NYC Midnight – Flash Fiction Challenge #1

I am a sucker for competition, especially in regards to trying to prove my intellect or skill. When it comes to writing contests, there is no other drug I would choose. I love the stress and panic that comes with the possibility of winning. The awards given would prove, once and for all, that I was worth-while and had talent. However, only until recently have I even received any kind of recognition.

As I’ve mentioned before, I won third place for my column “Gay Agenda” in the Renegade Rip.  That award gave me so much self-worth I didn’t know what to do with it or myself.

When the chance to compete in the “NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge” arose I had to enter. Sure it cost me $50, but it guaranteed two of my stories would be read and critiqued by the judges; and it entered me into a chance at winning a cash prize.

The idea behind the contest is that the entrant is put into a group of around 30 people, and in that group each person has to write a 1,000 word story in a specific genre, that takes place at a designated location and must include a single item. Whether the item is crucial to the plot is up to the writer. For the first challenge, I was given the genre of Sci-Fi. My location was “a man-made island” and the item to be included somewhere in the story was “a skeleton.”  I have included it below so that people could read it. Followed immediately after is the feedback I received, and I have to say I agree with everything noted, with the exception of one.

Without further ado, here is my first entry into the flash fiction competition, brought to you by NYC Midnight Madness. I placed 13th out of 15 spots, in a group of 31 contestants.

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SCHIFF’S ISLAND

Darris Shiff stood on the shore of his newly formed island with his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes bounced from one aluminum robo-mech to the next as they bustled about the land mass spreading like a bubble across the surface of the ocean. 

“What do you think?” he said, gesturing with both arms to the scene. 

The young woman with chestnut skin glanced around at the construction with a blank expression. 

“I imagine the Terrestrial Brethren will be pleased.”  

“Good. All it took were a few quadrillion global credits, and here I stand on the precipice of a new age, away from the stench of poverty and war.”  

The young woman licked her lips, turned, and walked to the small table that had been set up for the meeting. A large blue and green hologram spun counterclockwise at the center, with a series of dots typing out flags of data. The sound of the robo-mechs and the waves lapping at the shore dulled the sound of the robotic voice reading each tag. 

“Your assistant informed me that the expected completion date is two weeks from now. That will not sit well with the Brethren. ” 

Schiff sighed, “No, it won’t, but you can’t rush progress. So, it will have to do. Most of the heat and salty ocean air has had a hand in the destruction of the majority of my mechs.” 

“And yet you persist.” 

Schiff turned to her with a broad grin. 

“One does what they must to survive.” 

The woman circled the table and examined the hologram. The grid of illuminated digital lines formed the peak of a single mountain rising like a beak from the tropical foliage and numerous buildings, turrets, and barriers surrounding its base. 

“I could survive here,” she said.  

Darris walked to the table and pressed a single button on the panel at its side. The hologram flickered away.  

“When can we expect them? I am ready for the Dalian Eclipse.” 

The woman smirked. “Are you so certain of that?” 

“Who are you to-” started Schiff, but the loud hum of an approaching ship cut through his response.  

The two looked up toward the sound to see a hover yacht emerged from the dense fog that circled the island. A long, red flag trailed from the rear to signal their station and identity. 

“Finally,” Schiff said. 

The woman narrowed her green eyes at the back of Darris’ head. 

The leisure cruiser pulled close to the island and dropped anchor only a few meters from where the two stood. A shimmering electron gangplank birthed forth from its side and rested at the edge of the shore, as a group of five men in billowing gold garments stepped to the edge of the craft. 

Schiff rushed forward and took his spot at the end of the walkway, as he tugged, tucked, and pressed his clothes to impress. 

“It is a pleasure to meet with you, gentlemen,” Schiff said, with half a bow. “Welcome to my island.” 

The man at the head of the group, with a gaunt face and a hooked nose, pursed his lips together and nodded. 

“Indeed, Mr. Schiff.”  

The men stepped around their host and walked onto the shore. 

