The Noise on the Roof

A thud on the roof woke Melissa from a light sleep. When she went to bed, she had looked forward to the predicted storm. The rumble of thunder and pounding rain always had a soothing effect on her. She got up to inspect the thud with some trepidation, however, aware that she was meant to be away on a business trip. Her groggy middle of the night mind feared something worse than a tree.

Of course, she knew that was ridiculous. Who would break into a house from the roof? She retrieved a flashlight from her nightstand drawer and grabbed the baseball bat in the laundry room for protection. Her ex-husband claimed that she lacked the ability to shoot someone because she was simply too nice, but that maybe she could scare off an intruder with the bat. She knew that pushing the panic button on her alarm console might be the best solution, provided she wasn’t in the middle of a life or death confrontation. Hands shaking, she crept to her front door.

As she tiptoed, the shrill ring of her cell phone made her jump out of her skin.

“Melissa? It’s me. When you get home from whatever stupid trip you’re on, I’ll be dead.”

“What?! Dan? I AM home. Where are you?!”

“What?! I’m on your roof. Did you see that dumbass Frank walking his dog just now? I think he called 911. Hang on. I’m coming down.”

This was all too much. Too much rain. Too much thunder. Too much drama. Too much Dan. Melissa sat on the floor, dizzy and shaking with anxiety. She heard more thumps, thuds and cursing before she heard pounding on her patio door. Instead of standing, she crawled toward that door and pulled herself up by the handle to let him in. As she opened the door, the momentum from his knocking propelled him into the kitchen and he fell in a sodden heap.

“Ohmigod! Dan? Dan! DAN!” Melissa screamed and got down next to him, afraid that he was unconscious or worse.

Rolling onto his back, Dan peeled open his eyes and slurred, “Melissa. I’m okay. Not okay. Why are you here? Just let me die. Don’t let them take me away.” He began to cry.

“I am not letting you die,” she said, sitting back on her heels and hearing for the first time a siren in the distance. “But I am getting you a towel and putting on a pot of coffee. And I might just let them take you away.”

The deafening siren stopped in front of Melissa’s house, confirming that their neighbor Frank had called 911. Melissa left Dan whimpering on the floor and got up to answer another pounding on a door. Her head pounded in time with the beating. Couldn’t they just have rung the doorbell?

“Officer.”

“Ma’am, we got a call that there is a person, probably intoxicated, on your roof. Have you heard anything?”

She started to speak, but couldn’t find the shape of yes in her mouth. Dan needed help, probably a lot of help, but she could not bear to see him taken off by the police. She rubbed her temples and heard herself lying. “No, just the storm blowing things around. I’m fine.”

“Well, I hope you don’t mind if I take a look around your property a bit to make sure no one is here, then I’ll be on my way.”

She closed the door and leaned back against it, closing her eyes and sliding to the floor. She was about to drift off to sleep when she smelled coffee.

Two steaming cups sat in the center of the table. Dan had fallen asleep with his head on the table and a hand around one of the cups. Melissa kissed his still wet hair and lay down on a nearby sofa, praying this would all make sense in the daylight.

P. S. I welcome constructive criticism. Tell me what you liked and what you didn’t!

The Storm

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It was a dark and stormy night.

Dan thought that would be the perfect opening line for the memoir he would never write. Lying on the roof of his ex-wife’s house in the middle of the night he contemplated the next line as the wind began to whip and fat raindrops splashed on his face.

“Dan! What the fuck are you doing up there? A big storm is coming! Dammit, Maple! Hurry up.”

Peering over the edge, Dan saw his former neighbor running back home with his old dog dragging behind. Dan waved and resumed his position, noticing flashes of lightning off in the distance as the rain began to fall faster.

He thought he’d be the first. Suicide by lightning. Wouldn’t Janey be surprised when she found his charred body on her roof! Damaged. That’s why she wanted the divorce. She told Dan he was just too damaged and she had had enough. He’d show her damaged. He scanned the sky once more, on the lookout for a tornado. A tornado would defeat the purpose. He would die, but be blown away like the rest his things Janey threw out when the divorce was final.

On cue, the tornado siren began to wail. Between thunder claps closer and closer together and lightning flashes everywhere, Dan heard a different kind of siren getting louder. “Damn!” That goody-goody neighbor must have called 911. Resigned, he slid down to the gutter and lowered himself into the tree, then to the ground in the backyard, making his getaway.

He had to rush. The bus was here.

