Fiction Friday:

By Leslie Lindsay

Okay, so I’ve been a slacker when it comes to “Fiction Friday.” But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. It just means…well, that I’ve been focusing all my efforts on this little nagging thing called a manuscript. It’s pretty much consuming me. I think about at the gym, at Target, while browsing at the bookstore or library. No one else better take my title (it’s not that fabulous, anyway). Oh wait–here’s a great title…what’s this one about?! Oh man…Joyce Carol Oates, yeah…I’ll never be able to write as good as you. Ooh, I like that description: compelling suspense-driven fiction.

Look–a squirrel! Yes, being a writer means teasing out all of the wonderfully creative ideas and telling the voices [characters] to stop, slow down, or change tact from time to time. Like me. And maybe you. We all need to slow down and remember why we got ourselves into this ‘mess’ to begin with.

Here’s a little something from what I’m currently working on:

Jo Ellen

January 20th 1989

Doubt is a difficult entity. You can’t see it but you can feel it lurking under your skin, bubbling at the gut. It is worse than any kind of infestation. Sure, you can have rodents or termites, or a spider problem, ones you can call for help and a white cargo van will appear at your doorstep—the Orkin man or whomever—and poof—gone. But doubt, it creeps in quietly and tenaciously and through the tiniest of cracks, and once inside, it can never be fully extricated.

Mallory played the part of a sulky Freshman home from college well. She bit off comebacks and insults left and right, she barricaded herself in her room for hours, she refused church during Advent and stomped through the house as if she has better places to be. And then, on Christmas Day, after the gifts have been torn open, the Add-a-Bead necklace from Famous-Barr draped around her neck, and the last of the broccoli cheddar casserole consumed, she refused to speak to me. Still, she was sugary sweet to her sister and brother, and the boy next door. When I close my eyes, when I try to remember, there’s a piece of doubt that wears on my shoulder, slithering alongside my arm, and skittering into my very soul. I reach for a fresh pack of Carlton’s in the cabinet above the stove. I was going to give it up; a new year’s resolution.

Doubt and guilt. Me and Mallory.

My daughter was up to something. Or, perhaps it was just normal college angst. Maybe it’s that feeling of being a young woman who has been away feels displaced in her own home. Ironically, this is the way I feel about Tony, even now.

When we first moved to the Dutch Colonial on Bayberry, I walked the empty halls of the house on our final inspection with the Real Estate agent, Mallory’s pudgy fist wrapped in my slightly swollen fingers—I was due with Amy two months later—and Tony scampered along like a child, poking his head into the various bedrooms. The house was nice, sure—the best we could afford at the time. But still, I remember glancing a long, stringy web threaded around a ceiling fixture and feeling a tremor of fear. The Real Estate agent noticed this and tsked, stating the house was owned by the relocation company, the previous owners transferred to Ohio or Iowa or somewhere. “We’ll get an exterminator over here before y’all move in,” she smiled then, “My treat.”

I figured it would come out of her commission, not a real treat. Whatever. It didn’t matter, as long as I didn’t have to foot the bill. I remember patting my stomach then, blooming with baby and just wanting us all to be safe from any kind of pests.

Doubt and guilt, they are both cut from the same cloth. I take a drag from the cigarette, lighting up the room bathed in gray.”

[Thanks for reading! If you like it–wonderful. Please remember that is this an original work of fiction and not to be taken as your own. Comments always appreciated. House image retrieved from on 2.6.15]

Fiction Friday: Excerpt from “Zombie Road,” Chapter 1

By Leslie Lindsay

Let’s take it from the top. Here’s an excerpt from chapter one from my WIP. We meet one of several POVs. This is James, an old man in a nursing home. Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel


The End


The baby woke James McCullough. He struggled to a sitting position, kicking the pilled institution-issued blanket from his pale, knobby feet and then twisted his frame and sat on the edge of the bed, listening.

That goddamned baby wasn’t crying anymore.  

