Category Archives: Story Samples

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 15.

Hope you all are having a great October. The first giveaway of a signed copy of Soul Cages on Goodreads went so well that I will have 9 more copies to offer in a Goodreads giveaway from Oct. 19 to Nov. 18.

Here comes Part One. 15. of Soul Cages (PG-13). Enjoy.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

15

Dad, with Henry next to him, found me in the dining area. “Are you all right?” Dad said.

Mom came over. “She’s okay. Thin air got to her. Barbara thinks she’s dehydrated.”

Dad took my empty cup from the table, walked over to a carafe of ice water, filled it up, and brought it back. “Drink.”

Henry fidgeted as the crowding got worse. I swallowed the water as quickly as I could.

Andervender’s voice came closer from the other side of the curtains, which meant he was trying to make his way toward the dining area.

I said, “Maybe I should take Henry to see the Sunday School room. It’d be empty now.”

Dad studied Henry, then nodded. “We’ll come and get you when it’s time.”

The door to the back rooms had been propped open with a brick. Henry and I hurried to the Sunday School door. Peering through the mesh glass, I checked that the kids were gone. All clear.

We went in. I shoved the door shut while Henry went up to a crude painting of Noah’s ark covering a wall. He touched each animal, naming it. “Elephant, zebra, deer, rabbit, giraffe, …”

A comforting litany, and the smell of markers and finger paint would help Henry feel safe.

Then I heard Andervender’s muffled voice coming closer and closer. He must be headed to his office to get out of that black robe.

I peeked out. Andervender’s office door was open, while Matthew and John lingered outside. Both of them caught sight of me before I could duck back. Crap, I shouldn’t have looked.

I studied the room’s concrete walls—no windows, just the one door. We’re stuck. Tempting to lock the door, but that would create a fuss if the Andervenders did stop by to visit Henry and me. With any luck they’d just go back to the dining area.

I heard footsteps, and knew with a sinking sensation it had to be them. So I scrambled over to the teacher’s chair, moved it so I blocked access to Henry, and sat down.

Andervender came to stand at the glass, looking in, and opened the door when he caught sight of us. He said, “May I come in?” as he stepped inside. “Feeling better?”

Henry froze in tracing a penguin’s flipper.

“Yeah.” I fought the urge to scoot my chair as far away from him as possible. His aura of hate was gone, but it lurked there underneath the surface, like beetles waiting to be exposed by overturning a rock.

Matthew and John stood at the open doorway. I cursed my dress, for Matthew was way more interested in looking at me today. John’s gaze kept anxiously going from Andervender to Henry and back.

Andervender cleared his throat. “I know this may be awkward for you, but sometimes, well—sometimes a parishioner will be overcome by the Holy Spirit during one of my sermons.”

I clamped my mouth shut. The words were there in my mind, waiting to be spoken, like a prophecy. But there was no way I was going to tell him what I’d sensed as I’d listened to him preach.

Be careful, an inner voice warned. This man is dangerous, and he won’t like it if you criticize his sermons.

Andervender said, “Well, make sure you drink every hour for the next couple of days. We’ll see you at Youth Group this evening.” He slapped his hands together and rubbed them. “I’d better get back to my flock.”

He squeezed past Matthew and John, and disappeared out of sight.

Matthew blocked the doorway. I couldn’t help scowling at him. He said, “I’ll be by at four-thirty with the SUV.”

Like I didn’t already know that. Jerk.

Henry had scrunched himself down, making sure his back was to the door, to stare at the painting of a dolphin.

John glanced down the hall. “Here come your parents. Matt, I think you need to move. You’re blocking the door.”

Matthew twitched. “Oh, so I am. Here.” He stepped backward until there was space to get out.

I suspected Matthew was too close, but maybe Henry could handle it. “Come on, Henry, time to go.”

Henry got as far as the door, then scrunched up against the door frame. He wouldn’t look at Matthew.

John said, “I think Henry is spooked about yesterday. Take two steps back, Matt.”

Matthew folded his arms across his chest, but did take two steps backward.

I could see through the propped-open door that Dad and Mom had stopped to speak to Mr. Rickmand. I sensed Matthew was gathering up the nerve to make small talk with me while we waited for my parents.

