Friday, September 14, 2018

Granny Candy (part 1)

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.

My words are:

Dialed in ~ licensed ~ tricks-of-the-trade ~ in large measure ~ surveillance ~ phone record

They were submitted by:

So....this was originally inspired by a swap prompt I sent out last month or before (and I checked with that person to make sure she didn't mind me giving it a go! I'd never want to hurt anyone's feelings that way). I just couldn't stop thinking about it, and the words really fit, so here we are. It's probably going to be a multiparter if enough people enjoy it. I feel like it could end rather ok, but I'd like to see where it goes.


Lizzy was dead.

She kinda figured that was the case when the creepy dude in the black robes told her it was time, and they climbed in this weird ass skull boat floating down a bloody river that appeared right beside where she wrecked the car. She had swerved right into an ENTIRE tree trying to miss an oppossum of all things... a fucking marsupial. But now that they were standing in front of a building that looked remarkably like the Overlook Hotel, she was sure of it. She was definitely for real d e c e a s e d this time.

"Is this Hell? Do Jack Nicholson's sentient monster eyebrows chase me down the halls with an ax for all of eternity? Because I have to admit, that's kinda rad, my dude."

She didn't hear the robes' reply so much as understood it. See, total creepfest.

All in due time, Elizabetha.

"Nobody calls me Elizabetha." She squinched up her nose and made a retching sound.

Is that not your name?

"Well, yeah, sure. Technically. But isn't it a little...much?"

She couldn't see his face, but somehow she still knew he was rolling his eyes.

Elizabetha is your name. Why do humans insist on making everything a production?

"Oh? Oh is that how we're playing this? Well, what is your name?"

Charon. Technically as you put it. I have many names in many cultures, but that is my given name.
"Well how about if i call you... 'Death.'"

I prefer Charon.

"The Grim Reaper?"



What?! No.

"So despite having 'many names' you stick to the one you like is what you're saying?"

Very well then....sigh....Lizzy.

She could tell beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was barely holding off an actual retching sound, and it delighted her down to her newly ethereal toes. Being dead might have its perks.

"Sooooooo...." she rocked back and forth on her feet a little really ramping up her impatient stretching of the o. Such a tiny word for so much sass. "What the fuck are we doing here, Joe Black?"

Why must you lot always compare me to your terrible, cheap cinema?

His look of disgust seemed to move the air around them even while hidden in the shadows of his hood, but she would not back down. No way. "The depth of that eyeroll was deserving of an award, surely. An emmy for best supportive role in a feature film."

This is not a film, child.

"Then why the hell are we at the damned Overlook hotel? Why does this place look like it jumped here straight from a Kubrickian nightmare?"

That would have nothing at all to do with me, dear. You perceive this place as you want to...or need to really.

Now that finally rocked her. Not being dead. Not being escorted by a being older than man who was supposed to be a woman in an on again/off again fling with Deadpool. Her own little quirks could haunt her better than anything. "And this is what my brain has come up with, eh? Well, ain't this telling."


"Smug bastard."

She felt the grin tingle the base of her spine like an ice cold breeze.

"Ok, but where is here?"

It is a depot of sorts. I escort you to the afterlife you chose in life. Christians get their Heaven...or Hell. If one believes in reincarnation, you step through a door and go back to Earth in a new receptacle. If--

"Ewwww. Receptacle? Wtf?"

Body, then. Being. Creature. What do you want, child?

"Anything but receptacle. Creepsville, my guy. No one will ever swipe right on your ass if you talk like that to all the ladies."

Swipe right? What is this swipe right?

"You know, Tinder? Dating app? Booty calls? Friends with bennies?"

My place in existence is not to marry.

"I do not have to be married to sleep around, man."

Are you as certain of that in death as you were in life?

"What's that supposed to mean?!"

No matter. Let's step inside. We have much to discuss this night.

The inside looked remarkably NOT like the inside of Kubrick's Overlook though it did make her think of the darkest recesses of Stephen King's frontal lobes where sharp toothed clowns were born alongside haunted cars, spoiled aliens, and killer dogs. The architecture, stairs, doorways...every chair and desk and couch were all black highlighted by blue lighting that only fueled the shadows instead of disbursing them. It was tacky and weird and everything she ever wanted in a house...when she was a 14 year old Ouija queen holding seances at sleepovers and doing tarot readings at the lunch table. The nostalgic love for it hit her almost as hard as how terrible it all looked. The two emotions intertwined to hit her with a sucker punch that doubled her over in a maniacal laughing fit that would rival even The Shining girls in their pretty blue, bloodied dresses.

This is all you, dearheart. I must admit even I am a little bewildered here, but we must attend to our business. I have a long night ahead.

"What business do you mean?"

It seems we had a little trouble getting dialed in on exactly what your beliefs are.
"I'm agnostic. Was agnostic. How hard could that be?"

Oh, we knew that of course. We sent quite a lot of effort attempting to narrow it down. In large measure even most agnostics have a hope or a holdover belief from family or childhood they want to be true. But you... When I say there was nothing there--not an iota of care--I mean it. We even hired a licensed demon investigator, the best in the business, to conduct some surveillance in your world, check phone records, and all the usual tricks of the trade. My purpose here is to walk someone their spot in the depot, to their version of eternity whatever it may be, and release them--

"Wait. Just wait right there."

Yes, Elizab...Lizzy?

"You mean to tell me everyone was right? All religions are right? All these people fight and hate and ruin each other over religion for...for nothing?!"

That is an extremely limited way of conceiving it.

"So who is right then?!"

No one. And everyone.


It not only is possible, it simply is. If a person lived a good life, they get to live the eternity they worked for. How else would you have it?

"But.... but then they get to think they were right all along and had justification for looking down on others! They never know everyone gets their own deal."



Why does “fair” matter? And who does it matter to? They are dead.

“Because so many of them have been fucking awful? Because a lot of them treat people so terribly and judge lifestyles? Kill for religion? None of that matters.”

You are forgetting that if they have misused their beliefs for hate or violence, there is more than one place they believe they will go. Most religions allow for what you can whittle down to a good place and a bad place. Do you understand? Those people aren’t worried about whether they were right when stuck in a place that punishes their transgressions for all of time.
“I suppose that makes it slightly better then. A smidge. But it still ain’t a great compromise. What about atheists?”

I cannot answer these questions all night. You have a decision to make. But since we needed to visit the Atheist afterlife anyway to help with your choice, shall we start there?

“uhhhhh….I guess?”

He lead her then to a small hallway off from the reception area. Each room had a number like in any hotel. She wondered what this place looked like to others if not this. They stopped in front of 127, and he turned to look at her. Well, she assumed. She still hadn’t seen his face.

We’ll visit several doors tonight. You take a peek in, get a feel for the place, ask a couple of questions if you absolutely feel the need, and make your choice. Most people do not take this much work, so keep in mind this choice can be taken, and I’ll place you where I see fit if you abuse my time.

His eyes lit a fiery, deep orange on the last sentence like he was itching for the opportunity which made her take a step back involuntarily while his laugh surrounded her like a blanket made of spider webs. “I get you and all, but do you have to be so damned creepy?”

He turned, still laughing, opened the door with a little oxblood-colored key card, and the two of them stepped in. It was sort of like they were on a balcony of sorts. She could look down on the city below her, high enough to be above the clamor on the streets but still be able to catch the action. It looked just like home…people scrambling to get here and there, homeless in the alleys, fights outside bars. She could sense everything as it was happening—joy, hopelessness, anger, pain, confusion. “Is this their bad place?”

Atheists do not believe in a dichotomy of afterlife. There is only one place, here. They are given the option to blink out of existence as they believed they would in life, but given the option, most end up here. It is much like where humans spend their lives—a place of madness if you ask me. But no one here is sick or dying. They just live their lives like workers in a child’s antfarm doing their work and turning over green paper for things they think make them feel better. As I said, it’s essentially the world you left with a few caveats.”

