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This is my entry into Stevie Turner’s short story competition for the month of October. The story was inspired by this photo I took during my travels n Spain. It was suggested I write a story about this scene when I posted it recently. Let me know what you think. And why not enter a story yourself.

https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/09/28/share-your-short-story-october-2019/

Three Sheets to the Wind

by Darlene Foster

Stan woke with a terrible taste in his mouth. Trying to stand up, his head spun and he slumped down beside a large container.
“I swear, I´ll never drink again.”
He wanted to retch.
“My God, what is that awful smell.”
He rubbed his eyes. Through the dim early morning light, he could make out he was in a back alley leaning on a barrel filled with rotten vegetables. He glanced down.
“What the hell am I wearing?”
Instead of jeans and a T-shirt, he wore a baggy pair of pants that stopped at his knees, a wide sash and a loose shirt.
He couldn´t remember being at a costume party.
Two heavy-set men appeared out of the mist.
“Here´s another one,” said one fellow with a heavy accent, wearing a similar outfit.
They picked him up under his arms, dragging him along the cobblestones. “Captain said we should collect as many able bodied men as we can. We ship out tomorrow and need more crew.”
“What the…?” Stan struggled.
They tightened their grasp. “Shut up your mouth. You are now in the service of the Queen.”
***
He lay in his bunk feeling seasick as the boat left the dock. Perhaps it wasn’t the motion of the ship, but maybe the putrid smell of boiled cabbage, urine and stale air that was making his stomach churn.
He wandered over to the porthole. Looking out he saw two other ships. On the side of the one closest, he made out the name, Nino.
“What is going on? It must be a re-enactment of some kind, or a film set.”

He thought back to the previous day, the start of a holiday in Seville, Spain, where he was taking in all the sites. He met some other young guys and they had a few drinks at what used to be an old tavern. But that´s all he remembered. A knock on the door took him out of his thoughts.
“Time to swab the decks.”
The boat lurched as he climbed the stairs. He stumbled.
“You best get your sea legs.” The sailor behind him slapped him on the back and presented a toothless grin. Even though he spoke English, it wasn’t any dialect Stan was familiar with.
“These guys are really taking this serious,” he thought.
The rest of the motley crew sported beards, eye patches and even the occasional peg leg. He thought they did a good job with the costumes but why was he still clean-shaven and all in one piece?
A bearded sailor handed him a mop and a bucket. Stan shook his head. “Excuse me. I think there has been a mistake.”
The sailor stared at him and walked away.
He shrugged and began scrubbing.

“Wait ‘til I tell them back home that I ended up on a replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship.” He stopped and looked around as the land disappeared behind him.

“At least – I think it´s a replica.”
***
A dazed and disoriented fifteenth-century sailor wandered the streets of Seville. Everything appeared strange to him.
“Perhaps this is the afterlife,” he thought. “Probably hell.”
Large metal objects hurtled down the streets. Should a horse and rider happened along, they would both be killed. People dressed in a very odd manner. Men and women wore tight trousers and tiny tops that didn´t cover their arms and stopped at the waist. Just like the ones he found in the alcove by the cathedral.
He glanced away when women walked by looking immodest.
He had to put something on as he had lost his clothes sometime the night before. It was his last night before going with Captain Columbus to find India. He had been promised riches if he survived the journey. A humble sailor, he could only dream of wealth. After many drinks and fun with the whores, he stumbled out of the tavern and fell asleep in an alleyway. He woke up stark naked. After a wander up to the cathedral, he found clothes neatly rolled up in an alcove. They fit but he felt strange in them, until he saw everyone else wearing the same uniform.
He had to get to the ship or he would miss his chance.
He noticed a man with long hair and tattoos approaching. “Pardon, kind sir. Where is the port the Santa Maria is sailing from?”
“You mean, where did it sail from? It sailed from Palos de la Frontera.”
The sailor had trouble understanding the man as his accent was strange. But he understood the words, Palos de la Frontera.
“I must make haste and get there before it leaves.”
“I´m sorry mate, but you are 500 years too late.” The man laughed and walked down the street shaking his head.
The sailor ran his hands through his hair. “This must be hell, but when and how did I die? I should not drink ale again.” He tugged at his shirt hoping to cover more of his torso.

