Just Another 2012 Year In Review

Hello, Readers. Yes, Virginia, The Wordsmith does exist. It’s been a bit since I’ve written a blog post. I promise I’ve been working tirelessly on my novel the whole time. Really. I’m nearly almost halfway kind of completely close to being finished the first draft. My friend also recently invited me to join her writing group, for which I am glad. Because how is my novel going to become a best seller if experienced readers and writers don’t give me their input?

To all my bloggy friends, I have a backlog of your blogs to read. I swear I’m not ignoring them. Although, I might not get to everyone’s posts before the release of “Memos From Your Closet Monster 2.”
(If you haven’t read the original, give it a read. Also, I have no idea if there will be a sequel. Maybe. . . ??)

Anyhoo, since it’s nigh the end of 2012, and we’ve all apparently survived the apocalypse, I’ve decided to comprise yet another year in review.

Team AJ

Number 1: Cancer – If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up here. It looks like we might be almost closely completely finished most of RB’s treatment for now. No idea of when he’ll be discharged. It’s been a long ten months. Everyday is another battle. But, we started out 2012 with a sick child and no idea of what was causing his illness. We found out, and although it was a devastating diagnosis, RB’s been making it look like a cake walk, and for that I am very thankful. He’s recovered more than the doctors said he would, and he continues to improve all the time. That kid’s my hero.

RB Christmas 2011. Before we knew the alien was lurking in his brain.
RB Christmas 2011. Before we knew the alien was lurking in his brain.

Number 2: Related to number one. I was reminded of the kindness within my fellow humans at a time when I was certain there was no compassion left in the universe. People gave donations, time, and labor to help our family. My employer has been unbelievably considerate and understanding during this difficult time. My coworkers organized a fundraiser, as did my cousins-on both sides of the family. My mom’s coworkers organized a carwash at their store, and the Down South Rollers held a carshow benefit for RB. So many people went far beyond anything we’d ever expected, and there are probably folks I am forgetting. I sincerely apologize for that, but it only proves how many people were involved in assisting us that I can’t remember them all without a detailed list.

My friend Shannon helped organize a local Chili's Benefit for RB.
My friend Shannon helped organize a local Chili’s Benefit for RB.
Down South Rollers benefit poster
Down South Rollers benefit poster
Down South Rollers
Down South Rollers
Poster for my the carwash held at my mom's work
Poster for the carwash held at my mom’s work
Team AJ Carwash
Team AJ Carwash
Just some of my friends and coworkers who organized a softball tournament for RB. I won't give away which one is me.
Just some of my friends and coworkers who organized a softball tournament for RB. I won’t give away which one is me.
Team AJ softball tournament. Respect the 'stache.
Team AJ softball tournament. Respect the ‘stache.
A toybox for RB made by my uncle. It's gorgeous. He's very good!
A toybox for RB made by my uncle. It’s gorgeous. He’s very good!
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Carwash my cousin held to benefit Team AJ (aka Robot Boy)

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(I’m still missing some photos from one event held at Zaddie’s Tavern for RB by cousins. If any one of you have some of theses photos, please pass them along. Thank you!)

Me and Observations from an Overworked Momma back in the dizzle, yo.
Me and Observations from an Overworked Momma back in the dizzle, yo.

My very selfless friend at Observations from an Overworked Momma organized an online auction for RB. She even went so far as to acquire several children’s books, signed by author Cornell Landry even. She, along with some of our other friends, visited RB at the hospital for Christmas and brought us gifts and care packages. I love these guys, y’all.

Signed by Mr. Cornell Landry
Signed by Mr. Cornell Landry
Another of Cornell Landry's books, given to us by CHNOLA's Childlife Dept.
Another of Cornell Landry’s books, given to us by CHNOLA’s Childlife Dept.

My friend about whom I’ve previously written The Otherwordly Goddess of Script got me a giftcard to Walgreens. Those of you who have been following my blog long enough know the significance of this!

I’ve made friends since RB’s admission to CHNOLA, too. We are blessed with family and friends who are always willing to help out and support us, and without these people, I wouldn’t be able to function.

Number 3: Also related to numbers one and two. Through my blog, and because of our shared hope in finding a cure, I’ve met several wonderfully inspiring people who have helped me remain positive more than they probably know. Their optimism has helped me remember that I should stay hopeful even in the face of adversity. Kudos to you The Monster in Your Closet , Pinwheels and Poppies, and The Lucky Mom. (Sorry if I left anyone out. I love you all!)

