Desperate Prepping: Day 8

My grandmother is dying.

I lived with her for many years and feel that she had a big hand in turning me into this. Whatever I am today.

The last time I saw her was at our wedding in Chicago. Who I used to know as the most strong woman on the planet, had turned into a pistachio shell of that force that raised me. I could barely recognize the spark of stubbornness.

But on the morning of the wedding, I was told that she was up before my uncle and dressed in the pink and pearl suit that my mother had bought and laid out for her the night before. She even tried to put on the hat with her own two twigs for arms strength.

But that was three weeks ago. Today, thanks to technology, I was 5000 miles away and right there in that room with my family. When we left, her heart monitor was still going, but there was no recognition of the matriarch. She was the head, the spine, the backside, the fingers and the feet of the family. We were planets revolving around our sun and now, our universe is dispersing because our gravity is losing her clutch.

I was supposed to write something else for Day 8 of Desperate Prepping, but as my mom’s phone was perched on a shelf so I could “be there” with everyone else, decided to write what I saw.

I’m lucky to be a writer, because at least I have the chance to make up my own endings. Even if they’re a complete work of fiction.

I’m begging that this this one ends up being true.

Day 8 – October 19: Modified.

The room was icy and filled with the sadness of the family as they watched the woman in the bed gasp for breath. Each time she opened her puppet mouth like chomping, another sharp and desperate bubble of air plunged into her lungs.

Josephine looked at the hollow body on the bed and didn’t feel like weeping. She knew it was her own skeletal face that she was looking down on, but when she reached up to touch her face, the cheeks there felt full and plush. Her fingers were no longer gnarled and twisted but thin and graceful again. She remembered years ago when her fingers were this willowy like the youthful branches of the orange trees in her father’s ranch. They reminded her of the thick needles on the cactus at her Tia’s home in the desert.

A machine beeped rhythmically in the otherwise silent room.

She watched as her daughter, who sat sadly at her side, grabbed her hand and begged her mother to squeeze it. With large white tears running down her face, the daughter pleaded in Spanish, just one squeeze, to show that she can hear them.

Josephine stayed in the corner even though she wanted to touch her daughter’s shoulder. If her weak little skeleton body wouldn’t squeeze the hand of her only daughter, she wanted to do it while standing above her in whatever body it was that she was currently inhabiting

She watched her granddaughter, the youngest one in the family, with a heavy arm reach across the bed and touch her mother’s shoulder, just like Josephine wanted to do herself.

She again reveled at how much her granddaughter resembled her mother.

Josephine looked around the room and saw her sons, their heads low and their tears just barely standing behind their eyes. She saw her two grandsons with their hands in their pockets, their mother, her daughter’s husband, and one of the sweet Carmelite sisters, all speaking to God quietly within their hearts.

Her gaze moved back to her own body and startled. She saw that her own black, listless eyes were open wide, staring straight ahead behind her daughter and off near the door. Josephine turned her body to get a look at who was there and felt a sensational glow warm the chilled parts of her nose and cheeks.

A young woman, with black hair in curls and a smart salmon dress that dangled slightly past her knees stood in the doorway. Her smile was brilliant and her eyes were bright with recognition.

“Tachita,” Josephine gasped and moved to fall into the arms of her sister.

She embraced her tightly and rested her head on her shoulder, smelling their kitchen in her hair. But it wasn’t the sterile, air-conditioned, electric stove top of the tiny kitchen in Chicago, but the hot sun on the stones, tortillas on the griddle, clay pot of roasted tomatillos in the oven smell of Mexico.

The younger woman in pink smiled so brightly, Josephine had to look away briefly in fear that she would melt. Her eyes turned back to her family who where watching the machine beep slowly and rhythmically.

Naranja dulce
Limón partido…

Her daughter began to sing quietly into the old hand that was clenched in hers. It was the song Josephine had sung to every single person in that room when they were sick, when they were hurt, when they were lonely, and when they were broken. She listened and her heart surged with joy.

…Dame un abrazo
Que yo te pido.

Josephine felt a hand move deftly into her own and the soft grasp of her sister tugged her attention away from the children who were singing.