“So…I’d have to spend eternity working? With the same kinds of people I lived with? Like, there are libertarians here?”


“No fucking thank you. WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT THIS?! Next.”

Very well.

The two of them climbed a set of winding stairs up to the second floor where they stopped of 237.

This, my child, is Hell. Unless you particularly want to have the option, we can skip this one and go down the hall to what they call Heaven. You don’t really qualify for this door, but I am obligated to give you the full tour of options per my supervisor.

“You know…if it had been any other door besides this one, I might be game, but considering there are zombie tiddies behind this one in the movie, I think I am just fine with skipping it. Also, who is your supervisor?”

My supervisor is none of your concern.

They turned and walked a few doors down. Light poured into the hallway from underneath the door like it was just too powerful to be contained. A faint music could be heard….musak seemingly. The internal cringe she felt ended up sending a shiver down her spine. “Uh… can I ask something out here?”

I suppose.

"So maybe you know this, but my uncle Wayne was a pastor of some kind of Christian sect. I don’t know the details, but he was always preaching about eternal damnation, his incontinent cat, and how gay people are selfish. I’m not sure which one or what the deal was, but before I decide about this door I need to know if he’s in there because if he is, well, I can pass this one up right now.

Pastor Wayne... ah, yes. I completely understand. Pastor Wayne was a special case as well. Wayne has his own afterlife. In life, he believed he was the only person living a good enough life to get into Heaven. All ego, that one. So, no one and nothing else is there which, since you know him well, you also understand is really his own version of Hell. He has no one to talk to about himself or feel superior to. It worked out well for everyone that way. I should say, however, there are people similar to your uncle behind this door. But they’re also surrounded by gay Christians and rainbows, so it’s made a bit of an impact on things. In this instance, since you seem to care so much about who was right and wrong, those individuals have had to eat a lot of crow as you humans might say.

“You can tell you meet mostly old people if you think a lot of humans use that phrase.”

They have egg on their face, then.

“Still no.”

Have had to eat their words?

“oh just give up.”

Fine. Do you want to go in or not?”

“No thanks. I don’t think this is for me either. What’s next?”

Jannah. The Muslim version of eternal paradise.

“I mean, I AM curious, but in the interest of saving your grumpy ass some time, I can go ahead and pass. These Daddy type religions are not really my thing.”

So, no to anything associated specifically with Catholics who have their own space separate from other Christians, Jehovahs, Mormons, and the Jewish rooms then?


So, no gods or many gods are acceptable?

“Oh wait what about Scientology? Is that, like, one or many?”

You…you’re actually interested in the Scientology room?

The confusion emanated from him like a dark cloud which made her double over laughing again.

“I really feel like I didn’t get enough shots at them in life, you know? Like I’d love to peek for some meme-worthy jokes.”

I wish you would speak your language correctly. What is this meme?

“Grimmy! You mean to tell me no one has come here and talked about memes? What the fuuuuuuck? Memes are life. How could someone come here and not talk about memes?”

It’s obvious you chose to say “meme” as many times as possible in order to pull one over on me.

“Pull one over on you? You sound like someone’s great grandma. Do you have some Werther’s Originals in your purse, Granny Grim?”

What are these Werther’s Originals?

“Wait. Wait… You’ve never… I was just kidding around and giving you a hard time. Trolling or whatever for shits and giggles. But…do you have money? Like, can we pop on over to the Atheist door and hit up a drugstore? Do they have real food there?”

I suppose so if you feel it is absolutely necessary to your journey, we can.

“Let’s do this!”’

Charon snapped his fingers, and the two found themselves outside what appeared to be a regular ass CVS. Lizzie stared up at him dumbfounded, a look of utter confusion on her face. “Uh…if you can just snap your fingers and take us anywhere we want to go, what’s with the fucked up hotel and the doors and the walking?”

Perhaps I, too, have a flair for the dramatic.

“I’d say that’s an understatement. Now, come on.” She grabbed him by the robe sleeve and pulled him down the aisles until she found the candy. She grabbed the Originals, some chewy Werther’s, and the green apple ones since it was almost Halloween, and she hadn’t had those all year long, omg. Charon paid at the register like he was anyone else. No one bat an eye of weirdness at the creeptastic hooded demon dude, but whatever. Stranger things happened to her back at home. She accidentally walked into a furry convention once while she was high thinking it was some kind of Comic Con event. When they stepped back outside, she pointed to a bench under a huge oak tree in the park across the street, and the two of them made a beeline for it with their bagful of old lady candy.

She sat right next to him instead of moving to the other end of the bench when he sat down prissily on one end. The displeasure he sent her way made her grin. She was having a little too much fun giving him shit, but the Werther’s were definitely going to make up for it. She handed him one, took one herself, and sat back waiting for his reaction while she unwrapped and popped it in her mouth. As soon as it hit, she was flooded with nostalgia which was immediately drowned out by joy so intense she thought she might explode in a cloud of glitter and unicorn farts.

“S’good, eh?”

Mmmmm. Yes. I do agree.

“So, Grimmy…like, don’t you need an assistant or something? Is that a thing?”

It has never been requested. I would have to make a formal request to the supervisor. If I can put up with you, that is. We still have to finish your tour. It is the way things are done here.

“Let’s eat a few more of these first, then.”

Finally…something on which we agree, Lizzy.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, September 7, 2018

Pry My Candy Corn From My Cold Dead Hands

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 8 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My Secret Subject” is:

What’s something that “everyone” seems to be obsessed with and you just don’t get it?

It was submitted by:

This kind of had perfect timing. I've been talking about this with people for a few weeks now.


Like anyone else, I have a lot of things I just haven’t been able to get into while people I know sing their praises. TV shows, foods, drinks, movies, brands, activities… The list is pretty long. I couldn’t get into Breaking Bad. I don’t like The Walking Dead. I didn’t even bother with Game of Thrones. I hate root beer. Don’t even get me started on black licorice. Baked beans are the devil. The Notebook was trash. I can’t stand South Park or Family Guy. I have never ever wanted a Coach bag or a Louis Vuitton. I don’t shop at Sephora, and I’ve never seen Frozen even though I love Kristen Bell. I don’t have any plans on ever watching it either.

Can we just take a moment to think about my sick ass trying crossfit? Or watching…*shivers*…football?

Is it even possible to picture me wearing anything that isn’t black or that doesn’t make you want to hold an exorcism?

But those are just me. Those are my opinions and tastes. I don’t think not liking any of these things makes me special or makes anyone else objectively wrong except maybe the black licorice. Sadly, though, that’s exactly the thing that everyone else is seemingly into that I just don’t get—shitting on things other people love for likes and attention instead of just letting people enjoy the things they love.

Youtube is rife with videos titled “how to eat [insert food]” or “how to drink [insert beverage]” and thousands show up on facebook every year of regular ass people throwing away perfectly good food in order to show how detestable something is supposed to be. Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, milk, candy corn, a whole ass plate of Chinese food, and pineapple on pizza are all examples of the subjects of these videos. Adults ordering food or buying whole 2 liters just to film themselves throwing it away in the name of controversy on social media just kinda blows my mind. At no time is that more apparent than Pumpkin Spice season. Hordes of memes making fun of pumpkin spice crowd the spaces of our social media timelines making fun of anyone who dares like a traditional spice selection dating back hundreds of years used for all sorts of baked goods. How dare we, eh? It’s not enough for these people to *not* care for it themselves; they absolutely have to label and tear down every person who does. “Basic,” ridiculous, obsessed… a whole stereotype of woman has been built upon liking a fucking mix of spice.


