Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Dinner Party by R J Parker - A Review






Eight friends – four couples, get together one evening for some food, some wine, and some conversation. This is not the first time they have gathered for a dinner party. They have known each other for years, and are comfortable with each other’s company. This evening however, something new will be added. A game. A game they will all play. It is a game based on trust. What better game to play with friends, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, for those involved, this game is also full of secrets and betrayal. While this was not the first time they got together, it most certainly will be the last.

Their game of trust was supposed to alleviate guilt, and bring peace and forgiveness. Instead, it brought fear and division. Secrets that were never meant to be shared hang over them all like shrouds. The game didn’t bring them closer; it brought them death. One by one, they begin to die. Game over? Not a chance. R. J. Parker has effectively delivered to his readers the dinner party from Hell. You are introduced to the characters, and feel like you are getting to know them. Before long however, you realize that you didn’t know any of them at all. The surprises never stop coming, and neither do the nightmares. The Dinner Party is loaded with twists and turns, lies and deception, and will take you to the edge over and over again. Make sure you have plenty of time when you begin reading, because it’s impossible to put this thriller down.

You can purchase Dinner Party here or here.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 38 - Perfection


The prompt this week was as follows: The genre was fantasy, the setting was an antique shop, and the item was a gold fish. Love begins in many ways, and for my character Sarah, it started with a peek into a glass bowl.

Perfection

“Janice, I’ve enjoyed our lunch, but before you drop me off at home, could we stop in at that antique shop by the mall? I want to see if they have anything new.”

“New? Sarah, everything in there is junk. It’s all cracked, dusty, and…”

“Come on, you know what I meant. I love the knick knacks I’ve found there. Besides, it’s okay if they’re flawed. Something doesn’t have to be perfect to be loved. All it takes…”

Sarah stopped, and turned away to look out the car window. She had been born with deformed legs, and wore braces that enabled her to walk. A childhood disease had left her blind in one eye. She had never dated, and even her own parents had been ashamed to be seen with her in public.

“Sarah, we’ll stop there. You take your time. I don’t need anything, so I’ll wait in the car. There’s no hurry, hon.”

***

Sarah was surprised to see a young man behind the counter. The elderly lady who ran the stop was very unpleasant and always seemed angry, but Sarah was used to her. She was concerned, and asked about her.

“My grandmother passed away,” he said. “I’m here to close the shop. I have my own business out of state, and there’s no other family to keep this going. Everything is half off, Miss. See anything you like?”

Sarah noticed the goldfish on the counter. It looked pitiful with only one eye, twisted fins, and malformed tail.

“Is the goldfish for sale?” Poor thing, she thought, it needs someone to love it.

“That thing?” The young man handed the bowl to Sarah. “It was behind the counter. I was going to dump it in the river. You can have it. Anything else for you?”

“Not today, but thank you. This is all I need.”

***

“You bought an ugly fish, Sarah? How much did they cheat you out of for that?”

“He was free, Janice, and he’s not ugly. He’s flawed – like me. I can’t explain it, but he needs me, and I need him too.”

“As long as you’re happy, dear. I’ll drop you off at home now.”

***

Sarah put fresh water in the fish’s bowl and sprinkled some food on top that the man in the shop had given her. She placed the bowl on the kitchen counter, and cautioned her cat Tangerine.

“Tange, this is our new friend. You leave him alone because he’s not very strong. I’m going to get a book from the living room, and then you and I will go sit in the back yard.”

When she heard the crash, Sarah ran into the kitchen. She saw that her cat had gotten on the counter and knocked the fish bowl on the floor. Tangerine was standing over the fish, nibbling at its tail.

“No! Get away!” Sarah shouted and clapped her hands to get the cat away from the fish. She couldn’t bear the thought of her poor little fish coming to such a brutal end. She opened the back door and Tangerine ran out into the yard. She picked up the fish, and quickly got a bowl from the cupboard and filled it with water. She hoped it wasn’t too late to save her beloved fish.

“Please don’t die,” she said quietly. “I need you to be all right. I love you.”

All of a sudden, the fish disappeared from her hand, and a tall young man appeared in front of her. He was missing one arm, and his back was hunched. She looked up at his face, and thought he had the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. She felt faint.