Si fueran falsos
mis juramentos

en un momento
se olvidarán.

For the first time since the death of her sister, her legs moved naturally. She forgot how she was struck with so much grief that her legs refused to hold her anymore in protest of her heart being so broken. But now, Tachita was there again and both of their legs were like the ones of the young women who ran through fields of wheat to jump over the creek and tease the boys who watched over the cows. They were the strong and sturdy legs of the women who tread through the blistering winters of the city with children and groceries in their arms.

Toca la marcha,
mi pecho llora,
adiós señora,
que ya me voy…

She looked back at her children one last time and told them not to worry anymore because she was with Tachita now. The beeping and the voices faded away as the warm air of the kitchen in Mexico washed over her, knocking the curls around her neck back to furl around her head like a halo. She laughed as the wind moved through her.

adiós señora,
que ya me voy.

Update: She passed.

Desperate Prepping: Day 7

Day 7 – October 17: Action Genre. Think of a worst case scenario involving fire and put your characters right in the middle of it. How do they react? 600 words. Focus on actions.

When he removed his hand from her neck, Jared instantly felt the mild chill of the December night air. It was infinitely colder than the spot where his fingers clenched tightly around the area between skull and spine. Jared suddenly was struck by how trusting she was of him. She above all others knew how delicate that spot could be. She let him hold her there with the profound trust that he wasn’t going to try and break her. He realized that they had come a long way since the that rough and unfortunate beginning. Her skin was still so smooth.

“We should probably get back,” he said tersely as he remembered why they were put together in the first place.

Macky.

She cocked her head to the side and looked at his quizzically.

“I’ve got to relieve the babysitter.”

Standing closely side by side, they walked back to his condo in the heart of Waikiki. It was a run-down building that looked every minute of its 40 years of existence and possibly with a veneer of a few decades more. But rent was cheap, the pool was decently kept, and they were within a few minutes walk to the beach where Jared’s two children’s hearts lived.

Kayla broke their silence of their suddenly heavy walk home, “Can I come up and see the brats?”

Jared nodded.

They arrived a the entrance and Jared took out his key and pushed against the door with his shoulders, forcing the old, cranky piece to move with him. The entire building smelled of salt as it was constantly assaulted by the sea air.

But when Jared and Kayla landed on the 19th floor, the air no longer smelled crisp, but was heavy and dense. It smelled like the underside of a charcoal grill and small hints of black drifted through the halls.

“Smells like fire,” Kayla said, quickly snapping her head around to figure out which door held the source of the problem. “It’s probably one of those surf idiots’ bong exploding…”

“No,” Jared said hesitantly, “This smells like an actual fire.” He jogged over to his apartment and tried his key in the lock.

His hand shot backward. The doorknob was burning.

A sudden pallor swept over his normally dark and vibrant face and he turned to ram his shoulder against the door.

“Mary! Jacob! Back away from the door! Are you in there? Mary! Jake!”

His used his massive body as a battering ram and Kayla instantly felt the heat as he began to create cracks for the air to escape into the hall.

She turned to swing her body into the door with him, both syncing their forcefulness until the barrier gave way and they stumbled through. The fire was licking the fabric of his couch and dancing across the table and chairs. The kitchen was untouched, but the fire was moving towards it at greater speeds.

Blackness covered the room and thick tufts of smoke were rising and covering the open room in a black ceiling that was being captured by the closed windows and doors.

“Jared, look.” Kayla pointed towards the ceiling and with her other hand, pulled her shirt over her mouth as a make-shift mask.

The fire alarm’s battery door was open and the little blinking light was dead.

“Jake!” He cried again, coughing and sputtering as he threw the names out into the crackling of the fire. “Mary!” “Vanessa!”

Kayla dug into her pockets for her phone and dialed the police. Jared put his arm over his head like a shield and threw himself through the smoke that was beginning to billow angrily around him into the hallway where it was free to spread.

With his eyes as open as he could get them, he moved through the apartment’s hallway, screaming the names of his children and their babysitter, listening for responses.

At the first door, he tightened his body and threw his weight against the it, finding the smoke less dense, but still present in his little daughter’s room.