“As you can see, everything is coming along nicely. I have developed the technology to build new lands, away from the coppers, for those willing to pay the price.” 

The five men moved about and appraised the scene before them like a flock of birds. 

“Pay?” one of the five said. “Hopefully, that does not include us. Considering what we’re offering you.” 

“Of course not, gentlemen.” 

The men chittered their approval. 

Schiff stepped next to the table and ignited the hologram.  

“As you can see the look of the finished product. We have all the amenities to protect us from pirates and the poor.” 

The Brethren circled the display and gestured to each of the features with their commentary. 

“You’ve done well. A man with your talents deserves what the Brethren offer.” 

Schiff moved to speak, but his voice escaped him. Instead, his jaw opened and closed like the limbs of one of his malfunctioning robo-mechs. 

“Provided you guarantee our own private property in this ocean world, you can join the brotherhood and live forever, like us.” 

Schiff nodded. 

The man with the hooked nose grinned and pulled from a pocket a clear plastic box that contained a single squirming creature that resembled a grub. 

Darris’ hands shook as he lifted them to grab his prize. For so long he had heard the rumors of what it took to be a Brethren, but he had never believed it until the leader placed it in his open palm. 

“Thank you.” 

The growl of an engine drew the attention of everyone gathered on the beach to the ship that exploded from the fog flying a tattered acid-green flag, adorned with the skeleton of a shark. 

“Pirates!” One of the men shrieked, sending the brethren into a panic. 

The young woman seized her moment. With moves as quick as lightning, she pulled a pistol from her boot and shot a single bolt at the gangplank where it short-circuited the walkway, trapping the men on the island. 

“You’re not going anywhere.”  

“We will give you money!” one of them shrieked. 

The young woman sneered. 

“I don’t want your filthy credits.”  

The young woman fired a charged bolt into each of the Brethren’s heads and stopped when she came to Darris. 

Schiff dropped to his knees, with the box still clutched in his hands. 

“Why are you doing this?”  

“One must do what it takes to survive,” the woman said. “And the world without your kind is better off.” 

Schiff glanced from his captor to the dead men on the ground, to the Kubuli in his hands. 

“Thank you for building us a beautiful new world.” 

With one final bullet, the Brethren were no more. 

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JUDGES’ FEEDBACK:

{1751} I truly appreciated the revenge that the young woman takes on the people who would obviously have only used the newly invented land to serve themselves (because that’s what they do best).  {1739}  Schiff’s struggle to join a secret society is intriguing. The tech that he has developed to prove himself, makes him a sympathetic character.  {1743}  This is quite a taut and penetrating flash science fiction.  The slam bang ending is a working hologram itself, italicized with a “Kabuli.”  That pirate ship bursting through fog, flying its shark flag is a real keeper.  Fine piece of writing, this.  WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1751}  It seems astounding to me that the men who have such power and wealth would have no bodyguards and only one ship on and off the island; you might improve the story if the young woman had disabled even more obstacles, such as bodyguards or more ships, as it might make her victory seem less miraculous and more plausible. However, this is only a suggestion.  {1739}  The story really begins once the Brethren arrive. Consider truncating the opening sequence. Nothing is written that makes the Brethren or Schiff bad people. They all seem to be pretty hard working folks. Schiff mentions that steps are taken to protect against pirates, yet his facility is immediately overrun. This is a big conflict.  {1743}  An em dash is rendered as: –.

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A Promise to a Life of Action

I need to get back in the habit of writing. The idea of having this site is two-fold: one, it’s a way for me to continue my column from the Renegade Rip as I have timed out my time in the class (the KCCD deemed that it was inappropriate to repeat courses for funsies); and two, because I want to be a writer more than anything and most literary agents, I have read, want the author to already have some sort of platform built. The second one annoys me, but it’s all in an effort to play the game and I refuse to do self-publishing. I don’t mean to insult anyone who has gone that route, I just know that I am a lazy self-promoter (at best) and peddling my own wares (which I paid for) is not in my wheel-house.