He rubbed his eyes and blew out a breath of air. His chest wheezed and rattled. Death’s cough, the nurses around here called it. He wasn’t supposed to have heard them murmuring at the nurse’s station, but his suite was so close, he couldn’t not hear. That was one thing he still had—his sense of hearing, unlike so many of the other old folks around River’s Bluff Retirement Home. In spite of the nightlights plugged into every outlet, he couldn’t see the hand in front of his face, thanks to glaucoma and cataracts; but sometimes he’d see others watching him, casting a glance of sympathy or a soft smile of pity.

When he’d pass by the mirror on the way to take a leak, he’d peer at the image. He knew that man; the face taut and tanned, gray-green eyes twinkled back, and hair as dark as coal and thick, so unlike the wisps that remained on his spotted-balding head. He wanted that younger man back. Instead, he was stuck here, in this hell-hole waiting.

Waiting for death.

On cue, the baby cried again.

James’s hand scrambled over the covers searching out the call button. Arthritis had misshapen his spotted, yellow hands, making it impossible to reach for anything. Instead, he called out, “Help…nurse!” His voice came out in long thin shrieks, nothing like the booming quality it once commanded.

A moment later, the night nurse rustled in, adjusting her starched pinafore. “Mr. McCullough,” she said. “What’s the matter?”

“The baby’s crying. Aren’t you going to take care of him?”

The nurse fussed behind him, turning pillows and gathering miscellaneous items—paper straw wrappers, plastic cups, and Kleenex. “There are no babies here, Mr. McCullough, you know that.” She looked down at him. Her frosted pink lipstick shimmered in the night glow of the room, her hair feathered along the side of her face and a starched white cap sat atop of the hairsprayed nest.

“Don’t you hear it?”

She cocked her head, “It must have just been a dream,” her eyes conveyed concern, if not disbelief. Perhaps she felt he was just suffering from dementia, but that wasn’t the case. Memories are locked in tight. Too tight. “Now, why don’t you try to get some sleep? You’ve got a big day ahead of you.”

[Please remember this is an original work of fiction and not to be taken as your own. Comments welcome. Thanks for reading.]

Fiction Friday: Little Sally Water

By Leslie Lindsay

I have a senior basset hound named Sally. She has a kidney issue and that means she has some house-training accidents from time to time. Okay, a lot. Was it because little Sally was peeping on the floor that my brain recalled this old nursery rhyme, Little Sally Water or was it the muses at play?

In any case, this old childhood game, jingle, rhyme–what have you–has been floating through my head of late. So I got curious, like all good writers do and did a little research. Here’s the rhyme/song: 

Little Sally Waters sitting in the sun
Trying to find her love
The one & only one
Rise Sally rise
Open up your eyes
Look to the east
Look to the west
Maybe you’ll find the one that you love best

The lyrics actually continue and are quite extensive.

Seems the rhyme/children’s yard game has something to do with marriage. Little Sally Water is sitting in her saucer. In fact, the real story goes: Sally was on her way to her wedding, when she had to step over a saucer of water. Now, is this akin to jumping over broom handles or some other marriage tradition, I don’t really know. Folks believe this nursery rhyme originated in the 1800s–England and has been in the U.S. since at least 1848.

Yet, more contemporary interpretations indicate a name change for Sally. She was Sally Walters in more northern climes of the US, Pennsylvania and New York, for starters. In the South, Little Sally Ann(e). Others say, no, no, no Sally had a last name and it wasn’t Walters, but Waters.

Still others maintained that Sally was of African American (black) heritage. But then that goes to dissuade the England-Marriage version. So, it’s really hard to tell what the meaning and interpretation of this nursery rhyme is.

Little Sally fits into my WIP because, well I found the sing-song sound of it haunting. There’s also a water aspect to my WIP, so it just worked:

“Well, then maybe I’m not alive,” she responded.

Don’t be silly! You’re as much alive as I am.” I reached my toe forward, a playful nudge, a sideways grins.

My toe went right through her.

I startled, glanced back at Leelah and gasped, a surge of panic racked my body as her leg began disintegrating. Help! She needs help. My words would not come forth. Leelah smiled coyly, a smattering of freckles splayed across her face, and a glint in her eye I’d never noticed before. I couldn’t tell if she was crying or laughing.

