Alone; The Journal of PFC Patterson

With Anthony gone, Arlene sat alone on the couch staring at the journal on the coffee table before her.  Her eyes glanced up from it to the window. The rain ran down the panes like blood must have on her son.  She took a sip of wine and placed the glass next to the journal. The plastic bag holding it was worn and dirty with grains of sand that once touched his hands.  The room was eerily quiet.  Her emotions swayed from anger to sadness.  

Why did he send the journal to her?  Wasn’t losing him enough! Now must she read his own words.  She was frozen in the moment.  Too scared to open the journal, she stood up and walked towards the wall holding his pictures.  The pain of losing Michael was as agonizing now as it was when two Marines in uniform delivered the devastating news last November. 

This is fiction written for VisDare.  This work was inspired by the photo and written for the ongoing story The Journal of PFC Patterson.  Stop by and read more about a mother dealing with the loss of her only son in Iraq and the turmoil created after reading his journal.

Father or Facade?

Copyright – Beth Carter

Cleaning out his drawers I found numerous photos of women.  Who were they?  Does he know them?  Are these pictures the reason he didn’t come home so many nights?  I must dispose of them before mama sees them.  I don’t know what her response would be but it’s a moot point.  What a waste of a man.  A father.  

The town loved him. The big shots who frequent the bars worshiped him.  He was a well-respected citizen in the community.  His funeral services at the church Monday overflowed with people paying their final respects.  His life was a facade.  He lied to all of them too.  But they didn’t live within these walls to know the real him. 

This is fiction written for FRIDAY FICTIONEERS

THE CHALLENGE:

Write a one hundred word story that has a beginning, middle and end. (No one will be ostracized for going over or under the word count.

THE KEY:

Make every word count.

Join the fun!

The Journal of PFC Patterson

Everyone knew.  As Cpl. Anthony Sullivan looked around at the faces of his fellow Marines it was clear.  He knelt next to the Marine laying in the sand.  The face looked normal despite being severely wounded.  Sullivan tapped the Marine’s helmet and said “Wat kind of mess did you get yourself into Patterson?”

Patterson smiled at him.  His eyes showed he knew his time was limited.  “You know me Sullivan, gotta have some type of  fuckin’ drama,” he responded.

“We’re going to get you the fuck outta’ here man. It’s all good, Marine, ya’know,” Sullivan said.  “You were brave! You should have seen yourself.  Look at me!  Look me in the eyes fucker!

Patterson’s head turned slowly towards him, his eyes glaring into Sullivan’s.  “What’s up Sullivan?”

“You saved lives mother fucker!  Know this!” Sullivan explained emphatically while he pointed to the Marines around him. “Please understand what you just did man. Look at these guys around you.  They are here only ’cause of you.  You hear me Patterson!” He nodded while Sullivan continued, “because of you!  You are everything a Marine wants next to him in battle.  You fuckin’ delivered man. Thank you.  Semper Fi.”

The kid-faced Patterson gave him a little smile before pain flashed across his face.  He reached for Sullivan’s hand and looked directly at him,  “You know what to do Sullivan, right man?”

“Yea’ I know, man.  Consider it mission accomplished brother.”

Patterson smiled again.

“Hey Sullivan, you need to move back man, we need more room ok?” Corpsman Joseph sternly requested.

“No problem, Doc.”  He stood up and stepped back, looking one last time at Patterson and said, “see ya’, man.”

Patterson’s eyes glanced upward at him. He lifted his bloody hand and waved while mouthing the words “thank you.”  He died the next day, Nov.11, 2004.

Sullivan was awakened from his day-dream by a loud horn honking continuously. He looked into the rearview mirror to see a lady behind waving her hands and her mouthing, not a song, but a few select swear words in his direction.  He turned left onto a small residential street and stopped at the curb in front of 3219.  He put the rental car in park.  He took a deep breath and turned right to look at the old white house.  “I am here,” he whispered to himself.  He sighed, then reached over to the passenger seat and grabbed his book bag.  He stepped out of the car and placed the bag on the roof and adjusted his shirt. He glanced at the house again.  She was standing in the doorway. He reached to the roof and grabbed the bag and slung it on his left shoulder. He walked up the walkway leading to the front door.  As he got closer the lump in his throat grew.  He tried to maintain composure. He was here. Here in New Orleans –  443 miles from his home in Huntsville, 7100 miles from Fullujah, Iraq – where his journey started 268 days ago.

“Mrs. Bernard, I presume,” Sullivan said, extending his right hand to hers.  “Nice to meet you I am Anthony Sullivan.”

