Alleys of New York

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

The Stranger 

You’re walking  home  from  work one  night  and taking  shortcuts  through  a  labyrinth  of dark city alleyways to meet someone on time. Suddenly, a stranger parts the shadows in front of you, comes close and asks you to hold out your palm.  You oblige.

Thoughts about these prompts: WTF? Why am I this just all trusting person who puts faith in others. Why am I eating mysterious cookies? Why am I following mysterious instructions that lead me until a cave? And now I’m accepting something from a stranger in an alley? These prompts presume I’m a trusting person… I’m not. Sorry, just needed to get that out there… On to writing!

I looked down at my watch for maybe the tenth time in the last two minutes. I was making decent time, but was still nervous about being late for this dinner. I had only fifteen minutes to get to the home. Taking a cab on a Friday night at 5:00 would take too long, but now I was wondering if walking was a mistake too. I had to make it from Lower Manhattan to my apartment in Midtown by 6:00 and then back out to meet my mom for her birthday dinner by 6:30.

I had been held late at work. I was almost to the midway point and it was already 5:41. I had been trying to make it there with some time to spare to freshen up. As I tried to muscle through the bodies on the sidewalk, I decided this was going to take too long. I turned down an alley. I knew this city as well as I knew my mom’s face. I had grown up here and, although I had been yelled at many times for it, I tended to wander as a child. Much more so as a teen. 

I weaved through the different alleys, working my way home bit by bit. I looked down at my watch again, 5:47. I should be able to make it home in less than thirteen minutes. I looked back up to find a man standing about twenty feet in front of me. The sun was fading fast and the alley was not well lit. He wore a hoodie that kept his face in shadow and stood with his hands clasped behind his back. I stopped walking. He stepped closer. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as my stomach tightened and twisted.

“Hold out your hand.” He said. His voice was soft. So soft I barely heard what he said.

“Look, I don’t want any trouble. If you want my wallet, here it is.” I held it out to him but he shook his head.

“Hold out your hand.” He said again. I started to take a step back but he shook his head and stepped closer.

“Please. I’m on my way to take my mom out to dinner for her birthday. I don’t have anything of value, but the items in my wallet.” He took one more step putting less than two feet between us. My heart beat hard in my chest and I was finding it hard to breathe. Why wouldn’t he just take my things?

“Hold out your hand.” I decided if this would help get it done and over with, I’d do it. I slowly, reluctantly stretched my hand out. In a flash he had a cuff locked around my wrist.

“What-” He whirled my body around and my purse went flying. As he grabbed my other arm I lost grip on my phone and it too fell to the ground. Before I fully knew what was happening, he had my arms handcuffed behind my back and was dragging me back toward the dumster he had stepped out from behind. I tried to yell, but as soon as the first sound came out fuzz filled my mouth. His gloved hand squeezed tight. It was massive, almost covering my entire face. I couldn’t breathe now. His hand was covering my nose as well. 

I started panicing. I squirmed and kicked. I even tried headbutting him, but didn’t know how to do it and missed. Once behind the dumpster, he turned me around and punched me hard in the face. I blacked out. When I woke back up, my arms were in immense pain and my wrist were burning. I was laying on my back which meant I was laying on my handcuffed wrists.

He was on top of me. I could feel the cool air on my bare legs. My left eye felt hot and swollen. My head was pounding and seemed to be thumping with every stroke. I looked him in the eyes hoping to make him feel guilty, but that seemed to please him more. The hood had fallen off and I could see a wide smile start to spread across his lips and he made a gasping noise as he finished.

I felt dirty and ashamed even though I had done nothing wrong. I wanted to disappear and never be seen by the world again. I wasn’t a virgin, but this made me feel like I was now worthless and that no man, even my current boyfriend, would ever want me now that I was spoiled. I didn’t think I would ever want any man again either. Aren’t they all like this dog in some way? Would anyone understand that I hadn’t even been able to say no? Wasn’t that the thing? You had to say no for it to be considered rape? Would this make sense to anyone else? Would anyone believe me?

