Pancakes and coffee…..Writing Prompt Free Writing

She woke to the aroma of pancakes and fresh coffee. Immediately, she started crying. She had to be imagining it, but it felt so real she could almost taste the buttery pancakes.

She lived alone. There wasn’t anyone in the house who could be making pancakes and coffee. And yet, she smelled it as clearly as if it was real.

One year. It had been one year, today.

That day would never be forgotten for her. It was the day she had lost everything that mattered to her.

She slowly crawled out of bed, determined to do more with her day than cry. After a long hot shower, she dressed in the floor length black gown she had worn at the funeral, a week after the death of her sister. Once she had applied makeup to her satisfaction and her hair was in a tight knot on top of her head with the black tulle veil in place, she made her way downstairs, barefoot so she wouldn’t fall.

She went to the kitchen to check on things, since the smell of pancakes and coffee was still very thick in the air. Sitting on the table was a mountain of pancakes, dripping in maple syrup and a cup of hot steaming coffee in a mug she never uses, because her sister gave it to her a week before she died.

She freezes in her tracks, looking around the dark kitchen, trying to understand what is going on. A black candle sits next to the food, burning, with a small pool of inky wax.

“I thought you’d never come downstairs. I see you dressed for the occasion.”

“Jasmin?”

“Who else? I can’t believe how long you kept me waiting. I had to make fresh pancakes because the first ones got cold.”

“I…I…” There were no words. She couldn’t see the girl, but she could hear her sister’s voice clearly.

“Don’t act so surprised. Did you really think death would keep me away?”

“Well, it’s been a year. I honestly expected you months ago. When you didn’t show up, I assumed you weren’t coming. And how the hell did you make pancakes and coffee?”

“I’ve learned a few tricks. Today seemed the best day for a grand re-entrance into your life.”

Leave it to Jasmin to refuse to stay dead.

It’s Been Awhile…

Well, NaNoWriMo was an absolute bust. I spent most of November buried in homework and sick. My final word count was just shy of 15,000. A dismal attempt, to say the least. With any luck, I will still be around next year to try again.

As December arrived, and is now steadily passing me by, I find myself consumed by my own depression, wishing this year would just be over all ready. Maybe the next one will be better.

Maybe it won’t though. What if we have another year that is identical to this one? This year has not been good to me. It hasn’t been “the worst” but it’s been pretty close.

I don’t want to write.

I don’t want to read.

I don’t want to watch television.

I don’t want to play video games.

I want to cry and sleep.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

NaNoWriMo – A Reflection on Writing

November has been a whirlwind, and we are only ten days in. I signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month), so that has kept me occupied beyond belief.

The election consumed several days from me. I will not discuss political opinions here, as that isn’t what I created this page for. Instead, I just want to say a few words about how it affected my ability to write. For several days, including election day, I was unable to write creatively. I seemed to have hit a wall that wouldn’t allow creative thoughts to flow. Perhaps it was the uncertainty of our country’s future that affected me. Maybe it was the massive amount of media being consumed by my household. Or perhaps simply the unknown which scared me. At some point, I convinced myself that whatever happens is going to happen whether I am watching or not. And then, I could write again.

My granddaughter is finally getting evaluated for autism. Caring for her has been a time consuming matter that stiffles my creativity and prevents me from writing. Do not misunderstand this. I love my granddaughter. I love caring for her. But, it’s become apparent that she needs outside help and intervention to catch up to where her age would have her, developmentally. It’s exhausting, physically and mentally, with little progress to show for our efforts.

The pandemic, as much as I wish by now that I was used to it’s presence, still affects everything around us in a way that stiffles creativity and productivity. After losing my job, I have no reliable source of income. I should get unemployment, but questions of eligibility surrounding my college attendance have put that on hold. Mind you, my family is very resourceful and we had a comfortable amount of money in savings. But after a year of trying to maintain lockdown-like conditions and traveling back and forth to Missouri to be with my father, that money is dwindleing very quickly. As we continue to job search, it’s not as easy as you would think since arranging an appropriate day care for the baby will be difficult, not to mention our two boys that we homeschool. But these minor details could be rectified if only a callback would happen. It is comforting to know, however, that we are not alone in our situation. Many people across the country are sharing the same situation and enduring the same uncertainty.

