Eight Pieces: Fragments

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After her husband of thirty years left her droopy old self for some perky thing half her age, Kristal Kraft faced the empty space that stretched before her the way many do: She filled it with the old dream dredged from the recesses of freedom she abandoned when she married that jerk.

She would finally find her talent.

She would become an artist.

She googled “artist hideaway retreat three months availability someplace secluded,” and on the second page of listings she found what she was looking for: a small, simple studio cabin near the plaza of Santa Maria, El Selvadora.

She subleased her home for the winter to a visiting professor, and by mid-January, she found herself in the tropics, walking the path to her cabin.

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It hit her then that she was alone, in a town where she knew no one and barely spoke the language.

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The cabin was simple, but, as advertised, well-appointed for the visual artist, with a fancy tea-maker, three easels, and stacks of canvases. She’d brought her own brushes and oils, but the agency provided the Turpenoid in 2 liter bottles and a can of linseed oil.

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The light felt like cream and the shadows like velvet. She chose a larger canvas and set it on the easel on the porch.

The cabin stood in a small clearing, with the jungle pressing in around it. Her thoughts felt like this, tangled, confused, one wrapping around the other, choking off its growth. The softness was there, the cream and velvet, but it only draped the pain and hint of terror underneath.

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She truly was alone.

There had been an afternoon, when she was eighteen, during a summer spent at her grandparents’ cabin in the rain forest in the Pacific Northwest. The grandparents had gone into the city for some reason, and she’d stayed behind to paint. She painted the forest, with ferns and huckleberries, lichens, moss, and cedar. The painting had felt like this one, overcrowded, without a focal point, a jumble of shape and texture, lacking contrast. But she had liked it. It showed how she felt inside.

This one did, too.

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OK. She was a mess, she admitted it. It was OK to be a mess after your husband becomes your ex. It’s OK to be angry, sad, lost, confused, afraid, and also, maybe a little bit excited. Maybe a little determined. Maybe a lot stubborn.

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Maybe it was OK to pull out those pieces that had been forgotten about for decades, to look at them in their jumbled mess, and to begin to consider where each piece might rightfully belong, to slowly put the fragments back together again.

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Next >>

Author’s note: It’s a new bonus short! Eight chapters, an artist finding herself at last, and lots of pretty jungle pictures! ūüôā

Puppy Love 2

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The After differs from expectation in every way conceivable–not surprising, considering that the immensity of it can, in no way, be conceived of.

Not a dark void, the After fills with light, with feeling, with memory, with possibility, with imagination, with energy, with all that is and all that can be and all that might be and all that was. It is crowded with consciousness and overflowing with time. There is so much time that time ceases to have any meaning whatsoever as the entirety of the eternal squeezes into a single instant. This is what Forever means.

I fully intended to visit my family every day, but a day is a concept that does not exist where I was. I have no idea how much time passed, for where I was the concept of “passed” did not exist.

I could feel Tanvi’s grief, an anchor that kept me connected to this place.

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Then, the anchor line was cut. I drifted. Freedom felt exquisite.

Nonetheless, I felt a pull. While no time at all had “passed” for me, surely time had progressed at my earthly home when I felt the pull.

Joy welled on the sight of form again.

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But when I saw Majora, head down, ears back, slinking through the front gate, dread descended.

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Bobie lay collapsed on the threshold, the light of him already ascending.

I remembered my promise to be there to help with the transition.

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Our gardener stopped his chores. Majora circled back around, having found her courage, and followed Babe in the solemn procession.

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Someone else, a young man who looked familiar, stood witness as the Reaper rounded the corner of the house.

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My Tanvi stood in shock.

The gardener called Bobie’s name. I tried to tell him to stop, to let him pass, but I could not remember how to form words, or how to speak.

No one saw me. You cannot see light when it is light.

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With all my being, I spoke to Bosko: Don’t fear. It’s not the end.¬†

But it is an end, and every cell in Bosko’s body knew what it was the end of, with a finality that carries physical fear in those for whom the physical still holds meaning.

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At last, Nibbler slowly strode out to be present for this parting with her mate.

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Dear Tanvi! She stood behind the Reaper in weary anger, grasping a fork in her hand. Go on, dear! Stab him!

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But it was too late, and the dark shepherd raised his scythe.

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The dogs knew where to look, not at the empty form, but at the light. Remember, dear ones, we will be together again!

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“Come, Bobie!” I called. “Good dog! Do you want to stay, or do you want to go?”

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To stay! To stay! The shepherd collected him in his grasp and handed him over to me.

Oh, Bobie! You are by my side again!

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“Sad day, dude?” The maid said when he arrived. And the familiar-looking youth replied. “The worst.”

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For them, it was the worst. For me and for Bobie, it was a day of joyful reunion. My grave was not so lonely now, and beside me, in the After, I would cavort with my spirit friend.

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But before we were released to play, we had the task of comforting those we left behind.

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Dear Babe, her eyes revealed her understanding. If you know you will join us soon, dear, how can you be so sad?¬†¬†Because it is an ending, though it’s not the end.

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Bosko raised his head in honor of his sire.

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Dear Babe, dearest Bosko, weep no more. We’re still here. We will always be.

