Waiting Game and Writing

Hello, friends,

Since my last check-in, I had the blood work I mentioned.  I expected my iron to be low and possibly my B-12.  But I never expected what happened instead…  My “sed rate” (short for erythrocyte sedimentation rate, also known as ESR) came back high.  It’s supposed to be between 0 and 20, and mine was 125.  (Zoinks!)

bariumSoooo… needless to say, my doctor ordered a bunch of extra tests, more blood work, a CAT scan (hence the nasty barium you see here!), an x-ray, and other stuff.  The x-ray already came back fine.  The second sed rate test came back elevated again.  And I don’t yet know the ANA and Rheumatoid Factor test results, nor the CAT scan results.  As far as I know, I have to go back again next week for yet another sed rate test.  I don’t know what he’ll order next depending on the other results.  But until I know something, I’m still plugging away trying to make it through the day without puking or needing a nap!  I’ll keep you posted as I learn anything.

In other news… Since I’ve been too exhausted to spend much time at the computer writing anything new, I’ve been taking some of my printed manuscripts to bed and trying to commit to editing at least a few pages each night.  I believe I’ve made it through all the obvious typos, misspellings, bad or missing punctuation, etc.  (Printing it out really makes quite a difference in catching these little blunders as far as not seeing the same thing as my eyes have passed over on the computer screen so many times before.)

I’ve let a few people (including a few of you) read some of these manuscripts before, and many of you had some remarkable suggestions.  But there was one manuscript – The Prison – which I’ve only let a couple of people even see.  It was the first one I wrote, and I wrote it before I learned and became obsessed with “The Rules.”  You may remember my frustrations when my exact-word orientation from my Autism got in the way of “just writing” once I learned there were so many dos and don’ts.  I got so hung up on The Rules, that I wasn’t able to “just write” anymore, and as I’ve been re-reading, I wince as I see how much I held back.

Don’t get me wrong, I (now) think The Rules are a good thing (for the most part), though my Autistic brain still wishes they were called “The Suggestions” instead.  What I realized was that my first manuscript had so much more “feeling” behind it and felt less “mechanical” than the others.  When I asked myself why, I came to a conclusion:  I used a lot more similes and strong descriptions in The Prison than I used in my other works.   The sad thing is, I know exactly why I did this as well…  I got so stuck on “Show Don’t Tell” (of The Rules), that I was afraid I was “telling” too much, so I deleted almost all instances of these types of phrases and sentences in my subsequent work.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of my problem was due to an article I read that instructed me:  “In order to show and not tell, you have to write as if you’re describing what’s happening to a blind person.”  So, I did just that.  And in doing so, I added a lot of stage direction (a LOT of stage direction!) as well as clumsy description that sounded as if I were telling the story of cyborgs rather than people!

For example:  After learning The Rules and allowing myself to become obsessed with adhering to them — or else!–, I wrote:

Neil’s face turned scarlet as he jumped to his feet.  His chair fell to the floor, and he narrowed his eyes.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers grabbed her arm as hot soup splattered on her.  Tears formed in her eyes.  “I’m sorry.”

He grabbed her shoulders tightly and put his face close to hers, then without saying a word, he released her and spun on his heel.

*~*~*~*~*

Ugh!  Isn’t that just awful?  It feels so cold and mechanical.  I’m embarrassed to think I actually allowed people to read my work like that!

Now, I’ve changed a lot of sterile scenes like that to be something more like this:

Neil jumped to his feet.  His face was flaming, and he appeared to be six inches taller than he already was. His eyes penetrated Rivers’ as he glared at her with repugnance.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers’ voice caught in her throat, and she began to tremble. “I’m sorry,” she said under her breath.  Tears streamed like twin rivulets down her cheeks as she tried to ignore the hot soup that splattered on her arm.

He huffed and grabbed her shoulders, digging his fingers into her flesh.  He pulled her so close, she could feel his hot breath on her face. 

She attempted to explain, but her voice caught in her throat like a lump of clay suffocating her.  Before she could speak, he grimaced and released her as if she had the plague.

