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Victoria S. Hardy

Victoria S. Hardy

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Joy's Dream


Joy's Dream 
 a short story



Joy screamed. 

“What is it this time?”  Michael sat up in the bed, punching the pillows under his head, and pulling her into his arms.  “The mall? The duck pond? The corner?”

“No,” she wiped the sweat from her brow, tears from her cheeks, and pushed her hair back allowing him to embrace her, “a place I don’t know.”

“Same dream?” he pulled her close, smoothing her hair out of the growth on his face.

She nodded.  “Pow!  Right in the back of the head.” 

“Joy, it’s just a dream,” he soothed, his eyes drooping because he had another ten-hour day ahead of him. 

“Just a dream,” she nodded, “the fifth time in five days.  But it’s just a dream,” her voice grew rough and demanding.

“What do you want me to do?” he sat up straighter, loosening his hold on her.  “What am I supposed to do about it?  I have to work tomorrow, ten hour shifts, remember?”

“Yeah, I know.”  She slid out of his arms and across the bed, making herself as small as she could, and gripped her pillow to her chest.  “It’s just a dream.”

“It’s just a dream, Joy,” he muttered, falling back into sleep. 

“Just a dream,” she repeated softly, her eyes refusing to stay open.

*

“Someone is looking for Phillip K. Dick – do you know that person or are they just fucking with me?”

Joy lifted her head and her mind from the dream she’d been experiencing for a week.  “You don’t know Phillip K. Dick?  Why did they give you a job in a book store?”

“Cuz I’m cute?” Emily said, her eyes wide and glanced down at the expanse of thigh highlighted in the carefully frayed skirt. 

“Who is looking for Dick?”  Joy pulled herself up from the floor where’d she been unloading Dungeons and Dragons game pieces and books. 

Emily pointed, and Joy saw the man standing beside the counter.  He was tall, wearing a hat, and embraced by a long leather coat.  “Do you think you could put these on the shelves?” she asked.

Emily looked down at the box, and then at the hose covering her legs and giving a hint of color.  “I don’t want to tear my Leggs – they cost like three bucks.” 

“Well, squat or kneel or whatever you have to do, the stock needs to be put out!”  Joy said.

Emily sighed, and reached down in the box, shaking her head.

Joy wiped the knees of her pants and went to meet the customer.  “Hi,” she smiled.  “Yes, we have Phillip K. Dick in fiction.  The boss wanted to put him in science fiction, but I insisted that he wasn’t fabricating anything,” she chuckled, and glanced back over her shoulder. 

The man, under his hat, smiled. 

Joy glanced up at the lights over their heads, wondering if they weren’t strong enough to light his features, or if it was just the hat on his head that left his face in darkness.  She led him to the D’s in the fiction area.  “Here is all we have of Phillip K. Dick, we also have a cross reference with titles in case what you were looking for was misplaced.”  She smiled up at a face she couldn’t see clearly. 

“It’s not a dream,” he said softly.

“Excuse me,” she managed as her knees and bowels grew weak.

“It’s not a dream,” he repeated. 

“I’m sorry …” she began, but her knees gave out and she found herself on the floor, in the opposite direction, and staring at Belva Plain novels.

“Joy!  Joy!  What the hell?  Where have you been?  There is a line and we need help!  Are you napping?  I’m going to tell Robert.”  Emily stood over her shaking her head, the knees of her hose covered legs unmarred. 

“What time is it?”  Joy sat up. 

“Damn near closing, where in the hell have you been?” Emily put her hands on her waist.

Joy stood, using the bookshelf as balance, and straightening the books as a cover as she tried to regain her senses.  “I’ve been working, Emily.”

“Yeah, on the floor.  That makes sense.” 

“Did you put the Dungeons and Dragons material on the shelf?” she asked, gaining strength. 

“I don’t understand that stuff, I told you that!  What the crap is all that shit about?” Emily took a step back.

“So you left the box on the floor?”

“Customers came in,” Emily defended.

“Well, maybe I’ll talk to Robert,” Joy said, finally finding the strength from her feet, and facing the tall college student in the carefully frayed skirt. 

“Don’t do that,” Emily begged, soft tears beginning in the corners of her eyes. 

Joy smiled without heart or feeling.  “How ‘bout we keep this to ourselves?”

Emily nodded.  “We still need help at the counter.” 