“Do not fear me, dear lady. I am Simon, and you have said the words to break my curse. You told me you loved me, and broke the spell. You see, the old woman in the shop was a witch. Ages ago, she wanted us to marry, but I loved another. She had an ugly soul and caused my beloved to fall ill and die. She then approached me again, and I told her I could never marry anyone with a hateful heart. She put a spell on me, and turned me into a deformed goldfish. She said now, no one would ever love me. Then she laughed, and said if some poor soul did, the spell would be broken. She had added that as a cruel joke, knowing in her black heart it would never happen.

“She kept me behind the counter to make sure I’d never find a caring home. When she died, the Heavens blessed me because her grandson brought me out of hiding, and you, my lovely one, took me and saved me.”

“I am not lovely at all. I am crippled, and half blind.”

“Your heart and soul are pure and kind, and you are filled with love. I knew these things the first time I saw you through the glass in the shop. I also knew I loved you then too. Time had stopped for me while cursed, but all is back in order now. You and I will grow old together, my precious, and a perfect future awaits.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 37 - School Days


The prompt this week was about the start of school, and sending someone (or something?) to school. We were to write from the viewpoint of the sender, not the sendee. Those first days can be exciting or traumatic or even both, and not just for the kids!

School Days

MONDAY

Today is my daughter Mara’s first day of school. Of course, that’s a big deal for her, but it’s an even bigger deal for me. I’m the one who has to stay home and worry all day about her. Why, you ask? Let me explain. When I sent her to nursery school, she had a great time with all the kids. In kindergarten, she was with the same group of children, and had a wonderful year. First, second, and third grades were a dream come true, because living in a small town, that same group of children stayed together year after year, and Mara was able to maintain all her friendships. Then, in the middle of fourth grade, it all came apart.

My husband is in the Army. Now, do you see the problem? He was transferred to a new city in a new state, so a new school was on the horizon. She would have to continue fourth grade in a different school in the company of strangers, and would be miserable for the rest of her life. Those weren’t my feelings, they were Mara’s, so I tried to be as upbeat as I could as I walked her to the bus. I had offered to drive her to school on the first day, or even for the first week, but she would have no part of that. According to my daughter, her life was going to end anyway, but having Mommy drop her off in front of the other kids would cause it to end sooner. I walked her to the bus; then, went home and cried.

TUESDAY

Monday night went badly. Mara got off the bus, went in the house, and locked herself in her room. I thought I’d attempt to communicate pre-bus this morning.

“Mara, how did school go yesterday? Did you meet anyone new?”

“Teacher told the class I was new, told them my name, and asked them to show me around. Why didn’t she just kill me then and there?”

“Honey, she was just trying to make you feel welcome, and to involve the other kids.”

“I threw up on the bus on the way home.”

Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

WEDNESDAY

We got the silent treatment again Tuesday night. I thought about calling her teacher, but remembered my own mother doing just that. The next day, my teacher announced to my class that my mommy called her because she was worried, and that she wanted the kids to be friends with me. It was several months before the kids stopped laughing at me, so I decided to let time work its magic. Walking to the bus this morning, I tried again.

“How was school yesterday? Did you have a lot of homework last night? You went to bed quite late.”

“Teacher gave us a lot. I had to read a whole chapter. Susie and Kevin said she does that a lot.”

Susie and Kevin? Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

THURSDAY

Wednesday night, Mara had dinner in the dining room with her father and me, and then went to her room to do her homework. Her bedroom door wasn’t slammed or even closed. It stayed open all night.

We chatted on the way to the bus this morning.

“What does your teacher have planned for today, Mara? Anything special?”

“Susie and Kevin and Molly and Tim said Thursdays are easy. We get to read form our favorite book and say what we liked about it. Here comes my bus. Bye.”

Susie and Kevin AND Molly and Tim? Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

FRIDAY

Thursday night, we all had dinner together and even played some board games. Mara went on and on about Brian and Mary and Josie and… I cried myself to sleep Thursday night. My husband kept asking me what was wrong, and I told him everything was right. He was confused, but I said I would explain later.

This morning’s walk to the bus left me concerned. Mara had quite a serious air about her. She wasn’t angry or upset; she just seemed extremely determined.

“Honey, is something wrong? Do you feel all right? Is something bothering you?”

“I’m okay, but this new girl started yesterday. She just moved here and had to start school in the middle of the year. Teacher told us all she was new and all that stuff, you know, so the new girl felt abarr…ebarr…umbarrassed. So, at recess, I took her over by the fence and told her teacher was just trying to make her feel welcome, and avol…evolve the other kids. I was just trying to figure out how I’m going to get her into some stuff today cause I told her me and my friends would show her around.”

