"Prose 2020"

To See The Dark

By Barb Hensongispsaca

Johnny found the spot where he had buried his treasure box. He hoped he had enough change saved to purchase what he had been waiting for.
He gathered up his offering and ran to the store. He left with his flashlight.
"Now I can see what the dark looks like!"

Author Notes 50 words
GreatDogPhotos thank you for permission to use your picture.

Chapter 1
Beware the Gossip

By Barb Hensongispsaca

It started early in the night - two seemingly lonely people coming to find solace from the harshness of the outside world. I'm not sure which one entered first, but when I saw them, they sat at opposite ends of the bar, nursing, what looked like, a 'stiff' drink each.

She talked to a few men who apparently said something she thought quite funny because they laughed. She looked quite at ease, even though she seemed out of place sitting there. The men, who tried to strike up a friendship, soon walked away to pursue other interests. She seemed quite happy sitting where she was as she nursed her drink, making it last way past the melting of the ice that was trying to keep her drink chilled.

The man, on the other hand, I noticed had moved to a booth. He seemed to enjoy the privacy it provided as his eyes roamed the bar, only to fall on the woman. He was on his third drink when I noticed him motion for the waitress to come to his table. She sauntered over, hips swaying in too-short shorts, and leaned down to give him ample view of her button-up shirt tied at the waist.

"See anything you like?" she said in a tight southern drawl.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said, being polite, but knowing what she was hinting at. It was getting close to closing time and 'last call' would be announced.

"See that woman over there at the bar? I want to buy her a drink," he stated as he watched the woman still sipping her stale drink.

A little put out, the waitress stiffened and asked, "What would you like to order?"

He gave her enough money to more than cover the drink and said, "A Sloe Gin Fizz, please, and keep the change."

With those last words, her demeanor changed. She gave him a big smile and left to complete his order.

The man watched as the waitress delivered the drink along with a message of who it was from. The woman looked confused, then looked up and smiled at the man in the booth. She raised her glass and mouthed the words 'thank you'. At that point, the man got up and made his way to the woman's table.

He stood there for a little while at which point, I assume, he asked her permission to sit down, as she nodded to the seat beside her.

I began to notice some flirting between the couple, but I also noticed that the people around them were watching, talking. I heard words like: 'married', 'adultery', 'children', 'I don't know her - but', 'how could he', 'I thought she was a Christian', 'I know he loves his wife'. The accusations became harsher when they left together.

I had to laugh, I know them both. They are my best friends and have been married for 20 years ... to each other.

Can't wait to hear the gossip tomorrow.

Author Notes 495 words

booklotto thank you for permission to use your picture.

Chapter 2
Rich Beyond Riches

By Barb Hensongispsaca

I put off writing for this contest and now I am glad I did. I can share something with you, I just hope it comes out right and not that I am bragging as some seem to do. I just want you to know what happened and why I made the decision that I did.

As most of my friends know, my life has been full of ups and downs which has left me emotionally, spiritually and physically drained. Material things in life used to be important to me, but I have found that they are important to only me. When I'm gone, they will be discarded.

Now, money is another thing. Like others, I pinch every penny because as soon as life knows I have a few pennies ahead, it creates a reason for me to part with them. This is my true story of giving back.

I was raised under God's hand and that faith has been rocked many times. The hardest time was when I held the gun to my head and told God, 'either take my life or You live it, because I just can't anymore'. And He did ... both. He stilled the gun as I fired, and from that point on, I promised to reach out to that one person that needs to know he/she is not alone.

What I am about to tell you, just happened yesterday. I know it was Satan testing me and I feel I passed, but that's not to say, I was not tempted.

I am a true believer in Mexican style food. Due to stomach problems, I can't have any real spicy tasting meals, but I do let go once in a while - followed with a few Tums.

A friend wanted to take me to enjoy some tacos for dinner and I was all for it. We enjoyed our meal - me more than I should have - and it was time to settle up and go home. My bill came to nine dollars and some cents. I laid a twenty dollar bill on that little tray that held my bill and waited for the waiter to bring my change. I was talking with my friend and paid no attention when the waiter dressed in fiesta clothes, brought back my little tray.

