short story, Writing

Skills that Pay the Bills

(September 2022’s short story of the month. Better late than never!)

As a young girl, she learned how to juggle fruit: apples, oranges, sometimes pears. There was little risk, little drama, and people smiled politely and then moved on. But they started paying attention when she started juggling knives and saws.

She didn’t notice when the same man returned day after day to watch her. She smiled at the crowd and faked moments of danger. She didn’t notice him the first day when he watched in a suit, and she didn’t notice the second day when he watched in a hoodie and jeans. She didn’t even notice him on the third day when he was in a suit again, albeit a much nicer suit than the first time.

She didn’t notice, but Chuck did. Chuck watched her tips and drew in the crowd by hyping her skills.

As they sat on their bunks in their 400 square foot apartment, he asked, “What’s with that guy that keeps coming back?” He didn’t see any reason why someone would want to see the act more than once. It was always the same. The same fake moments of peril and the same planned moments of success.

“What guy?” Laney asked. She stacked the bills in a neat pile with each one facing the same way. “We did alright today. Might make the rent on time this month.”

“The guy in the suit,” replied Chuck. “He’s been back at least three times that I’ve noticed.”

“Weird,” said Laney and went back to counting their tips.

The next day the man returned. This time, Chuck nodded towards the man when he was collecting tips to indicate to Laney this was the guy.

After the performance, Laney collected their things, and Chuck took off after the guy. He followed him until he ducked into a coffee shop. Chuck stood outside waiting to see if the man would go somewhere else. Instead, hours ticked by. The man did nothing but sit in the shop ordering cup after cup of black coffee.

Chuck texted Laney the location. She arrived several minutes later, and Chuck still stood watch outside.

“He moved yet?” asked Laney.

“Nope. Just sits there like he’s waiting for something,” answered Chuck.

Laney looked through the window, and the man was looking right at her and waving.

“Pretty sure he’s waiting for me,” she said as she took a deep breath. “Stay here, and keep watch. If things seem off, don’t let me out of your sight.” Chuck nodded.

As Laney sat down across from the man, a waitress walked over and placed a latte in front of Laney.

“I didn’t order this,” said Laney looking back and forth at the waitress and the strange man.

“It’s all right. I ordered for you. I took a shot. Cinnamon latte. Don’t drink it if you don’t want to.” He folded his hands on the table in front of him.

Laney sat down reluctantly. She could smell the coffee. It was enticing. She didn’t trust the situation, but she wasn’t going to let a six dollar cup of coffee go to waste either. She took a sip. She waited for him to talk.

He smiled as she drank the coffee. “Right. You’re probably wondering why I’ve been watching you?”

She didn’t say anything or give any indication that she’d noticed him watching her. She kept studying him to see if she could figure out his game.

His hair was brown and cut and styled in a nondescript basic cut. He was clean shaven. Today he was wearing a suit that was dark grey with matching jacket. His buttoned up shirt was also grey. Everything about his was designed so that he wouldn’t stand out in any way.

He was caucasian with blue-grey eyes. He had an average build, and average height. She wouldn’t be drawn to notice him in anyway.

As Laney was taking all this in, she realized that the man’s whole point was to go unnoticed. He was boring in every way.

“I work as a recruiter for someone who needs people with a specific skill set. Specifically, the ability to look fear in the eyes and not flinch.” He didn’t smile or smirk. His eyes didn’t have a hint of humor in them.

This guy was being serious. Laney wasn’t sure what to think. What could he possibly want with her? She still didn’t say anything.

“I would like to recruit you to work for me.” He leaned back like he was waiting for her to respond.

“I don’t know what to say to that. Recruit me to do what?” Laney reached into her pocket and texted Chuck. Within a few seconds he was in the coffee shop too.

The man didn’t react when Chuck showed up. “Why don’t you join us, Chuck?”

Chuck shrugged and pulled up a chair. He sat close enough to Laney for their legs to touch.

“He offered me some kind of job, but he’s being purposefully vague,” said Laney. She and Chuck didn’t have secrets.

