight of Swords.
Interpretation: Passion and wit. A sharp tongued teenager. Fire and air = smoke. Intelligence to temper burning emotions, but smoldering.
The darkness on the side of her face, reminds me of a certain demonic barmaid with fire in her hair. Looks passive, but smolders. Would totally get you back when you least expect it. Rage filled and overly rational minds bent on revenge might not forgive easily, even when something is forgivable and understandable. Especially if they already have a taste for murder.

416 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – I already seem to be channeling the voice of the 50s housewife as cheekily portrayed in my new tarot deck, it won’t stop calling my name.

20190611_105100_HDR.jpg

P.P.S. – I chuckled when I thought deadly crab were a gift that should be salty.

Periwinkle Blue: The Queen of Pentacles, Reversed

The scream of a blue jay broke through the shadow of the trees, a war cry as it battled a squirrel in the yard she pushed her daughter by. She paused to dab at her forehead with a silk scarf while her toddler cooed at the squirrel. She enjoyed this street, with its trees so old they cracked the sidewalks, sheltering the stately homes that carved out a well-manicured niche from the old-growth forest.

Periwinkles tumbled down the lawn to kiss the base of the towering tree the squirrel skittered up for safety. Sweet little flowers the color of the dress she wore, that woman he introduced her to at the party. She couldn’t remember her name. She looked so much like the woman on the news, the one that went missing.

She dismissed the thought. Her child thought the billowing white flowers were popcorn. She smiled at the thought of telling him when he came home, it was cute enough that maybe he would listen. Where would she be without him? Could she be without him? Could she do that to their daughter?

A flash of light on fluttering leaves startled her. She was embarrassed at how high she jumped. The leaves were pretty though, flitting in and out of the light. They reached the park, she hadn’t noticed. The clang of the iron gate reminded her of prison bars, but it would keep her child safe while she relaxed.

She sat on the fading bench and browsed her phone, looking for a podcast to enjoy. She tried one of her favorites, always good for distraction. A few minutes into it, she closed it. She tried reading earlier, she already knew she couldn’t focus on a plot. She decided to watch the birds.

The birds are in usually in pairs this time of year. Male birds preening and dancing, showing all their flash and none of their substance, female birds in awe of their skills and flattered with their attention, to be later disappointed when they find themselves chained to the nest.

A tiny white pebble caught her eye, reminding her of the tooth she found wedged between the boards on the porch this morning. She decided to push her daughter on the swing. Maybe the laughter of children would give her the peace she needed.

PSX_20190605_104307.jpg

Tarot deck: Archeon. Tarot Prompt: Queen of Pentacles, reversed.
Interpretation: A sensual woman, gentle but strong. She loves beauty, pleasure, walk is in the light of prosperity with dignity and grace. A patient, compassionate listener.
Reversed: Falling into despair. Sharp, cutting, regret. Guilt, trapped in past misdeeds, bad choices, falling. Rather than a wealth of joys, narrowed in focus to a singular intrusive thought.

389 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – A day late because I still can’t find those damn periwinkles I saw that whispered pretty words in my ear. Totally want them for the pic on this.

Fallen Defender: Knight of Pentacles, Reversed

For a minute, I wondered if the killers I used to catch would consider this to be hunting, but monsters get off on this part of it. It brings me no comfort, just part of the job I have to do. We are the only species that seeks justice, it makes us better than beasts. But there is no justice. It’s as much a part of our imagination as God. But these streets need to be made safe for our children

The pathetic wastes are easy to lure into seclusion, the spots in alleys under broken street lights, behind dumpsters, the usual spots they go to after scoring their poisons. This is better. This is the way. It doesn’t matter that I feel less comfort each time, the face of the child still haunts me.

He struggled, and for a moment the look in his eyes froze me, pleading with me, asking me why. For a minute he looked so innocent, so human. I realized I was killing someone’s child, then, as always, I saw the other child, the tiny broken body bleeding out in my arms, the victim of random violence by animals like him.

