Break Time–or, a Story Called “Cat Nap”

Tonight’s writing challenge is…

Actually, there isn’t a challenge for tonight’s story.  As much fun as my extreme writing challenges are, sometimes a girl just wants to write with no constraints.

I’ve been asked before why I torture myself with my restricting challenges.  I always give those people the spiel about how they teach me about the flexibility of the English language and help me to convey single ideas in an endless number of ways.  But the truth is, most of the writing I do isn’t constrained like it is in my stories here.  I want to share a story I would write without any limitations.  So, enjoy.  Next post will be business as usual.  😉


There is no better napping place than Her stomach. Especially on the days she wears those wool sweaters. Nothing beats the moment she grabs a book and sits on the seat built into the window. The sun hits her just perfectly and I’ll lie on her stomach from the first page to the last.

It’s always been this way. The day she brought me home, she set me on her abdomen and introduced me to a warmth I’d never known. It was a drug I never gave up. Even when I grew and I could only lie on her stomach with my paws on her chest, reaching for her face.

Things changed, though. At first I couldn’t complain that her stomach was warmer than usual. Extra heat, yes please!

When my favorite napping place began to morph into a mound not fit for comfortable sleep, I grew a little worried. Was it a punishment? Did I eat one too many leaves off of the fern in the front window? Had I left paw print evidence of my midnight adventures on the kitchen counter?

Before long, her stomach was so big and round it wasn’t only uncomfortable, but it was impossible to lie upon it. When I tried, I either rolled right off or the lump in her shirt would kick me. I resorted to sleeping in the fresh laundry, no matter how much she scolded me. Fair is fair.

I barely noticed when her belly returned to normal. The return of my napping refuge came at the price of a new creature invading my territory. It was my size and kept low to the ground like I do, but it smelled suspiciously like a bath and elicited screeches that could break a deaf cat’s ears. The creature was almost permanently affixed to the warm belly I once napped upon. I was left to perch myself on the back of the sofa and look down upon the squealing thief in my spot.

For several years I endured the inconveniences of the creature’s presence. It stole my mousie toys and for a brief period even helped itself to my food. Only after it was locked in its bedroom was I free to curl up in my usual spot on her stomach, and only if I could catch her on the sofa before she found something to scrub or sweep or dust.

I accepted this new lifestyle eventually—against my will, of course. The creature began to grow, and the larger it became, the more belly time I seemed to procure.

On a winter night, she was cooking in the kitchen and the creature sat calmly in front of the television. Approaching with caution, I surveyed the creature as I cursed the cold air that had seeped in from the outside. The creature’s stomach looked almost big enough to lie upon. It was a risk, but it was one worth taking.

There is no better napping place than Her stomach. But in a pinch, the creature is just as happy to have me on his.


Extreme Writing Challenge #44: “Safe Place”

A lot of my friends are really into the whole “Throwback Thursday” thing.  I’ve never made my own TBT post, but I do enjoy seeing 20-year-old pictures that confirm my friends were all as nerdy as I was growing up.  (Sorry guys, we might as well just be honest here.)

While I could share one of my many embarrassing pictures o’ the past, I thought I’d mix things up and do a TBT: Poetry Edition.  Below is a poem I wrote for my grandparents when I was ten years old.  Prepare to have your MINDS BLOWN.


Okay, really…I think my writing skills have improved over the years.  Which leads me to my latest story.  I’ll let you in on the secret challenge at the end!


Abigail, what are you doing here? Everyone is staring at you. Even your mom, she looks puzzled by your presence. After you went missing, she was certain she’d never again see your face.

“Abbie?” your mother whispers as her rosy cheeks fade into a ghostly white. It’s not too late for you to turn and run back to your safe place. Eddie will be waiting there. All you have to do is turn your back and pretend you were never here.

“Abbie?” she repeats, and you know what you should do. A set of trembling arms wraps around you. “I can’t believe you’re standing here in front of me.”

Abigail, remember that day you ran away last June? As you’d waited at mile marker 219 for Eddie to arrive, you promised yourself you’d never come home. It was a long time coming, confirmed by your stepdad’s last blow to your knee. Eddie pulled up with a dozen roses and a cooler full of ice. All you had brought along was a set of pajamas, a photo of your sister Trinity, and a Garth Brooks cassette. Every mile, you turned around to make sure no one was following you. Until you awoke in the gravel driveway of Eddie’s cabin six hours later, you weren’t ready to celebrate.