Here is my entry in Stevie Turner´s August Short Story competition.

You might like to enter as well. Here is the link https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/share-your-short-story-august-2019/

A Good Day

by Darlene Foster

Erin Arnold cocked her head to one side and narrowed her eyes as she entered the coffee shop. Her favourite table appeared to be free. She bit her lip and suppressed a smile. Good days were rare for Erin. The new medication was working.

Keeping her eyes on the seat by the window, she clutched her handbag and cautiously made her way. She dusted off invisible crumbs from the chair before settling down. Erin removed a wet wipe from her purse and gave the already clean table a swipe. She ordered her regular mint tea and chocolate macadamia biscotti and stared at the people walking by the large front window. The china pot of tea arrived and, after steeping for the full three minutes, she began to pour into the white porcelain cup. She set the pot down abruptly when hot liquid slid down the spout and onto the table.

“Damn, why does this always happen? When will they invent a teapot that doesn’t drip?” Her face burned crimson.

She sopped up the drips with a paper napkin. With a fresh napkin, she dabbed the sweat off her upper lip and began to pour again. The tea continued to dribble. She could feel herself losing it. She clenched her fists and then unclenched them. She wiped the table once more and took two deep breaths. The third time she poured the tea without a drop on the table.

She sighed. A minor glitch in an otherwise good day.

Erin dipped the biscotti in the tea. Biscotti was perfect as it didn’t immediately disintegrate in the tea. She savoured the combined taste of mint, chocolate and macadamia nuts. She felt vaguely happy and satisfied.

The blast cut through her pleasant thoughts like a volcano erupting in a tranquil mountain scene. The teapot jumped from the table to the floor, shattering as it hit the tiles. The biscotti followed, dissolving into mush as crumbs mixed with the brown liquid. The window shattered showering flakes of glass throughout the coffee shop. People shouted and screamed, a child cried.

Erin put her hand to her forehead and closed her eyes. She felt tea running down the side of her face. She lowered her hand and opened her eyes. Blood dripped onto the pristine table.

She knew something like this would happen.

The day had been too good.

Winners!

Posted on: April 5, 2019

I wrote about my granddaughter’s pet boarding business here and here and asked for votes for her in the Best of Medicine Hat contest. I am pleased to announce that Aunty’s Place was voted best pet boarding in Medicine Hat for the second year in a row. A huge thanks to everyone who voted! She works so hard and cares so much for the pets in her care, she deserves this.

This is what was posted on Aunty’s Place Facebook Page

I could not wait to say a big “THANK YOU” to each and every one of you for voting us the BEST OF MEDICINE HAT in our pet boarding category!!
To be recognized for our hard work and endless love for what we do, by our home town of Medicine Hat has been overwhelmingly amazing! 

Taking care of pets fills our hearts full of love every day ❤️, but knowing that we have the support and recognition from our community is the icing on the cake!

To our community neighbours, pet care professionals, pet businesses, trainers, family members, our faithful clients, pet rescue workers, groomers, friends, and all of you who know that we just want what’s best for ALL pets…. Thank You SOOOO much for Voting for us in 2019!! 

With one of her happy customers

I also want to mention that my story Ghosts in the Attic won runner-up in Stevie Turner’s short story competition. Thank you for all the positive comments on that story. Here is the winning entry and all the others as well.
https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/03/01/share-your-short-story-winner-and-runner-up-for-february-2019/

Stevie is running another competition this month. So why not send in a short story. Writing short stories is a great way to exercise those writing muscles. Here are the details.

https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/03/23/share-your-short-story-april-2019/

I hope everyone is enjoying Spring wherever you are or Fall if in the Southern Hemisphere. You are all winners!

