What Did You Write Today?

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What About The Fox?

After a month of nothing, we return back to The Tudor Mountain Lodge. These characters have been occupying a lot of space in my thoughts as this last month has been filled with lots of family events, tasks, and such keeping me from actually writing. Here’s hoping the story comes faster and faster as I exercise those writing muscles.

The Tudor Mountain Lodge…continued…

And just like that, the call went dead. Lori took a deep breath in, trying not to lose her temper. Any more technology just made her weary. “They get you all hooked on its convenience, but when it really matters!” Lori let out a guttural battle cry of frustration. 

Roger’s voice was behind her, quietly asking her what the problem was.

“Damn phone went dead and I…” she paused, hearing tires on gravel nearby. She looked down the long driveway and saw an SUV with California plates heading towards the lodge. Lori assumed a boss-like stance, putting her hands on her hip and through a fake smile told Roger, “Lydia answered the non-emergency number, she was checking on something when my phone lost the signal. Call her back after we get these folks settled.” 

Lori pushed the weariness away and brushed invisible debris from her shirt and waved to the approaching vehicle. “Did you cover up the blood?” she spoke out of the corner of her mouth to Roger. 

“Not yet,” he said. “Figured the sheriff or whomever will want to see it.” 

“Smart,” she nodded and they moved a bit closer to the front porch as the car pulled up in the “loading” zone of the lodge, which was just a little small outcropping of the circle driveway in front of the main building of the Tudor Mountain Lodge. 

The couple exited their dark blue vehicle with complementing California plates, smiles alighting their faces. They were happy to be here, Lori thought, even if they looked dressed for tea time as opposed to a weekend in a mountain retreat. 

“Welcome!” Lori greeted. “So glad you made it alright!”

“It was an exciting drive,” said the man, coming around the front of the vehicle. He pointed his key fob and the back of the car opened and Roger moved to retrieve luggage. 

“Albert Reynalds,” the man said, holding out a hand to Lori. But her phone rang in her pocket. 

“Excuse me,” Lori shook his hand quickly. “Roger, will show you to your room and give you the lay of the land. Welcome.” Her guest looked a bit put off, but she knew intuitively she had to answer the call. Roger motioned with one of the small leather satchels to enter the lodge and the three headed in that direction.

Lori walked further down the driveway away from the guests and answered her phone.

“Lori! I’m so glad I caught you. It’s Lydia.”

“Oh, Roger was going to call you back, I’ve guests arriving for the weekend, things have gotten busy here. We put the carcass in the shed in case someone wants to look at it.”

“Sheriff Harlow said he’s sending someone out; said he doesn’t normally do this, but there’s been some other wild animal shootings not too far from you and he wants to see if they’re connected.”

“Alright,” Lori said, then quickly added, “Can you tell him to park behind the shop? It’s the first building to the right as you enter the property. I don’t want my guests to get curious.”

“I’ll give him a message, Lori,” Lydia said.

“Thanks for understanding my phone signal and calling back,” Lori said.

“My pleasure,” and Lydia hung up.

Lori hurried back to the lodge’s reception area, but it was empty. Roger had taken the guests up to their room. The Reynalds had the larger of the two person suites. She had no notes in her reservations spreadsheet about the purpose of their visit, but hopefully they were going to not need a whole lot of hand holding while the staff – just her and Roger – handled the sheriff’s visit over this poor dead animal. 

Roger came downstairs. “Moving their car,” he said to Lori. 

“Sheriff is on his way; that was Lydia on the phone,” she said.

Roger nodded and he went back outside. The door was hardly shut again, when it opened, and in walked Elvis. Not that Elvis. Elvis Ribon, who had lived in these mountains for decades and knew all of its places better than anyone. He came to the cafe to get a sandwich to go for his tracking and other wilderness education classes. 

“Good Morning, Elvis,” Lori said. 

“Good Morning, Miss Lori,” he said, his gruff voice sounding confrontational, even though Lori knew he was being kind. If you didn’t know Elvis, you’d think he was not only a hermit, but a curmudgeonly one as well. 

“Coffee?”

“As Always,” he said.

Roger came back inside and hung the Reynald’s key at the station behind the front desk. 