My hands around his shriveled throat squeeze harder than ever, his jaundiced eyes pleading for mercy, confused, refusing to accept he will crumble beneath my hand. Rage filled my limbs as his eyes glassed over and his head tipped to the side.

I waited for the satisfaction, but it was weaker even than the last time. My momentary indecision ruined it, tainted my victory, stole my release from the unrelenting anger, the memories of all the villains that treated our prisons as if they had revolving doors, in and out like our taxpayers money was to give them a vacation, three hots and a cot.

The thirst that never ends is less appeased than ever. I know I am one of them now, I know how the pattern goes. I can no longer ease the itch that tickles more and more. It’s time to escalate.

PSX_20190528_112139.jpg

Tarot deck: Archeon. Tarot Prompt: Knight of Pentacles, reversed.
Interpretation: A fallen defender. Knights are full of passion, and fire. He carries the steady shield of earth, the element of the pentacles, moving ever forward. Reversed can mean corrupted, or fallen.
341 words. More tarot stories.

Persephone: 2 Card Romeo/Juliet Spread

His lawn was immaculate, framed in old trees with moss crawling up the bark. Helicopter seeds fluttered down from the maples, catapulting from their mothers in a spiraling, passionate leap, hitting the pavement with a thwack.

It would be hard not to fall for the man who saved her life, rushing to her aid before she fell in the turbulent river. This man so at home with kisses of the wild, like the unexpected thrill of a snake in the grass, and a bunny darting across the road, white bouncing warning flashing from her tail.

PSX_20190521_171522.jpg

“You know, maybe I should mention, the first time I saw you wasn’t in person. Perhaps it doesn’t count.” She seemed confused, but he clarified quickly. “The paper. When you organized the river clean up.”

She looked relieved. “Didn’t realize you knew who I was.” The kitten’s fur was soothing after the trauma, they were both lucky he was near.

“Didn’t want to appear to be a crazed fan.”

“Oh, I don’t get those. Not many people care about the river”

He smiled. “Yes, you can count on always being alone on the bridge.”

“What were you doing there, anyway?”

“Waiting for you.” He paused briefly, and shrugged at her shock. “I know. I didn’t want to seem creepy, that’s why I didn’t mention it earlier. I saw you when I was hiking, knew you from the paper, thought maybe I’d catch a chance to say hi. It’s lucky I did.” He winked. “Fate was telling me I had to be there to save you.”

She laughed. “I swear that beam shouldn’t have been so slippery. I’ve gone up there before to take photos, maybe that’s why the kitten got stuck. Maybe it was a better foothold when he crawled out there and the morning dew made it slippery.”

“Yes, maybe. Or something else. Very exciting.”

“Not the word I would use. The river’s pretty rough right there.”

“I just mean if you had drowned or hit your head, I never would have had the chance to lead you here.”

Concern furrowed her brow, she seemed uncomfortable at passing through the threshold of a man she knew so little of, and she clutched the kitten to her chest as he turned to her. She realized the sound she just heard was the lock sliding in place, and the kitten hissed at his smile.

PSX_20190521_170847.jpg

Archeon Tarot Prompt: card. 397 words. More tarot stories.

Vigilante: King of Pentacles, reversed

In the shadows he paused, listening. He took a steady, silent breath, scenting her out. He tasted the air with his tongue, confirming, seeking direction. He walked into a room full of polished wood and the scent from old books. The well-oiled leather chair barely whispered when she turned to face him, a look of surprise not yet upon her face.

He smiled. “You are vile, corrupt, heartless, and doomed. You stand on your shiny money and claim credit for work that is not yours; you lie to the people. You are a stain. You have convinced the city that your generosity and community outreach are responsible for the safety of our children but it is ME. I am the reason these streets are safe, ME. You lie and use your wealth to hide your true nature, your crimes, and you will be destroyed for the good of all.”

