Today’s post comes from Cathy MacKenzie. The prompt this time was to write a story using five of the following words: shadow, mountain, shell, sunlight, hammock, bottle, chain, wheel.
Cathy’s most recent publication, BETWEEN THESE PAGES, is a compilation of 18 short stories. The book is available on Amazon and Smashwords:
Shadow of the Mountain
The shadow of the mountain brushed over Sheila as she peered over the cliff’s edge. The long way down scared her, as it would anyone. She turned from the craggy view and faced the mountain. The dark monstrosity loomed back at her, daring her to do the deed.
“You can’t stop me,” she muttered.
She’d return later. She wouldn’t change her mind.
Upon returning to the camp, the first sight she saw was Steve flaked out on the hammock. The last remnants of sunlight glanced across the beer cans on the folding table beside him. Drunk again, she thought. Did he ever remain sober? How much more could she tolerate?
Sheila’s stomach growled, but she had no desire to cook dinner. What was the use? Should she prepare a last dinner for her husband? No, what a waste of food, not to mention her time.
She rummaged in the cooler for the half sub sandwich she hadn’t eaten the previous day. The bread would be soggy and the lettuce wilted, but she didn’t care. Leftovers would fill the void. And there was that unopened bag of chocolate chip cookies. A few of those would take away the hunger. Chocolate chip cookies were her favourite.
When Sheila flipped the metal tab on the soda can, Steve stirred. Just as I expected, she thought.
“Wha’s for dinna?”
“I just finished my sub. Now I’m eating cookies.” Sheila stuffed her mouth with the sweet goodness.
“What about me?”
“What about you?”
Sheila acknowledged his glare. “I’ll make you something. What do you want?”
“Dunno.” Steve, in his attempt to get out of the hammock, fell to the ground.
Sheila giggled. Would he have bruises? Didn’t matter.
“Hey,” she said. “I took a walk earlier, while you were sleeping. There’s a gorgeous view not minutes away. Let’s go take a look before it gets dark. Then I’ll make you dinner.”
“What? But I’m hungry now.” Steve slurred his words.
Sheila relished her husband’s drunkenness. Her task would be so easy.
“It’s only a few minutes away. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
She walked toward Steve, who still remained on the ground. “Here, let me help you up.” Sheila hated the touch of him. Hated the thought of his hand clenched in hers. But she had to continue the charade. Only a few more minutes. Not long. She could do it.
“Come on.” She gripped Steve’s arm. “You okay?”
“I think I had too many beer on an empty stomach.”
“You only had two.” She hadn’t had trouble counting two cans.
“Two? No, I think I had more than that.” Steve giggled.
“Oh.” Recognition dawned. “You were into the rum, too?”
“Right.” She should have known. The sun didn’t glint on the plastic glasses strewed on the grass, nor the empty bottle tossed by the tent.
“Okay, let’s go. I’ll lead, okay?”
“Sure, honey. Whatever you want. Always whatever you want.”
Sheila ignored him and continued to drag him to the cliff’s edge.
“See,” she said, once they arrived.
“Look at that view. The land on the other side. The mountain behind us. It’s getting darker now. It was prettier when the sun shone down.”
“It is pretty. You’re pretty. Think we can do it tonight?”
“Yeah, you know. It. Sex.”
“I don’t know. I’m getting a headache.”
“Well, I feel one coming on. Might have one later, I don’t know.” Sheila stared at her husband. Definitely drunk, yet he still thought of sex? Sure, she thought, that’s what men did. Sex always on their minds.
Suddenly, she felt as free as the wild black crows that landed every day in their front yard. She had watched the birds on occasion, wondering what how it felt to sweep down and accomplish a perfect landing on the grass. Did crows know how well they did? Despite their savage look—their evilness—they were graceful as they soared and landed. Sure, they scavenged, ready to pick at the remains of anything they found, but they were fighters. They existed for themselves. They did what they needed to survive.
As she would. Once Steve was gone, she wouldn’t have to feign headaches any longer. Wouldn’t have to lie. Wouldn’t have to pretend.
She could be herself.
“Over here,” Sheila said. “Come closer.” She grasped his hand. “Look.” She pointed down to the water.
“It looks pretty far down there. You’re not suggesting we go down?”
“No, of course not. Just wanted you to see it. There’s currents down there, too. Look over there.” Sheila pointed toward the west where the water flowed fast and furious over rocks and brush jutting from the water.
Steve turned. Sheila turned, too, in an attempt to move behind him, so she could gently push him over. Yes, she’d be gentle. He deserved that, didn’t he? One last gentle thrust. He’d never know what hit him.
But, when she took one step, she noticed he moved, as well. His eyes, wild and menacing like the crows sprinting across their yard, burned into hers. Mesmerized, she stared. Movement happened fast. Fast, yet slow. Steve’s large hand hit her behind. Not gentle. Not gentle like she would have been. They were inches away from the edge. She had gotten too close. Hadn’t planned carefully enough.
Steve was drunk, wasn’t he? That was her second-to-last thought, just before her feet left the safety of the ground and she was propelled into the air. That one bum-tap had done it. But no, it was more than a tap. It was a push! He had pushed her. Not gentle at all.
When she hung—just for a second, just a mere second—over the boulders jutting from the shoreline below, she remembered the crows. Her last thought. The blackness before her. Black like crows. She flapped her arms, brandishing them through the air, hoping she’d land as graceful as those crows in her front yard.
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Catherine A. MacKenzie