“The pleasure is mine, Anthony, I am Arlene Bernard, Michael’s mama.  Welcome to New Orleans. Come inside please.”

“Thank you ma’am,” he said as he followed her into the front living room.

“Have a seat, Anthony, please,” she said. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“No thanks ma’am, I am fine.  Thank you.”

Sullivan stood in front of a cushioned chair and took a deep breath.  After she sat down on the couch, he seated himself. They were only feet apart.  He placed the book bag next to a statue of a woman holding her baby, on the coffee table in front of them. They sat in silence for a few seconds. Then he said, “Thank you for taking my call yesterday and for inviting me here today, I appreciate it.  I am sure this must a be difficult time for you.”

“I’m glad you are here.  Everything has been difficult since my son died.  It’s tough seeing you because I know you were there with him at the time.  You saw him as he …”

Sullivan reached out and took her hand.  She couldn’t muster any more words.  She reached for a kleenex next to her and wiped her tears.  She extended the box to him, “You want one?” she asked.

He cleared his throat, “Thank you ma’am.”  He looked around the room and saw pictures of her son in various stages of his life.  His eyes stopped two larger ones hanging side-by-side.  One was his high school graduation picture, the other his boot camp picture.  It was the first time he saw Patterson as a civilian.  He only knew Patterson the Marine, not the son.

The room was emotionally charged.  Sullivan’s mind was spinning with flashes of Patterson on the sand those many months ago. To know his mother was a few feet away was difficult to comprehend.  “Mrs. Bernard, I spent countless hours on what I would say at this very moment,” he said. “Truth be told,  I don’t know where to begin.  As you know, I am here at the request of your son.  He asked me on many occasions to do this favor for him.  I gave him my word.  He detailed how he wanted it done and I have followed it to a tee. I don’t know what your reaction will be. I have something in the bag for you from him.  Before I pull it out I want to tell you that he was a great American.  Without going into the details, I watched him save lives. Including mine that day.  Perhaps in time you will want to know more. But for now, please know he was a hero to many of his Marine brothers.  Their lives extended because of his bravery.  You raised a great young man, Mrs. Bernard.”

Sullivan reached for his bag on the coffee table.  He placed it on the floor at his feet.  Then he reached inside and pulled out a large, dirty, plastic-ziplock bag, wrapped with a rubber band.  He stood up and slowly placed it on the coffee table. “It is my honor to present to you with the journal of PFC Patterson.  I am proud that it made it back to you as he requested.  It is home.”

Read more of The Journal of PFC Patterson

This is a work of fiction.  Written for yeah write the speakeasy #98.

Story must begin with the sentence “Everyone knew. It must include a reference to this photo.

click to embiggen "Everyone knew." First line provided by speakeasy #97 winner Erica Mullenix

Bigfoot’s Grave

Andre and Freddie.  Future fifth grade neighbors in a small southern town.  Their houses sit side-by-side on a dead-end street ending at the west side the Bayou Teche. The boys are frequently found gallivanting around their neighborhood and in the nearby woods along the bayou. To them the neighborhood is their playground.  They spend their summer swimming, riding bikes, building forts and fishing.  It’s not unusual to find them chasing fireflies in the early evening or catching crawfish in the ditch bordering the nearby elementary school.  Or mowing the neighbor’s grass to earn spending money. The adults in the neighborhood call them inseparable. They were best friends.

Today, after a ride to the Phil-a-Sac for an Icee and bubble gum, the boys peddled their sting-rays to the end of their street. They layed their bikes off the side of the gravel road and walked to the banks of the bayou.  They sat down on the edge of the wooden dock with their feet dangling in the murky water.

“Hey Andre, take your gum and put in the bottom of your icee like this,” Freddie instructed, pushing his gum down to the bottom of the cup with his straw.

“But it makes the gum hard Freddie.”

“So what. That’s why it’s so cool!”

“That’s dumb man,” Andre replies before sipping on his straw.

The sound of slurping was interrupted by a passing boat pulling a skier.  A quick wave from the boys turned to giggles as the boat left behind a wake that splashed against the dock.  The spraying water cooled them from the muggy afternoon, if only momentarily.  The passing boat causes a blue heron to take flight in front of them, adding color to the green woods across the bayou.

“Hey man Freddie, check this out” Andre says as he stands and pulls three large keys from his back pocket.

“What are those?” Freddie asked.

“Keys to my kingdom,” Andre responded.

“For real? Those are cool looking.  Like something from Scooby Doo!  So, what is this kingdom of yours Andre?  I don’t get it.”