He sat back on his legs and buttoned his pants. Silent tears were sliding down my cheeks and making my ears itch. My arms had gone numb. My insides felt raw, burned. I pulled my knees together, trying to hide the mess below. He took a deep breath.

“Thank you.” He said in the quiet voice. He stood, not attempting to cover me. I thought he might just leave me there, but he was somewhat merciful. He pulled a gun from his jacket pocket and my world went black.

A Cookie A Day

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Mystery Cookie 

One Day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk. Grateful to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find another cookie. This continues for months until one Day a different  object  is left—and  this time  there’s a note.

It sat there in it’s perfect little box silently waiting. My favorite kind of cookie from my favorite bakery. I looked around to see if anyone was watching me. I don’t think I had ever told anyone about the bakery, at least not anyone at work. I didn’t see any heads poking around corners or out of cubes so I shrugged and sat down.

I picked up the box and turned it over looking for a note, but there was none. I wasn’t exactly early today so the office was already full making it even harder to guess who would have left it. I opened the box and ate the soft cookie one slow bite at a time. Whoever did this had turned a Monday into less of a drag.

This happened the next day and the next and the day after that. Every day I came into work to find my favorite cookie, but no note and no other clues as to who would be giving me this.

I asked around the office to see if anyone had left it for me, but no one would own up to it. Patricia and I sat on the bench in front of the elevator eating our lunches and deciding which people entering or exiting would be the likely bestower of cookies.

“He looks too uptight.” We’d agree about Josh from the third floor who always had a scowl on his face.

“Oh she definitely doesn’t give out cookies.” I said about Marley from HR who didn’t exactly seem human enough for human resources.

“Did you see the way he looked at you? I bet it’s him.” Patty said, nudging me with her elbow when the doors had closed on Sam. He was definitely handsome and had always shown an interest in me, but I had never seen him outside of work so I shook my head and disagreed.

“Hey Natasha!” Then there was Jackson. He was winning the “mostly likely” contest.

“Hi Jackson.” I focused on my food.

“What are you guys up to?” Before I could answer Patty was running her mouth.

“Trying to figure out who Nat’s secret admirer is.” Jackson’s eyes saddened.

“Oh. You…you have a secret admirer.” I shrugged and smiled at him.

“No one willing to admit to it. Remember me asking you about that cookie a few weeks ago?” He nodded. “Well I still can’t get anyone to own up to it.”

“Oh.” He said. He knew we could never work, but it obviously still made him sad. He had asked me out multiple times and I had always said no because our personalities clashed so much…or maybe they were too similar. Whatever it was I knew we wouldn’t work. He wasn’t a bad guy, just not right for me. “Well enjoy your lunch.” He said and then walked away again.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who this person was. I even made a chart, a list of people with access to my desk, a list of those whose cubes were directly connected to my desk, and finally a wish list of who I hoped it was. It didn’t do any good, I still had no idea.

One day finally shed all the light I needed. I came into the office, expecting to find my cookie (I had grown quite accustomed to my morning snack), but instead found a different box. I slowly stepped into my cube, hesitant for the first time. Then I realized if someone was going to kill me, I was probably going to die from poison they put in the cookies that I had eaten without a second thought.

I sat down and slowly opened the box. It was a gold necklace with a cookie pendant. The back of the pendant read “A Cookie A Day”. In the bottom of the box was the first note. It brought tears to my eyes.

Miss Natasha,

Thank you for never passing by. Every day you gave me a little hope that one day I could do better. Because of your help, I was able to purchase new clothes, get my haircut, and get a job again. I was surprised to find I work in the same building as the most giving person I’ve ever known. This is not as much as you’ve given me over the years, but I’ve been saving from each paycheck and hopefully you will understand how much you mean to me and what part you had in my ability to get off the streets.

Sincerely,

Josh

I didn’t understand it. I had only given him a few dollars every day. I had sat with him a couple times to learn his story and share a cookie, but never anything that big.

After work I went straight to the bakery, but he wasn’t there. Every day after work I had stopped at this bakery and every day after he had been sitting at the entrance to the alley next to it. I had thought about his absence briefly the first day I noticed he was missing. I had hoped he wasn’t dead, but figured it was more likely he just picked a different place to panhandle.