He shouted for her again and she appeared from under her bed. She ran towards him with tears in her eyes and her arms out-stretched. Kayla appeared behind him and as his daughter wrapped her tiny legs around him, he pried them off and passed her little body to Kayla’s outstretched arms. With Mary safely in her grasp and wrapped around her, Kayla bolted from the room and out into the hallway.

“Jake!” Jared cried again, “Vanessa! Jake!”

He moved back into the hall and he could feel the heat of the fire growing stronger.

He heard the sirens eighteen floors below.

When he got to his son’s room, the door was already open and the ceiling was covered in a thick smoke.

His son was on his knees, coughing, looking directly into the closet and pleading with an unknown source.

“Jacob! Let’s go!” Jared went to grab his boy but was pushed back.

“Dad, something’s wrong with Vanessa,” he choked out between coughs and gasps of breath.

He looked into the closet and there was the babysitter, curled in a ball with her knees up to her chin and her black hair falling down her back. Her arms kept her knees close and her face was nestled firmly between them.

“Vanessa, move, ” Jared shouted, trying to lift his son off the floor.

She didn’t move.

Kayla ran into the room.

“Jared, we have to go now,” she said through the fabric of her shirt.

Jared grabbed Vanessa by the arm and tried to pull her out but recoiled immediately after she stabbed him in the hand with his own kitchen knife.

His eyes widened as he saw the deep cuts and blood dripping from her own arms. Jake started crying when he saw the red slip over her knees and onto his blue carpet.

“Come on, Vanessa. We gotta go,” Jake begged her in his tiny voice, inching towards the closet on his hands and knees.

Jared looked at his son, then to Vanessa, and back to Kayla again, the understanding of this completely insane situation finally registering.

“Jake, let’s go, I’ll come back for Vanessa.”

Without pausing for a second, he grabbed his son under his arms and lifted him off the ground, his hand slick with his own blood.

The little boy screamed and protested, kicking at his father and pushing off of his chest with all of his strength.

“She’s been influenced,” he said quietly to Kalya as he coughed through the smoke and began to stumble out of the room. “Leave her here.”

Kayla followed behind him without even looking back as the girl in the closet began to wail and scream.

With the flames clutching to the walls and ceilings, it made it impossible for Jared to move through the the rooms. He had to curl his body as low as possible as they ran, but his son was still struggling in his arms and reaching out behind him for the girl they left behind.

Kayla was crouched low to the ground in the front, guiding him in the safest path towards the door. When they made it to the hall, it was filled with neighbors rushing towards the staircase, all of whom were carrying arm fulls of suitcases, surfboards, photo albums, little dogs, and other precious bric-a-brac.

Shouts could be heard from the stairwell as the men in uniform were trying to push against the heard moving down.

When they fell into the light of the hallway, Kayla pushed herself to her feet, grabbed the sobbing little girl in her arms who was stainding alone in the hallway amidst the commotion, and made her way to the stairwell, waiting for Jared to join her.

The four of them made it all the way to the bottom and they looked up when they heard the shattering of glass and watched as men shouted at a woman who hurled herself out the bedroom window. She was chased by the curls of black smoke that had been trapped in that room for too long.

Jared and Kayla covered the eyes and ears of the children as they watched the woman collide with her death on the sidewalk.

Word Count: 1338

Desperate Prepping: Day 6

A list of the things working against me:

  • Hurricane Ana
  • Grandmother tumultuously passing away with the distance of an ocean and a few blue states between us
  • Husband in Guam
  • Loathe to do anything but watch House reruns

But here I am, and I wouldn’t call this Desperate Prepping if I really wasn’t in some desperate need to prepare myself for November.

This is in preparation for those day where  I know life will interfere and I will have one day to make up 5000 words if I want to keep myself on track. Today is one of those days.

We ride!

Day 6 – October 16: Setting. What did you have for breakfast? Write about your character’s experience eating that same meal. 500 words. Focus on sensory details.

Kayla’s fingers tightened around his thick palm and used his slender bones and muscles to crutch her agony as she moved through the early morning streets. The pain in her head rolled over her skull like sandpaper, moaning low groaning notes like ships sinking into the ocean. She squinted away from the sun when they stepped out of the shadow of the skyscrapers.