We live in a world plagued by huge issues. Times are pretty scary especially for women, minorities, and LGBTQIA folks. We aren’t sure of the future. You might even say we’re living in a somewhat dystopian nightmare that we thought we would only ever read about in novels as a cautionary tale. Instead of tearing down folks for finding some small joy in life that absolutely hurts no one else (unless you want to debate the tenants of capitalism), here’s a novel idea.


I can’t watch Game of Thrones for the assault scenes but I don’t trash on the many friends I have that watch it.

I don’t like pineapple on pizza, but I live with someone who does.

I would rather stab my own eyes out than watch a single episode of Family Guy, but I know dozens of people who get a laugh out of it.

Try it with me. Let people have their loves, their fandoms, their tastes, their passions…

Let men wear their hair in a bun without being yet another person to question manhood as if masculinity has anything to do with a hairstyle.

Let people eat their candy corn which must not be that fucking bad since it has existed literally for decades doing just as well as ever.

Don’t debate tea over coffee. Let people drink whatever they want.

Drink Dr. Pepper or milk or Mountain Dew or KoolAid or even Fanta if you choose and let other people choose too.

If a person wants to eat/drink/lather in/bathe with/spray themselves with/gargle with what we call “pumpkin spice” why not try letting them without cutting them down into some narrow stereotype?

Be a Converse person or Vans or even Uggs AND LET PEOPLE WEAR WHAT THEY WANT.

Repeat this after me: no one’s choice of clothing or food or drink hurts you or takes away your choices. And not liking things that other people like makes you no different than everyone else who doesn’t like it.

At best, when you gang up together and talk shit about things other people enjoy, styles they have, and activities they enjoy, you look like a bully, and your children are watching.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Never Ever Give Up Hope


Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, August 17, 2018

Visual Literature

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

school ~ books ~ difficulty ~ letter ~ budget

They were submitted by:


This is my 5th year homeschooling. I think. Time has lost all meaning in the brain fogged existence I lead planning lessons and grading papers and begging, pleading for this child to pull more adjectives out of his ass than "good" or "interesting" when writing an essay and to actually learn to write in such a way that I no longer need a decoder ring to decipher almost every letter in the answers to the questions he's assigned.

There are not enough words in the English language to describe the difficulty of teaching a child, at least MY child, at home. It is a drain of patience and my precious little energy considering what is already drained with me/cfs, and I have realized all too keenly that my child was perfectly constructed so as to be able to tune out almost every single thing I say. He thinks "skimming" counts as reading. He skips rules and takes shortcuts and refuses to ask for help even when he desperately needs it. He loses every. single. pencil. I buy him which I blame all on his father's half of his genes (only half-jokingly).

It's a lot of responsibility. I have to know what the average kid in his grade level should be learning, what the state standards are, and the laws involving homeschooling. I have to make it fun but informative, challenging but ability-appropriate, varied enough to hold his interest but not so varied we lose the sense of routine that helps him stay focused despite being unmedicated with ADHD. I have to prepare this kid who is terrible at written tests (but gets the answers 100% right every time if we do it orally 😑) for a standardized test every 3 years to make sure we're on track with our learning. It's work, hard work. We don't always get along during the school day. My expectations and his motivation are hardly ever at the same level. We end a lot of days stressed the fuck out and in need of a breather.


I don't think either of us would have it any other way. He has not yet answered affirmatively each year when I ask him how he wants to handle things regarding going back to public school, and even though he drives me crazy so much of the time...I like the control I have over what he learns, and I can make sure his education is tailored to him personally. We choose classes together. I choose the books which means I don't go with the ones tailored just for Georgia students used by the school system here that whitewashes much of history and skips a lot of evolution. It's my budget not a school budget dependent upon the overall test results of the students. If we need extra books, we get them. We handle our own supplies and skip a lot of germs. We work on our own schedule meaning we stay up late and sleep in most of the time. If we need a day off, we take one and make it up elsewhere. When he has a grip on a lesson, we move on, and when he doesn't, we repeat it. It's less stress for him than going to an actual school, and he still gets plenty of socialization. And we're obviously doing something right since he tested more than 2 grades above his level this past year in reading comprehension, language skills, and math.

So difficult...but also worth it.

Right now we're doing pre-algebra, biology, grammar, ancient world history, and computer fundamentals. But I also added film studies in place of literature this year, and so far it has been amazingly fun and has gotten us sharing movies and talking about them more in depth every school night. I happen to think visual stories can be as important as written ones, and the work that goes into them can be fascinating. Understanding lighting, color, continuity, transitions, camera angles, and the like can tell you more about the stories you're watching. We've watched Citizen Kane, Jaws (compared to Wet Hot American Summer), What We Do in the Shadows, Almost Famous and This Is Spinal Tap. We watched parts os Sin City and clips from Clerks. Pan's Labyrinth, SLC Punk, Taxi Driver, Snatch, and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World... and we're only 3 weeks into the year. 

I share with him insights as we watch pointing out the elements he has read about in his film studies class. I taught him why the color palette of Jaws is so calm and neutral or why Sin City is in mostly black and white. He learned what film noir is. He knows now why some characters are bathed in light and some in shadow in certain scenes. We talk about why a shot is wide or why it's a close up, what the intent is for the viewer and what the director is trying to say without saying it with dialogue. We looked at Guy Ritchie's signature montages and how he uses transitions and narration so successfully and so uniquely that you can watch a movie and just know when he's the director. And we have so much left to cover--genres, directorial style, plot, chopped narratives and straightforward ones, what defines a "cult classic," scores that change the entire movie, movies that are a product of the culture in which they were created and more.

Now that we've started, he can't stop. Even when he watches movies for fun, he notices the things we've gone over. Finally my child can actually listen to me talk about something and appreciate the knowledge I'm giving (knowledge I had to teach myself)! It only took how many years?! Either way, I'll take this win and put it in my motivation bank for the next time I look at his worse-than-doctor-scribble handwriting that might say plates ate the sordid phantom or might say hydrogen is good.

***Before I go, I do want to add that he listens to me about other things because I like to talk shit about historical characters. it's fun and more relateable for me to call Christopher Columbus an incapable, lying mf than what he can read in a book. it's like he has Samuel L. Jackson for a history teacher.

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, August 10, 2018

Where's the Justice?

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 9 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

“How could this happen..?”

It was submitted by:

I recently picked up a new person (in prison) to write. His case astonished me to be perfectly honest which has not happened too often in my 11 years of doing this, and when I got this prompt, it felt a lot like I was meant to write about it. A few informative links will follow


How could this happen? is something I asked myself over and over again when I read about Ivan Bechtol and why he's in prison for life. At 38, he's been in almost as long as he was ever free, and there's only a slight illumination at the end of his tunnel that might be a sunlit meadow of freedom or might be the tunnel on fucking fire trapping him inside for eternity. The way his life is going I imagine he feels more inclined to believe the latter.

When Ivan was 19, he was using cocaine on top of the usual substances a lot of people that age enjoy. He was actually with a local coke dealer in the wee hours of September 3rd, 2001. Those hours he spent with this dealer would be his unending in a wild tale that reads more like a poorly written whodunit than an actual, believable criminal investigation.

In those early hours on September 3rd, the dealer, William Cron (with a history of sex crimes and drug dealing), stopped the vehicle that he and Ivan were in at the house where Cron's ex-girlfriend was staying with another male companion. Apparently, Jamie Moran, the ex and victim in this case, had gotten some coke from Cron earlier. He fronted it on the promise she would pay him later with the money she got from selling some on her own. After a night of  doing drugs and drinking himself, he became paranoid she wouldn't pay because he owed *her* money and decided to track her down. Ivan had gotten a ride with him when Cron decided to stop by where he figured Moran would be staying.

Cron got lucky with his guess. It just wasn't very lucky for anyone else involved.

