Writing Exercise: Scenery and People

Photo by Erin Penn (2013)

Scenery, especially personal spaces, can give a great deal of insight to a character. While easiest to see in movies, like the mural in Uncle Ben’s house in Star Wars and Andy’s bedroom in Toy Story, what a person surrounds themselves with at home, in a garden, in a car, or on vacation can fill in the blanks on how a person may be feeling or her history, even when the person is not the focus of a first-person or close third-person narrative.

Many writers focus on physical and clothing descriptions, but stop describing a room beyond, say, the paint on the walls. These descriptions combine with dialogue, inner thoughts, and landscape description, sweeping the story through strong and hard without ever letting us know who the people other than the main character truly are.

In Home Cooking Part 1, Troy studies Mrs. Carter’s apartment to learn a bit about her. The spoken dialogue reveals only what she presents to the world and who she was before illness took her: a strong-willed woman, older, southern. The worn out apartment tells of a life without money, no husband as support even though she uses “Mrs.”, a throw hiding the worst of the damage to a sofa, and, most damning, the one button on her remote control completely worn out – not on/off, or a preprogrammed channel, but search. She is locked in, unhappy, and has no options. A far cry from being ONLY a kindly but firm grandmother offering something to eat to her daughter’s new boyfriend.

Further, we gain insight into Troy, because he notices these things. Not the focus character in Honestly, I revealed very little about Troy, taking a significant portion of the story before divulging his disability in all its details. We don’t know much about his military service other than he got shot once. The only real inner feelings disclosed, other than his infatuation of Kassandra, is his (mild) jealousy of Dewayne, which the Home Cooking flash indicates is alive and well.

What he noticed in the scene first, the ability to walk through it, exposes his ongoing life struggle with footing. The rest of it, well, his ability to pull apart a room for a personality profile indicates something other than standard grunt-level training.

READING EXERCISE: Choose one scene in your present book and figure out what information you learn about the characters from the scene and what from the dialogue. If only the dialogue was provided, how would what you know about the characters be different?

WRITING EXERCISE: For a character from your present work in-progress (WIP), write a scene description of their favorite living space where they had control of the decoration – bedroom, desk at work, work room in basement, etc. from the viewpoint of a person entering the space to learn more about them, a spy, a date, their mother. Do not directly describe history or feelings of the WIP character, only what the person entering the space can see and infer. For example, I never out-and-out go into why a remote control writing may have worn off, but a great deal of information can be inferred.

Flash: Home Cooking Part 1

Book Cover for Honestly


Occurs between chapters 12 and 13 of the novel, Honestly.

“I gots it!” The high pitch of a child vibrated through the apartment door, followed by the thunder of small steps running, and the slow turn of the knob. Troy waited as the door shifted open and a four-year-old appeared in the gap.

Terrell’s eyes popped, the wide whites showing prominently against his summer-darkened black skin. “Mr. Troy, what are you doing here?!”

“Picking you up, Mr. James, if that is acceptable.” Troy smiled down at the little boy.

“In or out, don’t be a cat!” An older female voice carried from deeper in the apartment.

“Oops.” Terrell fell backward against the door, pushing it wider to allow Troy into the living quarters.

Stepping just inside the door, Troy helped Terrell close it as he waited for the other speaker to come into the living room. While waiting, he glanced around trying to get a feel of the person who raised the woman he loved. The walkways between cracked leather furniture were wide and one section, directly in front of the television playing Sesame Street, temporarily strewn with Terrell’s Legos, crayons, coloring pages, and one shoe. Threadbare carpet presented a bigger trip hazard, especially where some of the strings curled together in a mass at the one end of the sofa near a bright, colorful African pattern throw covering the failing leather surface. Four unlit lamps and a ceiling fan-light combo would turn the dingy white walls into bright reflective surfaces in the evening, if she lit them. Kassandra never turned on her lights to save money, and likely the mother followed suit.