When I turned to put my change away, I noticed there was a twenty still there along with other bills. I knew something was wrong and when checking the amount, I realized he had made change for a fifty dollar bill. Now I have not seen a fifty for a long time let alone hold one, so I knew what had happened. I was tempted, but I couldn't. I walked up to the waiter and told him he had made a mistake. He was aghast, I had to be wrong. Another chance to keep it, but I convinced him he was wrong.

I left the restaurant feeling good about myself, but Satan was not done with me yet.

That afternoon I had to go to the bank to withdraw money for bills. I went through the drive in part and sent my slip in through that little 'air bus' for envelopes. I was sure to count it when I got the money back, told the attendant to have a nice day and pulled out. It only took a few minutes for me to realize I was a week early and I did not want money laying around my apartment, so I decided to put it back in.

I drove back to the bank and, using the same envelope the teller had given me, I went back to the drive in part and to the same woman. I laughed as I told her what I was doing, she laughed, we shared a few words, I took my card and envelope out of the 'air bus' and pulled out. Something made me stop and look at the little envelope that I received along with my deposit receipt. Inside was the two hundred dollars I had deposited.

Oh, yes, Satan grabbed ahold. I could use that two hundred dollars. I felt Satan on my left shoulder saying one thing and God on my right shoulder saying something else. I turned around to park and went inside. I asked to speak to the teller and explained that I had something I should not have. She thanked me profusely, over and over. As I walked out the door, I felt a mixture of pride and loss at the same time.

The rest of the month will be tight, but my soul is on track. I am not bragging, I just had to share.

Author Notes meg119 thank you for permission to use your picture.

798 words

Chapter 3
New Playmates

By Barb Hensongispsaca

"Mommy, we got new neighbors!" Johnny yelled as he pushed open the front door.

"That's great," his mother said. "Are there any children?"

"There are three little boys, and they are all about my age," Johnny said happily.

"How do you know," his mother asked.

"Their mom called them something like triplets. I hope they are not sick. The one named Greg said he was eight years old. I don't know how old the other boys are," said Johnny proudly.

Author Notes words 80

VMarguarite thank you for permission to use your picture.

Chapter 4
Is This For Real?

By Barb Hensongispsaca

As a mother of twins, I had humorous thoughts of my sons deciding to have a double wedding. They were each others best friend. Being identical, they could change clothes in the restroom at their school and emerge the other being. Then they would go to class and take the test in the subject that they excelled in, therefore, both passed with flying colors.

I thought a double wedding would be absolutely wonderful, because it would have people always wondering if the brides married the right one. See the humor? Well, they did not either. They did stand up as best man for each other, so I guess that was as close as I could get.

When Jim, my youngest twin, broke the news that he and his girlfriend were going to wed, everyone was very happy, Especially her mother. Now Jenny was a wonderful girl, but ... I am going to sound like the mother-in-law ... she was her mother's daughter. Jenny was very happy when she had everything she ever wanted and everything was going the way she wanted. Her mother was worse. She followed the strict rules of a wedding planner and made sure everyone knew their place and what they were supposed to do to contribute to the wedding.

Jim and Jenny just wanted to get married. Period. But her mother ruled the plans and Jim and Jenny were along for the ride. Her mom picked out the flowers, the church, the reception hall, the food, the colors, and anything else that went with the wedding. She also picked out the bridesmaid's dresses, which were rather bouffant - I believe is the right word. The wedding colors were burgundy and hunter green. The bridesmaids looked like flowering plants in their hunter green, bouffant style dresses. My youngest daughter was ten years old and since she was the junior bridesmaid, she wore a burgundy bouffant. I wish I had a picture to share with you of the bride in the middle -dressed in white, a burgundy 'flower' seated in front of her, and surrounded by hunter green 'plants'. Honestly, that is the way it looked.

The morning of the wedding, the whole groom's entourage went out for a last drink to celebrate the last day of freedom. One led to two and two to three. They arrived at the church a half hour late which set the mood of what was to follow.

