Fiction Friday: At the Cliff's Edge

My legs dangled over the edge of the cliff. As far as I could see frothy peaks dotted the pulsing waters. Whispers skated on the wind all around me. I strained to hear them over the waves crashing below and the frenzied whip of my hair.

The sky, a marbled gray, vibrated with an angry energy and threatened to crack open. There was a connection. I was the sky. My exterior was merely the dam holding back everything I had held in for far too long. So much inside of me pounded against my sanity like the waves against the cliff. Relentless.

Sentences were impossible to make out, but the occasional word pushed its way through.


The words came softly, but pelted my skin like daggers. I had no illusion to why I was here. What I came to do. But the encouragement from familiar voices was a slap to the face. A chorus of the people I loved: my mom, my dad, my sister.

The wind picked up and snatched away my tears before they could travel down my cheeks. I stood up knowing that the wind would do most of the work. With my toes hung over the edge, I raised my arms, breathing in the salty spray of the water. So caught up in the moment, I barely even noticed the gust of wind that took me over.

With the ocean racing toward me, the voices screamed to be heard. Desperation and heartbreak underscored their need for me to hear the truth:

Don’t do it.

The words warmed me against the chill of the ocean. But clarity stung my heart. All I could be now was thankful that I had no time left for regret.  

Fiction Friday: [A Few Years]

Barton Marshall’s tooth slipped from its gummy pocket and hit the porcelain sink with an unceremonious clunk. Every sign he’d ignored before now took center stage in his mind. Releasing a long, sour sigh, he knew no matter how hard he tried, there was no denying that he’d been duped.

“You’re an old man,” he said to the reflection in the bathroom mirror. His eyes, nestled atop bulging dark folds, stared back and, through the fading steam, offered a wordless agreement. Lightning bolts of pain chimed in from his lower back with a “Here. Here”. His creaky joints extended the only audible notes of solidarity.

He shuffled his way out of the bathroom and into the sterile room he woke up in. Lifting his feet seemed like an inefficient use of the little energy he had left and his well-worn slippers scuffed across the tiled floor. Reaching the bed, he plopped down, allowing gravity to do most of the work.

Barton’s friends and family had begged him not to do it. But to him, they were overreacting. Back in the twenty-first century it wasn’t uncommon for people to donate blood for some extra cash. He’d even read about people going as far as donating their sperm. Their eggs. So what was a few years?

A few years.

When he woke up, he had a bad feeling, but chalked it up to post-surgery haze. And even though making it to the bathroom had been a chore, he swatted away the thought that they had taken more years than he had agreed to. Hours ago, he would have had the strength to fight. To allow his rage to run the show. But hours ago he was a twenty one year old with his whole life in front of him.

Staring at the spots on the back of his wrinkled, fleshy hand, he figured he must be somewhere north of eighty. The thought added eighty pounds of tired on top of his already exhausted, fragile frame. His head hit the pillow and his body softened atop the stiff mattress.

As his mind drifted and sleep wove its way through every part of his rapidly aged body, Barton hoped when he woke, he’d discover this had all been a nightmare. Or at the very least, that he had enough money to buy some of his years back.


Fiction Friday: [Table For One]

“Green tea latte with almond milk.”

This time—the third time—the barista’s voice cut through the air with an edge, meant to slice the person inconveniencing her with a dose of public shaming. Rodney Melliver knew the drink was his, but he couldn’t respond. Shoulders slumped forward and chin to chest, he realized there was a distinct possibility the tiny round table dappled in pastry crumbs might be the last thing he ever saw.

The first tingles danced up his arm while he stood in line, waiting to order the ridiculously overpriced drink everyone at work had talked about. He ignored it at the time because, as had been the case for the past several days, he found himself lost in the past. Memories flooded his mind without warning. Each one bringing him to his knees with shame and regret.

While in line, Rodney was in the midst of reliving his daughter’s birthday. Well, the last one he remembered and, more impressively, acknowledged. Two days past the day she was born, he got her a card and didn’t even bother putting it in the envelope. The freshly turned nine year old was on the couch watching television when he got home. He tossed the card next to her and mumbled happy birthday without breaking his stride to grab a beer from the fridge. Now, eleven years later, remorse had found him, demanding as much attention in the spotlight as the dull prickles traveling up and down his arm and the painful contractions in his chest.   

