Friday, September 24, 2010

#Friday Flash - "The Talk"

“I think mom is a witch.”

Ted smiled. “What did you do this time?”

“No, dad, I’m serious. Either that or she’s some sort of psychic with special gifts.”

Ted paused, his spoon midway between the cereal bowl and his mouth. He eyed his daughter thoughtfully and saw that she really was serious about this one. Through the years he and his wife had wondered about Melody, how she always cried, thinking that other kids were making fun of her -- which was probably true -- and always concerned that so-and-so had held a grudge over something done days, if not months ago. Often as parents, he and his wife Sherri would look at each other, that knowing look in their eyes, and shake their heads. Their daughter was probably just too sensitive and hopefully would snap out of it by the time she reached the teenage years. But now this?

He returned the spoon to the bowl and leaned back in the chair. “What do you mean?”

Melody shrugged. “I don’t know. You’ll probably think I’m just being weird as always.”

“Honey, I don’t think you’re weird.”

“It just…” Melody stared up at the ceiling. Like she was trying to find the right words, Ted thought. “Well, it’s like the other day. I walked into your bedroom, and the next thing I know, there’s this clash of the hair dryer in the sink and mom’s yelling at me, saying how I scared her and why didn’t I knock.”

“Well, you can’t fault her for getting angry, honey. You know the rules.”

“I know, and I apologized, but…” There was the look again, Ted noted, not directly at him but away. “But before it crashed into the sink? I saw the hair dryer hovering in mid-air.”

Ted wrinkled his brow. “Honey, you couldn’t have seen something like that.”

“Dad, I swear to you, I’m not making this up. I saw the --”

He cut her off with a wave of his hand.

“Melody, I’m not saying that I don’t believe you. I believe you think you saw something. But, listen to yourself for a moment. Things like hair dryers don’t float in the air.”

Melody’s shoulders dropped. “See, I knew you’d think I was crazy.”

Ted touched her arm. “I don’t think that at all. If anything, I think you’re tired. Your mother and I have noticed how little you sleep lately. Is there a problem at school?”

She didn’t say anything.

Ted pressed the issue. “Has Bobby broken up with you again?”

Tears filled her eyes. “He won’t even look at me anymore. He says I’m suffocating him, but I know what it really is. He thinks I’m weird.”

Ted nodded, his heart feeling heavy. He wished he could make it all go away, but some lessons in life needed to be learned by experience. Boys like Bobby would never understand his little girl.

“It’ll be okay,” he said. “Bobby’s a loser, and he doesn’t deserve you.” He reached over and squeezed her hand. “I tell you what. How about after school you and I go down to the Dairy Queen and grab a couple of Blizzards.”

Melody reached up and brushed a tear from her cheek. “Can we?”

“You bet.” Ted smiled. “And I’ll tell you something more. You’re a special girl, and don’t you ever think differently.”

She smiled. “Thanks, dad.”

He looked at his watch and nodded toward the door. “Looks like we need to get you off to school. Give me a minute to get my keys, okay?”

She stood. “Nah, I’ll walk today.”

“Okay,” he said and smiled as she grabbed her backpack and stepped over toward the door.

She stopped, one hand on the knob, and said over her shoulder, “Don’t tell mom about the hair dryer thing, okay? I don’t want her going all motherly on me.”

Ted crossed his fingers. “Our secret.”

She giggled. "Good talk, dad."

And with that, she was gone.

A moment later, Sherri walked into the kitchen. “Hey, honey.”

“We need to talk,” he said.

She stepped over to the refrigerator, said “Sure thing” and opened the door.

With a wave of his hand, the door snapped closed.

Sherri blinked at him.

“We need to talk now.” His tone more firm this time.

“What’s this about?”

“About you and a hair dryer and our daughter.”

She looked toward the door and closed her eyes. An embarrassed smile crossed her lips, and Sherri shook her head. “I was afraid of that. I tried to cover it up, but I could see it in her eyes.”

He nodded. “It was going to happen sooner or later.” With a snap of his fingers, a chair slid out from the table. “I think it’s time to tell her everything.”

Sherri walked over and sat down. “Are you sure?”

“Not really, but we can’t continue to hide the truth from our daughter. Eventually, she’ll connect the dots, and I would rather we tell her than for her to hear it from someone else. Besides, she’s starting to think she’s the weird one, and I don’t want her self-image to fall off the charts.”

She took a deep breath. “You’re probably right. But do we have to tell her about everyone in the family?”

Ted smiled and gave her a wink. “No, some warlocks are better left in the closet.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Holiday Story Exchange 2010

For those who have been with us before, it's that time again: The Holiday Story Exchange. So pop on over to the Writer's Digest Forums to sign up. The list is located in the "Take It Outside" threads. For those who are unfamiliar with HSE, here's how it works:

Each participating writer will fill out a brief questionnaire with a few personal facts. Then, like a Christmas gift exchange, those questionnaires will be shuffled and distributed so that one writer will have the fact sheet from another writer. Using those facts, then, the goal is to craft a story about your secret writer, which will then be given back as a gift. In December, all of the stories will be released using a secure website, thanks to my good friend Cindy (aka "Gooblink" in the Forums), so that only the participating writers will be able to read. The stories will be originally posted without writer by-lines so that it then becomes a guessing game as to who wrote a story for whom. Once everyone has the opportunity to read all of the stories, they can submit a list, trying to match up the writer with the story. The one who guesses the most correctly will have special honors.

The HSE has always been about having fun, as well as giving a personalized gift for the holidays. In the past, we've tried to collect all of the stories into one PDF document that is then distributed to everyone for their e-library. We'll attempt to do that again this year.

While the HSE has been about fun, it has also been the source of inspiration. Cindy recently announced that one of her HSE projects has become the seed for a novel in progress. As for me, with permission from Cindy (my subject), I submitted my 2008 HSE project "Don't Mess With The Moon Goddess" to Long Story Short, which was accepted and then selected as story of the month for March 2010. To see an example of what we try to do with HSE, you can read a copy of my story on the Long Story Short webzine.

As a timeline for the interested parties, we'll try to stick to the same deadlines. We'll keep the sign-up list open until October 15. During this time, once you've added your name, take the time to fill out the brief questionnaire (details to follow) and then submit your responses. On October 16, we'll distribute the collected facts, and then you can write your story. All stories should be submitted by November 30, 2010, after which they will be posted on the secure website. As to when we can collect them into a PDF document, those details will also be forthcoming; however, the plan will be to release the completed document prior to Christmas.

Okay, I think that's enough details for now. Feel free to post any questions you have, and don't forget to visit the Writer's Digest Forums for more information and to sign up.

Until next time...