He smiled down and pulled her back into him, blocking her from the vibrant rays that were violently seeping through the thin layers of her half closed eyelids. His long vine arms wrapped around her shoulders and tugged her into his chest that was a wall against the malevolence of the sun.

She groaned.

“Almost there. Just a few more blocks.”

They moved through the empty streets that the early Sunday morning hours accommodated and pushed through to the nearest convenience store that jingled brightly in welcome.

Kayla pushed off Jared as he moved purposefully over to the coffee station while she ventured towards the cooler in the back, scanning all the different varieties of non-alcoholic beverages offered. She looked back at the guy behind the counter who was stacking and organizing a display of beef jerky. His eye twitched up slightly in her direction and then in the direction of Jared, who was tearing apart sugar packets by the bulk and unloading them into his cup. He went back to playing with the jerky.

He had a right to be suspicious. Everyone was suspicious of newcomers in this town.

Grabbing the biggest size of coconut water in a little cardboard box, she moved onto the area with the heating lamp where a row of nicely symmetrical rectangles of rice sat, bathing in the glow of their artificial sun. The large slabs of Spam beckoned invitingly to her and Kayla felt herself salivating over the musubis. Her hand hovered over them all like a space craft as she carefully deliberated on which one would have the biggest meat-to-rice ratio. This would be heaven.

She grabbed one as soon as she felt Jared slide in next to her. He loved to make fun of her when she put this much thought over which musubi she would pick, when other life-or-death situations gave her less than a second’s pause.

The shifty-eyed clerk rang them up and added the individual pack of aspirin and bid them good-day.

Kayla and Jared looked at the clouds and noticed that they were beginning charge towards the sun, moving south, covering the daylight with their darkness. With the small plastic bag in her one hand and Jared’s in her other, she pulled him under the shade of a palm tree where a bench sat empty. She pulled out her coconut water and stabbed it with the straw. The first drink was sour as she had forgotten to shake the box first.

She cursed and swiveled the container in circles with her finger on the straw like a stopper.

The second drink was sweet and she quickly popped the aspirin into her mouth and guzzled the rest desperately.

Jared leaned back, his sugary coffee heavy in his hand and he slowly sipped it, watching the ocean waves roll lazily towards the shore.

The musubi was still warm and Kayla unwrapped it hastily and bit into the rice and meat and winced immediately. Among the warm, puffed satisfaction of the sweet calrose rice and salty canned meat, she tasted a fire that was not at all familiar with the Hangover Cure she had meticulously created after years of experimentation. It pricked at the tip of her tongue like tweezers. Her face scrunched up as she continued to chew, pushing all the food down her throat as fast as she could.

Flipping over the musubi in her hand, she checked the label.

She had accidentally picked up the one made with Sriracha.

“Goddammit,” she grumbled as she wiped the red sauce off the Spam.

Jared didn’t even look over at her, but noticed that the waves that well lolling over the sand were beginning to recede with the onslaught of new waves that were approaching harder and faster, beating the sand with gloves of white foam.

He looked up and saw the sky transforming into darkness.

Word Count: 694

Desperate Prepping: Day 5

So sometimes life gets in the way. So here is day 5 where day 7 should be.

This has been one epic night of prepping desperately.

Day 5 – October 15: Turn on Pandora. The first song that comes up, write a scene with those two characters that would go with that song like it was the soundtrack. 600 words. Focus on mood.

Song: “All You Need is Love” the Beetles

**Decided to start with all new characters**

Lola’s fingers nimbly twisted and turned, letting the rubber squawk in a constant symphony. Within seconds, the linear form became the pink dog and she handed it to the little girl who stood next to the little boy who held a similar animal in green. The two kids looked nonchalantly at each other and then back to their parents with their same unmasked enthusiasm.

With a large smile and a quick tap dance, Lola extended her hand to the family and they unenthusiastically placed two dollars there and walked away, joining the masses walking the streets of Waikiki. The small strand of sweat dropped from her brow and landed flat on George Washington’s matching sombre profile. As soon as their backs folded into the crowds, she sighed and stuffed the dollars the half open pocket in her old purple fanny-pack. Without taking a second to even check her watch again for the eighth time that hour, she hopped from foot to foot with what she hoped with child-like enthusiasm as she half way inflated a purple balloon snake and deflated again. She wagged the wiggly end of the partially full balloon in the faces of kids who passed by. Most of the parents pulled their children closer to their sides.

