Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 6 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 5 Owen comes home from playing hockey and discovers that his and Mara's shoes have been damaged. 

Read chapter six right now...

photo by ldyck

The Other Side

Chapter 6

I came home from work to the sound of Owen humming and singing, "Don't worry be happy."

The minute he saw me, he handed me the newspaper. An ad was circled in red. 

"Split level. Three bedrooms. Master bedroom has an en suite and walk-in closet. Large open-style dining room/living room. Spacious yard. Move-in immediately." It was a dream home, but, "We can't afford this."

"Sure we can. The rent's only two hundred dollars more than we're paying to live in this nightmare."


We hugged. 

"I phoned the real estate agent and she'll show it to us tomorrow."


Real estate agent Ms. Strong, in a power suit and carrying a briefcase, met us at the garden gate. Flower beds lined the sidewalk. The flowers were tiny and colourful. Beyond that, I couldn't describe them. I'm not a gardener. The only flowers I can identify are tulips, daffodils, and roses. A rose bush with bright red petals stood a few feet away from the front door. I breathed in the rich fragrance.

Ms. Strong unlocked the craved wood front door and ushered us into the foyer--yes, there was a foyer--and up the curving staircase to the living room/dining room. That room alone was the size of our entire basement apartment.

Besides the master bedroom, there were two more bedrooms. Two! Enough for both Owen and me to have a study or a home library or a craft room or... Whatever we wanted. I wanted to stay calm but it was so hard. I'd already fallen head over heels in love with the house.

Ms. Strong lead us into the kitchen. The stove looked brand-new--like it was right off the showroom floor. Through the kitchen, we went to the backyard--a carpet of thick green grass, birds sang, a spruce hedge provided privacy. I squeezed Owen's hand and he squeezed back. We both loved the place.

We went back into the living room/ dining room. The first-floor roof extended past the living room's picture window. Looking out the window, I noticed something shiny. "Is that a...a...knife?"

"They must have moved out really quickly," Owen speculated, "Out the door and even out the window."

"And the walls look like they--."

Ms. Strong cut me off, "I'm authorized to offer you a reduction on the rent if you agree to paint the walls--the former tenants were smokers--and if you don't badger me with questions."

"Lower the--?" Owen shot me a look--a quick translation, shut up.

"How much?" Owen's voice was calm. He's a good poker player.  "This is a large room. It's going to need a lot of paint." Owen was trying for a royal flush. 

"Nine hundred."

"Just nine hundred, eh. It'll take us a long time to paint this large room."


"What's downstairs?"

"You saw the foyer. There's also a finished basement."

"Well, can we see it?"

"It's a basement--painted drywall in the rec. room, linoleum flooring throughout."

"I'd like to see it."

"I do have other potential renters due to arrive within the hour."

"Owen, other--."

There was that look again.

"We're interested in renting this house," Owen told her, "but I'd like to see the basement first."

"Seven-fifty," Ms. Strong said as she led us down the stairs to the foyer and through a set of doors to the basement. 

"This would be a perfect space for your office," I told Owen and got that look again. 

"How big is this room?" Owen asked Ms. Strong.

As Ms. Strong consulted her notes and helped Owen locate the phone jacks, I explored further. A door off the hall led to a laundry room. Washer, dryer, the same old, same old, but something about it pulled me inside. 

Voices drifted into the room from the hall. 

Owen looked in at me. "Oh, Mara, you're in here."

"This is just the laundry room," Ms. Strong informed us. "You've seen the entire house. Shall we go back upstairs?"

For some unexplainable reason, I had no desire to leave the laundry room. 

"What's up with all those racks on the ceiling?" Owen asked.

"The former tenants stored their camping equipment and kayak down here. Now if that's everything, I do have those other--."

I looked at Owen; Owen looked at me. "We'll take it," we said. We signed the tenancy agreement and the house was ours. 

Chapter seven

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Friday, July 23, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 5 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 4:  Mara works at a complaints department where she apologizes all day. 

And now... The story continues...

photo by ldyck

The Other Side

Chapter five

Arriving home, I was greeted by a loud noise coming from Owen's office. Something was clearly wrong. Bracing myself, I pushed open the door. "Hello?" 

Owen swung back his stick and took a hard slap shot at the cement wall. The ball he was using as a puck bounced over his stick. That's when he noticed me. 

"You seem upset."

"Yeah, upset is a good word. Angry is even better. Go look in the closet."

I looked in the closet, but, "I can't see anything."

"Look down."

I did and... 