Sept Childhood Cancer

Number 4: Reading Donna’s Cancer Story and realizing there is life after cancer. Thank you for sharing your story with us Mary Tyler Mom .

FTIAT Series image via The Monster in Your Closet
FTIAT Series image via The Monster in Your Closet

Number 5: Being included in The Monster in Your Closet’s FTIAT series. Writing my entry and reading the others has helped me, again, realize although times are hard, there is always something for which to be thankful. Plus, it’s a big deal to a writer who was only published one other time this year (and rejected many times). Oh, you missed it? Well, go on and read away at The Foliate Oak Literary Journal. (Deb, I’m adding your thing on future submission letters, by the way. Just to let you know. ;})

Number 6: In fiction, there is a point where the protagonist has a major change. It’s near the climax of the story, usually. Either there is a physical battle or an emotional one; it transfigures the protagonist. Somehow, after Hurricane Katrina, I felt the change a little. I was touched by the kindness we received, but was also tarnished by the derision to which we were subjected. Things are different now, and this is my battle. I know there’s been a metamorphosis, an evolution. The snide cynic in me still exists, but she is muted by the newly emerged optimist, the person who will still fight for what’s right but is more understanding and compassionate. In the words of Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) via Pulp Fiction, “I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.”

Image courtesy of [image creator name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

Number 7: Fibromyalgia. Yep. I was diagnosed on the 29th of November. Because why the not at this point, right? At any rate, I’ve been taking my meds like a good little girl, eating right, exercising, and treating my body a lot better. I cut caffeine almost out completely, and I quit drinking. My doctor also decided I have depression and anxiety (can’t imagine why), and since starting my medicine and resuming my daily yoga and meditation, I’ve been feeling much better. I still feel like the Tin Man when I wake up in the morning, but after forcing myself to stretch and move my stiff muscles, I start to feel much more productive. My fatigue is somewhat better, but somedays are still rough. I will see my doctor again for a follow up in January, and I’m hopeful he will be able to help me with my unresolved issues. Fibromyalgia is the perfect example of irony, because it causes stiffness and pain that makes the patient want to be still, but the pain and stiffness is only relieved by moving around. Universe. You’ve one upped me again. But, don’t worry. You’re not putting me down that easily. “So I’ll do as I please like the well-tempered breeze, blowin’ which way I see fit. I’ll grey with the clay seven days till the day when they throw me on the potter’s scrap heap. But take my advice; you’ll have to bury me twice, ’cause the first time I won’t rest easily. But don’t let me die still wondering what it was I left behind.” “Don’t Let Me Die Still Wondering” Flogging Molly

Number 8: I don’t know how many of these I should have, so I’ll just add another one. SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read the 700th and final issue of the Amazing Spider-Man, don’t read this part. Peter Parker dies in an epic battle with Doc Oc; they somehow switch bodies, and Peter Parker dies in Otto’s body. Doc Oc takes over Peter’s body and receives all of his memories, thoughts, and feelings of responsibility-supposedly. He becomes the Superior Spider-Man. WHATEVER! RIP ASM. You’ve been part of my life for many, many years. I won’t forget you, PP. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Robot Dad and I with Spidey at Universal Studios Orlando.
Robot Dad and I with Spidey at Universal Studios Orlando.
Me (yes me) Halloween circa 2002 in my black symbiote costume made by a friend much craftier than I. The frog is Rupert.
Me (yes me) Halloween circa 2002 in my black symbiote costume made by a friend much craftier than I. The frog is Rupert.

Number 9: I lost 5 pounds.

Number 10: I wrote a blog post! Finally!

Auld lang syne, and all that, folks! May you all have a wonderful 2013 filled with health, happiness, and good fortune.

Terror-ific Tales


Happy Halloween! The most wonderful day of the year. It’s almost sad the Halloween season has come to an end. (Well, it doesn’t really have to end, does it? Some of us prefer to be delightfully frightful all the time.)

Started the afternoon with the original shock rocker, the wonderfully horrifying and deliciously frightening Mr. Alice Cooper on the iPod. So glad he’s still touring because maybe one day I’ll get to see him live. I’m keeping the nightmare alive.