She heckled and tossed her head back, the wavy hair breaking off in a wisp of clouds. A sinister stare penetrated my gaze. But Leelah, you’re my friend.

My brow furrowed. I screwed my face into a pinched pout, my stomach twisted, my ears rang. “Why? Why are you doing this to me?” I shouted, grabbing my bike, leaving the food, mad as a hornet.

She didn’t respond in words, yet her voice sang softly, deep within my head and yet all around me at the same time. Some childhood song. Little Sally Water…turn to the one you love best. Bye baby bunting. Father’s gone a-hunting.


[this is a work of original fiction. Comments appreciated. Sharing and copying as your own is not. (c)]


Fiction Friday: What does Grief Feel Like?

By Leslie LindsayWrite on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a Novel

Here’s a little something from my WIP. Working on a novel set in the St. Louis suburbs based on a urban legend. This is a tiny little epitaph that our main charcter, Mel shares on grief:

“What does grief feel like? This is the question the ladies at grief group want us to focus on this week.

Grief feels like a barbed wire fence being shoved down my throat and pulled out many times over and over. Grief feels numb and barren, like nothing but bad thoughts can grow. It hits me when I least expect it, at the grocery store and in line at the bank. And yes, it strikes when I see a baby, bundled in a car seat toted into Starbucks, her tiny face peeking out from a little hole in the blankets, parents overly doting and cooing.

Grief is an evil entity that wants me for itself, like a phantom taking me in, inhabiting my body. If I am not lucky, it will. His ugliness will throw his head back, a sinister laugh erupting because he got me.

The other group members say this is normal. I told them between sips of instant coffee and store-bought cookies. There were nods and a supportive sounds, murmurings that they had been there. But no, I wanted them to be there with me. Right now. But so many of them had moved on, moved into acceptance and other happy places.

They tell me that it will get better. “Just give it time,” the woman to my left says, her hand patting my knee.

I swallowed and lowered my head, breaking off a piece of shortbread and swallowing it down with a sip of instant coffee. I hope she’s right.

Grief feels like I am walking with my legs sewn on backwards, a stutter through the world. Even simple things like bathing and eating and getting dressed feel like a chore.

I feel like Ran doesn’t care some days that our baby died. He has such a different way of coping. Instead of crying or talking about things, he runs. His body is withering down to nothing, his bones are protruding in places they used to not. His face is cadaverous. He tells me that running is a release. And I wonder what he thinks about on those long runs through the roads of Chestnut Ridge. Does he even think about the impossibly tiny baby that emerged from my body, red and tiny and dead.

I look forward to bed. Not for the sex, because that doesn’t happen much anymore. And not for the closeness we used to feel as we fell asleep intertwined in one another’s arms, but for the dreams I might have.

Baby Hope sometimes appeared to me, and if she didn’t, I’d will her to me. Occasionally, her face would appear on the sheers in our bedroom. I’d turn to look, to study the features of her face, but then she’d disappear. I wanted those dreams, because somehow it made me feel closer to her. I wanted tell her I was sorry. Because it was all my fault she didn’t survive.

On those nights, the ragdoll would appear on my nightstand or dresser, sometimes just on the floor near the window.

In the morning, I’d come awake disoriented. I’d check the clock on the bedside table: 9:16 a.m. Not too late. I still had most of the day. My mouth would be dry, sour. The cats would stare at me, their slumber disturbed and stretch long and languidly. My night shirt would be a little damp, my head clogged. I’d realize I’d been dreaming. Not a coherent narrative, but an intermingling of disjointed and haunting images, a parade of all of my fears. Baby Hope being taken away from me at the hospital, her tiny dark lifeless foot, the baby I’d given away.

I heard the thumping again. It was beckoning me to the window downstairs. A smattering of butterflies if I was in a good mood, a swarm of locusts if I wasn’t.

I’d lower my feet to the cream-colored rug. My mind started to catch up, shaking off the dream images and focusing on the real. But sometimes, in those dark days, I wasn’t sure what was real, or what was a product of my imagination, or the otherworld.

[Please remember this is an original work of unpublished fiction. It is not for you to take as your own. Comments always welcome.Thanks for reading!]