He waved at Elvis and came into the little cafe space where Lori was prepping Elvis’ Coffee with whole fat cream, as her customer termed it. “Don’t give me that skim, crap,” Elvis would grumble some days. 

“What do you know about animals being shot around our area?” Lori asked Elvis. 

Elvis shook his head, “haven’t heard anything,” he said. Lori handed him the coffee. 

Roger poured himself some in his tumbler with a Mountain Roots sticker on it, “We have a dead fox in our shed with a bullet hole in it,” he turned to Elvis. Then sipped his coffee quickly before continuing. “Sheriff’s on his way out.” 

“Not that Asshat Harlow!” Elvis said. “He just wants to be in the action; he doesn’t actually do any thing.”

“Well, I want to make sure that the powers that be know we aren’t doing it and we want it to stop,” Lori said. “What would you have done if you found a dead fox basically on your doorstep with a bullet wound?”

“Set up better No Trespassing signs,” Elvis chuckled. 

“Seriously?” Lori rolled her eyes. 

“Well there’s 10 acres in any direction around my cabin, so not sure who would be around where they shouldn’t be,” Elvis said.

“Poor thing ran here from wherever it was shot,” Roger said. “Hope it didn’t have any babies or such.”

“This time of year? Not sure. Probably too early for that,” Elvis theorized. 

“Well if you hear anything on your travels, Elvis, let us know, okay?” Lori said, handing him a coffee and a sack lunch.

“Turkey on Rye? No mayo?” Elvis asked.

“Yes, and we got some oranges in from the co-op, so make sure you bring the peels back for your compost.” Lori chuckled.

“Much appreciated,” Elvis said. “Good luck with the fox; time to get to work.” And with that he left the cafe and the lodge and Roger began to brief Lori on the Reynalds. 

“They said they have no actual plans and will let us know if they need anything outside of meals, likely in their room.”

“I’m good with that,” Lori said. “Can you deal with the sheriff?”

“Not happy to, but I will,” Roger said. Lori placed a hand gently on his and said, “I appreciate you.” Roger nodded and went back outside.

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Free-Range Fiction Continues 3-11-22

Note: I will return to the Tudor Mountain Lounge next week. I was asked to do a poem based on the state of the world. Ukraine is very much on my mind. I find it particularly synchronistic as I am researching patriarchal lineage that goes back to these areas of conflict. But I’ll let the poem do the talking.

Once more a madman has the world by the throat

Once more we try to stop death with words

And once more the madman continues to gloat

Stomping out more lives and others made absurd

Our planet has been here before, and yet again

A genoicide is broadcast in our living room

Whilst those who want truth to Rain

Are shut down, prison sentences loom

Those of us with hearts rooted in peace

Cry out for those whose voices lie in rubble

But Meta Capitalists take blood money with increase

To create a megaphone for propaganda redouble

What to do, what to do? The leaders hands wring

Meanwhile the attacked nation’s leader stands true

Tells what his people, his country shall cling

I need ammunition, not a ride; a backup crew

But nukes, but nukes! The true fear arrives due course

Suddenly A Cold War Generation Ex-cuses afford

New peacekeeping missions already outsourced

Yet those blue beret missions fully ignored

So we wait. We watch. We dig our nails in prayerful hands

For once more, once more, we’re on the brink

Of losing it all to one madman’s command

The end result too horrendous to think

So while we paint icons of blue and yellow

A record of what side of history we reside

A hospital’s crumbling ruin hosts babies bellows

And yet we hold the words our cowardice hides

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Free-Range Fiction Friday: Tudor Mountain Lodge Continued

This story seems to want to continue, I hope you’ll let me know how you’re enjoying it. Flash fiction Friday is all about just getting words on paper and seeing where they lead.

The simmering oil met the scrambled eggs with pops and hisses that told Lori she had waited just a moment too long to get the eggs on the griddle. Her mind was thinking of all the things she wanted to do that wasn’t running the Lodge. She shook her head in an effort to refocus on the task at hand. One side of the griddle had the English muffins toasting and staying warm and she gingerly flipped them over to place carefully cut out circles of cheese onto the toasted muffin centers. Working with the deftness of years of creating these sandwiches each morning, Lori had the dozen of sandwiches put together on the griddle and turned off the heat from the giant knobs, which always looked like googly eyes to her. As she wrapped the sandwiches to put in the refrigerator case in the café, she could hear the scraping of the snow shovel, indicating that Roger was working nearer the lodge. She put the last sandwich on a small plate featuring the Tudor Mountain Lodge logo and headed toward the front of the building. 