But not with warm forms and hearts that beat. Not with hands that stroke. Not with a wet nose and soft fur.

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“Fuck it all!” said Tanvi, and I loved her more than ever.

Soon enough, she will understand, too, but until that day, let her rage. It’s love that stirs this anger, too.

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When the young familiar-looking man followed Bosko, Bartholomew, and Nibbler back to the house, and Tanvi turned to join them, Babe curled up and slept on our graves, as she had the night through after my passing.

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I left her there and found Tanvi curled on a stone bench in the garden. Poor dear. Grief is exhausting.

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She and the youth dug deep into those reserves that we find when there are others to think of: Babe and Bosko needed walking.

I called Bobie to me, and we walked with them.

“Do you feel a breeze?” Tanvi asked.

“It’s just the sunset,” Lucas said. “Evening air off the bay.”

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I couldn’t leave them. That night, I sat in the garden. The young man screamed when he saw me. When it is dark, I discovered, light can be seen.

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“Don’t be afraid,” I said. I found my voice. “I’m Astrid. I used to live her.”

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“I know you, Astrid,” he said. “You’re my mom’s friend. We were in the garden club together when I was a kid. I’m Lucas Munch.”

Lucas! I loved that little boy, so inquisitive! So polite! Now, all grown up.

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“And what are you doing here, Lucas?” I asked.

“I live here now!” he said, and he explained that he wanted to be an artist and needed a place to live, and Tanvi wanted someone to help with the dogs, the garden, and the chores. He pitched his tent beside the house, free board in exchange for helping out.

“And all the art supplies I need!” he said. Those were my oils, canvases, and brushes. I felt grateful they could be put to good use by him.

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I wondered if Tanvi had shared with him the details of our wills: that everything we had would be passed on to the person we chose to care for the dogs and Majora. The property was for them, along with all our assets, held in trust by the caregiver.

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He was a good choice. I approved.

I discovered that night that I could help out in the physical world. I could wash dishes, clean the sink, take out the trash. I could be of use, and this brought me unexpected joy.

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“Thanks for cleaning?” Lucas said. “I, uh, never had a ghost help out around the house before?”

I laughed. He’d kept his endearing childish quality of turning statements into questions.

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After he headed out to the tent, I heard the quilts rustle from the bedroom. I hoped that Tanvi would see me. With all my intention, I remembered the shape of my form.

“It’s you,” she said.

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We clowned around all evening. I had missed laughing with her more than I could have imagined. I hadn’t thought then, but, oddly, laughter doesn’t exist in the After. Humor does, and irony prevails, but laughter, laughter seems to belong to this earthly realm. It felt good to laugh again.

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We discovered new games. I can put my energy into objects: Chairs, tables, my fiddle, even a squeaky toy.

So while I went inside Pinky SqueakChick, Tanvi picked up her rubber duckie. We played nice, and we played naughty, finding new ways that we could still be together.

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When the sun rose, I was still there. I knew I couldn’t stay forever, that I would need, periodically to return to formlessness, but I wanted to contribute during the time I was able to stay.

I found a canvas that Lucas had set up, and I managed to open the box of paints.

I tried to express the fullness of the after: The sparks of light that we are, the shifting patterns, the way of seeing that exists beyond physicality.

Plus, if they don’t get what I’m expressing, they can sell the painting to buy more puppy chow.

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Soon, the light would be brighter than my intention: This transparency would fade.

But I would be back, I knew that then, many, many times. And sometimes, Bobie would come, too. It is an ending. But it’s not the end.

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<< Previous | Next >>

 

City Tales: Life of Don

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He had to admit she was beautiful. Not in the glamour-magazine-cover/swimsuit-edition style of beauty, but in the something real, something warm style.

In the style of beauty that said, “These are my eyebrows! They’re perfect. Just the way they are. ¬†I don’t need lace when I’ve got a cotton T. Why take half a portion when I’m famished? And besides. Your cooking is superior.”

In other words, Mac was down-to-earth. She was a natural beauty.

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McKenzie was not Don’s type–at least that’s what everyone who knew Don said, and to his face, as often as they could.

“Congrats, but what were you thinking, dude?”

Most people gave it eight days. Then, after eight days passed, they gave it eight weeks. Now, after eight weeks, they gave it eight months.

He’d been thinking even eight years wouldn’t see it through to its end. This was a long-time type of thing.

They all said that his type was flirty, sexy, hot–the kind of woman you called a “chick.” Not the kind of woman you called… a woman.

He wouldn’t even call her a lady–and for sure, not a girl–because he knew enough to know those were not PC.

Not that he cared about PC. He didn’t give a damn. But he cared about her.

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He cared about her enough to marry her.

Yeah. It surprised him, too.

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Sure, you could call it a whirlwind.

It was more like an acid trip. Or maybe an endorphin explosion.

He looked out the window of her apartment–their apartment–out over the coastal mountains. It had been a weird, endorphin-thing, acid-trippy thing, with no drugs involved. Just love and sex, which were the two strongest drugs known to man–err, humankind–anyway.

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He was still high.

They’d been married two months, and he hadn’t come down yet.

