Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Story A Day In May - Story 26

Witching Hours
by J. Smith Kirkland

Sleep should not be interrupted. Dreams should not be transformed then cut short by intruding noises from the woken world. The witching hours are no time for the mundane chores of the living. But the beep beep beep that woke him at 3am was not Howard's alarm clock, or the cawing of the bird that flew into his previously pleasant dream. It was the garbage truck at the apartment building across the alley. The beeping was followed by clanging and crashing noises as the robotic arms violently shook content of the dumpsters into the truck. Surely there was a city noise ordinance that said garbage trucks could not run at 3am.

Howard tried to go back to sleep, but the refrigerator's steady hum that could have lulled him back to slumber, was accompanied by an irregular grumbling that sounded like the fridge was carrying on a conversation, like a television in the next room that was loud enough to hear, but not comprehend the words. So he watched through the roundtop over his window as the tree limbs swayed in the wind. It was a hypnotic motion, relaxing. He imagined a soft summer breeze. But it was not enough to put him back to sleep.

He decided to go outside and feel the breeze while staring at the stars. But when actually following through with that, he found the stars were hidden by clouds, and the breeze was hot, not cool or even warm, and not relaxing at all. And the cicadas were louder than the wind. Their harmony comes as the ribs of the tymbal buckle one after the other when the cicada flexes its muscles. This creates clicks that blend into a buzz. Unfortunately there were no cicadas this year, and their ringing was just his tennitus acting up.

He went back to bed, but before he could doze off again he heard the workmen coming into the apartment above. They have been arriving all week just 15 minutes before his alarm rings. He goes ahead and turns the alarm off. No need for it this morning; the saws and drills and hammers will start soon. Might as well go to work.

The commute to work was from the bed to the desk in the living room, with a quit stop by the kitchen to fix a bowl of cereal. But this morning he was out of milk. So he just grabbed a rice crispy bar and a cola instead. He plopped down in his desk chair. It made a horrific screeching noise. He intended to fix that, but he would check his email first, and then it would be time for the morning video chat. So he would always put off investigating what part exactly was screeching.

He spends the day reading and creating documents, browsing the internet for ideas, and watching people on the video chat that have much more to say about nothing than he does. He watches them as the drone on, convinced that all of them are only looking at themselves on the screen while they talk. Adjusting their hair, their clothes, repositioning themselves for better lighting, trying to stretch their necks upward because they never realized how saggy their neck skin was getting. The word like sounds coming from the speaker seems unattached to the grid of faces that look like some live motion Andy Warhol work.

Finally the work day end. Exhausted from no sleep the night before, he goes to be early. He sleeps well, and wakes up before the alarm clock. However, it was much earlier than the alarm. It was again 3am. He is wide awake. Might as well watch a movie. Maybe that will put him back to sleep. There is a marathon of old spooky movies so he starts to watch one of those. It is something about witches or ghost. He imagines all the people in these movies are long dead, it's like ghosts acting in a ghost story. He doesn't really pay attention. His mind wonders from the screen and he decides he will see if he can figure out what is making his chair produce that horrid noise. He walks over to the chair and pushes the seat down several times to recreate the screech. He still can't tell where exactly it emanates from. He pushes it several more times. Screech. Screech. Screech. The woman's voice on the movie playing behind him catches his ear.

Sleep should not be interrupted.

“I will agree with that,” he says back to the movie.

Dreams should not be transformed then cut short by intruding noises from the woken world.

“Tell that to the garbage man.”

Howard, the witching hours are no time for the mundane chores of the living.

“Well the chair squeak.”

It took a beat for him to realize she said Howard. He turns to look at the screen. The woman from the movie is staring at him. Well, at the camera he tells himself.

“Howard, why are you awake at this hour.”

He does not reply, and she changes her expression to indicate she expects an answer.



“Yes, you. There's no one else there making that terrible noise with the chair. It's loud enough to wake the dead, no doubt the neighbors.”