“Hot breakfast,” she called out the door. “Roger?” She couldn’t see him. 

“Be right there,” she heard him holler back in a tone that told her he still had his cigar in his mouth. 

She wasn’t dressed for outside and stood in the doorway waiting. She could hear the crunch of his boots on snow coming closer. She was looking to her right, but then heard, “That’s mighty nice of you,” Roger was on her left, shovel in hand. 

“Oh!” she blinked back a slight startle. “I thought you were around the other side.”

“That’s for me?” 

“Yes,” she said. And lifted the plate for him to take it. 

He leaned the shovel on the wall of the lodge and ripped off his gloves, tucking them in his pockets and took the plate. He took a huge bite that almost ate the whole of the sandwich. 

“Need another?” Lori asked.

“No, thank you,” he mumbled between chewing. He swallowed and handed the plate back to Lori, the remainder of his sandwich still in hand. 

“You’re welcome,” and lifted the plate and gave Roger a slight curtsy. “I’m going back in, it’s freezing out here.” And she closed the door and left Roger with his sandwich. 

Shaking off the cold, she returned to the warm kitchen and poured herself more coffee. 

As she put the coffee pot back on its burner, the power went out. “Not now,” she whimpered and sighed. She put her coffee mug down and marched towards her mud room nook and slogged on boots and her heavy jacket. Roger likely didn’t notice the power outage, so she’d just get the generator going. She went out to the power shed, as they called it and unlocked the door with a key. Then she went to the side and lifted up the vent at the back side of the generator. Back inside she went step by step to get the machine prepped for operation. Within moments the generator roared to life. She grabbed one of the three fuel containers in the shed and headed back out front. She could see Roger’s silhouette in the small parking area, nudging something with his boot. He looked up and waved at her. She held up a finger letting him know she’d be there in a minute. She didn’t answer. You don’t yell in the mountains. Not when the weather has been so unsteady. Avalanches were nasty business. Sign language was the rule of the day unless you were next to one another or indoors. There was a slight incline to get from the lodge to the parking lot, and as Lori ascended over it, she saw what Roger was nudging. It was the body of a fox. 

“Oh no,” Lori whispered as she finally reached Roger, her gaze on the limp animal. 

“Yeah, I didn’t want to touch it in case it’s like sleeping or I don’t know,” Roger stepped back about a foot from the animal and let Lori get closer. 

“It looks dead,” she said. “Such a shame,” and she did exactly what Roger had been doing and nudged it’s backside with her snow boot. The animal did not respond. She looked at it’s full tail. It had not been here long. She took off her glove, squatted, and put a hand on the animal. It was cold, but not really stiff yet. She looked around. 

“What’s you looking for?” Roger asked.

“Another animal nearby or a litter ktis and I need a stick,” she responded matter-of-factly. 

“A bit too early for fox babies,” Roger said.

Lori nodded and spied a stick near the stand of evergreens abutting the parking lot. She pointed, “mind getting me that stick there?” Roger turned his head to see what she saw. He finally got it in his sights and swirled his body, took three long strides and grabbed it. He handed it to her. She wiggled the stick under the fox’s belly and flipped it over. Blood was on the snow that had been under the creature. Its fur was matted in a starburst pattern. 

“It’s been shot,” Roger said it before Lori could deduce it.

She looked further and saw the deep black of a bullet hole in its carcass, “Poor thing. Who would do such a thing?”

“Maybe it got in someone’s chicken coop?” Roger shrugged.

“Are they not protected? We don’t have too many of these about,” Lori shook her head. 

Roger shrugged again.

“What do we do? Do we bury it?” Lori looked up at Roger, his beard had icicles on it right under his mouth. 

“I think maybe we need to report it to someone,” he said. “Not sure, who.”

Lori took out her phone and snapped some photos. Roger stood sentinel. 