Jenny's Mother voiced her displeasure rather loudly and reprimanded Jim for being lax in his duties. Jim, who is usually ready to voice back, held his tongue - and his patience. The wedding came off without a hitch and the wedding party left in the limousine.

Let's skip to the receptions hall, which was the American Legion. Jenny's Mother did not approve of drinking, so the hall was divided between drinkers and non-drinkers. The upstairs was for those that wanted to drink and the downstairs was for the food and festivities. Do you see the potential problem?

When the limousine landed with its party, the first place Jim and his group went was upstairs for a drink. This left the ladies downstairs as they sat at the tables waiting. W-E-L-L, Jenny's Mom was not going to have this. She marched upstairs and told Jim he had better get downstairs for pictures and food. Again, my usually mouthy son kept his cool but I could tell the breaking point was reaching its countdown.

Pictures finished, food eaten, more pictures which led to the start of the festivities. Jim and Jenny had their dance, followed by the parents dance, and the rather lengthy dollar dance. Jim wanted a beer when it was over, but as he started upstairs, Jenny's Mom stopped him and told him he had to wait because they wanted more pictures.

The breaking point was reached.

Jim took the dollars from the dance and threw them at Jenny's Mom and told her that since she paid for the wedding, she could have it. At this point, he marched out of the reception hall. My house was three blocks away and he, in his tux, marched home with a drink in his hand. Jenny ran after him in her wedding gown, screaming at him that if that was the way he was going to be, she wanted a divorce.

Now, remember they just got married. I so wish I had taken a video of that, I know I would have won the prize for 'America's Funniest Video'. Anyway, back to the story.

The kids reached the house right before I did. I saw Jenny's Mom pull up in her car, yelling at the kids to get back to the reception. As soon as the kids got in the house, I stood guard at the door like a soldier guarding Fort Knox. Jenny's Mom told me to step aside, but I smiled sweetly and told her she could not go in. The kids needed to work it out without our help.

After a lot of really nasty words, her Mom left to go back to the reception to try to pull it back together. I waited awhile to go inside my own house, and when I did, I found that the kids had worked things out. I knew they would.

I did not go back to the reception, and neither did the kids. Jenny's Mom did not talk to me for awhile, but that was fine with me. This did not stop her trying to rule their lives, but that was their problem. This was a wedding never to be forgotten by the people in the little town we lived in.

Author Notes beppe47 thank you for permission to use your picture.

971 words

Chapter 5
The Burning Bed

By Barb Hensongispsaca

I debated how to write this and even where to start, but I decided to give you a little background to begin with. I married young as a way to get out of a household with three women. I will admit, I never truly was in love, because I was too young to know what love really involved. When I went with my future husband to get our marriage certificate, he was already drunk at 2:30 in the afternoon, but, like most women, girls, I thought he would change for me. I was very wrong.

As the years passed, things just went from bad to worse. The great thing about my marriage was the three wonderful kids that I was blessed with. They were the light of my life and the reason I kept walking through the bowels of hell.

My husband kept drinking more and more as the years wore on. As I look back on it, I do believe he felt trapped, just as I did. Back in the 60's and 70's, you just got married and kept problems behind closed doors. If you fought, you got over it and moved on to the next day of fighting. There were no shelters, no counselors, no divorces, no hassles. You kept black eyes behind huge sunglasses.

The marriage started out rough and only escalated to a walk through hell. My husband would get drunk every night after work, and then everything would irritate him. He started with yelling, which changed to slapping, then that changed to hitting. I began to fear for my life.

There was one night that I was pushed to my limits and knew one day he would kill me. I was afraid to fight back, a mouse that kept returning to the trap for more cheese knowing that someday it would spring closed on my neck.

I had put my kids to bed and waited for the abuse I knew would start. He had had a bad day at work and was in a very foul mood. I tried to always keep the kids out of his way and knew this night was going to be particularly evil.

I walked out of the kids' bedrooms and landed on the floor without ever seeing the hand that put me there. Shaking off the pain, I looked up into the eyes of pure evil. The hatred that radiated from them paralyzed me. But the worst thing I saw was what was behind him. My three children were aroused from their beds and stood there watching and listening. Without him noticing, I motioned for them to go back to their rooms.

