Love’s Beginning: A Memory

I met my  ex-husband in a college astronomy class and from the first moment I saw him, was mesmerized. It was a night class, so one evening  we went out to coffee after. We talked for hours! Debating politics. Sharing stories. Laughing. Getting a little angry. His mind was so intriguing.

Within two weeks we were spending most of our days together. It was beautiful beyond compare.  I was infatuated but wasn’t sure he was the one until Spring Break when we went backpacking in Big Sur.

It was a cloudy day but we weren’t worried. The weather reports were clear. So we set off hiking the mountain. Then is started to rain. And rain. Continuing in a steady stream all afternoon. By the time we got to camp, we were shivering and exhausted. Still we made a fire, warmed our soup, and set up our little pup tent. Around dark, we had a break in the storm and were hopeful that  we could continue with the rest of the trip.

But nature had other plans. In the middle of the night we woke to the pattering of rain on canvas and a full-on stream flowing between our sleeping bags!  Now I was  scared. I read a lot about the dangers of hypothermia and how this insidious condition can be life threatening. So we crawled in the same bag and fought to keep each other warm.

In the morning it was still raining so we decided to hike back to the van. When we got there, it wouldn’t start.

David didn’t cuss or punch metal. Didn’t stomp his feet and fume. Instead, he said, “The alternator’s wet. We just need to wait for it to dry out.”

He was right. An hour later it started up just fine. And in those two days, my infatuation turned to love.

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(Photos by my ex-husband, David Stroup)

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Between two worlds

A Black Cat on Friday the 13th

Long ago, when I was too young to have the life’s experiences I do now, I thought of Friday the 13th as just another day.

I was so naive.

Friday the 13th is a  harbinger for the supernatural. A day when the doorways between death and life swing perilously.

I was a young mother raising two kids the best I could. It was a Saturday and I had promised to take them to see The Incredibles matinee.  But as usual, I tried to do too much and was running late. I strapped both of them into their seats, revved up the old Volvo, and stepped on the gas.

We were halfway down the long drive when, boom. Thud.

I slammed on the brakes.

“What was that, Mommy?” Jess asked.

Heart pounding, I got out of the car and looked under. There lay our black cat, Cuzie, matted fur around her sweet head.

I started to tear up.

“Do something,” Nick, who had jumped out of the car, ordered, a desperate plea in his voice.

Gently I scooped up the gentlest cat we’d ever had, placed her in Jess’s lap and started racing for the local vet. Both kids crooned to Cuzie telling her it would be okay in one breath, chastising my stupid driving with the next.

With shaking hands I carried her into the office calling, “I hit my cat! She’s hurt. Help me.”

The receptionist immediately ushered us into an exam room and within seconds the vet was there. He placed Cuzie on the table, and began to probe gently with his fingers. The kids and I stood by, stiff  bodied, barely breathing.

After about five minutes he declared that Cuzie was fine, but should have quiet place to rest. “And keep an eye out. If you notice any change, call me,” he said caressing Cuzie’s ears.

Back home we placed her bed in a little nook near the back door, gave her water and a soft blanket, and stroked her back.

She mewed and snuggled down to go to sleep.

It was still early so we headed to the theater. Even got there on time.

To this day, my question remains. Was Friday the 13th bad luck for us because we hit Cuzie? Or did a black cat crossing our path on that fateful day counteract bad fortune, saving her life.

You decide.

Lycanthropes

For thousands of years we have been the guardians. We have watched over villages, farms, and cottages. We have kept your gardens clear of hares, your fields free from ravens, and your livestock safe from our cousin canis lupus. You have seen us in shadow and felt our presence when the winter wind makes you fasten that top button of your coat.

We once numbered in the millions. Like the buffalo we covered the land. Keeping men, women, and children safe. Helping them to multiply and grow. And as mankind spread to the six continents, so did we.

Then you developed new technologies. Electric fences. High powered rifles. Broadband poisons. Your food source was secure. And we were seldom needed.

