Venus

Fan Fiction Listing

MultiFicBanner


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Prison Break Fanfiction
I write primarily non-shipper general fiction, and some Lincoln/Michael slash pieces as well. Yes, I know they’re brothers… and no, I normally wouldn’t be writing brothercest. That said, if it’s not your thing then please stick to the General Fiction section.

                  Prison Break Gen Fiction                      Prison Break Slash Fiction

Supernatural Fanfiction
Supernatural also deals with two brothers, who in this case are bound together in the pursuit of demons and vengeance. An excellent overview of this show and its characters can be found here.
                  Supernatural Gen Fiction                      Supernatural Slash Fiction

Other Fanfiction: Iron Man, Die Hard 4, Chuck, White Collar, Burn Notice, Reaper, and more

Original Fiction and Non-Fiction Stories: Miscellaneous Original Fiction // Real LJ Idol Season 8 // LJ Idol Exhibit A // LJ Idol Exhibit B // LJ Idol Season 9 // LJ Idol Friends And Rivals // LJ Idol Season 10


Venus

LJ Idol Season 11: "Excellent Teamwork"

Excellent Teamwork
idol season 11 | week 17 | 724 words
Negative Reverse

x-x-x-x-x

I see the director has brought us all together again. It must be time for a new project. Hey, why not? It's better than sitting around all day. Boy, that sure gets old…

Hang on, I think I've spotted an old friend over by the break room. "Hey, Ro! I haven't seen you in around a while!"

"I know!" he says. "What's it been, a couple of years since we last worked together? On a construction budget, if I remember."

"That's right," I say. "Oh boy, it's all coming back to me now. That sure blew up in our faces."

"It started off okay," a voice behind me chimes in, "before all the miscellaneous expenditures got out of hand."

Ro groans. "Yeah, but it's always like that. If I had ten bucks for every time that happened, I'd be… well, the math's not important, but there'd be money involved."

"What? The math's the only thing that matters!"

I knew I recognized that voice. It's Phil, already primed for one of his personal rants. "Hey, Phil," I say, wracking my brain for a distraction. "Nice suit," I add feebly. There's a reason no one's ever impressed by my attempts at small talk.

"Hello, Adelaide."

"Please, it's Addie," I say.

"Whatever," Phil sniffs. He wanders off, probably to look at his paycheck for the zillionth time, but that's okay. Gone is gone.

"Is that Negan over there?" Ro whispers. Negan makes him nervous, not surprisingly. He always messes with the data. I've worked with Negan a couple of times, and it's hard to say whether he's a good guy or not. I guess it just depends which side of the equation you're on.

"Looks like it. Next to Rand, you mean?"

"Yes, right th—"

But then Negan's gone. And so is Ro.

Ughhh, not again.

The director always thinks he's such a wizard! One minute, we're all gathering together and figuring out our places, and then suddenly he undoes something and pulls the rug right out from under us. Reverse!

You never know how far back the undoing will go. It could be just a few seconds, or it could involve going back weeks—or even months. What's worse is that he can always change his mind again, and redo what he undid. Reverse-reverse!

Sometimes I don't know whether I'm coming or going. Just thinking about it makes me queasy.

Plus, it's just rude. No one likes to imagine how foolish they must look—getting yanked away mid-sentence, mouth open and on the verge of saying something that instead just becomes "Buh-ll-guh-uh!"

Mortifying.

So. No Ro, at least for now. I wonder if he'll be back? Or if I'm next?

Oh, there's Max. "Hey, Max, are you part of this thing?"

"I'm not sure. For now, I guess, right?"

"Does anyone know what we're working on? I haven't seen any specs."

Tab wanders over. "I heard year-end Capital Assets, but that could just be a rumor."

"Really?" Max says. "It seems like we just did that. But what do I know? You lose all sense of time in this job…"

"I heard that," Tab mutters.

Ro's back again, and Coll's with him.

"Look out!" Max yells, and I duck as a depreciated disk array goes flying past my head.

"Not cool!" Tab says.

Things are really moving now, with numbers and notations piling in from all sides. Looks like we're just about ready to—

"Whoa!"

Freakin' Mr. Wizard just reverted a bunch of stuff. Geez, we're trying to get things done here, and he keeps screwing around with us. The guy can't make up his mind.

Max gets yanked across the room to a new cell, and Negan kicks a bunch of computers at me. Someone puts a shiny new web-server on the table next to me.

I can see Ro highlighting a bunch of stuff across the way, and Coll is lining things up for me.

Wait, have we all stopped moving around? Have we?

It looks like it. I think we're actually set.

"This is it, Addie," Coll says. "Take it away."