A year later, you’re back because you saw on the news that your stepdad was nabbed by the DEA. Eddie tried to come, but you wanted to do it alone. As your mom releases you from her unbelieving embrace, your eyes flit up to the only lit window in the house.

“Is Trinity in there?” you inquire. It hurts your mother, your disregard for her, but she’s not the reason you’re here.

“Oh,” your mom mutters, “oh, yes, she just sat down with a cup of tea.”

It’s almost too much to bear, the thought of admitting to Trinity you shouldn’t have left her here. Inside, you find her curled up under a thin quilt, reading a book about Leonardo da Vinci.

“Are you serious?” she cries as you approach the sofa.

“I had to be sure you were still safe.” Around you are the remnants of your old life. Every framed photo, piece of furniture, and ceramic animal figurine is in its usual place. It’s a reminder that although you escaped, this world did not dissolve in your absence.

“I’m so sorry,” you whisper, unable to look her in the eye. “I understand if you never forgive me.”

“I suppose you know about Lou?”

“Of course.”

“Are you staying here?”

“Abigail?” cuts in a timid voice. It’s your mother, offering a plea for attention by holding out your cat, Sprite. “Abigail, what are you doing here?”

I asked myself that same thing, you muse.

It’s time to go. It wasn’t supposed to end this fast, but this is no longer your home. Even your mom is puzzled by your presence.

“I love you,” you say to Trinity, her face hardened as if it were made of stone. After a year of hiding out in the safe place, you’re certain you will never thrive here.


The challenge was:  Every sentence begins and ends with a vowel.

Happy Almost-Friday!

Extreme Writing Challenge #39: “The Countdown”

Fact:  there is only a week left in April.  April’s been a pretty eventful month.  I ran my first 10k, my dad had surgery, I got a new phone, Raising Hope ended (sob), I taught my cat how to properly walk on a leash, and I made some serious progress on the memoir I’m writing.  And the best is still to come…this weekend, the husband and I are getting a puppy!  *squealsquealsquealsqueal*  You have been warned–there will be some puppy pics on this blog soon.  😀

So I’ve gots a new story.  If you figure out the challenge before the end, you deserve a dollar.


I sat in the only clean booth, in the corner near the restroom, and filled out a job application. The waitress waddled to my table with a slice of apple pie and a cappuccino. “I hope you’re not applying to work here,” she scoffed, and with a whisper added, “Terrible place.” I sipped at my coffee, the foam tickling my lips, and looked away from her.

On the opposite side of the diner, an elderly man sat across from a young boy, maybe six years old. The boy spun a top on the table, which ricocheted between plates of pancakes and glasses of orange juice. I wondered if their lives were really as mundane as they appeared. Mine certainly wasn’t.

I took a bite of pie and a chunk of gooey apple dove from my fork and landed on the application. I wiped it away, but the paper was stained the color of Dijon mustard, shimmery from the specks of cinnamon. I should have asked for a new application, but I’d completed the upper half already and my hand was cramping up. Think. I drew an arrow toward the stain and wrote, The apple pie is superb!

I glanced at my watch and then at the diner entrance. Deborah was supposed to arrive any minute with Ellis. I wanted her to be impressed that I was looking for work. I was finished moping now. Last night, I’d sold my last bong and my two pipes, and I’d deleted my dealer’s number from my phone. Empowered by my son’s love.

I’d wept every day since the divorce. Not for Deborah—I’d stopped loving her long ago. It was the struggle to stay happy without my son to share oatmeal with me in the mornings, to make me kiss his plush puppy goodnight, or to run to me in his cape and ask me to play superheroes with him.

A bell jingled at the front of the diner. From my seat, I saw only Ellis’s lopsided mop of curly brown hair as he bounced toward the aisle. Behind him, Deborah bit her lip. Everything depended on this day—this visit. A two-hour slot to show her I would do anything—stop anything—for my son.

Ellis threw his arms around me, better than being wrapped in gold. I was unprepared for my heart trying to leap out of my chest. The hug was painful yet dreamlike, gentle yet powerful.