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Now and then a brief moment of clarity intruded: He was married. And not to one of the Caliente chicks.

He was living in an apartment, of all things, and he had to ride an elevator to reach their floor.

He was living in the fricking city. In the city. With fog all around. And tugboats. And honking fog horns in the middle of the night. This was about as far from the desert as a dude could get.

And his wife was An Artist.

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She said things like “This gruyere has a flowery, fruity note, don’t you think?”

“It’s melted,” he’d say back. “Like melty. You know?”

But that was what he liked about her.

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She may not seem like his type, but that’s exactly what made McKenzie his type.

Some nights, they’d be sitting watching “The Bletchley Circle” and McKenzie would start talking about coded messages in shifts of light.

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“You know that’s what Seurat was after,” she said one evening. “Every dot of light received by our brain is processed into a seamless whole: we reconstruct it into meaning.”

He watched as she finished the painting the next day.

“I see what you were talking about,” he said. “Like I gotta do the work in my brain to finish it.”

“That’s right,” she replied. “You’re the co-creator. It just dots until you complete the process and turn it into something that signifies.”

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“I like that you don’t talk down to me,” he said.

“Why would I?” she replied. “You’re intelligent and perceptive.”

No one had ever called him that before.

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Of course, he could be intelligent and perceptive and still be a hunk. What would his wife say? “One did not preclude the other.” Dang! He was getting good!

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Easels stood before the windows in McKenzie’s studio. Mac often had two or three paintings going at once, but one or two easels were always empty.

Don found it tempting to paint.

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“You should!” McKenzie said, when he told her he was thinking of picking up a brush. “You’ve got an artist’s soul, Don. That’s what first drew me to you!”

“And here I thought it was my abs,” he said.

“Well, they don’t hurt!” she replied, with a wink.

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He felt afraid to start painting. He’d reveal how inartistic he truly was.

He stuck to leaving his shirt off when they were hanging around the place.

“Only an artist would slice tomatoes with such care,” Mac said. He was pleased that she noticed the precise angle of each cut.

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“You think you’ll ever get bored of me, babe?” he asked her sometimes. They were good together, chemistry-wise and between-the-sheets–he knew that. But it was in the area of conversation and learning that he felt incompetent.

He knew he was smart. Anybody attracted to Mac would have to be smart. But he wasn’t educated, and that was the rub.

Why, she could have any college professor, doctor, psychiatrist, writer, editor, book publisher, art dealer–anybody intelligent that she wanted. Intelligent and educated.

And here she was with him. He hoped his brain was man enough for her.

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Author’s Notes: City Tales is back with a new installment, following Don and McKenzie in their fancy apartment across town. It wasn’t my idea to have Don and Mac get together: This was entirely the game and MCCC. While I was playing CT for “My Lovely Landlord,” I received notification of their marriage. Don moved in with McKenzie to the beautiful apartment that MCCC had moved her into. They’re very happy. ¬†I’m writing Don true to how he is in the game, so don’t blame me if he’s nice! And even if somebody is sweet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is entirely innocent, especially with Lily Feng as a neighbor!

Forgotten Art: Jasper – Alina 2

A reply to: A letter from Alina

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Dear Alina,

What joy to receive your letter! So you’ve come through your trial and made it out the other side.

Not many get the chance to live through the mythic experience of Orpheus and Eurydice–but then, not many of us travelled through the eras past to step into the present day. Nor do we have step-fathers returned from the grave!

And not many of us possess your bravery, Alina, for surely, it’s in finding the strength to trust even when in the grips of fear that true bravery lies.

So now your curse has been lifted, a gift from the strength of your mother, Robin, and your own brave heart.

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What is next for you and Robin?

And how does it feel to have the curse removed?

You asked what it was like to be a professor of literature.

It was my life for a very long time–over thirty years, and before that stretched a decade of preparation.

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There were things I liked, things I loved, things I tolerated, things I rejected, things I railed against, things I professed, things I chafed at, things I adored.

In that way, it was much like any job, I suppose.

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The finest moments centered around the catching-hold of an idea. One year, we all went mad for Thoreau; I nearly lost eight students to “The Walden Effect.”

When a certain type of sophomore first reads Walden, something dangerous can spark. Once it does, this bureaucratic life that muffles our everyday becomes intolerable. And when that happens, the susceptible sophomore turns to me with a bright eye and declares, “I must do something meaningful.” I came to recognize the signs.

“Fine, yes, you will do something meaningful, but AFTER writing this term paper.”

“No! I need to experience life directly!”

Before I lost too many students, I tossed in a lecture on Thoreau’s life: He was a student before he dropped out. Then he ran a pencil factory. He taught. He found meaning in the quiet and loud tasks of a single day: And then he dropped out. But even then, he didn’t really drop out.

His cabin was short walk from Emerson’s home, and nearly daily, Thoreau’s old crowd dropped by to visit, to read, to play chess, to wonder at his quaint life. While all along, Thoreau was studying, reading, writing. He lived deliberately, yes–But one needn’t drop out to live deliberately.

I suppose my quest as a literature professor was to craft my own deliberate life. Literature forges my path through beauty.

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Perhaps that old aphorism applies: You can take the professor out of the university, but you can’t take the university out of the professor.