This is my entry into Stevie Turner’s Short Story Competition for February. Here is the info if you would like to enter. Why not give it a go.  https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/share-your-short-story-february-2/

photo from Pixabay

Ghosts in the Attic

by Darlene Foster

The attic above the barn sits empty. Some say it is haunted. Others say it is cursed.

The room is possessed with many stories.

When Jim and Alice bought the farm, they decided the attic would be a perfect place for the farm help to live. So they purchased some paint and fixed it up. Then they placed an ad in the local paper seeking someone who enjoyed working with horses.

Mature, buxom Gladys responded first. They showed her the spotless attic room smelling of fresh paint and polished linoleum. Gladys took the job and moved in the next day – with her seven cats. Alice warned Gladys to keep the cats confined to the barn. This was after they jumped up on the picnic table and ate the cream cheese dip she had put out for her croquet party guests. Gladys worked hard and knew her way around horses but had her own ideas about how to do things. After several disagreements with Jim, she packed her meager belongings and left, cats in tow. She left a note tacked to the barn door with a forwarding address to send her last pay cheque.

Gladys seemed unfamiliar with the concept of a litter box. Alice scrubbed the once pristine room thoroughly. Disgusted, she left the doors and windows open for days to get rid of the acrid smell of cat pee. Alice believed she could still smell it years later.

The next ad included, ‘No pets allowed’. Joy, a university student with a love of horses, became the second resident. Young and eager, she did a good job. A light shone from the attic late into the night while she studied. Occasionally a young man spent the night. Jim and Alice didn’t mind. Better than cats. One day Joy told them she was sorry but had decided to move into town with her boyfriend, to be closer to the university.

The attic didn’t take much cleaning. Although the wax on the floor caused Alice to shudder at the thought of candles burning in such a flammable structure.

Against his wife’s advice, Jim hired a writer with a bushy beard. Alice didn’t trust men with bushy beards, or writers. The man slept until noon every day and did only the basics of the job. Days went by without fresh food and water for the animals. He was soon asked to leave. The attic smelled like a biker bar. Crumpled pieces of paper mixed with stale crumbs and tin foil TV dinner containers littered the floor. They took two truckloads of empty wine and liquor bottles to the recycling depot.

Alice didn’t say anything but had that smug ‘I told you so’ look on her face.

Two women in cowboy hats, big belt buckles, and fancy boots drove into the yard one summer afternoon. Jo and Jean had been in the rodeo circuit for a time and knew a thing about horses. They told great stories sitting around the picnic table with Jim and Alice, sharing a cup of tea. One day, Jo approached the house in tears. Jean had left in the middle of the night. Jo sobbed uncontrollably and said she didn’t know how she could go on without Jean. Alice made her a cup of chamomile tea and tried to calm her down. She had never seen anyone so upset. Two days later Alice called the paramedics when she found Jo in the attic, passed out in a pool of her own blood. Alice and Jim hired someone to clean up the attic.

A couple in their forties showed up in a pickup truck with the job posting in hand. The wife, a meek little thing who made no eye contact, let her husband do the talking. He convinced Jim he was capable. Jim gave him the job.
Alice had a funny feeling. “She looks like a battered wife.”
“You watch too much Oprah.” Jim shook his head and walked away.
Things went well. The chores got done and the couple kept to themselves. Jim decided they were the best yet. Perhaps Alice should admit she was wrong.

One peaceful, sunny day while Alice washed dishes, she looked out the kitchen window and detected someone hiding behind the big apple tree. Sure enough, it was a man – with a gun. Alice tensed. Another man behind the car shed placed a megaphone to his mouth. “This is the police. Come out with your hands raised and no one will get hurt.”