The man glanced at Chuck and Laney and seemed to come to a decision. “I can offer you both a job. You wouldn’t be the first pair we’ve recruited.”

“Recruited to do what, exactly? You haven’t said anything yet that makes me want to believe anything you’re saying,” responded Laney.

The man was quiet and stared at them for several minutes before he finally spoke. “You would be asked to perform odd jobs. Whatever is asked of you.” He paused and leaned forward. His voice dropped to a whisper, “No matter what is asked, you find a way to make it happen. Do you understand me?”

Laney and Chuck looked at each other. This was nuts. There was no way this guy was for real. Did he think they were stupid?

Without speaking, the two stood up, pushed in their chairs, and turned to leave.

They went back to their apartment hoping that was the last time they would see him. When they opened the door, they thought at first they’d been robbed.

Turning on the lights, they realized their mistake. All their belongings were packed like they were moving. As they stood trying to understand what they were looking at, there was a knock on the door.

prompt, Writing

August 2022 Prompt

August is doing that thing, again… flying by! I don’t know what I’ve been doing this month, but it isn’t anything productive. I’m okay with it though. Sometimes it’s good to just be happy.

This month I’ve been roller skating twice! It’s so much fun. I love skating! But at my age, when I fall it hurts for days and days. Luckily, I only fell once, and I’m thinking of going again soon.

Anyhow, I haven’t been drafting much because it’s about time to start editing! I can’t believe I’m about to edit my fourth novel! It’s a great feeling, but every time I get to this point, the overwhelming amount of work still to do is shocking and renders me into long straits of procrastination. I find the best way to avoid editing is to not make eye contact with the draft.

In all seriousness though, if you are here for the prompt this month, it’s about time:

The boy woke up before dawn. The horses were restless. Something wasn’t right. He rose and tiptoed quietly down the hall, careful not to wake his mother. She was exhausted after last night’s…

Complete the Story

Now get to writing!

Happy reading and writing every day!

prompt, Writing

July’s Prompt

July is trying to get away from me, like so many of the months earlier this year. I’m not letting it happen.

Focus. Focus. Focus.

I am avoiding distractions and checking my to-do lists several times a day —- it seems to be helping.

If you are here for the short story of the month prompt, look no further:

They’ve done all these studies about how twins remain connected, psychically, their whole lives. I haven’t seen Sally for twenty years, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with pain in my knee and I know it’s her pain, not mine. Or I’ll be taking a walk and I’ll feel…

Complete the Story

I can’t wait to share this one with you. I love writing stories about twins who are connected!

Whatever you’re working on, I hope it’s going well!

Happy reading and writing today and every day!

Life, Writing

State of the Novel Address 2022

My eyes have finally healed enough for me to work on writing again. The last two weeks I’ve been outlining a new novel.

This is a new step for me. I don’t normally outline before I start writing. What I like to do is write and then make mini outlines of what I want the next three or four events to be. Generally when I start writing a novel, I have an end point in mind. Then, I work to get my characters there by preventing them from getting it too soon. (At least that’s how I think of it in my mind).

So at this point, the next step should be drafting, but…

There are two other stories that I want to write. Both are in different stages.

My three projects are:

1. Mages of the Lake (already wrote about 50,000 words during Nanowrimo last year) This one could be worked on. At first when I wrote it, I didn’t really want to do more with it, but now that some time has passed, I can see what needs worked on and what I’d like to change.

2. A New Novel Set in the Magical Realms Universe. This one would focus on Zak before he met Jamie. This is the one I’ve been outlining.

3. A BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW novel about magic that’s been hidden and then found in our time.

So… my brain can’t seem to focus because I keep thinking about all three. I’m honestly not sure which one to work on now. I would like to pick one and get it to a final draft.

I’m going to work on the outline for the second one until I decide. By April, I am going to decide and focus and buckle down!