He looks at the chair. It is a terrible noise. He looks back the the screen, but the woman that was on it, is now standing in front of it. He jumps back, almost falling over the chair.

“Who are you?”

“You didn't even bother to read the opening credits?”


“Starring Vivian Meyers,” she says grandly, then adds quickly and bitterly, “and Richard what's his name.”

“You're the woman in the movie?”

“Are you really this dense all day long, or is it just the lack of sleep making you annoy me?”
Howard thinks he must have fallen a sleep during the movie and this is all a dream. Even if there were ghost, how would one get off of the internet and into his living room.

“How did you get here.”

“I told you, that symphony of torturous noise you are making with that chair can wake the dead.”

“I was going to fix it.”

“Go. To. Bed. Howard.”


Still convinced he is dreaming, he thinks he will go to bed, close his eyes, and wake up to the sound of his alarm.

“And as you go, turn off this movie thing. I'm not going back in there with Richard.”


“Turn. It. Off. You are so dense.”

He clicks the remote and the image on the screen fades to black. The woman is still there.

“I thought you would go away when I turned it off. You know, back into the movie ghost world.”

“Why would I do that?”

She looks around the room.

“It's a bit of a dump, but I think I will stay awhile.”

“Ok. Whatever you want. Goodnight.”

He goes to his bedroom and lays down. Just a dream. He closes his eye, and anticipates waking up to the alarm.


He jerks up in bed. She is standing at the end of it.

“Does that machine play other movies? I don't like the one with Richard, but does it play The Clock Strikes Seven? I like that one. The young man that starred with me in that one was,” she hesitates, “very talented.”

Howard is starting to think this isn't a dream.

“Howard. Are you even listening?”

“Sure. I'll see if it's on.”

He turns on the monitor, and searches for 'clock strikes seven.' It's there. He clicks play and it starts. She is mesmerized by the opening credits. The music is a symphony. There is her name. The credits cut to her standing on a widows walk, looking out to sea. The misty wind blows through her hair. A mournful moon reflect on the waves that she searched over.

Howard watches the movie unfold and becomes consumed by it as the plot unfolds. She has already met the leading man before Howard realizes she is no longer in the room. She must be back in the movie. He reaches for the remote, thinking he will leave her there, and not in his living room. But before he can click it, she is standing in front of him.


She reaches out her hand. And holds his on the remote. She looks at him much softer than she did earlier. She leans in, places her hand on his face, and kisses him on the cheek. A soft, cold kiss. It felt like an icy wind caressing his face. He closed his eyes.”

“Thank you.”

When he opened his eyes, she was back in the movie, playing her role. Then she looked at the camera.

“Now turn it off and go to bed.”

Howard smiled, raised the remote to the monitor, and clicked. Right before the power left the monitor, he heard her voice one last time.

“Oh, and I fixed your chair. Terrible noise.”

Howard laughed. He pushed the chair up and down several time. No squeak.

From his bed, he could see the stars through the round top. The sound of the fridge was too distant now to concern him. The cicadas in his ear simply became part of the music from the opening credits to The Clock Strikes Seven that was replaying in his head as he fell asleep and dreamed of Vivian and a happy ending to the movie.

The Prompt

Make list of 10 things that you noticed about your day already.
Even if you woke up at 4 am there are certainly things you noticed.
Try to be as precise and sensory as possible and try to avoid metaphor.
And then, at the end, connect those pieces together to make a story.

Things I noticed.
  1. Garbage truck for our place gets here at 9am, not 3am like the one for the building next door. Beep beep beep clang rattle clunk beep beep beep.
  2. They are doing construction in the apartment upstairs, saws, hammer, drills.
  3. I am out of milk
  4. my fridge is really loud, a steady hum with an irregular grumble, almost like it is talking.
  5. there are dishes in the living room I forgot to put in the dishwasher before I ran it last night
  6. I think people spend the entire video chat meeting looking at themselves on the screen
  7. the cicada in my ear (the tennitus ringings) is louder than the fridge this morning.
  8. My desk chair screeches when I adjust my weight or direction.
  9. I can watch the tree limbs outside my window saying in the wind, relaxing.
  10. went outside to feel the breeze, it was a hot breeze, not relaxing at all.