Around the television were dozens of photographs of Kassandra from childhood to adulthood, some of them containing a matching woman slowly aging beside her. A few show Kassandra, the woman, and Terrell; in those, the woman’s health clearly has been deteriorating. The picture where a tired Kassandra is triumphily holding a newborn in a hospital bed, Troy would guess the woman to be in her early sixties although Kassandra’s mother should have been only late-forties. Arthritic hands twisted by the enlarged knuckles lay on her daughter’s shoulders, salt-and-pepper hair pulled back from a proud face, just beginning to have laugh lines about the eyes and smiling mouth. The most recent one, taken in this room four short years later, had a Terrell (slightly younger than he knew) reading a book while sitting on his grandmother’s lap. The steel grey hair a sharp contrast against the African throw as she bent over the child to see what he is pointing at; unkind light from the flash added sparkle into the young child’s eyes but turned her laugh lines into crow’s feet and the smile lines around the mouth carved into a permanent painful frown even with the clear enjoyment she experienced in the child’s presence.

No pictures of Terrell’s father appeared anywhere in the room. Nor any crafts or books. The two end tables had water rings etched into the wood by forgotten drinks, nearly all on the table by the throw, but at the moment it held just the remote with the channel search button worn off; the mostly dusted surfaces hid small dirt bunnies behind the lamps where the woman couldn’t reach. The other walls supported a set of windows covered by crumbling venetian blinds, a cross and warped picture of Martin Luther King Jr., and the entry into the kitchen where he could see cracked linoleum and pealing, but clean, cabinets. The woman, aged even further, was maneuvering a walker with bright green tennis balls on its feet from the linoleum to what was left of the carpet.

“You must be Kassie’s new boy.” Premature aging caused by pain added cracks to a strong voice. She nodded his way as she pushed along one of the two well-worn paths in the brown carpet. One went from the sofa to the kitchen, and the other led down a small hall, presumably to the bathroom and bedroom. Neither path led to the front door.

Troy nodded acknowledgment back from the door. “May I come in, Mrs. Carter?” With his head dropped, he studied the floor a moment. The carpet did show a slight wear of the walker going over it. When Kassandra had called and begged him to pick up Terrell because a co-worker didn’t show making pulling a double-shift a requirement at her present slave-wage job, she mentioned her mother arthritis issues meant she couldn’t care for the active child too long. Either Kassandra was in denial of the level of her mother’s disability, or the woman hid it as much as she could. Having dated the down-to-Earth goddess for just over two months, Troy guessed the later. Likely compounded by being too busy and already feeling guilty about asking her mother for help at all.

“Kassie did say you are a polite one.” The woman plopped onto the African throw, moved the walker to the side, pushing against the wad of loose strings, and, when she noticed he hadn’t moved, waved him over. “Come on, come on. Terrell, boy, bring him over.” A welcoming smile of healthy teeth erased ten years of pain from her dark face.

Grabbing his hand, Terrell started pulling Troy into the apartment. “Careful,” he muttered to the enthusiastic child. Even with nearly two years on the prosthesis, having a forty-pound weight actively pulling to the side challenged his ability to balance. Once close enough to be polite, he managed to disengage the boy by saying, “We need to be leaving soon, Mr. James, if you could gather your things.”

“Sure thing.” And the barefoot child rushed down the hall, quickly returning his backpack and throwing himself on the floor where his Legos warred with the crayons.

Smiling gently, sadly, after the ball of energy, Mrs. Carter turned to him. “Won’t you have a seat?” She waved at the separate leather chair. The least worn piece of furniture in the room and only one not facing the television.

“I am afraid not, ma’am.” Troy tapped his left leg. “Getting up and down is a production sometimes, and we do need to be on our way. I am sure you understand.”

Her brown eyes narrowed, dropping a moment to his leg, adding another frown line into the forest surrounding a mouth meant to smile. Kassandra had told her something. Well, it wasn’t a secret and his girlfriend … girlfriend, yea Gods … was breaking him free of the embarrassed shame-filled prison his scars and amputee injury had chained him into.

“Very well.” The flickering TV drew her eyes a moment, where Terrell had stopped moving to watch Grover fly around in a red cape and mask. Mrs. Carter grabbed the remote and turned off the show. When Terrell turned to protest, she raised her eyebrows then dropped her eyes to the task he had lost track of. Once the child returned to stuffing his coloring sheets into the backpack, her attention returned to him. “Can I offer you a drink or something to eat?”

He smiled, shaking his head. And Kassandra teased him about Southern Manners. “No, thank you, Mrs. Carter. I am fine.”

“I’m ready,” reported Terrell, standing.

“Mr. James, I am fairly certain you arrived with two shoes and socks.” Troy scolded lightly. He looked over at the seated woman who joined him in the fun.

“Oh yes, two shoes and his Elmo socks.” Mrs. Carter considered the lonely shoe. “It’s why today was a Sesame Street day.”