"My babies!" I cried. My favourite, most expensive pair of high heels had been attacked. A large hole was drilled into the toe of one shoe and the bow had been torn off the other. "Who could be this cruel?" I cradled them in my arms. 

"You tell me. I went to play hockey this afternoon and came home to that."

I noticed that some of his shoes had been damaged too. "Maybe Becky knows what happened."

"Yeah, maybe Becky knows," He bit into the words. "You can ask her."

Owen waited for me to led us up the stairs. I took several deep breaths before climbing the steps. I was determined to stay calm and not to accuse without proof.

Rusty met me in the living room. Would he growl, snarl, bear his teeth?

"Come, Rusty," Becky called.

We followed Rusty's wagging tail into the kitchen. 

Becky was pouring pineapple juice into a bowl. "I'm making sweet and sour spare ribs. Do you want to join us for supper? You eat way too much pizza. It's loaded with calories and tastes like cardboard. And with your credit card debt, you really can't afford to eat out as much as you do."

It unnerved me to hear how much personal information Becky knew about us--especially about our finances. 

I expected Owen to jump at her supper invitation. He loved Becky's cooking and spare ribs were his favourite meal, but he said, "No, thanks. We have plans."--which was news to me.

Owen left the kitchen, Rusty followed him, and I heard the patio door slid open and closed.

"Oh, it's so cute how much Owen enjoys playing with our puppy," Becky said as she stirred.

"Listen, Becky, I have a mystery that I'm hoping you can help me solve."

"A mystery, eh?" She set the spoon on the counter and turned to face me. "I'll try." She walked over to the fridge and found the spare ribs.

"Owen left for hockey this afternoon--."

"Oh, so that's where he went--in the middle of a workday. I wondered." She unwrapped the ribs and tossed the plastic wrap in the garbage under the sink.

"He came home to quite a mess. A lot of our shoes had been damaged."

She arranged the ribs in a glass cooking dish. "You're so melodramatic. Damaged."

"Could you come downstairs with me? I'd like to show them to you."

"Is that really necessary? Can't you see that I'm very busy?"

"Yes, I can, but...I'd appreciate it."

"Okay, but I have to finish this first." She took her time to pour the sauce over the ribs. Ran her finger around the bowl and had a taste. "Oh, that's just yummy. Would you like some?" She offered me the bowl.

"Ah, no, thank you."

She rinsed out the bowl, preheated the oven, and put the ribs in the fridge. "Okay, let's go to the scene of the crime." She chuckled.

I led her downstairs and into Owen's office. 

"What a mess. Honestly, men are such slobs," Becky said. "You know I would have thought twice about renting to you had I known he would leave things in such a state."

All I could see was a swept floor and a well-organized desk. "I don't see any--."

"Oh, dear, that doesn't surprise me. You've never been exactly tidy. Now have you? You won't see a mess if it was starring you in the face. And this one is. It's right there. Open your eyes." She placed her hand on a stack of paper that stood like a brick on the desk. "I'll show you how it should look." She opened a drawer. "They should be in here."

"No, Becky."

"Don't 'No, Becky' me. I'm not your child, you know."

"I'm sorry. I just--."

"Don't you have any pride? Don't you want things to look nice?"

"I don't think--."

"That's the problem. You don't think. And you don't care. This isn't your house so you just don't care how it looks. Well, I do." She reached for the stack of papers.

"Those are Owen's papers. I think we should leave them alone or he might--."

"Are you afraid of him? I've been hearing some strange noises and I thought maybe--."

"He'd never--."

"Now, you're interrupting me." Her hands hovered over the stack.

"I just think that if we move things he may have trouble finding them."

"Fine." She threw her hands in the air. "Have it your way then." She headed for the door.

"Becky, please wait." I opened the closet door, picked up my shoes, and cradled them in my arms. Seeing them again made me want to cry. 

"Oh, get over it," she told me. "No one died. They're just shoes."

"Yes, but they were my favourite ones."

"I didn't realize how materialistic you are."

"There was a bow on each toe and... and..."

"Really a bow? How old are you? Whoever did this did you a favour. You can buy more, better shoes. So if that's all, I'll see you at supper."

"Becky, I was hoping that you might be able to help me solve the mys--."

"How am I suppose to know what happened?"

"You were at home when..."

"I was upstairs. I won't come down here uninvited. I don't put my nose where it doesn't belong."

That's when it occurred to me that the hole in my shoe looked like something a tooth would do--a dog tooth. "Hmm...Would...could...did Rusty ever--?"

