A to Z Challenge, Day 15: O Is For Optimism

I find, that of all the choices we make each day, the choice to be an optimist is the most underrated.  It’s considered by some to be naive, even.

But consider this:  if we didn’t try, if we didn’t do something that we haven’t done before, then what?  We just stay the same as we are and do not grow.  That’s not brave.  That’s the opposite of brave.

What things are you happy about today?  This week?  Right now?

A to Z Challenge, Day 14: N Is For Noonhour

This is my favorite Noonhour episode.  I read one of the pieces I wrote for the March FADness competition, which was a new prompt each day in the month of March.  That month I wrote 31 different flash fiction pieces along with two Flash Fiction Carnival pieces – it was a great month.  I had a ball, wrote a ton of new material, and now have a body of work from which I can create more podcasts.  Win-win.  🙂

Of all the things you’ve done creatively, what makes you nostalgic?  What are you glad to have made?

Beneath the Surface

Welcome to the Life’s a Beach Blog Hop! I hope you’re enjoying your time here. Today, I’m sharing something I wrote in response to a prompt about an unexpected spring. Even though it’s not exactly a beach, it involves water. Check it out:

“Holy cow, Monte! What the hell?” My voice carried, bouncing off the side of Monte’s house and sounding louder than it really was. “Hey! Monte!” I yelled and waved my arms.

“Hey, Louise,” he called back and cut the power to the jackhammer. “What’s wrong?”

“Look!” I pointed.

“What the…” He laid the jackhammer on its side and walked over. “When did that pop up?”

“Monte, you must’ve hit the water main or something!”

“Can’t’ve. It’s over there.” He waived an imprecise hand toward the other side of the yard. “No idea what this is.”

I edged closer. Water, brown with the stirred-up silt from Monte’s labors, swirled up from a crack in the fence’s foundation pole.

“Monte, it’s rising.”

He knelt on the other side of the fence and I could see his fingers poking around under the fence slats. “Shit.”

“What?”

He didn’t say anything right away. “It’s salty.”

I stared down at the water. “That’s impossible!” I poked a cautious finger into it and tasted. Sure enough, it was salty. “Monte, there’s no ocean around here!”

“They always did say California was going to break off.”

“That’s not funny!” I snapped. “I’m serious, here! How is there salt water in our back yard?”

His knees popped as he stood. I rose and met his serious brown eyes. “I don’t know, Louise. I really don’t. Maybe we’d better call the city?”

“What do we say? ‘Hi, there’s an ocean in the desert?’”

He shrugged. “We have to report it.” He glanced down. “Your shoes are about to get wet.”

I stepped back, amazed. “Monte, what if it doesn’t stop? It’ll flood our houses!”

“We’re on a hill, Louise. Calm down. It’ll flood downtown first.”

I had visions of a wall of water sweeping down the Las Vegas Strip and almost laughed. He smirked. I realized with a slight shock he was trying to cheer me up. “Thanks, Monte.”

He smiled, his teeth very white. “No prob. I’ll call my guy at the Water District. Let’s see what he says. Maybe it’s a pipe or something.”

“A pipe.”

He shrugged. “What do you want me to say?” He looked calculating. “You got anymore of that meatloaf?”

I laughed out loud. “You need a wife,” I said without thinking.

He looked intense suddenly and then turned to his equipment. “Yeah, that’s what my mom keeps saying,” he said over his shoulder.

For some reason, my heart was pounding and I felt hot. “I’ll go make us some lunch while you call.”

He waved at me without turning around. I walked back inside to the air-conditioned hush and got out the meatloaf. Truth was, I had made it for him. But not to flirt, I just knew he liked meatloaf. At least, that’s what he always told me. What if there was more to it?

This was silly. I hit the lights half-angrily and set about making a salad and sandwiches. I set everything up on plates, got down my tray and the pitcher for tea, and made sweet tea. I glanced outside and saw him pacing back and forth by the fence, his portable house phone glued to one ear. He didn’t look happy.

I walked out and set out the tray on the table. He saw me and walked through the gate between our properties and sat down.

“Thanks, Mal. I’ll let you know.” He hung up and met my gaze. “They’ll come tomorrow at ten,” he informed me. “He thinks I’m crazy, but he owes me for some work I did on his pool last fall.”

I looked over at the water. “What if we are crazy?”

“We’re not,” he mumbled through an enormous bite of sandwich. “It’s still rising. See the trickle? There, on my side of the fence?”