Fiction Friday: The Caul

By Leslie Lindsay

I’m a getting a good sense of character, Melanie Dunbar (Mel) from my new novel-in-progress, “Zombie Road.”  Here she in the shower just after giving birth to her daughter, Enye. It’s one of those strange postpartum moments of elation and exhaustion, the innate need to protect one’s offspring.

“The warm spray from the shower pelted my back, a strange tingling sensation that somehow made me feel whole, even though I was at my most vulnerable—naked and postpartum.

          Suddenly, as the slick bar of pale-green soap slipped through my fingers, I stepped on Enye, my feet squishing through her tiny body slumped against the shower stall, a contusion of limbs—purple and unmoving.

“My baby!” I shrieked, “Enye!”  The room spun, black and gray, the water cascading down my shoulders, a moment of vertigo. I clutched the soap dish to break my fall. If I fell, I’d be that much closer to my dead baby. I gripped the metal side rail on our double-shower, blood clots running down my puffy legs.  “Ran! Ran, I need you,” I called out over the hum of the shower, hoping, praying he heard me.

I bent down slightly, inspecting baby Enye closer. When—why—had I brought her into the shower with me?  Her delicate body was not moving. My heart raced, tears streamed down my face, milk from my engorged breasts.

“Ran, oh my God!  Ran, get in here. Now!” my voice emanated from my body as if it weren’t really my own, the voice no longer belonged to me, but an animalistic call of the wild.

          He arrived, throwing our bathroom door open, a pink bundle in his arms. Our baby. I looked to the shower floor, the tile muddied with locchia, but not a dead baby. Enye was warm and snug in her daddy’s arms. By now, tears of foolish relief poured from my eyes.

   “Mel. Sweetheart, what happened?” Ran’s voice was concerned, but not in any other way except loving regard.

“I…I…Enye…she was,” I began.

“With me the whole time,” he supplied. My eyes darted back to the small pink bundle of baby in Ran’s arms, he cocked his head and gently tugged the blanket from Enye’s delicate face. My breast milk intermingled with the warm spray of the shower as I caught sight of our baby, her small mouth moving slightly. The shower continued to run, the sound soothing, my body dripping wet and cold as I held the shower door open, my mouth agape.

“Honey, why don’t you finish up and come downstairs,” Ran suggested. “Everything’s okay; you’re probably just overly tired.”

I nodded and slid the shower door closed, ducking my head under the spray as I lathered my hair, carefully avoiding the patch of the shower floor where my dead baby rested.

          She would never drown, she was a caulbearer.


[Thanks for reading! Always open to comments & suggestions. Please remember this is an origninal work of fiction and not to be taken or shared as your own. Shower image retrieved from on 1.24.14]

Fiction Friday: Met My Old Lover at Grocery Store

By Leslie Lindsay

What happens when your antagonist sees the love of his life at the grocery store?  It’s been years and she’s all grown up with a kid…why, you stalk her of course!   (image source: wikipedia.  Retrived 8.16.13)

When the doors finally slide open revealing Annie and her shopping cart, my pulse quickens.  I toss back the remainder of the beer and watch like a hawk drawn to its prey.  Annie Fuckin’ Kelley.  God, she looks good, even behind a kid-laden shopping cart.  I swallow, part of me crazy-jealous of the man she married, who must be the father of this kid and the other part of me in awe, proud to say she was once mine.  I watch as she struggles with the cart over a pothole, unsnap the kid from the front seat and place her in the minivan.  If only I could help her.  I would; I’d smile and say, “Looks like you could use a little help with that.”  She’d startle because she’d recognize the voice; a familiar feeling would wash over her as a smile appears across her face, shy and demure.  I might stuff my hands in my pockets, flash a sheepish grin as I got my wits about me, or I’d just reach forward and start loading her van with shopping bags.  But what I’d really want to do is lean in a kiss her cheek. 

She hands a stuffed puppy to the pudgy little fingers extended from the door and then goes around to the back hatch of the van where she transfers groceries.  With each lift of a bag, I watch her sculpted muscles, eye her chest.  Once she’s finally ready, I click the engine of the MDX to life.  I let her pull out of the parking lot first, me slowly following behind.   