There is also a third thing, but it has more weight and can’t really be lumped in with the other two. (The reason why has escaped me. Maybe it’s because I miscalculated my reasons and instead am sticking to my guns refusing to re-write.) The thing that keeps me coming back is because this bitch has to write.

I don’t know what it is but I have to put my words out there. Whether it be a story or my own personal thoughts doesn’t matter. As long as I am putting my mental musings into the world I am happy. I find excitement and worth. To not do such things leaves me feeling jaded. I suppose it’s my own form of therapy.

What is strange about this notion is that while I know how much I love it and truly do enjoy the task more than eating French fries (and this bitch loves him some French fries) I make all the excuses in the world to not put pen to paper. Or in this case, fingertips to keys. I say, I’m too busy, or that my husband would be upset if I stowed away into the office to write. Sometimes it’s just that I am tired and don’t want to. But, not writing kills me and, also, not doing it keeps me rooted to the spot. (In both my life ambition and self-care.)

That is why I have chosen to promise myself, and to the select few that traverse this site, to deliver some sort of content on every Friday. There is no excuse for me not to do it, truly. I have the wordpress app on my phone and can even write a tiny blurb on the run. I just don’t want to continue this life of nothingness, where all I do is work and sleep and work and sleep. I get nowhere and do nothing. I want to live. And living involves action.

I was reminded of this fact the other day when a friend of mine, a mentor, quoted one of my most favorite movies to me. “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” It’s one of the most quotable lines from the Shawshank Redemption. (Which is easily one of my top 5 films.) In the past I never paid it any mind because I only took it into the context of the film, where Andy has had enough of his prison life. With it taken out of the scene and just read to me, and forgetting where, how and why it was said, it’s really some great advice for life. Life is meant to be lived, however that may be. For me it’s a need to be heard, to be understood. It drives me and pushes me to a reality I long for.

So stay tuned. I don’t know what I will write, I just know that it will be something, and I will try to make it my best. Maybe one day something will come of it, and maybe something won’t. But the only terrible thing I could imagine is looking back on a long life and feeling as though I have not lived.

P.S.
As of late, I have returned to the first draft of my first completed manuscript to start the process of spit and polish. I am trying to stay strong as I sit there and attempt to pick it apart, because after all it is a FIRST DRAFT and is filled with holes, splinters, and rough edges. For a short while I wasn’t sure that it would be this particular manuscript to pick back-up, but seeing as how it has a gay protagonist in a real world fantasy realm, and I did win an award for my column about gay life, it only seems right to begin here.

Hello, Writing, My Old Friend

I have missed writing. A lot. It was something I have turned to time and time again because I have this need to emote every thought and the written word is my medium of choice. In the past it has been acting or “singing” (it’s in quotes because whether I can carry a tune is debatable) but writing has always been a constant. Ever since I was a little kid I have wanted to be a writer. And to be a “writer” one has to write, so why have I been so lazy about it?

I am in a constant battle with myself over whether my anti-depressants are necessary or not. While at times they seem mandatory, there are others where it feels like in the end all they do is turn me into a zombie. I have no emotion and the things I tend to feel passion for or about dissipates and I am left with apathy. I hate it. But I have read that it is the “emotional rollercoaster” that those who suffer from depression or bipolar disorder like. They like the crazy manic mood swings that typically accompany the disorders. And I may just be another statistic in that regards.

One of the biggest reasons I hate taking my meds is that I will literally be in the midst of writing, because it has called upon me, and for whatever reason the action hasn’t held my attention or I lose interest the in the thing that was ushering me to the task. So I inevitably hit “save as draft” and it sits in my blog forever unpublished because it’s unfinished. I hate that with every fiber of my being, because in my mind and in my heart I feel like this medication is taking away my personality and my voice.

However, the dark reality is that at times I need them. My emotions become to overpowering that I end up making irrational choices that from a distance are totally out of character and detrimental to my health. So it is that fear which keeps me tied to this prescription.