Cron cut the phone lines to the house and broke in leaving Ivan in his vehicle. The owner of the house, Ira Henke, heard a dog bark around 6:30 a.m. He went to check and found Cron inside the house, and the two got into a fight. Ivan heard the commotion, ran in, and broke up the fight. Ivan and Cron ran out.

The next morning, Ivan was arrested on a home invasion charge over this incident. He spent most of the rest of the day in a jail cell. Cron, however, managed to slip the police and spent most of his day terrorizing Jamie Moran. He found her new cell phone number and called repeatedly to threaten her at her job. The police were called but didn't find him nearby and left with matters unsolved. Jamie had a friend follow her part of the way home to make sure she wasn't being followed. The intersection where they parted ways was the last time Jamie was ever seen alive.

Not long after leaving her, the friend made a call to check on her and heard screaming. Her body was found in her car in a lake the next morning at 7 a.m.

It has never been disputed that Cron killed her. In his trial, it was indicated that he hid in her trunk wearing a disguise and forced her to pull over. He was physically 100% responsible for her death. No one else was there. He even forced her to write letters clearing him of crimes he committed against her and left them on her body...

That should be where the story ends for Ivan--with maybe a little time served for a home invasion he wasn't really responsible for and a wake up call about the friends he chose to hang around. Instead, he might very well spend the rest of his life in prison. Shortly after Jamie Moran's murder, he was picked up and charged with helping to plot it and hasn't been home since.

At Cron's trial, Ivan's involvement was never an aspect on either side of the case. In fact, Ivan was hardly mentioned at all and certainly was not discussed as playing any part the planning of or execution of the murder. At no time did conspiring with another person even get discussed at that murder trial. Cron was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison with there being no doubt about his sole involvement in the murder. It was called a crime of passion.

Ivan's trial involved a completely different timeline, motive, and story. Instead of the straightforward timeline involved in Cron's trial, he was accused of somehow, even with spending most of the day until well into the afternoon in a jail cell, conspiring with Cron to kill Moran to keep her from going to the police about his use of drugs even though she had been using drugs herself. The only real evidence against him beyond his presence when Cron broke into Menke's house to find Moran was the testimony of a jailhouse informant who said Ivan told him he had been involved in a murder. This confession supposedly took place in jail after he was picked up on a DUI charge and because of that alleged confession, he never left. He's spent all of his adult life behind bars. 

That "witness" later recanted.

Let me pause here for a moment. Jailhouse informants are hardly what you might call a reliable witness. It has been proven time and again that many of these informants offer information in exchange for favors, reduced time, dropped charges or even payment or are pressured by attorneys or other authority figures to testify--even to lie. In multiple states, DAs have been proven to have rings of multiple informants. If the DA needs testimony to clinch a case, they simply place one of these informants in the same prison as the defendant, and suddenly there is a confession to help out, help win a conviction. At times, the informants themselves are completely fabricated in order to get warrants or help win a case in court. And while many of these cases are eventually thrown out because it is all lies and bullshit used to pad numbers and win elections, many more remain undetected.

That is very likely true of the informant in Ivan's case. When recanting later, this witness voluntarily offered an affidavit that stated he was coerced and pressured into making that statement by the prosecuting attorney. Ivan never told him anything at all about any murder which has been Ivan's consistent story for nearly two decades. Keep in mind that same prosecutor has already had one case overturned where it was determined he coerced a false confession.

At this point, pretty much all of Ivan's appeals have been exhausted. A recanted testimony alone does very little to sway the appellate court. At the appeals stage, a defendant is looking to prove the trial was unfair. Attacking the evidence used at the trial after the fact only works in the event forensic analysis obsolves the defendant of guilt or that new evidence (like the affidavit recanting the jailhouse confession) is enough to have changed the jury's mind. In this case, there's just not enough to attack, and the trial itself, even if utterly ridiculous, was conducted "fairly" under most interpretations of the law (in a fairly conservative state and certainly a diehard conservative area of the state).

At best, Ivan may be eligible for parole in 2029 when he is nearly 50--too old to start over and have children or live any semblance of a normal life. In letters, he apologizes frequently for being so withdrawn. He's forgotten how to connect to people well. Another 11 years inside isn't going to help him come home and be just fine not to mention he may not even be granted parole in the first place (though I hope to be as much of a help as possible in him getting it). He was effectively given a life sentence for a murder the court knows he had no physical involvement in, committed by, at best, a casual acquaintance at a time in his life when, as the entire field of psychology has proven, his brain was not yet fully developed. His decision making and impulse control at the very least were underdeveloped. Not to mention the way cocaine and alcohol use at such a young age added to that aspect of immaturity. The only thing he's guilty of is the same faulty decision making so many of us have at that age, and he surely doesn't deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison for it.

He did not kill anyone. That fact has never been disputed. He made some shitty choices about drugs and who he hung around, sure. But he wasn't even out of jail long enough to plan a murder that day. He wasn't involved, and there is absolutely no real proof he ever was. The prosecutor wanted another conviction and did whatever it took to get one.

In Ivan's trial, Ira Henke had the nerve to say Ivan is pretty much as guilty as Cron for having broken up the fight, that Henke could have held Cron until the police arrived, and Cron would have been in custody instead of free to murder Jamie Moran. The jury bought into that as much as anything else.

This is where our criminal justice system is at--sending people to prison for life often at a profit to multiple billion dollar industries based on no evidence, psychic predictions like Henke's, and the whims of overzealous prosecutors. Ivan isn't even the first for this particular prosecutor. How many more has he done this to? How often does this happen across the country? How have we gotten this far off the course of actual justice?

How could this happen and so many people not know?

How do we fix it?


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Never Ever Give Up Hope

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, July 13, 2018

McKenna Speaks (Part 2)

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.

I’m using: reconcile, abracadabra, book, learn, celebrate

They were submitted by:

This is a continuation of part 1 of McKenna Speaks which you can find here. I really enjoy a tiny subgenre of stories online that are essentially wholesome demon stories. I'm not sure if the intent with this was ever to symbolize that the very kind of people we demonize are not necessarily what we make them out to be through our beliefs or religion, but that is why they mean so much to me. People like me are often demonized for being queer and looked down on, and so many of us are the kindest people you will ever meet, and it is certainly not just my community who deals with this. The prompt I got for Secret Subject Swap last week kind of fit perfectly for that meaning and this genre, so I excitedly dived into telling my own story about a heartwarming demon. It kind of took on a life of its own, though. The more I wrote, the more I enjoyed it, and in doing so, the entire thing ended up being far longer than I would have guessed going in. I won't apologize for that because I absolutely feel like I created something beautiful here, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The words I received for Use Your Words this week could not have fit better with what I was already writing so here we are. I didn't even have to make it fit. I love when things work out so perfectly like this. Also, thanks to Ash from the blog More Than Cheese And Beer for essentially being my editor on this piece and for always making me laugh.

Content warning for ableism and abuse

To summarize part 1 for you in the briefest way possible: McKenna is a young child who is nonverbal and autistic. Her mom hears her talking one day and finds her with a demon who she banishes out of fear. We see the dad come in later and it is obvious he is not at all accepting of McKenna. We left off when McKenna's mom discovers how her child accidentally summoned a demon because she accidentally does it herself. The father is just about to walk in on that scene.


Chet burst through McKenna's bedroom door and stopped dead in his tracks stammering and stuttering and unable to form an actual question about what was going on.

"Wha--, wh-wh-who, w-w-w-what?"

Tiffani looked back and forth between the demon and her husband trying to figure out what to say and to who or if maybe she should just make a run for it and let them settle things when she noticed McKenna running into the room smiling ear to ear making a beeline for her "fren."