“Would you mind putting the carcass in the woodshed for now?” I don’t want it here when the guests arrive.”

“You got it, boss,” Roger said. “Let me go get a tarp.” 

Lori nodded. And then went back to the front porch of the lodge and called the non emergency number of the Sheriff’s department.

“Rockport County Sheriff’s Department, Dispatcher Lydia speaking.”

“Lydia, it’s Lori at Tudor Mountain Lodge.”

“Oh, hey, Lori, how’d you make out in the storm?”

“We’re good, but we found a dead fox on the property. It had been shot. I am not sure who I should report this to?”

“Oh, that is interesting; hang on hon, let me double check something.”

Lori heard obnoxious and crackling hold music. She looked at her phone’s signal strength, “Don’t lose connection now,” she thought.

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A Return To Flash Fiction Friday

May years ago, I used to post flash fiction stories on Fridays. I’m trying in 2022 to come back to the basics of writing –exercising the writing muscle even. I’m asking myself daily, What Did You Write Today? I also think its healthy to not just focus on one project nonstop. Some people can do that, sure. I’m not one of them. I need to take breaks and stretch. I’ve known others who benefit from that approach to their creative lives, too. My Friday Flash Fictions do that for me. It lets me step away from the heavy lifting of my Writing Life. Like now, I’m currently doing a ghost writing project, as well as revising/editing Rattlesnake Ridge (Echo Falls Book III). I get to dive into any fiction world, or character I want. It lets me play with style, dialogue, description, and exercising the skills I need as a writer.

Posting these will help keep me accountable on the other projects I’m working on as well as continue to increase my skills. When I was regularly teaching writing students, one of the things I used to preach was just going to the page and writing. Getting those creative brain cells, writing muscles used to just sitting down and producing stories.

I did that today. I sat down. Found a random prompt from the many resources at anyone’s fingertips. It brought to life a character, place, and environment and off I went. Most Flash Fiction is less than 2,000 words. Most flash fiction is typically a complete story. Today in my personal What Did You Write Today? efforts, after a little more than 1,000 words in less than an hour, I have the start of something. So in my typical fashion, not within parameters. But since this is my own island on the internet, I’m not getting voted out. Will I pick this thread up again next week? Not sure. Today I was mostly about playing around with mood, with description, and letting my imagination get into it. The important part is that I created something. And maybe we’ll see this story pick up again next week. I’m not going to limit myself. Again, sharing this is all about accountability, and potentially, encouraging others who have this back and forth with the Writing Life.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts. Practice reviewing here in the comments (please remember I’m human). Response and feedback are critical to the writer’s process and development. But mostly, leave me a comment about what you wrote today. What Did You Write Today?

Without further exposition, I give you this week’s Friday Flash Fiction:

Tudor’s Mountain Lodge

By Casondra Brewster

The road East opened again. More traffic would be expected today. The sun dappled it’s light onto the front lawn and very small parking lot to the South and the circular driveway, peaking through the line of sentry pines to the East. Lori Tudor peaked out the reading nook window of the main floor of this little bloated cottage carved into the mountain. She sighed and closed the book she held. Kindred. As an introvert of near debilitating proportions, she had enjoyed being snowed-in. But there was a new wood shed to build and the chickens needed another season of feed. Eggs. Breakfast.

“Coffee,” she uttered to no one. She was alone. The blizzard had kept everyone away. She breathed a bit deeper sending out gratitude to the universe that the storm happened whilst she had closed for the maintenance. The furnace had died. As a business, she had to be able to keep people warm when necessary. She could live by her fireplace for a few days and be fine in her en suite room. It was her sanctuary when the lodge was occupied with all those who seeked the solace of the mountains. Hikers, skiers, and lovers sought out Tudor’s Mountain Lodge. She could only house at most 6 guests. She preferred only two at a time and as the lodge grew more popular, she was able to raise rates to re-invest what she and Vince had started. 

“I’m not ready for today,” again she spoke to no one, this time in the kitchen. This time, a grumpy meow came from behind her. Lori turned to see her cat, Crab. He was waiting for breakfast. “Coffee first,” Lori looked at Crab as she flicked the “on” button for the industrial grinder/brewer that was almost as large as the six-burner gas stove. She squatted down and gave Crab a pet. Crab pawed at his outstretched hands. He was not in the mood for pets. He was in the mood for food. “Alright, brat,” she said. And moved to the cat food cabinet. 