"You should grow up and take responsibility. Things like this won't happen if you kept the door closed." Her face was so red. At any minute stem would start coming out of her ears.

I'd made her so angry. Would she kick us out? I had to calm her. "You're right. You're right. Of course, you're right."

"Good, I'm glad we both agree that it was your fault. Keep the door closed from now on." She turned to leave and tossed over her shoulder. "Supper will be ready at 6 PM. Please be on time. Tom doesn't like to eat cold food."

"Stay," I heard Owen tell Rusty. He met us at the stairs, passing Becky he reminded her, "I already told you, we have plans."

Becky reached the top of the stairs and looked down at us. "Oh, alright then. Far be it from me to try to do something nice."

Owen closed the door on her words, but Becky just kept talking, "Don't stay out too late. Remember tomorrow's a workday." She sounded like our mother, which was really strange because she was our age. It was so odd that it made me want to laugh, but I didn't. I didn't want Becky to hear me laughing at her. 

Back in the office, Owen was brief and to the point, "So?"

"I think it could have been Rusty," I whispered.

"Of course it was Rusty who damaged our shoes, but it wasn't Rusty's fault. He didn't open the closet door. He'd never have had the opportunity if it wasn't for her.  It was her fault. She destroyed our shoes. What's she going to do about it?"

"Nothing," I whispered. "She said it was our fault because we didn't always close the basement door."

"Close the door. Close the door. I'll show her how to close a door." He swung his office door and it slammed against the door frame. 

"But we have nowhere else to go." I was so worried that I was nearly in tears.

"I'll fix that." Owen stormed out of his office but quickly returned with that day's newspaper. He spread it out on his desk, flipped from page to page until he found the 'for rent' section. "Too small. Bad neighbourhood. Too expensive." He crumpled up the newspaper and threw it across the room. "Hey, I have a good idea," He said in a loud voice. "Why don't we go to the movies."

photo by ldyck

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Internet finds...

I recently found this interesting list of book conferences, fairs, and festivals

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 4 by Leanne Dyck

 Ch. 3 Becky, a basket of laundry in arms, invades Mara and Owen's basement apartment while Owen is still sleeping. Mara tries but is unable to keep Becky at bay.

And now... The story continues...

photo by ldyck

The Other Side

Chapter four

I work in a padded cell in the complaints department of a major telephone company. I've done the best I can to make the cubicle homey--pinning rainbows and unicorns to the walls. I tried to focus on those happy pictures as I listened to yet another irate customer.

"You disconnected my phone but I paid my bill."

Maybe her cheque was lost in the mail. Maybe she has a strained back or a broken leg. Because of what we've done she was alone--cut off from family and friends. She couldn't even order a pizza. "I'm so sorry, Mrs.--." I read the customer information on my computer screen. " mean Ms...." I continued to apologize until her voice softened. 

I kept a large bottle of Tums beside my keyboard. I popped a pill and washed it down with a gulp of water. 

Next customer: "There are numbers on my bill that I didn't phone."

"I'm sorry." Another pill.

I'd been working, apologizing, for two weeks. My co-workers assured me that it would get easier. I hoped that would happen soon--before I got an ulcer.

Next customer: "You said you'd install my phone. I waited all day but you didn't show up."

"I'm sorry." Another pill. I tossed the empty bottle in the garbage, opened a desk drawer, and put a new bottle by my keyboard.

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Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 3 by Leanne Dyck

Chapter two:  Becky and Tom help Mara and Owen move in, but immediately Mara feels a strange tension coming from Becky. 

And now... The story continues...

photo by ldyck

The Other Side

Chapter three

Boom! Boom! Boom! Crash! 

I threw back the covers, jumped out of bed, and stumbled to the window. All I could see was grass and the bottom half of trees. 

I went back to bed. 

Knock! Knock! Knock! 

The alarm clock confirmed that it was too early for knocking--6 AM. 

Are the police raiding the house?

Knock! Knock! Knock! 

I opened the door that separated the upstairs from the basement and...

Becky held a basket of clothes. Her shoulder-length auburn hair was brushed and she'd changed out of her Pyjamas. "Good morning, sleepyhead. Wow, what a wild mess of hair. You really should do something about it." She flashed her pearly whites. "I'm going to start my laundry."

"But Owen is still sleeping." I stepped back so she could see him.

She took that as an invitation and entered our apartment. "Really? Still? Tom has already left for work."

"Owen gets up at 6:30," I told her. "He needs his sleep."

Becky frowned. "You want me to haul this heavy load all the way back up those stairs?"