She squealed a little as he reached down and scooped her up in his arms not a claw catching on her skin as if he could retract them like a cat. "FURFUR! YOU BACK TO TELL ME YOUR STORIES?" she yelled so full of excitement she couldn't possibly turn her volume down.

His gravelly voice made Tiffani's insides squirm when he replied, "Yes, tiny girl. But, your mother summoned me, so I shall answer her question before you get your stories."

"Aw, man! I don't want to waaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!"

"Tiny, I will tell you an extra one if you let me conduct my business with your mother. Do we have a deal?"


Mckenna wiggled down out of his arms and ran about the room getting some of her dolls and plushies lined up on the side of her little white four poster bed against the wall for "story time" while Tiffani marveled at the conversation that just took place. Her baby. Her nonverbal tiny baby had things to say. Real things. She had interacted with someone with both words and emotions. It was everything she had prayed for... Tiffani was lost in the wonder of those moments when she felt a sharp pain across the top of her back and fell to the floor.


She felt Chet's hands in her hair pulling her to her feet. The demon pulled McKenna to him shielding her from view as Tiffani stumbled and felt some of her hair rip out into Chet's fist. She pulled herself to her feet again and twisted to face him. "Get. Your. Hands. Off. Me."

He pulled her face toward him and sneered. "Not a chance. Not until you tell me just what the hell is going on in my house."

"You know what, Chet, if I knew myself I would surely let you know just so I wouldn't have to see your ugly ass for the rest of the night, but I don't, so here we are. If you want answers, you're going to have to get your greasy womanizing hands the hell off me so I can get them, you goon."

The shock registered on his face. She had never dared talk to him that way, but it didn't last long before it was replaced with more rage. He backhanded her across the face making her lose her balance. She crumpled on the floor, shocked herself. He might have been terrible since McKenna was born. He may have thrown things in anger and had to fix holes he punched in the wall. He may have worn her down until she was afraid to say no, but he had *never* actually physically hurt her. Not like this.

From her spot on the floor, she could still see the action. Furfur was standing his full height and had McKenna in one arm wrapped in a wing to stop her seeing what was going on, but it didn't muffle her cries. She sounded terrified begging Furfur not to let her daddy hurt her.

Chet was headed in their direction screaming about delivering his child from evil and getting her to the church. Before he could get there, though, Furfur conjured (the best word, she guessed) a ball of light or maybe it was fire. Whatever it was did not at all look like it was good news.

"I do not recommend you attempt to take this child out of my arms. You will not live long enough to hurt her if you do."

Chet stopped mid-stride and watched as the ball grew hotter and redder. She could feel the heat of the thing from her spot on the floor across the room. He stood there 2 feet from it, skin turning pink, mouth open, and eyes wide. Furfur smiled creepily and bellowed out a laugh as the ball disappeared. When his laughter finally died down, he didn't utter another word; he simply pointed at the door. And out Chet went. But, he did turn back looking down at Tiffani and warned, "this is not over. You WILL be answering for what you've done as soon as I make sure I run off this thing you've given our child to." The door slammed, and she just stared, tears streaming down her stinging face.

She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Furfur apparently felt sorry enough for her to offer to help her up. She took his hand...and felt, well, nothing. Nothing strange. She thought she would certainly feel the evil coming off him. She knew the stories. The church talked about demons so much. In fact, in bigger places the priests were taking exorcism classes. How could he feel so normal?

He knelt down and let her see that McKenna had cried herself to sleep. She looked so comfortable there on his shoulder, at home. Or surely at peace at the very least. Tiffani looked from her to him and back again wondering just what the hell was going on.

"Sit down, mother of Tiny. You still get your 1 question."

She sat at the Hello Kitty table watching as he tucked McKenna in. He knew all the rituals--which plushie slept on which side, to take the larger pillow and put it on the open side of the bed, and turn on the little unicorn nightlight plugged in beside the night table. He even pulled the quilt up just right (which meant past her armpits but not quite up to her neck or she would throw down). He absolutely knew her child, knew her quirks, and Tiffani had no idea how to feel about it.

He crossed the distance from the bed to the table and sat across from her. She hadn't really noticed his smell until he got close--burnt musk (which was not pleasant). He folded himself miraculously into a small enough shape to relax at the table and watched her intensely.

Tiffani thought a lot about what she wanted to ask. "Confused" didn't even begin to cover how she felt. This whatever-he-was had acted in ways that contradicted everything she knew. She wanted to ask about God, about life, about how he came to befriend her daughter, if he stole McKenna's soul to help her talk... But, there was one question she kept coming back to that shown solidly and brightly above the others.

"Do you love her?"

"That is what you want to know of all the knowledge in the universe?"

"No. No, of course not. But...I mean, I think right now for me in this moment it is the most important."

"In that case, the answer you seek is 'yes.'"

"But how?"

He laughed knowingly making Tiffani sigh in exasperation. "You get but one question. Does the 'how' change anything?"

She connected with his eyes for the first real time since all this began, searching. "It could change everything I know, to be honest, but, no, my questions about my faith are not as important as knowing my daughter is loved and safe. But let me tell you, I want her soul safe, too. I want her to be loved for who she is not some version of herself you created with...with a magical 'abracadabra' or whatever it is you do. She deserves that, you know--genuine happiness, to be loved unconditionally by the people who look after her, to be celebrated..." She faltered on that last word. The sobs that had been building thundered out of her body, loud wails of absolute mental fatigue and anguish. The demon never moved, never looked away in embarrassment, never violated her boundaries. He did, however, take a handkerchief out of his pants pocket and pass it over wordlessly and waited her out almost as if refusing to make her cry alone. That can't be right, she thought as she pulled herself together. These are supposed to be the most evil, selfish, violent creatures to exist.

"I am not required to explain this to you. You had your one question. I do, however, want you to know, I cannot lie in answer to a summoning question. She is loved without conditions as you say. I have not harmed Tiny in any way. She speaks because she wants to, when she wants to, no other time. I do not want to see you suffer this as it would cause Tiny great distress, so understand I will be at her call as long as she would like me to. I have no words of explanation for it. I believe when she called accidentally her first time, she needed someone to hear her, and I took the time to learn how to listen."

Tiffani nodded through more tears and tried to get up from the table. Her hip had taken most of her fall earlier, and she was beginning to feel it. The demon was at her side in an instant, though, and helped her to her feet then over to McKenna's bed. He stepped back intuitively giving them some space as she leaned over to kiss her little angel on the tip of her nose.

Quietly the gravelly not-quite-human voice from behind her said, "I shall stay the night to see Tiny is safe from that man you call her father. It is my belief you should stay as well."

So she did. Hesitantly. She was torn between the stories she had heard in church, what the word "demon" was supposed to mean, and what this actual demon in front of her was like. But he made her At the very least she wholeheartedly believed he would not let Chet hurt "Tiny" as he affectionately called her daughter. As soon as she climbed in bed and snuggled against the child with these thoughts whirling in her head, she was out.

Gray light was filtering through the windows when Tiffani was shaken awake. She sat up in a panic startling the demon who already had McKenna cradled like a newborn in one arm.

"Something is wrong. The man left and has returned with someone else. The air feels off. Get ready. He is coming soon."

"Wait. Is your name really Furfur?"

"You ask this now?"

She frowned at his amusement. "It just seems like something I should know, ok?"

He nodded affirmation, "Essentially, yes."

Whatever that means, she thought, as she heard Chet's footsteps hit the stairs. She had no idea what to expect.

He slammed through the door without knocking and swaggered inside exaggerating his steps, hat cocked, looking like he was on the set of an Axe body spray commercial. Behind him, Father Wayne from their church looked on the scene with a horrified expression and signed the cross over himself.

