Rewrite: The Balance of a Cat

So, thanks to Brant’s comments, I decided to revise the last story, Balance of a Cat. I admit, at first I was reluctant. I like writing in a the first person POV, as I enjoy the sense of intimacy and the unique perspective it provides to a character/story. But, I thought it was important to revise it, for the story’s sake. That’s a writer’s job: knowing when to go against what you want to do in favor of what you have to do in order to write the best story you can. Also worth noting, I did the finishing touches after watching a webinar on dialogue by Kevin T. Johns. I love writing dialogue, anyway, but though it’s late and I’m tired, the inspiration stirred by the webinar didn’t make the revisions feel like work. Anyway, here’s the revised version. 

 

The Balance of a Cat

He’d intended to surprise her, not make her cry. But Lee had always been a crybaby–a fact her cousin never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance he felt every time. Still, they were blood, the same age, and in a town as small as theirs, one’s choices in friends were slim.

“You always get me in trouble,” she moaned from behind. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her face, her crying intensifying by the second. “I have a math test second period.”

Max kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from the layers of dead pine needles and dirt. “Then why’d you come?”

“Because you told me to!”

Of course. Like some kind of living robot, docile Lee didn’t have it in her to say no, though Max guessed that’s why he’d dragged her along. Hearing her sniveling behind him, though, made him feel a little bad. Lee was smart. She was aiming for a scholarship and, with her brains, she could actually escape their pinprick of a town. Max handed her a balled up tissue from his pocket.

“You know I like school.” She blew her nose. “You’d better not mess this up for me. I twisted my ankle during last week’s trip to the quarry. I got to school late the next day because of it and barely talked myself out of detention.”

“I told you to be careful scaling those rocks.”

“It was night!”

“The moon was out.”

Max smiled when she choked off a retort. After so many years, she knew it was useless to argue. “Fine,” he said after a bit. “I’ll get you back before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.” He pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until he reached the cliff’s edge. There, he stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread his arms as if trying to catch the early morning rays. “Isn’t it amazing? You can see everything from here!”

Below, ‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, sprawled as far as the eye could see and was more farmland than anything else. But to Max, it was a green stain on the fringe of the unknown. “The world is waiting for me, cousin. I might not have your brains, but I’ll come up with my own way out of here.”

“Dad says you don’t have any talents, either. Aside from finding trouble.”

Max dropped his arms to his sides. “That’s what everyone thinks, isn’t it? That I’m just a dumb, screw up?”

Lee didn’t answer, but came up cautiously behind him to put a hand on his shoulder.

Max turned back to the cliff. “Well? How do our futures look from up here, Brainiac?”

She shrugged. “Kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.”

“Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insig…insignificant? But the potential–!”

“Maybe. I don’t know.” She tugged at his shirt. “Let’s go. You could fall, and I don’t want that.”

She tried to take him by the arm but he pulled out of her grasp. “I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.”

“You don’t have a tail,” she insisted.  “They use them as a counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.”

“Come on, not even one step?” Max waved towards the great beyond. “It’d be hard to find a better view than this—“

His foot slipped before he ever knew what had happened. It was Lee’s scream and the sudden rush of cold air on his face that stirred the latent sense of fear within him.

But the world fast approached; a growing green patch of grass, looming before Max’s eyes.

In truth, it was probably the only way a dumb, troublesome kid like him could earn salvation.

So, Max closed his eyes. And embraced it.

falling2

By Anka Zhuravleva

 

Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde

 

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New Flash Fiction: Balance of a Cat

I’ve had a really rough time coming up with stories. Either the inspiration isn’t there, or I start but don’t have the stamina to finish or the story just doesn’t materialise. It’s so annoying! But today, an old trick helped me out (mentally making up opening sentence one-liners until something felt right) and I ended up having a little fun. The original opener was : ‘I hadn’t intended to make her cry.’ But once the story came together, I ended up modifying it for a better fit.

 

Balance of a Cat

All I’d wanted to do was surprise her, not make her cry. But she was a crybaby–a fact I never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance I felt every time. Still, she was my cousin, we were the same age, and in a town as small as ours, choices of playmates were slim.