“Well, it’s like this.  You know how in old times, when there were castles and stuff Freddie.”

“Sure I do.”

“I want my own kingdom.  So in my mind I made up this castle for me to escape to with the biggest door and lock there is.  And this key here is the only thing that can unlock it.  I have a moat around it with sharks!

“Sharks Andre, for real?” Freddie interrupted. “There can’t be sharks in a moat.”

“In my kingdom they can.”

Freddie stares at Andre with a puzzled look.  “So where is your kingdom?”

“Bigfoot’s Grave!  Follow me!”

Andre begins running along the bayou with Freddie close behind.  They quickly reach the edge of the woods, both hunched over and out of breath.

“What about our bikes man?” Freddie ask.

“Oh, they’ll be fine. Aint no one ever stole them before. Now follow me Freddie.”  

The boys follow the trail into the dense woods.  They evade countless briar patches and spider webs till the reach a big wooden door leaning against a huge fallen oak.

“Here we are Freddie.”  

“How did this door get here man?”

“I found it up against the bank of the bayou down there about a week ago. It looked cool so I pulled it on land and put it here to dry.  It looks old.  It had these keys in the keyhole.  So I made this my castle.  Isn’t it neat?”

Freddie is looking at the door perplexed.  “You dragged me all the way here to show me a door?”

“Noooo.  Follow me.”

The boys step to the side of the door and squat down next to one another.  

“We have to crawl underneath the oak dude.”

“After you Andre.  I aint going first.”

“Chicken!” Andre says laughing.  

The boys disappear behind the door and under the oak tree. The space makes a perfect little hidden room for the boys to sit.  

“Why did you take me here Andre?”

“I have a secret to tell man.  Promise me you won’t tell a soul.”

“I won’t man, I promise.”

“Pinky promise?”

“Yes pinky promise.  And I swear on my grandma’s grave too'” Freddie replies.

The two extend their pinkies to each other and move their hands in a handshake type motion.

“I saw my step-father beating my mom the last week.”

Freddie’s face turned red.  He can’t muster the right words to respond.  He stares blankly as Andre continues.  “I heard arguing from their room, then mama came running down the hall.  I peaked out my door just as she turned to him and he hit her man.  She fell against the wall the onto the floor. He jumped on top of her and continued to hit and yell at her.”

Freddie finally manages to stutter a somewhat coherent sentence, “did she, you, was she, did you tell the cops?

“Naw man, I’m too scared.  I just closed my door and cried is all.”

“Andre, I just.  I can’t say a word cause I can’t understand why he would do that.”

“After they went back to their room, I came to Bigfoot’s Grave to be alone.  That’s when I found the door with these keys and built this castle.  I don’t want to be in that house anymore man.”

The boys spend hours in the castle talking about anything and everything.  The dark subject was not revisited. Instead it was back to talking about kid stuff.  Bikes, fishing, football and even kissing!  

The boys enjoyed the rest of that summer together.  They visited the castle often spending hours talking and dreaming.  Later in the summer, Freddie began noticing bruises on Andre from time to time.  He never asked questions, just came to the only conclusion a young boy could.  Two weeks before school began Freddie’s mom brought him into the living room and sat him down. “Freddie I need to tell you something.  It is not going to be something good.”  

“What is it mama?  Did someone die?”

“No son, but Andre and his mama left their house.  They moved to Houston this morning and asked me to tell you. They won’t be coming back.  I’m sorry son.”  She reached over and hugged her son tightly.  She could feel the tears on her shoulders yet heard no crying. “I don’t know why on earth she would leave so suddenly.”  

“He is my best friend mama.  What do I do?”  

“Andre asked me to give you these.”  She pulled the keys to Andre’s castle and handed them to her son.  “He said you would know what they are for.”

Freddie grabbed the keys and ran out the front door without a word.  He sprinted down the street and along the bayou. Into Bigfoot’s grave he ran until he reached the castle.  He sat alone and cried all afternoon.  His heart hurt more than anything he had felt before.  

The castle door eventually disappeared from its location in Bigfoot’s grave.  In time, Freddie’s pain did as well.  With time he healed as all people do when losing a friend. Freddie thought of those days with his best friend often. He missed him. His childhood. The castle.  He never saw nor heard from Andrea again.  He’s now just a memory.  He understands that he not only lost his childhood friend that summer, but his innocence too.  Freddie became ancillary victim of the horror that is domestic violence.  He also kept his promise to Andre by keeping the secret between them. He never told a soul.    

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This fiction was written for Picture it & Write.