Deborah handed Ellis his puppy and crossed her arms. How did this happen? How had I let him go?

Deborah said, “I’ll pick him up in two hours.” The countdown began.


The challenge for this story was:  At least 25 unique words whose third letter is a “P” appear in a story less than 500 words in length.


Extreme Writing Challenge #37: “Cursed”

The spell is broken, the spell is broken!  I have slayed the mighty Writer’s Block!

My husband dragged me to see 300 in the theater last night.  It was a trade-off:  I would only agree to see it with him if he agreed to see a chick flick with me.  (Really, all he needed to do was mention that 300 would involve hundreds of half-naked men with air-brushed abs.)  Now that I have suffered through it (okay, okay, it wasn’t that bad), I can only compare my victory over Writer’s Block to one of the many intensely gory scenes from the movie last night.  I have shed the blood of Writer’s Block and declared my creative freedom!

I do hope that whole spiel was corny enough for you.  In all seriousness:  the challenge for today’s story was suggested by one of my readers. (Thanks Krista!)  I will reveal the challenge at the end!


Belle’s mom wouldn’t let her use curse words. Once, when Belle called her brother an “ass,” her mom duct-taped her mouth shut for two whole hours. Belle never understood what was so bad about curse words—they’re only words, after all—and that only made her want to say them even more.

Belle could count only seven curse words that she’d heard. Whenever she was angry or frustrated, she mouthed them to herself. They made her woozy, the way they rolled off her tongue. She knew a day would come when she would speak one aloud and she’d be grounded, probably even spanked. But Belle wouldn’t be stopped; she was hooked.

The problem was that Belle grew bored of the seven curse words she knew. She’d heard there were many more bad words out there—dozens, actually—but she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to learn them all.

On a Saturday afternoon when her mom fell asleep on the couch, Belle opened the phone book and punched the number of a random person: ANGUS, GEORGE.

“Hullo?” George muttered.

“George?” Belle asked.

“Yes, that’s me,” George responded.

“Can you tell me what’s the baddest, most awful word you’ve ever heard?”

George laughed, a gurgly, hearty chuckle. “How old are you, deary?”

“Seven,” Belle stated proudly.

“Why’d you call a stranger to ask for such a bad word?” George asked.

“Bad words are cool. The way they sound makes my heart flutter. But my mom never uses them, so there’s no way for me to learn them.”

George went mute—so mute that Belle feared he may have hung up. She opened the phone book to browse for another name, but then George began, “Well, there’s…” and he spouted off twenty-two of the worst, foulest words Belle thought must have ever been uttered. When he was done, George let out an exhausted breath.

All Belle could say was, “Wow…”

“You’re a rebel, deary. That’s rad. Now don’t go tell your mom you learned those from me.”

Belle, frozen by wonder, squeaked out, “No, never. You are so cool!”

Belle ended the call and ran to her room to record as many of the words as she could remember. When she was done, she stashed the paper under her mattress.

Later that afternoon, Belle’s mom found her daughter asleep on the floor where she’d thrown a tea party for her dolls. Her heart warmed at how pure and lovely Belle appeared there, a touch of drool collected where her head rested on her arm. She couldn’t ask for a better daughter.


The challenge was, as submitted by a reader:  Write a story without any dotted letters (j,i). It doesn’t matter if they are capital or not. If the letter, if lower case, would have a dot, then you can’t use it.

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Extreme Writing Challenge #22: “Snapshot”

The weekend is over.  Back to reality.

Except, reality can hold off long enough for one more quick story, right?  As usual, you’ll find out what the challenge was at the end of the post!


Beth tells me she hates chocolate ice cream.  It was only yesterday that she ordered a chocolate cone at Dairy Queen and ate the whole thing in under five minutes.  And now she hates chocolate ice cream.

Beth is at a strange age.  One day her favorite color is pink.  The next it is yellow.  She changes her mind more often than she changes the ensembles on her Barbie dolls.  I have always been the proud mother who flaunts all the little details she knows about her child.  I talk about the way Beth eats her peas one at a time with the same interest as when I reflect on my favorite moment of a past vacation.  But that has changed.  I am no longer sure which of her traits are permanent and which are only temporary.