Misunderstood

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I feel as gray and depressed as these four walls surrounding me and as dour as the policewoman sitting across the table. She’s waiting for my mom. Can’t interview a minor until a parent is present. I’d tell her everything I knew right this second but every time I open my mouth she hisses out a shush.

The adults must have read our notes by now, explaining why we ran away. We weren’t going to be sex slaves or take drugs or anything. It just wasn’t safe for Tracy. Her dad constantly hitting her mom. That asshole gave Tracy a black eye two nights ago and I had to help her get away. My mom is always saying why don’t you just leave if you don’t like my rules. Sure. Fine. I will. I did.

If she ever shows up, I’ll tell them what really happened. Tracy met me at the Walmart at the edge of town. We bought some stuff and then we left our two cars in the parking lot. Weren’t gonna be dependent on anyone. We even left our phones in the cars so no one could track us. After an hour or so of walking in a cold drizzle, this guy in an ancient car pulls up and asks did we want a ride, so sure, why the fuck not? He looked harmless enough.

A stench of old french fries and dirty socks slammed into us when we opened the car door but that was better than the rain and dropping temperature so we slid in the back and shrank down into the puckered green vinyl of the seat.

The guy was an ok driver, but he heard a song that he really liked, I guess, turned it way up and took off like a bat outta hell. He goes to pass a car and then there’s one coming toward us. Tracy and I screamed, and dude swerved off the road, hit the fence and we’re flying into the woods, landing in some kind of gross shallow pond. He told us to stay put while he gets help. I was all for leaving because I’ve watched Criminal Minds and this is where the duct tape and knives come out, but Tracy wanted to take a nap first, and I couldn’t just leave her alone.

I lost track of time keeping a lookout for any crazies while she napped. When it turned dark, I was pretty damn sure he wasn’t coming back. I held my nose and started to go through some of his trash in the front seat, looking for actual food when Tracy woke up. She pulled out the bottle of pills. I swear I didn’t know she had them. She got mad because she thought that was why we were running away.

A suicide pact. That’s what she thought we were gonna do, but that wasn’t my plan at all. I just wanted to be on my own. Get an apartment and work at a movie theater.

Why did Tracy think that we were gonna kill ourselves? It all happened so fast. I tried to get the bottle away from her, but she’s stronger and she had a tight grip and she jumped out of the car and smacked right into the water. I think she might have dropped the pills in the pond, but I don’t know. She splashed away faster than I could get out of the car. I lost her when she went further into the dark woods.

I shivered so hard I thought I might faint and it was all I could do to make myself crawl through the mud and weeds following the car’s path back to the road. I cried from relief when the cop pulled up to me and I haven’t been able to stop crying yet.

“Mom! How long have you been sitting there? Was I talking out loud? I’m so so sorry.”

“I’m here for you, sweetie. It’s going to be okay. I love you.”

“I think Tracy is dead.”

Signs

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Suzanne drove 3 hours non-stop to reach her long-distance boyfriend’s apartment in time for her birthday dinner date that he had organized. Hurrying between the apartment buildings in the vast complex, she noticed a pretty blonde girl hurrying in the opposite direction, applying lipstick as she ran. Suzanne appreciated that talent and guessed she must be a model to be that skilled. She would have lipstick on her nose if she tried that.

As she knocked on Doug’s door, she tried the doorknob and finding the door unlocked, she barged in, yelling out, “Hey, Doug, I’m here!” She tossed her coat at the couch but missed, and headed straight to the bathroom, cursing the coffee she had to have before she set out. Slowing her breath as she peed, Suzanne sensed something different about the bathroom. It seemed unusually clean for Doug, who only gave it a quick wipe down when he knew she was visiting. But there was something else. Mixed in with the scent of Scrubbing Bubbles was another scent she couldn’t quite identify. Perhaps Doug had lit scented candles, but there were none in the bathroom. She finished, and bent down to pick up her purse when she saw a long, blonde hair near the baseboard under the cabinet. Did Doug hire a maid?

Her mind went through plausible scenarios while her body tensed with the truth. She was there in her head, ignoring the turmoil growing through her midsection, when she collided with Doug as he came out of his bedroom.

The collision became a hug, and Doug said, “Hey, you’re here. I didn’t hear you come in. I was just changing out of my work clothes.”

“Yeah, I just let myself in. Really, really had to pee.” Suzanne wanted to say more but felt tongue-tied.

With a quick peck, he grabbed her hand and walked her to his small kitchen. “Of course! Long drive and all. Let’s have a glass of champagne to start your birthday celebration.”

