The Tenth of June (a poem)

The feeder rocks back and forth,
propelled by a departing Cardinal,
bits of seed dropping to the ground.

Skittish and afraid they are,
of the world around them.
What concerns do they carry?

Scratching at the screens,
jaws chittering, sit the cats,
eyes wide with anticipation.

Fear of the unknown,
But no realization of safety,
keeps happiness at bay.

A Rock in the Pond

Kip lay in bed, eyes closed, as his mind ran in circles. One more day to the homecoming game, meant one more day to impress the college scouts. Football plays and lingo rolled around in his head, defying his attempts to fall asleep. He needed rest, but it wouldn’t come. Voices carried from the darkness, adding to the noisy chorus already ringing in his brain.

“Kip! Kip!”

He jerked awake to find Megan shaking him. “What is it?”

“Someone’s at the front door.”

Thumping and banging echoed through the walls of the house. “What the hell?”

With a groan, he stumbled upright and found his way down the stairs. The front door shook violently. With barely contained annoyance, Kip pulled a door curtain aside, and found his uncle, Sid Luckett, dressed in full police uniform.  He looked angry.

Oh great, what does he want? Kip pulled the latch and opened the door.

“About time you answered,” Sid groused. “Come with me.”

“Why?” Kip barked back. Sid acted too much like his dad for him to willingly follow his lead.

“I need your help with Josh,” Sid said, then started walking toward the police cruiser in the driveway.

Kip started to swear, but realized Megan stood behind him, peeking through the open doorway. He spoke over his shoulder, “Megs, go to your room. I have to help Uncle Sid with Dad.”

“Is Dad okay?” she asked quietly.

“Who cares,” he snapped, but instantly regretted it. She sniffled.  He turned and waved her back. “Go on, you don’t want to see him like this. No one does.”

She headed upstairs. Kip walked to Sid’s cruiser where Josh lay sprawled across the back seat. He grabbed hold of an arm and a leg, and with Sid’s help, they carried Josh up the steps and through the front door. Once inside, they dropped the inert form onto the couch. The man lay flat on his back, mouth agape, emitting chest rattling snores.

Kip stared at his disappointment of a father. “Where did you find him?”

“He was in his truck on North Street.”

“Sweet Jesus, was he driving drunk?”

“Actually, no. Someone was driving him home.”

“Good thing, he’d have killed someone driving like this.”

“Yeah, I just can’t believe some underage kid was trying to drive him home.”

Kip stared at Sid. “Say again?”

“Yeah, strangest thing. I pulled Josh’s truck over, because I thought he was driving drunk, but instead I find this seventeen-year-old kid sitting in the driver’s seat.”

“Who was it?”

“Beats me,” Sid said. But then he remembered, “Oh yeah, his name was Jonathan something.”

Kip swallowed and looked back at his father. What gives with this Jonathan kid? This was the second time in the last day he’d been involved with their family.

“Well,” Sid said. “I’d better be going, my shift isn’t over for at least a couple of hours.” He looked at his brother-in-law. “At least Josh is home safe.” He turned to leave.

A wave of heat shot through Kip, as anger dripped off his words, “Oh great, the drunk is home.  No one will be safe when he wakes up.”

Sid whipped around and shook a finger in his face. “Don’t judge the man! He made a mistake, and he’s had to deal with it ever since.”

Kip stepped closer, until just inches away from Sid’s face. “Deal with it? He gets drunk every night, and terrorizes his family when he’s sober.”

“He’s your father Kip.”

He’s a useless pile of shit. “You’re his brother-in-law, why don’t you say something to him?”

Sid blinked and stepped back. With a glance at the floor, he spoke, “He’ll be all right.” He turned and let himself out, and the door swung shut with a bang.

Fucking coward.

His father rolled over and started mumbling. Kip looked at him. “I never saw her … I never saw her …” Josh muttered into the couch cushions.