‘I hate that you always get me in trouble,’ she moaned from behind me. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her in the face, her crying intensifying by the second. ‘I have a math test second period.’

I kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from they layers of dead leaves and dirt. ‘Then why’d you come?’

‘Because you told me to!’

Of course. Like some kind of living robot, she didn’t have it in her to say no, though I guess that’s why I always dragged her along on my expeditions. Hearing her sniffling and sniveling behind me, I felt a little bad. Unlike me, she was smart and could actually one day get out of this pinprick of a town. She was aiming for a scholarship to a good university and had the brains to do it, too. I handed her a balled up tissue from my pocket so she could wipe her snotty face.

‘I like school!’ She blew her nose. ‘You’d better not mess this up for me.’

I sighed. ‘I’ll get you to school before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.’ I pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until I reached the cliff’s edge. I stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread my arms into the rays of the early morning sun. ‘Isn’t it amazing! From here, you can see the whole world!’

‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, was more farmland than anything else but, to me, it was a green stain on the fringe of everything else that lay beyond it’s borders. ‘The world is waiting for me, cousin. One day, I’ll find my own way out of here.’

I heard her quiet step behind me.

‘Well?’ I asked, pointing.

‘It’s kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.’

‘Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insignificant?’

‘Maybe. I don’t know.’ She pulled at my shirt. ‘Let’s go. You could fall, and I wouldn’t want that.’

I waved her off. ‘I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.’

‘You don’t have a tail. They use their tails to counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.’ She leaned a little closer towards the edge, though her feet remained glued to the ground.

‘Come on, not even one step?’ I waved towards the great beyond. ‘It’d be hard to find a better view than this—‘

My foot slipped before I ever knew what had happened. Actually, her scream and the sudden rush of cold air on my face stirred the latent sense of fear within me.

But the world fast approached. A growing green patch of grass, looming before my eyes.

In truth, this was probably the only way a poor, dumb boy like me could earn salvation. So, I closed me eyes and embraced it.

 

Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde

Posted in Misc, Stories | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Short Story: The Other Foot

I was going to write an intro explaining how I wrote this story, the aches and pains of sitting down to write after a long hiatus (it’s terrible!), but decided to just post the story. I’d love to know your thoughts, and if you do have questions about it or the process, I’d love to hear those too. 

 

The Other Foot

 

I owed Dax my life, yet I was the one who would ultimately kill him. Guilt the size of my pocket communicator burned a hole in my heart. I could barely look at him, and I couldn’t believe how calm he looked sitting beside the fire whittling a chunk of wood, as though he hadn’t a care in the world. Maybe that serenity in the face of danger was why my father had chosen the reformed convict as my protector and teacher. Regardless, I trusted Dax. My father may have been naïve about the Zees, but when it came to judging a person’s character he was as reliable as a compass. I went where Dax went. Except this time. This time was different.

“It’ll be fine,” he said, still whittling away. “I taught you everything you need to know to survive in the woods.”

“Yeah, that’s what you said.” My backpack was stuffed with gear: fire-making tools, blanket, pots for cooking and boiling water, maps, and a few other necessities. “I think I remember most of it.”

“You’d better. If you fail, or the Zees get you, this is all for nothing. Remember that.”

I shuddered. The Zees took adults and every young person on the verge of adulthood they could find. No one knew why or what was done to them. All we did know was that they were never seen again.

“Dax…”

He set down the unfinished piece and stared at the sky. I looked up, too. Nothing stirred. There were few stars and no moon. How different to that night nine months ago when it had been aflame with alien lights, aroar with alien engines, the cacophony whipping humankind into a frenzy. The chaos had killed my father, along with millions of others.

“I’m sorry. I really am.”

He snorted and rolled onto his side, his back towards me. “I should have known it was just a matter of time. Teenagers are all the same: sneaky and unreliable. I just hope your excursion was worth it.”

My cheeks flamed red. Luckily, they weren’t visible in the dark. “It wasn’t, especially now. If I could take it back, I would.”

“Well, I guess there’s that.”