She pulled a few more colorful strings from her pouch and continued smiling with a forceful veneer. Inside her head, she was dreaming in technicolor.

She saw his dark black eyes and his bright tongue lolling to the side of his half opened mouth. His thick, tan fur is the softest place to put her head and she remembered her sister’s high pitched, sweet voice shouting out after him as he bounded to the ocean, all four of his paws jetting off the ground for lift-off until he successfully immersed himself in the ocean.

Lola’s heart cracked at the thought of her sister’s voice, her sister’s dog, and especially her sister’s presence in her memories.

She stopped mid-hop, the joyful facade slipping or a second as the image of her sister covered her joy with a cold, soaked blanket of twisting sorrow.

Tomorrow, her sister’s dog will be up at the Humane Society and she has to have enough cash to adopt. If not, he goes to the first family who puts up the money to spring him. But he’d belong to strangers and her sister’s smiles would fade away with him in his new, strange home.

Lola shook her head and continued her bouncing. She chuckled warmly at a few Japanese children holding their parents’ hands. They pointed their tiny fingers at her and spoke rapidly like tiny mice.

A few hours later the street lights were illuminating staggering bodies, blackened storefronts, and Lola was sitting on a bench facing the ocean, counting her dollar bills. She had enough. Just enough. By three extra bills.

Holding the wad close to her heart, she sighed and let out the air she was holding like bird in her ribs. She imagined more beach visits with lolling tongues and salty tan fur. She still heard her sister’s voice through the plush tuffft tuffft of paws moving through light sand.

She grinned all the way home.

At 8am, as sun beams were craning over the mountains, Lola was rushing through her apartment, grabbing at items frantically. When she reached her kitchen counter, she extended her arm, reaching for her fanny pack and touched nothing but the warm surface of an empty counter.

Sudden and horrible panic struck her.

Where was the fanny-pack?

She remembered stuffing the money in the pocket with the little deflated rubber worms poking out near the zipper while sitting on the bench, staring at the ocean, watching the stars blink namelessly and she remembered getting up and getting on her bicycle and she thought… no she swore she had wrapped the fanny pack around her waist before leaving but now she’s not that sure.

She began to panic. The gates would open in an hour and a pure bred Cocker Spaniel would not last long.

Taking her chances, she grabbed the jingly keys out of the koa bowl and fled from her house, anxious for miracles.

The gates to the shelter were locked and she leaned against them, letting them hammock her weight. She would never make it on time if she went for the cash then back for the moment of opening. Instead she leaned further back, her head colliding with the cold metal. In exasperation, she let it rest there while every other nerve in her body shook with anxiety.

She closed her eyes and saw her sister’s legs curled underneath her with little peaks of blue painted toes poking out from underneath her. She saw tufts of tan fur trot over and lick the spaces in between. A reactionary and accidental kick in the face and he goes running to the other room. Everyone laughs as she bolts off the couch, her arms extended towards him, begging in a whiny voice for his forgiveness.

Lola smiled slightly, and then frowned as she remembered that her sister was dead.

And her dog was in a shelter.

And she had no money to adopt him.

But she smiled because she could hear his high pitched bark among the cacophony of animal noises coming from beyond the locked gates.Word count: 883

Desperate Prepping: Day 4

Day 4 – October 14: Romance genre. Take the two characters that were created and make them fall in love. 600 words. Focus on tone or attitude the characters have towards each other.

Kayla stood with the door to the broken down building at her back. She expected to be slightly warmer, but didn’t feel any of the relief from heat. Instead, it was still cold, and still, and motionless, as if she was trapped in a block of ice along with the rest of the derelict building. She moved her fingers to test her theory.

The door was so thin, she could hear Jonah breathing outside. She wished that breath could be on the tip of her ear, but it was instead behind the flimsy hollowness of the useless door. He needed her to do this. They both did.