Father Wayne had welcomed them with open arms from the very first time they had attended services. His sermons often ran over time. It wasn't unusual for the first Sunday Service to cut into the second Sunday Service, eventually becoming a single, three hour service of monotonous scripture reading with the occasional self-deprecating jokes about being a bald, overweight, middle-aged man. He was prone to heavily preaching on the submission of wives to their husband, conveniently forgetting the rest of the verse regarding a husband's responsibility to his wife. He insisted on pre-marital counseling sessions for newly engaged couples where he gave the ladies 1950's era advice on how to be a good wife, advice which he persistently extended, unsolicited of course, to Tiffani which she attributed to Chet's not very discreet indiscretions. His sermons were peppered with intolerance disguised as God's Word, and while not everyone in the congregation agreed they often wrote it off as a result of him being a "devout Catholic from another time." But, he had welcomed them unconditionally, and something about the unvarying tone of his sermons often lulled McKenna into a nap. Chet always eyed their child sleeping on the pew between them with irritation, but Tiffani was grateful for the opportunity to worship in the Church with other believers and regarded Father Wayne as a slightly misguided but gentle Man of God.

"When Chet told me you were consorting with demons, I just couldn't believe it, my child. But here you are right in front of my eyes in the presence of true evil and allowing your daughter to be ruined by it."

"But I'm not 'consorting' with anything, Father. McKen---"

Chet interrupted as he always did. "We can see quite clearly with our own two goddamn eyes, you bitch." He glanced behind him at the priest sheepishly. "Sorry, Father."

Father Wayne stepped forward and crossed himself again while Furfur hissed and covered his face with his wings. "BEGONE FOUL BEAST IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT." And just as before, the demon disappeared like he was never there leaving McKenna with no support. She hit the ground hard, head bouncing off the hardwood floor, and immediately began screaming.

"Get the child and hold her down, Chet!" the old priest said, elevating his volume above McKenna's wails. Tiffani looked in horror as Chet dragged the child towards the priest and put his knees over her shoulders while Father Wayne opened a book, a Bible maybe?, laid it on the floor beside him, and knelt down to hold her feet. McKenna screamed even more and bucked wildly on the floor obviously in pain and terrified.


Chet turned and glared at her. "This is OUR daughter or did you forget when you laid down with the Devil, Tiffani? And I'm undoing your evil. I'm taking back OUR daughter. Watch and learn how to be an actual parent. Tough love is a fact of life, baby. Suck it up."

"Tiffani, as your Priest, it is my duty to help your family and your child in any way that I can. Chet has asked me for my aid. We have agreed exorcisms must be performed. I called Bishop Bachman a few hours ago for permission upon which he agreed after Chet laid out the facts of your, uh, sexual relationship with this infernal invader leaving you and your child open to possession--if I could verify for myself that this was the case. As I live and breathe I cannot fathom why you would turn to dark powers to fix a child when our Lord was doing his work. How dare you question his timing? You know, I have an incontinent cat at home. You should try living with that! But I get on my knees and pray daily for assistance from our Lord in helping me care for Humphrey rather than doing sodomy with the Devil's brood. Count yourself lucky we no longer burn people like you at the stake. Now run along and get your chores done before it's your turn."

Satisfied, they both turned back to McKenna while Tiffani sat dumbfounded and more confused than ever. Incontinent cats? Sodomy with the devil? She had not a clue what was going on here as Father Wayne began a prayer.

"May Thy mercy, Lord, descend upon us. As great as our hope in Thee.

We drive you from us,
whoever you may be,
unclean spirits,
all satanic powers,
all infernal invaders,
all wicked legions,
assemblies and sects."

McKenna screeched and growled--nothing new--and clawed at Chet's legs trying to get up. She punched herself in the face and scratched anything she could dig her claws into. It was quite a show, but it was nothing out of the ordinary when she was overwhelmed by the unexpected, afraid, or just overstimulated. McKenna absolutely would not stop trying to hurt herself and anyone around her until she was worn out completely and who knew how much damage would be caused by then.

"In the Name and by the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ, may you be snatched away and driven from the Church of God and from the souls made to the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of the Divine Lamb."

Mckenna growled again. "It's working, Father. It's working," Chet said almost giddily, but when McKenna managed to get one of her feet loose and kick the old, bald priest in the face, his expression darkened again. Chet reared back and slapped the child across the face splitting her lip and quieting her screams and movements for the moment, maybe knocking her unconscious. "I told you not to spare the rod, babe. She throws these tantrums because she is spoiled as shit, and it's your fault."

Father Wayne had gotten her feet restrained once more and glanced at her bloody lip with slight concern before continuing on, but Tiffani had seen enough. She ran for McKenna's drawings still on floor near the table where she dropped them what seemed like a lifetime ago already. The priest recited his prayers while she frantically searched for the page with Furfur's summoning symbol. She pictured him in her mind holding McKenna so sweetly as shaky fingers traced the design. The paper grew hot, but she held on this time pushing her will and thoughts into the rising shape. Fix this, stop them, make this stop, help Tiny, I need you, please let this work, Tiny needs you.

Furfur rose into his usual shape, wings extended to their full size, but Tiffani felt different this time. She could feel him taking up space in her mind, feel his energy. His voice echoed in her head, "Mother of Tiny, did you push your will into the summoning?"
"My name is Tiffani," she responded in her head.

He sighed out loud and in her mind. "This name obsession again?" He chuckled, and it almost instantly put her at ease. "Tiffani. Did you mix your will with the summoning?"

"Yes. I don't know why. I just....she needs you."

"It is good. I cannot stay here long in the face of such prayer alone. Keep doing what you are doing."

"Why not?"

"Mothe....Tiffani, we do not have time for such long stories now, but if we get our Tiny back, I will tell you the history of my kind. Deal?"

She nodded and pushed her need to help McKenna at him hard enough to make him stumble. His eyes widened a little. "Don't underestimate the power of a mama bear needing to protect her baby," she said out loud this time.

He strode forward, grabbed Chet by the collar and threw him through the bedroom doorway. Father Wayne stood up simultaneously pulling a small cross and vial out of his pocket. He uncapped the vial and tossed the contents on Furfur, who howled in pain and rage, and began praying more intensely.

Little tendrils of smoke rose from the demon's fur where the water hit him, but he was otherwise unfazed even as the priest began shouting the prayers up towards him.

"Most cunning serpent, you shall no more dare to deceive the human race, persecute the Church, torment God's elect and sift them as wheat.

The Most High God commands you, He with whom, in your great insolence, you still claim to be equal.

God who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

The demon laughed viciously and leaned down to look eye to eye with the priest. "How DARE you talk to me about TRUTH. Do you tell your flock the truth of why you left your last church? How you filled its pews with the blood of innocents you whipped in His name? Even children? How you were relocated as punishment for your actions?"

The priest stopped mid-sentence, eyes wide and head shaking. He never said another word but turned and walked out of the room stepping over Chet as he went. In the quiet afterwards, Tiffani heard the slam of the front door and the familiar rumble of the priest's truck starting then fading as he pulled out the driveway.

Chet groaned from the hallway. Furfur's voice echoed in her head once more, "what about him?"

"I have never wanted to hurt someone so badly in all my life...but I could never live with myself if he were seriously hurt. Or worse. Can you get him out of here long enough for me to get things sorted so we can leave?"

He nodded. Tiffani went to check on McKenna as the demon made his way over to Chet. She was breathing, bloody but alive. Tiffani felt the tears begin to roll as she heard the demon telling Chet to get out and stay gone, or things would be a lot worse for him the next time. To Chet's credit he was actually smart enough to heed the advice and skulk out but not before he shouted a parting shot of "demon whore" to Tiffani and got a backhand from Furfur for his trouble. That was definitely going to leave a bigger mark than McKenna's split lip.