This never-ending battle has grown in fervor recently because of a particular episode of the “Well Red” podcast. It is episode 15 if you’re interested, which discusses the idea of dreams and dealing with the reality of achieving them. Everything they said I agreed with, which happens quite frequently with me and audio show. At one time I may not have, as I was an artistic dreamer that didn’t see the forest for the trees. Everything was possible as long as I “believed.” My husband comes along and straps blocks to my balloon. Now, that sounds harsh, and it is, but I needed it. He pushed me to think about what I wanted realistically and to not be the “head in the clouds” kind of person. At one time I resented him for it but now I love him more because of his ability to be honest with me. He wasn’t saying I couldn’t do it, he was just giving me a healthy dose of the reality that it may not happen and if it doesn’t to not be destroyed because of that “failure.” (I don’t want to use failure in this instance, but until my mind comes up with another more appropriate one it will have to stay.)

If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to that podcast, do yourself a favor and do it now. These gents are super intelligent and such advocates for the gay community. I couldn’t love them more than I do, without knowing them personally. I’ve been binge listening to the whole series thus far and have only come across 1 episode I didn’t like and that was because the person they were interviewing reminded me of a toxic individual I removed from my life. Other than that… they’re hilarious and I could listen to them all day, and have.

Listening to Trae’s story about holding a job during the day and doing stand-up at night, with kids, has reminded me that it is possible to try. Success, however, is all about luck and timing. And that won’t happen if I don’t keep at it or even make an attempt. And this show has reignited that spark in me.

Writing has taken a backseat lately because of my pills, as previously mentioned, but also because of my obligation to complete my appraisal courses and working to get my AA in journalism from my local college. Something had to give and it was writing blogs or working on my novel. But… as of last Monday I have completed my appraisal courses and can now get my license.

It’s funny, the first thought I had after passing my course (other than immense relief and the want to break down crying) was that I can finally get back to working on my novel. And I mean, immediately after. I was walking away from the testing center when it came rushing to my mind.

It warms my heart to know that no matter how much time passes or what obligations get in the way, the thing I return to time and again is writing. If only I could figure out this pill situation…

Five Simple Rules

In typical pattern, as winter slowly changes into spring I myself am going through my own transition.  It may be because I have grown-up some, being almost thirty, or I am just longing for a purpose.  Right now, I lack any real directive.  Instead, I waste my time on events and relationships that go absolutely nowhere.  I want to be established.  I want to have a career.  I want a goal!

The other day I had decided to delve further into my novel.  I want it to submerge me.  When I was younger I’d become so engrossed in my own creativity that nothing else mattered.  That is the place I long to return too.  Maybe then it will inspire a goal.

I made the decision to post one of my novels on Watt Pad and see what kind of response it gets.  And because I am a perfectionist I have been going through and revising it to be viewable by another pair of eyes besides my own.  Although, I am questioning whether I want to post my novel there since my niece informed me last night that plagiarism is a huge problem on the website and creates a good amount of drama.  That makes me uneasy, as I am already paranoid about people stealing my work that is not accessible for the whole world to see.  I go so far as to shred any page of my book I print out and no longer need.  Yet even with that fear, I find myself driven to create a “platform.”

“Platform” is the buzzword I keep running across in blogs, articles, or books about writing and getting agents.  Literary agents want the writer to have done most of the legwork building an audience through social media or blog posts.  That is a lot of pressure.  While it is not mandatory, it is preferred.  Therein lays my desire to publish my novel online.  (Well, that and I am looking for validation.)

Being an artist is tough.  Until one’s art is complete, he must live inside his own head and judge his talent on his own.  There is a lot of doubt and fear that comes with that kind of responsibility.  I think that may be why so many people never finish what they start.  The inner critic just kills any beauty that may blossom from one’s creative mind.  In an effort to combat that, I have created my own rules of writing.

