Free Fiction: Mary

Halloween is coming up (which means I need to get started on making costumes for the kids — and me!). I love Halloween — not as much as some people *coughcough* the people in my neighborhood who have had decorations up since early September *coughcough* — but I still enjoy the time of year. I take any excuse to dress up in costume and Halloween is perfect for that.

One thing I don’t love — but that my sister Amanda REALLY loves — is the spooky stuff. I’m so soft. My brain doesn’t forget things that it labels as scary, and it tends to bring them up at the worst possible times and then it refuses to let me stop thinking about them. I didn’t learn this lesson until unfortunately late, which is why I still have nightmares about Pennywise, but now that I’m wiser I tend to stay away from spooky stuff. I don’t write a lot of horror for that reason. It’s just not my wheelhouse.

Pretty early on when I started writing more seriously, though, I did a few zombie pieces. This one, so far back I was still using my middle initial, was picked up by Everyday Weirdness (and can still be found there.)

I don’t love this so much, but it is nice from time to time to look back at old pieces and see how my style has changed, and hopefully to see some improvement.


Mary

Sixth grade:
Mary was wearing
her brand new dress,
and when the children gathered ‘round,
sing-songing her new name,
she didn’t cry
until the nurse took her hand,
led her away,
cleaned her up with unfamiliar kindness,
and sent her home
still bleeding.

Five years in pictures:
kids squirting ketchup on her chair,
saying her name
in a chanty chaining rhyme—
“Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary”—
and then screaming like a horror movie bimbo
and laughing like hyenas,
making jokes about Carrie and prom night
because kids don’t know.

Five years in whispers and their fists behind the door.

The day before the first day of school
Mary cut her wrists in the bathtub,
sinking into the warm oblivion
where there were no taunts,
no hyenas.

The next day
Bloody Mary went to school.
took a big bite from the new year,
and when the kids screamed
“Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary”
and ran away,
they weren’t laughing,
and they didn’t get far.

The school nurse peeked out and saw her shambling
down the hall, gnawing on her lab partner’s lung,
and when Bloody Mary stopped
and turned,
she screamed.
But Mary grinned—
a horrible, bloody grin—
and kept on leaving breadcrumb trails
with Chet Parker’s teeth.

The nurse darted through the bodies,
ignoring their clutching hands and scratching nails,
locked the door to the teacher’s lounge,
crawled out a window
and ran all the way home,
still bleeding.

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FFT [poem]: There Are No Trees on Alpha Centauri

For today’s Free Fiction Thursday I’m sharing a poem that makes my sister cry.

I don’t do a ton of science fiction — science and math aren’t my strong suits, and although I love to watch sci-fi I’m not so much a fan of reading a lot of it. Still, every now and then an idea strikes me and I go with it although, true to form, I tend to focus less on the space and more on the emotion.

I fully expect we’ll have colonies on other planets in the distant future, and I would go if the planet were dying, but it would take something that dramatic for me to leave my Earth, my place — my home.


There Are No Trees on Alpha Centuari

It’s only a planet! the ads read,
as if we would be foolish for mourning it.
Who grieves for dirt?
And yes, it is dying.
And yes, we must leave.
We must look to the stars to live.
I know that.
But this land is in my blood.

Those are the trees they planted
when we were born.
Five generations have lived in this house.
My family has haunted these woods
since a time before rockets
and colonies
and smiling women in cheerful ads telling us to leave.

That is my uncle’s car
rusting away among the trees.
My grandfather built that clock.
My mother canned those peaches.
My sister pushed me down those stairs once,
and every Christmas morning my brother sat at the top,
waiting for us to wake up.

Even if I could pack them up
and take them on the ship
—  the bell that rang at our wedding,
the garden my parents built  —
they would not be the same.

This is not only a planet.
This is who I am.
This is my grandmother’s doily
over my great aunt’s sewing machine
in the extra room my father built
when I was three years old.

I will ride the rockets
and leave my place behind.

But when, in the moonlights of the colony,
I look towards the small star of Earth,
I will not see only a planet.
I will see three tall trees
and my grandparents’ grave by the church
and the hill in the backyard
that we called the End of the World.

