In the spirit of what today is, here's a little flash fiction for you. Now, if I could only do a scary witches cackle, this would be the appropriate time for it ...
Happy Halloween ...
Terror On Hilltop Drive
by CJ Heck
She was home alone. The sound of breaking glass had wrenched her from sleep. Fear in icy tendrils prickled at the nape of her neck, yanking the wisps of hair and standing them on end. Perspiration beaded her forehead, little runnels slipping down between her breasts and soaking the front of her nightgown.
A shot rang out in the darkness. It was a bold flash, all at once blinding! Her ears were stunned to sudden silence. A scream tore from her throat, as she waited in the hushed gloom that reclaimed the dark, her eyes again adjusting to the night.
She crept through the doorway and into the hall. The smell of burnt gunpowder and blood was nauseating. Smoke clung to her like a shroud, its gray wisps still rising from the trembling.38.
Afraid of the dark, but even more afraid of turning on a light, she dialed the number ...
“Nine-One-One ... go ahead, what is your emergency?”
I have some good news, everyone! My website for children, Barking Spiders Poetry, recently won two awards for it's design. I may have written the content inside the website, but the credit goes entirely to CJ Design, a company located in Germany, for their gifted creativity in developing the website. I couldn't have chosen a better website designer.
In a child's imagination, monsters do exist. According to my brothers and sisters, years ago, monsters came from many places ... the streetlight shining through the curtains let them dance around on the ceiling; they whispered and chittered through the heating vent in the floor from the furnace room in the basement; or they tapped and clawed at the window, wanting to get in, from outside in the big apple tree that stood nearby. My own imagination convinced me that monsters lived in the crawl space under my bed and, if I wanted to get to the bathroom, I had to hit the floor in a dead run. On my return, I had to leap back into bed so they wouldn't grab my ankles and drag me under.
Of course, all of our monsters disappeared when Mama and Daddy came in to kiss us good night and tell the monsters to go away. Here is a little children's poem dedicated to my youngest sister, whose monster was of a different sort ... Happy Halloween!
Monster in My House
by CJ Heck
(Shhhh) there's a monster in my house.
It came in a great big box.
Mommy says it isn't so,
but something eats my socks.
I used to have a full sock drawer,
with red socks and some blue.
I even had some white ones,
'cause I wear white socks, too.
There's a monster in my house.
It came in a great big box
and I must make it angry
or it wouldn't eat my socks.
It lives around here, somewhere. (Shhhh) I hope it's not around
'cause every time I wake it up,
it makes such awful sounds.
Most times, it says, 'Yum-Yum---Yum-Yum'
sometimes, it just goes 'SWISH-H-H'
and then it eats my socks up
without a spoon or dish.
Mom says they're underneath my bed
or spread around the floor
(the monster musta' burped 'em there
when she opened up the door).
(Shhhh) there's a monster in my house
and it came in a great big box.
Mom says it's just the washer ...
but it's a monster that justeatssocks!
Note: Personally, I could never see it as being a monster. I always thought the washer was saying, "This is awful, this is awful, this is awful, this is awful" so I always kinda-sorta thought it just didn't like it's job ...
I'm going shopping today -- I want to have plenty of candy on hand for the ghosts and goblins who ring my doorbell this weekend. Last year, I was new in town and not around for "Trick or Treat". I was in Ohio visiting family.
I wonder, do kids still prank if no one answers the door and they can see lights on inside the house? I remember years ago, we pranked houses that ignored trick or treaters. We didn't do really bad things, although I heard stories about kids who did. Our pranks were mild compared to some. Did you prank as a kid? Feel free to send me your stories and I'll post them here: CJ's Email
Again in the spirit of Halloween, here's another little Halloween poem for children:
by CJ Heck
Bats can hit a baseball.
Girls can bat their eyes.
But the bats I want to talk about
fly with radar in the skies.
Bats are cute and furry.
I think bats are cool,
(if I could only catch one
I’d bring it in to school).
I’m sure YOU think they’re creepy.
They might even make you scream.
But bats will always be a part
of scary Halloween.
It's not so hard to like them,
well, it's not exactly automatic,
but mom and dad don’t mind them IF they don’t live in our attic.
As you know, I spent all last week in Connecticut babysitting two of my grandsons -- I have seven grandsons, actually, and two granddaughters -- and these are the two youngest grandsons, 1-1/2 years and 3 years old, that I babysat. Before I go any further, I have to ask. Why is it they call it babysitting? No one actually sat during a twenty-four hour period, them or me, that is, until I put "Dora The Explorer" on TV or had them safely strapped in their chairs for meals. Oh, and they also sat in the bathtub for a few minutes while they were being bathed, although that's actually not true, either ... did you ever try and wash a fish? And I'm convinced that toddlers don't have feet ... they have invisible wheels.
