Tag Archives: change

Challenge: Legal Theft: Still Home (509 words)


The town may have changed, but it still felt like home.  Where once there was a cornfield across from her preschool, a Costco had been raised, complete with its own gas station.  The potholed parking lot and empty strip mall had been replaced with a Big Y, and they had cut down a lot of the trees to make the building more visible from the road behind it.  The towering willow tree in front of the elementary school had fallen in a storm, leaving the school’s front visible from the road, making it seem somehow sharper, though the decorations in the second grade classrooms helped to soften the building’s exterior again. The subtle marina that had allowed the lake its rightful prominence had been replaced by what looked like a displaced Alpine-style ski lodge.

But the lake was the same.  The hills were the same.  The streets hadn’t changed.  The aroma of grilled fish still wafted over the parked motorcycles around the restaurant by the turn.

Up the hill past the restaurant that hadn’t been any one place long enough to have a name, her parents’ house—her house—was still there—and still unchanged, though the massive spruce had been lost in the same storm as the willow—and that was unsettling.  Her sister’s bedroom window had always been hidden behind the spiny branches—much like her sister.

It was a small house, a boxy one-story ranch from the 70s.  The neighborhood had once been all one-story ranches from the 70s, but the ranches had been built upon by most of the home-owners and now her house and the house of her across-the-street neighbor were dwarfed by two-stories with bay windows.

The walkway was still broken and overgrown brick with the dry stone wall that held up the larger garden threatening to topple under the weight of weeds and planted perennials to crush the dainty pansies and babies’ breath below it, and the pansies and babies’ breath threatening to reclaim the walkway.

Both the glass and the red door behind creaked when she pulled them open, and she had to pull them shut behind, since they wouldn’t close on their own.

There was that strange smell of rot and mold that her father had complained about.  Boxes were piled on the chest beneath the window while the couch looked empty without a nest of blankets built by either her or her sister.  Worse than empty nest, she thought.  Just empty.

No one was home.  She knew they wouldn’t be.  They both worked now, but it was the only time that she could make it and she needed to pick up a few things.  She needed to make sure that things were all right after the broken pipe.

The cat darted away from her behind the couch.  She knew better than to try to coax her out again, though she hoped each time that the cat would befriend her, remember her, and let her scratch her again beneath the chin.

Her footsteps seemed abnormally loud on the bowed wood.

Is there specific term for someone who steals repeatedly from the same person?  This week’s line again has come from Kate Kearney at More Than 1/2 Mad, where you can find her original story, “Unwelcome Party,” which uses this line.

Nine Pages


Of late, I’ve been noticing that fewer and fewer of my posts adhere to the one rule that I had set up for this blog: that all posts be 550 words or less.  The challenge has reversed itself in most book reviews now:  My challenge is not to remain under 550 words but to scrounge 550 words of review.  I would rather post shorter reviews that say enough than filling out reviews with fluff.  Still I think that 550 is near the ideal length for a review or grab bag post, and I will endeavor to keep everything but my fiction near this length, but it is time for a change—a big change—a title change.

Welcome to Nine Pages.  This is still the same 550 Words or Less that you followed, but I am loosening the regulations that I’d put on myself.

Now I just want to write on the blog.  I want to post what I want.  I want it to be interesting—hopefully not just to me.

Nine Pages is a reference to myself and to the Enneagram Personality Test to which I was introduced in college by a friend.  I consistently type with that test as a 9 (wing 1) personality type, and I feel that the explanation of 9s (or 9s) actually does describe me and explain some of my quirks quite effectively.  I’ve borrowed that tag for the title of this blog.  I’m in no way endorsing the Enneagram as the be-all-end-all test of personality, and I want it known that I don’t think that you should ever let any personality test change you (all personality tests come with this danger), but I’ve found this one useful in understanding myself, understanding others, and understanding my characters, and it is an easy way to give a snapshot of myself—which after all, is what most blogs and all writing is at its core.

I’ve been left lurching when blogs have changed names on me before.  I didn’t want to do the same to you.  The URL will remain the same (at least for now).  I hope you like the new direction in which this blog is headed.

As always, feel free to send me constructive criticism.

Challenge: Legal Theft: Escape (369 words)


This is the original piece from which Kate Kearney of More Than 1/2 Mad stole to create her piece, “Girls in Toasters,” this past Thursday.  Go ahead and click one of those links; her piece should be read as the sequel to mine, so you may as well have it up and ready.  I hope hers is the sequel to mine for the characters’ sake.  There’s also some continuity between this piece and the earlier “What’s In Your Closet?”

Links to all the legal theft pieces of my thieving gang can be found here.

The windows of her car were the walls of her cage, and she wanted to scrabble her nails against the glass until someone noticed her and picked her up out of that cage to take her to a new home.  Well, something like that.  She was tired.  She was tired, and the traffic was bumper-to-bumper and unmoving as ice in the winter—which only reminded her how hot she was.  The window was down on the driver’s side, but she couldn’t reach the passenger’s side crank through the several boxes and the bags and the purse stacked on top of and around them.  The A/C didn’t work well enough to be more effective than the rolled down window, and besides, really the problem was the sun, which baked the air in the car through the glass.  Till she could rid the car of that hot air, the A/C would only be hardly effective—and some of the vents would be blocked by boxes and bags anyway.  She worried about the electronics—particularly the laptop that sat in the front seat beside her, as securely as she could make it.  Would the heat melt its parts together?  That would be the worst ending to this long drive.

She’d been driving for hours, and there were still hours of driving ahead of her.  The car was stuffed tightly as a Thanksgiving turkey with everything she’d been able to fit.  She hadn’t wanted to leave behind as much as she had to leave.

There was a lot she hadn’t wanted to leave behind: the bookcase, the mattress, friends, a comfortable job, family….

But she went to friends—a few of them.  Hopefully friends who’d be glad to see her.  And this was a trip she’d made before.  She’d left her family before.  They’d been then the same number of miles away—give or take a few.

They were all growing up and moving away: she, the friends she had had in high school, the friends she had made in college.  There was no real collection of friends anymore to return home to as there had always been.  The closest she had to that were coworkers.  They seemed relatively constant, but even they were a shifting ice floe, breaking apart and shifting away from one another.  (There was that icy imagery again, reminding her of the heat, unable to cool her down as effectively as any ice cube would have done.)  She needed a constant.  And she was ashamed to admit it.

Maybe she was running.  Maybe she was going home.  She really wasn’t sure.

All she knew was that she’d be unduly glad to see the familiar, undulating horizon that framed I-81.  She’d be glad of the mountains closing her in their embrace.