Well, I wanted none of it. “Henry, let’s go out the back.”

“Wait,” Matthew said.

“I’m taking a short cut to the car.” I shoved open the back entrance so Henry could rush through. “This way is much quieter for Henry.”

“That’s a good idea,” John said. He clapped Matthew on the arm. “How about we see how Mom is doing?”

Matthew called out, “I’ll be there at four-thirty.”

As the steel door closed, I heard John saying to Matthew, “You know, if you were le—”

The door clunked shut.

************** End of Part One. 15. *****************

Cheers, L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 14.

We have now reached Part One. 14. of Soul Cages. This is a YA novel with a Gothic streak, which is why it’s PG-13. When we last left off, Marian had finished talking to her friend Nicole before going to bed.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

14

In the dream I was in the reception area outside the cruise ship dining hall; gold-gilt mirrors covered the pale blue walls. Weeping Jewish men and women stood in a crowd around me.

A waiter threw open the dining hall doors, and stepped back. I entered amidst the crowd. The dining hall was filled with piles and piles and piles of shoes on the blue plush of the carpet. A woman, her hair teased into gray curls, stopped at a waist-high mound of decaying shoes to grab hold of a man’s brown loafer, clutching it to her chest while crying.

The woman said to me, “When you’re young, you think it will last forever. Then the end comes.”

I saw in the mound black patent girls’ shoes, green rain boots, work boots with tar stains, hiking boots, dress shoes, and sneakers.

I wandered among the piles, feeling dazed, and then drawn toward the flickering candles of quiet alcove.

Within the alcove was an elderly Jewish man, in skullcap and business suit, standing next to human-high menorahs with all the candles flaming. He said to me in an Eastern European accent, “Remember the dead,” and handed me a piece of cracker like cardboard, which had on top a thin layer of ashes.

He said, “Eat, and remember the dead, carry it within you.”

I placed it in my mouth, and swallowed it without chewing. It had no taste.

“Marian, wake up!” Dad rattled my locked doorknob.

“All right, all right already,” I called out. My mind felt blurred. I looked for my alarm clock, then realized it was packed away, so I pulled out my cell phone from underneath a pillow. 7:51 a.m.—no time for a run.

The intensity of the dream shook me. I could almost imagine I could hear weeping.

Get a hold of yourself. Talking to Ben triggered that dream.

I dug out jeans and a white blouse, yanked my hair back into my usual ponytail, smeared on a thick layer of cherry lip balm, slathered on skin lotion—the air is so incredibly dry here—and slipped out into the kitchen.

Dad took one look at me and said, “Nope. Go change.”

I glanced at Mom, who was wearing a blue dress, microwaving frozen pancakes. My dresses were hidden deep in one of the boxes. I’d have to waste time digging them out. And then there would be the hassle of wearing pantyhose. “It’ll take too long. We’ll be late for church.”

Dad scowled. “You should have gotten ready last night. You had plenty of time to do so.”

“I passed out instead of unpacking.”

Dad tapped his fork against his plate. “That’s too bad. Go change.” He’d put on a blazer, tie, and slacks.

I retreated to my room, cursing under my breath. I hated wearing dresses and pantyhose, except for dances.

It took too long for my taste, but I finally found a creamy long-sleeve dress with tiny violets. Mom had bought it for me two months ago, despite my protests.

“Time to go,” Dad called out.

I raced for the kitchen, grabbed two pancakes, rolled a sausage into them, and took quick bites.

Henry sat before an empty syrup-coated plate. He was wearing khakis and a button-down shirt, but no tie (ties triggered his gag reflex).

We trooped into the two-car garage, which had one side piled high with boxes. Mom and Dad chatted about unpacking. I asked if I could take Henry for a walk in the afternoon.

“Do it,” Dad said, “the fresh air will do him good.”

Mom opened her mouth as if to object, then closed it, and instead tapped her glossy fingernails on the car window in a tap, tap-tap, tap rhythm.

The drive to First Beginnings took about fifteen minutes. We pulled into the parking lot of a small shopping center gone to seed. Most of the storefronts had empty windows. In the center was a retail space with its windows covered over with white paper decorated with cross paintings.

