Victoria S. Hardy

Victoria S. Hardy

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Being a Girl

Being a Girl

I’m just a girl, a single human being with girl parts.  I have that weeping thing between my legs, and a mind that thinks too much.  I have so much love in my heart for every critter and every person who finds themselves in hard times.  Sometimes I give too much, and sometimes too little. 

Life, it befuddles me, but here I am, still a girl and still a turtle.  I have a shell of multi colors because I have touched so many people in my life, and they have touched me.  I can’t express what happens when you hold the hand of someone so different than you and you listen to their pains and angst.  You grow and share, and maybe you lose something, and maybe they gain, but both are better for the experience. 

Here I am – 50 years in this body, this marred, scarred, and tattooed body.  But it is my body and it still works mostly.  I can still breathe, and I still love, and I still cry for others.  I still try without the judgments I see thrown out to us like wind - like happenstance - hate this, accept this. 

Sometimes I want to squirrel about and ignore all the things calling me.  I’ve done the hard work.  I’ve literally done the hard work. 

Girls, we are a blessing to the earth and the world.  We do the hard work, not just turning over the dirt, or planting the seeds, or holding the hands of those who are dying.  We create the next generation, we yell, and cry, and show emotion, and the world is only better for having us. 

Girls, we are a blessing to man, we love, we embrace, and we understand things that may be a challenge.  We laugh, we dance, we sing, and we console.  We wash, cook, clean, and iron.  We love, sometimes when no one else will.

Seems we are the soft, safe, and secure place the world keeps saying doesn’t exist.  

Keep seeking as always. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cotton Shirts and Good Folks

Cotton Shirts and Good Folks

I often lament that my only child was taken too soon.  I wanted to be that eclectic Granny that brought the sunshine when she visited.  And as much as I lament about those things, and want to shut away the goodness my own world holds as I envision the goodness of a life that no longer exists – I have to say God has given me the goodness. 

I don’t have my name written on children, I am not their grandmother, but I am Victoria, and there is goodness in that.  This weekend of running crazily to the gigs of my husband and to gigs of others we’ve been wanting to see, I understand that even though I will never have grandkids, and my son is long gone – I’m still here and I know awesome people.  People so amazing that I wonder why I am so blessed to know them.  These people are like me in a way, taking their pains and loss and making something better of the whole life experience. 

Last night, after 3 days of running crazily, and then settling into the water of the lake, I wanted to write a blog about the awesomeness of a good white cotton shirt – seems ridiculous today, but maybe I am missing something. 

A good shirt fits, and sometimes, if we choose wisely - they last decades.  Good material, exceptional sewing, and solid buttons will give you years of comfort knowing if nothing else, that shirt rocks.  Yesterday, downtown I was wearing a 12-year-old cotton shirt and had so many compliments on it.  I had rushed all day, waking too early than my body wanted, and seeing people I loved in a beautiful park, and then running down to catch a band at the festival full of people I admire and respect. 

I think the cotton shirt, and those awesome people are one in the same.  Firstly, they never let you down.  Secondly, they are tough and survivors, be it a washer and dryer, or life yanking at them.  And thirdly, they are the trustful go to’s when nothing else feels right; you know they are there and you know they will just be who they are, and you trust their fortitude, good lines, and strong thread.

Thanking all the good folks and solid cotton shirts and feeling blessed that my world suddenly seems so full when I was sure it could never be right again. 

As always, keep seeking.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Digging In The Matter

Digging In The Matter

“Art mends broken hearts, pulls people up for air, and soothes the worst pains mankind can deliver.”  – Victoria S. Hardy

A friend asked for a favorite quote from an artist, and since I felt rushed, or at least didn’t want to surf websites for one - I wrote my own.  It got me to thinking, though, and I suppose that is what art is about, saving us from or delivering us to our demons. 

Words are so hard, and relating to the world is difficult.  Pain and loss and vision and dreams and experiences are real.  Yet, we live in a world that defines the parameters, and there is too much media defining us.  We forget that our differences are what make us great. 

Today my husband said to me that we shared the same curse of not seeing ourselves as good as we are in our personal callings.  That is true.  We do what we do without the confidence given to others.  We struggle under the world’s rules of not feeling good enough, tall enough, thin enough, smart enough, educated enough, and forget regularly the call that has us writing or singing or painting or playing. 