Troy nodded. “You wouldn’t want to lose those.”

“Look in the bedroom hon, I think they came off during naptime.”

The four-year-old tore down the hall looking for the rest of his footwear, leaving the backpack and shoe behind.

“Anything else I should look for?” he asked the woman.

She shook her head. “No jacket or hat needed in summer, so we are good.”

Coming back with two socks and two shoes, Terrell dropped to the floor and started pulling them on. Velcro ripped when he tightened the shoes.

“Are we going to the park?” Terrell asked, after standing, the solo shoe unexplained. His eyes went sideways, and he rocked from foot-to-foot. “Mom always takes me to the park to see the puppies and play on the slides after Nana’s.”

“She does not, Terrell Martin Samuel James, and I will not have you lie to this man.” Mrs. Carter’s voice ripped through the room with power.

Troy unconsciously came to attention at the drill sergeant tone, seemingly doubling in size and firmness to the little boy.

“I..I..I am sorry, Mr. Troy.” He started sobbing. “I just want to see the puppies.”

“Lying, even to get what you want, is wrong.” Troy said firmly, his eyes fixed on the bowed head covered in short black curly twists. “You do understand that, Mr. James, correct?”

The bowed head bobbed up and down.

“I’m sorry, Mr. James. I need you to answer me verbally.” The military, while not perfect, raised more than one wayward child and much of its mannerisms worked well during toddler interaction.

The bowed head shook sideways. Clearly verbal was beyond the four-year-old at the moment.

Nana wasn’t haven’t any. “You heard the man. Do you understand lying is bad, Terrell?”

The head snapped sideways. Eyes of two generations met.

Troy wondered if a dominance battled was occurring, or a begging for mercy, or some other telepathic exchange only family can do. Not standing between them, he couldn’t hazard a guess. Eventually Terrell’s eyes shifted away to meet his. Not a dominance battle, the four-year-old would have broken under Mrs. Carter’s will much sooner. The tears on the corners of the eyes were drying. Assurance and confidence, that was the exchange. How many times had his parents instilled those feelings in him with a look? How many times had his father bolstered him with energy and determination since he had come back broken?

“Yes, Mr. Troy.”

He couldn’t leave it at that. Not if he was going to be staying around Kassandra. Terrell needed to understand what would be expected. “Yes, what?”

“What?” Came a confused echo. The four-year-old eyes returned to the older woman, widening to ask for clarification.

“Yes, Mr. Troy, I understand lying is bad.” She supplied him the words and tilted her head, returning the four-year-old back to the conversation with the adult male.

“Yes, Mr. Troy, I understands lying is bad.” Terrell repeated.

“Good.” Troy touched the boy on the shoulder, stopping himself from ruffling the hair. They weren’t that familiar yet, though Troy ached sometimes in worry for the little boy. Every so often they roughhoused while Kassandra was prepping something, but in general, their getting-to-know-each-other dance was slower and more emotionally difficult than the one Kassandra was putting him through. Dewayne might be a total loser, but, as Terrell’s dad, he was in the picture and staying in the picture whatever Troy and Kassandra ended up being, and the child did not need any more confusion on that score. “So, the plan is, we are going back to my place and cook your mom dinner.”

“Cook?” Terrell gasped.

“Yes, cook. I thought your mom would like a nice cooked meal when she got home after all the work she did today.” Terrell wished he could easily kneel to look the child in the eye. Maybe he should have taken up Mrs. Carter on her offer to sit. “I left the bread rising and the vegetables are waiting to be chopped up.”

“Vegetables?” Terrell crinkled his nose while Mrs. Carter laughed.

Clapping her hands in joy on the couch, the woman commented, “Oh, you’ll do. You’ll definitely do.”

Troy quickly glanced her way. “Thank you, ma’am.” Kassandra may be a completely independent woman, but she was also completely committed to her family. “You are invited by the way, if you would like to come.”

Startled the woman’s face froze. “I couldn’t. I wouldn’t want to be an imposition. I just-“

Troy interrupted. “My normal Lyft driver specializes in the mobility impaired. I had been planning on taking the bus back, but I could see if she is available. She keeps two child seats in the back of her van so she can run families to doctor offices. Shall I see if she is available?”