The husband emerged from behind the barn and ran toward his truck. The police officers moved faster and seconds later he was in handcuffs. Alice never imagined she would witness an arrest in her own back yard. She needed more than a cup of tea to calm her down.

The plain-clothed police officers explained they received an anonymous call to the farm. The husband, known to them, had two previous charges of assault. After they took him away, Alice made her way up to the attic. The wife held her head and rocked back and forth, moaning. Her swollen right eye was turning an ominous purple. Alice offered to call an ambulance but the woman insisted she would be all right until her sister came to pick her up. Alice couldn’t stop shaking for days. Jim refused to talk about it.

Alice took over the hiring process.

Characters of all sorts paraded in and out of that attic over the years. Eventually, Jim and Alice got fed up and moved back to the city. Except for a few items left behind, the attic has stood empty ever since.

A chipped bookcase, holding dusty paperbacks waiting to be read, leans against one wall. A beaten up trunk remains in a dark corner; one item too many to be allowed on the next journey. A moth-eaten blanket, an assortment of old newspapers and a cowboy belt rest inside. A rusty, wrought iron headboard covered in spider webs, holds secrets of amorous nights and lonely days. Extreme happiness and deep sorrow ooze through the faded walls. A poster of Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream’ hangs lopsided on one wall surveying the scene with wide-eyed wonder, and silently shrieks.

On windy, rainy nights, some say they hear sobbing. Others say they hear hideous laughter. Children say the attic in the barn is haunted. But don’t children always say that?

photo from Pixabay

It’s good to try writing something different from time to time.

This is my entry in Stevie Turner’s November short-story competition. Let me know what you think. Why not send in one of your own.

https://steviet3.wordpress.com/2018/10/30/share-your-short-story-november/

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The Special Date

Decision made, she laid out her clothes and applied two coats of a subtle shade of melon nail polish to each fingernail and toenail with meticulous detail. Retiring early, the mirror reflected a well-rested woman the following morning. This pleased her. It was important that she look her best for this date.

A girl needs to get her beauty sleep you know, she could hear her mother say.

What would Mother think about this date? Did it matter? Mother passed away many years ago. Why did she still feel the need for her mother’s approval? Was it because she didn’t get it as a young girl, trying so hard to please?

She returned to the mirror and stopped thinking about such things while she dabbed ivory concealer under her eyes and on various spots on her face.

Get rid of those dark circles and spider veins, and ten years will be erased, she assured herself. Like an artist putting the finishing touches to a masterpiece, she applied the rest of her makeup. She needed to look perfect.

Would he appreciate the effort? she wondered while slipping on her new black underwear; bikini panties and a lace push up bra. She glanced at the full-length mirror. Not many women her age could wear this stuff and look good. She kept her body toned by working out regularly and she watched her diet for the most part. She looked closer, noticed a few bulges here and there, and planned to forgo dessert in the future. Although, she was sure he wouldn’t mind.

She stepped into the slinky little black dress with ease, pulled up the zipper in the back and took another look in the mirror. The cleavage looked inviting. Perhaps it was a bit much though. She didn’t want to send out the wrong message. She reached for her favourite silk scarf and tied it loosely around her neck. The black, grey and melon swirls complemented her nail polish. Pleased with the result, she smiled at the reflection in the mirror.

A giddy feeling came over her, making her feel like a school girl. Perhaps she should have a drink, or better still, something light to eat. There was no point being nervous. It will be all right, she reassured herself. She nibbled on a piece of Brie on a slice of a baguette topped with a chunk of cantaloupe while sipping a small glass of chardonnay.

“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou,” she murmured to herself.

She looked in the mirror once more to fix her hair and felt a burning sensation in her chest. Her breath started to come in short gasps. The recognizable signs of panic began to take over.

I can’t go through with this. What will people think, what will they say?

She wanted to stay home, go back to bed and forget everything. Those old enemies, tears, were about to revisit her.

“Stop it!” she shouted out loud at the confused image in the mirror.