For whatever the reason, Chris and I grew up under burdens and they may seem simple and lackadaisical in today’s world, but broken families and dead siblings make a mark on any child.  I suppose it ingrained in us a knowledge of how quickly life could change and also a sad recognition of how people accepted the changes. 

God given talent, or tragedy, or heartbreak, or stunning realizations at any age opens the door, and there you are - an artist.  Some of us throw it out there, others keep it safe and close - the art, the healing, and the dealing with a society we haven’t understood, or no longer understand.  Some slam the door and lock it, dealing with themselves and their things in a different matter.

The world tends to define talent, and mostly it seems to change year to year – they have their talent shows and lift some folks up, while ignoring so many.  We accept the judge’s decisions just as we accept so many things - as we are only allowed to see so many things.  But I am beginning to grasp that the world is much vaster than the media would like us to believe. 

I know great artists, and I feel so blessed to have spent time in their presence, and what I know from the great ones is that they are a little nervous, worried that they aren’t good enough, and concerned how the world views them.  Great artists are odd, lovely, but odd; they may seem anti-social at times, or disconnected, but they are digging in the matter and figuring how to relay it. 

Art is a way to show pain, or to rise above it.  Art lifts us with color, or ink, or words, or drums, or strings, or brass, or cloth - something to sink our heads, hands, or bodies inside for a bit while transmitting messages that we don’t fully understand.  Art is the poor man’s way to richness, if only for a moment.  Not the richness of the media, not the richness of history, but the richness of knowing we made a difference, somehow, and someway. 

Art is life.  Art is history.  Art is color.  Art is the word.  Art is the sound.  Art is all the things that remind us of hope and our early beginnings.  Art can be lonely.  Art can be too busy.  Art challenges us to find that simple voice in us, which always encourages us.  Art makes us dig through the matter to find the jewel that rests inside of each of us. 

Much thanks to Laura Neff for asking the question and as always keep seeking.  

And below is a video of Chris Hardy's song "Digging In The Matter" with my shaky camera work as I figure out video vs. film.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015



Okay, I suppose I am a bit fed up with both sides of the agenda.  Sometimes the worst place is being in my brain. 

I am a Christian – I love all folks, I don’t care if they are gay or transitioning or straight as a board, black or multi-colored or illustrated or speaking a language I can’t understand.  If they are nice to me, then I am nice to them and deem them worthy of my time and attention and help and good feelings and love. 

We, as nation, have become a mess, but I know at my core we haven’t become a mess on our own; we have become the disrupted angry mess from the forces over us that display one story day after day, without telling the others.  We listen, of course, because we want to be informed and we trust the leaders to lead us to truth, but guess what? … they only lead us to more confusion, disruption, and hate. 

And truthfully, it makes my soul ache. 

The story of the county clerk who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple is all over the news.  But guess what?  The gay couple was not from the county in which she served and brought media along, and pastors are condemning her on her past, evidently not understanding what John the Baptist made clear, and all that stuff about being born again – dafuq?? 

I literally made my husband write the word dafuq down for me because I could never remember how to spell it (because it’s not a real word), but it’s a softer curse word than I want to say.

Sometimes I’m so disgusted by humanity I wonder why God makes me linger here.  I trust God, and I know God accepts us all, be we tatted, gay, unsure of our gender, or wear mixed cloth, or all the myriad of sins we could use to judge another (eat any seafood recently?).  God sees the good in us, and God knows our intentions, and whether or not they are good or bad. 

I have surmised for a long time that most true Christians don’t even know they are Christian.  They aren’t so much the churchgoers piling money in the bucket, but they are the ones helping people in the way they have.  They are the ones giving a few bucks to the homeless folk, sending out blankets and water in the time of need.  They are the ones lifting up others and not condemning folks.

What I have seen this week, months, and years has broken my heart.  I don’t understand the world, and I literally know it’s a miracle I am still here and alive.  I’m not always happy about the fact that I am still here and alive. 

In my journey, I have met the greatest people, people that literally sacrifice parts of themselves to make others better – most of those folks don’t identify as Christian.  I have also met Christians who are wonderful, and luckily I am related to many of them.  I have also known people who struggle so hard and give so much and are so scared by the Christian identity that they could never own it. 