Funny, when I was a young mother of three daughters, I actually got pretty good at it by the time my youngest was a toddler. I could juggle every task that needed to be done, do it, and still have plenty of play time with them. As a matter of fact, it was probably the time of my life I most enjoyed ... and raising my daughters is still the one achievement I am proudest of.
Ahhh, but I digress ... now don't get me wrong, I had the time of my life last week. I love those little boys with all my heart -- but I have to admit that I've never felt so totally short on brain cells. I woke up the first morning to calls of "Graaammy, I'm uuuup ..." and it was suddenly like I had never had a child before -- ever. Before my first cup of coffee, I honestly had no idea, whatsoever, what I was supposed to do. Thank God, my daughter wrote everything down ... sheets and sheets and sheets of blessed instructions, just in case.
I also didn't realize going in, that grandmothers have far less energy than young mothers do ... and muscles hidden on and around their bodies that working out at the gym and the treadmill, for some reason, didn't quite touch. At the end of each day, it was a monumental decision whether to soak in a tub with a glass of wine, or just fall into bed sore and exhausted. Most nights, the bed won ...
I am happy to report that by the end of the week, things had begun to fall into place. I learned to get up a half hour before they did and have my coffee, which allowed my brain cells to multiply and my organizational skills to reconnect, (as did my patience) -- even my sore muscles ceased their screaming, after coffee ...
Someday, I want to write about the new language I've learned, "Toddler-Speak" ...
Wow, how time flies -- seems Halloween is nearly here again! What fun it was, as children, dressing up and knocking on our neighbors' doors for treats. I remember, back then, how the majority of the treats were homemade and really delicious: popcorn balls the size of grapefruits, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies cut into Halloween shapes and iced, Rice Krispy treats, and if you were really lucky you got invited inside for a glass of hot apple cider with a little cinnamon stick to stir it with. Isn't it sad that the homemade goodies had to all go away because of a few really bad apples ...
Costumes are different now, too. Last week in Connecticut while I was babysitting for my daughter, I asked my three-year-old grandson, Jack, what he was going to be for "trick or treat". I thought maybe he would say a ghost, or something else frightening. He told me he was going to be a monkey, just like Boots on Dora The Explorer ... I can see things are different in a lot of ways, these days! Anyway, in celebration of Halloween, I offer you a little Halloween poem for children.
Mr. Bones by CJ Heck
I was looking up some haunted stuff
because it’s Halloween.
I saw black cats, ghosts and witches,
and most of them looked mean!
Then I saw your picture.
You’re an awesome skeleton!
I read that we are just like you,
deep down beneath our skin.
Before you got turned inside out,
did you really look like me?
And may I call you Mr. Bones
since bones are all I see?
And more questions, Mr. Bones ...
between your bones, I just see air.
When you walk do you make noise?
Are you cold because you’re bare?
And Mr. Bones, oh Mr. Bones,
you have a scary mouth
and there’s nothing where your eyes should be.
You're so spooky wrong-side out!
Poor, poor Mr. Bones,
it’s so sad you have no skin ...
I guess that I'd look frightening, too,
with my inside out, and my outside in.
I guess you could call this blog a short rant against what I see as a growing problem -- the slow demise of the work ethic in our society. In talking with a manager at a slow fast-food restaurant the other day on my way back from Connecticut, I was surprised to learn that turnover is high, higher than ever before. He told me kids these days up and quit for anything: asking them to remove facial piercings, not allowing them the exact days off that they want, or if they're even spoken to about poor work habits. Sad, very sad.
The other day, a friend relayed something that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. She routinely works with several mentally-challenged adults at a group home nearby, licensed by the state of Pennsylvania. The work is challenging, difficult at times, and always involves huge responsibility, including giving out the proper dosage of medications, dealing with copious and varied behaviors, and continually monitoring client safety throughout the entire multi-day shift.
When it was time for her shift to end the other night, and the next shift to come on the clock, she said she could smell alcohol on the breath of one of the young males assigned to take over for her. My friend was faced with an uncomfortable decision -- whether or not to report the young man to management.
Then, last night, I had an opportunity to be introduced to a young lady in the parking lot outside a grocery store I was heading into. She had been Robert's co-worker, until being let go for making some bad decisions, drugs and alcohol being only one part of them. She was obviously strung out on something last night, even as he was making the introduction.