Rodney imagined himself outside of his body. An observer to his own pathetic state: slouched and alone. So alone that there wasn’t even an empty seat at the table for him to welcome potential company. Borrowed earlier by the fleshy-faced guy at the neighboring table. When he watched him carry it away and join his friends, Rodney was gut-punched with jealousy. It had become increasingly difficult for him to see what life could have been if he had only tried.

But he hadn’t. And here he was.

“Green tea latte with…you know what? Forget thi…”

The barista’s voice trailed off and darkness crowded the edges of Rodney’s vision, he hated that his last act before dying would be to add another person to the list of people he had angered.

As the sounds around him melted together into a tinny, echoey jumble, Rodney vowed that if he was given another chance, his life would be different. He would be better. Do better.

And he would definitely try the green tea latte with almond milk.

Fiction Friday: [Five Little Words]

It was there when I arrived home early from work. A letter. No envelope. Just a single, tri-folded sheet tucked into our door jamb. Five words. Typed.

You’re dating a serial killer.

A deep tingling of unease crawled along my skin, making its way over a rocky landscape formed by tensed muscles. Despite the empty hallway, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. The keys jangled loudly in my quivering hand as I aimed for the keyhole.

Once inside, I fell against the door, clutching the letter to my chest and crumpling it in my clammy hand. It took a while, but I forced myself to slow my breathing. To ease the deafening thump in my chest.

Memories with Thomas flooded my mind. Laughing on our first date as we walked along the Hudson River. Realizing my true feelings for him as we danced during our first New Year’s Eve together. How at the stroke of midnight, he told me he loved me before I could say a word. And how just the other day, I cried tears of joy when I found a ring-sized velvet box in his underwear drawer.

Thomas was the kindest person I’d ever met. Flaws and all, he loved me more than I knew anyone ever could. I saw it every time he looked at me. There was no room in his heart for even the tiniest hint of malice. And that was the truest truth I knew.

He would be home soon. A decision had to be made. And it wasn’t a difficult one. I tore the letter again and again until it rained down into the trash like confetti.

The letter was gone, but I knew it wouldn’t be the end of it. There would be more. Unless, of course, I found the person attempting to destroy our relationship.

It shouldn’t be too hard. Leaving it in the door was a sloppy move. A wiser tattletale would have ensured that Thomas got the letter directly. But, lucky for me they didn’t. 

Fiction Friday: [Galloway House Pt. 7]

Welcome to Part 7 of Galloway House. If you have missed any of the previous installments, you can find them here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6. And as always, thanks for reading!]

By the time Joseph Strunk began his ascent up the hill, he had worked himself up into a near panic. Convinced that his heart thumped harder and louder with each step he took, he worried it would burst from his chest before he made it to Galloway House.

Lightning continued to soundlessly flash across the sky, but thunder had taken its leave. The silence oozed ear-cloggingly thick and unnerved him more than the darkness. Almost more than the mission itself.

The lantern swung gently from his tight, sweat-slicked grip, sending shadows dancing long and eerie all around him. His other hand cradled the package tucked securely under his arm.

Up ahead, lights flickered from front windows, highlighting the intricate details of the lace curtains. Filled with anxiety, the beauty of it all was lost on him. Beauty was not on the list of reasons that candles filled the room.

Reaching the front door, Joseph was certain the knocking in his chest was louder than the sound of his knuckles against the wood. Light cracked at the edges and grew in the darkness as the door eased open. And despite a centuries-long feud between the families, a Strunk was once again face to face with a Galloway.  

Fiction Friday: [The Porcelain Predicament]

[I came across this article in the New York Times about how they're rolling out 'One-Sentence Stories' on Apple watches. Full disclosure: I didn't read the entire article. In fact, I barely got through the first few sentences. One, I'm not an Apple person. And two , I quickly lost interest when I couldn't tell the difference between these 'One-Sentence Stories' and their regular headlines. "So what's your point?" the readers asked. Well it's this: the actual headline made me think about containing an entire story in one sentence. This isn't a new concept. Plus, I've been a fan of Smith Magazine's Six-Word Memoirs for a while now. I suppose this was all a long winded way to explain why today's Fiction Friday is way shorter than this lead up! Enjoy!]