And so, I’ve undertaken NaNoWriMo in the hopes of jumpstarting my writing career. I am working on two different writing projects since some days I struggle to stay focused on one topic. I will be sharing sections of each of them here in the coming month and beyond, as they take shape into novels. My program tells me I should be writing about 1700 words per day. Some days, I barely scratch the surface of a thousand words. And some days I pump out 3000. I can predict that I will not complete 50,000 words this month without an amazing visit from a muse. But I will be satisfied if I can reach 30,000, because it will be tangible evidence that the ball is rolling in the right direction.

To all my readers, I appreciate you. I am so pleased you take a few moments our of your day to read my posts. I know it is just a small piece in the gigantic internet of words, but I’m glad my words have found you.

Cathy Marie Bown

2020: The End of Humanity – A NaNoWriMo Novel Exerpt

It’s officially November and I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time! Below is a few paragraphs from the first chapter of the novel I am writing for the project. It’s rough and needs some revisions, but I am eager to share with you guys. I plan to share more highlights throughout the month as I work hard on the writing project. I would love feedback so don’t hesitate to leave your comments below!

January 2020

I don’t remember anything special about New Year’s Eve. In hindsight, perhaps that’s where the trouble started. I’ve talked to many people over the last few months and all accounts point to a generic celebration of little consequence. That was my first indication that the collective memory was faulty. And so, I began my research.
Armed with a laptop, smartphone, and a notebook, I started digging. Before this phenomenon caught my attention, I was employed as a private investigator. Though the title sounds exciting and glamourous, the job itself was mundane and tedious. The majority of the cases I handled involved cheating spouses and missing people. Lately, it seemed to be far more missing people than anything else. I hadn’t had a chance to crunch the numbers until the mysterious events of 2020 caught my attention.
One cold day early in January I pulled up my spreadsheets to give the numbers a look. Every single month in 2019 the number of missing persons cases I was approached about doubled every other month. January and February had each netted 2 missing persons. March and April produced four missing people. Early in the year, this didn’t appear abnormal at all. By September and October, which each amounted to thirty-two missing persons cases, I hadn’t had time to take on all of the cases which approached me. November and December accounted for sixty-four requests each. I kept track of every case, whether I took on the file or not, for recording purposes. Sometimes people would approach me about the same person multiple times. Usually, I would take the case after the third attempt, whether I anticipated finding the person or not, to give the family some closure.

Confused – A Poem

Something drew me to you,

right from the beginning.

Everyone around me

told me not to fall for you.

I wondered why they made me

keep my distance from you.

When we finally got together,

everything was so perfect,

but my friends kept telling me

to stay away, you’re trouble!

I just couldn’t bare to lose you,

didn’t wanna let you go.

In the end it hurt me

but we had to split apart.

Now, after all this time,

I realize I still love you.

I’m sorry I listened to them.

Please forgive my mistake.

I need you back in my life.

They had me so confused.

Written November 8, 1998.

I find it interesting to go back and revisit some of the things I wrote as a teenager. The emotions were so raw. At the time, I truly believed there could be nothing after the heartbreak of lost love. I wrote this particular piece about a guy I truly couldn’t imagine a world without. Twenty years later, I can see clearly the things I couldn’t see then. He was trouble, a womanizer who truly only wanted one thing from me. It hurt so much then to think that could be true. And yet, I’m so very glad I listened to my friends. I truly didn’t appreciate their advice at the time.

Finding the Motivation to Write

After traveling home from Missouri, I’ve been really struggling this week to find the motivation to write a blog post. It’s not that there isn’t anything to write. Quite the opposite. There is so much I want to say that I cannot pick one single topic that is more important than the others.

If you live in America, you know that politics dominate the media world right now. I find the topic so entirely overwhelming, I choose not to watch television at all. Instead, I’m indulging in re-watching Halloween baking shows and playing video games. I’ve already chosen who I will be voting for, I don’t need to know anything further, and catastrophic information will be filtered into me through my husband.

Enrolling my children in K12 this year has been both a blessing and a nightmare. After a month of classes, it’s more than clear that our children have been cheated by our local public school system. They are years behind classmates elsewhere in the state. Because of this, they struggle every day and we have to find creative ways for them to overcome the obstacles public school put in their way. The blessing lies in knowing that once they are caught up, they are getting a quality education that is setting them up for success rather than failure.