I think much of the dichotomy and confusion comes down to media.  I won’t name names here, but there are so many folks in my world who have truly touched my heart, helped me, and lifted me in the darkest times who are not self-professed Christians.  And I’m pretty sure the Bible makes clear that there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing, especially in the age we are approaching, or are perhaps wrapped inside of these days.

Right now I see good folks on both sides struggling to define the boundaries and arguing with each other - and it hurts me.  Good folk are simply good folk, and it doesn’t come from a skin color, a sexual preference, or a religion.  God, whichever one you believe, or don’t, will figure it out. 

I, for myself, absolutely know that energy doesn’t end and simply transforms, and I can’t wait to see who I meet on the other side.  I have my ideas, because some people are too awesome for words, and I have been blessed to know so many!

It’s such a struggle right now, but I know it’s not a struggle of our own making; the media – ever keeping us divided – is doing the thing. 

In one day, when I have to snark at a Christian friend and an atheist friend over the same subject, I know it’s not us. 

Truth be told we love each other and only learn we don’t when we consume too much media. 

Please be smart folks, you are literally all we have. 

As always, keep seeking.  

Thursday, September 03, 2015

On Selling Books

On Selling Books

I heard a depressing snippet today about being an independent artist.  It seems the market is so saturated that the quality of the product takes a backseat to the back-story of the artist.  As though it’s not enough to show your soul in artistry and metaphors anymore, but the artist is now the product and not the art. 

I find that depressing for many reasons, the first being that I am a writer and I give a ton of information under the guise of fiction; the second reason is if I wanted to be on stage I wouldn’t have quit drumming, and not to mention I have terrible stage fright. But as now it’s the back-story and likeability of the artist that gets folks to hit the buy button - I’m screwed…

Some folks find me adorable, while others don’t – despite my story and my struggles.  I am one of those people who others like or hate out of the gate and I never understand the decisions - sometimes because I am too outspoken, other times because I didn’t speak enough.  Sometimes I am callous, and other times overly empathetic.  Sometimes I am aesthetically pleasing, and other times I am not – my weight and looks change with the seasons and they are seasons I have little control over.

My talents are writing, caring for animals, cooking, and sometimes painting, photography, sewing, or healing sick things.  In the world, I’m not much of anything. In my youth, I could turn every head when I walked in a room, but I also could be ignored just as easily.  I find the world, and most people in it, confusing.  Hell, a lot of times I besquirrel myself. 

So not only does the world want the novels, which takes a lot from me to write, they also want my story, my trials, my pains, my angst, and my losses to make them buy a product from me, and it makes me wonder if they also want my blood.  Yes, I know this sounds cynical, but I am cynical, while still having faith and hope. 

Back in the day, while Chris and I were in a band together – 3 Feet Up –  a national TV show contacted us and wanted the story of us, but it felt wrong.  Yes, the band was a reaction to losing my only child and then spending months in bed from a surgical procedure gone awry, but it felt wrong then to use that pain and loss for success, just as it feels wrong now.

I survived all the things, evidently, because here I sit writing this lament. And it disturbs me that the stories of my survival are more interesting than the novels, but actually, most astute people would see I put snippets of my survival in each novel or novella or short story.

Do people really want the dirty, heartbreaking details?  Do they need my confession to decide whether or not to spend 2-20 dollars on a book?  Do they want to hear the thoughts in my head as I stood over my son’s coffin?  Or exactly what I felt when I watched a huge open wound grow closed?  Or how I puked on my shoes while raking a yard after a concussion?  Or the trauma of being beaten by a lover?  Or being drugged and raped? Truthfully, all those experiences are in the books, but not so close to me that I have to relive the trauma day after day for the enjoyment of the spectator. 

I know we live in the Reality TV World, and I wish for softer times.  Yes, I have struggled, and I have lost, but it has always felt wrong to use the loss for anything except tears, remorse, and trying to do better, and be better.  I could not parade my dead kid around and feel good about success.

I could have filled this blog with a hundred pictures of my son who passed too soon – I could have pulled every heartstring with his struggles, hospital visits, surgeries, and trauma.  I could have posted his last messages, notes, and words, but those are mine …

I hate the world.  I have been chastised so many times for saying it, but it’s true.  I survive because it’s not my time yet. I endure because I have to. And I laugh a lot. I write books and short stories because something in me says I must write. I have accepted I will never be a King, Steinbeck, or Hemingway, and I do that with a sigh, because it’s all I’ve wanted since I was a child.  But if getting there means I have to carry my dead on a pike, I’ll just give it up that dream and choose poverty. 