“On my way,” Joy expelled, feeling heat soaring through her body and leaving drops of sweat on her forehead. She took a deep breath, expelled it and took another.  The sweat dried and she went to the counter, checking out the customers, taking their money, and their custom orders for odd out of print books. 

She sent Emily away, and her other co-workers, and pulled the gate down that blocked their store from the rest of the mall and extracted the tills.  She hit the key that ran out the printout for the days work, she turned out the lights and carried the tills and printout to the back room to settle the day’s work.

She sat in the small room, figuring the numbers, filling out the deposit slip, and sliding the money in a bag with the slip.  She locked the small package in the safe, checked the lights again, and let herself out into the catacombs behind the stores.  She followed the familiar path to the door, and the parking lot outside, and pushed the door open. 

“Gotcha,” a man said, his arm a band of steel across her chest, the cold hollow point of a gun barrel on the back of her head. 

“What do you want?  I have nothing, maybe 20 bucks in my purse, the bookstore money is in the safe, and I don’t have the combination,” Joy reasoned. 

“I got what I want.” He laughed and the gun fired. 

*

Joy screamed. 

“Again?”  Michael sat up in bed and didn’t even bother trying to sooth her.  “It’s been months, Joy.  Months!  How long are we going to do this?”

She rolled over on her side of the bed, trying to make herself smaller than was possible, and ran her hand over the back of her head.  “How much longer?” she repeated softly, staring at the wall.





Friday, August 07, 2015

Jeremy's New Game


Jeremy's New Game 
 a short story


Erica knocked on the door.  “You still in there?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” Jeremy answered softly.

“Is everything okay?”

“It’s good, I’m good.  I could use some food and something to drink.”

“Let me unload the groceries and I’ll cook you something.”  Erica turned back to the bags on the counter, pulling free a bottle of juice.  “I’m going to roll this to you, is that okay?”

“Yeah, I think that’s alright,” he responded, his voice weak. 

She pulled the keys off the hook outside the door, and unlocked it.  The chain above ensured it wouldn’t open very far and she pushed the small plastic jug through the opening.  “Are you there?”

“Yeah, yes!  Just roll it in the direction of my voice,” he said, his voice growing louder as he saw the bottle in her hand. 

“Jeremy, can’t I see?”  She held the jug in her hand like an offering, not dropping and rolling it.

“No!  Absolutely not!  Just give me the freaking fluid, Erica!”  he barked, his voice gravely.

She wiped her tears away with one hand, while the hand through the door dropped the bottle.  She heard it hit the floor and she heard the chains inside jingle and then contract in a sharp metallic sound.

“Damn it!” Jeremy cried out. 

“Let me help you,” Erica sobbed.

“No!  You stay out there, I may be able to reach it with my foot.”

She heard the chains vibrate as she imagined he was reaching out his legs and trying to grab the bottle with his toes.  “Jeremy!  This is not fair.  Let me see!”

“No!  Absolutely not!”

She leaned against the door hoping that her weight would break the chain on the inside and that if she leaned hard enough she’d simply fall into the room and end the chaos. 

“Push another one through,” he demanded, his voice growing rougher.  “And aim better this time.” 

“I only have two more,” she said, lifting her weight from the door and going back to the counter to grab another bottle.

“So you’re just going to leave me in here to die?” he demanded, his voice somewhere between a growl and the strange beeps of a computer program. 

“I’m trying to help, idiot, but you won’t let me see.”  She pushed the bottle in her hand through the door again.

“You wouldn’t understand,” his voice grew deeper and seemed to come from the walls.

“What do I not understand?” she screamed and tossed the bottle in the direction she knew he was chained. 

She heard the plastic open as he broke the top, and then she heard the fluid pour on the floor.  “Why are you wasting it?” she demanded.

“I’m not!” his voice fading away and suddenly appearing all around her from the walls. “I’m not!” he insisted again.

Erica pulled herself from the door, and looked around the room as the walls shifted and descended into 0s and 1s.

“I’m not!” Jeremy declared again, his voice everywhere in the small house.  “Nothing went to waste,” he said as the walls turned blue and more numbers, dots and slashes appeared in the white paint.

Erica screamed.  She used all her weight to push open the door, popping the chain, and falling into the room.  The chains he had used to secure himself held nothing, and all she found in the place where her boyfriend had attached himself to the furnace were his clothes, an empty juice bottle, and a hand held video game he’d bought three days earlier. 

“I’m here,” the walls echoed, suddenly blue.  “I’m right here, Erica.” 