Depression in the time of Coronavirus is real and heavy. I’m an introvert by nature, so being separated from people isn’t really a problem for me. In fact, it’s made the few outings I take more pleasant because of strict crowd control. The problem is that my children are extroverts, like their father. It’s very hard to tell a nine-year-old he cannot play with his friends because of an illness he cannot see.

And now, as Halloween approaches, I find myself more depressed than normal because of the world around me. We did not buy costumes this year, we will not be passing out candy, we didn’t attend any Trunk Or Treat events. Our normal Halloween activities have been cancelled in our area. I’m watching all the festive movies and television shows and baking treats for the kiddos. But there will be no face paint or treat bags this year. Even going to the pumpkin patch was limited for us this year. We only made one trip instead of our usual three or four.

The hard truth right now is that life has changed quite a bit this year. We are all struggling to adjust and stay safe. This adventure is nowhere near over and I fear it will still get worse before it gets better. Every day I just wake up thankful that my family and friends are safe, healthy, and surviving.

Weak – A Poem

I’m at the end of my rope

and it’s about to break.

I stand there wondering

how much more I can take.

The feelings deep within me now,

my chest aches as it tightens.

My body hurts, my head pounds,

The stress within me heightens.

All my life has been this way

One step ahead to fall back three.

Some day maybe I will understand

Why this always happens to me.

Feeling like the world’s against me

Everything I touch turns to stone.

My happy-ever-after is gone

Now, in this place, I am alone

The hopelessness closes in this place

The familiarity disturbs me

I know that I have been here before

I’m just not strong enough to clearly see.

Writing Prompt: Rocket-Ship

Today my creative writing is taken from a writing prompt. I wrote this in one day and have not done any revision other than grammatical corrections.

THE WRITING PROMPT: The Rocket-ship: Write about a rocket-ship on its way to the moon or a distant galaxy far, far, away. Launching somewhere? Write about the experience! (Taken from https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/)

Watching the stars fly by through the glass bubble of a window, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for what I was leaving behind. Never again would I soar over the azure blue craters near my home while chasing my friends. I would never swim in the caves of Neptune, safely nestled a hundred miles below the surface of our beautiful hostile planet.

Our beautiful planet, Ashtara, was magnificent to behold. Truly spectacular. But volatile. We had no idea the volcanos were active and waiting to burst. We just thought they were mountains reaching for the heavens. All the future sight in the galaxy couldn’t have prepared us for the devastation.

Our people had settled on the planet, not more than two generations ago. It was a young settlement. My grandfather told us stories about the creation of the settlement. It was a mystery of a planet, only barely charted and discovered.

The day the volcanos exploded began like any other. The morning routines always began with the sirens’ wailing, an indication that the surface was cooled enough for us to walk on it with minimal protection. We lived in massive structures under the surface. You had to trek through tubes into the surface pods to get above, where the first settlers lived. Grandfather says they created the underground structures within a year of being on the planet because the surface would get too hot, and people got sick.

During the day, we had many chores and jobs to perform. But each day gave us two hours of free time to explore. I often ventured too far out. I wanted to chart new things. I fancied myself an explorer, journeying out where the elders were afraid to go. It was there I found that I could almost fly over massive craters if I just got a little running start. I dragged my friends out there once, and it quickly became our favorite activity.

It was on one of these outings, not long ago, that we had found the volcano. It was across a massive crater, the biggest we had ever dared to cross. Of course, we crossed it with ease. We didn’t understand the way it worked, only that it always worked. We assumed the towering mountain was the same as the others that lined the perimeter of our settlement. Nobody had ever gone past them. They were miles and miles from our homes. Our elders said as long as we stayed within their protection, we would be safe. Of course, they didn’t know the danger of the mountains that were not just mountains held.

That day, we approached the crater with excitement. The others were scared, but I knew there was no reason. I was not afraid of anything then. Fearless, they called me. The elders said it was an excellent quality to have, but my parents said it was foolish. They insisted that I was going to meet an early death by exploring so recklessly.

Looking out at the vast blue land with its bumpy and barren surface, it was hard not to be amazed by the sight. There was nothing as far as the eye could see. The planet had many secrets that we had not yet discovered, but we did not believe any of them lay above the surface. There was nothing on the surface other than craters and mountains and oceans of water that didn’t move. The air was impossible to breathe for long without a respirator mask. You could survive for a little bit but not more than an hour. Our grandparents, the elders, chose to settle this planet because it wasn’t entirely toxic. They didn’t know about the volcanoes. They didn’t know it couldn’t last.