1 – Throw all the paint on the canvas as quick as you can.

2 – Take your time editing and refining the details.

3 – Trust your gut!

4 – Don’t take criticism personally.

5 – Always finish what you start.

Dear John

A year of writing prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit
January 22
Write a ‘dear john’ letter to your writer’s block.

Dear Writer’s Block

After our many good years together it’s time we see other people. As people tend to do they mature, grow, and want other things from life and I am no different. You are an infantile boob that has stood in the way of my ambitions for too long. I had kindly tolerated it because it was cute but it has grown tiresome.

I could tell you that it’s me and not you, but why lie. We both know it’s equally our fault. You woo me with your lies and I fall for it every time. This time I have learned.

If you were someone to care about anyone but yourself I would say, “don’t you want me to be happy?” “Don’t you want me to succeed?” The reality is you do not. You really, really, don’t.

For the past two years you have stood in the way of me finishing my book. I’ve given all the excuse that it’s been your fault but the blame comes mainly on my shoulders. I let you.

In time or no time at all you will find some other foolish person that will tolerate your hijinks. But it will not be with me.

Farewell.

To my grandmother…

A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit

January 16

“You are given the opportunity to talk to one dead person and tell him/her one thing that you didn’t get to before they passed away. Who would you pick and what would you tell him/her?”

I have to say that I am blessed. Death is something I am not familiar with. At least, not when it comes to someone that is close to me. Sure, I have had the distant relative that I saw on an occasional Christmas or family reunion pass, but no one that was part of my every day. That being said my pool to pull from is rather small. Yet it doesn’t diminish the weight of my choice. If I wanted, I could choose from a dead celebrity who affected my life in a way that they will never understand, but has deep emotional meaning for me. (I’m thinking of C.S. Lewis by the way. If you were wondering.)

If I could talk to one person that has died it would be my grandmother. She lived with my parents and me for a good portion of my life. As I got older I started to be very disrespectful. My parents were good parents but a little lax and my grandmother would step in to take up the slack. She was never one for sitting idle. She bustled around the house, cleaning my clothes, and reminding me to do my homework.  We both shared a love of the TV show The Golden Girls and every time I watch it I think of her.

It’s strange the things one remembers.  For instance, the last thing you ever say to someone will live with you forever.  (So make it good. ) I deeply loathe the last thing I ever said to my grandmother. “Do you want the TV on or off?” It was so cold.  So empty.  Absolutely worthless words.  What’s worse is, she hadn’t been feeling well ever since her surgery, and instead of asking how she felt or spend any time with her I went to bed after my question.

At the time I had been working nightshifts at Best Buy, helping with the store remodel. It was good in the sense that I made a ton of money, but it destroyed any kind of living.  I was awake long enough to work and when I got home I slept the entire day. It was a temporary thing, but horrible while it lasted.

On the last night of my over-night shifts my grandmother died. My mother had telephoned while I was working and left me a vague voicemail.  It’s still a mystery to me why I never called her back, instead of just rushing to the house. Instead I did 65 on city streets until I pulled into the driveway. I’m certain that, in my heart, I already knew what had happened. Come to think of it, I had started to cry before I even knew for sure.

When I got home there were unfamiliar cars in the driveway. My heart began to go even faster. I could just feel it. I walked into a silent house.  A small gathering of people had congregated in the family room.  Then my mother told me the news.  I wept and crumpled to the floor. It is the first and only time (so far) that I lost someone I really loved.

More than anything, if I could talk to her I would say that I’m sorry for how I treated her. Like I said, as I got older I started to rebel against her parenting. I got to be a dick and I regret that more than anything. More than our final, hallow, conversation.  I wish I had said more to her before she died. I wish I could have told her that I did love her, very much. She had such a profound impact on my life.  It’s because of her that I love to read, play cards, watch the tv show The Waltons. She was the first person to know that I wanted to be a writer. My grandmother read all of my stories and would tell me each time how good they were, even when they were most certainly not. I promised myself that if I ever had a book published I would dedicate it to her. Although, as of late, the project that has been begging to be finished (and very nearly is) would be something she would not read. I don’t think my Southern Baptist grandmother would really approve of a book about a gay boy who gets dumped and then grows wings. At least, one of the chapters she would just skip all together because of its explicit content.