My academic eye has become native by now.

My greatest joy still lies in the alchemy of spirit and word. The other day, a friend dropped by.

‘You know I’ll be thanking you forever,” she said.

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“For what?” I asked.

“T.S. Eliot,” she said.

Four Quartets?” I asked. I recommended it the last time we spoke.

“‘At the still point of the turning world,'” she quoted. “‘Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards…'”

She found Burnt Norton online and we recited together:

“at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

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My friend laughed. “To think I’ve lived this long without knowing these words!”

“Oh, but you have known them,” I replied. For that is the mystery of literature: that is what makes the sophomore rebel when first reading Thoreau, that’s what makes the old one rejoice when reading Eliot. It’s the words we’ve known and lived and heard echoing through our souls. Only it has taken these writers to express it in words that we can share with another, and even with our own inward heart.

Alina, my bookworm friend, may you also know many happy moments hearing your soul’s whispers echoed in the literature you read!

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Wishing love to you, Robin, and whatever whispers may be stirring now that your curse has been lifted!

Your steadfast correspondent,

Jasper

<< Jasper’s Previous Letter | Jasper’s Next Letter >>

Septemus 1

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Dear Sept,

Three days ago, you came to live with me. I wanted from the first to write this account of our life together so that when you’re on your own, later, when you’re all grown up, you can have something to look back on, to help you remember, to keep you connected to your past, and maybe even, to answer some questions.

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I don’t have that with my dad. He came back from the war broken. I guess it broke my mom, too. After she died, I went to live with Nonny and Poppy, my dad’s parents. I was about five when we had my dad’s funeral. I remember guns going off and even a band played. I still can’t stand the sight of dress uniforms and flags.

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I make it sound like my childhood sucked. But it didn’t. Nonny and Poppy were probably way better parents for me than my mom and dad ever could have been. So it wasn’t like I suffered. I just had questions and trauma. Like all of us do.

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Anyway, Nonny and Poppy died when I was in college. I figured I could do life on my own. I majored in early childhood education because I like little kids and I want to help build a better world, and I figured I’d never have kids of my own, so why not help raise other people’s kids?

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Then I went on to get a master’s in library science. I got the idea I’d work as a children’s library. But nobody’s hiring. I graduated last May and I’m still unemployed.

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I guess the agency found me through the ECE degree. They sent that letter to all University of MP ECE grads from the past four years.

I had to think hard before accepting. I took a few phone calls from people at the agency.

Then I decided, why not? You needed me. No one else did.

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And I’ve got the time and training to take care of you.

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You were Number 77–the seventy-seventh foundling out of one hundred. Seeing as our last name is Sevens, I thought that was auspicious. That’s why I’ve named you Septemus. Septemus Sevens. ¬†Your official ID of record is G27Z0-77.

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You’re sleeping now, which gives me these few minutes to write. Because when you’re awake, it’s non-stop action.

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I’d better get snack ready. You’ve got a tendency to wake up mad and hunGRAY!

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I’m doing my best to keep you happy, little 77. Bear with me.

Your caregiver,

Sebastion

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Author’s note: Oh, look! I’ve started Pinstar’s newest challenge, the Alien Adoption Challenge, because who can resist? Hope you have fun following along with me as Sebastion Sevens does his best to raise young Septemus (Official ID of Record¬†G27Z0-77). Cheers!

Next >>

Forgotten Art: Giuliana – Mathilda 3

A reply to: A letter from Mathilda

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Dear Mathilda:

I thought maybe I should practice writing formal, so here I am. Formal.

Jasper–you remember him, he’s my magical helper–he says that it’s good to talk and write in all sorts of ways: Low-down, hip-cool, fancy, regular, regimentaltudinally, and formal. Because you never know when you might need to write like this.

So much has happened.

You know how we went to the reading room? We went back.

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Then me and my brother my brother and I went to the park all the way at the desert. It was a really long ways. We took the train and it took all of two hours and more, and then we had to walk and my brother was so tired that he said he was never walking to the State Park with me again, but then he saw this girl he likes and he forgot all about being tired.

He also forgot all about me.

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But that was OK because I was on a mission.  Your mission.

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I’ve started looking for stuff!

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I looked everywhere. In nooks and crannies and in an old pump that smelled like the stuff the dentist puts in your mouth after he gives you the shot. You know. That metal smell.

And my dad let me take his special chisel-thing that he used to use when he would look for artifacts and crystals and stuff.

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(Oops. I forgot about the formal part. You don’t mind if I write regular when I’m telling the story, do you?)

At first I was just thinking about how it was hard work. Because it was really hard work.

But then I started noticing things. Like in this one rock, there were all sorts of other little tiny rocks, and some looked sort of like marshmallows, and some like marbles, and some like the tips of candy corn. I got really curious about how they got inside the bigger rock and how I might get them out.

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I kept looking and looking and I found some really neat stuff!

When I got back to the park building, my brother was there, talking to one of the park gardener ladies.

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She was nice. I asked her about how little rocks get inside of bigger rocks and she told me all about geologic flow and gneiss and sedimentary and metamorphic and foliation. Now I know all sorts more about rocks!

