The runner and the berry juice

She was running on a trail when she found a large patch of blood on a part of the path. The blood is mixed with berries and she is initially unsure if it is blood or squashed berry juice. In her heart she knows it is blood and on her return trip, still pacing herself to the music in her headphones, she pulls out the ear buds and looks more closely.

Off in the grass, on the verge, is another bright red patch, smaller than the first but the same unnatural colour that had caught her eye on the way out. It had been very early in the morning and her breath was smokey in the cold air. More natural reds and oranges of fallen maple leaves and straw brown in needles have washed into the edge of the path from rain the night before; but this bright red trail leads into the trees and shows in the green of the remaining grass as though the sun was highlighting it. She is tempted to ignore it. It had been easy to ignore on the way out and now she feels chilled. It could be an injured raccoon or other animal, but the grass is undisturbed.
She follows the trail and down the back in more pine needles, the amount of blood seems to grow until there is a puddle, and then a man’s body. He is lying on his side with his right hand holding his stomach and blood covers his fingers, drying and no longer flowing. His face is contorted in pain and his eyes are partly open, glinting in the sun coming through the half-leaved branches. The faint beat on her headphones seems to intrude into the silence of the forest as they dangle from her neck. She bends over him and seeing that he is obviously dead, quickly turns away and clutches her own stomach as she lurches to one side, narrowly avoiding vomiting on the poor body.
Finally she stands up and fumbles with the cell phone in her jeans pocket. Her hands are not working to order, but she manages to phone for the police. It seems sad to say that she doesn’t think she needs an ambulance but the emergency operator must have had these calls before because they are calm at the other end of the scale where she is verging on hysterical. When she is asked to describe where she is, she looks around frantically for something to describe where she is.

It seems like years before the police arrive, but it is really only a few minutes. The young officer seems as shaken by the scene as she is and fusses with details that seem irrelevant to her. She is becoming impatient with his questions because all she wants to do is run away and pretend she hadn’t stopped.
Yes, she is aware that she might have thrown up a bagel and cream cheese on an important area of the crime scene.
No, she can’t give him a more accurate time when she first walked past.
No, she didn’t see anyone in the area.
No, she definitely didn’t touch the body. It had been obvious that he wasn’t alive and she had never seen a dead person before. And so much blood.

Her stomach lurched and rose again and she turned away. The officer also looked a bit under the weather.

More officers arrived with their flashing lights, blue on their vehicles. It seemed to fill the woods as they pulled off the road and got as close as they could among the trees. A woman police officer wrapped a blanket over her shoulders and walked her away from the scene a little to sit on a fallen tree. She notices the exchange of looks between the two but has lost the ability to speak. She feels so cold and lightheaded. She had dressed for a jog and was now wishing she had a warm jacket. The blanket smells new and is scratchy and not as comforting as her own jacket would be.

There is no mention of the body in the woods in the newspaper the next day and the police arrive at her house early to tell her that she is not to discuss this with anyone. They repeat this order in different phrases as though she was a dog needing a lot of training and reinforcement. She almost expects to get a biscuit when she agrees to comply. She doesn’t want to ask the detective with the unkempt greasy hair and greying bristly chin why it is so secret, but she would have liked to. The uniform police officers in the woods had been much more reassuring, but in the back of her mind she wonders if she is a suspect. They took her statement but it seemed to be more a matter of routine than for information. It was as though they has known the answer to the who and why of the death before she had even arrived on the scene. Now she was an inconvenience they needed to cover up.. to silence.

Who had she told about it?
Nobody, because she had gone mute and when they had taken her home she had downed the best part of a bottle of vodka and slept on the couch. The hangover that morning had not made dealing with the detective any easier and it had not helped her queasy stomach. But at least when she was hammered she had stopped seeing the blood. There had been so much blood!

I’m a loser!

52lbs down in twelve months, and 9 to go in Phase 1.

I forgave myself frequently over the past year for eating incidents. No guilt. I enjoyed the Tiramisu, the vodka, cider and gin, and the baklava. Then, I got back to the sensible diet and I walked. Oh boy did I walk. (671 miles so far this calendar year.) It isn’t a chore any more. I look forward to listening to the music, breathing in the fresh air, and letting all the nonsense swirling around in my head sort itself out while I get into my pace. Now that the winter days are here I am finding it more difficult to get the mileage in. I may have to resort to the dreaded stationary bike – Jim.

Thank you to the Loseit app for my weight loss, and to my Fitbit Flex for a much fitter body.

Next spring – running. That is the plan anyway.

Losing it.

As part of my Lose It fitness program (18lbs off so far 🙂 ), I went for a 3 mile walk along the canal this evening, south from the Sandwich Marina. It is much more enjoyable exercise than the treadmill. I don’t walk in much of a straight line but I did manage not to veer off into the water where I might have been snarled in the lines of the fishermen! I could have done with a few more Lifesaver mints, but mostly I was thrilled to be doing a decent pace when I finally got back to the car. Loving the Techsun sandals.

The Cape Cod railway line runs very close to the canal path. The sound of the train ‘whistle’ was quite loud.

Also, I saw a stork flying about 10 feet off the water up towards Cape Cod Bay and would have taken a photo… not yet possible while walking (and I didn’t dare stop).