"Okay, guys," I say. I start humming, and a few of the cells join in.

"Come on." Coll pokes the others while I wait. "All together, now, everybody," he says.

We're poised and ready, and I finally do my thing:

Summmm…


--/--

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

Venus

Cabin Fever Week 3

I've been exclusively working from home for 2+ weeks now, and haven't been out of the house in all that time except for yardwork or walking/biking. Meanwhile, HalfshellHusband has made far too many trips to various stores to keep us supplied with food and toilet paper. The hoarding thing has definitely been bizarre and unhelpful.

I'm definitely feeling a little stir-crazy, and for those of you who are also in self-lockdown, I'm sure you are too. I hope you're all doing well!

Because gyms have closed down, the number of people exercising outdoors has really increased. The bike path was a zoo on Saturday, almost what you'd expect if a continuous 3-week rainstorm had finally ended. I bike downstream on weekends, which is not as nice as upstream but always less crowded. I hadn't been down there in a couple of weeks, so I was surprised that part of it smelled as if a skunk might have *foomed* either it or some person/animal in transit. That always makes me nervous. Did the fooming happened at night, or does the danger still exist? Yikes.

Being that the weather can't decide between Winter and Spring, we've had a lot of rainy and/or windy days, so I've been biking in the garage a lot too. I finished the final season of Burn Notice last week (in which Michael Westen ruins the lives of everyone unlucky enough to love him). I briefly tried seeing whether the wireless on the inexpensive home laptop I got at Christmas is powerful enough to stream Netflix in the garage, but no. That hasn't worked since my previous work laptop. Maybe I need bluetooth to boost the signal? And possibly something to boost the volume on that thing too, because Oy.

So I've started watching Elementary DVDs now, instead. I don't think I ever saw anything before late S1 or early S2, so most of the first season is new to me. That show still has one of the best opening-credit sequences ever. MAD LOVE!

And in real TV watching, The Boy is back for Spring Break (and now the entire Spring Quarter), so we're finally watching S2 of Altered Carbon. I miss the rugged Elias Ryker sleeve from S1 (because hubba-hubba!), but I'm always glad to see the original Kovacs and the intriguingly baby-faced and deadly Quell.

But most of all, Poe. All the Poe!

All right, so randomly: has Weird Al made a parody My Corona cover of the classic Knack song yet?

Venus

LJ Idol Season 11: "Home Sweet Home"

Home Sweet Home
idol season 11 | week 16 | 1544 words
The Streisand Effect

x-x-x-x-x

Off in a land far, far away, beyond the Lost Sea and the Hollow Hills, there was a fairytale forest known as the Lollipop Woods.

Those woods might have had secret powers, or even a talking animal or two, but they were named primarily for the fact that they were full of witches who lived in candy-covered gingerbread houses.

No one quite remembered how it had all started, let alone who'd been at fault, but for several hundreds of years the rules had been these: the only building materials permitted in the Lollipop Woods were gingerbread, icing, and candy. Anything else would result in immediate exile.

There were obvious drawbacks to these restrictions. The realities of weather required the witches to craft and maintain a considerable number of spells against the effects of heat and rain. The realities of people—filthy opportunists with no manners whatsoever—meant that the houses were in constant danger of being eaten.

After one or two unfortunate incidents, the children of the nearby villages mostly learned to leave the houses alone, but there was nothing to stop other children from happening by now and again. Indeed, the forest seemed to have become a sort of dumping ground for incompetent step-parents. Hungry wood-cutters and lost princesses came as well, and the witches were often plagued by errant knights who believed themselves deserving of whatever food or drink or serving-wench they encountered.

Still, any witch who suggested that wood, stone, or thatch might prove useful for building—as they were in other communities—was immediately encouraged to live elsewhere.

In this and all other matters, the woods' neighborhood association was strict and unforgiving. There were bylaws on design and upkeep, and an extremely pesky 'originality' clause that even applied to prior incarnations of the same owner's house. Worse, no amount of damage was too minor to ignore. All it took was the theft of a single gumdrop, and some poor witch's house would be flagged as non-compliant. Then she was forced to bake herself a new house and start all over again, right down to the design proposal and the endless paperwork required for approval.

One of these witches was a grandmotherly sort named Elsie. Elsie took great pride in her home. Whenever she embarked on a new creation, whether by circumstance or by desire, she spent weeks crafting the appropriate use and placement of various types of candy to produce just the right effect in height, color, shape, and texture. Elsie's houses were her life's work, her art, her most satisfying hobby.

They were certainly more entertaining than slogging through any of the ghastly reading selections that always seemed to be nominated by the other members of the forest's book club.