I’ll still write though, I have no choice over that.  The stories will come and flow through me, and I’ll write them down, but my struggles are my own and if I survive them, the folks who read will get the hints along the way without the 3D multiplex experience. 

As always keep seeking and keep believing.

Although I hesitated putting this video out years ago because I didn't like the way I looked, the message is a good one.  

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Tamara's Painting

Tamara's Painting

Tamara stared out the window watching her neighbors.  She chastised herself and wondered when she became the nosey neighbor everyone despised.  She didn’t seem to be able to control herself - her neighbors were interesting. 

In her years, she’d lived in apartments stacked up four floors high; she’d lived in trailer parks where she barely had enough room to park her car without hitting her neighbor’s house; she lived in the suburbs where the other houses were so close that she could stick her arm out the window and touch the next house, but she’d never been as intrigued about the doings of others as she had been in the last months. 

Her new neighbors, a hundred yards out of her kitchen window, were so fascinating that she’d bought a pair of binoculars, which she kept by the sink, just to watch their comings and goings.  She assumed it was some type of halfway house, as the faces she saw across the road seemed to change daily. 

“Are you spying on the neighbors again,” her husband asked as he stepped into the kitchen and pulled a beer from the fridge. 

“Yes,” she answered, feeling heat fill her cheeks.  “I can’t seem to stop myself.”

Tony leaned against the sink beside her as he peered through the glass.  “It’s probably a halfway house, or some kind of shelter,” he said, as he watched a lady usher two small children into the huge home.

“It probably is,” she said, setting the field glasses back down on the counter.  “But the other neighbors haven’t mentioned it, just said the family had lived there forever, and that they weren’t very friendly.”

“We’re rural now, Tamara, people like their privacy out here, and so what if it’s a shelter or halfway house - as long as they tend to their business, we’ll tend to ours.”  He popped the top of the beer and took a long swig.  “I’m almost done with the presentation, want to see my slideshow?”

“Sure,” she said, slowly turning from the window.  She stepped into his messy office and watched the presentation that would hopefully open the market for a new shoe company.  “That’s really great, Tony!”  She kissed him. 

He pulled away.  “How’s the painting coming along?” 

“Slowly,” she sighed. 

“They’ve paid, Tamara, you should really get it done.”

She sighed.  “I know, but it’s so dark and I can’t work on it for long before …” she trailed off.

“Before you have to watch the neighbors,” he concluded.  “I haven’t wanted to say anything, but it’s becoming an obsession.”

“It’s not an obsession! And the painting is dark and depressing, and I have to send pictures each time I do anything and listen to this asshole drone on and on about what it’s supposed to look like – I’m not sure it’s worth the money.  The damned painting is giving me nightmares.” 

He sighed.  “It’s good money, Tamara, and you’re an artist, painting is what you do for a living.”

“Yeah, I know,” she snapped, walking back to the kitchen and grabbing her own beer,  “but the dude is sick.  Yes, I paint, but I’ve never had to paint anything like that and I don’t like it.  I wish we could give the money back.” 

“How are we to do that?”  He stood in the doorway, watching her pace as she sipped the can.  “It was your idea to move out in the middle of nowhere, it was your idea to have both of us work remotely, and although that painting is only a few thousand bucks, we need that money!” 

She held up her hand.  “I know, I know, and I don’t want to fight, but I’ve been painting a murder scene for months now and I’m sick of it.  He’s never pleased, the reds aren’t red enough, or they are too red.  The browns aren’t brown enough, or they’re too brown.  And the scene keeps changing.  I know the fucking money is good, but I hate him.  I hate the damn images that will be in my head for the rest of my life and I’m not sure that it’s worth the dollars, not to mention how he keeps changing things.”  She saw another car pull into the dirt drive across the street and ran to the window, picking up the binoculars.

Tony sighed and went back to his office.

Tamara lifted the lenses and watched a young woman step from the passenger side of the car.  She adjusted the dials on the glasses and focused in on the woman’s face and the tattoo exposed by the halter she wore.  The tattoo covered the woman’s upper arm, and was nice work by any artists’ standards, and displayed a sea creature devouring a small boat.  “Nice,” Tamara whispered, as she watched the young woman step up the stairs and disappear in the old rambling house.