Unfortunately, we’re confined to the hospital room today, but we’re satisfying the spirits with some Tim Burton classics and enjoying the decorations.

I’m working on another scary story to share tonight. You can read more about it here. (P.S. The frightful fun isn’t going to end just because Halloween has passed. I’m going to continue to share my own and accept your stories. >;8} )

But aside from sharing my scary stories with everyone, I’d like to share some unnerving Halloween entertainment with you. Some of my favorite books and haunting tales.

1) Anything by Poe. Really. Just anything. But if you’d like something more specific, some of my favorites:

– Premature Burial. I had this story on tape (yes, tape), and hearing it read was way more terrifying than reading it. This story is scary stuff.

– Masque of the Red Death. “There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust.” Enough said.

-The Tell Tale Heart. In case you’re not familiar with this story, it involves murder, severe anxiety, and pulling up a few floor boards.

-The Black Cat. One of my favorites as a kid. I’ve always loved cats. Apparently, Poe’s characters didn’t, but they loved walling or holing people inside of things.

-The Pit and the Pendulum. What’s scarier than the Spanish Inquisition?

-The Raven. A classic. Needs no explanation.

2) Stephen King. Same as Poe. Just about anything the King of Horror has produced will induce fear. But again, I’ll share some of my favorites.

-Salem’s Lot. What? Vampires are really nightmarish creatures that want you to die in a horrible manner or else turn you into a demon-like monster like themselves? No sparkles here. Scary as hell.

-Pet Sematary. If Fluffy or Boo Boo kicks the bucket, just let them go. Seriously. You don’t want to know the alternative.

-Misery. Because being a writer isn’t terrifying enough.

-Gerald’s Game. A good example of why bondage is not a good idea in a secluded setting.

-Night Shift. Collection of short stories including The Lawnmower Man, Jerusalem’s Lot, Trucks, and Children of the Corn.

I could go on forever . . . Or at least for several hours or maybe a day.

3) Samuel Taylor Coleridge

-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If you think this tale is just a bunch of hooey you learned in 12th grade lit class, think again. This poem involves sailors lost at sea, death, a curse, a ghostly vessel manned by a nightmarish woman (“Life-in-Death, was she”) and Death, and living corpses.

“They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

“The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools –
We were a ghastly crew.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

4) Mary Shelley

-Frankenstein. I love this story. Forget everything you saw in a Universal Movie when you read it. It’s chilling, sinister, and moving.

There are so many more wonderfully chilling stories and novels available. This is a terribly short list. But it’s a start. Happy haunting boys and ghouls!

The Bar

Fifteen days. That’s how long Steven and his friends were holed up in that bar. Fifteen days since things changed. The group started out as thirty, but they were down to twelve after the others took on the illness.

Jackie was the first to succumb. Steven tried to deny the obvious, but he knew it was time to do his girlfriend in when he woke to her groaning and writhing in her restraints, her hungry mouth frothing. He made Jessie do it, though. Jessie was Steven’s best friend since kindergarten. Jessie knew Steven couldn’t pull the trigger, even if it meant he would die with the rest. But dying wasn’t the part that scared Steven or Jessie. It was what came after.

The days were hellish, but the nights were worse. During the day Steven, Jessie, and the others busied themselves preparing supplies, organizing, checking weapons and making sure their ammo was sufficiently stocked. During the day the fiends were less active.

Steven felt terror at night. He felt he was marooned on a barren island, surrounded by an ocean of those ravenous abominations. He and the survivors were desolate, their neighborhood bar turned from a place of solace to an infernal pit of anguish, pandemonium, a nightmare. The group members took turns staying awake, on guard. Not that it  helped anyone else sleep better.

While Steven sat at the bar reading by the light of an oil lamp, he tried to ignore the sounds from outside. He ignored the groaning, the screeching, the banging on the boarded doors, on the boards that covered the windows where the glass had been broken the first night. Steven wanted to listen to music, but he had to stay vigilant, and besides there hadn’t been electricity in days. His iPod’s battery was long dead, like almost everything else.