After the next slap, I looked up to notice they were not standing there and I praised God. I knew I could endure whatever he dished out, but I also knew this would be the last time. When he was done doing all the damage he could do, he walked back to the bedroom and passed out on the bed.

What I am about to tell you, I am not proud of, but you have to realize that I saw no way out of this situation. I hope you don't think less of me, but please realize that there are others out there still that are pushed to their limits and feel there is no way out. Just have an open mind and walk in my shoes.

I waited until I knew he was sound asleep. I went into the bedroom with a lighter, a cigarette, an ash tray and a determined mind. On the corner of the bed, I placed the ash tray. After lighting the cigarette, I laid it in the ashtray, but slanted so that the end was resting on the sheets. As the cigarette burned down, it would fall onto the bed and start burning the sheets. I hoped it would look as though he fell asleep smoking and caught the bed on fire.

I also hoped I had it timed right because I went into the kids' rooms, woke them and left our home. After loading my sleepy kids into the car, I started to wonder if anyone would figure it out. If so, I would be arrested and lose my kids to this monster - if he survived. With a heavy heart, I hurried back in and put out the fire that had started. I returned my kids to their rooms, got them to sleep, then decided what to do.

After I went back to the bedroom, I stripped off the burnt sheets to throw them in the corner. He never woke up, even when I pulled them out from under him. I sat against the opposite wall and spent the rest of the night just watching him sleep. I did not know what would happen when I confronted him in the morning, but this was going to end one way or another.

It was a long night that was full of a lot of soul searching, prayers and regrets. Finally, he stirred and I knew this would be my last stand. He looked at me, confused, until he saw the burned area in the mattress. I think he thought I saved his life, but I could not back down this time. I showed him the sheets and told him exactly what happened. I said I would do it again if I had to, but that I would not back down next time.

I expected the wrath from hell, but, without saying a word, he grabbed a few garbage bags and moved out. For the longest time I watched my back and I'm glad I did, but that is a story for another time.

I survived my time in hell, but there are both men and women out there that are going through their own horrors. Granted, there are now places that the abused can go for help and shelter, but there are some who live in too much fear to seek a new life. They are at risk.

If you get a chance to watch the movie "The Burning Bed" with Farrah Fawcett, it is a true story and one that I can relate to. Please read the author's notes for an explanation.

Author Notes booklotto thank you for permission to use your picture.

1065 words

This was a hard piece to write even though it has been many years. I know I am not alone in the experiences of my life and I hope to reach anyone who needs to know they are not alone.

The Burning Bed is both a 1980 non-fiction book by Faith McNulty about battered housewife Francine Hughes, and a 1984 TV-movie adaptation written by Rose Leiman Goldemberg. The plot follows Hughes' trial for the murder of her husband, James Berlin "Mickey" Hughes, following her setting fire to the bed he was sleeping in at their Dansville, Michigan home on March 9, 1977, and thirteen years of physical domestic abuse at his hands.

Chapter 6
The Ghost Hunter

By Barb Hensongispsaca

Let me introduce you to my ghost hunter. Squeak is one of my rescue cats and I do believe a little background history is important for you to understand her mentality.

Her original name was Ginger. When I rescued her, she weighed almost 30 pounds. The kids in her original home tortured her all the time. She would eat quickly, then seek refuge wherever she could that would give her security from those she feared.

When she came to live with me, she had just finished fighting for her life at the end of a curtain cord that had been around her neck. The kids laughed as she tried to 'dance' at the end of a 'rope'. This act fractured her vocal cords and thus, all she could do was 'squeak', so we changed her name.

When she was brought to my home, the first place she headed was under the bed where she stayed for almost a month. That is where she ate, where she drank, where her litter box was put and it was her haven of safety. Every day I would go under the bed a couple of times and just lay and talk to her. It was a joy when she started coming out, and even better when she joined me on the couch for the first time.

She became ghost hunter. She lost so much weight while she stayed under the bed, that she became trim and active. She would be lying next to me and all of a sudden, she would launch off the edge of the couch into the air and shoot through the house. After skidding across the kitchen floor, over the table, to the bedroom, under the bed, hitting the dresser, back over the bed, around the television, she would leap onto the couch next to me ... and lay down to nap.