*~*~*~*~*

Isn’t that much better?  The sad thing is, that’s roughly how I wrote in the first place, (though I admit I had a bad habit of changing points of view as well as making the scenes too short and choppy…  Those are some of The Rules that are actually a good idea to follow.)  So, as I’ve been able, I’ve been slowly making the changes to a lot of these old works and trying to get them in their best possible shape once and for all.

 Anyway, that’s what I’ve up to lately, friends.  What about YOU?

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The Raven

While I was dealing with all the health issues I had this year, I was so exhausted at times that it was all I could do to make it to work.  Even reading was too much for me to handle.  Needless to say, I haven’t been as productive as I’d have liked, at least until the past couple of weeks.  However, to try to keep my writing mojo going, and at least stay in the mindset of writing, editing, reading, creating, etc., I redecorated my writing desk area with a writerly theme in mind.  (Actually, I overhauled my entire living room / dining room with the writerly theme, but I’ll save the rest to show you another time.)

desk

As I’ve shared before, my décor is a late 1950s / early 1960s motif, so I tried to keep that going while adding literary touches.  You’ll note the books on the top shelf include an old school dictionary, thesaurus, and volume library.  (Of course, they also include the “Chicago Manual of Style,” Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and Chuck Sambuchino’s “Guide to Literary Agents.” Though those aren’t vintage, they are good to have around.)

books

My mouse pad as well as my little statuette features The Raven from my favorite guy, Edgar Allan Poe.

nevermore

IMG_0433

My printer is just the best investment ever!  I’ve definitely made use of printing my manuscripts in a different font than I type in then editing the hard copy.  It makes a huge difference seeing your work on paper as opposed to digitally.   This model is reasonably priced on Amazon (more reasonable than I’d have ever imagined), and the laser cartridges are under $30 which is less than I used to pay for ink in my old inkjet!  Better yet, a single cartridge prints around ten reams of paper with no quality problems whatsoever.

laser printer

I found these cool plastic envelopes at The Container Store to hold the manuscripts I print while I’m editing them.  (They’re great for carrying them back and forth to work to peruse during my lunch hour.)

editing envelopes

And finally, my awesome sister Michelle got me a subscription to Writer’s Digest as well as Poets & Writers.  Both are very cool (though I favor WD by far), and they both have lots of useful information that make them worth keeping after I read them.  (Those actually go in another one of those cool plastic envelopes once I’m done with them.)

Writers Digest, Poets & Writers

Anyway, thanks for visiting me at my house today.  As I’m starting to get my energy back, I hope my creativity will start flowing again and I can think of more interesting things to blog about.

So tell me, what do you have in your writing nook, and what keeps you inspired?

My Presidential Encounter with the Great Beyond

Last month, my sister Michelle and I drove 1,100 miles to Pennsylvania for a funeral.  (More on that later.)  While we were there, I had strange and eerie experience that I think most of you will appreciate.  (I attempted to share my occurrence with a few friends after I got home, but sadly, they all just gave me the “DUH!” face, and it was evident they weren’t able to get the irony.)

On our way home, we stopped in Gettysburg at the Lincoln Diner.  (Don’t forget, Michelle’s a history major, so if anyone doesn’t know what relevance Gettysburg and Lincoln have, you’d better not voice it here or she’s likely to attack you in the comments section!)

Lincoln Diner, Gettysburg, PA

When we got to the diner, I used the restroom in the basement in the stall closest to the far wall.  We ate, then my sister used the restroom.  When she got back to the table, once more I went back to the basement and used the same stall that I’d used before, only this time, I found a heads-up penny on the floor.  (For my foreign friends, Abraham Lincoln is on our U.S. penny as well as on our five dollar bill.)  I told Michelle that the former president was trying to contact me from the Great Beyond, and since he knows I’m a writer, he probably wants me to add an addendum to his Gettysburg Address.

We laughed and proceeded to go check out the Gettysburg Train Depot that President Lincoln used when he went there in 1863.  The station was only in operation from 1850 through 1870.  We then went through the Gettysburg Battlefield, then headed home.