I craned my neck. Sure enough, there was a little brook forming, trundling along the fence toward our neighbors down the hill. “What if it floods?” I asked, afraid again. “You know how fast flash floods happen, Monte!”

He shrugged. “What do you want me to do? Sandbag it?”

He had a point. What could we do? I ate some more sandwich and worried.

“Louise. Stop worrying. It’s going to be fine.”

I heard a splash. Monte froze, and I could see the hairs on his neck wave a little bit. Weird. ‘Hairs rising on the back of your neck’ was actually visible.

“Crap!” he blurted, spraying bread crumbs. “Did you see that?”

Truthfully, I had been staring at his neck. “No, what?”

He glanced at me, irritated, and then focused on the bubbling water. I looked over too, wondering what could capture his attention so fully.

A black tailfin peeked up out of the water and then disappeared.

I was on my feet so fast I didn’t remember moving. “Monte…” My voice sounded breathy and weird.

He joined me a second later as another ripple disturbed the water. “Get in the house, Louise. You got your keys?”

“Right here,” I said, patting my pocket. Another fin, black and pointy, emerged slowly. By the time the eyebrow ridge appeared, we were cowering behind my kitchen curtains.

“Where’s your phone?” Monte whispered hoarsely.

“You calling the police?”

“No, the paper!”

We had a brief wrestling match over the phone, which he won. He flipped it open and thumbed the camera button. He snapped two shots of the glossy black head as the thing climbed out of the hole. It was bipedal, covered in scales, and had dark purple eyes covered with some kind of web. It blinked vertically, opposite of a human, and stood about as tall as Monte.

We watched it walk down the hill, following the water trail.

“No one is ever going to believe this,” Monte murmured.

It was then that I realized we were holding hands. Monte didn’t seem inclined to let go, so I didn’t either. I watched the black creature disappear as the sun set over Sin City.

Mai Madness: Fenton and Kilasha, Chapter 6

This is for Dawn, who is about to become a Mamma. She kept pestering me to write more of this story, so here you go, Mamma! (Have Not-the-Mamma buy you some ice cream for you!) To catch up, here’s where it starts.

Fenton and Kilasha, Chapter 6

Kilasha trembled with exhaustion, her muscles protesting their unaccustomed position on horseback. She blinked and her vision refused to lighten. She realized with a chill that night was coming, and fast. She pulled her mount to a stop, heart sinking. She had no tent, nor any blankets.

After cursing herself silently for several minutes, she made her decision. She dismounted stiffly and led her friendly companion into the trees.

The horse nosed at her, his breath comfortingly warm. He lipped at her braid and she laughed, pulling it away from him.

“No, my princeling, that’s not for you.”

The stallion flipped his ear in response and promptly tried to investigate her silks.

It dawned on her he was probably hungry. Spotting a small clearing, she tethered him by his reins and left him happily gorging on the fluffy grass and weeds. She removed the rest of his tack. The saddle was much heavier than she expected. She tugged at it and it came free all at once, tumbling into her arms and sending her onto her backside. The stallion turned and regarded her, his eye curious, and then turned back to his meal.

Upon investigation, she discovered three hidden pockets in the saddle; one at the rear and one on each leg piece. She liberated a small woolen blanket, light but warm, and a felt pad. There were fire-starting tools, eating implements, even a carving knife and half-finished animal figurine made from a soft wood. The badge on a spare riding jacket gave her pause, it bore the insignia of the Castle guard.

She made herself a small nest near the stallion, startled by the warmth of the simple blanket. Further rummaging yielded a pouch of jerked meat, beef by the smell. She broke off a piece and gnawed at it distastefully. As the last light faded from the sky, she drifted to sleep, tired beyond endurance.

A piercing scream woke her. It was the stallion. He reared, snapping the branch she’d used for a tether, and spun. His front hooves slashed out and a rough-clothed man fell back with a cry, clutching his splintered ribs.

She started to sit when a hand closed on her shoulder.

“Don’t move,” a voice grunted harshly in her ear, the odor of foul breath overpowering.

The stallion hopped sideways and one hoof flashed out. Her assailant went over backwards, face a mass of blood.

She stifled her scream with one fist. She whirled, trying to see, but the moonless night offered no help. She wished she’d built a fire, but they would have found her sooner. ‘They found you anyway,’ her mind whispered.

She shivered, staring into the night. She got to her hands and knees. The stallion blew out a sharp breath and she jumped. He crow-hopped sideways and kicked another assailant, a faceless mass in the darkness. She fumbled at her side in the bracken and clutched the knife in a trembling fist.