We travel for several miles along Fox Creek Road, the dizzying array of farms intermingling with big box companies.  I keep a close eye on her minivan from the safety and security of my own vehicle, one I know she’d never recognize as mine—it’s too new, too classy for her Steve memories. 

Annie slows and makes a right turn onto a side road and then a left onto Prairiewood Drive.  My hands tremble as I steer alongside the suburban community reminiscent of my youth.  I take care to slow down from time to time as if reading a map, checking my iPhone, feigning misdirection.  But I know exactly where I am going.  The buzz from the beer numbs my brain as fear grips my chest, tight skeletal fingers reaching in, grabbing hold of my heart.  I say her name; it comes out in a hoarse whisper, an assault (insult??) to my overactive imagination.  Annie.  Annie. Annie.  It’s almost time, my little peach. 

The van slows at Halverson Lane, a tree-lined street filled with everything domestic—kids, bikes, neighbors.  I duck slightly, tipping the bill of my baseball cap lower and then pull over to the side of the road where I kill the engine.  As much as I want to see the place Annie Kelley calls home, I can’t risk being seen.  I release a held breath and tell myself I need to relax, to take it easy; this is no way to reconnect with my girl.  All good things happen with time; man plans and God laughs.   

Think, Steve.  Think.  I rub my chin and fumble for the pen.  Quickly, I scribble out the street names onto the same scrap of paper I catalogued her family.  I fold it into quarters and shove it into the lower pocket of my cargo shorts.  How easy it would be to get out of the car, walk along the sidewalk and end at her home, the garage door still raised, an invitation to her life.  I rake my hands through my hair as I consider other options: a friendly chat with the neighbors; perhaps walking door to door, a clipboard in hand, a story that I’m with the neighborhood association asking about summertime memories for the newsletter.  But I realize my mind is confabulating, an unwelcome intrusion—they probably don’t even have a neighborhood newsletter. 

After a few minutes, I start the car and spin out of the neighborhood.  When I look at the date displayed on the dash, I am comforted that I’ll be back.  Three more days, Annie.  Three more days. 

[this is an original work of fiction from my novel-in-progress.  Please do not take as your own.]

Fiction Friday: Excerpt from Slippery Slope

By Leslie Lindsay Write on, Wednesday:  Imagine a Better Writer

Combing back through that novel-in-progress–trimming, saving, adding–general revising.  Here’s one of the early chapters.  [Remember, this is a work of original fiction and is not intended to represent anyone living or dead.  It it a figment of the author’s imagination.  Borrowing or making your own is strictly prohibited.  Thanks for your understanding].  Enjoy!

An excepert from Slippery Slope:

“I married Joe for several reasons.  One, he asked me.  Two, he had good genes.  And perhaps three, I was in love.  With a mass of coiled PhD brains in his head, I knew he’d pass on intelligence, a trait 86% of the population finds valuable, along with a sense of humor, creativity, and problem-solving ability. 

And so we made babies.  Two of them to be exact, at the preferred two-and-a-half year interval, enough time physicians believe a woman’s body has healed and returned to normal, and psychologists have determined is the “appropriate developmental spacing.”  But now I wonder, would Kenna and Madi’s sweet chatter somehow sound differently if they had been conceived with Steve, and not the deep, profound adult love I made with my husband

 I was torn.  I wanted Steve go away, but I also wanted him to show up again.

In reality, he had.  He left a bit of himself behind, a trace.  Actually, it was a crumb.  A Dorito that attracted a colony of ants.  My girls screamed when they found it on the front stoop and came running to me in the backyard where I was preparing the flower beds for winter.  Digging up and dumping plants that wouldn’t survive, covering the furniture with tarps. 

“Mommy, mommy, mommy!  Bugs!  Get ‘em!” 

Setting down my trowel and brushing my soiled hands down the front of my jeans, I made my way to the front of the house where I saw the pile of ants covering the orange crumb beneath the movement of tiny black bodies.  I could barely make out the chip anymore. 


I picked up the bug infested Dorito, tossed it into the trashcan and smothered it with Raid. It was an unusually warm fall and I felt sort of guilty for taking away the ant’s food source.  They, too were probably gearing up for winter, hoping to take it back to their ant friends in the colony so they could munch on it for months to come. 