Story A Day Framework

Movies I watched Recently

This are not your block buster movies. They are weird and sad and funny. I like them. Nice to be living in a time when movies that are not necessarily for mass appeal can be seen instead of killed by the critics and never enjoyed by those of us that don't want to see action films, another disney princess, or a bad remake of something we liked the first time.

disclaimer: rotten tomatoes and i rarely agree.


Monday, May 25, 2020

Story A Day In May - Story 25

by J. Smith Kirkland

I weighed this against the odds that I was doing something incredibly stupid, and I went ahead anyway. Regimen has never been my thing. I knew I could never complete it, but I made it all the way to day twenty-one before my old habits took hold. Day twenty-two I started up again. Then twenty-three and twenty-four, complete relapse. But day 26, I decided to pick myself up and keep going. I know it's like exercise and dieting. You can't really gorge yourself and sit on the couch for two days and then make up for it by starving yourself and doing three times as much exercise on the third day, but here I am. And that's why this day 25 story is a one paragraph 157 word autobiography of the last few days; I got something written for the Day 23 and 24 prompts, and now it's late and I am out of words. Good night.

The Prompt

I weighed this against the odds that I was doing something incredibly stupid, and I went ahead anyway.”

Story A Day Framework

STory A Day In May - Story 24

Wednesday Night Ghost Story
by J. Smith Kirkland

He met his true love in the middle of a field of tombstones. She just walked up to him and asked if he always ate his lunch in a cemetery. He replied, “on Tuesdays and Thursdays.” Which was a half truth; he also ate there on Mondays and Fridays, but he was afraid she would think that was weird.

Wednesdays I eat in the park. There's a concert there at lunch on Wednesdays. But this is sorta like a park. Landscaping and flowers. Sculptures. And not many people.”

Well, not many live ones I guess.”

She smiled. He smiled back.

My name is Harry.”


She stayed and talked with him as he ate his lunch. She agreed with his thought of the cemetery being like a park. And she said she loved reading the tombstones because each one had a story to tell, even if you had to make it up yourself. He offered her half of his sandwich. She asked if it had mayo on it. He said it did, and she said that she would rather die. He fell for her that first day.

It didn't take her long to catch on that he was there 4 days a week, not just Tuesdays and Thursday, because she was there those days too. They started looking at the tombstones together, taking turns making up elaborate stories about them. Some funny, some sad.

Why don't you come with me to the concert on Wednesday?”

I would say it sounds fun, but I hate crowds.”

I get that. Why do you think I eat my lunch here. But I like the music, and the food trucks. But I would enjoy your company more.”

She smiled, “What we should do is meet here on Wednesday after you get off work.”

And that began the Wednesday evening ghost stories. Instead of just making up stories about the tombstones, on Wednesday evenings they would talk about who the people buried there would haunt and why.

One Wednesday he suggested going to one of the old crypts to get names for their story that evening. She didn't like the idea.

Why not, they must have great stories.”

Their names are on the inside wall. You can't see them even in the daytime.”

I have a great flashlight app on my phone,” he counters.

He convinces her to go look, but she is certain it will be a futile attempt.

You'll never be able to read them, but we can make up names I guess.”
He is illuminating the little room with his cellphone as he peers through the bars on the door's window.

I can almost make it out Wendell Hastings. 30 March 1853 to 29 July 1890. And Gwendolyn Cartwright 30 March 1853 to 29 July 1890. Wow. Same birth and death days. That must be a story.”

He turned to tell her, “And she has your name,” but Gwen was gone. He looked in every direction. She was no where. He walked around the crypts to see if she was exploring the other side. But she was gone.