Sometimes she would wake up long enough to look at the ceiling and utter a low guttural growl, or she would launch her body straight up into the air, only to settle back down and proceed to lick her paws as if nothing had happened.

One time, she ran up the back of my recliner only to perch herself at the very top. She seemed to hover there for a minute, then she started scratching at ... nothing, but I swear it looked like she caught something which she proceeded to 'eat'. Licking her lips, she proudly got down from the top of the recliner, sauntered over to me, only to lay down at my feet and fall asleep.

She was my guardian all her life and kept me safe from the ghosts that invaded our home every once in awhile.

Author Notes Picture is my ghost hunter.

Chapter 7
Did I Hear Her?

By Barb Hensongispsaca

On August 14, 2003, a lot of people that lived on the Eastern coast of the United States and Canada probably thought the end of the world had finally happened. Rumors spread about terrorist activity. Truth of the matter, tree limbs on power lines shut down an area which led to a chain of events that produced mass electric outages, some of which lasted days until the problem could be corrected.

At the time, I lived in Canada, having moved there from Ohio after part of my family was killed in a car/train accident. I lived eighteen hours from my family and only got to see them twice a year. My mother suffered from uncontrollable sepsis after a fall that fractured her pelvis. Her health was on a downhill spiral and my husband and I were traveling to Ohio to see her.

When my mother fell, she was allowed to go home on hospice, only if someone was there with her. My oldest daughter moved in so my mother could die at home. I told my mother that I would be there with her, and that was a promise I was trying to keep. We started out at noon and were into five hours of our eighteen hour drive when we noticed empty store lots that should have been full at that time of day. Traffic was declining during what should have been rush hour. We pulled over to get gas and were told that there was no power to pump the gas due to a major power outage. We had to find a station that had a back up generator to be able to gas the car for the rest of the trip.

Luckily in Canada, people are used to small outages every so often, so they are prepared to use a back up when needed. About a half hour later, we found a little, out-of-the-way station and got a full tank of gas and continued on our way. As night approached, it was strange to see total darkness. Except for the power generated houses and passing car headlights, there was absolutely no light.

Around 10:30 pm, I began to have an uneasy feeling that something was not as it should be. My cell phone was not working, so I begged my husband to find a pay phone somewhere so that I could call my daughter. We were about half way to our destination and the prospects of finding a pay phone in the dark were overwhelming, but a higher power had control of our lives that night. The first exit we tried, there was a pay phone on the side of a gas station that was closed. Our headlights illuminated it as we turned into the lot.

My husband parked the car with the headlights shining directly on the phone. I made the call and my daughter answered on the third ring.

"How is Grandma?" I asked as soon as she answered.

"She is fine, I just checked on her about ten minutes ago," she told me.

"Please, go check on her for me," I begged.

She laughed at me and warned me about being so paranoid, then she wanted to tell me about the huge blackout that, luckily, had not hit mid-Ohio.

The feeling of unease came back and I told her she had to go check on her grandmother. She talked to me as she went into my mom's bedroom.

"Grandma, are you okay?" I heard her say quietly.

She must have been bending down to talk softly into her ear because I heard a soft intake of air that was followed by a whisper of my mother breathing out. It was not to be repeated.

"Mom, I think Grandma is gone," my daughter said. "I have to call hospice right now." Then she hung up.

I realized I was holding the phone listening to ... nothing. My husband could tell by my expression that something was wrong and he instantly came to my side. The tears came. I'm not sure if it was because I realized she was gone, if I knew I did not make it, or if I knew she was not in pain anymore. All I knew was that, somehow, I was there if even by phone, to hear her take her last breath.

In the years following, I was consoled by the thought that Mom made sure she said goodbye in that last soft breath, which to me, held everything she wanted to say.

Author Notes GreatDogPhotos thank you for permission to use your picture.