She tilted her head before she replied. “A monologue? Are you serious?” She sighed and stood up, brushing the wrinkles from her slacks. She took a step toward him, slinking as her heels traced the winding vines along the carpet. “You are motivated by instinct, a drive you barely understand yourself. An attempt to right wrongs done to you that can not be corrected, over and over and always with fail. You are little more than an animal. You deserve no credit.”

He did not anticipate this. She didn’t seem the least bit frightened, and it was beginning to chill him. She seemed to notice, and the way she moved her head as she looked him up and down reminded him of a snake. “Did you really think that if you sought out those with few ethics, that you would not find one with a darkness to match your own? Sweetheart, I am no mere white-collar criminal or one of the thugs you’ve been whetting your bloody appetite on. I’m just as much of a monster as you are, only more intelligent.”

“I am not a monster! I am a hero!”

“Tell that to McClary’s widow. Or the Johnston kids. They don’t have anyone left.”

He had no response, growing more pale as he noticed the silencer on the gun she had apparently been holding all along. “Did you think you were the one hunting me when you saw my press release? It was easy to draw you here. You are blatant, predictable, and drawing too much attention to my neighborhood.” He stood, waiting for her next words, as her gun hissed and the wall behind him splintered.

IMG_2963

Archeon Tarot Prompt: card. 429 words. More tarot stories.

P.S.- Still not settled in, but it feels so good to be starting up a routine that works in writing again.

Enchanted: 9 of Swords

I couldn’t sleep with the need to see you, so I have come. You’ve held me captive from the moment we met, my mind is a prison dancing with your image, your song, your laugh. My thoughts know nothing else.

You are an artist in your seduction, flirting and flickering around me. Preening, then darting off coyly. You trap me with your enchantment, like a nymph, a will-o-the-wisp.

You gaze at me gently, your skin pales as your love trickles from your fingers in delicate lacework of red, pools at your feet that shiver with every drip, every tiny giggling plink.

Your graceful fingers reach out to touch me, then shy away, beckoning and flirting, the smile glimmering in your eyes as you pout and pretend to be upset, candlelight shining from your manacles like the brightest gems.

But soon you give way to me, relaxing against me in our embrace, weak to your desire. Your hips sway to the rhythm of your chains across the concrete, your movements rich with your love of turning all the world into a song as we dance together in this prison I have come to love.

IMG_2925

Archeon Tarot Prompt: 9 of Swords. 196 words. More tarot stories.

Lover’s Leap

I always thought you had rescued me from the chaotic darkness, with your graceful light. I admired you for how well you knew all the rules, that social dance that overwhelms me. With just a few flashes of your smile and steady handshake, you waltzed us right into the large house on the hill that makes mother green with envy.

You’ve always known what to say, what to do. I’ve never seen you angry. Ever. Not even when I ruined the stove. But there was always something I could never pin down, something that always made me wonder about how perfect your responses were, something that left me feeling like you might not be fully sincere, but I tried to have hope and tell myself it was my past making me nervous.

Now that I am to be a mother though, I feel some other instinct is making me watch you a little too carefully. I think maybe I’m beginning to see what I’ve been seeing all along. The young women that have been on the news have all been so familiar, in a way that bothered me but I tried to dismiss.

I asked about my favorite cashier that I hadn’t seen for a while, hoping she had made it into the school she applied to, and I found she was one of the missing. I just hadn’t recognized her out of context. It opened my eyes. So many faces around me just aren’t there anymore. We knew them all, didn’t we? Shadows from the corner of my life, girls I noticed yet never saw.

And then last night, the blood in your hair, but I could not see a cut. I went through our closet today, and there are too many of your clothes missing that I can’t find in the laundry. Were they burned? Dropped in a river?