He rolled over to face me, firelight reflecting in the whites of his eyes. Then he shook his head, the angle of his down-turned face almost hiding a sad smile. “You still haven’t figured it out, have you? I promised your father I’d get you to the safe zone, remember? Everything I’ve done was to keep that promise. Was I tough on you? Yes. Were you allowed to do what you wanted? No. But, as we came to see, it was necessary because you never could see more than the step ahead.” He ran a hand through his tousled black hair. “Why couldn’t Sero have saddled me with a dog? At least you can train dogs.”

“I said I was sorry, okay?” It wasn’t enough, not nearly, but I had to say something. “Dax, I really didn’t think they’d trace the call or follow me. I did shake them though.”

“Well they did, and now our cover’s blown. Shaking them only gained us a few hours. We’ll be lucky if they wait until tomorrow to pay us a visit. You’d better be gone before then.” Dax lay back and sighed. I knew what that meant. He didn’t want me around when they came for him. Probably didn’t think I could handle it. “Look, Sid,” he went on, “what’s done is done. No point laboring the matter. Get some sleep.”

“How can you be so–?”

“I said, go to sleep. I’m done talking.” A minute later, he started to snore, definitively ending the discussion.

Typical! Adults never listen!

“You’re angry.”

“Yes, dammit!” I threw back. “And you scared the hell out of me. I thought you were sleeping.”

“Nerves, I guess. What are you upset about?”

“Everyone’s making decisions for me! I should have a say in what’s going on, don’t you think?”

He laughed, but it was tired. “When I’m gone, you can do what you want. You’d just better make sure it includes getting to that safe zone in the mountains. That was the plan your father set in motion before the Zee’s got him, and that’s still the plan. Got that?”

I looked away. He talked big and complained, but he expected me to come through. My survival meant sticking it to the aliens. But more importantly to me, it meant honoring the two men who had risked everything for my sake. I had no choice but to live. Even if it was without them.

I curled into my blanket. The ground was cold, the sticks and tree roots making it impossible to find a comfortable position. Truth was, I also talked a big game. All that blathering about having a say, but honestly, what the hell did I know? The world was messed up and the rules had changed. Life was a jostled board game, humans the displaced pieces.

When I awoke the next morning, Dax was gone. At first, I thought the Zees had come for him during the night, but a quick look around revealed only his footsteps. And a gift left beside my pallet.

I packed slowly, picking up Dax’s gift last and placing it in my pocket.

Soon after, I heard the howls of the Zee’s dog-like tracking beasts in the woods. Just as Dax had taught me, I was on my feet in a flash, pouring water into the dirt and covering my shoes with mud. It would mask my scent for a while, at least until I got to the stream.

Once there, I jumped in and slogged through the current, heading north towards the mountains. The birds were awake and trilling their morning songs. I put a hand to my breast pocket. My palm curved over the bump of Dax’s souvenir: the completed carving of a mother bird shielding its young under its wing.

Upstream, I exited the water. The mountains loomed in the distance. It would be a long, difficult walk but Dax had prepared me for it. I listened for the Zees dogs, and when I heard nothing but the songs of birds in the trees, disappeared into the brush.

mountain

 

Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde

 

Posted in Misc, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

7 Steps to a User-Friendly Blog

Love these tips. Gonna get right on some of these, too.

Myths of the Mirror

This isn’t a new topic, but it seems worth a mention every now and then within the WordPress blog community. I love connecting with other bloggers and occasionally a website makes that hard if not impossible to do. Here are a few tips. 🙂

Definitely take a look at these if:

  • You are leaving likes and comments on other blogs and not getting return visits.
  • Everyone likes your old posts and seems to ignore your recent posts.
  • You’ve changed your blog address at any time (WP may still be directing your readers to the old deleted site!)

1. Make sure your links to your site are working. Unfortunately, this isn’t handled in just one place:

  • In your blog profile: Go to WP Admin – Users – My Profile. At the bottom of the page, make sure your website address is correct.
  • In your gravatar: Go to WP Admin – Users…

View original post 645 more words

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Stevie Turner, Indie Author: Open Book Blog Hop – 24th July

http://wp.me/p4G9vo-6Lu

Some great health tips from someone in health services. From the #OpenBook Blog Hop.

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