When she wasn't designing and redesigning her next house, Elsie gardened and knitted, and even made batches of her own candy to be certain the colors were as vivid as she needed. But mostly, she schemed about ways to keep her poor little house from being eaten.

Elsie had tried and rejected many solutions over the years.

First, she painted the sides with icing like a sort of whitewash, and then limited the candy decorations to the roof. No one bothered the house for months, but the aesthetics were so dissatisfying that she grew bored with it and soon petitioned to update the design. Elsie had no sooner finished re-icing and decorating the doors and window frames when she was called away for an emergency All-Wands meeting, and came back to find all of the red sour-cherry balls missing.

"Drat!" she said.

She then tried adding black pepper into the icing, which made it lumpy. Red pepper was no good either, as the color leaked into the icing and formed irregular orange streaks over time.

"Hideous!" she shuddered.

Elsie tried coating the house and candy with bitterwort, which gave everything a sickly yellow-green hue and caused the other witches to snicker behind her back.

She even cast spells to make the house invisible, but then there was no one to admire it or to be made jealous by Elsie's artistry, and some other witch's house got 'Best in Forest' that year instead of Elsie's. It was all very distressing.

The shame of it all was that no spells that might harm—or even deter—human beings were permitted. Animals could not be harmed either, of course, but at least Elsie could use magic to prevent birds and squirrels from stealing her candy decorations, and to stop rats and foxes from gnawing on the siding, and to keep roving donkeys from destroying absolutely everything whether by teeth or haunch or hoof. Honestly, donkeys were the worst.

No, the only defenses Elsie had against ravening humans were persuasion, trickery, and disgust.

Thus far, she had little to show for that last one. If she ever grew too tired to keep building and rebuilding, she supposed she could decorate her house with candied bats and black licorice, but then that would also be the house she had to live in, which was a depressing thought.

Perhaps trickery or persuasion could help? Or better yet, deceit?

She tried placing signs all around the garden claiming that trespassers would be turned into toads. The village boys immediately made it a rite of passage to sneak into her garden and break off pieces of her house to bring back as proof of their bravery.

Elsie put up signs in the forest surrounding her house instead, signs that read, "Nothing to see beyond this point." But no one believed her—they came anyway, and then said, "Ooh, doesn't that house look delicious?" It was maddening.

In desperation, Elsie changed tactics and instead posted signs pointing to other witches' houses and advertising the tasty treats that lay in store. That earned her a five-year banishment from the book club, and she discovered that the only thing worse than trying to get through all those the dreadful books she was expected to read was not being allowed to be in the book club at all.

"Skunk buckets," she muttered, and then considered a variation on that idea for all of two seconds before realizing she would be affected by the horrible smell too. Double drat!

What to do, what to do? She sat in her garden, wondering how she might protect her house from its next impending round of destruction. Bees droned from flower to flower, and she could hear the sounds of far-off witches cackling over her fate as they made their way to Hagatha's house to eat her prized blueberry tarts and to talk about the club's current book, 'The Lusty Lutenist.'

There was a crash and a whinny off to her left, and a bedraggled young man appeared, leading a black horse by the reins.

"I'm terribly sorry," he said. "I'm afraid I may have fallen into part of your fence. I hope I haven't damaged it."

"I'm sure it will be all right, don't give it a second thought," Elsie said, anxious to be rid of him.

"I cannot offer you money for it," the young man said, "but I give you my word that I shall return a few weeks hence, and labor to repay my debt. My name is William of Warwick."

He glanced over Elsie's head as he spoke, and froze at the sight of the house. "Oh, my. I don't suppose any of that is edible? It's been days since I've eaten." Then he blushed. "No, no, I shouldn't have spoken. It would be a shame to spoil something so beautiful. The colors are astonishing—unlike anything found in nature! Please forgive my suggestion of eating it, I'm sure I'll come across some nuts or berries soon."

Elsie was shocked. It had been decades since anyone had even thought to ask permission before simply snatching off whatever part of the house looked most appealing. But it also gave her an idea.

"Do rest for a moment, and I'll find you something to eat," she said. "I have extra ingredients lying about, and I can offer chocolate drops or candy canes. Or perhaps you'd prefer a bit of cheese with the barley bread I baked this morning?"

"If it wouldn't be too much trouble," William said. "Bread and cheese would be most welcome, and perhaps a cupful of water?"

"My pleasure," Elsie said. She went into the house to gather the food while William tied his horse to a tree far from the garden's flowers and vegetables.

They dined in the shade of a walnut tree, and Elsie sent him on his way with more bread and a few red apples.

Then she went into the house and gathered up baskets and ribbons and her sign boards.