Kip turned away and shut off the light.  His dad disappeared into the darkness, with only the presence of a recurring nightmare to keep him company.

Bitterness followed Kip as he climbed the stairs. It had been almost a year since his father had nearly killed a man in a bar fight. After avoiding prison time on a technicality, he’d ended up paying a hefty fine, which took every available dime the Lawrence’s had, including Kip and Megan’s college funds. What little they had left continued to support the newest addition to the family, Josh’s drinking habit.

At the top of the stairs, he found Megan staring down into the darkness of the foyer. She chewed on the tip of her thumb, the way she did as a baby. It almost looked like she was sucking it. She turned and looked at him.  In her blue eyes, he saw not the usual iciness, but the fragile surface of a pond, into which a single stone could cause a mighty ripple.

“Is he okay?” she asked, voice wavering.

“Yeah,” he said. “He just needs to sleep it off. Go back to sleep, everything will be better in the morning.” She turned away and slipped into her room.

He hated lying like this.  Worse, the more he did it, the easier it became.  Not because he was trying to deceive, but because no one wanted to deal with the truth. Josh Lawrence was a sick man, pulling his family into the abyss into which he had fallen. Kip wasn’t sure what was worse, that that no one wanted to do a damned thing about it, or that he no longer cared either.

So he crawled into bed, and once more waited for the cacophony of noise in his head to begin.  Even if it did keep him awake, at least the racket drowned the drunken snores of a father who had abdicated his role of as parent and protector, by surrendering to the dark embrace of his guilt and the siren song of the bottle.

Ogres with Good Intentions

The following is an excerpt of content I’m considering for inclusion in my manuscript draft.  In re-reading the manuscript, I found what I think is an unaddressed plot point should be filled to maintain coherence and consistency.  See what you think.

* * * *

Surrounded by an escort of the horsemen of King Alric’s Royal Guard, Larah and Riasean rode for an hour before she broke the silence. “So, you are an assassin?”

Riasean gripped the reins of his horse tighter. Before sending them on their way, Alric had revealed their occupations to each other, much to his annoyance. No point denying it now. “Yes,” he admitted.

“How did that happen – I mean how do you find yourself in the business of killing people?”

Where to begin? Best keep it simple, and as close to honest as he could. “One has to do whatever it takes to survive – in my case, growing up in Tamor, it was simple – kill or be killed.”

Larah remained silent.

He pursed his lips, thinking of a way to break the awkward silence. “Since the subject came up, how did you become a druid?”

“I’ve always been one. I was born in Avalon and have spent my whole childhood training to be a Druid.”

“So you had no choice?”

“I suppose I did, but for me, there was never any doubt.” She paused before looking at him. “Have you considered doing anything else?”

Does a viper ever wish to be his prey? “I never had any reason to, for I am good at what I do, and it pays well.”

She frowned, “But killing people . . .”

He turned away. She didn’t understand and could never understand what he did and why. Taking a life was nothing more than a job, one with little tolerance for failure, for it meant death.

She stared ahead and added, “I could never kill someone.”

He turned and placed a hand on her arm. “I hope you never do because you lose something you can never get back.” So what did that make him? An empty shell? But like a shooting star, the realization streaked across his mind as to why the Caretaker had paired them. He was a knife without a conscience, for whom delivering death or dying, as a result, was inconsequential. Yet in their quest, he was assurance that she could retrieve the Grail without losing her inner light in the process.

She studied him as he thought this. “Why do you stare at me so? What are you thinking?”

With a final squeeze, he let go of her arm. “I was just thinking that maybe you are rubbing off on me. You make me want to be a better person.”

Even as she turned away with reddened cheeks, a broad smile crossed her face.

He felt bad for embarrassing her – for what he said was, for the most part, accurate – but only in the sense that he didn’t want her to become less than she was. Flowers get picked and trampled upon by ogres with good intentions. He committed to the goal of protecting her as best he could from such beasts, but the thought never occurred to consider including himself.