When are you going to stop worrying about what other people think, you stupid woman? 

She managed to pull herself together in time to save her makeup from running. What was she thinking? She certainly didn’t have time to redo it. All she had to do was look lovely, say the right things and keep cool for a couple of hours, and it would soon be over. She reminded herself that she was doing this for him and he was special.

After running a brush through her nutmeg coloured hair, she applied a light coat of hairspray to the bob. She liked the colour of her hair and refreshed the roots every four weeks. She could not understand women who let their hair go grey and grinned when she thought of women not much older than herself with shades of pink and blue-grey hair. They would bury her with nutmeg coloured hair.

She lined her lips with a pencil to make them look fuller and filled them in with lipstick, a melon shade to match the nail polish and scarf. Taking the new, long black jacket off the hanger, she slipped it on over her short dress. It was well tailored and fit her toned body perfectly. He was sure to be impressed.

Something simple but elegant would be the best choice for jewellery. She rummaged through her jewellery box and found a small pair of black pearl earrings that would do the trick. She tried a couple of pins on the lapel of the jacket but nothing looked right, not the butterfly or the cat or the rose. Time was running out. She slammed the lid of the jewellery box as she decided not to wear a pin.

The limousine arrived to pick her up. A quick spray of her favourite perfume before she slipped on her black patent pumps and she was ready. Making her way downstairs, she felt faint and grasped the railing for support. Would she be able to do this? She had never done anything like this before. She took one last look in the hallway mirror, smiled faintly and took a deep breath. She could do this. He was worth it.

Heads turned as an attractive woman walked into the funeral service to say goodbye to the only man she had ever loved; her husband of the past forty years.

 

 

 

Thank you so much to everyone who entered the recent Amanda in New Mexico giveaway. And a huge thank you to all of you who shared and promoted it. It was fun and using Raflecopter made it very easy and fair. I was pleased that there were so many entries that I had Raflecopter pick two winners. So drum roll, please…

The two winners of a copy of Amanda in New Mexico-Ghosts in the Wind are –

Lynn Davidson 
Bette A. Stevens 

Congratulations to both of you. I have contacted you via email.

Book cover Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind by author Darlene Foster

Amanda in New Mexico-Ghosts in the Wind is available at most bookstores, although it may need to be ordered in, and online on the following sites

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Amazon.co.uk

Kobo

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and family! There is so much to be thankful for. Among many other things, I am thankful for the followers of my blog.

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In Canada, picking a pumpkin is as important as picking a Christmas tree. The trick is to find a sincere pumpkin patch.

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Watch this space, there may be more giveaways!

Book cover Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind by author Darlene Foster

To celebrate the one year launch of Amanda in Mexico-Ghosts in the Wind and just in time for Halloween, I am giving away a copy. Your choice of a print or digital copy if you live in Canada, US or the UK. If you live anywhere else, the prize will be a digital copy.  Simply fill in the Rafflecopter form below. The contest is from September 30th to October 7th, 2018.

Amanda Ross is on a school trip to Taos, New Mexico with several of her fellow creative students. Join Amanda, Cleo and their funny friend, Caleb, as they visit an ancient and beautiful landscape where a traditional hacienda, an ancient pueblo, and a haunted and spooky hotel all hold secrets to a wild and violent past. Does Cleo really see ghosts? Can Amanda escape the eerie wind that follows her everywhere? Perhaps the Day of the Dead will reveal the mysteries of Taos in this latest adventure of Amanda’s travels.

This is what one reviewer had to say about Amanda in New Mexico.

Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind finds student Amanda Ross on a school trip in Taos, New Mexico. While there, her classmate Cleo thinks she sees ghosts. Amanda feels anxious too, sensing that something or someone is watching her. An engaging adventure ensues during their visit to the Land of Enchantment in this sixth book in the fun and educational series for early middle-grade readers. 5/5 Literary Soiree

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