Gettysburg Train Station

(FYI: The sky in the actual photos was grey and dismal, so I Photoshopped in the blue sky and clouds.  The car really did just happen to pass as I snapped that photo, though I had to paint over a couple of people that were walking on the sidewalk across the street.)

Because were drinking tons of fresh apple cider (YUM!) as we drove, we broke my rule about stopping only every 250 miles for gas and a restroom, and we stopped at the Welcome Center in Maryland.  While I used the facilities, I found yet another heads-up penny!  I knew then that President Lincoln really was trying to contact me.

The cider was absolutely phenomenal, and it really gave our bladders a workout.  So at the Virginia Welcome Center, once again we made a pit stop…  And you guess it, I found a heads-up penny!  I had no doubt that the former president wanted to send me a message, but my sister was still skeptical.  So to convince her, I suggested that the next place we stopped, I should find a five dollar bill.  She agreed that if that happened, she’d be a believer.

Well, we stopped in North Carolina.  Only instead of finding any money, I found a sign on the restroom mirror telling us that human trafficking was prevalent there and we should beware!    (Yes, really!  I would’ve taken a photo, only I left my phone in the car, and after that warning, I was afraid to run out and go back in the restroom!  Plus the big homeless woman who was talking to her dog in the bathroom and kept trying to approach us scared us a bit.)

In South Carolina, we found that the Welcome Center was not welcoming at all!  There were bars over the vending machines  with signs telling us it was unsafe there, so we should reach through the bars!  The Welcome Center was locked at only around 9:00 PM, and the door said it locked the doors each day at 5:00!  There were no signs directing us to the outside restrooms, so we had to walk all the way around the building in the dark with four big, scary men walking around outside digging through the garbage!  When we did find the restrooms, the men’s and the ladies’ side were through one entrance, and there was no door in the doorway.  So needless to say, we were pretty freaked out and hurried to get out of there and back to our car.

I was afraid that my rendezvous with President Lincoln had come to an end, but when we finally got home (thankfully in one piece!), I actually found a fourth heads-up penny on the floor of my very own living room!  (The same living room that was cleaned before I left.)

Lincoln Pennies

Unfortunately, I had to go back to work the next day, though I felt like sleeping for a week, so if President Lincoln was indeed trying to send me a message, I was too tired to receive it.

Let’s talk:  Were you hopeful that I’d actually find a five dollar bill?  Has a dead president ever tried to contact you before?  How cool was it that that old car drove in front of the railroad station while I was taking photos?

Visionary (Part Three)

Today, we learn the fate of Claire and her family, introduced to you in Monday’s Micro-Fiction Monday…

*     *     *

“Visionary”
Part Three of Three
By: Rachel Carrera

Three weeks later, the Keene house was abuzz about Van’s upcoming business trip to Elmhurst.  Billy grinned.  “Dad, will you bring us back a present?”

Susie hugged Van’s neck.  “Daddy, be sure to send us some picture postcards.  I’ve got some three cent stamps you can take with you.”

Van stood and straightened his tie.  “Of course I’ll send you postcards and bring you gifts, kids.  And what would your mother like me to bring home?”

Tears shimmered in Claire’s red rimmed eyes.  “I’d like you not to go, Van.  Please change your plans.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Kids, it’s time for bed.  I’ll see you in the morning at breakfast before I leave.  Goodnight.”  After the kids went upstairs, he gently grabbed his wife’s shoulders.  “Claire, we’ve been all through this before.  I have to go.  It’s for work.  Nothing’s going to happen to me.  Now, would you please calm down?”

Her body quaked.  “I can’t!  Van, I’ve had the same dream all week long.  You can’t go!  If you do, you could be—”  Tears spilled down her cheeks as she buried her face in his chest.

He sighed and patted her back.  “Hon, I don’t know why all of a sudden lately you think you’re some sort of soothsayer, but I couldn’t get out of it if I wanted to.  The Smithfield account depends on me making this trip, and Mr. Watley left it in my hands.  If I can secure this account, I could get a promotion, then we’ll be set.  Besides, don’t you see I have to go now to show you that there’s nothing to those dreams of yours?”