The champagne bottle was already open, and there was that scent again, stronger this time. Suzanne pulled her hand from Doug’s and avoided his touch as he served a champagne flute. “Thanks,” she said. “Looks like you started without me. That bottle is only half full.”

When he didn’t respond, she added, “Hey, who was that blonde girl leaving the apartment?”

Doug’s eyes went wide and then he looked down. “Yeah, guess I did have a glass when I got home from work. And what girl? There wasn’t a girl here, she must have been leaving another apartment. I don’t know any blonde girls. Oh, unless it was Jenny. Yeah, must have been Jenny. She just moved in next door, so you probably saw her running out of her apartment, not mine.”

Now fully connected, mind and body, Suzanne ignored the rambling and said, “Her perfume smells lovely. And I noticed one of her long blonde hairs in the bathroom. Is that lipstick on your ear?”

“What?” Beads of sweat appeared on Doug’s forehead as he felt his ear. “Her perfume? I don’t know anything about how she smells. Really. But, um, yeah, she needed some extra money so I let her clean the apartment. It looks great doesn’t it. Better than I could ever do. She did every room. And look, over there on the coffee table. I got a new candle in, um, vanilla for your birthday. Isn’t that your favorite?”

She put the champagne flute deliberately down on the counter, walked the 10 feet over to the coffee table, and leaned over to blow out the candle, intensifying the strong vanilla scent.

“Nope, Doug, that’s not it. Take a deep whiff where you’re standing. Definitely not vanilla. More cloying. Floral. Something I would never wear and the same odor I smelled when that girl ran by me. The gentleman, thou doth protest too much, methinks.”

His blank stare and silence confirmed her suspicions.

She grabbed her purse, picked up her coat where she dropped it, and left Doug standing there in a cloud of guilt.

10 Lessons of NaNoWriMo

dad-3You can’t participate in NaNoWriMo without learning a thing or two about writing and about yourself. This was my first time participating, though last year I did participate in a challenge to write a blog post every day in November. Kind of a NaNoWriMo super light because those two things are nothing alike.

So what did I learn?

  1. It is possible to write 50,000 words in 25 days. Not an overachiever here, but I was busy on 11/6 and it was so early in the process I did not grasp the significance of missing the daily target of 1667 words. I was out of town for three days and unable to squeeze in writing time, and I finished on the 29th.
  2. I am neither planner, someone who plans their entire novel and perhaps “fills in the blanks” or a pantster, someone who starts on November 1 with nothing planned and writes by the seat of their pants. I am a plantster. I did some planning and quite a lot of writing by the seat of my pants.
  3. Reading the book No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, founder of this crazy writing experiment was extremely beneficial.
  4. As the days wore on it became easier and easier to let go of my inner critic and write.
  5. My writing improved over the course of the month.
  6. Sometimes my characters refused to tell me what happened next.
  7. I don’t work full time. I can’t imagine trying to do this and work.
  8. I can write on road trips, also known as how I was able to get my word count in over the Thanksgiving holiday without appearing to be anti-social.
  9. There is some shockingly bad writing that happened in the middle of the month and I’m okay with that (see #4 and #6).
  10. I found it easier to write a 50,000 word novel than a short story.

AND a bonus lesson: I want to do it again!

I wrote a novel!

I haven’t been around the blog much (or really any) at all because as it turns out I can’t blog and write an entire 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It’s one or the other. As of about 3:30 p.m. EST I finished the novel. I’ll be back tomorrow to report on the experience, because it was definitely an experience.

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Book Report: The Book Thief

**no spoilers**

the_book_thief_by_markus_zusak_book_coverThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak is the most beautifully written book I have read this year. Billed as a Young Adult novel, I believe that is too specific a categorization. I would argue that any age could read this novel, and they would be moved.

The story is a simple one. Set in World War II in Nazi Germany, a young girl, Liesel, is sent to live with a German couple, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, after her mother could no longer care for her. She brings with her a book that she found after her younger brother’s funeral. This conceit of the stolen book carries through the novel.

 

Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.

~p. 80, The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Most of the action takes place on Himmel Street and the immediate surrounding area and we learn about the other residents intimately as they interact with Liesel and the Hubermanns. Still, the black cloud that is WWII hovers over the entire story. No one remains untouched by at least some element of the war. Love, survival, acceptance and humility are some of the other themes that thread through the story.

I won’t say any more about The Book Thief for fear of spoilers. I will say that Zusak makes use of a most unusual narrator and for me, the realization of who the narrator is and the treatment he is given throughout the novel is genius.

The Book Thief has been made into a movie, which was released at the end of 2013. The reviews are mixed, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t say either way.