 41°46’19.78″N  70°30’19.81″W

 

Reading Characters

.    He hates it if people call him “Stu”. It makes him flinch inside for some reason that he can’t really explain.
Stuart is clever, a bit too clever perhaps. At 22 he can’t figure out how to make it an asset. He is attracted to clever girls but they don’t seem to notice a thing about him. He takes pride in his well-cut suits and neatly ironed shirts, and is very particular about hygiene – his own and that of anyone else he comes into contact with. Most Saturdays, his schedule begins with the barbers. Leaving, he smiles to himself with smug satisfaction and adjusts his jacket lapels by the reflection in the nearest shop window.
.    The sharpness of the wind that had seemed to blow up the High Street all winter was almost gone. “Time to get out the summer wardrobe.” He nods to himself and then glances around to see that nobody had noticed. They had not. A little heat and colour rise in his round cheeks, and his head drops down a little onto his shoulders as they sag. Time to go home and have a restorative cup of tea with Mother.

Start Writing Fiction – Open University (FutureLearn)

Fact and Fiction

.     Snow fell and drifted into April. It would have been pretty except for the dark stain that appeared when I bent to turn the last shovelful from the path. My back muscles whined. The floral shirtsleeve uncovered was pink, and so was the snow that had hidden it overnight.
.     I had not raked the grass before bad weather had arrived. I didn’t miss the shriveled evidence of my laziness. It was Winter and my house appeared as well-tended as all of my neighbours. I was unready to stand out from the crowd again, so I recovered the stain and dragged my shovel back where I belonged.

(Paragraph 1: 3 facts, 1 fiction. Paragraph 2: 1 fact, 3 fiction  50-100 words each)

Evil Brew

“No sipping, now. This is the good stuff.”
There was a gleam in the old man’s eye that approached evil and gathered a fan of deep lines to the sides of his face. He must have been smiling this evil smile for years to get such a deep set of wrinkles. These thoughts distracted me, but not nearly enough. I looked in horror at the beautiful cut glass tumbler in front of me. My fight or flight instinct had kicked in to no avail. I hate whiskey!
He and his buddy, Jose, leaned forward on their chairs, watching me as though they were at a dog fight. They must have been able to smell the fear wafting off me.
I tried not to shake as my fingers gripped the glass they had set down so carefully. The golden liquid was very still, apart from a small ripple. The shaking leg of one of the men was making the floor tremble, or I was about to lose my nerve. I threw some of the nasty brew across my tongue and swallowed as fast as I dared. The plan was to avoid the taste buds, the plan was not foolproof. My eyes teared up right off the bat, but I stayed very still and hoped I wouldn’t have to breathe again soon. The whiskey tore at the soft tissues of my throat like fire and I might have made a small whimpering sound. It might have just been in my mind because Jose and Henry didn’t move a muscle. It was as though time had frozen. I was thankful for being in reasonably good shape, and almost forgave my brother for all the times he had dunked me at the river. I could see admiration in their eyes for the length of time I was able to hold my breath. Even that was reaching my limit. I let the breath out in a splutter and I think maybe a sob. I was just pleased I hadn’t vomited.
The old devils sat back and smiled. I guessed I had passed the test.
“Right then.” I said very quietly. “Time to hear the real story.” They nodded. I could throw up later.

Writing Challenge ~ 2

Tell about a character who lost something important to him/her.

 “I really need the children’s paperwork back!” She was distraught on the phone and tried to be calm, knowing it wouldn’t happen. “He took everything. All their records are in those files, and all the mementos I have kept.”

“What sort of things are we talking about here?”

Her attorney sounded patient and unconcerned. That was the most infuriating part of this all of a sudden. She needed at least to sound rational. “Well, some birthday cards and photos… and some things they made in school. The school reports are in there and their official certificates.”

“I see. I know it is inconvenient, but all the certificates and reports can be replaced very easily… So, it’s the cards and photos really.”

She felt the panic and frustration drain away and tears threatening to replace them. At least he couldn’t see her crying. “You know. Forget it. I am just overreacting… It’s fine. I can get new copies, like you said… We will just have to make new memories.”

 

Writing Challenge ~ 1

Select a book at random in the room. Find a novel or short story, copy down the last sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story.

As long as there are dogs and as long as there are people fit to walk with them, they will remember you.*
I am not sure how I ended up with this job. I seem to remember that I had hoped to amount to more than fame for being a really good walker of dogs. But as we left the lane and the village behind us, I glanced down. The look in Sonny’s soft brown eyes was of pure love. Perhaps my life was not so bad. He trotted effortlessly on a slack leash, sniffing the air. His leathery black nose was a-quiver, and he was holding his feathered tail high, as though we were stepping into show ring instead of a muddy field. I flipped up the flap and reached into my jacket pocket. I felt the contagion of his excitement. The tennis ball was ready, and so was Sonny. I knew I was ready too. He looked up to my face briefly and I swear he smiled as his gaze dropped to rest on the bulge of my hand in my pocket, and the familiar shape of the ball.

* Watchers by Dean Koontz

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1)Still Life by Louise Penny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this read, with its compelling characters that maintained their flaws and foibles through a nicely complex plot. The scenery was well described, but the rich character development was what made the story.

This isn’t the first I have read of this series, but reading the books out of sequence is working for me. I think this is a tribute to how Louise Penny has maintained the characters and setting through this series.

Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team investigate a death in the very small village of Three Pines. The residents provide a closed environment so suitable for a murder investigation.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

In honour of World Poetry Day 2013

AFTER THE PLAY

Our story opens like a woman
First breathless
The anticipating crowd
Now empties
Down and out of the building
Faces closed, puzzled, confused
To chase the method home
Waiting for the next
Transport
Umbrellas fade from black
One spoke doesn’t fit now,
Or does it?
Askew
Changed