She closed the pink umbrella within her wool clad hand and pushed herself away from the door. A woman in raggedy layers looking like a laundry pile ushered  her around the house, stopping and speaking to her in a Russian that was too fast and too angry to understand.

She looked out the window to see Jonah still there, his hands in his pockets staring at the door. Her face immediately felt the warmth of her thoughts.

They moved upwards into the house and to the end of of a long, narrow, brightly lit hallway. The grayness of the sky slipped into the house through the tattered drapes that did nothing more than indicate how little air was moving.

“Do you have it?” Came the heavy baritone voice that Kayla had become too familiar with over the phone.

“Yeah, I got it.”

The door opened and before she crossed the thresh-hold into the room where Big Loretta waited, Kayla looked through the window, down to the street below where Jonah still stood, watching her. When he saw her, his gaze was steady and his lips parted just slightly.

He was worried. But they both knew he wouldn’t’ have to be… If she hadn’t messed up.

Her slight nod was all the encouragement she could give before stepping into the room which seemed to be hoarding all the heat in the entire house.

Big Loretta sat on a taupe colored sofa with a Pekingese on her lap. She was brushing its hair gently while some Russian game show played silently in the background. The screen cut out to static every few seconds.

Kayla held out her hand and offered the pink cocktail umbrella. “A gift for you,” she said flatly, “From Richard.”

Big Loretta lowered her chin and stared at Kayla over the rims of her frame-less glasses.

“And I suppose Richard thinks this is what I was looking for?”

Kayla dropped the small parasol into the open, flat hand and Big Loretta held it up to inspect.

As soon as the item left her grasp, Kayla let out a sign she didn’t know she had been holding in her stomach. Her body relaxed as she watched Loretta open the parasol and poke at the small pouch on the underside. A large sapphire fell out and onto her expectant palm.

“The Queen’s Sapphire,” Loretta sighed lovingly, holding the stone up so the light from the open windows reflected brightly in the thousand dimensions of the gem.

The window was partially opened and Kayla could see Jonah pacing the sidewalk. His hands were crossed over his chest as he walked to the light post, away from the light post, to the light post, away from the light post…

“Alright… Tell Richard he’s done good. Maria, the box.”

Maria had a small box in her hands and Kayla grabbed it greedily. Inside was a paper.

“These are the coordinates?”

“Where your friend Macky is? Yes. That’s what I told Richard was the deal. One gem for another.”

Kayla turned and bolted for the door. Jonah started when she burst through, holding the paper up and whispering harshly, “I got it! Let’s go!”

He grabbed her arms before she could run past him and crushed his lips to hers, the paper still in the air but slowly descending until it was smashed between her palm and his arms. She pulled him closer until they were one tangled mess of down jackets, icy skin, stiff hair, and obscure coordinates.

He lifted his head. When she opened her eyes to look at the wiser, older, and charismatic partner, she saw that he understood this would be the last time he would be able to do that…

Now that they knew where Macky was.

Word Count: 852 (Woo hoo!)

How is your prep going?! I feel like I’m nailing this one. Desperately.

Desperate Prepping: Day 3

Day 3 – October 13: Character development. Find a new random human you’ve seen today. Don’t describe  a single physical trait, but instead describe only the actions that this person performs. Include details on the way he or she moves, any minute gestures that might be nervous tics or unique mannerisms. 500 words. Focus on describing actions.

When Kayla heard his whisper around the top of her head, she turned around and the icy wind slapped her across her nose.

His one puffed arm from the bright red coat he rested at an angle directly crossing his chest. His hand was motionless, but his other arm dangled vapidly in the freezing October sea breezes.

“Yeah I made it,” she stepped forward towards him, lifting her chin confidently. She mirrored his calm smirk.

Her eyes were drawn to the low hanging arm that seemed lifeless until it shot like a viper and slapped her across the face so hard, she stumbled backwards and fell into the empty, stone fountain.

Her hand immediately went to touch the warmth of her cheek, the hot parts of his finger tips leaving rosy road maps across her jaw.

“That’s from Big Loretta,” he stood there, statuesque, looking down at her in the fountain. “She sends her love.”