I purchase half a gallon of vanilla ice cream and a bottle of strawberry syrup.  All I can do as we drive home is hope that Beth will still like vanilla ice cream by the time I scoop it into a bowl for her after dinner.

My mother calls in the evening and asks what Beth wants for her sixth birthday.  I list off a dozen things and immediately take them all back.  I cannot remember the last time I saw Beth playing with any of the toys I thought were her favorites.  I tell my mother I will get back to her.

Beth wants seconds of the vanilla ice cream for dessert.  I gratefully add two more scoops to her bowl.  I think back to the day I learned I was pregnant.  My mind did not equate having a baby with individual moments like this.  I thought first of seeing her first steps.  Attending school plays.  Throwing a graduation barbecue.   I have now come to realize that raising a child is something that happens a day at a time.  Buying chocolate ice cream.  Swapping for vanilla ice cream.  Painting pink fingernails.  Stripping the polish from her nails and painting them yellow.

Beth rinses out her dish and tells me she would like a miniature trampoline for her birthday.  She is sure to change her mind sometime in the next two weeks.  But what I care about is what my daughter wants in this snapshot in time.  I call my mother and ask her to buy a mini trampoline.  Then I send Beth off to change into her pajamas as she carries on about how she liked the chocolate ice cream better after all.


The challenge was:  This story contains no punctuation other than the period at the end of each sentence.  I never thought I’d miss commas and apostrophes so much!  Then again, I feel like the narrative sounded less “casual” without them.  Interesting how that works…

Extreme Writing Challenge #17: “Kids”

Happy Monday!  I hope your week is starting out beautifully.

The first order of business today is to reveal last week’s challenge, which was:  Every sentence started with a vowel.

Next order of business?  A new challenge, of course!  I won’t make you guess this one, but I will make you read it before I reveal it at the end.  😀 Enjoy!


Kids:  we turn boxes into spaceships, sheets and chairs into fortresses,  closets into time machines.  Give us a twig and we’ll have a wand, a sword, a microphone.

When Alan and I were kids, the twins next door had everything most kids could only dream of.  They came to expect new toys and gadgets the same way Alan and I simply expected clean underwear to put on every day.  Mama didn’t make much money and our dad was long gone, probably living in Mexico with the men he used to go drinking with.  Most of the time, my brother and I carried on as if there weren’t two other children living just a picket fence away.  That is, until Alan stole their remote-control car on his first day of third grade.

Mama was fixing spaghetti and meatballs when a stampede of fists erupted against the front door.  “What in the heavens is that?” Mama cried as she handed me the spoon she’d used to stir the sauce.  When she opened the door, Mama was hit by a blast of unsynchronized screaming as the twins tattled on Alan.

Alan was sitting against the wood pile in the back yard.  Next to him sat the remote-control car, glistening red and black underneath the late afternoon sun.  Mama told me to stay inside and stir the sauce as she put on her sweater to go talk to him.

Over the years, Alan always stumbled upon things that got him scolded:  keeping jars of pet beetles in his room, drawing on the walls with Sharpies, sneaking cookies from the pantry when Mama said no snacks before dinner.  Alan wasn’t the most obedient child, but he’d certainly never stolen anything before.  Sure that Mama was going to hang him out to dry, I cracked open the back window and eavesdropped.

What I’d expected to be the come-apart of the century turned out to be the biggest heart-to-heart Mama and Alan ever had.  Mama had barely opened her mouth before Alan began to bawl with the strength of ten infants.

“They made fun of me!” Alan sobbed.  “They saw me playing with my rock cars—you know, the rocks I painted to look like cars?  Then they picked them up and tossed them into the pond.”

They sat on that wood pile together and talked for so long that I had to warn them the sauce was starting to burn.  Mama gave Alan a piggyback ride into the house, where she let him play with the remote-control car for an hour before she returned it to the twins.  From that day on, Alan and Mama had a special bond that could only be seen in the glances they exchanged.

Kids:  give us a rock and we’ll have a car, a grenade, a pet.  Give us a mom, and we’ll have a superhero.


If you didn’t catch on, the challenge for this story was:  Every sentence begins with a 4-letter word.  I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t want to do this challenge again–not because it was hard, but honestly, it was obnoxious!