He wasn’t in his usual spot so I went inside to get my cookie.

“Hey! She’s back.” The owner of the shop said to no one in particular. I laughed and told him why I hadn’t been there in so long. When I asked for my usual, he pointed toward a table and said it was waiting for me. When I turned around I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Josh, but not Josh. He looked years younger without the scraggly beard and mustache, without the extra layers of clothing and dirt. He was wearing a dress shirt and slacks with a fresh haircut and a giant smile on his face holding my cookie of the day.

New Categories!

As I’ve been paying more attention to my tags, I also realized that most of my blog posts were “uncategorized”. I’ve now resolved that issue! I’ve updated the categories on each of my posts so that you can view the same types of posts in one place. If you only want to read my short stories, click here. If you only want to check out my poetic prose, click away! Everyday life has the most posts by far (I guess I like talking about life in general). I also have each of the following categories so far:

Hope you enjoy an easier way of navigating my blog!

(And hopefully more creative updates will be coming in the near future.)

An Offer… If You’re Interested

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed tonight, for the fifth night on a row I am completely uninterested. There isn’t much substance to my Facebook feed. It is mostly made up of my family and a few friends/acquaintances/people I went to school with. I would say 1 out of 100 posts isn’t complete, meaningless clutter (not to say I don’t occasionally contribute to the clutter, but that’s not the point. 😉)

I keep wanting more. I want to do more. I want to help authors and other bloggers. My offer is simple; if you would like promotion and help getting the word out about your upcoming book, latest release, or your most recent blog post, let me know. The only catch: I have to be able to endorse you with a clear conscience. If I’m not feeling the vibe, I won’t support it. 

I will reblog your posts. I’ll share them on social media. If you have a book, I’ll promote it as well. If you have a Facebook page, I’ll like/follow it and share it. I don’t do Twitter (I know, I know… Get with the times) so I won’t be able to help on that platform. If you have a webpage, I will promote that as well.

I have a small audience so I know it’s not all that much to offer, but it’s what I have. I am still trying to figure out a “contact” section so for now just comment on this post and we’ll take it from there. Share this post with other bloggers or authors. I’m not asking for money or for anything in return. I just want to help in any way possible. 

Substance is what I’m after. Substance and a purpose.

Fear Cuts Deaper Than Swords

“Fear cuts deaper than swords…Calm as still water…Strong as a bear…The man who fears losing has already lost.” That’s what Syrio Forel told Ayra during her dancing lessons in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.


On the cusp of a new chapter

On the edge of the cliff

About to take the plunge

The plunge will either kill me or free me

I’m terrified

A montra sounds in my head

Fictious in its origin

Palpable in its truth

I can either attempt to soar

Or fall without spreading my arms

I think that today I would like to learn how to fly

A Father’s Love

He walks through the silent house. The sputter and dripping of the coffee maker the only sound. He’s learned to walk lightly so even his socked feet don’t make a sound or cause the hardwood floor to creak. It’s dark outside, barely 3:30 in the morning. He looks out the large dining room window at his running truck. He sits down and reads his morning magazine. Overdrive, the magazine that covers everything about owning and operating your own truck. 

He sips his coffee as he turns the pages. He doesn’t own this truck, but he’s a researcher. He soaks up information better than a two year old learning the ABC’s. Maybe one day he will own his own truck and his own company. Maybe one day he won’t have to work 14 hour days. The money is much better than what he was making stacking lumber, but he always liked the idea of owning his own company.

He had only attended school until the 8th grade, a long-standing custom among his community. Everything he had learned after that had been up to him. He had drawn information in like a journalist searching for the truth. He wouldn’t say it because he was too humble, but he was incredibly smart. Anyone who talked to him for even a short time could see that.

After his cup is dry, he fills it one more time and caps the mug. He fills a second and a thermos. He goes back into his bedroom and kisses his wife. His lovely, beautiful, supportive wife. The mother of his children. His best friend. She wakes and kisses him back. He kneels beside the bed and they pray together.