I’ve heard some before me say that they wish they had told their loved one that had died who they truly were.  I never got to say it, but I’m pretty sure she had a hunch.  The woman’s room was right next to mine and I had a habit of talking late into the night to my husband on my cell phone.  It’s strange to me that my husband even got to meet her once.  He attended my high school graduation and unknowingly sat behind my parents.

My heart tells me she would have loved Charlie.  To see how my parents love him…  It shows me how powerful love is.

Ancient Letters

This story is drawn from my own experience.  Back when my husband was getting his business started I did indeed accompany him to one of his bids in Oakland at this beautiful old house.  And I did go snooping through every drawer and closet, eventually happening upon these letters in the exact spot described.  As of this moment I have not read them because they are in French and I can neither read nor speak the language.  In addition, I do not know anyone who can and even if I did I have no idea where they have been put.  I tend to do this thing of hiding certain items to “keep them safe” and in the end just keep them from myself.

A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit

January 15

“She’d Pass him the note years ago, when he was studying abroad. He’d never had it translated. Until now.”

The house sat on the edge of a hill, built somewhere at the turn of the century, with a mission style theme. Over the years in the wet Oakland weather it slowly but surely began to sink. Many attempts were made to level it, but none were successful. Eventually it was purchased by a modern family who raised a family in it and began decorating it to change with the times. Somewhere in the 60’s dark brown wood paneling was placed over the fireplace, which had begun to crack due to sinking, and curtains were hung between rooms to give them more definition. The drapes were thick cotton, with swirling patterns embroidered from seam to seam, and dyed a wretched pea soup green.

Soon the family began to age. The boys went off to college and the husband doted ever more on his wife. She had begun to grow weak and making it up the four steps to their bedroom was becoming a bothersome chore. Before long she just slept on the couch. Her husband sitting in the chair next to her. The position kinked his back (and would be thecause of his later hunch) but he would have been nowhere else.

Finally the man and wife died only moments apart. They left the house to their sons who couldn’t find the time to go in and sort out their things. Nor could they be bothered to make the payments. The house fell into the hands of the bank, who sent in men to clean out the house. These day hires stormed every inch of the home and rid it of any sign it had ever been lived in. Once the real estate agent in charge of the property signed off on their clean-up they sent in the contractor.

“So the job is all the way in Oakland?” Josh asked.

“Yeah, both of them.”

The two men sat in the white pick-up truck, towing a trailer they had rented from U-Haul. Their two dogs, Klause and Sadie, a german shepard and a lachschund, panted excitedly in the small space behind the bench seat.

“If I get these jobs then it could open up a whole new world for Cline Home Improvement.”

Josh looked at his boyfriend, his eyes wide and his mouth stretched into an uncomfortable smile.

The two had spent the last couple years trying to get the company up off the ground. This was a whole new world. And with the pending jobs it would mean that they would be a real business.

They pulled in front of this sinking house, as the sun was setting behind it into the sea. They walked inside and Josh was taken by the view that stretched out before him.

“You can almost see San Francisco from here,” Josh exclaimed.

The dogs scurried excitedly through the house, sniffing every crevasse.

Charlie stepped next to him.

“It sure is gorgeous.” He paused. “God I’d love to live in the bay area.”

“In this house!”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

Charlie began his inspection, making notes on a yellow legal pad. Josh on the other hand went snooping through the house for lost or forgotten treasures with the dogs.

“What’re you doing,” Charlie called, “Come here.”

Josh scrambled up the narrow staircase that lad to a room downstairs.

He emerged into the entry hallway and turned to look into the living room with the view.

“Yeah?”