Wow. Buckle up, folks. It’s a good thing I carry tissues in my coat pocket…

Friday, September 6, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 36 - The Good Life


The prompt this week was to write about a needy pet. The pet is adorable, but wants a lot of attention. We couldn’t use a dog or a cat, which would have been great for me since I have the neediest puppy on the planet. Poor baby cries and follows me from room to room. I couldn’t use him though. We had to pick a random one from a list of ten mythical creatures. The number given to me was 9, and that meant my pet was a banshee. This was tough because I did some research on banshees, and I couldn’t figure out how to work one in as a pet, much less a needy one. Sorry, but I went another way with my story. I still put in the banshee, but in this case, instead of being the needy one, she sort of fills a need.

The Good Life

“Help! Cassie! Save me!”

Cassie knew she should never have let her sister come and stay with her. Virginia has always been a drama queen, a snob, and frankly, a real pain. Her daily crises were the reason Cassie left the condo they shared in the city, and motivated her to buy the cottage in the tiny village 50 miles away. After Cassie moved out, her sister decided to do some renovations, which meant she’d have to stay in a hotel for the week. Of course, that would never do, since, according to Virginia, there was no way any hotel in the entire county could be suitable for her. Cassie was surprised when her sister asked to come stay with her since she regarded cottages in the country lower than skid row accommodations. But, Cassie thought, beggars can’t be choosers, and since a hotel was out of the question, and her sister didn’t really have any friends to speak of, the cottage in the country would have to do.

Virginia had complained from the second she stepped through the front door, and now, at midnight, she was screaming at the top of her lungs. Cassie heard the moaning and groaning begin outside, and realized she had forgotten to let her sister know about the weird fairy that walked around the cottage from midnight to six, crying and whining. Funny how that slipped her mind. It’s amazing, she thought, how one can get used to almost anything. She went out to the living room where Virginia was sleeping on the couch.

“Cassie, thank goodness you’re here. There’s some strange woman wandering around outside, making these horrible noises. Plus, she must be at least eight feet tall too. What kind of place is this? I’ll never understand why you would want to live out in the country. I told you only weirdos live out in the country.”

“Virginia, this is a very nice place. It’s clean and safe, and the people in the village are great. There’s just one thing about this place that I forgot to tell you about. It’s my banshee.”

“Your what?”

“Banshee. I have one. She came with the cottage. She’s like a fairy, only, not cutsie like Tinkerbell. She’s dressed in a black shroud, and does nothing but cry. The real estate agent told me about her, and I know it sounds crazy, but having a cursed spirit that haunted the place made me want to buy this place even more. Every night from around midnight to six, she circles the place and wails. I have no idea where she is during the day, but you can set the clock by her every night.”

“What?”

“I know it’s nuts. See, the legend is that banshees come and cry and make all these sorrowful sounds to warn that someone within is going to die.”

“Oh my God! Cassie! We’ve got to…”

“Calm down. No one is going to die. I told you, she’s cursed. The story is that when the cottage was first built, the man of the house was very ill. The banshee showed up and started doing her thing, but the man completely recovered. Turns out, he never was that sick to begin with, so they couldn’t figure out why she was there.”

“She probably came to kill him, just like she’s going to kill…”

“Stop. Banshee’s don’t kill people. They have no powers to do anything. She just messed up and had shown up at the wrong place. Someone else nearby died later that night, and I guess the head banshee cursed her to remain here forever, whining and sobbing, but doing it all for nothing. Weird, huh?”

“Weird doesn’t cover it, Cassie. How can you stay here? I was never comfortable here to begin with, but now? There is no way I can remain here. I’ll just have to lower my standards and find a hotel.”

“Gee, so sorry to see you go.”

“Very funny, Cassie. But, seriously, aren’t you afraid?”

“Of what? She never does anything but make awful noises all night. I’ve reached a point where I can’t sleep until I hear her. The only time she really gets to me is if I decide to watch a late movie. Then all that noise outside keeps me from falling asleep. Wanna hear something freaky? When that happens, I open the door, ask her in, and give her some hot tea.”

“You actually come in contact with that…that…that…”

“Banshee. I don’t know her name, but she responds when I talk to her. She doesn’t speak, but when I say something, she stops crying and looks at me. Anyhow, the first time I asked her in, she walked in here and stood in the corner. I brought her some tea, and while she drank it, I told her about my day, and there was no criticism and no judgment. When I was done, she put the cup down, walked out, and started moaning again. Wild, right?”

