By Lynn Sheridan, Joanna Rosenberg, Catherine Gombeski, and Christina Goodwin
Editor’s note: FYACS offers monthly creative writing sessions on Sunday mornings. On May 17, 2020, the group focused on writing scenes that set a character on a mission, create tension, and introduce an element of surprise. Read their scenes here:
The Front Door
By Lynn Sheridan
Someone knocks and I hide in the kitchen. My front door is blue. It was black a long time ago, then maroon. Now it’s blue. Robin Egg Blue. The remains of this morning’s breakfast still clutter the counter. I can’t resist the smell of waffles and pop my daughter’s leftovers into my mouth. They’re cold and soggy. I scrape the plates and load the dishwasher. Knock, knock. I don’t want to answer it. Knock, knock, knock. It’s louder this time. My body trembles. I grab the counter, getting a handful of maple syrup. I creep to the window and peek out. Just a man walking his dog and two ladies jogging by. I stand behind the door and listen. There’s the screech of kids playing and the groan of a lawnmower in the distance. Lilacs bloom in a vase on my kitchen table. I could breathe them in all day. I cut them from the tree in Suzie’s yard, but she doesn’t mind. The knocking comes again. I turn the knob, my hand sticky from the syrup. Slowly opening the door, I imagine it’s the Police, here to tell me there’s been an accident. A terrible accident. “We’re sorry,” they say, lowering their eyes. I stare outside. Bright blue and red lights flash. The warmth of the sun is on my face. I want to reach up and touch it. They’re still talking but I don’t hear them. I have to close it.
By Joanna Rosenberg
The sound of a donkey approaching fills the ears of my father, young 20-year old Michele. It is March of 1940. He looks up from his family garden to see who is coming. It’s only old Giovanni again carrying back his wares from town—formaggio, pane, e frutta—cheese, bread, and fruit. Michele is bored and frustrated. He was hoping for some news about the war. Was Italy going to enter? Would he be conscripted? So much of the information he needed seemed impossible to acquire in his small town in Molise—the most remote region of Italy.
By Catherine Gombeski
Movement flickers at the corner of an eye and the beast raises its head from its prey. Something intriguing lies just beyond the edges of her domain. Lips curve into a wolfish smile. Forgotten, her old quarry scuttles away before she can change her mind again. But there is no chance of that now, she is too transfixed.
This new game is larger, harder to catch and she vibrates with excitement when she realizes that she’s found it in a rare moment of distraction. It doesn’t even perk an ear as the beast makes her first move. Emboldened, she takes another step. Anticipation curls tightly in her stomach, she can’t believe her luck.
Her eagerness makes her incautious and her prey tilts an ear. Quickly, she flattens herself back, hopeful that she’s not been discovered. When she’s ready to venture a peek, she is relieved to find her quarry is once again distracted by its own work. She breathes a sigh of relief and resolves to be more careful.
Gingerly, she takes a step from her hiding spot, then another and another. On quiet feet, she closes the distance but holds for a final moment to gather her senses. A deep breath in and she springs.
With a yelp, her prey is toppled and pride surges in her. Grinning wide and triumphant she bows her head to her prize, hands at the ready. She doesn’t even have to make contact before her prey squirms and giggles, desperate to get away.
“Ah mommy!” The girl laughs.
“No! It’s the tickle monster and you’ll never escape me!” the mommy beast cries.
They collapse into a giggling heap, fingers tickling soft skin, while legs kick wildly.
Then, from nowhere, a hard pull on the mommy beast’s hair, and she turns to find twin hunters, come to protect their elder.
“Oh no!” In a moment, she is overturned, held down as much by breathless laughs as pudgy fingers.
It’s the girl’s turn to be triumphant.
“We got you!” she shouts gleefully while beaming proudly at her conspirators.
The mommy beast goes limp.
“Ugh, you win,” she grumbles in resignation. But she can’t be disappointed long with three Cheshires smiling down at her. She wraps them in a strong embrace, limbs tangling again before the younger two break free and toddle off to other adventures. The girl remains.
“Mommy, can I ride your back like a pony?”
She huffs indignantly before sitting up. Her huff becomes a sigh. The once untamable mommy beast shakes her head, knowing she has been cowed once again by the will of a four-year-old.
“Okay, climb on.”
Aunt Ivy’s Finger Cookies
By Christina Goodwin
It was, of course, the very last box I went through that yielded the long-sought-after recipe for Aunt Ivy’s finger cookies. These cookies, according to my mother, were the highlight of every Christmas at her great aunt’s house in Syracuse, Nebraska.
I was going to faithfully recreate them. Not surprisingly—much of the recipe’s instructions were brief, but I remembered enough about the process to give it a go. I took comfort in the careful measuring and leveling of the flour and the rhythmic sound of the knife chopping the pecans (they had to be pecans—this was underlined in Ivy’s tidy cursive). Even the somewhat precarious process of rolling the cookies, shaped like a chubby toddler’s fingers, in the powdered sugar while the cookies were still hot (also emphatically recorded in the compact script of another era), was calming.
The smell was heavenly—I mean what’s not to savor—butter, sugar, flour and nuts. I had not remembered this aroma the same way in which I coded say…banana bread. I was lost in this olfactory fog when the urgent notification bell sounded on my phone, which, quite inconveniently, I left upstairs to charge.
My fingers still encrusted with a thin layer of melted powdered sugar which would not wipe off, I sprinted upstairs. It was a calculated risk—there were still 3 minutes remaining on the batch in the oven. I would grab the phone and the charger and bring them downstairs.
I could not unlock the screen with my fingerprint; the powdered sugar patina proved enough of a barrier to security. I had to acquiesce—there was no getting around washing my hands after all. “Haste makes waste” echoed in my head as I attempted to complete the bare minimum wash. A quick dab on the towel. The oven timer with 38 seconds remaining…
The screen is duly unlocked, and I am more than annoyed to find that the (potentially cookie-ruining) alert was generated by none other than the retail behemoth known as Wayfair. I had left items in my cart, and did I still want that accent table? and could they show me other items? Dammit. How did that notification sound almost exactly like the Emergency notification?
Why couldn’t it sound more like the beep—beep—beep I hear now? Oh, the cookies! Never mind.