She put candy in each of the baskets and decorated them with ribbons, and then she set them around the property where they could easily be seen. Then she put new messages on the signs, and placed one next to each basket:

Probably not poisonous

Over the next few months and years, she was pleased to see that the baskets were seldom touched.

As for the house itself, it remained beautiful and intact, and it was only ever rebuilt as a result of boredom.


--/--

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

TV

Update #1, TV and Movies

I wish I had more movies to talk about. We haven't seen one in the theater since The Rhythm Section in January (which was a bit of escapist fun). We watched Thor because it was streaming somewhere, and I now realize why everyone went nuts over Loki after that movie. He's more attractive and compelling to me when he's all hurt feelings and soulful pain. Those eyes! Although mischief-Loki is outrageous fun for other reasons...

We rented Dark World via Netflix after that, and realized we'd already seen all but the first 5 minutes not that long ago (we recorded it, but it had already started). Less fun on all counts, though Thor looks better in the second and third movies. The longer, dark-blond hair suits him better.

If only I could talk about The Farewell! But it's been at the top of my Netflix queue since December, and somehow never makes it to the house. :(

~*~

In TV news, we've been enjoying the show we like to call "Whacky Daddy," and which its network calls Prodigal Son. Damned if Michael Sheen doesn't have the best Crazy Hair and impish smile! But I'm mainly watching for Tom Payne, who looked better as 'Jesus" in The Walking Dead but is still pretty yummy here as the tormented soul whose father is a serial killer.

Michael Sheen makes me think of 'Good Omens,' and while we're not interested in seeing that just yet, it inspired us to give American Gods a try via Netflix. That is a fascinating and entertaining show, with gorgeous art direction (it's a Bryan Fuller product, so no surprise there). It's been a few years since I read the book, so perhaps I'm not remembering it very well? But I don't recall there being a leprechaun (or even a Dead Wife), and I really don't remember anything like the "media" character Gillian Anderson is playing (and what an annoying character that is, in most of its incarnations). I like the casting for Odin and Shadow Moon, though. We've watched S1, and will probably start S2 soon.

On Netflix streaming, we watched S1 of The Sinner. We didn't even know the show existed until I read a Sunday paper feature story about Matt Bomer starring in S3. Well! With that, plus Bill Pullman as the main character (a police detective), we decided to try out the earlier seasons while the TiVo records S3.

We watched S1 of The Travelers on Netflix last Fall, and hope to get back to S2. But first, I see that Happy Valley is about to leave streaming. That is not good, because HalfshellHusband doesn't like it as much as I do, so it's been sitting in My-List limbo for awhile. Not sure if I'll get to it before it goes offline. :(

Meanwhile, we didn't realize Shetland had left Netflix streaming. Oh, tragedy! We wanted to rewatch the series before seeing S5, so that's really disappointing. Might have to watch it via a free trial of "BritBox" on Amazon instead, in which case we may FINALLY also get to see S5 of Luther. \o?

So much good stuff, so little time. We are watching S2 of Amazon's Jack Ryan, but also have in mind to watch S2 of Absentia, Orphan Black, Mindhunter, and Altered Carbon. The big question for that last one is whether The Boy will want to watch it with us while he's here on Spring Break...

Meanwhile, I finished last season's Mr. Robot, but have yet to watch more than a few minutes of S4. I always have to concentrate to figure out what's going on, so late-night solo viewing while multitasking between Idol or paying bills and what-not just isn't the time. That's what Law & Order: SVU reruns are for!

Venus

Cat lovers of the world...

When you need to move your kitty, and it's all curled up into a nice circle of softness, do you
1) Nudge it awake and off of wherever it is?
2) Pick it up under the armpits or belly and lift it off the surface?
Or do you sometimes
3) Pick it up and move it in its circular form, like a fuzzy little dinner plate? \o?

Ours may be the only family that refers to that shape as a 'dinner plate,' but I'm betting we're not the only ones who sometimes opt to move the kitty "as is."

I may actually get a real update out later, but I wanted to spread the word about LJ Idol. there's a poll going on for which of a subgroup of Main-competition and Second-Chance players should move forward into the Main comptition. Voting is pretty close for some of them, so we could really use more readers and voters to help decide the outcome! The poll is here, and there are only 8 stories to read and choose from by 9pm EST tonight! Please help if you can!

Okay, off to get more caffeine. First workday after "Spring Forward" is always a challengggezzzzz...

Venus

Once Upon A Time...

I was going to post an update WEEKS ago, and then things got away from me.