He waited longer than his usual lunch break on Thursday, but Gwen never showed. Not on Friday eiher, or the next Monday or Tuesday. Harry didn't know what to think. She didn't want to go to the crypt for some reason, but that was no reason just leave without saying anything, and then to ghost him like that.

Doubting she would show, he went the the cemetery on Wednesday after work. He sat on a bench where they often sat and talked. He waited for about an hour, and was about to leave when he heard Gwen's voice behind him.

I know their story.”

She sat down next to him like every other Wednesday, and began her ghost story like nothing had happened. He did not question her. He figured he could do that after her story.

They were twins. They were inseparable growing up. He was an artist, and she a writer. when they turned twenty they went together to Paris to study. They met Henri Raymond, Vincent Van Gogh, Hendrik Andersen, and Claude Monet. They hung out at coffee shops with Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, and Edgar Poe. They both found welcoming friends that encouraged their respective pursuits. Oscar was the first person to ever call her Gwen. Ernest refused that saying Gwedolyn was a more fitting name for such a brilliant young woman.

She me a man named Cartwright, and against the advice of Henry and Oscar, she married him. I should have listened. He became an abusing drunk.”

Harry didn't catch that first use of first person, but as she continued, he began to understand, and to worry that she might be too caught up in her own story.

One night, with a black eye and a bloody lip, I ran to Hendrik's home, where my brother was staying. They took me in.”

Her eyes were tearing up. Harry put his arm around her.

But Cartwright came looking for me. He was going to drag his property home. My brother stepped in. They started arguing. Cartwright tried to push his way into the house. Wendell shoved him back to the road. Then Cartwright pulled a gun. He killed my brother.”

Harry wasn't sure what to do. He just pulled her closer as she cried. When she could speak again, she looked at him, “So I know their story. And it's hard to remember it.”

Did Cartwright shoot Gwendolyn too? She died the same day as Wendell.”

No. I was in the back room. They said I collapsed at the same time my brother hit the ground. But I don't remember. I just know everything went black, and one day I was here. And Wendell wasn't. I don't know why I am here, but I know he found peace. I always knew when he was happy or sad. I know he's happy.”

Harry thought for a moment, “So this means my girlfriend is a ghost?”

I'm your girl friend? And you're okay with a ghost girlfriend?””

Well the whole dislike of mayonnaise made it touch and go there for a while, but if I can live with that, I am sure the ghost part is something I can work around.”

She smiled.

The Prompt

Opening Line: “She met her true love in the middle of a field of tombstones.” 

Michele says: I love cemeteries. They have so many stories, so many characters. I find them comforting.
So it does not have to be a scary story, although it can be. It could be the story of people who are interred there.
Their pre life doesn’t have to have a connection to the cemetery. That could just be the starting point.
It could be people who meet there because they are mourning the loss of someone.
Could be your traditional zombie story, horror story mystery story as well.
But I’m just drawn to the idea of cemeteries as places for stories.

Story A Day Framework

boy meets girl, in a graveyard
fall in love
she reveals she is a ghost
happy ever after

Story A Day In May - Story 23

The Missing Stuff
by J. Smith Kirkland

He took the note from his coat pocket. The instruction were clear. He had to collect the three item by 6pm, and take them to the person that wrote the note. The ramification for not completing this task was not spelled out in the note, but it didn't have to be.

It was colder than usual for this time of year. As he moved down the sidewalk, he noticed he was not the only one affected by the cold. everyone was bundled up in thick coats and gloves. Too cold for normal civilities. People just rushed passed without smiling or even nodding.

He knew where to get the stuff, and navigated he way through the crowd in the establishment towards his goal. There seemed to be more people there than usual. Or maybe it just felt that way because he was in a rush and they all seemed to be getting in his way on purpose.