He'd never leave them alone, though. Not really. And to reconcile would mean McKenna would grow up in a house with a man who didn't understand her and couldn't possibly love her the way she needed. Leaving with her baby was her only option for now.

She watched as the demon picked McKenna up ever so gently and carried her to the bed humming an unfamiliar tune. He sat with his wings against the headboard and his Tiny cradled in his arms while Tiffani started packing suitcases and and called to transfer what little money they had in their joint account to a secret savings she kept from selling crafts and the occasional odd job. Furfur held McKenna the whole time occasionally leaning over to kiss her forehead, clean and ice her lip, or move a stray hair from her face. When Tiny finally woke up, she hugged the demon tight then scooted out of his lap and ran over to hug Tiffani--something she had not willingly done in years.

McKenna didn't say a word from the back of the car as they drove down the Interstate, windows down, a classic rock playlist of Furfur's (Demons have spotify. How appropriate.) playing through the speakers. For once, McKenna's silence was oka--not something that Tiffani felt compelled to fix. She was going to learn to listen to the other ways McKenna communicated, and she knew just the person--uh, demon--who could teach her how.

She glanced over and couldn't help but smile at the demon's long arm reaching back to hold up a tablet so McKenna could watch old episodes of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. He'd only been doing it 2 hours or so...if that wasn't love, the kind of exhausting love of a parent who would do anything to keep their child content and safe, she didn't know what was.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Southern Belle Charm

Wannabe Linguistics

Friday, July 6, 2018

McKenna Speaks (Part 1)

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 11 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My subject is: Their eyes were watching God but also something else.

It was submitted by: 

As noted in the title, this will be part 1. Part 2 (which should be the end) will post next week for Use Your Words, so stay tuned. 

content warning: ableist attitudes and language from 2 characters; potentially abusive language from 1

A piercing giggle shattered the silence of the Carpenter home while Tiffani was folding a load of towels and washcloths in their too-tiny, hot laundry room. She dropped the sky-colored towel in her hands, heart thumping in her chest. She wasn't used to those sounds even on summer break and immediately ran for McKenna's room upstairs.

The closer she got the more clearly she could hear two voices--a young girl giggly and happy and a deeper, gravelly one that must have belonged to a man but certainly not her husband. It had far too much bass to be his and was It didn't sound like anyone she knew and certainly not anyone that should be around her child. She was in a state of hyperventilation by the time she reached the pastel pink door covered in lavender flower decals with her daughter's initials stenciled in the center--MLC. She closed her eyes for a moment grasping the small gold cross around her neck and whispering a prayer from her lips for everything to be okay, for nothing to happen to her baby before she turned the doorknob and looked inside the room.

There was McKenna sitting at her Hello Kitty picnic table having a tea party and seated across from her, tea cup in hand and pinky up, was a beast of a man smelling of sulfur and ash. He had dark hair covering his body, twisted horns growing from his head, oxblood eyes, a long tail flipping back and forth lazily like a cat's, and large, black leathery wings folded around him a bit like a blanket.

3 things went through Tiffani's mind. Is he cold? Should I offer him a cup of coffee? Wait is he a demon?

The room began to darken as McKenna shrieked, "I LOVE YOU BEST FREN." The next thing she remembered was that...thing..standing over her shaking one of her shoulders. Tiffani screamed a prayer, and he jumped backwards cowering from her words in the corner while McKenna pleaded, "no, mommy, no, stop scaring my fren."

Tiffani's brain scrambled. She had never heard her child do more than babble as a baby. McKenna was 6 now and had never once said "I love you" to anyone. She had never prayed before bedtime, asked for a cookie, pleaded for a toy. Oh there had been plenty of tantrums and meltdowns. Tiffani rarely understood why and could never predict them with any reliability, but McKenna most often lived in her own little world and had been diagnosed as autistic years ago. It was a part of life, their life, and despite how difficult it was, Tiffani and her husband, Chet, had finally accepted the reality of it. Well, she had. That didn't mean they hadn't prayed for answers at first, prayed to hear their little girl talk and laugh and interact. They'd both worn callouses on their knees from kneeling in prayer and had made a sizable debt from going to specialist after specialist, therapists, pediatricians, miracle healers, priests, preachers, holy trips to healing waters...if she thought it might help, they tried it. But silent days with occasional outbursts and praying for it to all work out in the end was life now. 

They had always been a religious family. Tiffani's folks had been Episcopalian while Chet's were Methodist, but they'd never really been heavy church goers until McKenna's diagnosis. It had felt like a punishment for not being more devout though Tiffani never would have said so out loud. She shouted from every rooftop what a blessing McKenna had been in teaching them how to appreciate the small things and pushing them to find a stronger faith, but deep down it was never as easy as she liked to have people believe. Now they both attended the small Catholic church in town at least once a week. They'd found a second family there who were more understanding and supportive than anywhere else. One of McKenna's fits was all it took to get ugly, pitying looks or all but thrown out the door even at her family's long time church. It had been a long road to finding some sort of acceptance, and their church family had been a big part of learning how.

And, after all that, here was her child talking, TALKING OUT LOUD, to a smelly stranger with man-sized bat wings.

She snapped out of her chaotic mess of thoughts as McKenna moved closer to the thing and talked to him in soft, reassuring tones. "It's okay, fren. This my mommy. She can bring snacks. You like goldfish crackers? We have da pizza ones!" The demon seemed to settle down when McKenna pat his shoulder and stood to his full size grazing the 10 foot ceiling with the tips of his horns. She got a better look at him then in an old band tshirt (maybe Nirvana? but she didn't listen to that trash so she wasn't sure), ripped jeans, a red and black flannel tied around his waist, and Converse sneakers. He looked like he had stepped out of the 90s. Or maybe there was a grunge circle in Hell these days where everyone was unwashed and angry.

McKenna was standing next to him with her tiny, pale arm wrapped around his knee looking up at him full of joy. When he bent forward and ruffled her hair, a jealous rage fired into every nerve in Tiffani's body so forcefully she visibly trembled and yelled at him to get the fuck out of her house, language she never, ever used much less in front of her daughter.

He looked at her, confused and angry, and lunged forward just as she screamed, "I BANISH YOU IN THE NAME OF THE HOLY FATHER." As his clawed hands clamped down on her arms, he was gone in a cloud of smoke. Poof...they were alone. A moment of silence settled around them. Tiffani tried to catch her breath and get rid of the heightened emotions that were still making her heart race, but before she could get herself under control, McKenna went into complete meltdown mode swinging her arms to punch herself in the face and screaming wordlessly before she ran herself into the wall. Her tiny daughter with a halo of brown curls surrounding her chubby, cherubic face backed herself up slowly preparing to rush the wall again when Tiffani caught up with her and lifted her off the ground taking an onslaught of kicks and punches while her baby wailed louder and louder.

All this had been too much for her, and they would have to step into the walk-in closet in the master bedroom where Tiffani had set up their calm cave. In the closet she had a weighted blanket, soft plushies McKenna loved, a velvet sleep mask, and wax ear plugs. When McKenna was like this, she would need near sensory deprivation to calm down or would just have to exhaust herself into sleep.

Once they were seated in the large beanbag Chet had bought a few months back, Tiffani went through the meltdown rituals--McKenna on her lap, the blanket over them both, dodging frail fists, mask, earplugs, plush unicorn to cuddle. There was some kind of calming solace in taking those steps and knowing eventually they would work. It was a therapy all its own working to calm them both in an otherwise emotionally charged few moments.

The next thing Tiffani knew she was waking up to Chet calling her name from downstairs. How long had she been asleep? Had it all been a nightmare?

She moved McKenna off her lap and into the beanbag alone. She looked so tiny to be such a force. Outside the closet, the light coming from the windows was faint barely providing enough to see how to navigate the room without stubbing a toe. They must have slept for hours.