“They just moved here,” said Mom. “They got too big for their old space.” She pointed eagerly at a sign that hung above the entrance. “Gena said they got the sign up two weeks ago.”

The storefront sign read FIRST BEGINNINGS OF THE GODLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH in gold letters.

The parking lot in front of the church was filling up with cars and trucks. Most of the people, all white, were over forty. Some had children, and one man pulled an oxygen tank on wheels behind him. A tube wound its way up from the tank to his nose.

“That’s Mr. Rickmand,” Mom whispered, pointing at the man with the tank.

To me he looked to be in only middling health, despite his miracle healing.

My doubt must have shown, for Mom added, “He was bed-ridden six months ago. Now the cancer is in remission, and he can go out and drive himself places.”

As we got closer to Mr. Rickmand, I heard his oxygen tank make a hissing noise every couple of seconds, like a balloon being deflated. He held the glass door open with his body so that we could enter.

Inside I found the store shelves had been removed, but there were faint impressions in the linoleum where they had been. The front of the empty space had been filled with polished wooden benches.

I’d guess there were over a hundred people. Mom had said something about the First Beginnings congregation nearly doubling as word of Pastor Andervender’s healing gift got around.

The benches faced a lectern which stood before blue velvet curtains hung across from wall to wall. It reminded me of the stage curtains at East Alexandria High. Certain curtains were closer than others, so people could walk “backstage” easily.

Next to the lectern was an American flag on a pole. A huge silver satin cross had been sewn onto the curtain fabric behind the lectern.

Dad chose a bench close to the exit, despite an usher trying to coax us to sit closer to the lectern—a smart choice in case Henry couldn’t handle the scents or crowd. Henry was wedged between Mom and Dad, while I sat between Mom and an elderly lady with frayed sleeves.

Various strangers came up to greet us, and it did not end until the Andervender family filed in from behind a curtain to take their reserved places in the first row. Luke and Mark were missing. There must be a Sunday school for younger kids. John’s head was down in contemplation, but Matthew looked around and waved at my Mom and Dad. Gena made a tiny wave with a gloved hand as well.

An usher near the lectern made a motion for all to rise. Pastor Andervender came from behind a curtain wearing a black robe and ascended the lectern.

Andervender fiddled with the microphone pinned to his robe, then started a long prayer. Flashbacks of Henry struggling under his hands made it hard for me to listen. My hands trembled, so I squeezed them into fists at my sides.

Then we were allowed to sit. Andervender read various verses from a big leather Bible on the lectern. But all I caught were fragments that floated up to my consciousness like corks bobbing to the surface: kingdomdarknessweepinggnashing.

I checked on Henry, to find him zoned out, eyes closed, rocking slightly, his hand covering his nose.

Andervender’s eyes flicked around, studying the faces, and he launched into his sermon. “We have been given the gift of spiritual truth, a truth rejected by the Jews, and lost by many of our Christian brethren. So few grains winnowed from the chaff, and it pains me to see it. I see before me those righteous few who—”

My breaths came faster. I put my hands over my ears, rubbing at my temples so that it would look like I had a headache.

His voice muffled, I watched Andervender’s face contort with breaking waves of pride. Underneath, like oceanic depths under a crust of ice, was abiding anger and fear. He described with relish what hell would do to all the unrighteous ones.

To me it felt as if a sly awareness seeped into the store with each word out of Andervender’s mouth. I looked around in a panic.

There were engrossed faces, tiny nods of agreement. Henry was oblivious. Dad shifted in discomfort, but Mom was drawn in, as well as Matthew and Gena. John looked as if he’d left his body behind to play dutiful pastor’s son while his mind escaped.

I dug my thumbs into my ears, trying to block Andervender out.

Mom poked my elbow and said close to my ear, “Are you all right?”

I shook my head.

So Mom grabbed hold of my arm, helped me to stumble past Henry and Dad, and took me outside.

I placed a hand against the pitted glass window to steady myself as the dizziness faded. The glass vibrated with Andervender’s microphone-enhanced words.

Mom held out a handkerchief. “Are you going to be sick?”

I took deep breaths of the dry fume-scented air. A blaring of horns could be heard from down the street at the intersection. I had to try twice before I could get any words out. “Just dizzy.”