She buried her face in her hands and gritted her teeth as she put her back to him.  “You can’t.  You just can’t…”

*     *     *

The following morning, Claire’s eyes were bloodshot as she spooned up four bowls of oatmeal.  A loud crack of thunder made her gasp and jump just as Van and the kids entered the kitchen.

Van peeked out the window.  “Wow.  That’s gonna be some gully washer.  I hope when I get on the road, I can outrun this storm, and it doesn’t rain all the way to Elmhurst.”

Billy stuffed a bag of marbles in his pocket and flopped in his seat.  “How long is it to Elmhurst, Dad?”

“Six hours.  Don’t worry; I’ll call when I get checked into the hotel.”

Susie smiled a faraway smile.  “Imagine, a luxury hotel.  You’ll probably have room service, and valets, and everything!  Daddy, that’s just so… dreamy!”

Van chuckled and eyed Claire who was looking down.  He frowned.  “Aww, come on, Hon, lighten up.  I’ll be home in four days.”

She silently shook her head and stirred her oatmeal.  “Never mind me.  Just do what you have to.”

He exhaled loudly.  “Kids, go get your teeth brushed and gather your books.  I’ll drop you off at school on my way.”  As they made their way upstairs, he held Claire’s hand and tucked her chin to face him.  “Honey, please, don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

Her chin quivered.  “Van, don’t you understand?  I love you, and I don’t want to live without you.”

He smirked.  “Claire, I’m going to Elmhurst, not Mars.  I’ll be back Thursday evening.”

“No, you won’t!”

He rolled his eyes and picked up his suitcase.  “I don’t have time for this.  I need to get going.  Now, kiss me goodbye.”

She turned her face away as he tried to kiss her.  He shook his head.  “Alright.  I’ll call you when I get to the hotel.”

She nodded and sucked back her tears as he and the kids stepped outside.

A few minutes later, Van came back in with a red face.  His stride was purposeful as he headed to the kitchen sink and washed his hands.

Claire followed him.  “Where are the children?”

He dried his hands on a dishtowel and scowled.  “They walked.  Someone cut both back tires on the Pontiac!  I’m gonna have to call Howell’s Garage and have it towed.  I can’t believe you’d do this to me.  Claire, really!”

He jumped when the phone rang, and he picked up the receiver.  “Hello?  …Yes.  …Oh?  …Oh, okay.  Next week, then.  …Alright fine.  Thanks.  …Yes, goodbye.”

He narrowed his eyes.  “Honey, did you seriously think I wouldn’t find out that you called Mr. Smithfield’s office and rescheduled my meeting?  Look, I don’t know what’s going on with you lately, but this is ridiculous!  You could’ve very well just cost me my job!  Claire, I’m seriously starting to question your decision making abilities.”

Tears streamed down her cheeks.  “Van, I did it for you!  Can’t you understand how much I love and need you?  The children need you!”

He rolled his eyes and threw his hands in the air.  “This is unbelievable!  I love you, too, but I don’t understand why you think something’s gonna happen to me!  You’re not prescient!  I’ve had enough of you and those silly dreams!  Now, you really need to—”

They both turned their heads when their neighbor, Maxwell, knocked then walked in.  He carried a portable transistor radio, and his face was grim.  “Van, thank God you’re still here!  I was afraid you’d already left!”

Van furrowed his brow.  “No, I had car problems.  Why?  What’s wrong?”

Maxwell turned up the radio.  “Because the bridge over Owl Creek just washed out.  You’d have been there right about now.  They said the fog’s so thick up there, you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  Eleven cars went over the edge before anyone realized what had happened.  They’re trying to get a crew in there to pull them from the water, but with the rain and fog, they say it’s doubtful they’ll recover anything.  Van, it’s a lucky thing your car broke down, or you’d be a goner.”