Chet was coming up the stairs as she stepped out of their room, finger to her lips to signal McKenna was asleep. He closed the distance between them and wrapped her in his arms. He still smelled like the soap he used, and the familiarity of his scent and touch released tension in places she didn't even realize it had been hiding. She sighed a little and squeezed him tightly praying for the tears in her eyes not to fall. If she got started now, she wouldn't be able to quit. She pulled back quickly trying to get herself together and shook out of his embrace feeling her walls lock down and close all those emotions inside. For now.

"Another one?" he asked, eyebrows raised and a frown furrowing his face.

She nodded knowing what his reaction would be.

"What the hell about this time, Tiff? We can't keep living like this. You're going to have to stop catering to these damn tantrums she has. You're coddling her! She's got to learn life is tough."

Tiffani just turned and walked away from him. It was an old argument she was tired of fighting and had been for quite awhile. She had cried, begged, took him to the same doctors, sent him links to articles and bought him parenting books for people with kids on the spectrum. He wouldn't hear of it. Nothing was wrong with his child except she was spoiled.

"Spare the rod," he preached every time he attempted to spank McKenna for an outburst (which always, always made it worse). Any time Tiffani tried to reason with him on the topic, she was basically pissing in the wind. She did her best by their daughter, did her part around the house, and buried all the resentment and anger deep in a black, fiery pit in her chest. They barely spoke anymore outside of his bloviating about his job, his bloated importance or why she wouldn't sleep with him anymore. She loved him. He had been her whole world so long she didn't know how to walk away. He was her comfort. He still felt safe. But she also hated the sight of him sometimes...and if she was being perfectly honest he had been running around on her long before she stopped putting out.

"Don't say I never tried to help, Ice Princess," he called as she opened McKenna's door and stepped inside curious to see if she would find the demon waiting there or not. She heard his boots stomping downstairs as she glanced around the room. She was alone, neither monster invading her space.

She got a whiff of ash still riding the air in the room and knew it had been real. She pored over the drawings on McKenna's little table noticing all the old familiar symbols over and over again every page...then the last one. It was something new drawn in red crayon. It was simple--just a few lines, a circle, and arrows--but it was repeated over and over again on the page and each one was marred by a black smudge like it had almost caught aflame...

How many times had that thing been with her daughter? How could I not know? she wondered as she traced a finger over the design.

The paper shook and grew hot in her hands as she traced the last arrow point. It stretched and moved twisting into shape. She screamed barely recognizing the sounds coming out of her mouth. She dropped the paper as the demon from earlier rose into shape in front of her eyes and laughed.

She heard Chet's boots thundering upstairs and his voice calling her name. This. Was. Not. Going. To. End. Well. be continued

Baking In A Tornado 

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Never Ever Give Up Hope

My Brand of Crazy

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Southern Belle Charm

Paradoxical Suds

Friday, June 15, 2018

Murder, She Investigated

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words were: record, company, drug addict, reveal, country, mayor. 

They were submitted by:

So my Murder, She Wrote obsession had a little influence on this one, but hopefully no one out there actually has the gall to hate Jessica Fletcher. Old me goals.


Warren Atkinson, the mayor of Franklin, TN, was found unresponsive yesterday in the storage room of a local Nashville record label known for discovering new and upcoming country artists. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Nashville General. The police have yet to release a cause of death, but an anonymous informant revealed foul play is suspected.

Mayor Atkinson was a beloved member of his community according to local officials. The entire town is shocked by his passing and the questions surrounding his death. No one including his assistant or anyone in his family has any clue as to why he would have been in Nashville much less at NuTone Records.

We will update this story as it develops.

That's quite odd, Dani thought. She knew Warren. In fact, the two of them had spent some time together together Thursday evening, and he hadn't mentioned a thing about going into Nashville even while they lay tangled and sweaty in her sheets trying to figure out if they might have time for each other over that weekend.

Both of them were recently divorced and had met at a fundraising banquet for his campaign a few months ago. She was at that banquet to be seen only. She honestly didn't give two shits who was mayor of Franklin. But she had recently moved to Tennessee from Georgia and taken the steps to transfer her private investigator license and wanted as much visibility as possible to drum up some business. She'd been rather successful in her home town, but after her husband screwed her sister behind her back, living there and running into them by chance just didn't seem worth it-- moderately successful business or not. So here she was at 44 years old starting over.

The night they met hadn't promised anything more than hours of torture in a dress she hated, shoes that hurt, and a smile that was as fake as every orgasm she had with her ex. But then Warren stopped by her table and charmed the pants off her. Literally. They talked at the banquet until his campaign manager dug her claws into his arm and drug him away. Good thing Dani had already slid him a business card. He'd called her as soon as he'd gotten away while she was still in the tub soaking away the aches of being in stilettos all night and hadn't hesitated for even half a second when she asked if he'd like to join her. She met him at the door in a short silk robe that left very little to the imagination. They never made it to the bathtub. She smiled at the memory. He'd been amazing in bed in a way she never would have anticipated given his good ol' boy image in town.

Obviously that had all been a facade. Nobody that squeaky clean ended up dead in a seedy record company office without any of the people closest to him having a clue why he'd been there in the first place.

She felt a little sadness over his passing and would surely miss him, but they'd only been able to see each other a handful of times over the last several months due to his campaigning and otherwise busy schedule. They hadn't gotten particularly close so much as had a great deal of fun together in the privacy of her home in the late night hours. She would miss that, sure. But they hadn't even gone to dinner together in all these months. It wasn't that kind of relationship. She doubted if anyone investigating would even show up to ask her any questions. As far as she knew, no one had any idea the two of them spent time together.

But this did present a unique opportunity...

Perhaps if she could solve the thing before the police, she could make a name for herself and put struggling to make ends meet behind her. She put the paper aside and started making a list of who to talk to in both Franklin and Nashville. Maybe one of them would reveal some connection between the two and Warren that no one else was yet aware of.

She started out in the best spot for all the town gossip--the beauty shop downtown, of course. The owner, Gladys, had been a fixture in the town for decades apparently. From Dani's viewpoint, people only went to stay in the loop on town happenings since Gladys hadn't updated her style since sometime in the 70s. Feathered hair, the shag, the wedge, perms.... The woman been honing her craft for quite some time, but it left at least half the women in Franklin looking like time travelers from the disco era. So, it was with some sacrifice that Dani stepped in and asked Gladys to give her the works.

3 hours, a perm, and some red dye later she could have been a Barbara Streisand impersonator or maybe the red head on Dazed and Confused. All she needed were some bell bottoms and a neckerchief.

But she DID have some answers to go with her hideous hairdo. Answers she had to track down and verify for herself of course, it gave her a place to start which was better than nothing.

The ladies had all seemed to think drugs might play a part. No, they weren't calling Warren a drug addict, but he gave little signs of using. Too many car accidents, changes in moods, showing up late to meetings, falling asleep during them... None of this was obvious to someone like Dani who had never known what Warren was like before the divorce hit him hard. And maybe it was just hindsight from women who had only put things together later. It was easy to see the way the pieces fit when you already knew how the puzzle ended. Things you wrote off before as being the result of too little sleep or depression took on new meaning when the man in question was found beaten to death, according to the grapevine, in a back office in a place where he had no known business.

Now she had a place to start though--sifting through Warren's contacts and relationships through this new lens. She could figure the odd man out, the people who didn't fit so neatly into his otherwise clean, political, small town life. Either they'd lead her to an answer, or she'd be back to the drawing board, but she was not giving up. Warren's life deserved real closure instead of the whispered trash talk she head today, and she damn sure deserved the chance to make her business work in this town.


Here are the links to the rest of the submissions! Enjoy!

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

Southern Belle Charm

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

My Brand of Crazy