“They say the thin air can sneak up on you. How about we go around to the back door, and get you some juice from the church kitchen?”

“Could we sit in the car for a few minutes? I’d like to put my head between my legs. That would look weird in the kitchen.”

“Fine.”

I plodded to the car. Mom put a hand on my shoulder—it felt like having a bird alight there.

After Mom unlocked our car remotely, I fumbled my way into the front passenger seat, pushed it back, and tucked my head close to my knees. Mom got in the driver’s seat to turn on the air conditioning.

With the car doors closed I couldn’t hear Andervender’s voice anymore. The tight coil of my muscles loosened.

Mom said, “Stomach bug?”

“No. Tired, and the thin air.”

Mom tapped the steering wheel. “I know this move has been hard on you and Henry. It’ll take time to adjust.”

There’s an understatement. “Uh-huh.”

I heard Mom relax back into her seat with a squeak of leather.

My breathing was almost back to normal, and the shakes were gone. What the heck am I going to do? I can’t stand Andervender’s voice. The thought of having to spend months, let alone years, listening to Andervender every Sunday brought the quivers back.

“Oh dear, you look green again. You sure you’re not getting the flu?” Mom reached over and opened the glove compartment, taking out a plastic bag. “Here, throw up in this if you need to. Or maybe we should open the car doors. It’s so hot in here even with the air conditioning.”

There was a knock on Mom’s window. I peered up to see Barbara studying us.

Mom lowered her window. “Oh, hi Barbara. I think the thin air has gotten to Marian.”

Barbara said, “Would it help if I brought a cup of water?”

“Oh, could you?” Mom said.

“I’ll be right back.” Barbara disappeared.

I racked my brain for a good excuse to stay in the car. But all the excuses I could think of sounded lame, so unless I could make myself throw up I’d have to go back in.

Barbara brought back a Styrofoam cup filled with water. I drank it in small sips. I saw Barbara point at the gold watch on her wrist.

Mom said, “Marian, I promised to help in the dining area after the service.”

The two women herded me out of the car, and around the side of the shopping center to the back entrance. Barbara reassured Mom that many people had trouble with the thin air the first few weeks in Albuquerque, and that it would pass.

Barbara led us past splotches of broken glass amongst the concrete, and yanked open a steel door. The back entrance opened onto a narrow corridor with one door on either side, and another in front of us. The right door had a glass window embedded with mesh wire, and SUNDAY SCHOOL painted on it. I could hear kids giggling from inside.

The door on the left had a wooden plaque with PASTOR ANDERVENDER’S OFFICE scrolled in gold letters.

Barbara took us through the door at the end of the corridor. I found myself in a makeshift break area curtained off from the sanctuary where the church service was still going on.

Two long tables were against the wall, and on one were carafes of water or orange juice amongst plugged-in urns for coffee or hot water. The other table had Danishes in bakery boxes, and orange and pineapple slices piled high on platters.

There were no walls to block out Andervender’s booming voice as he led the congregation in prayer.

Try to ignore him. Pretend it’s the surf.

“Sit here,” Mom said to me, pulling out a folding chair from one of the scattered dining tables.

I muttered “Thanks” and sank into the chair. The air-conditioned metal chilled the back of my knees.

Barbara double-checked the urns and carafes, while Mom rearranged the paper plates and plastic forks into smaller piles on the food table.

I heard Andervender call out, “Anyone who wishes to ask for God’s healing, please come forward.” The congregation became silent in expectancy. Andervender said the same healing prayer for each person, six in all. I noticed he had none of the fierceness he’d shown with Henry. And not once did he say “affliction” or “spirits.” At the end, there were faint sighs of disappointment. No miracle healings today.

One last prayer, then a roar of “Amen.” The service was over.

************** End of Part One. 14. *****************

Have a great week! L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 13.

We’ve reached Part One. 13. of Soul Cages. When we last left off, Marian had hidden in her bedroom to try to forget her troubles, and had fallen asleep. (The novel is PG-13.)

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

13

My cell phone woke me. I glanced at it while under the covers. 8:43 p.m. The number was Ben’s.

“Hi. How’s it going?” Ben’s voice sounded so kind I wanted to curl up around my cell phone.

“Uh—not too bad. Henry insists I take him back to the park tomorrow.”