But could it be that it was also a source of food for me?  Food for the thoughts he consumed, nibbling at my essence and eating my conscience?  Did that make me his food?

He left that day almost as unexpectedly as he’d arrived.  He always did have a way with arrivals and departures.  This time, after professing his love for me once again and my flippant response, he gathered his legs up from under him like a baby colt and said, “Thanks for lunch.” 

 He got into his shiny SUV and started it with a click before disappearing with a nearly silent purr. 

It was big change from the car we used to make-out in, a red Cavalier that started with a rumble that never ended because of an old muffler. 

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Ficiton Friday: Amoxicillin Meets Decorating Meets Literary Agent

By Leslie Lindsay

Fiction Friday:  Work-in-Progress from "Slippery Slope"

Today I learned that an literary agent who I have had some “interest” in will be featured at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writer’s Institute.  I have been to both continuing studies programs the university hosts for writers.  I love them.  I was kind of considering going again this April, but hadn’t made a formal committment.  Now that this agent is going to be there–and offering a chance for me to pitch my novel–I just may sign up. 

But it scares the bejeesus outta me!  Sure–my ultimate hope is for is my book face out at a local bookstore.  Sure, I want readers.  And I guess it’s got to start somewhere, right? 

That means I need to finish polishing this darn thing pronto!  That means I need to get some homework done before I pitch–what does my book compare to?  What else is out there like it?  Who do I write like?  And then I need to drop 10 lbs and get a new outfit.  Sounds so simple, right?

Okay–here’s my revised chapter I have been toiling over this week.  Hey–do me a favor and give me some feedback on those market research questions above.  I would really appreciate it!

[Remember, this is original fiction]

      “My fingers flipped through the decorating book.  Multitasking was my middle name:  supervise Kenna and Madi at play in our family room, get decorating ideas, and watch television.  Thick, glossy pages filled my mind’s eye with ideas and inspiration.  I smoothed my pink tunic over my crossed legs.   The color of liquid amoxicillin

      Why can’t I be as fascinated with medicine as I am with decorating? I tilted my head and looked toward the television.  HGTV.  The girls would have preferred PBSKids, but I just couldn’t stomach another episode of Caillou.  They seemed happy enough with the stack of preschool puzzles I had pulled out.  For now, I could indulge myself in a little mind candy.     

       Kenna tilted her head and glanced down at her puzzle.  Two empty spaces stared back.  I smiled and reached for the colorful puzzle piece wedged under the sofa table, “Here, punkin.  Try this one.”  She nodded and snatched the wooden piece from my grasp. 

        “I recognize myself in my home, which is comforting,” the show’s hostess quipped. 

         I looked back at the television, grumbled and raised my eyebrows. Oh, really? 

         “Your home doesn’t have to be perfect.”  A flash of the hostess’s pearly whites.  “It just has to feel good to you.” 

        Steve feels good to me.  I bit my lip.  Would these thoughts ever end?          The TV hostess strode to the set’s farmhouse-themed breakfast nook, taking a seat at the cozy table.  She wielded a large display board tucked behind the shuttered cabinet—shabby chic, I deduced—and placed it on the wood-worn table top.

        I gasped in awe.  On the “mood board”—as she called it—fabric swatches and paint chips danced in happy unison. My mouth went slack and my eyes glazed over as I zeroed in on that television, the sounds of my children at play—their giggles and squawks—becoming muffled as decorating inspiration took over. 

        As I stared at that farmhouse kitchen set on TV, the cute hostess rattling on about the mood board, I couldn’t help but wonder what Steve’s kitchen looked like.  The pit of my stomach flashed cold.  Be in the moment, Annie.  I scolded myself. 

        “The next time you tackle a home design project, visualize how you would like the room to look with a mood board—this is just a simple foam core mat I picked up from a hobby store.”  She tilted her head.  “Add photos, catalog snippets, anything that catches your eye.  Don’t limit yourself to just decorating images.  Anything can become inspiration for color, texture, and pattern.” 

        Like my amoxicillin-colored top.’