Free Fiction Thursday – Names in the Sand

Good morning, everyone! How’s your Thursday going so far?

Here in my neck of the woods, it was hot enough yesterday to make me wish for some walking-on-the-beach time. Like the main character in this week’s story, it’s one of my favorite things to do (when I’m actually on the coast, which isn’t often enough). I hope you enjoy “Names in the Sand.”


Names in the Sand

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover photograph by the author


Cissy wrapped her leather jacket more firmly around her shoulders and tried not to think about what the wind was doing to her hair.  She’d saved up for months for a trip to the beach.  She’d be damned if the cold snap was going to stop her from enjoying the sound of the surf and the sea birds, and the laughter of the few brave kids out on the sand playing keep-away with the waves.

At least the sun was out, not that it was doing all that much good to keep her warm.  She’d dressed in layers, something menopausal women learned to do for self-preservation against unexpected hot flashes.  She could use a good hot flash right about now.  Even with the leather jacket on top of her windbreaker on top of her sweatshirt on top of her blouse, she was still freezing.  If she didn’t warm up soon, she’d have to give up staring at the ocean from behind the concrete retaining wall that separated the parking lot from the beach a good ten feet below, and go watch the waves from the warmth of her car.

The kids on the beach didn’t seem to feel the cold.  Cissy watched a group of teenagers — two girls and three boys — tramp across the sand wearing nothing but shorts and t-shirts.  The boys were carrying boogie boards, the girls beach towels.  Wires trailed down from their ears to whatever MP3 players they had stuffed in their pockets.  Cissy wondered if they even heard the sound of the waves over whatever music was popular with teenagers these days.

Someone had written a name on the sand — SPENCER — stomped out in huge, rambling letters  above the high tide mark.  The teenagers walked right through the letters, smearing the S and the tail of the P and taking the top off the E and the N before they headed down toward the waves, leaving the rest of the name alone.

What a shame.  Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to leave his name in the sand in a spot where the waves wouldn’t obliterate it.  For a moment Cissy thought about going down to the beach and fixing the smeared letters, but her legs gave her trouble these days, and slogging through dry sand would make her calves ache for days.  Poor Spencer, whoever he’d been, would have to settle for semi-posterity, at least until more children and teenagers and careless adults scuffed through his name entirely.

If Harry was still alive, he would have fixed the letters for her.  Harry would have done anything for her, and he had for nearly thirty years.  He’d even sat by her side on innumerable park benches and picnic benches and glider swings, nose buried in a book or snoring quietly behind dark glasses, while Cissy sat and enjoyed the outdoors, no matter where that outdoors happened to be.  Sometimes she brought her crocheting with her, and sometimes she brought a book or a camera, but most of the time she just sat and watched the world go on around her.

This late spring visit to the Oregon coast was the first trip Cissy had taken since Harry passed away last November.  Her friends thought she was nuts to make the trip by herself.  Amanda was certain Cissy’s car would break down in some back roads town and she’d be set upon by thieves who’d think a middle-aged woman traveling alone was easy pickings.  Nora thought Cissy would attract the attention of “unsavory types,” which in Nora’s book was anyone who didn’t have six figures in a money market account and houses on both coasts with a condo or two somewhere in the middle.

Cissy’s daughter was the only one who had simply wished Cissy a good time.  “Have fun, Mom,” she’d said, her voice scratchy over the old cell phone Cissy refused to replace with one of the new smart phone models.  “You deserve it.”

Cissy wasn’t so sure about that.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Night Passage

Good morning, everyone! How’s your Thursday going so far?

This morning it’s cool and rainy here in Northern Nevada. According to the snippet of news I heard on the radio while I was trying to wake up, chains or snow tires are required on the mountain pass between here and Sacramento. Spring in Nevada. Never know what you’re going to get.

Just like the characters in this week’s story. “Night Passage” is about a woman and her rebellious teenage daughter traveling from Las Vegas to Reno at night to avoid the heat when car troubles strand them alone in the desert. “Night Passage” is mainstream women’s fiction, and will be available to read for free for a week. Enjoy!


Night Passage

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

The road stretched in front of Joleen, a dark ribbon in the darker night.  Something glittered on the asphalt ahead of her, but she couldn’t tell if her car’s headlights reflected off pieces of quartz or broken glass.  Either one was a possibility.  Even this far out in the desert broken beer bottles littered the sides of the road, twentieth century man’s way of marking his territory.

Casey sat in the passenger seat pretending total interest in the ghostly shapes flying by her window.  Joleen could tell her daughter still was angry by the tense set of her shoulders and the way she kept her face turned away from her mother.

Joleen steered around the mess on the road as best she could on the narrow, two-lane highway.  She hoped it wasn’t glass.  The tires on her car were old and worn, and she was afraid glass would go right through them.  The bright lights of Las Vegas had faded to a dim glow on the horizon far behind her and Goldfield was at least 40 miles to the north.   She didn’t want to have to stop out here in the middle of nowhere to fix a flat, especially not at night.  Except for gas, she didn’t want to stop at all until she got to Reno.

“Are you hungry?” Joleen asked just for something to say.

Casey didn’t respond.   No one could do the silent treatment better than an angry thirteen-year-old girl.

“Because if you are, we’ve got snacks and sodas in the back seat,” Joleen said, trying again.

A sigh.  Not much, but it was a chink in the armor, something Joleen could work with.  It would be a long, long drive if Casey decided to stay angry the whole way.

Maybe a little music would help.

“Why don’t you find something to listen to?” Joleen fumbled for the tape case without taking her eyes off the road.  “We’re can’t pick up a station out here, and if you’re not going to talk to me, then I need something to keep me company.”

This time she got the rolled-eyes, oh Mom look, but her daughter took the tapes and rummaged through them.

“I know you didn’t want to move,” Joleen said.

“Look, Mom, I don’t want to talk about it,” Casey said, slamming the tape case shut.  “Like my opinion would mean anything anyway,” she added under her breath.  Thirteen-year-olds always added something under their breath, that first sign of future rebellion.

Joleen took a deep breath.  “So what do you want to talk about?”

Casey popped the tape in and turned back toward the window.  “Nothing,” she said.  “I don’t want to talk about anything, okay?”

So much for that plan.

Rock music blared from the speakers.  Obviously one of Casey’s tapes.  Joleen didn’t know the name of the band, but at least it might keep her awake.  If she didn’t go deaf first.

Thirty seconds later, Joleen reached for the volume control.  She actually liked most rock music but that last guitar riff made her fillings vibrate.  She glanced down at the tape deck to make sure she found the right knob.

“Mom, look out!”

Joleen jerked her eyes back to the road.  She caught a glimpse of a large animal right in front of them.  Heart in her throat, Joleen spun the wheel hard to the left and slammed on the brakes.  Not good.  She made it past the cow — she could see now that it was a cow — without hitting it, but the car started to skid, tires squealing.  The rear end of the car slid around toward the front, threatening to send them into a spin.  Joleen turned the wheel back to the right and took her foot off the brake, praying that the car would right itself.

That’s when the tire blew.

(read the rest of the story here)