A major outage knocked out power across the eastern United States and parts of Canada on August 14, 2003. Beginning at 4:10 p.m. ET, 21 power plants shut down in just three minutes. Fifty million people were affected, including residents of New York, Cleveland and Detroit, as well as Toronto and Ottawa, Canada. Although power companies were able to resume some service in as little as two hours, power remained off in other places for more than a day. The outage stopped trains and elevators, and disrupted everything from cellular telephone service to operations at hospitals to traffic at airports. In New York City, it took more than two hours for passengers to be evacuated from stalled subway trains. Small business owners were affected when they lost expensive refrigerated stock. The loss of use of electric water pumps interrupted water service in many areas. There were even some reports of people being stranded mid-ride on amusement park roller coasters. An investigation by a joint U.S.-Canada task force traced the problem back to an Ohio company, FirstEnergy Corporation. When the company's EastLake plant shut down unexpectedly after overgrown trees came into contact with a power line, it triggered a series of problems that led to a chain reaction of outages.

Chapter 8
He Took His Job Seriously

By Barb Hensongispsaca

My home street in Canada had its wide collection of feral cats. Attitudes varied and many times there were disagreements that broke out between warring parties. Little squabbles were usually broken up by the loud banging of a door, followed by a loud and obnoxious human voice. More serious territorial battles were solved by the use of a garden hose or a paint gun. This was Jackson's territory.

Jackson was a strapping security guard - er- cat, that held the title with compassion and vigilance. As he prowled the neighborhood, he issued warnings to the rowdy and offered condolences to the not so fortunate. Jackson was a mountain of a cat, as cat sizes go, and he was loved by everyone fortunate enough to live within his boundaries.

One summer day, a family of four moved in next door to where I lived. Jackson took a shine to the two little girls and they returned the love. Eventually, Jackson moved into the house but still remained the guard of the neighborhood.

Anyone that trespassed Jackson's territory had to undergo the normal inspection to be sure that everything passed his trained eyes. Therefore, any working crews on the street were nicely asked if they would please check their trailers and work trucks for any unwanted passenger before they closed for the night.

As I was packing my car for a visit to my family in the states, Jackson made his usual inspection of my luggage arranging skills and the outside of the vehicle for any smells that should not have been there. Satisfied, he proceeded to walk to his porch where, with passive interest, he watched me finish loading the car.

After gassing the car, I headed toward the border on my usual five hour trip. I put an audio tape in the player. The one I chose was "Relic" by Preston/Child. About an hour into my trip, as the drum sounds on the tape increased to announce the approaching horror of an evil deity, a black flash from the bowels of hell launched itself over the back of the passenger seat. It came to rest on the seat beside me, where it sat there, looked at me, and ... meowed.

After finding my nerves again, I laughed as I looked for an exit to turn around and take my unscheduled passenger back home. My five hour trip just added two more hours; but I was glad Jackson did not wait until I reached the border to announce he was ready for something to eat. The border guards really don't have a great sense of humor.

Author Notes 448 words
I don't have a picture of Jackson, but this is as close as I could get.
Susan F. M. T. Thank you for permission to use your picture.

Chapter 9
Had His Luck Changed?

By Barb Hensongispsaca

It was a stroke of luck when Joseph followed the rainbow's sight to the end and realized he could see where it touched the ground. He was sure his luck had changed as he drove closer and closer to the start of his dreams.

Plans of wild spending that pot of gold ran through his mind as he rounded the corner only to find a leprechaun painting flat, round stones with bright gold colored paint.

Author Notes 75 words

jgrace thank you for permission to use your picture.

Chapter 10
Narcissism Pushed Too Far

By Barb Hensongispsaca

Jennifer began to think she was going crazy. Her marriage was dissolving right before her eyes, even though she tried everything to make things right. She couldn't understand why she could not make him happy like before.

"What's wrong with you?" John would always yell. "You used to be so smart! Just listen to how you talk to me!"

Tired of the mental abuse, Jennifer faced her narcissistic husband.

"John, I'm a human being! I'm tired of being your mental punching bag."

He grinned, waiting for her tears, thinking he had control. He watched as she slowly raised the gun.

Author Notes 100 words

Anne thank you for permission to use your picture.

This was a place I lived in once.

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