“This is too much for anyone to take. I know it’s late, but can I get a taxi out here? I’m going back to the city and find somewhere to stay.”

“Sure. I’ll get you the one from the village. The driver’s always looking for work. A trip to the city will get him some big bucks. Tip him good though, Virginia. Mr. Hopper’s an older man and can’t work as much as he needs to anymore.”

“You certainly have changed, Cassie. You invite the death fairy in for tea, and you worry about a has-been cabbie. You belong out here with the nothings.”

“Always good to spend time with you, Virginia. I’ll call Mr. Hopper so he can warm up his cab. It’s getting late, and it gets really cold in the early morning hours. My death fairy could probably use a hot drink. Us ‘nothings’ do love our hot tea and a chat.”

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 35 - A Real Home


The prompt this week was to do zombies, but with a twist. Mine’s just trying to find his way…

A Real Home

“Young man, excuse me for bothering you. I normally avoid speaking to strangers, but I have something I must say to you. I take this Greyhound to Harpers Gate every summer to spend time with my grandchildren. The journey is usually unpleasant because the other passengers complain about this or that, and children run the aisle. You, however, have been upbeat during the entire trip, and since our departure from Winden Falls, you have had the most endearing smile. May I pry, and ask why?”

“Thank you, ma’am, for your kind words. I was born in Harpers Gate, but have been away for a long time. I felt like I needed to come home again. I have no family left there, but there is a lady…”

“Satisfy an old lady’s curiosity. Is she a past love?”

“She is, but we haven’t seen each other in years. Her family moved away long ago, and we both married others. I heard she was divorced, and I…well, I’m single now too. Things are a bit different though, seeing as how I’m…uh…”

“An accident? I know I’m pressing, but never be ashamed of stitches and scars. You’re a fine-looking young man, even though you are a bit on the pale side.”

“I am that. It was a kind of accident, yes. Goodness, here we are at the terminal. It was wonderful talking with you.”

“You too, dear. Wishing you all the luck with your love.”

***

“Welcome to Daly’s Five and Dime. What can I get for you?”

“Is Suzanne working today?”

“At the ice cream counter at the back.”

***

“Suzanne?”

“Yes, sir. What can I… Oh my God! Richie? It can’t be! I heard you had been murd… I mean, that your wife and her boyfriend kill…”

“It’s true. They did murder me, but that’s not all. This is hard to explain, but try to understand. They found an old voodoo priest to bring me back as a zombie so I’d suffer even more. But he was forgetful and messed up. He did bring me back, but I can think, talk, and I don’t walk like I’m right out of a horror movie. I got them both though. They were there when I was brought back and I pretended to be oblivious to everything. They told the cops I’d been killed by a robber, and talked about where they’d hidden the hammer they beat me with and where they hid their bloody clothes. I got the evidence and delivered it on the police department’s doorstep – literally. I’m not a vengeful person, but they had to be held accountable.”

“Of course, Richie.”

“There’s one other way I’m different from others of my kind. I can still love, and I still love you. We went our separate ways, but you were my first love.”

“And you were mine, Richie. I married Jim, but it didn’t work out. My heart has always belonged to you. Now, we can be together at last.”

“You make me so happy. But, you’re not shocked that I’m a zombie? What about the townspeople? What if they find out?”

“I’m not, and they would accept you without question.”

“How is that possible?”

“Remember old Mr. Hornsby that used to run the drug store? He’d give all the kids free candy and pop?”

“He was wonderful. Don’t tell me he’s still working.”

“No, he’s retired. But, one night on his way home from the store, he was bitten by what we learned later was a werewolf, and how he’s one. The widow Mrs. Milner is a vampire. That happened when she went to New York City on vacation alone. Sally Greene is a broom-riding witch, and… See? They all come here, Richie, to settle down, and they are accepted for who they are, not shunned and hunted for what they’ve become. Now that you’ve come back, I’ll just ask Judy Milner to bite me so you and I can be together forever.”

“Suzanne, This is more than I could have ever hoped for. I’m so glad I came back. I really am home.”