“When? Maybe we can join you.”

I smiled until I remembered tomorrow was Sunday. “I don’t know. Maybe in the afternoon—though it’ll be hot—it’s the only time I can take him. In the morning will be church service, and in the evening is a mandatory Youth Group meeting … I don’t want to go.” As soon I said the words I wished I could take them back. Ben wouldn’t want to listen to me whine about my parents’ church.

Ben cleared his throat. “First Beginnings got a bad reputation in the Jewish community last winter.”

“Why?”

“They started off in November approaching Jewish people in public places. Then they went around knocking on any door where there were Hanukkah decorations. A couple of rabbis tried to reason with the church’s pastor, but had no success. Complaints were filed with the police.”

“They didn’t hurt anyone, did they?”

“No. Just words.”

“I’m sorry.” I took a breath. “I don’t want to be part of First Beginnings. You don’t have to worry about me bothering you … and I know John won’t.”

“Thanks.” An awkward pause, then Ben talked about the two physics books I ought to get.

I crawled out of bed to find the pen in my purse and heard the bathroom sink turn on full blast. Henry getting ready for bed.

Ben said, “Are you okay?”

“Sorry, Ben. I was listening for my folks. I need to go. Henry expects us all at his goodnight ritual at nine-fifteen. Let’s plan on meeting at the park at one-thirty.”

“Sounds good.”

I hit the OFF button just as someone reached my door.

“Marian?” My mom’s voice.

“Yeah, just a moment, I’m getting ready to change.” I switched the phone to vibrate and shoved it under my pillow, and unlocked my door.

Mom gave me the expected news that it was time to get ready for bed since church would be early.

Almost as soon as I got the door closed again, the cell phone buzzed, making the pillow shift. Next time I’d turn it completely off.

I recognized the number. Pastor Andervender’s home.

Oh, wait, John was going to call me.

“Marian.” It was John, sounding exhausted.

“You okay?” I slid open my closet, flicked on the light, and stepped in, sliding the door shut behind me. It would help muffle my voice if Mom or Dad walked by.

“I have to keep this short.” His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been talking for hours. Or arguing. He said he’d try to explain Henry to his dad. I doubt Andervender took it well. John said, “I’ve convinced Dad to back off from Henry for a little while, a few weeks.”

“Thank you. But Henry hates to be touched. I don’t think that’s going to change in a few weeks time.”

“I know. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. At least for now he doesn’t have to deal with a healing prayer session every day.”

I shuddered. Having Andervender chase my brother around on a daily basis would be more than Henry could stand.

“I’d better go,” John said. “Maybe you and Henry can go for a hike later in the week?”

“Sure.”

He hung up.

I did the goodnight ritual with Henry, took a shower, and got ready for bed. Then I punched in Nicole’s number and braced myself for getting chewed out.

“Marian, what has gotten into you! You’re never late in calling me. And those pictures of the house were so depressing. How are you?” Louis Armstrong music played in the background, which meant Nicole was having insomnia problems again. I’d seen Nicole on occasion, since her mother’s cancer diagnosis, stuck awake until three in the morning.

I said, “How is your mother doing?”

“It’s rough. But the tumors are shrinking. Grandpa and I are going to the farmer’s market tomorrow. We’re thinking maybe a vegetable soup will tempt Mom to eat. And Mom still insists I go to the family reunion with Dad. But you haven’t answered my question.”

“I’m—dammit, no, I’m not okay.” I sat on the closet floor, and pulled my body in tight. “It’s so messed up out here, I don’t even know where to start.”

Nicole said, soothing, “Start from my call Thursday night, and go from there.”

So I did, though I left out that it was John who had told me about Sydney’s suicide.

“This is serious,” Nicole said. “They could hurt Henry by accident, just like that quack healer almost did. And First Beginnings sounds wacko. You’re going to have to call your aunt.”

I grimaced at the memory of Aunt Letty and Dad screaming at each other about the quack treatment I’d let Letty know about. “She doesn’t get back from Germany until August. I’m on my own until then. Both Mom and Dad gave permission to Pastor Andervender to do the laying on of hands. Until I can get them to change their minds, perhaps John can keep coaxing his dad to postpone the healing attempts.”