Then we ate burgers that somebody grilled. They were so delicious!

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Do you know the feeling of when you’ve been running through the desert, looking for rocks and finding them, too, and digging and collecting and collecting questions, also, and then getting all hot and sweaty and really hungry, also, so then you keep running and you come inside where it’s cool, and there’s your brother, and the nice gardener person tells you the answers to the questions you were wondering, and then there are hamburgers, too? With relish and katsup and pickles?

Well, that’s how I felt when I got your letter!

I felt like I had been adventuring forever and all the questions were piling up and it was hot and sticky and I was hungry and even a little sad, because a lot has happened since last time I wrote to you. Then I got your letter, and it was like, Ahhhh!

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It was the best.

So I am happy that you wrote and that your daughter was brave and rescued. And of course she was, because she’s YOUR daughter!

And also: I have started my test that you set for me!

Here’s what I have so far: A giant red crystal; a little tiny baconlike rock; a big ice crystal rock; and fossil paw prints.

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I know I have to get a lot more stuff. I will, too! This is just the start.

Jasper says he believes I can do anything I set my mind to that is humanly possible to do.

I say, “What if I’m not really human?”

He says, “Then you can do that, too!”

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Next time I write, I will have found even more!

And if I start to feel sad, because, you know, I read that that is something that all people do now and then, especially when people they have loved have died–and yeah, that happened to me–anyway, if I start to feel sad, I will read your letter.

Because like I said: hot day, hungry tummy, question head –> cool room, hamburger, answers = YOUR letter.

Thank you, Oh Great Mathilda! ūüôā

Your hero-in-training,

Terseus.

<< Giuliana’s Previous Letter

Dr. Jasmine’s Casebook: A Bookworm’s Vadish

This story was written as a “Just for Fun” submission for the October 2016¬†Monthly Short Story Writing Challenge held by our writing community at the EA Forums. This is the last month to be coordinated by Carewren123, who created the contest and has been cheerfully and encouragingly managing it since the first monthly contest was held in July 2015.


“We both were so happy that our nightmare was finally over. Until mum came in and whispered in to my ear: ‚ÄúNancy, the nanny who took care of you, will move in tomorrow.‚ÄĚ

From The Spookiest Day of My Life So Far, by Hemera123

Dr. Jasmine turned off her tablet.

“These writers are just so creative these days!” she said to herself. “I do wonder where they get their ideas!”

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Dr. Jasmine reflected on the happy hours she’d enjoyed reading these past 15 months.

“I have a letter I must write,” she realized.

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Dear Carewren:

I would like to tell you about some of the stories that have moved and inspired me. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately, and each story has given me something unique and valued. I want to share my appreciation with you!

One story showed the ways that reading shapes and informs us. Summer Reading, by AdamsEve1231, presents a story of courtship. But how does the young man get to know the young woman he desires? Through reading the novels that shaped her childhood!

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In MastressAlita’s Bibliotaph, a library herself is personified in a young girl! What joy I felt at the story’s ending when the knowledge contained within the library is set free to roam through the world!

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One story, The Girl in the Tablet by lovesstorms, shows how our stories can possess us, while RaeRei’s Frozen Memories, illustrates how our memories, which are, after all, the stories we tell ourselves, can possess us.

Some stories, like The Revenge of the Lonely Witch by SummerFalls and Sofia and the Mystery of the Misplaced Melacoo by Spottydog714, helped me appreciate the ways that characters aren’t always what they seem! Every character, like every person, has hidden bits of humor and surprise, and all we need is the right writer–or the astute observer–to notice it.

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Some writers presented new insights on characters that I already loved deeply: Half Brotherhood by rednenemon and Eyeliner by InfraGreen offered fresh views of fictional characters that have become my friends in imagination.

Do you ever find that fictional characters can become as important to you as those you actually know and interact with on a daily basis? Oh, this happens to me! Especially when these characters help me get to know and understand better those people I with whom I  share my life.

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At my age, and with my profession, wouldn’t you think I’d already learned all there is to know about love, tenderness, vulnerability, and strength?

Far from it! I have learned so much from Pegasus143’s Hidden Sadness and Words Never Heard, Aiden’s Freedom by Supernatural103, and Journey to Happiness by Remi_Narrow.

To think! When we read, we gain compassion, cultivate empathy, and grow in understanding! What gifts writers give to readers!

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One story, Life on Paper by Marty, showed me that readers bring a gift to writers, too. We share our attention, our understanding, our appreciation. We say to writers, “I hear you! I have been there, too!”

Oh, Carewren! Through stories, written and read, we find our common life. We are not so different, after all, all of us living here, trying our best to find meaning, joy, love, and understanding.

These stories, and so many more, have been such a gift to bookworm me!

Do you know, Carewren, there is one more feature that all these stories have in common. And that is that none of them would have been written without you! You are there central to the creation of each, for each of these stories was written for the contest you created and have held each month for the past 15 months.

Thank you so much, Carewren, for all you’ve done for readers and writers! No wonder we can learn so much about the richness of being human through these stories, for they were all written for prompts created by you!

Sincerely,

Dr. Jasmine Gooding

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Dr. Jasmine saved the file.