While the cat gobbled his breakfast, coffee warmed Lori and its caffeine began to awaken her armor to deal with other people. People mean guests, both lodge guests and cafe guests. Vince always handled the people. She dealt with all the non-people work. But she’d slowly learned over the last decade that she could do both. She didn’t engage easily with people like her husband had. Yet she had developed skills and the goodness of the space, energy, and the delicious food she served had kept people coming. 

She fussed with the little radio in the corner of her office – really an old utility room off the kitchen – to get the weather report. They would see some melt today, but just enough to brighten the shoveled and plowed areas. She was happy the State had kept the  mountain road closed a bit longer so that residents along it could really dig out before recreational traffic ramped up again. But even on a Monday, people would be here. It was the holiday season after all. She heard the bell at the front door and turned off the radio.

“There’s a tree down right before the blind curve,” Lori heard as she came to the front room, the former front porch converted into a reception room. Her assistant, Roger was stomping snow off his boots and securing his gloves into pockets of a huge winter parka. 

“Good morning, friend,” Lori said. 

“Hey boss,” Roger said. 

“Oh, right, it’s a work day,” she said. 

“We can work together and be friends,” he said.

“Coffee?” Lori changed the subject. 

Roger nodded and followed Lori as she headed to the kitchen. 

Crab greeted Roger with a rub against his legs and a low purr. 

“Sure, he loves on you and barks at me,” Lori said. “So tell me about this tree.” She poured a cup for Roger. He took the pale gray mug with the TML logo made to look like mountains and trees engraved on the side. Lori thought the mug looked tiny in his hands, whereas she often felt like she needed to hold them with two hands.  

“Big tree fell over the road,” he said. He swallowed more coffee and then continued, “The DOT is on it – chainsaws buzzing. Just letting you know that traffic is backed up and it took me extra long to get here. I wasn’t trying to be late.” 

“You’re fine,” Lori said.

“I would have called, but I knew you were doing your morning thing,” he took a sip. 

“You know me well,” she said.

“Ten Years,” he said. 

“Ugh,” Lori said. “Don’t remind me how old I’m getting.” She winked at him and moved to the refrigerator and started pulling out milk and eggs. “I need to get these breakfast sandwiches made and some other prep for the cafe part. We have one couple and a single coming in. Do we have all the access points de-iced?”

“I’ll make tracks to make sure there’s even a good path from the smoking area to the parking lot,” Roger said. 

“Because that’s important,” Lori rolled her eyes.

Roger swallowed the last bit of his coffee. He gave Lori a wicked grin, pulled a cigar out of his inside jacket pocket and installed it in his mouth with much flourish. “It is M’Lady.” He left the kitchen with Crab on his heels. 

Lori worked the eggs into a nice scramble and cooked them into a thick omelet with a good bit of cheddar cheese. She thought about how overwhelmed she had been after Vince died and how easily she had found Roger and he had been the perfect fit as an assistant. He was a bit too macho at times for her, but given all he did for her, and that he only smoked outdoors, she forgave him his oddness, provided he allowed hers as well, which he clearly had for a decade plus. 

It dawned on her that she had missed his steady company during the snow-in. He didn’t stay too far from where she was, but the storm had been that bad to keep him from work. She had told him to just stay home until the roads opened. She was looking forward to the impromptu vacation. 

Inkster Dispatch: Changes Coming…

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For those who have been paying attention, my microfarm pretty much closed up shop in November 2017. I still have a reasonable sized garden: however, it will be harvested likely by the new owner of my property come fall of 2018. Hubby and I have hatched a plan, for which you can see here:  Proteus Rising. For those struck by tl;dr, we’re selling the house/property, buying a boat, and going from land to sea and all around the world.

I’ll likely keep my own personal website for all projects that are “just Casz,” because I won’t stop writing. But I don’t know what this change here at casondrabrewster.com is going to look like. It will still cover my creative life — whatever that ends up looking like. Not really sure.

But, now you know there are changes coming.

More soon.

Thanks for reading all the way.