The End

*     *     *

Time to chat:  Do you believe visions can sometimes accurately predict the future?   Do you believe we’re sometimes sent dreams for a reason? 

Visionary (Part Two)

It’s time for the second part of yesterday’s Micro-Fiction Monday.  Hold on to your seats…

*     *     *

“Visionary”
Part Two of Three
By: Rachel Carrera

Early the following morning, Claire whimpered in her sleep.  “Nooo!”  She bolted up and gasped loudly.

Van stepped out of the bathroom with shaving cream on his face.  “Good morning, sleepyhead.  What’s wrong?”

Tears glistened in Claire’s eyes.  “Oh, it was horrible!  I had a dream that Billy got hurt.  He fell out of a tree and broke his left arm.  Oh, I hope Howard Stevens’ tree fort isn’t very high.  Van, you don’t think—”

He wiped the shaving cream off with a towel and made his way to the bed.  “Honey, I think Billy’s just fine.  The Stevenses would have called if there was a problem.  Besides he’ll be home before nine so we can eat breakfast and get to the furniture store for the lamp sale.”

Her body still quaked as she stood and hugged him.  “Alright.  I know you’re right.  It’s just that–”

“Darling, let’s not start this dream business again.  You saw what happened with Susie last night.  Now, please, let it go.  Let’s have a good day together.”

She sighed and forced a smile.  “I’m sorry.  I’ll go start breakfast.”

A short time later, when the front door opened, Claire ran to greet Billy and hugged him tightly.

Billy winced.  “Mom, you’re smothering me!”

Tears poured down her cheeks.  “Oh, let me look at you.  I’m just so glad you’re alright.”

Van stepped into the foyer and tousled his son’s hair.  “Of course he’s alright; aren’t ya, Champ?”

Billy furrowed his brow.  “Why wouldn’t I be alright?  Mom, you’re acting crazy.”

She smiled through her tears.  “I’m sorry.  It’s just that I had another dream, and, well… I’m just so happy to see you!”  She hugged him again and kissed his cheeks.

Billy grimaced and wiped the side of his face.  “Eww!  Mom, come on!”

Van chuckled.  “Son, go put your BB gun and your suitcase up in your room, and tell your sister breakfast is ready.”

As Billy hustled upstairs, Claire said, “Be sure to wash your hands!”

When the family ate, Billy swirled his waffle in syrup and asked, “So, Mom, what was that dream about?”

Susie raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips as she eyed her mother.

Claire took a deep breath and blushed.  “Oh, I guess it was just nothing.  I dreamed that you fell out of a tree and broke your left arm.  I was just certain that you fell out of Howard’s tree fort last night.”

Billy chuckled.  “Mom, Howard’s tree fort isn’t even this tall.”  He gestured to his chest.  “It’s on the lowest branch of that old oak tree.  His mom was too scared to let his dad build it any higher.  There’s no way I could fall out of that.”

Van laughed, and Susie cracked a smile.  She picked up a bowl of blueberries and handed them to Claire.  “Mother, I’m sorry about the way I acted last evening.  I was simply horrid, and you must have hated me.”

Claire blushed.  “Of course I could never hate you, Darling.”

Van straightened his tie and smiled.  “So, is everyone ready to go help your mother pick out a new floor lamp?”

*     *     *

That night, Claire woke twice following dreams of Billy breaking his arm.  Too terrified to sleep after the second event, she tiptoed to the living room and read, praying morning would come soon.

A short time later, Van yawned as he wandered into the living room and sat next to her.  “Claire, you really need to get a handle on these dreams.  Maybe Dr. Steadman can come over after church and prescribe you a sleeping pill.”

She waved her hand.  “No, I don’t want to bother him.  His daughter’s in town visiting, and besides, we’re going up to Hallinger’s Falls.  We’ve already promised the kids.”

He rested his arm around her shoulders.  “Was it the same dream?”

She snuggled into his chest.  “Yes.  Billy falls out of a tree and breaks his left arm.”