More steps sounded in the inky black and she made up her mind. Kilasha rose, intending to flee. She backed two steps and the third failed to find purchase. Off balance, she fell. Her head slammed into a rock and she felt like she dropped into a deep, dark hole.

Mai Madness: “The Rescue” Chapter Two: Into the Woods

This story continues one I wrote for March FADness last year, called “The Rescue.”

Fernando came awake to a heavy weight against his chest and stomach, as though a jack collapsed and let the car fall on him. He tried to breathe and pain seared him.

“Keep him quiet,” a man’s voice snapped.

“I’m trying!”

It sounded like Adana, but Fernando couldn’t get his voice working to ask. He finally managed to pry his eyes open and saw the interior of the ambulance.

“He’s awake!” Adana cried. “Fernando!”

The EMT turned, his curly red hair held back by a bandana with jalapeño peppers on it. “There’s our hero,” he murmured, checking something attached to Fernando’s body that looked like a hose. Fernando didn’t want to think about that too hard.

“What the hell happened?” he managed to croak.

“I got the ambulance,” Adana whispered, eyes wide and threatening to spill over with tears. “You were on the floor with blood all over the wall behind you…”

He went cold. “You could have been killed!” he grated.

She shook her head. “The others ran when you killed those three. I was afraid the cops would come, so I called Felipe.”

He stared at her. Felipe. She called Felipe.

“I’m Karl, Fernando,” the EMT interrupted. “We’re taking you to General. You’ve got quite a wound here, but we’ll fix it up.”

“Insurance,” Fernando panted, trying to reach for his wallet.

Karl caught his wrist. He didn’t have to hold it very hard, Fernando was that weak. “I work for Felipe.”

Fernando froze.

Karl smiled slightly, a look sliding through his eyes that let Fernando know the red-head knew exactly what Fernando was thinking. “Don’t worry about it, old man. Felipe pays his debts.” He let go of the wrist and checked something on the monitors nearby.

His debts. Felipe thought he still owed Fernando something? Fernando tried not to think about it.

At least Adana was safe.

She slipped her hand into his, and he let her hold his palm. Her fingers barely covered his, but their warmth comforted him. He felt his eyes fall shut like they had weights attached to them.

March Madness – A Flash a Day Prompts

Summation: I did it! My March FADs are done. Please see the list below for the prompts, and click the links for the associated story. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them!

The low-down: “The stories must be previously unposted, written during the month of March, and they must be under 1000 words.” For more info., go here: March FADness.

March 31st: Deja Vu All Over Again: It’s the last day of the challenge and I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have. Your challenge is to comb through the previous days and choose one to repeat.

March 30th: I’ve got rhythm. Music! It’s such a part of our artistic lives. How could we not write about it? Your story should center around music.

March 29th: It’s not easy being green: Your story should revolve around the color green.

March 28th: MIA. Missing in Action: I know I put that prompt around here somewhere. Oh yeah! Your prompt today is missing someone or something.

March 27th: Worth a Thousand Words: A picture is worth a thousand words. So your prompt is to look to these images and choose one as your inspiration.

March 26th: Click Clack Moo. Typing about cows. Yes, cows. Or horses, cows, dogs, goats, chickens, donkeys, hamsters, lemurs, or any other critter that takes your fancy. It’s time to look to the animal kingdom for inspiration. If it worked for Gary Larsen, it can work for you. (Psst-before anyone asks, Click, Clack, Moo is a popular children’s book and Gary Larsen is the guy who drew the Far Side cartoons. Just so’s you don’t have to Google it.)

March 25th: The Postman Always Rings Twice: And at chez soccer, it usually means rejections. But for your character, it can mean anything you want. Your prompt today: An unusual letter.

March 24th: Back to the Beginning: Today, write a flash using one of the starting lines provided by The First Line:
1. Nick had considered himself a lucky guy, until now.
2. Roy owned the only drive-thru funeral business in Maine.
3. While not the intended effect, the outcome was surprisingly satisfying.

March 23rd: Beauty is Truth And Truth is Beauty. Your prompt is to write about something beautiful. Happy Easter.

March 22nd: Mine, Mine, MINE! It’s all mine! Mwahahahahaha! Your prompt today is about ill-gotten gains–specifically, an undeserved inheritance.

March 21st: The Deadzone: Your MC is dead. Oh noes!

March 20th: The Judas Kiss: It’s Maundy Thursday, the date on the Christian calendar which commemorates the Last Supper, so your topic is betrayal. Honestly, is there a juicier prompt out there?