I knew living under the same roof would have its challenges. I knew we'd have to compromise. So I told her, "No, of course not. You can leave it in--."

She held her laundry basket above my sleeping husband's head. "He's such a loud snorer. I don't know how you can stand it. If Tom was that loud I'd make him sleep in the living room." She cackled. "But I guess you don't have that option."

I put my index finger on my lips. She pushed past me and headed to the laundry room.

I closed the laundry room door after us and cleared some empty boxes out of the way--making room for her basket beside the washer. "You can put it right here. Come back around--."

She lifted the washer's lid.

"Owen is still sleeping," I reminded her. 

She dumped her clothes into the machine. "Oh, I know. You can hear that 747 taking flight." She giggled.

I moved to stand between her and the washing machine. "Can you, please, wait until Owen's awake?"

"Wait? Wait! I don't see why I should have to alter all my plans simply because you guys are living under our roof. I don't drink tea and watch soaps all day, you know. I have lots to do. Tons." She swung her arm at me--watch first. "It's 6:15 AM now. In fifteen minutes, his alarm clock will wake him, anyway."

"I'd really appreciate it if you could wait."

"Why? This washer isn't loud. It's like a cat purring." She turned the knob. "See."

The gush of water sounded like Niagara Falls. It made me so angry that I could have spit so I told her. "And, hmm, this morning I heard a noise, like a crash. It shook our ceiling and woke me from a deep--."

"So, of course, you blamed us."

"Well, it did sound like it was coming from--."

"I can assure you that we were as quiet as mice. Unless... Unless you heard Tom playing fetch with Rusty."

"Inside the house?"

"It relaxes him before work." Her eyes were like pieces of steel. "Does the sound of Tom having fun bo-the-r you? Because I could ask him to stop."

If the noise had woken Owen I may have..., but it hadn't. "No, of course not. You shouldn't have to change how you live because of me. That's not fair. I can get used to a little noise. It's all part of learning to live together." 

"See, that's better. Now, don't you have to get ready for work? You better scoot. You won't be able to take a shower with the washer running but you can just skip it for today. You don't smell that bad. Now scoot. Scoot," she told me.

Chapter four

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Sharing my author journey...

On Saturday, July 17 at 10:16 am, my blog received 700,000 page views. Thank you for your continuous support. Without you, I'd be sharing my writing with the wind. It's so much nicer to share it with you.

It has been wonderful sharing this news with all of you.  You couldn't have been nicer or more supportive, but... 

My muse took this news and ran with it. The result, this short story...

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 2 by Leanne Dyck

Chapter one:  Mara and her husband are no longer happy with apartment life, so they decide to move into a basement apartment in their friend's Beck and Tom's house.

And now... The story continues...

photo by ldyck

The Other Side

Chapter two

I followed Becky to the moving van. She picked up a box and I stooped to pick up one too, but she said, "No, take this one. It's heavier. If you start with the heavier boxes it will keep your momentum high."

So I took the box out of her hands and she picked up the box I was going to take.

"I hope you don't mind me using the laundry room?" She asked.

"Of course not." I followed her down the long, dimly light hall. "It'll give us an opportunity to chat."

In the middle of the hall, Tom balanced what appeared to be a box of books. "Where does this go?"

'Owen's office' was written in black marker on the side of the box. "In the bedroom. We've bought a futon that unfolds into a bed for the living room."

A door squeaked open and Owen poked his head out. "In here, Tom."

All of us working together made a hard job much easier. Soon the truck was empty and the basement was full.

I delivered the last box to Owen's office. He and Tom were constructing a set of shelves. "I can't believe there's so much room in here."

A grin flashed across Owen's face. "Yeah, it'll do."

I walked into the kitchen and caught Becky arranging my plates in what was supposed to be my cupboard. I breathed out slowly and as politely as I could said, "No, that's okay, Becky. I can--."

"Time for a break." Becky hurled over her shoulder as she stormed up the stairs. 

I finished unpacking the box of plates to give myself time to try to process what had just happened. Why had Becky gotten so annoyed? She'd asked us to move in. It was her idea. Had she changed her mind? She'd helped us unload the truck--happily enough. Maybe I was just being too sensitive. 

They were all outside on the balcony when I went upstairs. I headed to the patio doors but Rusty--Becky and Tom's German Shepherd--blocked me. When I tried to walk around him, he started to growl.  I said, " can I just...please?" and he pulled back his upper lip and showed his razor-sharp teeth. 

"Rusty, come," Tom called.

Rusty just stood there growling.

"Rus-ty, come," Tom called again, this time with more force.