“Now! If only I can find a printer!” she thought.


Dear Carewren,

As a reader, as a writer, thanks so much for all you’ve done coordinating the short story contest. Thirteen of my own stories wouldn’t have been written without you! And think of all those other stories we’ve read that owe their completion to the contest.

I am so grateful!

Much love,

Cathy Tea

AAW: And More!

It‚Äôs Asexual Awareness Week! To celebrate, this week I featured four asexual Sims from stories on this blog. Then I started thinking about all of the other asexual Sims that have been in my games and my stories, so I thought today,as my last AAW post, I’d share brief profiles of some of them.

If you’d like to learn more about asexuality, please visit the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, AVEN.

Our Sim games are often mirrors. Through conversations with other Simmers, I’ve noticed that our games tend to generate Sims with traits that resonate with us. I get a lot of Sims with “Loves Outdoors” trait, and quite a few cheerful artists or musicians, too. Other Simmers may get Sims with traits that pick up on themes or personalities relevant to them.

Because my game-play style lets Sims make their own important decisions in life, especially those involving romantic relationships, I started noticing early on, months before I came across the term “asexual” to denote an orientation, that many of my Sims were not sexually attracted to other Sims.

When playing the legacy, I felt a little nervous with asexual Sims who didn’t roll whims to “try for baby” because legacies are somewhat dependent upon procreation! I decided that if the legacy heirs didn’t roll the whim to “try for baby” they could adopt. Luckily for the continuation of Cedar Bough’s genes, each heir, eventually if not sooner, did want to have a baby.

One of the first asexual Sims in the Bough family was Willow, the gen 4 spare.

Willow

I loved Willow possibly more than any other Sim. I identified with her. She has a quality of self-containment and wholeness that I admire and aspire to. She had plenty of Sims interested in her, including one musician that I really liked, but she chose to remain single throughout her life. She was one of the happiest, most serene Sims I’ve known.

Willow’s niece Poplar was a different story. While Willow never struggled against who she was, Poplar’s life was forged from struggle. She may have been asexual, but she had a high libido and a mile-wide mean streak. She had really great fashion, too.

Poplar

Two generations later, onezero’s half-brother, Doug Fir, was also an asexual.

Doug Fir

Doug Fir lived his life at Cradle Rock. When he rolled the snob trait to complement his materialistic trait, I planned to move him across the street to Manzanita’s Mansion. But Doug’s third trait was lazy, and he let me know that he was happy to be the bachelor uncle. Like Willow, Doug Fir was happy and whole throughout his life. He was an amazing artist, in addition to being a true Renaissance Sim.

Doug Fir and onezero’s nephew, Alder, carried on the tradition of bachelor uncle. Including Alder, we’d now had asexuals in the family in generations 4, 5, 7, and 8. By this time, I’d come across the term and had begun to think about it and what it means as an individual’s orientation. Alder always chose variety and experience. Unlike his twin sister, he chose not to drink youth potions: he chose to grow old and he kept his appointment with Grim. He carried on the family tradition of artist, expressing his passion and deep understanding of life through the brush.

Alder

In addition to the Sims in Goofy Love, Dr. Jasmine from Dr. Jasmine’s CasebookDr. Jasmine’s Casebook, Emma Bennet from Harrington’s Wonder Child and Houseful of Hippies (as well as possibly many others of the hippies), Henrietta Davida Thoreau from Walden Once More and Emerson Institute, and Silduun Siltuunde from Where I’m From are all asexuals. (I’m starting to notice a pattern!) It’s possible that even Jack Bivuoac from Drifter is; though I write him as a Sim who’s attracted to women, he has yet to demonstrate this interest in the game.

I guess in exploring what life and living means to me through playing this game and writing about it, it isn’t surprising that so many asexuals would appear here in these posts. And, given my own romantic nature, perhaps it’s also not surprising that my SimSelf would find herself experiencing epic loves in many of the games I play and stories I write.

I’ve noticed in writing the stories on this blog and playing the games behind them that they’ve all led me to discoveries. I heard someone once refer to The Sims as being like tarot cards, and when I play the game, I sometimes feel that it responds magnetically to my thoughts, interests, and questions. This is how my life themes come to present themselves to me through the game. A less esoteric explanation would be that as I make countless choices through playing the game, the game responds, and in this way, without consciously realizing it, I shape the games, stories, and Sims that are generated. We’re meaning makers, too, all of us people, and especially storytellers, so as I look through the events that happen and the Sims that populate the games, my mind fashions what I see into a story, a story that means something to me.

It’s curious to me that my understanding of myself as an asexual has largely come about through my involvement with the SimLit community and through Simming. In fact, when I think of all the significant growth and discoveries I’ve experienced since September 2014, when The Sims 4 came out, it is all interconnected with, and often generated from, my involvement with The Sims and SimLit. I guess it’s fitting, then, that my public “coming out” has been through sharing my ace Sims with you. Thanks for reading and, in that way, being a part of this!

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Aimless: The 2nd Blogaversary

Today is my second blogaversary! It’s also my seventh anniversary at the EA Sims Forums. I hadn’t planned on taking any special note of these occasions this year, but when I received notification from WordPress and the Forums, I felt gratitude. Here’s an opportunity to reflect and share thanks.