“Hon, he already told you Howard’s tree fort isn’t four feet off the ground.  Nothing’s going to happen to him.  Now, why don’t you go pack us a picnic basket, and get breakfast ready, and I’ll go wake the kids.”  He stood and extended his hand.

She took his hand and stood.  “Alright.  Do you want scrambled or poached?”

“Poached.  And, Hon, please don’t mention this to the kids.  There’s no reason to keep calling attention to these silly dreams.”

She took a deep breath and forced a smile.  “Yes, dear.”

*     *     *

After church, Claire tried not to yawn on the drive to Hallinger’s Falls.  She simulated a happy façade as the family sang “My Darling Clementine” and “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad.”  When they arrived, she forced a smile as she unpacked the picnic basket.

After everyone ate their potato salad and fried chicken, the kids went exploring, and Claire and Van held hands as they walked along the river’s edge.  “It’s really beautiful out here, isn’t it?” he asked.

She nodded and stifled a yawn.  “It sure is.  Honey, I’m really sorry about this week with all my dreams.  I guess I was just being silly.”

He kissed the side of her head.  “Oh, Darlin’, your silliness is one of the things I love about you.  But I hate that you’re losing sleep and worrying yourself and the kids.  If you could just allow yourself to relax…”

As they came upon a few trees, Claire gasped loudly when she saw Billy balancing on a high limb with his back to them.  “Billy!” she shreiked.  “Get down from there now!”

Billy jerked his head around, and as he did, he lost his balance and fell to the ground.  “Oww!  Oww, my arm!”  He clutched his left arm as he curled up in a ball.  His lip quivered as his parents raced to him.

*     *     *

Two hours later, the emergency room doctor wiped his hands on a white hand towel as he approached the family.  “Mr. and Mrs. Keene, Billy’s going to be just fine.  It’s a clean break.  He’ll be in a cast for a few weeks, but otherwise, he’s just a little bruised.  My nurse is cleaning the plaster off him, then he’ll be ready to go.”

Claire let out a loud sigh of relief.  “Thank goodness!”

Susie’s eyes grew large.  “Mother, it’s just like in your dream.  Billy did fall out of a tree and break his left arm.  The only difference was it wasn’t Howard’s tree.”

Claire furrowed her brow.  “Actually, I didn’t know if it was Howard’s tree or not in my dream.  I just assumed since he was playing in Howard’s tree fort—”

Van rolled his eyes.  “Would you two cut it out!  Now, listen, I don’t want any talk of these silly dreams once Billy gets back.  Hon, I don’t mean to cast blame, but if you wouldn’t have startled him, he probably wouldn’t have fallen.”

Claire’s jaw dropped open.  “Are you saying this was my fault?”

“I’m not blaming anyone.  It was an accident.  I’m just saying that—”

Billy’s face beamed as he ran down the corridor to his folks.  “Mom, Dad, look at this cool cast!  I can’t wait to have all the guys sign it!”

Claire cut her eyes sideways at Van, then forced a smile and hugged her son.  “I’m just glad you’re okay, Sweetie.”  She planted a kiss on his cheek.

Billy grimaced and wiped his face.  “Aww, Mom!  Not in public!”

*     *     *

Stay tuned…  Tomorrow brings the conclusion to Visionary

Let’s talk:  Have you ever believed someone who claimed they experienced a vision?  Do you have a favorite picnic spot in your area?

Visionary (Part One)

It’s time for another Micro-Fiction Monday.  This time, today’s story is even longer than usual, so I’ll be dividing it into three parts.  You can find Part Two here tomorrow.  Now don’t be afraid…  This is only fiction…

*     *     *

“Visionary”
Part One of Three
By: Rachel Carrera

Claire gasped as she bolted up, then rubbed her eyes as she looked around the dark room and tried to gather her bearings.  Van’s soft snoring next to her assured her that she was home in bed.  It was only a dream.  She rubbed her arms until the goosebumps disappeared, then snuggled next to her husband as she willed herself to fall back asleep.

The following morning, Claire yawned as she scooped scrambled eggs and bacon onto four plates.  “Billy, Susie, breakfast is ready.”