“Help me remove this,” Charlie said, pointing to the wooden casing around the fire.

“Why do we need to do that?”

Josh stepped to the other side of the fireplace and waited, while charlie used a crowbar to pry it away from the wall.

“There is foundation damage and the realtor told me she thinks that it might have caused some structure damage. So I want to make sure the fireplace is okay.”

Charlie dropped the crowbar to the hardwood floor, it landed with a hallow thud.

“Just pull and lower it slowly. With me.”

The two men heaved and lowered it gently, but on the way the mirror that had been placed in it cracked.

“That’s not good,” josh said, looking at it.

“Oh well.”

Charlie examined the fireplace on either side and in the hearth. He made a note on the pad and turned to continue his inspection.

Josh on the other hand looked into the alcove that had been put above the fireplace. It was even equipped with a socket. He went up and touched the shelf and found a worn stac of letters, tied with a silk pink bow.

“Oh my god, Charlie,” Josh said, “I found some old letters.”

“Neat.”

Josh turned the bundle around to find a date. The penmanship was exquisite with sharp loops, all squashed together. Up in the right corner of one of the letters was the date written in French with the year 1920.

“You’re not going to believe how old these are.”

Josh rushed over to charlie and showed him the year.

“Wow.”

Josh ignored his lack of enthusiasm and instead focused only on the letters.

“I wonder what they say. Do we know anyone who speaks French?”

“Nope.”

Josh pulled out his phone and facebooked a status explaining his incredible find, asking for anyone that could read it. Within minutes it got four “likes,” but no offers to help.

The boy groaned and turned the letters over and over in his hand.

“I wonder why they put them here. This would make a great story.”

“Well why don’t you write it. You say you’re a writer.”

“I don’t know what I would say about it.”

Charlie finished his inspection and the two men, with their dogs, piled into their truck and headed for the next job site.

That night Josh’s cousin posted a comment on the thread with an offer to read the letters and translate. As luck would have it, she happened to live in the Bay Area.

“We have to go!” Josh said excitedly.

Leaving the dogs behind at the vacant house, the two men drove across two bridges into San Francisco to meet Josh’s cousin Alis at Vesuvio’s for a drink.

Veusvio’s was an old two-story dive. The likes of Jack Kerouac could have been found here back in the day. Some say he even wrote a few of his stories in the bar.

“Hey cousin,” Alis said, as she rushed in for a hug.

“No time to waste.” Josh said, excited. He produced the letters from the front pouch of his pull-over hoody.

“Someone’s excited,” she said.

“Are you kidding? How many times does someone find something extroadinary like this?”

Alis laughed and smacked a kiss on her cousin’s cheek, leaving a pair of ruby red lip prints.

The three climbed the narrow stairs to the second floor and took up a table by the window, above the entrance. While Alis read, her lips moving with her eyes, the two watched the people pass on the sidewalk.

“This place is great,” charlie said. “If we lived in the city would this be the place you came to write?”

Josh looked around at the growing number of hipster patrons and rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, no.”

“This is beautiful,” Alis said.

She lowered the letters to the table and pressed them flat with her hands.

“These are letters to a woman named Emily, from a man named Rene. They had met in Paris while she was travelling abroad and he was supposed to come over on the Titanic to meet her.”

“Are you kidding me?” Josh bounced in his seat.

“Yes,” Alis said.

“That’s not very nice.”

“It’s great.” Charlie said with a wicked grin.

“Really,” Josh leaned forward, “What does it say?”

Alis glanced over the letters once more.

“They’re letters from family. The woman they are addressed to is named Emily. Rene is her father, or at least that is what I gather. He is pleading with her to forgive him for what he had said in their fight.

“He begs her to come home. With each letter he pleads even more until the last one where he wishes her the best.”

“That’s fantastic!” Josh said, “Sad, but fantastic.”

“You should try and find the family that owned them.” Alis said.

“And give these up? Hell no.” josh said, “I may use them in a story one day.”