Steven felt a sharp and familiar pang in his abdomen. The food supply was low. The group had been surviving on rations of canned meats and pickled vegetables. One of the women in the group had arrived with a sack full of peanut butter jars. There wasn’t any bread, but the peanut butter was like manna and honey. Even that supply was diminishing, though, and there weren’t many jars left of pickles, olives, Holland onions, and spicy green beans, either. Steven thought he would have to go out for provisions in a day’s time. He didn’t know where in the Hell he would find them.

The group’s first trip was a catastrophe. The team was ill equipped, and their inadequacy is what led to Jackie’s illness. It was more a waste of ammo and energy than anything else. Steven also felt it had revealed their sanctuary. It seemed like there were more crowding around the bar after that day. Or maybe it was because Steven and the group were the last living humans in the city, and the monsters knew it.

The sounds outside increased, and Steven pulled at his own hair in frustration. He hummed to himself. He shouted at them to shut up. He put his fingers in his ears.

The banging was louder than before. The groans more rapacious. Steven thought more had come since the night began. He stroked the shotgun in his lap. He checked to make sure the rifle was still hanging by its strap from the back of his chair.

A moment later, shrieks came from inside the bar. Steven froze. His face and limbs were numb. Then he heard the unmistakable shuffle, the sound of dead feet dragging across the floor.

Steven leapt from his chair and hit the alarm, alerting the rest of the group. The ringing of the bell drowned out the groans and shuffles. Steven wanted to hear them then, to know where they were.

He took the shotgun and the high-powered rifle and climbed onto the bar. At the first sight of a body, he aimed the shotgun and fired a blast of buckshot at the encroaching mob. Steven fired two more rounds.

There were so many. Their dead fingers clawed the cuffs of Steven’s standard issue BDUs as he climbed from the bar onto a platform above where glasses hung. He loaded the shotgun and fired three more slugs. He wondered where the other group members were.

He hadn’t grabbed the bag of shells when he abandoned his place on the bar, and now Steven was out of shells. Aiming the M16, Steven was able to fell more of the animated cadavers, but not many. Not enough.

A back door broke from its hinges; a dozen bodies poured through, tumbling over each other in a stampede of undead hunger. He recognized Jessie, and then he knew. He knew what happened to the rest of the group.

Grave Digger

The folks here call me Grave Digger.  I’ve been shoveling dirt here at St. Phillip’s for almost fifty years. Some of the folks here I know from town. Most of them I met after I started working here. It’s a good job. Pay’s decent. I don’t have a 401K or anything, but my work keeps me young. I get to work outside, and I get the holidays off.

I’ve learned a lot of history working here. Like, I know Count Franklin Schmidt IV founded this town in 1762. I know his son, Franklin Schmidt V, fought in the war of 1812. The countess was a real kind lady named Emeraldine-a very friendly sort. With his young wife, Louisa, Franklin Schmidt V had a son the couple named Bartholomew Alastair Conroy Schmidt.

After the war, Franklin Schmidt V took a government office, and when young Bart was old enough, Franklin offered him a position. But Bartholomew had a taste for the sea, and he took off with a merchant ship in the summer of 1845. Bart worked legitimately for a time, but just like too many men during his era, he discovered the real profit was in freebooting. He turned pirate somewhere around his thirty-eighth birthday. In the fall of 1862, Franklin Schmidt V, who was then nearing his eightieth year, watched his only son dangle from the hitch. Louisa, having succumbed to cholera in the spring of 1847, was spared the tragedy of losing her only child to the gallows. 

I learned a lot about other folks. Regular folks. Like Annie Fontenot, who moved here from Paris in 1880. Though popular among the men in this town, she never married. 

My old man’s pocket watch is ticking in my coat pocket, and I know it’s approaching the proverbial witching hour. 

“Got a cigarette, Grave Digger?” Comes a corroded voice through rotted vocal chords. I turn, and with a flick, I ignite my Zippo’s orange flame, illuminating my companion’s deteriorating visage. His empty eye-sockets, home to various pests, are fixed on my own eyes. He leans forward and lights his cigarette then returns to an upright position. Smoke wisps out of the head, the eyes and the center of the skull where a nose once was, resembling a skeleton incense burner. Insects scurry about, irritated by the intrusion of the smoke.

“You’re working late,” he observes. He straightens the sleeves of his threadbare dress coat and tosses the rope that hangs from his neck over his bony shoulder.

“I decided weren’t no reason to go home all by myself when I can stay and finish up this job,” I answer.