Nicole said, “Good luck. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”

“I know.”

“Oh, by the way, Trent was asking about you.” Nicole snickered. “He broke up with Sage, and was miffed to find out you were gone.”

“That sleazebag can get lost.”

“Don’t tell me you’re still beating yourself about him.”

“I can’t help it. Every time I remember being at the doctor, I want to punch him in the mouth.” I’d been lucky. I hadn’t caught anything from him the few lousy times I’d slept with him—I’d insisted on him using protection despite his complaints—and then I’d found out about him sneaking around with Sage behind my back, and dumped him. Humiliating in the extreme.

I’d learned the hard way that love could be a one-way street to getting used.

Nicole said, “I think you should have a T-shirt made with ‘World’s Worst Lover’ printed on it, and mail it to him. He acts like you’re going to crawl back to him someday. Too bad Matthew is another jerk.”

“Yeah. And John is too tied up with that awful church, and I wouldn’t dare bring Ben near my parents right now with the way First Beginnings is about Jews. Dating can wait. I’ll find someone at Juan Tabo.”

“You know,” Nicole said, “if things get, um, difficult, I could ask my Mom if you could rent the basement room.”

My mind leaped at the thought—finishing up at my old school, no more First Beginnings. But what would happen to Henry? “I don’t know,” I said. “Let me see if I can talk sense into my folks.”

I turned the conversation to what Nicole was up to, tired of talking about my own mess.

************** End of Part One. 13. *****************

See you in October! L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 12.

Now on to this week’s Soul Cages excerpt. We’ve reached Part One. 12. of Soul Cages. Marian is about to have a confrontation with her parents. (This novel is PG-13.)

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

12

The expected fight with my parents came after a late dinner of leftovers.

I’d helped clear the dining room table, then drifted amongst the boxes to the living room to stare at the street. A neighbor in jogging shorts passed by, her German Shepherd running next to her.

I need to start running again.

Then I heard Henry being shooed off to his bedroom to watch an Animal Planet DVD on his player. With headphones.

Mom came into the living room and pulled the thick curtains shut.

Dad said, “We need to have a talk.” He motioned for me to sit on the white couch.

“Okay,” I said. I made no move toward the couch (which made the room seem an even dingier brown).

“Have a seat,” Dad said.

“No thanks, I’d rather stand,” I said.

“I’m going to sit,” Mom said. “My feet are killing me.”

Dad said, “You owe Mom an apology for your behavior today.”

I stood mute.

Dad added, “You almost broke Pastor Andervender’s pinky. And then you didn’t even bother to apologize during prayer circle.”

“I had to stop him, he was—”

No excuses. You hurt everyone’s feelings with what you said about the church school.”

I sighed. “I’m sorry if anyone took offense by my wanting to go to Juan Tabo.”

“What is this?” Dad threw up his hands. “You like the thought of going to a school filled with gangs and druggies?”

Mom bobbed her head in agreement.

They were exaggerating, I was sure of it. “I’m going to Juan Tabo!” My own voice spooked me; I’d used the same tone Grannie had when Dad unsuccessfully tried to talk Grannie out of going to New York City for the poetry slam.

Mom and Dad looked at each other as if unsure what to do next.

I said, “We’re all exhausted. Let’s drop this.”

“This isn’t over,” Mom said, “but we’ll stop for tonight. You will be going to First Beginnings for school.”

Let her take the parting shot, I told myself. Otherwise I’ll have to stand here all night arguing. I want to rest.

I made my way down the darkening bedroom halls. When I flipped on the ceiling light in my bedroom, I felt like I was staring at a jail dorm room. The bars. The stark walls. My bare mattress.

I shut my door and locked it.

Then I searched the labels until I found a box with sheets, pillows, and bedspreads, and ripped it open to make my bed.

I crawled underneath the covers to pull them over my head. They smelled of my old bedroom. I could almost pretend I was back in Alexandria, but the underlying swamp stink gave it away.

I ought to get back up and start unpacking, or at least call Nicole, but it felt good to lie quietly.

I want it all to go away. God, if you’re out there, just make it all go away.

************** End of Part One. 12. *****************

See you on the last day of September, L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 11.