March 19th: You Go, Girl: Write a story in second-person present tense.You are whining. You wring your hands. “How am I supposed to do this,” you say. “This is hard.” You sit at the keyboard and begin to type…

March 18th: Waiting for the World to Change. Waiting. Sucks right? I’m a terrible at waiting. I fidget and squirm. How about your Main Character? That’s your prompt for the day. Waiting.

March 17th: A Toast for Me Friends! Bars, pubs, taverns–[they] can think of no better location for a wee story on St. Paddy’s day. So pour yourself a pint and pull up stool. Write one for the road.

March 16th: Mysterious Spring: Your prompt is about finding an unexpected body of water. What does your discovery mean?

March 15th: It’s a fight on the home front. Is it the cold war or a fire fight? Literal or figurative?

March 14th: Space, the Final Frontier: It’s silly Friday and that means a silly prompt. Ever wanted to write an itty bitty space opera? It’s time to contemplate the cosmos. Bring on the aliens and zip around the galaxy with Interplanet Janet!

March 13th: Where’d everybody go? Good question. Actually, your mission today–should you choose to accept it–is to write a story without people. You can include anything else that strikes your fancy: animals, aliens, trolls, snow, car, rings. But no people.

March 12th: Isn’t it Romantic? No? Well it should be. Time to luv it up. It can be spicy erotica or a sweet dalliance. Maybe just unrequited and pure love that burns in your Main Character’s heart.

March 11th: Gambler’s Choice: It’s double or nothing. Since [they]’ve had technical difficulties, this topic is late, so you get a bonus–double the topics. Your choice.

  • Choice One: Technical Difficulties! There’s a ghost in the machine. Houston, we have a problem. Uh oh. Something just went clunk. Now what?
  • Choice Two: Curious Contraptions! It’s time to unleash your inner steam-punk and get creative. This story should center around an unusual machine.
  • Powerball: If you want to double down, combine the two and let your bizarre machinery go on the fritz.

March 10th: Thanks for the Memories: Memory is a tricky thing. Instead of being an accurate recording of our past, it becomes hazy blend of fact and fiction. Your prompt today: Memory.

March 9th: Literary Genius: Time to unleash your inner geek and write fanfic–but not just any fanfic. Shakespearean fanfic. Take the Bard and give him your own twist. If Shakespeare doesn’t inspire you, write fanfic based on something you have previously written.

March 8th: DAD: No, I don’t mean the guy sitting on the couch watching ESPN. I mean Drabble A Day. What’s drabble? A story of exactly 100 words. 99 words is not drabble. 101 words is not drabble. Exactly 100 words.

March 7th: Creature Feature: Vampires? Wyverns? Swamp things? Goblins? Your own invention? Time to go mad scientist and get creative.

March 6th: C’mon, Baby! Let’s Do the Twist: It’s a staple of flash fiction, the twist ending. Time to practice your gotcha. Can you sneak up me?

Note: March 1st through the 5th ended up being a connected story about Fenton and Kilasha; please start with March 1 and move forward through the 5th.

March 5th: A Dish Served Cold: Revenge is the order of the day, whether your MC is on the serving or receiving end, it’s time to get even.

March 4th: Destination Unknown: Sometimes it isn’t the destination that’s important. Sometimes it is the journey. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write about a journey.

March 3rd: Feed Your Soul: And also your face. It’s time to Unleash your inner chef and get culinary. Your topic today is: Food.

March 2nd: It was a dark and stormy night: The thunder rolls and the lightening crashes. A storm is brewing. Write about the weather.

March 1st: Fear of Flying? Strap in, Amelia Earhart and take to the skies. Be ye dragon or machine, this is one for the clouds. Your topic is flying.

March FADness: 03/31/2008: Deja Vu – Drabble; “Dialog” (100 Words)

Dialog

“Gabriel, what you doing?”

“Nothing Michael. Why do you always have to pester me?”

“I’m not pestering you. That should be obvious by now. You’re drunk again!”

“I am not drunk, dammit! I only had three high-balls!”

“Three! In what, a half hour?”

“Well, you were late.”

“Late! I came here right after work, for the love of Pete! How much time do you think it takes to get here from the office?”

“You make everything so dramatic, Michael. I’ve been here for almost an hour.”

“It’s five-thirty! You’re leaving the office early now?”

“Well, I am the Archangel, Michael.”