Then, when I logged in to write this post, I discovered that my Sims had something planned for me, a 2nd Blogaversary Q & A! So here are their questions and my answers. Thanks for reading, and thanks for being a part of the SimLit community! And congratulations to all the SimLit bloggers who celebrate September blogaversaries!

Q & A with the Sims from this Anthology

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Sugar Maple: So, CT, another year of blogging! When you look back on this past year, what gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?

CT: Without doubt, Sugar, it’s the completion of Goofy Love. I guess that everyone who’s finished a ten gen Pinstar legacy feels that way. And I feel so grateful for all the reader involvement. Remember that great party we had in January? That was so fun!

Sugar Maple: It sure was! That’s when Ren came over to our hard drive!


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Honey Walker: What’s one reading experience this past year that’s either been really enjoyable or really inspiring?

CT: Oh, goodness. Too many to name! Can I skip this question? I find it incredibly inspiring to read stories as they finish: CitizenErased’s Dust to DustDust to Dust, Jes2G’s Pruetts, ra3rei’s Pigglewiggles, aroseinbloom’s Skinners–all of those were finished this past year. I’m also really inspired by the stories by members of the reading circles I belong to.


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Elder: Miss me?

CT: Wow. More than I realized.


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Cypress: Suppose you could give a Sim advice on how to live this digital life to the full potential. What advice would you give?

CT: I suppose I would say to embrace your traits. Don’t try to change yourself–and certainly don’t let your traits define you–but accept who you are and realize that these traits are what will let you move through your world in all its complexity. And if you could give me and other people advice on how to live our lives to full potential, what advice would you give?

Cypress: Same!


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Jaclyn: Are you ever going to bring us back?

CT: Yes! You’re on hiatus, not done for good!¬† I’m not really sure where I’m going with your story, but then I never have been. You’ll help out, won’t you?

Jaclyn: Sure! Leave it to us! We’ll surprise you.

CT: You always do!


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Kimber: Mwahahahaha!

CT: Is there a question in there?


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Marigold: Now that you’ve re-experienced the glory of TS3, with imaginary friends, supernaturals, PETS! Yes! Doggies! and open worlds, do you think you’ll ever go back to TS4 again?

CT: I am having such a blast playing TS3, and you’re an amazing Sim, Marigold. I’m also really captivated by your story, too. It’s got my imagination! But yeah, I do think I’ll be heading back to TS4–not abandoning you, of course, but not abandoning my TS4 Sims and stories, either.


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onezero: How do you achieve… balance?

CT: Balance is a verb, right, onez? So, sometimes it can mean moving from one extreme to another, and sometimes it can mean finding a place of relative stillness in the center. I have a feeling I’ve been moving from extremes during my first two years of blogging. Now I’m ready to settle more in the center. So, for me, that means not to get lost within the world of blogging and within my Sim games. This year, my job requires focus, attention, collaboration, and creativity to a greater degree than usual–so I won’t have the luxury of spending my days doing detail-oriented tasks while daydreaming about Sims and Sim stories. But I find that I love that! It means that I will come to you and your stories fresh, onez, and then I’ll move back, fresh, into my world on this side of the screen.


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A year: we look back, and so much has happened!

Thanks to all of you who have kept writing and started writing this past year. You give so much to readers so generously, and, as an avid reader, I thank you!

Thanks to everyone who’s read one post or all 691 posts on this blog. I appreciate being able to share words, ideas, and stories with you!

I stand at the end of year two, looking out at year three. Is the sun setting or is it rising? Neither. It’s the earth turning. We move into a new season, shifting to the shifts in light. Nothing we’ve done is ever really done. No one we’ve met is ever really gone. Let the earth keep turning and mark the days; each one carries something of yesterday.

Dr. Jasmine’s Casebook: A Year of Stories

July2016

This story was written in celebration of a year of  Monthly Short Story Writing Challenges held by our writing community at the EA Forums and coordinated by @Carewren123. This is my July 2016 entry. If you write SimLit, we’d love to have you join us! We have a new challenge each month!

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I shut down the computer.

I had a tedium of errands to run before meeting Dr. Jasmine for lunch.

All the while, as I rushed to tend to the minutiae of the mundane, my stories raced through my mind, offering another, more interesting life on a parallel track to this everyday one.

At the gym, I noticed a nose that would be perfect for Madeline Historica, the heroine of the short story I was currently drafting. I studied the profile in every detail.

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The bridge was rather low–that’s what contributed to the face’s childlike, impish quality. And of course the tip¬†was just snub enough to be cute, especially paired with those green eyes.

I memorized the angles and curves: I thought I could probably capture that with fair accuracy the next time I was in CAS.

Next stop: the library. I needed to return a few books, but when I glanced at the clock, I saw that I had forty minutes until my appointment¬†at the diner. I grabbed Maldoon’s Mystery of the Forgotten Snow, which I’d been meaning to read for the past year.

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Then, without warning, she left, more abruptly than she had arrived. Her sweater, tied around her waist, dangled one tattered corner along the damp forest floor. The fir needles and bracken it lifted would provide the only trace, hours hence, that she had passed this way.