Back just before President's day weekend (in mid-February), we drove down to Southern California to visit the kids. This was on just a few days' notice—our daughter usually goes out of town with friends over holiday weekends, but by Wednesday we'd confirmed both kids would be around, so we decided to go for it. This was during a week where I wrote an Idol entry and was reading other people's entries, and work was super-busy. On Thursday night, I was up until 2 a.m. booking hotels for Friday and Saturday night, because it took me more than two hours to find a hotel in L.A. for that first night. GAH.

I mean, it's always a pain for both L.A. and San Diego, but L.A. is so much worse. Our son is at UCLA, which is in an expensive area of the city, and there's this long stretch of 405 beforehand where there just aren't a lot of hotels at all, let alone decent and affordable ones. It's kind of a hotel dessert. We made this same weekend trip two years ago, and learned what happens when you arrive late at night in L.A. and need to park your car. So, in looking for something to the North that was less expensive than Brentwood/Westwood/Bel Air/Beverly Hills, I found myself backing up farther and farther along 405 and then eliminating one hotel after another on the basis of reported filth/grossness and bedbugs. Holy cow, HOW can it be so hard to find an L.A.-area hotel without bedbugs? Ugh.

We wound up at a Holiday Inn Express that I hadn't realized was right across the freeway from Magic Mountain. With the attendant early-morning Disneyland-like effect of children running up and down the hallways screaming. \o?

But we checked out and went to see our son, and spent the day at La Brea tar pits for reasons of GEEK! None of us had ever been there, and it was fascinating. The Boy and I went clear down to the bottom of the covered enclosure that exposes some of the fossils and liquid tar, and I watched the tar slo-o-owly form bubbles and *pop*. Also, there was a onsite kitty hanging out with some of the people who work in an outdoor tent cleaning and checking extracted fossils. :)

We had good time hanging-out with the Boy all day, plus dinner, and then we drove to our San Diego hotel. We met our daughter for brunch the next morning at the Shorehouse Kitchen, then walked to the beach after stopping along the way to look at a $3.5 million home that was holding an Open House. That home... it wasn't my style (too spare and modern), but it was impressive. The stove hood and other fixtures folded up into the kitchen ceiling, and a couple of rooms had sliding all-glass panels on two sides that you could open up to the outdoors. If your lifestyle were built around entertaining and impressing your friends, this would be the place for it!

After a brief beach visit, we went to our daughter's house (a rental she shares with 3 other people), then to Balboa Park to stroll through the artists' village and the botannical garden, and to watch a man make truly gigantic soap bubbles and set them free.

That was followed by a trip to the Winehouse in San Diego's Little Italy, where we had the cheese platter and some wine and played Scrabble in the upstairs room, and then we went to dinner at one of the Puesto locations. Shrimp tacos, mmmmm...

It was a busy, wonderful day, and after we said goodbye to our daughter we drove to Bakersfield and looked for a hotel. That had worked out before, but I didn't want to book ahead of time in case we either didn't make it that far or wanted to go further.

Throughout the trip, I spent part of the drive to L.A., then to San Diego, and then to Bakersfield reading a bunch of Idol entries I'd copied into giant Word docs. Then I'd post comments using the hotel Wifi and gather more stories to read for the next leg of the trip. I managed to get through them all and vote in both the main competition and Second Chance, which was pretty good. But by the time we got home Monday afternoon, I was pretty tired—and it was back to work again the next day. \o?

Still, what a great trip. It was totally worth it!

Venus

LJ Idol Season 11: "On The Open Road"

On The Open Road
idol season 11 | week 15 | 1200 words
Busman's Holiday

x-x-x-x-x

November was not a nice month for a vacation, not nice at all.

June was the thing, Clarke thought—sunny days, and all the glorious warmth of Spring without the heat of Summer. June would have been perfect. But Clarke was in no position to argue about it. November was always a slow month for tourism, and his services weren't in demand then, so November it would be.

He was finally going to take his first vacation. But where should he spend it?

Not in the city, Clarke decided. He spent nearly every day there already, ferrying customers from one landmark to another, and he was sick of it. Plus, it was loud and crowded, and there was too much traffic. Much too stressful for a vacation.

But he'd traveled outside the city for work a few times, and was some beautiful country up North. He'd really enjoyed it. He wasn't sure how it would look in November, but it had to be prettier than the city. Why not go there?

Clarke set off before sunrise the next morning, anxious to be on his way. He hoped the weather would be all right.

He thought he heard shouting back at the building behind him, but he kept on going. I wonder what that's about? Oh, well—I'm sure it'll all work itself out.

There was very little traffic in the city at such an early hour, which made for a nice change. Clarke spotted some delivery vans and taxis, but there were very few passenger cars on the road. Everyone else was probably still asleep, no surprise there.