March FADness: 03/30/2008: Music; Untitled (994 Words)

Kita ran toward the village, the smoke too thick, almost, to breathe through. A stitch stabbed her side, interfering further with her breathing, but she pushed herself forward. The first screams floated toward her on the billowy clouds. They sounded disconnected, unreal.

“Please…” she gasped. “Please!” She didn’t know who she was speaking to. The gods themselves seemed to be absent, gone away from this hell of thick air and war.

She heard the Auntie’s voice, up ahead of her. Hoarse with age and smoke, the sounds hardly penetrated pass the beating of Kita’s heartbeat in her ears. Then a gurgled scream burst out and the singing cut off.

“No!” Kita shouted, spitting it into the clouds. She rounded the corner to the bridge and caught herself, barely. Her right shoe skidded forward and the sound of the gravel toppling off into the gorge clicked and clacked, echoing oddly.

The bridge was gone.

Kita sagged to her knees, too stunned yet to cry. Black smoke billowed from the temple, obscuring the running figures. Lumps strewn on the ground in front of the steps that lead to the door drew her eye. At least seven lay dead, cut down within sight of sanctuary. Auntie herself lay, limbs askew, sprawled on the stairs. Her blood seemed black at this distance when seen through the darkening smoke.

Sudden fury surged through Kita and she got to her feet. She positioned herself as Auntie had drilled, shoulder-width apart, weight forward onto the balls of her feet. She gazed into the distance, eyes on the temple but not seeing it. Taking a deep breath, she opened herself to the smoke, the blood, the battle. Girding herself in the sights before her eyes, she began to sing.

“Look! There’s one of them witches, right there!”

The harsh shout speared through the late afternoon and Kita took it. She wove it into her singing, her Weaving gaining power. Her arms started to tingle with the energy of it. Her hair crackled, static electricity developing around her. Her voice trembled at first with her youth and exhaustion. She held steady, as Auntie taught her, mouth open and throat throbbing.

An arrow speared across the gorge toward her, creating a weird vortex in the smoke as it passed. Her right hand raised of its own accord, palm out, and the arrow veered and then dropped into the gorge, falling end over end. The soldier across from her paled visibly.

“Shoot her!” The large man who yelled the command appeared from around the side of the temple, sword drawn and bloody. He strode up to his man angrily. “I said, shoot her!”

The soldier, more terrified of his Captain than her, obediently drew back and fired a second time. It followed its predecessor. The Captain watched it go thoughtfully, then looked up at her.

His gaze raked her, rude and harsh. She ignored it. She kept her mouth open, feet spread. She wracked her brain for every memory of Auntie, cycling through them one by one for songs and sounds to make. Her voice seemed to sing of its own volition now, flowing from her body like blood or water. Her hair floated around her like she was swimming and even her clothing moved as though in some kind of light breeze.

The Captain turned without a word and disappeared behind the temple. He appeared moments later with Shjango, dragging the boy by one arm. The Captain stopped where he was before and met her gaze insolently. He put the point of his sword against Shjango’s throat. A small line of blood appeared.

Something clicked deep within Kita. Her eyes closed and her head fell back. She felt her arms move, open wide, then turn palm up. Her voice poured out of her into the sky. She allowed her eyes to close and abandoned herself to the music, letting it have its way with her. The minute she did, her awareness deepened, as though her eyes had been a distraction.

She seemed to hear a deep drumbeat beneath her and realized it was the heart of the Earth. Throbbing just below audible range, it kept time to her Song. Her hands started to heat and then itched a little. She felt as though her voice were pulled from her by strong, sure hands and knew, suddenly, that Auntie was there with her.

“Hold firm, Kita,” Auntie’s Voice whispered. Other Singers appeared in her hearing, murmuring. Their susurrations comforted her and firmed her resolve.

Kita’s eyes opened and light blinded her. Blinking against it, she realized her hands were twin balls of flame. Moving without conscious thought, she brought her head up and locked her eyes on the Captain’s gaze. Kita smiled.

Flames shot forward from each hand, arcing across the gorge. They hit the Captain in the dead-center of his jerkin and threw him backward six feet. Shjango screamed and threw himself onto his face, crying into the dirt.

Kita turned her gaze to the soldier still standing, slack-jawed and stunned, next to Shjango. The flames licked backwards from the Captain and caught the soldier in a tornado. Kita moved through the village, her flame passing before her like wrath.

When the invaders all lay dead, Kita allowed her hands to close. The flames cut off like a faucet, dying into the Gorge like bright flowers. Kita’s voice faltered and fell silent. She sank to her knees in the dirt, tears on her face.