She set down the binoculars and stepped back into her studio, staring at the huge painting with hatred.  She had followed the drawings sent in the mail, and the directions of the man on the phone or email as well as she could, but it was the strangest contract she’d ever had in her years as a professional artist.  Most of her assignments were painting from pictures, often children with dogs or cats, sometimes - family portraits done in oil, and occasionally photos of the recently deceased, but this was the first time someone wanted a murder scene on a 4X6 canvas. 

The canvas was taller than she was and she had to use a stepstool to reach the top, while also having to sit on the floor to reach the bottom.  And it seemed the scene changed week to week, sometimes the victims were light skinned and light haired, other times they were darker skinned with different hair. Sometimes the scene was in a hall; other times a kitchen, but most times in a library.  Each time she made the change and sent the photographs several hundred dollars appeared in their account, but after months it was draining. 

She stepped over to her computer in the corner and saw she’d received a new message from the buyer.  She sighed and wondered if she should click the message or just throw the computer, and her career, out the window and be done with it.  Money, she thought, we need money, and had to coerce her fingers into clicking the message as she slowly sank in the chair.

“Ms. Tamara, I promise this will be the last change and I have already forwarded five hundred dollars into your account.  The victim is blond, long hair, and has a tattoo on her left arm of a sea creature about to eat a small wooden boat.  She is wearing a halter.  The rest of the room is the same.  Thanks so much.”

“Holy shit!” She back kicked sending the chair across the hardwood, the wheels underneath her seeming to gain momentum until she crashed into the wall.  She fell out of the chair and hit the floor.  “The girl,” she began and shook her head hard.  “No freaking way,” she said, standing slowly and moving the chair back to the computer.  She reread the last message and then sat back in the chair, re-reading all the messages from the unnamed buyer. 

Suddenly, she saw her world in snippets of pictures through the lens of the binoculars and paintings.  “No,” she whispered, reading his first message, and then seeing the people stepping on the porch next door through her field glasses.  She clicked on his next message, remembering the paint on the canvas and the people stepping into the house across the way.  “No!” she said, clicking on the next message and again remembering changing the colors and tones on the canvas. 

“What do you want!” she responded to his message and hit the send button, her hands shaking.  She slid across the floor on the chair, slamming into an old paint stained bureau and opening a drawer.  She pulled free a pack of cigarettes, and lighted one as she stared at the computer screen, waiting for a response.  “No, no, no, no,” she muttered under her breath, as she expelled a long stream of smoke.  “No!”

The computer chimed alerting her to a new notification. 

“No,” she muttered, taking a deep draw from the tobacco.  She exhaled, and moving her feet slowly she propelled herself in the chair back to the computer.  She took another drag, her hand shaking so much that she had to use the other to stabilize it, and then clicked the button to open the mail. 

“You could save her, you could have saved all of them.  Time is growing short.”  

“What?” she whispered, trying to lift the cigarette to her mouth but dropping it in her lap.  She jumped up, slapping the fire burning into her leg just below the line of her shorts and the computer chimed again. 

She reached down, clicking the button for new mail as she ground out the butt into the hardwood. “Less than ten minutes, and you know the house, you’ve been painting it for months.” 

“What the fuck?” She stared at the screen.

The computer chimed again, and she slowly reached over and opened the new mail.  “Less than eight minutes, Tamara.” 

She ran.  She snatched open the bedside drawer and removed the pistol, quickly checking to ensure it was loaded.  

“What are you doing?” Tony stepped out of his office.

“I’m saving the girl!” she declared and ran to the door, throwing it open.  She raced across the yard, while wishing for better shoes, and crossed the dirt road. 

She bounded onto the porch where she had seen so many disappear and wondered who she had become, and what kind of virus the buyer had infected in her with his constant changes.  She briefly considered that she may go to prison as she kicked the door open and again wished for better shoes as she felt the force travel up her leg and settle in her hip. 

Tamara limped into the house, the gun raised.  “Where is the girl?” she demanded, knowing the paths as she had painted them in the last weeks and months. 

She entered the library of the old house and saw the girl.  The tattoo on her shoulder was exposed, the skin underneath white, as the girl’s hands were bound behind her back.  “Where are they?” Tamara squatted beside the girl, tugging at the rope. 