They pray for his safety during his drive that day. They pray for her and the kids’ safety as she spends the day homeschooling them and they play outside. They pray for guidance and wisdom. They thank God for all he’s done for them. After the prayer, they kiss again and say I love you.

He makes his way down the hallway to check on the children. They have 4. His son has outgrown the tucking in stage, but he still tells him good night and he loves him every night before bed. His oldest daughters are probably getting close to that age, but they still like it when Daddy tucks them in. He probably has quite a bit of time with the youngest before she grows out of it. He had tucked all 3 of them in the night before and had kissed them on the forehead before saying good night and he loves them.

He peeks into his son’s room to find him sleeping safe and sound. He opens the door to his daughters’ room and chuckles, shaking his head. His two oldest are asleep in their beds, but the youngest is where he’s found her many times before. Her tiny body laying on the floor next to her bed, tangled in her blanket.

He gently picks her up and puts her back in bed. He can’t believe she never wakes up after falling out. She never wakes up as he’s putting her back in bed either. She has no idea how many times he’s done it and she won’t know until she is grown and he’ll never have the chance to do it again.

He packs his lunch into his lunchbox, grabs his obsurd, but necessary, amount of coffee and heads out to the running truck. He breathes in the smell of diesel in the morning and, after placing his items in the cab, begins his morning checklist. He’ll be gone by 4. He’ll watch the sun come up and, during the winter, watch it start to go down again. They are long hours, but his family is worth it.

Silent Tears

I bring it up while we talk of RAM.

It’s a light conversation.

I should be able to say it without a lump in my throat.

I’m really nervous about going under.

As the words come out, the lump rises.

Hun, it’s probably not even that bad.

He continues to work.

I know, just a small incision here, but the memories…

I trail off because the tears have come.

He sits next to me and listens.

Through my silent tears, I tell him my fears.

Through my silent tears, he reassures me.

I’m scared, I tell him on hitched breath.

You’ll be fine, he tells me softly.

I know I’ll be fine, but the past haunts me still.

I’ll be right there with you, to hold your hand.

I need you there to hold my hand.

A gentle hand wipes another fallen tear.

You’ll have me there and it will all be over quickly.

He holds me close and kisses my forehead.

A jest is made and a smile breaks through the tears.

He is my love.

He is my rock.

He takes silent tears and turns them into laughter.

He is everything I need in this world.

The silent tears are gone.

A smile and security replace them.

The Hesitation Before Clicking Submit

I submitted yet another short story to Chicken Soup for the Soul. This one was for their potential Positively Happy! book. Even though I think it’s a good story and my husband (who is mercilessly honest with me – so no worry of bias) agreed (after I made a few changes), I still hesitated before clicking submit. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s that I’m afraid I won’t be published and it will be confirmation that my writing is complete crap. Maybe it’s also the weight of knowing, if this story does get published, it will be confirmation that this is what I’m meant for and this is what I should be doing.

I don’t think I included the link in my last submission post and it may be dumb to give even more people the chance to beat me out with their amazing writing, but if you’re interested, I’ve included a link below that will take you to Chicken Soup for the Soul’s submission information.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Topics and Requirements

Good luck! And if you do submit or even get published, make sure to stop back and comment to let me know. We’re all in this together, right? Writer’s Unite! 🙂

Another Milestone

As small as the milestone may seem, I always like to take a moment to post about it.

Thank you! From the bottom of my heart, thank you! There are some days when I feel my writing is complete trash. On days like that, I try to remind myself that I have 142 followers (this number has increased greatly from the start of the year) and that is a sign that I must be doing something right.

Since I’ve been posting regularly at the beginning of 2017, I’ve gained 44 new followers. It took me almost 5 years to reach the 100 mark and now that I’ve taken it more seriously, it would seem other bloggers are taking me more seriously as well.

Your support means a lot to me. There are a few bloggers who I’ve noticed repeatedly stop by to view and like my posts. So I’m going to give them a shout out because I do pay attention to that kind of stuff.