Up ahead, a ray of sunlight pierced the morning mist and made the treetops glow. It was a rare sight for this time of year, and Clarke was glad he was awake to see it. He noticed that traffic seemed to be picking up as he continued. It would be a while still, before he got out of the city—his own fault, really, for living so close to downtown. Oh, well. No real hurry.

He followed the route as it veered to the right, stopping for a traffic light near a library. Someone pounded on the door, and he jumped. That happened at work sometimes, too, when people thought they could just pile in and ride to the train station or their office or whatever. He honked the horn. "Get lost!"

Was it a law that people had to be idiots? Sometimes he wondered.

Finally, he saw the highway waiting up ahead. About time! He turned onto it and felt the weight of the city start to fall away.

Soon Clarke was out in the country, surrounded by sky and open space. It was even prettier than he'd remembered. So many trees and grassy fields, some with horses or cows or sheep. He saw little red barns here and there, and white farmhouses with green shutters. It was wonderful, and so restful—exactly what he'd needed.

Even the dark clouds gathering in the distance couldn't diminish the beauty of what he was seeing.

Somewhere up ahead was where he'd left the main highway before, going off on one of those winding little country roads that led into the foothills. Now, where was it? Past that grove of trees on the right?

No, that wasn't it. Maybe just before that hill coming up… Yes, there!

Clarke turned off to the right, and kept going.

The road was slower and bumpier here, but the scenery was delightful. He went through a sunny valley and over a bridge that crossed a little stream. A bird soared overhead, floating in slow circles across the sky. It was stunning.

He was so busy watching it that he didn't notice the pothole in the road ahead of him. Ouch! He was going so fast that he hit the one right after it too, and something crashed behind him.

Ugh. Probably one of the doors for the overhead bins, Clarke thought. He'd been so handsome when he'd started running tours, but now? All it had taken was a few years on the job before he had stains on his upholstery and scuff marks on his walls, and a little boy had even thrown up on his floor once. Disgusting!

Other parts of him were wearing out little by little. Even though his headlights were nice and new, his air-conditioning wasn't what it used to be, and it bothered him. Not to mention the things that only he knew about, like those itchy little wads of old gum he could feel lurking under some of his seats. People were pigs.

No point thinking about that now, though. He had a beautiful day ahead of him, and all of those other worries could wait.

The road wound around the edge of a small forest, and as Clarke looked off to the right he noticed a car lying on its roof off to the side of the road.

Imagine just lying back and kicking up your wheels! Doesn't that look like fun! Though Clarke had no idea how he'd ever get himself upright again if he tried it. Also, the car didn't look like it was enjoying itself much...

The road started to climb up through some hills, and Clarke huffed and puffed his way along. He didn't remember it being quite so hard before. And why was it so dark all of a sudden?

Oh! The rain took him by surprise. He'd completely forgotten how unpredictable the weather could be this time of year, and it was getting so cold all of a sudden.

He kept chugging along, up and up, and finally crested the top of the last hill. What a view!

Clouds and rain stormed down ahead, over an even larger valley surrounded by blue hills and dark forests. It was magnificent.

Clarke started down the hill, and—oh, it was so slippery! Was it the rain? He found it hard to keep from going too fast. What was the matter with him?

Come on, now, concentrate, he thought, but his wheels kept sliding and gripping and then sliding all over again.

You don't want to—"Help! Somebody help me, HELP! Oh, NOOOO!"

He went off the edge of the road, and the last thing he remembered was the crunching agony as he crashed into the trees...

After awhile, he woke up again and heard voices. Someone seemed to be laughing. He'd heard that voice before, what was it?

Wait. It was a tow truck. And it was laughing at him.

Oh, this was humiliating.

There seemed to be some people there with it, probably the driver and maybe some nosy looky-loo who'd stopped to stare at him in his misery.

"How do you suppose it got all the way out here?" he heard one of the men ask.

"I dunno," the other man said. "Maybe someone took it for a joy ride."

"This old thing? A bus? That's not much of a ride."

Well that was great, Clarke fumed. Now he was injured and insulted. Oh, this was not the vacation he'd planned, not at all.

Although this was only his first attempt, he thought. And hey, there was always next year!


--/--

It's contest-only voting this week, so no poll.

Venus

LJ Idol Season 11: "The Hand You're Dealt"

The Hand You're Dealt
idol season eleven | week 13 | 1582 words
Fan Death


x-x-x-x-x

It was the summer when everyone in Philly thought they were going to die.

The heat hit triple digits all the way through July, keeping the air so wet and rank and heavy that it sagged with the weight of it. Dogs grumbled beneath suburban porches, while the city people drifted down sidewalks heading toward work or home or the corner store and hoped to reach their destinations before the heat sapped the life right out of their bones.