She grabbed her head, squirreling up into the fetal position for a couple seconds before she felt the numbers reaching into her mind.  Somehow she found the energy to stand, and she ran onto the street screaming,  “He’s in the walls!  He’s in the numbers!” 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

On Being A Writer

On Being A Writer 



Being a book writer is a strange thing. I don’t plot and plan or write outlines, for me it is puking – one long puke until the story is done. It’s not what the world would call healthy, and trust me when I say it takes as much as it gives. It is amazing when I see the finished product, but going through the process feels like being jailed and tortured. I can’t sleep, I can’t enjoy other things, and my mind is constantly on whether or not I used the right word or the proper comma in any given sentence. I dream in Word and write in my sleep.

When it is done and finished I feel wasted, often times looking at the scales in horror and seeing the pounds I’ve gained as I sat in front of the keyboard making all the things right.

In the last year, I’ve written and published two novels – it wasn’t my plan or a considered decision, it was simply what happened. I am pleased to say that I also planted plants, made some quilts, and kept most of our little family (and garden) alive – RIP Dum Dum, my chicken.

I have admired writers since I could read, but I wonder if they suffer as I have – I figure many did, and that leads me to believe I’m in good company. So now that The Thing in Lucy Doyle is out in the world - I’ll clean the house, get on the elliptical trainer, and try to get my body, house, and mind back in shape, while almost fearing the next inspiration.

I am married to a musician who writes songs for himself, and gets paid for writing songs for others, and he often comments that he writes something that lasts a few minutes, while I enrapture the reader for hours. Thankfully, he is an understanding man as I get caught on a wave that takes me off to far places and I am lucky if I land on my feet.

The Thing In Lucy Doyle kicked my butt. It’s a good book. I suppose many writers feel my angst, as we don’t know from where the ideas come, from where those characters are hatched, or where the drama and humor develops. Sometimes I feel as though things work through me, much in the same way I have with plants and animals. I call that God, but I know what an unpopular belief that is these days.

Some would call it talent, which I hesitate to, since most of my English teachers clarified to me how dumb and inept I was - until I reached my senior year and met Carol Holland (the new book is dedicated to her). She taught a Speech and Drama (she also taught English and Journalism) class that I took, just wanting to fill the electives and get the hell out of schooling. She pointed out to me how the class would grow quiet when I stepped to the podium to give my speech, preordained week by week by her parameters. She would often ask what I was working on, and if she could read it. And she told me many times how she couldn’t wait for an autographed book written by me. She passed away a couple years after I left school, and many years before I finally accepted I was supposed to write things.

So I guess I am a writer - I only know that because I have written and sold things, and have gathered a few good reviews from people I don’t know. I imagine writers are much like cave dwellers, rarely coming into the attention of others – except for the words. I wish I could be Stephen King with a huge gate outside, illustrated in wrought iron spiders; or Dean Koontz, living on a mountain in California with his golden retrievers; or Hemingway on an incredible piece of land in the Keys with too many cats to count; but I am Vicki, living in the ghetto and throwing up novels as they hit me. Sometimes they pay for themselves; sometimes they simply pay the light or water bill.

I will keep writing - although I figure I will never be able to afford King’s gate, Koontz’s retrievers, or Hemingway’s cats. I will listen to the thing that pours through me and needs a voice, I will lift up those characters who jump in my mind at the worst times, and I will listen to them speak as I type desperately trying to hear every word. I will hold my head high as those who haven’t read my books tell me I am beneath them, simply because I don’t have a college degree or they have no faith in God.

Some things are simply good. Sometimes love comes without reason, and as a woman I always struggle with those who don’t understand loss. As I writer, I am dismayed by those who want the ultimate experience without having done the work to understand it fully.

So here I sit, a storm brewing outside, the thunder rolling. Here I sit, writing this blog, knowing I need to get the chickens to bed, and cook dinner for me and my guy, and feed the inside critters, but yet feeling a bit beat up.

That’s what novel writing does to you, or at least to me – it kicks my butt. But I know it is worth it - it’s worth every second to see Lucy Doyle, or Roxy Moon Stone, or Abbey, or Emma, or all the others to have their time to tell their tale.

Writers – we’re a mess. Not like musicians or doctors or soldiers who get their time in the spotlight, or at least in the flames, blood, or applause. Writers – we hide in the dark, throwing out words hoping someone will not just see us, but grasp our words, and understand them.



As always, keep seeking and keep trying.