Damn! Why can’t I¬†write like that? How many more stories must I¬†pound out on the¬†keyboard before I¬†learn to point out the significant and tease with the meaningless?

But I reminded myself of my resolve to banish envious comparisons, which only sap my energy for writing and lead to aborted manuscripts.

“Use the talent of others as inspiration!” I reminded myself, quoting the main snippet that stuck of Dr. Jasmine’s copious words of advice.

So I lost myself in the novel, and when I looked up, I was nearly late for lunch!

Dr. Jasmine sat waiting at our favorite table on the deck.

“One year of writing! Twelve stories! Congratulations,” she said.

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It had been her idea, twelve months ago, that I commit to writing for a full year, agreeing to a¬†minimum of a¬†story a month, to be entered into a monthly competition. “At the end of the year, I’ll take you out for lunch¬†to celebrate,” she’d promised.

I suppose she thought the project would offer some direction, an outlet for my creative energy, that up until then had mostly found its release in video gaming. The story contest provided a perfect medium, for I could tell the stories using my current gaming obsession: The Sims 3.

“So what did you learn?” Dr. Jasmine asked, in typical Dr. J. fashion.

“I learned I could do it,” I said. A year ago, writing a story each month seemed a daunting task.

I contemplated my stories. What had I learned?

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I thought about “Zombie What? Dance, Sucker,” the story I’d written for October. “If you ever think you’ll have a run in with a horde of flaming zombies,” I said, “be sure to bring your boom box. That’s one thing I learned.”

Dr. Jasmine laughed. “Oh, I loved that story!”

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“You were the only one,” I said. “That story didn’t even place. I learned that winning doesn’t matter.”

I’d had more fun writing the zombie story than any of other stories, even the winning entries. When it came down to it, the satisfaction earned by¬†pressing the “Publish” button was the same, whether the story won or barely received¬†a nod.

“I learned there are plenty of talented¬†writers out there. Every participant’s story deserved to be written and read. Each one revealed¬†a little secret glimpse into the writer. More than once, I’d wished I could vote for them all.”

“Do you think you got to understand people better?” Dr. Jasmine asked.

“Not hardly!” I replied. “I’m as clueless as ever. But you know what? I came to appreciate them better, and that’s almost as good, isn’t it?”

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In January, I had written the story that, strangely, felt the most autobiographical to me, about an alien who landed on Earth, not to conquer, but to understand. He, perhaps, eventually became more socially adept than I ever will be, but writing through his alien eyes helped me feel a touch of compassion for my own awkwardness.

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Ironically, I’d learned the most from the story that had given me the most grief, the December story. It was a murder mystery, with a tragic underpinning, about an old butler with dementia. The challenge was in capturing his voice and motivation.

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During the month I was drafting it, on one of my regular trips to the library, I introduced myself to an older man. I listened to him talk, to try to grasp both his cadence and vocabulary. The stories he told! If I hadn’t already taken all the screenshots for “When Even the Butler Forgets,” I would have scrapped that story and written a new one, inspired by¬†this man’s tales.

“I learned that everyone has a story,” I told Dr. J.

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“Do you feel less lonely?” Dr. Jasmine asked as we looked at the desert menu.

“Ah, no,” I replied. “Not if I’m to be honest. But my loneliness doesn’t bother me so much anymore. It’s the writer’s lot, isn’t it? It offers that observer’s space we require.”

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“So you learned you could do it, you learned to appreciate others, you learned that the satisfaction comes more from the act of creating than winning, and you learned that everyone has a story. That sounds like an amazing year!”

“I learned something else, too” I added with a snicker.

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“And what is that?”

“I learned that I have a wicked, wild, rebellious side,” I said. “I’m not the meek, mild-mannered man you see before you. Oh, no! In every story, no matter how tame it seems on the outside, there is an inner rebel striving to be free!”

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It was getting late. I hoped to squeeze in a few hours of game-play and a little writing before retiring for bed, and I needed to get up early for work tomorrow.

Walking home,¬†I reviewed my mental¬†schemata for¬†Madeline Historica’s nose. Oh, there was a true rebel! All proper on the outside, “Yes, Mrs. Murona. No, Mrs. Murona.” But just wait! When the family heirloom turns up missing, does anyone think to examine the closet of the fair Madeline? And when she herself turns up missing, is it any wonder to discover that she’s roaming the shops of the antiquities dealers in Al Simhara?

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I worked a bit on the draft, then I headed into CAS. The nose proved to be more challenging than I had expected, but then noses were like that.

With all the screenshots captured and waiting to be uploaded, I decided to give the draft another review before posting. It would wait. Tomorrow was only the 30th of the month, and if I needed, I could take a sick day on the 31st.

Tomorrow was another day, another draft. For a writer,¬†who spins his time with words, there’s always a spare hour or two to crank out¬†one more¬†revision.¬†Dreams, and my bed, awaited.

I shut down the computer.

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AN: To all the writers who’ve contributed stories to the short story challenge this past year, congratulations! To @Carewren123, thank you so much for your dedication and care in coordinating this contest. It’s been so rewarding to participate in, and oh, the stories we’ve read!¬†