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 34 -

Story coming soon!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 33 - Finding Sarah


The prompt this week was to use a specific location in our story: a cottage. Also, we were to pick a random song (one of the top two from the link provided) as our inspiration. One of the top two songs that came up for me was The Search by Nathan Feuerstein (known as NF). The following verse was my inspiration:

“Yeah started thinkin’ maybe I should move out
You know pack my cart take a new route
Clean up my yard get the noose out
Hang up my heart let it air out”

Finding Sarah

The cottage was perfect. It was in the middle of nowhere, and no one knew where Sarah and her husband, James, went for the weekend. She’d rented it under an assumed name and paid cash. James had been hesitant to go off the grid, but she’d put on her ‘beg’ face and he’d relented. How he loved her ‘beg’ face, especially after he’d hit or punched her. This weekend would be different though. She’d done the driving so James could relax with a thermos full of his favorite gourmet coffee. The sedatives she’d added had dissolved nicely. When James awoke, he found himself tied to a chair in the living room of a strange house.

“What the… Where…”

“We’re at the cottage I rented for us. Isn’t it lovely? It’s clean, and has lace curtains on the windows, comfortable furniture, no neighbors, and…”

“What is going on? You think this is funny? You can be sure I’ll show you just how funny I think this is. You’d better listen to me. Untie me this second, and maybe your punishment won’t be too…”

“No, James. You’d better listen to me. I’m going to give you a choice. You can either sit there and listen to everything I have to say, or I can make a deep cut somewhere on your body with this carving knife I brought with me, leave the door wide open, and let the bears finish you off.”

“You have lost your mind.”

“You’ve got that right. Now, shut up, and listen. We’ve been married for eight years, and during those eight years, you have broken my arm, my nose, my wrist, my ankle, and knocked out several of my teeth. I put up with it be…”

“You know as well as I do that was because you were completely disrespect…”

Sarah walked over to James and slid the dull side of the carving knife down his cheek. James closed his eyes, and leaned as far back in the chair as he could.

“Please,” he whispered. Sarah noticed tears forming in the corners of his eyes.

“Did I hear ‘please’? I didn’t think you were familiar with the word.”

“Don’t hurt me, Sarah. I’ll listen. Go ahead and say what you have to say. Put the knife down. If you damage my face, my female clients won’t…”

“That’s what you’re worried about? Your looks? What are you saying? That your rich old lady clients won’t let you invest their money if you’re no longer a pretty boy? You sonofabitch!”

Sarah stuck the pointed end of the knife into James’ left cheek until a drop of blood formed.

“There. Now you’re not perfect anymore. Now will you shut up or do I have to…”

“Okay, okay, I’ll listen. But when this is over…”

“When this is over, what?”

“Nothing.”

“That’s what I thought, Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. The reason I put up with all your bullshit was because I watched my father do the same things to my mother, and she took it all, right up until the day she died. Why? Because that’s a woman’s lot in life. That’s what she told me over and over. Well, that may have been her lot in life, but it’s not mine. I’m finished with your moods, with your cruelty, with your abuse… I’m finished with you. I’m walking away from you, from our marriage, from our life together. You know what else? You’re not going to do anything to stop me.”

“There is no fucking way you’re going to… You know my money’s tied up in…”

“I knew money would be your first worry. I don’t want a penny from you. In fact, I want nothing from you, except the assurance that I will never see or hear from you again. I have a letter for you to sign that confirm your understanding of that condition.”

“You’re going to force me to do something? Now, that’s funny. If I refuse to sign?”

“You believe I just sat at home all day praying for my Lord and Master to come home? I printed files from your computer, and I wrote down your clients’ contact information. You’ve been screwing your partners and your clients for years, and from what I’ve seen, I know of at least three government agencies that would be interested in your overseas transactions.”

“What? You wouldn’t dare…”

“Wanna bet? Here’s what’s going to happen. You’ll sign what I put in front of you and I’ll walk away. I’ll let somebody know you’re here though. If you ever try to find me or bother me again, I go public.”

“I never thought you were the kind to…”

“What? The kind to think for myself? I know you didn’t, you bastard. Now sign.”

Sarah handed James a pen and put the paper in his lap. She saw him hesitate, so she brought the knife closer to his face. He quickly signed the letter.

“By the way, do what you want with my things in the apartment. I don’t want any of it. I’m going to start fresh.”

“And my car?”

“Your precious car will be at the airport. Goodbye, James.”

“Uh huh.”

Sarah put the carving knife back in her handbag and walked outside into the sunlight, closing the door behind her. She planned to dispose of the knife in a dumpster later. She could hear James cussing and struggling to free himself from the chair. I’ll call someone about him from the airport, she thought. There’s time. Hopefully, he’ll wet himself all over his Armani suit. Driving away from the cabin, Sarah knew she had found more than just the cash in James’ overnight case. She’d found something else too: a part of her that she believed had been lost long ago, and for this new go-round with life, it would be more than enough.