Anyway, happy reading and writing today and every day!

prompt, Writing

September 2021’s Prompt

It’s September! I love this month! And I’m working very hard to get the draft of my third novel sent to my editor by the end of this month! (Wish me luck!)

If you’re here for this month’s short story prompt:

After my father’s stroke, he started crying all the time. He cried about everything: sentimental commercials, pop songs on the radio, or…

Complete the Story

Now go get writing!

Happy reading and writing today and everyday!

prompt, Writing

October’s Short Story Prompt

I swear September was yesterday… This month is flying by for me.

It might have something to do with the fact that I spent all last week in pain and finally went to see a doctor yesterday. He thinks I hurt my rotator cuff. I was folding laundry and BAM, instant pain that has not gone away. Who gets hurt folding laundry? Seriously. This is a sign of two things. One, I’m getting old. Two, folding laundry is dumb.

Anyway, I am working on getting things done now that I have real pain meds on board. So, here is the prompt for October’s short story of the month:

She was the new girl. The one who sat in the cafeteria at lunch alone. Maybe she was from the next state over. Maybe she was from another country. I wanted to know everything about her: her mother’s name, her favorite movie, if she had brothers, sisters, what she…

Hope everyone is having a better month than me! Happy reading and writing this month!

Life, prompt, Writing

June’s Prompt

It’s been a long month… I am behind (obviously) with some of my side projects… My family is moving on the 2nd of July, so planning and getting thrings ready has been my full time job right now.

Anyway, that’s no excuse to not write… Without further ado (and more excuses), here’s June’s short story of the month prompt…

After the funeral, I spent the next few days in the attic, reading the letters my mother had written him in the years before they were married. He had never been the sentimental type, so I was surprised to find a whole box of them, carefully bundled. Even more surprising was…

Complete the story

Now, get writing!

Only kidding; you do you.

Happy reading and writing this month!

prompt, Writing

May’s Prompt

May is almost half over, and I still haven’t posted a prompt. Like many of you, days are running together right now. Not leaving the house means weekdays and weekends have no difference to them. My kid never goes anywhere but to my computer desk and her room. Still, can’t complain; just a little worn down like many of us.

If you are looking for something to write about, here is May’s short story of the month prompt:

It was odd to be in a room full of people who all seemed to look up to my dad like he was some kind of hero. A part of me wanted to see him through their eyes just for a moment. I tried to picture him as…

Complete the Story

Happy reading and writing this month!

prompt, Writing

April’s Prompt

I am behind this month because the world is crazy! I’m sure many of you are feeling the same way. Days are running together… no one ever leaves the house… my child is never more than a few feet from me… but overall, life is still good.

We have been working on cleaning out extra unused items throughout our whole house. It’s kind of amazing what you accumulate over time and stash away out of sight and then it multiplies and before you know it, you have a basement of old household goods that are usable but dusty.

But the real reason I’m writing today is that I only just realized that I haven’t posted a writing prompt this month. Without more rambling, here is the April short story of the month prompt:

It was different, writing on a typewriter; the clatter and noise, the resistance of the old keys forcing her to really put some effort into each letter. She imagined she was…

Complete the Story

This should be an interesting one… writing about a writer, but it still needs to fit into the “world” I’ve all ready created this year.

If you’ve missed my stories this year, I’m trying to link them all. Here are the stories so far:

Turkey Dinner Stalemate

Canned Memories

Adventure

Happy reading and writing and whatever else you are up to this month!

prompt, Writing

March’s Short Story Prompt

It’s March! I’m sure you’re aware. And it’s time for a new writing prompt!

Here is this month’s prompt:

To call him stubborn would be polite. Not that politeness mattered to him. Malcolm would probably describe himself as principled. Those closest to him would probably use different words, like…

Complete the Story

This is part of my ongoing goal this year to write 12 stories that are connected. So far, January and February has been great. This one might require more effort though because the prompt creates a character with a name! HMMMMM….

Here are the two stories I’ve written so far if you haven’t read them:

Turkey Dinner Stalemate

Canned Memories

Anyway, happy reading and writing this month!