Now on to this week’s story excerpt. We’ve reached Part One. 11. of Soul Cages. Marian has gone out into the back yard to escape the pressures of the house party. (This novel is PG-13.)

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

11

I found the backyard strangely empty. Perhaps everyone had been told to stay out of it, or else few people wanted to go through the house of a dead girl to get to it.

I was almost across the cracked patio, when Mom followed me out.

Mom called out, “Come back here. We’re not done talking.”

I pointed at Henry, who sat under the shade of the house with his notepad, counting birds.

Mom shook her head, the I-don’t-care-if-he-hears shake.

I waited for Mom to start the fight.

“You’re going to the church school,” Mom said. “That’s final.”

“How about if we talk about this later?”

“There’s nothing to talk about. You’re going to the same school Henry is.” Mom folded her arms. “If you make things difficult, we’ll ground you until you see reason.” Mom’s eyes flicked toward the cell phone on my belt.

So, they’ve started thinking about taking away my phone. I resisted the urge to protectively cover it with my hand.

Mom continued. “I don’t want to hear any more talk about Juan Tabo. It’s rude, like their school isn’t good enough for you. You’ll do fine getting into college.”

My throat constricted. “You’re the one who said I’d be going to that stupid church school, not me.” I walked away toward the apple tree.

Henry had his hands over his ears.

I jumped when Mom’s hand grabbed my shoulder, and spun me around.

There were tears on Mom’s lashes. “Why can’t you get along? Why do you always have to make things difficult? This is important to me, and to your dad. We’re trying to help Henry.”

I thought of Andervender’s seizure of Henry while Mom and Dad watched. Rage welled inside me.

Well?” Mom cried out. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

I turned away.

Mom said, “You didn’t even give them a chance to show you the school. Gena said you’re acting spoiled and unfair.”

I whirled around. “Screw fair! You let those creeps touch Henry!” My whole body shook so badly I couldn’t walk.

Mom fled back into the house.

I saw Henry sitting with his fingers stuck in his ears, eyes down, rocking. Once my shakes slowed, I went over to him and gently tugged his fingers out of his ears. I said, “Let’s go count the birds in the apple tree.”

The trickling sound of the swamp cooler gave the illusion of coolness. We’d stay under the apple tree until the crowds thinned.

I sat down next to Henry and crossed my ankles. In the quiet I could plan my next steps in going to Juan Tabo. From looking at Ben’s map, the high school was too far to walk to—I’d have to take the bus, or get a bike.

A bike. That’s a great idea. There are lots of bike trails around here. And I’ve got enough in my savings account to get a used one.

And it would open up more possibilities for part-time work.

I’d also see about getting registered for classes and having a copy of my high school transcript sent over. My mind drifted off into memories of high school in Alexandria.

The back door squeaked open, startling me out of a doze. Footsteps paused, then came toward us.

To my relief it was John who came around the side of the house with unopened water bottles in his hands.

Henry said, “So far I’ve counted three chickadees, six doves, four pigeons, and one robin.”

While handing me the water bottles, John said to Henry, “If you put up a sugar feeder, you’ll attract hummingbirds this summer.”

Henry wrote it down in his notebook.

John said to me, “Almost everyone is gone since the vans are unloaded.” He frowned. “Do you mind if I call you on your cell phone? I’ve got a bad feeling about,” he jerked a thumb at the house, “this.”

“Sure.”

John pulled out a pencil stub and a napkin, and wrote my number down, folding the napkin up tight to hide in his pocket.

I flipped open my phone. “Is there a number I can reach you at?”

“Sort of.” John rubbed his forehead, thinking. “I don’t have a cell phone. Your best bet is calling the home number. Otherwise I’m out in the truck somewhere.” After telling me the home number, he said, “If you or Henry need me, call. Also, I talked my dad into staying away from Henry for the rest of today. Henry won’t have to join the prayer circle when we leave, but you will.” John made to leave.

I said, “Wait. The teenager in the kitchen—was that Laura?”

He reddened.

“And the ultra-thin woman next to Laura was her mom?”

“Yes. Barbara.”

“Okay.”

John gave me a puzzled look when I didn’t say anything more. But as far as I was concerned, his breakup with Laura was none of my business.

************** End of Part One. 11. *****************

See you next time, L.M.