I can tell that you know what I’ve realized. I see my time is getting shorter. So I came here, were you proposed to me while we watched the sun set over the ocean. The overlook where the waters are too rough for swimming, were fishermen won’t sail.

I look at my own hands on the wheel and I remember how true it felt when you said I was nothing without you. I could not survive. You are right. You’ve clipped my wings to ensure it. You will not shape your daughter as you have shaped me.

We idle the car near the edge of the world and watch the sun set, and chat pleasantly while you try to figure out exactly how much I know. I smile, and evade as my heart fills with sorrow. As the sun blows a kiss to greet the oncoming night, I let my foot slide and we drive.

IMG_2919

Archeon Tarot Prompt: Three of Cups, reversed. 466 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – This is my Archeon Deck. Much more serious, dark, and beautiful than my tongue in cheek zombie deck. Perfect to explore the dark hearts of human monsters while I dive into my research on serial killers and enjoy whole new levels of understanding on my latest Criminal Minds marathon.

Our Children

We sat together, you and I, with our families. We cheered for our children as they threw their caps in the air. We clapped until our hands were numb and we roared ourselves hoarse. Your son embraced my daughter, and they ran together into the night to celebrate.

They ran as far as they could run, to the edges of the world. She followed him as he ran, he was her guiding light. Why he ran, well, you likely know more than I.

They ran, and they stayed, and they put down roots. From such a distance, all looked gleaming, and happy, and lovely. No one knew.

He took her compassionate heart, and stewed it in pain, then slowly sliced off a little bit at a time to savor for his own needs, watching her writhe in his shadow.

I used to bring her to this park. When I heard she was gone, I would come here. I thought it would help.

I like it more when it is empty. We only have the crickets and dewdrops to keep us company. I don’t have to feel the echos of laughter and clinking of swings as chains binding my heart. I like it as it is now, when the streets are as empty as the churches.

That will change soon, when the dawn calls to the sleeping children and the families start moving about. I will leave you for now, but you will have company soon. Someone will come along and wipe the dew from your eyelashes, the blood from your mouth. Someone will clean you up before you go off into the darkness to be greeted by the monster son you made.

IMG_2822
Zombie Tarot prompt: Justice. More tarot stories.

P.S. – As part of my research, I’ve been studying Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives by John E. Douglas, Ann W. Burgess, and Robert K. Ressler. If the names are familiar, it’s because they’re bigwig FBI profilers. It reads a bit dry at times, it’s a little like an academic paper written for the general public.

However, it has the lovely side effect of making a Criminal Minds marathon into an audience participation event, and I’m having a blast with my “research”. In honor of this bliss, I’m going to start using another deck next week and start exploring more human monsters.

Savor: Ten of Cups

Horseradish. That would be perfect, just enough to give the other flavors a bit more punch. Usually she prefers pork seasonings, but the occasional hint of something good with red meat helps bring out the earthier tones of the dish.

Grandma would disapprove of such additions to her recipes, designed to be simple and enhance the natural flavor. Unfortunately, the difficulty of the hunt lately made it so that meat was rare, every effort must me made to maximize enjoyment. The prey were learning to protect themselves much better than they did in Grandma’s day.

She hummed as she worked, slicing turnips while a thigh soaked in the marinade. So many people undervalued a good roasted turnip. The flavor was so strong when raw, you would never expect it to turn so savory and mellow.

The repetitive task allowed her mind to wander, and she considered the satisfying catch and kill behind her. This one had been taken in his sleep, always better for the meat. She didn’t know why horror movies and the like talked about fear enhancing the flavor of meat, in her experience it made it taste a little off. This one never saw a thing coming, he was nice and cozy in his sleeping bag.

The park rangers are cracking down like wildfire, but they don’t know how to track something like her. They look for their trails on the ground, not in the trees. They would be aware, and so would the campers, but there will always be one or two that consider themselves to be safe enough to stray.

IMG_2834

Zombie Tarot Prompt: Ten of Cups. More tarot stories.