What's happened to the work ethic in our society? All of this made me think back to when I was a kid. I remember my brothers all had paper routes and they mowed lawns in the summer, or raked leaves in the fall, shoveled snow in the winter, all over the neighborhood. My sisters and I babysat or went door-to-door selling colorful potholders we had created with little looms we bought in the dime store down on Main Street. In my family, we learned at an early age that the best way to have money to spend was to work for it. There was such a great feeling of satisfaction, knowing it was all ours, earned by work we had done -- and it wasn't any different with the friends I knew from school -- almost to a family, the "work ethic" was alive and well in my little hometown.
Sadly, it seems there's a growing number of young people who can't be bothered to follow the rules in a job, or they bend them, or don't work at all, relying instead on an allowance from mom and dad, or handouts from gram and grampa.
Is it laziness, or a Catch-22 -- a sad by-product of over-worked parents who haven't the time or energy to instill the very principles in their youngsters that the parents, who are doing it all for their children, are too busy and too tired to teach them? Like with so many other things, it's the children who lose out ...
Remember what it was like to be a child? It was something very different from who we are today. It was to believe in love and magic, to believe in fairies, to believe in belief, to be so little that the elves could reach to whisper in our ear; it was about turning pumpkins into coaches, and mice to horses, and nothing into everything, because every child has a fairy godmother in its soul ... and a grandmother for a best friend. ~CJ
Just to give you a little heads up ... I'm going to be out of town for the next week, leaving today. I'll be in Connecticut babysitting two of my grandsons, both preschoolers, while a daughter and her husband go away for a much-needed R&R to rediscover that they are more than a mommy and daddy.
I'll be in Grammy Heaven; however, being a little out of practice with busy toddlers, I'm relatively sure any down time I have while they're napping will be spent doing laundry, cooking, picking up toys, or (I had to admit it), taking a power nap of my own to recoup. There probably won't be much time for the internet and its writing pleasures, including posting here.
Stay with me. I promise I'll be back online when I return on the 23rd. In the meantime, please think of me knee-deep in much-missed grammy hugs, bedtime stories, night-night kisses, and playing cars and Legos on the floor with two little boys that I love so dearly.
P.S. I would LOVE to see my email box overflowing with your thoughts and stories when I get home ...
Have you ever been kidnapped by a poet? I would like to kidnap YOU for a few minutes ... I'll scare the warm and fuzzies right out of you ...
Half Past Five
by CJ Heck
There’s a sewer drain
on Peck's Corner,
and at half past five,
the street lamp
flickers on at dusk,
near where gentlemen
routinely take a leak
the Raven's Wing Pub.
They’ve been doing it
for years, and
no one seems to notice,
except for the smell
of piss that assaults
which in turn
informs the brain,
but only the vermin care
and there were
plenty of them
near the sewer drain
on Peck's Corner.
I saw the body there
as I walked by
at half past five
The clock in the tower
told me it was so,
and when I called,
that’s what I told
was in his lap,
the legs askew and bent
at impossible angles.
The arms hung down
with elbows facing out,
hands on top
of the head,
the head that was
in his lap
the flaming red hair.
He was sitting
in a pool of
his own blood.
His mouth was frozen
in a scream that
no one will ever hear,
but the eyes,
I will never forget
The vermin had eaten
Will anyone ever know
the horror they saw,
on Peck's Corner
half past five ...
A poem should not necessarily mean anything ... it should just simply, BE.
I've found that time has a way of getting away from me, the older I get. It does seem like only yesterday that I carefully packed away the Christmas ornaments and decorations, took down the outside wreath and ribbons, and swept up the last of the pine needles, but holy crap! It's only October ...
Geez oh man, I don't know ... the last few years, Christmas seemed to arrive on or about the day after Halloween, but I've already spotted a Santa Claus and some outdoor Christmas lights on a few front porches, and neither Halloween nor Thanksgiving are even here yet! Heck, we're still two pages away from Christmas -- on MY calendar, anyway.
It's almost scary. I've noticed the mall puts up their Christmas signs and decorations increasingly early to entice us, knowing full well our propensity for holiday nostalgia and overindulgence. I'm positive the stores in the mall have already ordered abundantly. They're all hoping for hefty holiday sales -- and an even heftier bottom line at year’s end.
I find it distressing that Christmas has become, for most people, such an “over” time. We overspend, overeat, over-party, and end up trying to fit God -- the very reason there is a Christmas -- in between everything else on our overabundant holiday schedules and lists. The only thing we don’t overdo in, is taking time to think about those less fortunate by dropping a few extra coins in the buckets when we see Santa’s helpers ringing bells in front of stores around town.