Kayla winced as the continued touching of the red mark started to make it sting. She squinted up at him in confusion. He held out his hand to her.

“Follow me.”

His hands were large and when it swung at her, she felt the Earth begin rotating in the opposite direction. His arms acted like oars pushing a boat forward in the iciest, loneliest, and longest race she had ever been part of. She was getting tired of this shit fast.

She walked behind him as best she could, but her legs were small and his moved like turbines of windmills. She practically had to run.

They ducked into a place not too far from the square, but it seemed to be in one of the dirtiest, less enthusiastic about tourism parts of Russia. He stopped suddenly and she walked straight into his large and expansive back.

“Big Loretta’s not going to see you if you come unprepared.”

Kayla remembered hearing about that on her travels, but she couldn’t figure out what it was that she needed in order to make this fat old bitch talk.

His arm unfolded from his chest and in his massive hand was a single cocktail umbrella.

Kayla beamed up at him. He craned his neck to look down at her and stare right into her grateful smile.

“Remember kid, I’m on your side. This doesn’t stop til Macky comes home.”

“Til Macky comes home,” she chimed, taking the tiny pink umbrella into  her finger tips and raising up like a toast.

The umbrella was rather large in her hands, but in his, it was simply diminutive. There seemed to be nothing spectacular about this little pink papered item, but she knew how much it meant to the future of Macky. Macky needed to come home.

Kayla walked to the door and before she knocked, her arm was pulled backwards and she fell back into the tall, dark skinned man’s arms. The enormity of their down jackets made the embrace awkward and impossible, but she still felt the heat against her cheek, his breath vibrating against her sensitive skin.

“If Macky doesn’t come home,” he whispered in his deep, liquid tone, “I’ll pick up where he left off. I promise.”

He nuzzled his nose and chin under her jaw and she could feel the prickles of his beard chilled by mother Russia.

“You know what Macky would say to that,” Kayla pushed him away and smiled, turning back to the door and knocking firmly.

A tough as old meat voice rang through the building and beckoned her forward.

“Til Macky comes home,” he mouthed as she turned to look at him before entering the old, crumbling structure.

She beamed and nodded before shutting the door behind her, leaving one lover outside and the hope of finding the other there in the painted green flowers of the pink paper umbrella.

Word Count: 620

Once again, feel free to comment and link me to your work so we can prep desperately.

Desperate Prepping: Day 2

Day 2 – October 12: Setting. Think of a place you’ve never been. Google images of that place. Place that character from yesterday in that location. 500 words. Focus on sensory details.

Random location: Novy Urengoy, Russia, the town fountain.

Kayla falls against the door and with every morsel of strength she has left in her body, she pushes it until there’s enough room for her to slide across the glass and emerge on the other end. She lands in a coffee shop that’s lit with the warmth of vengeful heaters and espresso machines wailing abruptly in the back of the crowded space. She stands there for a few seconds, listening to the fast and hard words coming from the people at the tables; words that sound like slicing vegetables on a wet, wooden chopping block with sharp precision.

She has absolutely no idea what they’re saying.

The heat hasn’t even begun traveling through her clothes yet to her skin where she feels that every inch of her body has become solid and stone-like. She feels like her classroom lizard in fourth grade when Mr. Ferris forgot to turn the lamp on but left the air conditioner on in the classroom all night. How that gecko looked… it’s how she feels now.

Looking around, she notices a long wooden table in one corner with two used cups left abandoned and quickly slides into one of the empty chairs on the edge of it. She sits there for a few minutes, collecting her cells, waiting for everything to have feeling again. The guy behind the espresso machine eyes her distrustfully.

Kayla begins to feel the pulsing in her finger tips again like a slight lick of fire. She sighs in relief and pulls off the mitten and bends her fingers, waking them from their icy sleep, and pulls out her phone. She scrolls through the messages and doesn’t notice the tall, blonde guy from behind the espresso machine call out to her in Russian. To her, it just sounds like another chopping knife on a long prep line of vegetable slicing.

“Hey. Girl,” he says again. The instant recognition of English sparks her attention and she looks up quickly as if someone was shouting about a rampant fire.

“You buy coffee.”

She looks at him and screws up her face.