When the villagers finally got across the Gorge to retrieve her, they found her in that same position, hands palm-up on her knees. They carried her back to her hut and celebrated.

Some Songs are borne of light and life. Some come of anger. A few come of the desperation of a people, faced with sure extinction. On that day, in the small village next to the mighty Gorge, an old Singer is killed, and a new Singer is born.

March FADness: 03/29/2008: Green; Untitled (387 Words)

Sage Zelyoni thumbed through the huge pile on the table. She looked up, hazel eyes intent. “These are all the same person?”

“We believe so, yes,” Captain Kenning confirmed.

Sage pulled one from the stack gingerly, holding it by the corner. “This one…” she mused. She set it down next to the stack.

Lieutenant Bissel retrieved it, glanced once, and passed it to the Captain.

“Mmm,” Kenning responded. “New York.”

“Sorry?” Sage asked, looking up.

“New York,” he repeated, flipping it around so she could see. “The Norman heist.”

Her eyes widened. “My goodness.”

“So anything you could tell us would help, Miss Zelyozni.”

“Zelyoni,” she corrected. “Mrs.”

Kenning smiled, showing more teeth than usual. “Apologies.”

She thumbed through the stack again. “I’m very sorry, gentlemen. That’s all I can do.”

“Thank you for your time, ma’am,” Kenning drawled.

Sage stood. “Please call if you find anything else.”

“We will,” Kenning agreed, or threatened. It wasn’t clear from his tone.

Sage wound her way through the cluttered precinct, following the Lieutenant. Late afternoon sun shone in the windows and a cacophony of voices, telephones ringing, and printers going all at once threatened to give her a headache.

Lieutenant Bissel glanced back and saw her expression. “It’s loud,” he apologized.

“It’s energetic,” she returned with a shrug.

The remark seemed to please him and he smiled. In the lobby, he handed her a business card. “My name’s William. Call me if you think of anything else.” His fingers brushed hers as she took the card.

She smiled slightly and moved forward, out of the station. Once clear, she turned left and navigated around to the subway entrance a couple blocks away. She deposited the wig and yellowish contacts in the trash. The contacts looked good with her blue eyes, but they itched. Sage disappeared and Esmerelda Verde shook out her heavy mass of black hair. Esmerelda boarded the Green Line headed back into the heart of the art district.

She smirked. The police still knew nothing. Well, they knew the thief Jaguaro was a woman. But fully half the pictures they’d made Sage sit through weren’t even her. Esmerelda smiled. Tonight, she would torch the building housing ‘Sage Zelyoni Gallery’ and stop at the museum.

Before morning, the Russian Jades would be hers.

The subway rattled on, oblivious.

March FADness: 03/28/2008: MIA; “Severed” (364 Words)

Severed

“Janie, you should eat something.”

“Mamma, don’t call me Janie. I’m not five!”

You know that sigh moms get when they’re pulling their patience from somewhere only angels live? Yeah. That’s the sigh she gave me. “Janice, you need to eat.” The serious tone of voice came out.

“I’m not hungry, mamma.”

“I know, baby. I know.”

She smelled good, like freshly baked pie and flowers. The skin on her arms was soft as she held me, but I could feel the age in her bones. My crying didn’t seem to faze her.

“I’m tired, Mamma.”

She laid her head on top of mine. “I know.”

Sounds and lights and color. That’s all I remember. The sounds don’t make any sense in my memory, just a jumble missing any context. Disconnected, like on an amusement park ride. I don’t recall the impact. We were just moving, and then we weren’t. They say your life passes before your eyes when these things happen. ‘These things,’ nice and sanitized. ‘These things happen,’ they say, like that’s supposed to make it okay.

It was Thursday. That much I remembered. Jonie had ballet class and John’s plane arrived early, so I took her with me to pick him up. ‘Triple J,’ John called us, or his ‘J and the Jayettes,’ like we were some kind of rock band. Jonie loved it.

Nine-eleven came and went and life went back to being life. I can’t really say ‘normal,’ because the country changed after that. I changed. Jonie’s only six. She didn’t change, she wasn’t born yet. My baby knows how to say terrorist.

How do you pick up the pieces of your life after that? The ballet practice that will never come. They said, God, that if I wrote it down, You would answer. How? I only lost my left leg. They lost everything. My Jays, and the rest. The truck bomb got fifty-two people in one shot, and they say it was driven by a woman.

Was she missing when she left that day? Did her family look for her, frantic with worry? Or did they console each other, shake their heads, and say, ‘these things happen?’