Now don’t misunderstand. Anyone who knows me, knows Christmas is my favorite time of year. I truly can’t help myself. I get all swept up in the nostalgia and the warm and fuzzies, too.
Every year, I watch all the classic Christmas movies and cry as I watch The Gathering, laughing until I cry at Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and I think Barbara Stanwyck is positively hilarious in Christmas in Connecticut (the original, not the remake with Dyan Cannon). And who could ever forget Jimmy Stewart in It‘s a Wonderful Life? And finally, Christmas wouldn’t be complete until I watch Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and help them sing the theme song, “White Christmas”. Corny? Guilty. Heck, I even play Christmas music while I cook Thanksgiving dinner, much to the amusement of family and friends.
I promise to try harder this year, though, no matter how early Christmas seems to be. I vow to remember and celebrate who this wonderful holiday is named for and what it’s about. I’m going to focus my ‘over’ time on the people I care most about, those who care most about me, and those who've never had a visit from Santa Claus.
Oh, and how about my bottom line? The only bottom line I’m going to be concerned with is the one I sit on ... and I don’t want that one to get any bigger.
No one is asking, let alone demanding, that you write. The world is not waiting with bated breath for your article. Whether or not you get a single word on paper, the sun will rise, the earth will spin, the universe will expand. Writing is forever and always a choice - your choice. ~Beth Mende Conny
That's an interesting quote by Ms. Conny, and it's true, too. Nothing in the world will change if I write or don't write. Writing really is a choice, but it's a most interesting choice ...
I've talked to a lot of writers about why they write and those reasons are as varied as the number of writers I asked. Some write because it's their job and that's what they're paid to do. Some write because it's a hobby and something they enjoy doing. Some write because it's a challenge, maybe by a writing community or a teacher in school. Some write because they're in love and want to express their innermost feelings. Some write because it's a driving compulsion, a mental lava flow, if you will, [I'm assuming this is the category the prolific Steven King falls into]. And some write because they're uncomfortable with the words banging and clanging around aimlessly down inside of them. They just have to write and let the words out.
The one response that was almost universal among all of the answers was that most of the serious 'writers' write for the sheer love of writing -- I think all writers want to be good, and so unique, as to be able to write one thought, one idea, one poem, one story -- just one thing -- in such a new and wonderous way that they'll be remembered for it. I am reminded me of what Anais Nin once wrote:
The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.
As for me, I write because I love writing. It doesn't matter whether it's poetry for adults, children, short stories, essays, or a blog. I write because it's an addiction of sorts, and I have to get the banging, clanging words and ideas up and out of my soul. I write to leave something of me behind, something good (I hope), something so new and unique and different that my children's children's children will read it and smile and say, "That was my grandmother -- she wrote that -- she was quite a character. How I wish I had known her ..."
It's that time of year again. Robert and I went for our flu shots yesterday. Surprisingly, it only takes half a minute for the shot ... it takes a whole lot longer to fill out the paperwork that allows them to give you the shot.
Last year, I had a cold and had to pass on the flu shot -- bad, bad, bad. I eventually got the flu and was flat out and miserable for a good two weeks -- and I didn't feel really well for another two. Boy, it makes me remember years ago, when my children were young and I was sick ...
When Mommy's Sick
by CJ Heck
Mommy's sick in bed today.
Doctor says she has the flu.
Sissy's got a stuffy nose
and she might get it, too.
When Mommy's sick it makes us sad
she doesn't feel so good.
She's having juice and medicine
like the doctor said she should.
It's not the same when Mommy's sick,
our hugs are all sick, too,
and kisses for our boo-boos
also have the flu.
Our sads are even sadder
so our happys aren't as glad
and when we're being naughty, that even feels more bad.
Let's get her better, Sissy!
We'll get some more juice in her,
'cause I remembered something else,
ewwww, Daddy's cookin' dinner ...
A native of Coshocton OH, CJ is a published poet, writer & author who writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays, memoirs and two other blogs. She is also a Vietnam War widow.
CJ's work has been published by:
Oxford University Press
Cambridge University Press
Castle Rock Research
JFC Publishing House
Grande Prairie Regional College
True Poet Magazine
Dane Publishing House
Your Big Backyard Magazine
Steel Point Quarterly
Tales 'n Rhyme Magazine
Writers Digest Books
Mature Living Magazine
New Hampshire Magazine.
For poetry workshops, school visits, fees & references, please visit my website or call 352-299-5634.