Without your need, we began to die out. First from the townships of Europe. Then the Asian mountains. We thought we were stronger in the Southern Hemisphere. But in the Australian Outback and the Amazon Forest no more of our kind were born. We even disappeared from the African continent.  From Cairo to Capetown, every one of us is but a memory.

And now we are so few that a small meadow could hold us all. While we try to convince ourselves that we are still important. We safeguard you after all. But it is a lie. We know you no longer need us. The old ways are gone. And soon so will we.

We are the Lycanthropes. And this is our story.

My Short Story Got Published!

Here’s the beginning:

I always sit alone. Night after night while friendly conversation buzzes all around, I scribble away at my pad. Like the severed lobe of a lobotomized brain my quietness keeps me apart from the surrounding barroom.

Not that they don’t try. Their electrical impulses probe with questions and icebreakers, smiles and shoulder taps. But all I return is a blank stare, as is our way, while many muse over why I don’t respond.

Wheezing Joe wipes foam from his facial hair and breathes into his beer. “Is she deaf?”

“Doesn’t speak English.” Zev replies, wiping down the oak counter with a stained towel.

“No. She is a conceited reporter spying on us.”  Gina never takes her eyes off the door as she stirs her gin blossom. Looking right past her female companion, her mind focuses on one thought; prospective mates. I had yet to comprehend it, but for some reason, I threaten that quest.

I cock my head to one side, calculating the odds that I am creating too much interest amongst the patrons. Seventy-six percent. Much too high.  I must not rouse suspicion. Planning to lower my autonomic response filter, I slip into the bathroom stall and lock the rusty door securely before reaching back to the base of my skull to adjust the invisible touch screen.

Immediately there is an increase in emotion. I jerk upright as a variety of new sensations wash over me.

I pull my long hair back tightly and tie it at the nape of my neck before exiting. My intestines are churning as I step up to the bar. I can barely croak out the words, “One pomegranate martini, please.”

With shaking hands, I grasp the glass stem, trying to find comfort in the dry ice mist rising from the martini. Gina turns away with a half smile when I spill some of the sanguine-colored liquid onto the floor. Her female companion guffaws while Joe takes a gulp of beer to hide his chuckling.

Careful not to spill again, I cross the room to sit back down and gaze into the wine-colored fog. The pomegranate martini reminds me of home, a volcano-covered planet so far from the sun, that the sky never brightens beyond a pinkish hue.  I lower my nose and cool steam moistens my skin like Lyra’s atmosphere at perihelion.

I glance out of the corner of my eye. Lowering the filter has worked. The flies are relaxed. Even Gina’s brain waves have ceased their jagged patterns. I have been accepted as just another quirky bar regular. And in so doing, they give me a name. They dub me the Human Chair, she who sits but never responds. Funny they would call me human. And flattering in a strange sort of way. They never call me this to my face, but I’ve heard them whisper, “She’s the Human Chair,” to every newcomer who asks about the woman scribbling away in the dark corner

Many barflies think they can break through my severed wall of gray matter. A few send drinks. Some try smooth lines to strike up conversations.  I never understood the one that goes, “What is a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” It seems to imply that The Blue Ace is a disreputable establishment.

A few even tell carnal anecdotes to provoke a response. Wheezing Joe loves to tell about the sexual misadventures of blonde-haired women. I am glad that I have chosen dark hair when I hear how lighter shades affect human I.Q.

Of course, it is all in vain. I ignore them all. The ice cubes melt in untouched glasses. Compliments and witticisms go unacknowledged. No matter how loud or rude they are, my pen never slows.

It cannot.

If it did my superiors would take away this assignment. And I have grown too fond of this human form to shed it just now. These strange sensations that go along with inhabiting a female body. The sweet taste of a pomegranate martini on my tongue. The feel of my pen gripped between these efficient digits. A warm tingling in my loins when that tall male on the subway smiles at me. I often must remind myself that I am an observer not a participant. An anthropologist who is detached from her surroundings.

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This excerpt from my science fiction short story was recently published in Shifting Sands. This  anthology is an eclectic blend of short stories and poetry from the talented members of the Coastal Dunes Branch of the California Writers Club.  For a copy, here’s the link.

Buy the Anthology!