The first is normabobb. This blog is a treasure! The posts are short so if you are looking for some quick inspiration, this is the spot for you. Normabobb – Thank you so much for your continued support. Your name is one that has consistently popped up in my likes.

Simoneteffect is another blog if you aren’t looking for a long story. The images are captivating. They follow the author’s journeys and tell a long-term story. Thank you Simoneteffect for following and liking my posts!

Jonathan Caswell is very involved in the blogging community. His blog By the Mighty Mumford contains many reblogs and also real, honest posts of his own life and experiences. Thank you for the reblog Jonathan and for always capturing my attention with your posts!

Darkness76 – If I remember correctly, you’ve been liking my posts for quite some time now and it means a lot to me. Darkness76 is a deep, interesting blog. The writing style is honest and beautiful. If you get a chance, definitely check it out!

My next shout out goes to Cristian Mihai. Not only does Cristian support other bloggers, he manages his own blog as well as publishing books. If you get a chance, check out his book 2:22 AM. Thank you Cristian for your continued support!

Maitreyi Mittal is another regular supporter of my posts. First of all – Thank you for your support! As I’m showing in this post, it really does mean a lot to me. I think the first line of her welcome page really captures the essence of her blog. It states that her blog captures “snippets from her life in poetry, prose, photography and the like”. If you get a chance, make sure to check out yet another great blog.

To everyone else that I may have missed – thank you so much for your support. I write my posts mainly for me, but to know someone out there is enjoying them helps it mean more.

What Is My Blog?

I’ve been reading a lot of articles and advice on wiring lately. Well not a lot…a ton. So much that I don’t do many of things I used to do (like browse Facebook or Pinterest every day). I’m investing my time and energy into my passion instead of investing it in what Gina ate for dinner or the latest memes rolling into Pinterest.

This researching and time investment has me questioning the existence of my blog. I obviously will not be closing it any time soon. Look at the name of it – An Attempt At Release. I NEED my blog in order to stay sane. I tend to bottle things up and then let them explode when the pressure gets too high. My blog helps keep those pressure levels lower.

I guess what I’ve really been questioning is the structure of my blog. I’ve been reading a lot of different people saying the same things:

  1. Post on a regular schedule (your readers should know when to expect your next post).
  2. Keep your posts on topic (or in other words, create a theme and stick to it).
  3. Choose a writing style that works and stick to it.
  4. Make sure there is a contact section (people need to know how to get ahold of you).

I don’t think I’ve ever adhered to number 1. I work at least 40 hours a week and am going to school full-time so some days I’m just too burnt out to write. I post mostly in the morning, but sometimes I post late at night (like tonight). I was doing really good with posting almost every day until school got into the more intense courses and I started researching the world of serious writers. It’s true I don’t have a ton of readers, but doesn’t the slight unpredictability of my blog make it more honest because it fits into my lifestyle? Or should I try even harder to stick to a schedule because that’s what people are saying should be done?

My posts are EVERYWHERE! Topic? What’s that? In the last month I’ve written about a somewhat demonic soul sucker (Daemon), my real-life story submission (My First Submission), the love between two friends (To Meet Again), and a poem type post about researching my craft (Into the Deep). I’ve even done posts about cooking (Broccoli, Chicken, & Rice). I like the freedom my blog offers me. It’s my blog. It’s my release from the world. Should I try and stick to a stricter guide for my new posts just because that’s the advice I’m hearing?

As for writing style… Again, when I have ever stuck to one writing style? I traverse between my experiences through poetry (Pain of Betrayal), a story about a grieving woman (Cracked & Faded), a book review (Orange is the New Black – A Review) and on to the ramblings of my mind (Help Me). I don’t know what works best. I don’t know what people like more. I like to do them all and so that’s what I do. Should I compromise just to try and follow the “rules” that worked for someone else?

I can’t argue with number 4. That is probably something I should provide. Maybe that will be my next project. I call it a project because I honestly don’t know how hard or how easy it is to create a contact form on my blog.

If nothing else, my blog is honest. This is me. All the crazy sides. All the ramblings. This is what you get. Me.

Am I stupid for not at least trying out the advice? Probably. But we’ll see where my own style takes me.