The kids came running downstairs, and Van straightened his tie then set his fedora on the table as he snatched a piece of bacon.  “Good morning, Darlin’.  Did you sleep well?”  He kissed Claire’s cheek then sat at the head of the table.

Billy and Susie scrambled to get in their chairs as Claire untied her apron and handed Van the newspaper.  “Not really.  How about you?”

Van opened the paper without responding then raised his eyebrows.  “Oh, King George died.  It looks like England’s got a new queen.”

Susie yelped.  “Oww!  Mother, Billy hit me with his yoyo!”

Claire brought the plates to the table and said, “Billy, you know we don’t bring toys to the table.  And what are you wearing?  You can’t wear dungarees to school.  After you eat, you need to march upstairs and change into your corduroy slacks.”

“Aww, Mom!”

Van raised an eyebrow.  “Don’t sass your mother, son.  So, what’s everyone got planned for the weekend?  I need to take your mother shopping for a new lamp Saturday, and I thought we might drive up to Hallinger’s Falls for a picnic after church Sunday.”  He lit a cigarette then bit into a buttery slice of toast.

Billy wiped his milk mustache with the back of his arm and grinned.  “Howard Stevens’ dad just built him a tree fort, and they asked if I could spend the night Friday.  I’m gonna take my BB gun, and we’re gonna play Davy Crockett.”

Van smiled.  “Of course you can, son.  What about you, Princess?”

Susie smiled and smoothed her pinafore.  “Donald Fredericks asked me to the Valentine’s Dance Friday night.  I was hoping Mother would help me let down the hem of my red dress.”

Claire tensed, and the color drained from her face.  She dropped her fork to the floor with a loud ting.  Her eyes grew large, and the tendons in her neck protruded.  “I… uh… oh, Susie, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

Van picked up the utensil.  “Billy, get your mother a clean fork.  What’s wrong, dear?  You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Claire’s hands shook, and tears welled in her eyes.  “I… well… I had a dream last night, and, well, I just don’t think Susie should go to the dance.”

Susie frowned.  “What?  But, Mother!  You know I’ve been waiting all year for Donald to ask me out.”

Van patted Susie’s hand.  “Claire, a dream?  Really?  What kind of dream?”

Claire bit her lip and blushed as she averted his gaze.  “I know it sounds ridiculous, but I had a dream that Donald would ask Susie out.  She was in her red dress the night of their date, and he telephoned to cancel.  It broke her heart.  Oh, Van, we can’t risk having him hurt her like that!”

Susie’s jaw dropped open.  “What?  Mother, I’ll have you know that Donald’s a very nice boy!  He’d never do such a horrid thing!”

Claire knitted her brow.  “Susie, you were in tears, and you couldn’t be consoled.  I just don’t think—”

Van chuckled and patted Claire’s arm.  “Now, Darling, I have to agree with Susie.  Relying on a dream is a little farfetched.  Besides, my firm is trying to get the Fredericks account, so I don’t want to make old Jimbo angry if my daughter doesn’t accept his son’s invitation to the dance.”  He looked at Susie.  “Of course you can go, Princess.  Now, you and Billy had better get on upstairs and brush your teeth before you’re late for school.”

Susie stood and kissed Van’s cheek.  “Yes, Daddy.  Thank you.”  She and Billy rushed upstairs with a loud clamor.

Claire hung her head and rubbed her temples as Van stood.  He rubbed her shoulder then grabbed his fedora as he said, “Don’t be such a mother hen.  Susie’ll be just fine.”  He kissed her cheek, then took his briefcase and left.

*     *     *

Friday after school, Donald drove Susie home and accompanied her inside.  “Hi, Mrs. Keene, I’m Donald.  Susie thought it would be a good idea for me to meet you before the dance tonight.”

Claire forced a smile as she shook his hand.  “Of course, Donald, it’s good to meet you.  Why don’t you and Susie go sit in the living room.  I’ll bring you some cake and lemonade, and we can get to know each other.”

Donald tipped his head.  “Yes, ma’am.  Thank you.”