“You were planning on cooking for just-“

“A small army. Where I learned to cook.” Troy looked down at the wide-eyed child. “Mr. James, get your bag please.” The boy had dropped it during the chastisement. Crossing the room, Troy carefully knelt beside the sofa arm and walker, and put his hand on her hand where it gripped the tired leather. “My father will be there and love the company of having someone his own age to talk to, and when was the last time you truly got to sit down and talk with your daughter? Do say you will come.”

Black and brown eyes met, both knowing the lie and the gift being offered. Lies are not always bad. Honestly.

Her eyes tried to break away, to find another excuse.

“If you do not come, Kassandra will try to help me clean up.” Troy clasped her hand in both of his. “Please.”

“Well, if only to keep Kassie out of the kitchen.” The tension released from her shoulders and hand, not in defeat but in acceptance and anticipated pleasure.

“Thank you.”

(Words 2,230 – first published 10/1/2017 – put into the unused 1/29/2017 timeslot)

Flash: No More Cheeseburgers

Cheeseburger Stock Art

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Mom, it’s the end of the world!” Gilbert charged into the house, slamming doors behind him, shedding books, backpack, papers, and electronics in his wake from his day of college classes.

His mother looked up at her teenage son from the oven where she just pulled out a sheet of baked French fries. “Of course it is.”

“No, I mean for real! It’s all over the news.”

“Uh-huh.” His mother nodded moving the fries to a serving platter. “Would you like a cheeseburger or hamburger?”

“Why is that even a question?” Gilbert put his hands on the back of a kitchen charge, shaking in his urgency. “A meteor is about to hit Earth!”

“Correction, the meteor will hit Earth in a little over nine months.” His mother tsk’ed. “Please do not exaggerate.”

Blinking at the calm his mother produced, entirely at odds from the explosion of opinions on campus when the news was released a couple hours ago, Gilbert shook his head before whining, “But the world is going to end.”

“But not today or tomorrow, and I am assuming you are hungry now.” His mother nodded to the sizzling burgers. “So tell me, cheese or no cheese.”

“Cheese, please.” Gilbert muttered weakly, pulling out the chair before sitting down. He planted his elbows on the table and buried his head in his hands.

After placing Swiss cheese slices on the ground meat patties and returning the cheese to the refrigerator, Heather brought over fries platter and ketchup. “Where is my kiss?”

Dropping his hands to the table, Gilbert kissed the cheek his mother presented.

“Much better. Now make yourself useful and get out the drinks.” Heather returned to the stove. “I’m your mother, not your waitress.”

“Yes mom.” Gilbert got up again and started setting the table for dinner. “I just don’t understand why you aren’t bothered. The news says there will be anarchy, looting, lawlessness.”

“Well it’s not going to happen in this house.” Heather said firmly. “People who do that are the stupid ones, and you and your sister are not stupid.”

Gilbert’s bushy eyebrows met in a frown while putting the glasses out. “I … what?”

“Oh, for the love of goodness.” Heather pulled the toasted buns from the oven and placed them on the table beside the lettuce leaves, onion slices, and tomatoes. “Anyone who goes the panicked mob route is just asking to die. The president already declared marshal law, and the National Guard has been deployed. She promised to bring on-line the draft for both men and women, and veterans should call in to the nearest post according to their last name.” Sliding the cheeseburger patties on a heated plate, Heather joined her son at the dinner table. “I got to call in at the gadawful hour of three a.m.”

Heather bowed her head and her son followed suit. “Dear Lord, during this time of trouble, please give our leadership the strength and wisdom they need. Give us the endurance and intelligence to be able to help them. Always remind us to look first to you for guidance.” Gilbert winced at the very pointed comment. “And bless this food unto our bodies. In your name, Amen.”

“Amen.” Gilbert echoed before grabbing a warmed bun. “So you are getting called up again?”

“What else did you expect?” Heather squirted some ketchup on her bottom bun, leaving the top of the bun on the serving platter since carbs were her biggest enemies in her ongoing battle of the bulge. “Though it’s likely only for the initial check-ins since hospitals will be a priority staffing issue.” His mother’s nursing career spanned three deployments overseas and half a decade stateside since she quit the army to raise her children after her civilian husband died of cardiac arrest.

“So I don’t even get to see you before it all ends.”

Heather pointed The Finger at her son. “Okay, stop that negativity right there. I raised you better than that. Heck, your father, bless his black heart, raised you better than that. What are the solutions?”