“Seems a man like you would want to rest his back,” says my companion, “seeing as it’s so crooked.” The fingers of his skeletal hand rattle as it slaps my wasted spine.

“I’m old, Bart, but I ain’t dead,” I say lighting my own cigarette.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asks, peevish. “Well,” he continues after a silence, “you’ll be dead in enough time, mate. Believe me.”

I smile. Headlights appear on the road in the distance.

“You think it’s a new resident?” Bart asks. 

“Nah,” I say. “They don’t bring them in this late.”

The headlights are stationary for a moment, and then make the inevitable turn all lost vehicles make when their drivers discover they’ve travelled too far down a dark unknown path. 

“Gone the wrong way, I figure. Don’t want to get lost on this route, eh?” Bart chuckles and tosses his cigarette into the open hole I’m digging. He looks at me. “That wasn’t disrespectful or nothing, was it? I don’t mean to disrespect the dead.” He howls with laughter, throwing his smooth, hairless skull back so far it seems it will break from the spine. The cranium appears luminescent from dew in the moonlight. I think of some folklore about crystal skulls. 

“I like you, George, old man,” he states, his voice reminds me of the groan of warped wooden ship bows that have been too long at sea. “I hope you don’t mind me leaving that cigarette.” I shake my head without responding. I know Bart’s incorrigible still and always will be. I watch as he ambles away. Another figure joins him, a petite frame swathed in a tattered crimson frock that sways with the motion of its wearer’s hips. 

Bart bows and addresses his escort, “Madame Betancourt.” She curtsies. Bart throws his bony arm across the lady’s shoulders. They stroll together along a well-traveled avenue among their now lively neighbors while I finish my cigarette. 

Rise Up, My Love

Surge decore meo. Sit vita tua conplebuntur sanctí sedere carinae.” The queen raised her hands above her head; her smile was hard and resolute. “Surge dilectione mea.” She took her scepter. The amethyst at its tip ignited. Indigo phantoms waltzed on the chapel’s stone ceiling. “Erige te amica mea. Simus unum iterum.” Purpurescent flames sparked from the scepter’s amethyst and landed at the queen’s black velvet slippers. Her gown created a current of air that wafted to the tiny purple flames and aroused them as she moved. They rose and swelled, licking at the draft to consume its life giving oxygen.

“Surgere et iungere vobis regina.” The queen approached the alter, and she placed her scepter on a stand near the head of the sarcophagus there. Laying her hands on the sepulcher she spoke, “Surge rex meus et adiunge regina vestra. Rise my king and join your queen!”

Rain pelted the stained glass windows. The wind whirred through the windows’ colored inlays. The queen could hear the birds in the belfry flapping their wings. “Rise my king!” she shrieked with passion.

The queen’s hands leapt from the stone lid of the king’s tomb, as if burned by a terrific heat. She stood paralyzed as the stone shifted then slowly slid in a diagonal motion away from the grim enclosure. She recognized her husband’s signet ring on the decomposed finger attached to the near skeletal hand that now crawled from the shadows of the sarcophagus and clenched the edge of its lid.

The king, having been roused from his years long rest, pushed the stone to the floor and stood from his tomb. The queen jumped at the sound the stone made as it struck the floor. She saw something she did not recognize. The eyeless sockets found her, and as if the king could see without the ocular orbs, his putrified lips turned upward in a grisly smile.

“My queen,” he groaned, though it was barely audible as his tongue was thoroughly deteriorated.

The queen screeched and fled from the alter, but her king pursued her. The rotting flesh of his legs sloughed off the bone and struck the concrete floor with a wet sound. Maggots covered the bits of flesh left behind. They inhabited the king’s arms and legs- and in his exposed nasal cavity.

The doors of the chapel were immovable, and no matter how the queen fought with them, they remained fixed. She could hear the king approaching, the sound of his feet shuffling on the floor and the sodden sound of the maggot infested flesh falling from his body.

The queen turned and pressed her back to the chapel’s great doors. Rigid with terror, she could not move as the king moved in on her.

She wept.

The king pressed his body against his queen’s. He put his infested hands through her hair and pressed his fetid loins against her. She could feel the worms livid and squirming through the material of his threadbare burial attire.

“My queen,” the king groaned again pressing his decaying lips to her neck.

She wept.

“My queen.”