For the next hour, Claire served Donald six slices of her famous apple crumb cake as she asked him question after question.  As soon as he drove away, Susie scowled and put her hands on her hips.  “Mother, I can’t believe you!  Why’d you have to ask him so many personal questions?  That was so embarrassing!”

Van walked in the front door and hung his hat as Claire said, “Honey, I was just trying to see if his intentions were honorable.  I told you that in my dream he—”

Tears welled in Susie’s eyes.  “Oh, you and that silly dream!  I don’t want to hear another word!”  She spun on her heel, then raced upstairs and slammed the door to her bedroom.

Van shook his head and kissed his wife’s cheek.  “Hon, I told you to leave that dream business alone.  You’re name’s Claire, not Clairvoyant.”

*     *     *

A couple of hours later, Susie emerged downstairs in her red dress with white polka dots and red kitten heels.  “Mother, I can’t find my white cardigan, and can I please borrow your pearls?”

Claire sighed.  “Your cardigan is hanging in the back of your closet, and it’s may I please borrow your pearls.  Yes, you may.  They’re in my jewelry box.  And, Susie?”

“Yes?”

Claire bit her lip and looked sideways at Van who set his newspaper in his lap.  She forced a smile.  “Nothing.  It’s nothing.  You look beautiful, Darling.”

“Thanks!”  Susie grinned as she hurried back upstairs.

Van shook his head.  “Claire, don’t say anything.  You’re going to ruin this dance for her.  It was just a dream.”

Claire sighed and nodded.  “Alright.  I understand.”  They both jumped when the phone rang.

“I’ll get it,” Van said as he stood.

As he walked to the kitchen, Claire nervously clutched the arms of her chair.  She struggled to hear but couldn’t make out what he said.  She held her breath as she waited for his return.

Susie ran to the bottom of the stairs just as Van came back.  She grinned, and her dress flared as she spun in a circle.  “Well, how do I look?  Mother, these pearls are simply darling!  I think a bow in my hair would look better, don’t you?”

Van sucked in his lips.  “Princess, I—”

“What is it, Daddy?”

Claire clenched her hands into fists and bit her lip.

Van nodded and hugged Susie.  “Princess, that was Donald’s mother on the phone.  He can’t take you to the dance.”

“What?  Why not?”  Tears welled in Susie’s eyes as Claire stood and approached them.

Van smoothed his daughter’s hair.  “His mom said that he—”

Susie narrowed her eyes and glared at Claire.  “This is your fault, Mother!  You scared him away with all those silly questions this afternoon!  I can’t believe you!  I’ll be the laughingstock of the whole school!”

Claire reached for her daughter’s hand, but Susie jerked away dramatically.  Claire furrowed her brow.  “Susie, I just—”

Van sighed.  “Princess, Mrs. Fredericks said that Donald is sick.  She said the doctor just left their house and said he needed to stay in bed all weekend.  She said he feels horrible about having to cancel.”

Susie’s chest heaved as she sobbed even harder.  “It doesn’t matter!  It’s the biggest dance of the year next to Homecoming and Prom, and now I don’t have a date!  I’ll be a laughingstock!”  She spun on her heel and fled upstairs.  Moments later, her bedroom door slammed.

As Van and Claire headed back to their chairs in the living room, Claire sighed.  “I just knew it would turn out this way.  I just knew he’d cancel—”

Van spun on his heel and scowled.  “What?  Hon, I didn’t want to say anything in front of Susie, but she was right.  You did cause this.”

Claire’s hand flew to her chest.  “What?  But I didn’t do anything.  I—”

“Mrs. Fredericks said that Donald’s in bed because he’s got hives.  She said he’s allergic to apples, but apparently you plied him with half a dozen pieces of your apple crumb cake today, and he was too polite to turn you down.  Darling, you really need to calm down.  Let’s just get through this evening and hope Susie gets over it quickly.”

*     *     *

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the next installment of Visionary

Let’s talk:  Have you ever had a dream that came true?  Do you believe in self-fulfilling prophecies?