The girl shrugged. “I don’t know,” she whispered, tears cutting white streaks in her make-up. 

Tamara looked around the room.  She knew the room; she had painted it over and again in the last months.  “Drawer,” she muttered, and stood up.  She went to the desk and slid open the drawer.  Inside, she found a knife.  She pushed the pistol in her pocket of her shorts and grabbed the blade. 

Tamara ran back to the girl, cutting the ties that bound her and urging her to run.  “Go, go now!”

“Who are you?” the girl asked, rubbing her wrists. 

“Tamara, your artist.  Run!” 

The girl ran, and as Tamara heard the front door slam she looked around the room, comparing reality to the paintings she had done over and again.  “Where are the others?” she asked softly as she went room to room. 

“Tamara!  Fuck!  Tamara!  What are you doing in there?” she heard Tony yell from the front door. 

“Did you get the girl?” she called back. 

“Yeah, I sent her to our house and called the police!”

Tamara cleared one room after another as she had seen actors on TV do with her gun out in front of her, the safety off, and then stared at the stairs while she felt her hip throb.  She limped to the front door and fell in Tony’s arms as the police cars began filling the street. 


“Her hip is broken,” Tamara heard, as she stared up into too bright lights, "we need to put in pins.” 

“Twenty-six bodies under the house, most were kids or young women,” she heard, waking from heavy sedation after surgery, “but there may be more underneath, we’re still digging.  She saved the one, and we found a couple kids upstairs, and we are grateful to have busted the bastards.”  She glanced up to see a couple police officers talking to Tony, and then fell back into sleep.


“You’re home, how does it feel,” Tony hovered behind her as she maneuvered the crutches.

“Weird,” she clunked into the kitchen and saw the binoculars on the counter.  She stepped to the sink, stared out the window, and saw the police tape surrounding the house across the road. 

She shook her head slowly.  “I need to go to my studio.”

“Baby, you need to rest.”  Tony’s brow furrowed. 

“I will, but I need to go to my studio.”  She turned from the window. 

“I don’t think I told you I got the shoe account,” he said following her, his hands outstretched and open to catching her if she fell.

“That’s great!” she smiled as she clunked down the hall.  “Congratulations!” 

“That’s what we needed and you don’t have to worry about crazy people wanting portraits of murder anymore, tell that guy to fuck off.” 

Tamara stood at the closed door, trying to figure how to open it and still maintain her balance on the crutches. 

Tony reached around and turned the knob, opening the door.  “Do you need me?  I know it’s your place and you don’t like folks in there and I have to answer a couple emails.” 

“No, I’m good,” she promised. 

“I’ll be back in five, and then you need to get in bed,” he kissed her on the cheek. 

“Five,” she said, watching him head back to his own office before she stepped into the studio. 

She struggled under the crutches to the huge canvas and pulled the sheet away to see an empty canvas.  No color, no paint, no murder scene – a completely white unused giant space.  “What the f…?” she muttered.  “What the ever living hell?” She stared at the white remembering layers and layers of paint, and changes and changes.  She shook her head and heard the chime from the computer.  She closed her eyes.  “What now?”

She worked her way to the desk, reaching down to click the message and hoping she wouldn’t lose a crutch.  The message unfolded and she caught her breath. 

“Good job, Tamara.  Five thousand in your checking account.  Your husband is about to announce you have to move again, and you should accept.  You have another painting to paint.” 

She caught her breath, dropped the crutches, and managed to fall in the wheeled office chair.  She dropped her head down to her knees, gasping at the pain from her ribs and hips.  “What the …” she had no words. 

Tony burst into the room.  “Honey, I just got the best job offer ever!  On the east coast, we’ll be set for life!  Honey … Tamara … baby…”  He dropped to his knees beside her chair.  “Are you okay?”

Tamara lifted her head from her knees and smiled, as the tears flowed down her cheeks.  “I’m ready.” 

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.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Bit of The Thing Inside Lucy Doyle

As I’m going over the new book, I find the character of Mrs. Simmons to be my favorite.  She always has a story to tell, a way to take the darkest events and make them both clear and somehow beautiful.  Here’s a snippet - as I get closer to the end of the project and a new novel nearly completed:  

“I don’t think any of us truly knows what sanity feels like.”  Michael chuckled.  “Not really, not with all the things we’ve seen.  Do you know what I call sanity?”  He looked around the room, all eyes on him.  “Mrs. Simmons’ cooking - the sanest and best thing I’ve ever encountered.”  They laughed as Mrs. Simmons scooped soup into bowls.