It was the summer some were saying that the Phillies would win the pennant, and yet they didn't—another heartbreaking journey in a city already sweltering with disappointment.

By the second week of the heat wave, everyone had hunkered down in their own little patch of misery and was just waiting for it all to end.

That summer was also when Louis Benedetto decided he was hotter than a tin roof in Texas, and that it was time the world wised up and paid its respects.

His sister Anita—unmarried and eight months' pregnant, and ornery as a tick on a griddle—thought someone ought to slap him into next Christmas. Every time he started going on about himself, she had to fight back the urge to be the one to do it.

Now, Louis was handsome enough, no doubt. But there were men all along the Eastern seaboard just as handsome, and many had other notable qualities, like charm or money. Louis's interests and expertise were largely limited to Louis himself.

Anita was the only one who noticed. The family's big box-fan was dead and the power kept going out, so her parents hardly ever spent time at home. When he wasn't working, her father was over at Tony's Tavern, soaking up beer and air conditioning. Her mother would go to a friend's to play Canasta—any one of the many friends who lived just a few blocks East, where the power grid was more stable.

Anita hated Canasta from the little she'd seen of it, and she was too young to legally drink in bars, not to mention being pregnant and what people would make of that. She sweltered in the apartment and sulked, or spent hours soaking in the tub in a few inches of cool water while she tried not to lose her mind.

Louis was usually right outside the door, standing in front of the hallway mirror and combing and re-combing his hair just so. His constant stream of updates was the stuff of which domestic homicides were made.

"Shut up," Anita would say.

"Why? What's the problem?"

"Why are you so stuck on yourself?" she would groan.

"Hey, with these looks, who wouldn't be?"

Then she'd hear him whistle his way down the hall and out the front door, off in search of a more appreciative audience.

Sometimes, Anita would go visit her friend Marjorie, whose apartment had air conditioning like normal people. She was lucky Marjorie's parents hadn't banned her from their home the way some of her other friends' parents had, like her pregnancy was contagious—or at least, like the bad decisions that led to it were.

Marjorie was a sweet girl, and there were always snacks and endless jars of instant iced tea. But she also had a crush on Louis, which put Anita in a tough position. Yes, Anita knew you were supposed to be loyal to family, but Louis was too young for Marjorie and he wasn't good enough for her anyway. He was always looking for the next pretty girl, the next opportunity, and Anita didn't want Marjorie to end up the way she had when Rico ran off to Florida to work on a fishing boat and left her to deal with the consequences.

"Don't be silly. Louis is sweet," Marjorie always said. "He wouldn't do that."

Anita had thought the same about Rico, and look how that had turned out. Aunt Rosa had always said Rico was no good, but Anita hadn't listened. What did Aunt Rosa know, Rosa who played Canasta and watched soap operas about crazy people with stupid names and big hair?

Quite a lot, apparently, but now it was too late. There was nothing Anita could do, and the whole city was on fire and this baby was still coming…

At least she'd made it out of high school, though she hadn't done much with her life afterward. She'd taken a couple of night classes at cosmetology school, and worked as a radio-station mascot until she couldn't fit into the uniform anymore. Now she did nothing but worry about the future while trying to make it from one day to the next through the horrible, relentless weather.

It was always a little better after the sun went down, but only just. The air was still hot and humid, still thick and wet and almost too heavy to breathe. Worse yet, Anita might wait all day for the night to bring relief, and then find herself sitting in the dark because the power was out again.

At least the darkness kept her brother from mooning over his reflection, like he did the rest of the day.

Anita's mother, Ida, came home from Canasta one Thursday night, and finally seemed to notice the state of her family. "Anita, what on earth are you doing in the tub?" she said, peering into the bathroom. "Pregnant women can't take baths, it's too dangerous. What if that water gets up inside you and hurts the baby?"

"Ma. That's ridiculous," Anita said. "It's the heat that's dangerous, not the water. And baths are the only thing that keeps me cool."

"This is not how they did things in my day, let me tell you," Ida said. "And where's that brother of yours? Louis!"

"He's out again, probably struttin' around looking for a new girlfriend."

"That boy needs a job. And what about you, Anita? How are you planning to take care of the baby when it comes?"

"I don't know!" Anita clutched the tiny washcloth draped over her breasts, a shield too small to protect her, and every bit as useless as she felt. "I have no idea! I didn't think any of this would happen until later, after I was old and married!"

"Well, it did!" Ida said. She breathed in a slow, deep breath and then huffed it back out. She snatched up the towel on the floor and handed it to Anita. "Come on out of there, and we'll talk."