“No hablo Ingles.”

He cocks his head to the side and opens his mouth a few times while his hands dance with the espresso machine, but he eventually gives up. The language barrier is taking too much of his attention away from the gauges and steam.

Kayla feels the phone shimmy under her fingers and slides up to see the message she’d been waiting for all day.

meet by the fountain

She shuts the phone to black and slides it back into her thick pockets and stuffs her still stiff fingers back in the mitten.

Novy Urengoy is a painted town of white and gray. The sky looks like the underbelly of a snowshoe and the buildings all yearn to match. Even the people are camouflaged perfectly into the moon-fish scales of the town.

The fountain looms like a scarecrow against the paleness of Novy Urengoy and Kayla tentatively wanders towards it. It’s October and the fountain has been turned off months ago. She can still smell the crispness of it in the air circling the structure.

“You made it,” she heard him whisper smooth black ink behind her.

Word Count: 527

If you’ve done today’s challenge as well, please comment with a link. I’d love to read what you have written.

Desperate Prepping: Day 1

Day 1 – October 11: Character development. Pick a random human you’ve seen today. Describe his or her physical attributes without using cliches. Write a flash piece about this person and integrate him or her into the Nano project’s world. 500 words. Focus on anti-cliche descriptions.

She’s a small girl, local. She sneezes like staccato notes being plucked off a child’s viola. Her laptop is covered in stickers to show us all she’s a cool kid. She knows all the trendy brands to have. Her hair is black and long like wide and flat sheets of nori. Her hands are extraordinarily small. Almost like fingers of delicate cashews attached to tiny moon shaped palms. Her concentration is fierce after her abrupt and musical sneezes. Four in a row.
I will call her Kayla.

Kayla slings her crispy-white backpack over her shoulder and immediately hunches her body forward, compressing herself against the sharp Chicago wind. Her entire life has been coddled by warm trade winds and flat palmed sun slaps from Hawaii, and nothing could have ever prepared her for the bone pricking cold that stabs at her again and again every time the slightest breeze picks up. Her eyes are small sunrises that don’t want to greet the day. They stay shut with just enough of a peak to barely make out which direction to walk in.

Chicago is amazing, they say. It’s the most beautiful city in the whole country, they tell her. She didn’t believe them then, and she definitely thinks they’re full of shit now. Nothing this cold could ever be anything but evil.

She hugs her arms tighter around her body and continues walking and lifting her head every few minutes to check the numbers on the buildings, surfacing like her brother says the turtles do when he surfs Queens.

As she turns the corner and the wind pauses briefly. She can’t feel it push against her forehead which gives her the fleeting second to pick herself up fully like a periscope and take a quick assessment of her surroundings.

She stands at the corner of a dingy street staring directly into an abandoned parking lot bathing in the shadow of an immense wall. Kayla looks around confused, lost, and growing more frustrated with this city that was supposed to be so freaking beautiful…

She notices the painting on the wall that’s standing over the parking lot like a God.

A painting of a woman with long and curved legs like low sound waves floats, cross-legged over the red and brown bricks of the old building. The woman is almost colorless except for the shocks of blue mixed with the gray and black. Her hair is blue. Her skin is a morosely navy undertone, but not enough to consider it Smurfish. She is tinted blue. Like everyone is looking at her through colored glass. Kayla’s mouth drops open slightly at how beautifully the painted woman’s full, overly voluptuous blue lips are parted slightly. She unconsciously mirrors the tiny o as if in response.

The wind picks up and punches her body forcefully like a dangling dream-catcher. It spins her around and knocks the warmth of her lungs as she turns away from it, her body retracting forcefully. She waits until the punishment stops before she rubs her hands together, warming them up and bending some dexterity back into the fingers that feel like cashews. She fumbles around her jacket pocket for her phone.

As she digs, she stares at the painting on the city wall. She honestly has never seen anything as beautiful as that. Not even all the cobalt blue waves on Sunset Beach could ever compare to that painting on that building in that parking lot on that painfully cold Chicago morning.

She groans as her phone is no where in her pocket and she realizes that she left it on the toilet paper dispenser in the bathroom at the clinic.

Word Count: 604