I will see the light of our dying sun
peeking in the windows
shining on dusty picture frames
of memories the rockets left behind.


“There Are No Trees on Alpha Centauri” was first published by Silver Blade.

Fairy-Tale Themed Poetry and Prose Pieces for Forensics Competition, Speech Class, or Reading Out Loud for Fun

I have a long, long history with speech and debate.

LONG.

It started in 7th grade, when I decided to try prose with a groundbreaking piece. Dr. Seuss’s ABC book did not go over as well as I had hoped, however, and I began to realize that maybe I wasn’t going to be very good at prose performance. Thankfully my coach had me try impromptu. I placed in the very next meet and went on to compete — and win! — in limited prep until my sophomore year in college.

(That year my then-boyfriend/now-husband ((a lifelong debater)) and I decided to throw off the shackles of our serious categories and do something fun together. We competed in duo dramatics with pieces of Macbeth, did not do very well, and quit after that year.)

That said, I have always secretly — or maybe not so secretly — envied the prose and poetry folk, and it turns out that now I’m writing for them, too!

When Amanda and I first started putting together Wolves and Witches, we thought we’d release it as a book of fairy-tale based monologues for students competing in forensics or speech-and-debate, as pieces for the prose, poetry, oral interpretation, or dramatic interpretation categories. (Actually our whole family has a long history with speech and debate — Amanda was also in limited prep for many years, and our parents coached for awhile after we had graduated. We love you crazy forensics people!)

When we were finished with the book it turned out we didn’t just want to write monologues. It’s got all sorts of retellings, both poetry and prose, in first and third and sometimes second person. It’s all still able to be competed with (published traditionally in print so it’s able to be used for both NFL and NCFL, ISBN and other info available at the publisher’s website) and although we may be a bit biased, we think it’s easy to read and pretty fun to perform.

Here’s the table of contents for Wolves and Witches, marked up for performers and coaches looking for a great new fairy-tale piece. (Maybe someone saw Into the Woods recently, eh??) Reading times are approximate based on one minute per standard page. Some of the pieces are available online — those are linked so you can check them out without having to buy the book. (But I’ll tell you a secret: some of the best pieces are only found in the book! You can buy it from Amazon or click here for some other options.)

We’ve sorted the pieces below by type and length to make it easy to find what you need; the actual book order is a little different.

Retold fairy tales include: Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Diamonds and Toads, Twelve Dancing Princesses, the Little Mermaid, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and a couple of mashups.

WOLVES AND WITCHES: PROSE AND POETRY PIECES FOR FORENSICS OR DRAMATIC PERFORMANCE

POETRY

  • The Witch of the Wolfwoods – 1st person – witch – 1 minute
  • Flytrap – 1st person – witch – 1 minute
  • Her Dark Materials – 2nd person (advice) – 1 minute
  • Untruths About the Desirability of Wolves – 1st person – Red Riding Hood – 2 minutes
  • A Shining Spindle Can Still Be Poisoned – 1st person – Sleeping Beauty’s citizen – 2 minutes
  • Diamond and Toad – 1st person (two voices) – cursed/blessed girls – 3 minutes
  • Rules for Living Well – 2nd person (advice) – 3 minutes

PROSE

  • Bones in the Branches – 3rd person – 2 minutes
  • Lure – 1st person – mermaid – 2 minutes
  • The Instructions – 2nd person (advice) – 4 minutes
  • The Long Con – 1st person – Rumpelstiltskin – 4 minutes
  • The Peril of Stories – 1st person – witch – 4 minutes
  • The Best Boy, the Brightest Boy – 1st person – pied piper – 4 minutes
  • The Gold In the Straw – 2nd person – miller’s daughter – 6 minutes
  • A Mouth to Speak the Coming Home – 3rd person – 6 minutes
  • Questing for Princesses – 3rd person – 8 minutes
  • A Letter Concerning Shoes – 1st person – 12 Dancing Princesses’ cobbler – 10 minutes

If you do end up performing any of these, we’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment and let us know; we’ll be cheering for you!