“Awww, Michael, you are the best.”  She set a bowl in front of him and squeezed his shoulder.  “Did I ever tell y’all about my Aunt Alma?”  She distributed the bowls, checked on the pot pie in the oven, and sat down at the counter.  “Now they said Aunt Alma was crazy, or maybe it was senility setting in too early.  I can say she didn’t always operate with a full deck, but she was my father’s little sister and I loved her.  I remember once Daddy took my sister to Washington, D.C., a big trip with her government class for a couple days, and left me with her.  He called several times, I guess feeling guilty that he couldn’t be both my mother and father.  Anyway, there I am with Aunt Alma.  The day starts with grits and eggs, and then Aunt Alma pulled a wheelbarrow out from under the porch.  ‘We need to go to town,’ she said.”  Mrs. Simmons laughed. 

“Now I had been in town with my father many times, of course, although he never pushed a wheelbarrow through the streets, but I followed Aunt Alma as she picked up odds and ends from the trash set out on the curb.  I had thought we were going through town to maybe do some shopping or have a soda in the drug store, like it was when my Daddy took me to town, but Aunt Alma had a different agenda, a different picture she was painting in her head.”  Mrs. Simmons tasted the soup, studying it on her tongue as only good cooks understood, and nodded, deeming it good. 

“Aunt Alma’s trek through town took us beside the river, where she hitched up her skirt and waded into the water, pulling things out of the muck.  I sat on the bank, wanting to join her in the water, but hearing all the cautions in my head that Daddy had spoken of nails, leeches, drowning, and polio, so I just watched, knowing that she was crazy as a loon, but intrigued and loving her anyway.  She pulled an old metal bicycle wheel out of the water as though it was made of solid gold and carried it to the shore, rinsing away the dirt and decaying rubber.  She placed it in the wheelbarrow with reverence, as though it was the Holy Grail, and not just a bent piece of metal.  She walked back in the water, washing off her hands, and reached down in the muck again, pulling free a metal pipe about three feet long.  ‘ Glory be!’ she declared, and turned to me.  ‘You are a lucky piece, little Ruth, maybe even a Godsend.’  She rinsed the pipe in the water, whistling a tune I remembered from church, an old spiritual about being beside the river.”

“As I went down in the river to pray, studying about that good ole way,” Lucy sang, and then stopped herself, laughing.  “I have no idea where that came from.”

“That was the song,” Mrs. Simmons beamed at her.  “Yep, that was the song. Anyway, Aunt Alma put that pipe in the wheelbarrow, still humming.”  Mrs. Simmons chuckled and shook her head.  “And then she took a rag from her satchel, wiping off the water and mud from her legs.  Maybe she wasn’t as crazy as people said.  She got cleaned up, but didn’t put her ‘city’ shoes on again until she had walked through the woods barefoot and stepped onto the concrete of the road.  She pushed that wheelbarrow through town as though it was the finest car, or a carriage that held royalty, and she parked it in front of the drug store where we stepped inside and had lunch.  I was at the age where I had almost put away the fairy tales of youth, and was entering the realities of life, but I sat at that booth, and I wanted to believe every story she had ever told.

“Now, Aunt Alma was still attractive woman.  Her hair,” Mrs. Simmons touched her own, “was like mine, but had never been cut and ended in the middle of her back, the weight of it all straightening the curls.  She was slim, unlike me.”  She patted her belly.  “And you know what I saw?  Everyone watched her as though she had an answer they could never hear; they admired her, but they had to hate her, you know?  They had to talk about her because if they didn’t just push her down and away, they may see something in their own lives that they didn’t like.”  Mrs. Simmons stood slowly, picking up the bowls, and carrying them to the sink, checking on the pot pie.  “Aunt Alma and I had a nice lunch,” she leaned against the counter, looking above them and back into the past, “and when she stood up from the booth and paid the bill it was as though the whole room paused, watching her in fear, jealousy, and reverence.  I followed my aunt out of the drug store as though I was a princess following my queen.  We finished our lap through town and headed home, sharing turns holding the wheelbarrow as we walked.  We didn’t talk, because Aunt Alma didn’t talk a lot, and most of the words she said tended to be over the heads of the people she was attempting to communicate with.  When she pushed the wheelbarrow in the yard, she took me by the hand.  ‘You go cook. I’ve left the instructions on the counter, and after dinner I have a surprise for you.  Don’t look out the windows!”  She laughed mysteriously, pushing the wheelbarrow around the house. 