The Wheels no Longer Turn

Photo courtesy of ghostbikes.org

I see these around town here.  This morning I noticed a new one. So sad.  On the way home it’s all I thought about.  Here is my humble tribute.

You sit on street corners and along roads

across our great nation.

A symbol of those who pedal on two wheels.

The breeze in their face and clear skies above.

Their muscles burning,

breathing mightily.

Until tragically their breathing ceases.

Ended by carelessness.

Quickly and tragically.

You are passed daily

by commuters on foot, car and bicycle.

In large cities and small towns.

A memorial to the anonymous

who lost their life.

Who were you?

A sibling.

A spouse.

A parent.

A friend.

Were you young or old?

Male or female?

You were all of these.

Now you are a beautiful symbol

placed by people who know you.

By a community who cares.

A symbol never to be removed.

Sitting through wind and rain.

Under sunny or cloudy skies.

Your wheels once turned.

Now they are still.

A bike now doctored.

Colored in all white.

The Ghost Bike.

 

This was written for Trifectra; Week Sixty-Six

The rules:
  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
  • Only one entry per writer.
  • Trifecta is open to everyone.  Please join us.

DOCTOR (noun)
1

a : an eminent theologian declared a sound expounder of doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church —called also doctor of the church

b : a learned or authoritative teacher

c : a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees (as a PhD) conferred by a university

d : a person awarded an honorary doctorate (as an LLD or Litt D) by a college or university

2
a : a person skilled or specializing in healing arts; especially :one (as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice

b : medicine man

 

 

 

I am Me

I am me.

A complex being wrapped in skin

with a functioning mind of my own.

Some see me as stiff and cold.

While others see me warm and caring.

Get to know me for what I am

not for what you believe you see.

My flesh is not me.

My spirit is me.

My body a dresser

My mind its drawers.

Open them and you will find

The beautiful being I am.

Search those drawers

and you will find

the variations that make up me.

Close those drawers, then look and see

that I am simply me.

This was written for The Mag #157

Beneath the Blanket

In the woods past the remnants of the house Kevin saw bones peering from beneath a blanket of pine needles and leaves. He discovered a bicycle near a tree. In panic he left…..

I really enjoyed this weeks prompt!  I could have written a whole story but only had 33 words.

This was written for Trifextra; Week Fifty-six

This weekend we are playing another type of word game with you.  Below are photos from the 33rd page of one of our very favorite books, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge.  What we want you to do is to scour the page (click to enlarge), choose 33 words, and reshape those words into a piece of your own.  Your piece does not have to tell an entire story.  We just want to see what you can do with this particular word bank.  Punctuation is up to you.  Use whatever you need, whether or not it appears in the photos.

I am a Literary Giant

I have exhausted all avenues.  My pile of rejection letters can account for its very own forest.  I have tried all genres.  

Poetry:

Rose are red violets are blue.  My writing smells like poo!

Or what about something deep.

Like this:

The raven flew above the home of those who are suffering.

Circling like a draft that swirls like the mind of someone in pain.

Those who suffer are not suffering but only feeling a pain that is not really there.  

Smile.  The sun is shining into your soul.

Oh yea!  Now that is deep.  Can you see the earth’s core from your spot next to that poem?  Bet you can!

Ok, lets try fiction:

My phone rings unexpectedly.  I answer with a quick “HELLO.” 

“Mr. Shoo, this is Aaron Priestly from the Aaron M. Priestly Literary Agency.  I stumbled across one of your stories on your blog.  The one about the guy who gets the girl and beats up the boy who had the girl. You know the one! Excellent writing.  Suspenseful!  You are a literary genius. I’d like to sign you to our agency.”

Wake up loser!  Your genius is getting people to waste time reading your crap.

How about speech writing:

“Our nation is at a crossroads.  Like one of our great leaders once said, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the oven. We are in a time of crisis.  When the going get tough, the tough go.  Our nation is one of division.  Long division.  And we have all failed math.  Expect for Bill Gates. And Lebron James. Pay your damn taxes and shut up.”

Wow! Where is Winston Churchill when you need him?  Or Martin Luther King. If that speech doesn’t get our ass in gear what will.

Want more.  Than stay tuned!  This blog is headed in the write direction.  You get it, right?  Or is that write?  Huh? Well you know what I mean.  My righting is improving. 

Like this.  Comment on this! Follow me.  I will be a literary giant!

This attempt at dry humor was written for Trifecta; Week sixty-five.