Once he started looking around, it didn't take him long to realize he was not going to be making his purchase there. Something was off. All these people. He didn't like it. He made his way to the door, trying to slide past the door guy without appearing too obvious.

He knew a guy over on Main Street that would have the same stuff. And maybe without all the people.

He walks in and addresses the guy he knows, “Hey.”


“Look, I need this stuff.”

He showed John the list.

“Sorry man, can't help you.”

“But what am I supposed to do?

“You should have been here yesterday. Look, there's a place on Shallowford. A guy I know there says you might be in luck. Just walk up to the door and tell him I sent you.”

He found the place. Little building with a sliding glass door. A guy hanging out in the doorway. He took a breath and walked towards the door. There was a man that got there before him. He heard the man say he wanted the same three things. He would have thought nothing of that if this were not the third place he had been to. This seemed like more than a coincident.

He wasn't trying to eavesdrop, but he heard the man say, “Yeah, the weather app says the snow will probably his around midnight. The roads will be bad in the morning. You know they'll close the school.”

So that was it. Snow was predicted, no wonder he can't find milk, bread, and eggs.

The guy at the register replied, “You know they will. I heard it may be 1 to 2 inches. But at least you can make french toast in the morning.”

The Prompt

Write outside your comfort zone with a random genre, weather type, and errand. (see below)
When you are stuck for new ideas, working from specific suggestions can open up new possibilities. They can also take you out of your normal way of working and help you explore different approaches. You never know what sort of story will result.
Roll a die for each category. (Don’t have a physical die? Google can do that for you.)
Then, write a story in your genre, with the particular type of weather and errand.
(Bonus: choose a favourite childhood character as your main character.)

  1. mystery
  2. romance
  3. fantasy
  4. political satire
  5. science fiction
  6. thriller
  1. snowstorm
  2. light rain
  3. heat wave
  4. extreme cold
  5. strong wind
  6. sunny and warm
  1. buy groceries
  2. return library books
  3. make a bank deposit
  4. pick up a child from an extracurricular activity
  5. deliver a birthday present
  6. renew a piece of government identification

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Magic of belle island

Just watched this instead of writing tonight.
It's about a writer, so I think that counts for something.


Friday, May 22, 2020

Story A Day In May - Story 22

The Question
by J. Smith Kirkland

A long time ago, in a far away world, there was a man names Ed.
Because Ed was a wise man, people would come to him with questions.
Carefully, he would consider their queries.
Delighted, they would receive his answers.
Every now and then, someone would ask something he would have to think about for a few days.
For these kinds of questions, he would need to contemplate.
Going to the mountain was his usual choice.
However, when his girlfriend Zoe asked him one question he decided to go instead to the shore.
In a couple of days, he was still uncertain of his answer.
Just when he was about to give up and go back to the village, a storm rolled in.
Knowing he would not make it back before the storm, he stayed in the house on the beach.
Looking out at the approaching storm, he wondered if his wisdom had left him.
Many times he had watched storms roll in from the sea.
Never had he seen one that did not inspire him.
Only this time, it only filled him with doubt.
Perhaps after another nights sleep his mind would be clearer.
Questions haunted his dreams.
Reality slips away in dreams to another realm.
Somewhere between the two, Ed heard a voice
The voice said, “The answer is clear.”
“Unless you open your eyes now, you will forget.”
Very quickly, Ed sat up in bed.
Without hesitation he ran back to the village.
Xaman Ek, the god of the North Star, could not have concluded a better answer than what he gave Zoe.
“You should wear the red shoes with that dress.”
Zoe sighed ,” No I think the black ones look better.”

The Prompt

Be playful.
Playfulness can open up an expanse in confinement.
So… write a story in 26 sentences, with each sentence beginning with a sequential letter of the alphabet, starting with “A.”

Story A Day Framework

Story A Day In May - Story 26

Witching Hours by J. Smith Kirkland Sleep should not be interrupted. Dreams should not be transformed then cut short by intruding noi...