A few minutes later, Anita was sitting on the living room sofa with her mother, wishing the little table fan she'd brought out from her bedroom was stronger. She was hot and miserable, and she had the feeling things were about to get worse.

"Look, honey," her mother said. "We're not going to turn you and the baby out to starve, but you know things have been a little tight around here. We're going to need you to help out with some money, maybe not right away, but probably before winter starts."

"I know," Anita sighed. "I've been trying to figure out what kind of work I can do after the baby comes, and who'll watch it while I'm at work. I mean, what can I even afford? Daycare is so expensive."

"Maybe you'll need to think about working swing-shift or nights, so your Dad and I will be home when you're gone. You might even be able to leave the baby with your Aunt Rosa, who knows? She's retired, and she doesn't have any grandchildren of her own, but babies are a lot of work, so she might not be up to it. It wouldn't hurt to bring it up as a possibility, but only as a hint. She'd be doing you a huge favor, and it's asking a lot, so you don't want to pressure her into it."

"Okay," Anita said.

"You'll have a better idea when It's time to start looking for work, and you can see what the options are then. But I wanted to make sure you know how things are looking, and that you might have to get creative."

"I get it," Anita said, and somehow knowing what was expected was better than all of the 'what-ifs' she'd been worrying about for months. She had family and a place to live, and she'd figure out a way to make the rest of it work.

"Thanks, Mom." She leaned over and hugged her mother, jumping back as the baby kicked between them.

"Oh, do I remember that feeling!" Ida said. "That's a healthy boy or girl you've got it there."

Anita smiled. Something to be grateful for, she thought, even when everything around her looked like just another problem.

She went out on the balcony and looked down at the street below. There were a few more people out than usual, and she felt the air stir softly. She'd heard the heat might be lifting. Maybe this was the beginning of it?

"Yo, check me out!"

It was Louis. Down there on the sidewalk, he was looking up at her and spinning slowly like a model on a runway stage.

"Yeah, yeah," Anita said. "It's still you."

"You better believe it!" he said. "Hey, you want to go get ice cream? I'm buying."

"Sure, why not."

Anita felt the hint of a breeze against her arms, against her face. She breathed in the promise of something better.

"I'll be right down."


--/--

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

Venus

Wacka-wacka-whacka

This cat.

On Saturday, I was in the kitchen when someone came up the walkway and rang the doorbell. The cat popped right up on his hind legs in front of the picture window to see who was out there. Then he trotted to the door with me, assessed the visitors when I opened the door, and then went flailing all "Whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hooooo!" past them out into the front yard like a lunatic. \o?

Then Sunday, a new low in cat ownership. Not as in, "This is the worst cat-related thing that's ever happened to me," but as in, "This is a new bleah I really could have done without."

He came to see me and paraded around for pets. Then he sat his rump down and I noticed a dead, half-shriveled worm stuck to his belly fur. EWWWWwwwww! I had to pry that off him with a Kleenex and flush everything down the toilet. And you know he must have just flopped down on that thing without even noticing it. Yark.

Monday, I nearly hit one of those Canadian geese I wrote about for LJ Idol last week. I was driving through the parking lot, singing along with the MP3 player, and I noticed something entering down into my field of vision. It was a fat goose belly with dangling legs and flapping wings. No idea why it suddenly decided to fly in front of my SUV, but I slowed down so it could get away. \o?

Speaking of Idol, sign-ups are open now for Second Chance Idol! If you've thought about playing but missed the first sign-up window in Septeber, or you byed-out or were voted-out too soon, now's your chance to get in the game! I hope to see some of you come back, and I would love to see some NEW people give it a shot. You can do it! People write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, all sorts of things. We have some amazing writers for whom English is not even their first language. That could be you! *tempts* *tempts*

And speaking of languages, courtesy of the New York Times Crossword (where I get all sorts of random facts), it appears that The Daily Show's Trevor Noah is fluent in eight languages. EIGHT! I'm sure some of those were learned in childhood, which is the best and easiest way, but still. I learned just two other languages from my teens onward, and I struggle a little with "cross-pollination" of vocabulary not just between those two but also from a bunch of other languages. Thanks to working in radio as a Classical music announcer for 10 years, I picked up a lot of random French and Italian words and a little Latin. The occasional Russian/Swedish/Norwegian/Czech/Hungarian stuff is less of a problem, but the others cause enough trouble on their own.

Instead of the parallel "word in language X" for something, I often get the "top-of-mind non-English word" instead. So, if I were working in German, for "left" and "right," I might come up with gauche and droite instead of "Links" and "Rechts." The German is still there, but the French jumps the line. Thank you, Satie, whose violin piece I practiced in college! \o?

I salute those of you who are truly multilingual and whose words obey you. :D