In the middle of biting into the burger when the question was asked, with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and meat juices dripping onto the plate, Gilbert chewed and swallowed before answering. He wasn’t going to risk his ears getting boxed for talking with his mouth full. “The meteor is going to hit the Earth. It’s too big to move. The news says it’s nearly eight kilometers.”

“Try again, that is not a solution.” The military officer grilled her son.

“Whatever.” Gilbert picked up a fry and considered it, slipping into programming mode. “Okay, there are three states to this equation. First we do nothing and continue as we are.”

His mother nodded. “With the minor change of controlling the anarchy and any idiots who use disruption to become petty dictators.”

“Scat, Dad would have loved this.” Gilbert’s dad taught high school history and ran the debate team most of his life, in between serving local political offices and as an adviser for state and military offices wherever they had been stationed.

“Focus.”

“All right, so option two is we try to move the rock and option three is we dig in and make an ark.” Everyone at the college figured the politicians didn’t release the news until they had the ark option all set up for their families and are already hiding underground.

“That is my conclusion as well.” After scooping some more onto her plate, his mother offered her son a half-filled platter. “More fries?”

Gilbert dumped the rest on his plate before smothering them in mayonnaise and ketchup. At nineteen, his appetite still hadn’t found a level between his track and his soccer scholarships and his continuing growth. Six foot would be in the rear view mirror in a few months, if he lived through the end of the world.

Heather steepled her fingers. “So the first step is control the lunacy and the second step is to direct our energies to humanity’s survival. Which option do you prefer?”

“I don’t see how we are going to move that rock, so I guess the ark is the best bet.”

“Hide instead of act.” Heather shook her head. “Well, half of humanity is conservative and half is action, which is how we survived so far. Diana takes more after me and you take more after your dad.”

Gilbert protested. “When action will accomplish nothing, using your brain is the best option. In fact it is always the best option – use the brain before acting. And in this case, the brain says a conservative reaction is best.”

Shaking her hand side to side, Heather responded. “Yes and no.”

“Right. So your turn.” Gilbert started on his second burger.

“Well, first we need to get everyone concentrating on the rock instead of panicking. We can go back to our petty bickering later, just like Africa did once Europe left. I think the U.N. is already working on that, though I expect some of the extremist groups to respond poorly.” Heather’s face hardened. “I also expect the kid gloves will come off and we will stop pussy-footing around with what is ‘humane’ and ‘civilized’ during this time.”

Gilbert smirked a moment, then took great delight and saying a word his mom constantly used on him for the last five years since she returned from overseas. “Focus.”

Heather’s brown eyes sparkled and a wry grin crossed her face before she started speaking again. “The problem with the ark solution is the limited amount of what can be saved. Therefore moving that stupid rock into the sun or at least off orbit is the better option.”

“I realize most of humanity will still die, but that is the trade-off for the ark. It is the more viable solution.” Gilbert tucked the last of the burger in his mouth.

Heather stood up and began to pick up the empty dishes. “There will be no more cheeseburgers.”

“I know that mom, but it’s okay; I’m full.” Gilbert stood up to help her load the dishwasher.

“No, Gilly, what I mean is there will be no more cheeseburgers after the ark. The cows won’t fit.”

Gilbert froze, glass in hand. “No more cheeseburgers?”

“Yeah, even if you get chosen for the ark because of your brains, brawn, genes, and youth, and don’t get all big-head on me, but you would be a prime choice, but cows take up too much landscape to raise so there will be no more cheeseburgers or steak.”

“Well, fuck that. We need to move that rock.”

His mom smiled evilly. “Why don’t you get on internet and get your friends on it. SpaceX has a rocket going up in two days and needs number crunchers to figure out density programs for their sensors. They advertised the crowd sourcing just before you came home.”

(Words 1,478; first published 7/17/2016)

Flash: Scriptorium Meditation

The Etienne Chevalier Books of Hours

Public Domain – Per the British Library
The Etienne Chevalier Books of Hours

The excess pigment pooled off Jonathan’s favorite brush as he touched it against the cup’s side. Now safe, he passed it over the manuscript page to the illumination panel. Three quick strokes blended the new lapis blue with the still wet paint of the background. Large fills were the hardest. If the paint fully set between brushstrokes, a clear line would develop between the old and new paints.