“I ran in the house, excited, still a child who understood miracles happened more often than not.  I walked into the kitchen anxious to read the note and continue the adventure, and the phone rang.  It was my dad, who had gotten a call from someone in town that I was in danger.  I assured him that I was safe, almost hating him for taking the magic away, and finally, assured that I was not near death, he let me go.  I approached the counter where I could see her instructions, battling the conflicting sides of myself, the child who knew miracles happened every moment of every day, and the young adult who had to accept that fairy tales didn’t actually exist.”  She pulled heavy bowls from the cabinets, setting them on the table in front of them, but not actually fully present.  

“Finally, fighting all I knew or thought I knew, and my father’s worries that were always present in my mind, I approached the counter and read her note.  The instructions were simple, but she had drawn them out in a treasure map.”  Mrs. Simmons chuckled as she folded paper towels into dinner napkins.  “She outlined the steps from the stove to the refrigerator and the heavy pot I was to place in the oven.  I followed her instructions, slowly regaining the excitement of youth, of magic and miracles, and then followed the map to my bedroom, where the note insisted I clean it.”  She laughed.  “I did as the note dictated, making the bed, dusting the dresser, and before I was done, she called to me from the back door. ‘Ready?’”

“I jumped.  I was ready for a miracle, or at least a path between the two worlds of belief and death.  ‘Yes, ma’am, I am.’  ‘Take off your shoes, and come to the back door,’ she ordered.  I did as she said, almost tripping over my feet to get my shoes off and ran to the door.  She waited, taking my hand as I descended down the stairs, and I once again felt like a princess, following my queen, as she showed me what she had built in my name.  I stood there for a moment trying to understand not only what I was seeing, but also how she did it.  It seems the pipe and wheel she had found in the river that day were the final pieces, and I watched as water came out of the pipe, pouring onto the wheel, which spun heartily, sending the water into a river that Aunt Alma had made.”  Mrs. Simmons moved away from the table, opening the oven, and pulling out the heavy pot pie. 

“The banks were quartz rock, and they reflected the sun low in the sky, lining the bottom of a pool she said was safe for me - no nails, no leeches, and no polio.  The water spilled out of the wading pool, over a dam made of quartz and bricks she had picked up in her travels, and cut three ways: one path set off into the pines, the other into her garden filled with flowers and a few vegetables, and the third deep path, carrying the most water into a wonderland of small buildings set beside tree trunks, with colorful doors nailed into their roots.  She had taken the smallest things, bending or cutting them, to make our town square, but instead of the road that divided the town in reality, she left a gentle stream, with more rocks lining the bottom, safe for feet.”  Mrs. Simmons carried the heavy pot to the table, and began scooping out their meals with an old metal spoon.

“I stood there, fighting the two sides of myself; one part of me wanting to call her crazy, and the other side just loving her beyond reason.  She had made this place for me, taking the worries of my father as serious and real, and wanting to give me a world where kids were safe.  She gave me the whole town as a wading pool, created from the pieces she found along the road.”  Mrs. Simmons carried the heavy pot back to the stove, and sat with them at the table.  “Aunt Alma.  Her feet in both worlds and still taking time to ensure I could see the beauty and feel the magic.” 

“They took her away to the state hospital after that, and I only got to see her one more time before …” Mrs. Simmons bit her cheeks, “ before I guess she went back to the river.  I’ll never forget that weekend, though, my feet in the water and feeling safe.”   She paused and realized she’d held the group’s attention for too long.  “We should say a prayer.”

“I think we did just did.”  Michael wiped his eyes. 

“Yes,” Danny and Lucy said at the same time and glanced at each other over the table. 

“Literally the best prayer I’ve ever heard.”  Pam held up her water glass in the air.  The others raised their glasses as Mrs. Simmons stared down in her bowl, fighting tears over losing a wonderful woman who she never had the time to love as much as was deserved.  A single tear escaped, falling into the steaming bowl.

“To Aunt Alma,” Mrs. Simmons held her glass in the air.  “Amen!”  She smiled.