We reached the rim of the crater fifty minutes after free time had started. We had to check our communicators to be sure we would have enough time to get back. We were pushing our limits already. When we were about five feet away, everyone stopped. I always took the lead on these things, so I raced forward. When I felt my right shoe graze the edge of the crater, I pushed myself up with all my strength, propelling myself into the air at a forty-five-degree angle.

Flying through the air, all I could think about was how beautiful the crater floor was. I would love to explore it on foot, but nobody has ever dared. I added it to my list of things I wanted to do as I watched the opposite rim approaching quickly. Landing requires a certain amount of skill to avoid injury. When your feet hit the ground, you’ve got to be ready to move. If you try to stop the forward momentum, your legs will buckle, and you will break bones. I’ve seen it happen.

As I approached, I arranged my feet, so the right was forward and ready to go. I felt the hard earth give slightly with the force of my foot and projected myself forward again in a little jump then into a sprint. It took several feet to steady myself and stop. When I turned around, the others were mid-air, laughing and screaming. I cleared out of their landing path, watching from the side as their feet found the planet’s surface again. We hung out together, looking around, then turned to return to the other side. If we stayed on track, we would arrive back just in time.

That’s when the rumbling started. It started low, like an animal growling. We only had a few animals in our settlement, but they all growled the same when threatened. This noise caught our attention. We had never seen wild animals above the surface, so we searched for the source. A deep shaking under our feet soon accompanied the rumbling. I screamed for everyone to quickly cross the crater, fearing we would get stuck on the wrong side.

I’ve never run so fast back home after landing. We had to cross three more craters in the process, but we never stopped running. The shaking was getting worse. It felt like the planet was being ripped apart at its core. When we reached the entrance pod, I looked behind us for the first time. Once beautiful blue and dark, the mountains were now spitting a red and orange liquid from the tops, raining down upon them. We could see it pooling at the bottom. I was terrified of where it would go once too much had gathered. The only thing standing between our homes and the mountains was craters. Would the liquid fill them and stop, or would there be too much?

Inside the pod, there was uproar everywhere. I started screaming at anyone who would listen, but they already knew. The caverns under our homes had split open during the quaking, devouring some homes and families. I saw my father running toward me. He screamed that we had to leave, that we had to abandon the planet. I was so confused. I didn’t understand what he meant.

Yelling from across the room told us that we had lost more underground buildings. More families were gone. I started crying because I didn’t see any way out. I thought we were all going to die. My family, my friends, our homes, it was all going to be gone, and we would be forgotten. Just then, a loud siren went off, buzzing in small equal bursts every three seconds. It lasted a minute. Then an automated voice, louder than anything I had ever heard, announced that everyone was to assemble in the abandoned dining pod immediately. We had five minutes. A timer started counting then, ticking off the time. We were only two pods from the dining pod. I gathered my friends who had been huddled behind me, and we made our way to the pod, following my father carefully as everything was still shaking.

Once inside, it looked different. The last time I had been there, it was empty. No one had used it in decades. Once it had tables and benches, but they had been moved to the newer buildings below ground. My father pulled a lever on the wall by the door, and the walls slid down into the floor. I watched in amazement as the actual room’s purpose was revealed. The walls held windows and control panels. Several stools rose from the floor near the panels, and several of the adults took these, punching buttons expertly.

With two minutes to go, the center of the room began to change. Floor panels separated, allowing benches to rise from below. Once in place, the floor panels reconnected, and the next row emerged. We watched for a whole minute as the center of the room filled with benches.

Two minutes. Several groups had made their way into the pod. The adults who weren’t using the panels ushered everyone else into seats and showed us how to buckle in. I was given a seat close to my father. My sister and mother had not made it in yet. I was starting to panic. I tried to get my father’s attention, but he was concentrating very hard on the panel in front of him.

One minute. Another small group entered and told us there was one more group coming. I watched out the entrance as the timer counted down. As I looked around, I realized how few of us there were. Our people had over five hundred when the day started. In this room were maybe thirty or forty people.

Fifteen seconds. I hear screaming and footsteps.