Using this week’s one-word prompt:

EXHAUST (transitive verb)
1a : to consume entirely : use up <exhausted our funds in a week>
b : to tire extremely or completely <exhausted by overwork>
c : to deprive of a valuable quality or constituent <exhaust a photographic developer>
2a : to draw off or let out completely
b : to empty by drawing off the contents; specifically : to create a vacuum in
3a : to consider or discuss (a subject) thoroughly or completely  

Please remember:
  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
  • Only one entry per writer.
  • Trifecta is open to everyone.  Please join us.

The Chickadee Sings

The bottle was nearly empty.  Craig lifted it over his head and poured the remaining water onto himself in order to cool from the blistering Yellowstone sun.  Today’s hike from the trailhead to the southern end of Shoshone Lake will take him four hours.  The heat may add more time as the weight of his pack along with his guitar make it tougher on him physically.  The well-worn trail leading to the country’s largest lake not reachable by roads is a wildlife photographer’s dream. Elk, bison and even a porcupine have watched the solo hiker with caution as he walks past. A Clark’s Nutcracker sat high in a lodgepole as if he was a sentry. His echoing call a warning for his fellow feathered friends of the impending intruder.  The mosquito population grows as he reaches the northern end of the lake.  Half way to camp.

Craig makes a quick stop for water and to rest his weary legs before returning to the trail.  This is not unfamiliar territory to him.  He spent his summers while in college working the restaurants at Old Faithful.  He was, prior to arriving in the park, a heavy drinker and drug user.  A television junkie and struggling college student on his last dime.  A chance conversation with a female in a creative writing class planted the seed for him to work his summers there.  So in May of 1985 he shot his last dose of heroin into his arm and boarded a Greyhound bound for Livingston, Montana.  Forty something hours later, as his feet touched the beautiful Yellowstone soil, he knew that nature would be his cure.  There was no explanation of the power those surroundings were to him. The breathing taking peaks and scenic cold streams did what rehab and alcoholic anonymous never could.  The back-country and his fellow summer seasonal employees became his rehab. The park was his sponser.  The park gave him life.  A week after his arrival he journeyed to this very lake with a group of employees he barely knew.  In truth, that was his first taste of nature sober.  He hid the physical withdrawals he was suffering from his fellow campers and relished life in the now.  Craig realized he was a changed soul.

So twenty-five years later he closes in on the same campsite he visited those many years before.  Still single he sold his home of fifteen years and emptied his savings.  He traded in his new Camry Hybrid for a ’64 Beattle and resigned his job at the nuclear power plant.  All these years the powers of Yellowstone beckoned him.  With his car loaded with only a small backpack, his guitar inside its stickered carrying case he returned to the land that once cured him.  He was to change his profession to writer.    

He reaches the campsite physically exhausted but exuberant. His body was not adept to the strenuous hike as it was those years ago.  Yet he had satisfaction in knowing that on this trip his physical suffering was fatigue and not withdrawing from demons that once controlled his life.  He reached into his backpack and pulled out a six-pack of coke and placed it into a mesh bag.  He strolled to the edge of the cold lake and place his drinks in natures very own cooler. His shoulders hurt from the straps holding the weight of his pack. The sweat on his back was cold as a small breeze blew across the lake.  He spent the afternoon setting up the his home for the next week.  He set up his tent, gathered wood and hung his food on the bear pole nearby.  After a quick nap he returned to the edge of the lake with pen and paper in one hand and guitar in the other. He sat comfortably on the beach using a log as his back rest and tuned his guitar. Alone, he played and sang a beautiful rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” as if the lake was his audience. Afterwards a mountain chickadee sang his song. Perhaps a response to the music still echoing through the forest.  

For Craig, nature was around him.  As he listened to the chickadee singing, he knew this was his new beginning.  Just as it was for him years before. This time it’s a life of creativity and words on paper to share with the world.

This is fiction written for the speak easy at yeah write #97.

Beyond the Picket Fence

Copyright-Janet Webb

This is where I grew up.  The house, once holding victims of alcoholism, now the victim of age and the elements.  Once an entanglement of chaos, violence and alcohol is now overrun with tangled vines and other plant life.  The exterior splintered as if it can no longer hold the secrets that once were within its walls.  Heartache and fear have burst through the siding like the screams years before.  The home a tattered reminder that those closest to your heart never understood your suffering.  The white picket fence, a symbol of an all American home to many, a symbol of imprisonment to me.  A symbol of a family lost.

This is fiction written for FRIDAY FICTIONEERS

THE CHALLENGE:

Write a one hundred word story that has a beginning, middle and end. (No one will be ostracized for going over or under the word count.)

THE KEY:

Make every word count.

Join the fun!