Rusty walked out onto the balcony and lay down beside Tom's chair.

Becky giggled. "Rusty, you're such a tease."

My legs felt like jelly, but I made it to the lawn chair.

"Do you mind if I smoke?" Tom pulled a home-rolled cigarette out of his pocket.

I'd never seen Tom smoke before.

No one objected so Tom struck a match, drew his lips tightly around the cigarette, and breathed in deeply.

It didn't smell like cigarette smoke.

Tom took another puff and handed the cigarette to Becky. Becky formed an 'o' with her lips and released white clouds of smoke.

Becky handed the cigarette to Owen. He waved it away. She handed it to me. 

Before I could say anything, Owen answered for me, "Mara doesn't smoke."

The air grew heavy as they continued to suck on that thin, flat cigarette. The smoke was causing a strange reaction inside my body. I felt like I was floating, my eyes were getting foggy and my stomach flipped.

"Okay, so, Mara and I are going to call it a night," Owen said and helped me down the stairs.

"That cigarette smoke really affected me badly," I told Owen as we brushed our teeth and got ready for bed.

"Cigarette smoke? You're joking, right?"

"No. Why?"

"That wasn't a cigarette. They were smoking a joint. You know, marijuana.

photo by ldyck

Chapter three

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Other Side (short fiction) Ch. 1 by Leanne Dyck

The Other Side was inspired by a house my husband and I lived in on BC's Mainland, our move from the Mainland to a remote island, and my love of the 1960s.

photo by ldyck

The Other Side

Chapter one

There were tons of things I would have rather watched:  Seinfeld, Frasier, Home Improvement. My husband Owen held the TV remote and so we watched the news. The live-action camera focused on a split-level rancher. It had red clay roofing, white stucco, and a carved archway. The lawn looked like a putting green.  As I continued to watch, three police officers ran at the front door with a bright orange battering ram. "What's he going to do with that?" 

"Launch an attack for Reagan's war on drugs," Owen said, "That's a grow op."

"Drug dealers live there and...and..." Our small apartment was jammed full of furniture. "They live like kings and we live like caged rats."

As if to underscore my discomfort, Bruce Dickinson sang from the neighbouring apartment, "Run to the hills."--and oh, I wanted to.

"More news at 11," the announcer said. 

That was my cue and dived right in. "Honey, don't like living here. In this apartment, I mean. In fact, I really don't want to live in any apartment."

"We can't afford to buy a house."

Looking at him with bedroom eyes, I added, "Becky said we could move in with them. She says there's lots of room in their basement."

"In the basement...? Like a couple of college kids."

"It'll be fun. You enjoy working with Tom."

"Tom works in the office. I work from home. We send emails back and forth. We barely even talk to each other."

I walked over to the walk-in closet he called his home office. "You can't continue to work in this tiny, teeny space. You need, you deserve better."

"We can't afford better."

"Becky says their basement is huge."

On the other side of our paper-thin walls, a toilet flushed. 

"Fine. We'll move in with them, but just remember it was your idea."

photo by ldyck

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy 4th From Your Canadian Cousin (list) by Leanne Dyck

photo by ldyck

Cross-legged on the carpet, elbows on knees, chin cupped in hands, two feet away from the screen, I was mesmerized. Get Smart. Bewitched. I Dream of Jeannie. Green Acres. The Beverly Hillbillies. Most of the TV shows I watched were from the USA. Watching the product of someone else's imagination encouraged me to continue to play with mine. 

When I started writing hand-knitting patterns, it was knitters from the United States who were the most supportive. I sent them patterns and they sent me emails that read, I love your pattern!

In appreciation and to celebrate Independence Day, I've collected short stories that I've written and that were inspired by the United States.


What's Bluegrass?

Marketing 101

Discovering Land

photo by ldyck

photo by ldyck

Next on this Blog
I'd like to spend the summer with you. And I have the perfect beach read.
I've shared the three-part version of Feeling Groovy.

This summer I'll treat you to the extended version--starting next Sunday, July 11. Seeking clarity, I've renamed the extended version The Other Side. I'll publish installments twice a week--Sunday and Wednesday at 4:40 PM PST. 

The Other Side
14 installments
inspired by a house my husband and I lived in on BC's Mainland, our move to a remote island, and my love of the 1960s.

My only question is, "Are you ready for the summer?"

photo by ldyck

Sharing my Author Journey...

Working on my current projects has required me to read much of my old writing and it's helped me realize something that I'd like to share with you...

Over the years, I've spent too much time worrying about and even being annoyed at the wrong people.