Ten seconds. I see them running toward the entrance. The pod starts to shake. It feels like an explosion is about to go off underneath us.

Five seconds. A group of six people, including my sister, bursts through the doorway, falling into a pile as the door shuts and locks automatically. I scream for my mother. My sister tells me she isn’t coming. The ground beneath us erupts, and the whole room shakes. The group at the doorway crawls toward the nearest seats. People nearby help them into the belts. My sister is next to me. She leans into my shoulder and cries as a tremendous pressure pushes on us. Outside the windows, we can see the red liquid flowing toward us, and we can tell we are rising into the air.

As we leave our home behind, we leave behind so much more. Nearly all of our population was left behind, swallowed into the planet as it broke open. Flying away, we watched the liquid pool over our homes. Father says another planet is not too far from here, a place we can seek refuge until a new home can be found. But we have lost so much. No elders survived. We are now alone in the universe, and our fate does not look good.

I watch out the window as our planet disappears from view, and all we can see are the stars.

Things Cancer Can’t Have From Me

I read somewhere that Cancer takes everything from you. I refuse to accept this.

Yesterday started rough for me. After traveling all day and not getting much sleep the night before, I woke up moody. So did the baby. We were both a little ornery and sleepy. My brother and his two little kids came over and spent time with us, making the afternoon get better and fly by.

The day got better as we relaxed into a new normal. Life at my father’s house is much different from life at home. My only goals each day are to help dad with anything he needs, work on college homework, and keep the tiny human alive and happy.

At home, I also have to homeschool a 9-year-old, clean the house, and try to find time to work on projeccts around the house. There are so many things I want to do it’s hard to settle into one task. I was working, but COVID took my job away. Granted, I was on personal leave to travel. It still stinks to know the job is gone when I need it.

Anyway, back to my point.

Last night, after a pretty chaotic day, my granddaughter and I were relaxing in the living room with dad, watching a movie. She has been hesitant to get close to him but she curled up on the couch with him for awhile and I snapped a couple of pictures. We had a couple of hours of amazing conversation. And we spent some of it in silence. That’s the way with my dad. Quiet reflection seems to happen a lot.

Last night we made another batch of memories that cancer cannot take from us. He may not live to see Katarinah grow up. Then again, he might. Watching him relax with the baby, and snuggle with my brother’s children, gives me peace knowing that even if he doesn’t survive long, we have these memories to tell them about when they are older. And I have had a chance to settle a few misunderstandings between my father and I, things that festered under the surface for way too long.

These are just some of the things cancer won’t take from me.

Blame It On El Nino – A Playful Poem

As I was going through my writing folders today, I found this poem from 1998, when I was 14 years old. We had days of rain due to an El Nino storm. I’d never heard of such a thing before. Also, I was deep in a Shel Silverstein fueled haze, hence the comical and playful tone this poem takes on. Additionally, when I wrote this poem I was supposed to be cleaning my Grandma Margie’s house but the rain was making me anxious so I really wasn’t getting much done. I took a writing break and then finished the chores. It’s obviously very juvenile, but I’ve posted quite a bit of dark and gloomy work lately so I wanted to take a brief break from that and the bleakness of the world right now. I hope you can enjoy the playfulness here and take a moment away from life’s seriousness! Here we go!!!

Mom, I can’t go to school today!

El Nino is on it’s way!

It’s gonna rain a million years!

It’s gonna be like your worst fears!

They shut down the stores in town!

What’s that you say? I still must go?!

But what if it begins to snow?

And what if I get swept away?

And what if I get burried in clay?

How could you send me out in that?

What if I get attacked by a bat?

They’re here, you know, it’s sad to say,

El Nino sent them up this way!

El Nino is ruining our lives!

Look! It made me break out in hives!

How could you be so cruel to me?

People everywhere are starting to flee!

El Nino is coming to town!

What if it chooses to hang around?

What?! I still have to go?

Ok, Ok, I’ll not stoop that low.

El Nino came mom, I told you so!

It gobbled me up, but you made me go!

If I’d stayed home, maybe i’d be alive!

El Nino caused the waves to rise and dive!

Oh! If only I had stayed home!

I wouldn’t be hiding in this dome!

As I told you once, my dear mom,

El Nino came and I died just like Tom!

El Nino came and tore all around!

El Nino came and tore up the town!

April 8, 1998

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