Desert heat increased the difficulty. The pigment in the cup constantly needed adjusting with additional liquid and binder. After the noon sun had burnt off the last of the night cold, the parchment absorbed water as fast as he applied it. Once, the paint had dehydrated on his brush before he could transfer it to the page.

It could drive one mad.

Which, Jonathan chuckled to himself, is exactly the opposite of the results he was hoping for.

The painting was to keep him sane between skirmishes. A mediation to take him away from the here and now. Many of his fellow brothers of arms had their own ways to escape the boredom and terror. The few who didn’t fell into a dark place where only the terror circled.

He reloaded the brush. After an inhale and exhale, he followed the outline supporting the capital letter.

Abruptly, a siren sounded.

Jonathan steadied his hand, pleased to see no paint went outside the sepia lines he had inked yesterday.

The sound dragged him away from his artistic center; the solider part of him translated the shrill noise to “incoming aircraft”. No doubt their new lieutenant will be rushing them into bomb shelters.

… And there’s the second siren for the tail tuck. Shelter time.

The feral-warrior imbedded in every man’s head since Neanderthal times snarled, until the solider which boot camp had programmed into him slugged the lizard-mind. Jonathan pushed them both aside, staring at the manuscript page until the art spoke to him again.

Reviewing the page being painted, Jonathan estimated he could take a break in six to eight minutes. He dipped his brush to continue. Really, the enemy could at least do their runs when he was on-duty. Quite rude of them to interrupt his off-duty hours.

A head topped with rustic red hair poked inside the doorway. “Private Swartz, didn’t you hear the siren? We need to get to safety.”

“On my way, sir, just cleaning my brush.” Jonathan started filling in the final area he wanted blue.

Verbally assured, the lieutenant continued his hurried walk.

Too much paint had dried on the brush, creating lumps above the portion of the brush tip. Jonathan swirled the brush in his water glass. He glanced around the abandoned adobe building he had appropriated for his recreation time. One of three buildings located in the crossroad they were guarding. Millions of feet over thousands of years had hardened the unpaved paths. And only three families though it worthwhile to live here.

Uncle Sam thought it an excellent location for an inspection station.

Wonder who has the guns today? Haven’t heard the planes yet. Flying too high, or still a ways off? Well, we all will find out who is on duty as soon as the shots are fired. Manuel and Sebastian had very different approaches.

Gently squeezing the water from the horse hair, Jonathan brought the brush to a point. He took the cap off the binder and added just a touch to the pigment cup. Quickly resealing, the artist wiped the outside of the container. The binder was sticky. Then he added a little more water to the pigment.

The brush was dipped, twisted, and compressed in the cup until the pigment amassed throughout the fibers. He brought the brush to the parchment just before the last moisture left his previous stroke. The grumbling of engines became audible.

The ground trembled as Manuel let loose the anti-aircraft. Trust Manny to wait until he could see the whites of the enemy’s eyes. Dust drifted from the ceiling of the clay structure, but Jonathan’s make-shift fly crafted from one of his blankets kept the dust from falling into the wet paint.

Jonathan sighed.

If Manuel was firing, the run was for real. The spic didn’t like giving away range to anyone. The guy was a miser with bullets; he only shot when in danger and if he thought he could hit. And he was even stinger with missiles.

After capping his pigments and cleansing his brush, Jonathan reached down to lift the cover he made with four small feet. He carefully positioned it over the manuscript where it would hold the parchment down without touching the paint. Satisfied he had done everything to protect his art, Jonathan ran to the shelter.

Sebastian had been watching and opened the door for a split second. Sebastian or Manuel always was by the door; if the guns fell, the backup needed to be activated.

“Painting?” Sebastian smiled.

Jonathan nodded at the needles in the doorkeeper’s hands. “Not all of us are lucky to have portable art.”

“I got extra.” Sebastian kicked his yarn basket. “I could teach you.”

“I might take you up on that tonight. Painting sucks once the sun has set now that the lieutenant insists on blackout conditions. Seriously that man needs a hobby.”

“Scared he might start crucifying mice like the last one?”

A deafening exchange of the aircraft and anti-aircraft exchanging munitions prevented a verbal response, so Jonathan nodded. Watching your superior officer make little crosses and execute rodents for treason was terrifying beyond anything else in Jonathan’s experience. And Jonathan had done some stupid-ass, shouldn’t –be-alive-now shit. Sanity was precious.

(words 940 – first published 9/3/2013; republished new blog format 6/5/2016)