The weight of the divorce didn't truly hit me until I reached over and discovered the empty toilet paper roll.

Fiction Friday: [Hearts Ablaze in Charm City]

Stockpiles of pain
Sit heavily on tear-stained chests.
Hearts smoldering for a lifetime
Under the banner of:
Less Than.

Fires are burning, but
far beyond, far deeper than
the images splashed
across television screens.

The stockpiles fanned
again and again,
finally sparked, ignited
In the hearts of
The oppressed.

‘Legitimate’ news sources
taken to task
by Twitter.
Citizen journalism broadcasting
truths that don't boost ratings.
Ensuring that the world:

And with each heart sparked
to action, to empathy,
another Less Than banner

I felt that it was important for me to share the birth of this poem. The other day I watched an interview between Wolf Blitzer and activist Deray McKesson. And although I pride myself on taking most broadcast news with a grain of salt, this particular interview really got to me for the following reasons: I have lived in Baltimore. I have friends and family in Baltimore. I'm a black woman. And I'm a human being. To blatantly attempt to goad someone into creating the sound bite that you want is not journalism. Trying to coerce someone to condemn the legitimate feelings of the oppressed is not journalism. Those family and friends I told you about? They were posting images and sending tweets about what the majority were doing. Coming together in crowds of hundreds, sometimes thousands to figure out how to bring the peace. How to talk to the children and make this a teachable moment. But, not only was I not seeing this on the news, here was Wolf only wanting to perpetuate the 'If it bleeds it leads' work ethic of the news industry. Angrier than I'd been in a long time, I created and posted the following graphic on Instagram along with the caption that follows it:

Above is what happened after I watched #WolfBlitzer's interview with #DerayMcKesson.

I lived in #Baltimore for 9 months while working on The Wire and what I learned about the people there was that they love their city. They're proud of their city. I shouldn't have to go to social media to get the whole story and to recognize the strong people I remember so well. Especially when people are getting pretty hefty paychecks under the guise of being fair and impartial. 

I am in no way condoning the violence or saying that it shouldn't be reported. What I am saying is that if you only tell 1/4 of a story it becomes a tale of fiction based on a partial truth. This systematic grooming of people's minds to believe that people of color, especially poor people of color, are all violent thugs is a problem on the national level. And it's a problem that will never get resolved until we are shown the whole picture. The good and the bad.

To are more than the picture they are painting. #StayStrong #Rebuild #TeachAndGrow

Fiction Friday: [The Splintering of a Wooden Heart]

Some would say it was a dark and stormy night. Unoriginal jerk-offs like Todd Winters, that is. He was the type who slid other’s words off his tongue with a cockiness that made the well-read shake their heads and the unenlightened gape all moon-eyed at his wisdom.

Rain pelted the car relentlessly. The windshield wipers screeched in protest as they struggled to keep up. The occasional flash of lightning was a welcomed sight, helping to light an additional few inches in front of the headlights.

My tender knuckles threatened to burst through my skin as my fingers strangled the steering wheel. My purpled jaw pulsed over the grinding of teeth, the taste of salt and copper on my tongue. Vision blurred from the fog of seething anger and an undercurrent of pain and loss.

The deeper I drove into the darkness, the more in sync the weather grew with my mood. Neither of which I would describe as “dark and stormy”. The more I grumbled, the harder the rain seemed to fall. Lightning scratched across the sky every time I relived the moment when had I opened the door. Tessa scrambling to cover herself—with the sheets that I paid for—sent thunder booming right through my chest.

Tonight added way more than insult to the injury. More than salt to the wound. Tonight skinned me alive. So many layers torn away and impossible to piece back together. Things would never be the same. They couldn’t be.

The phone buzzed on the seat next to me again. No need to look. I knew it was my wife. And I knew that no combination of words could make this better. None existed that could heal my broken heart.


Two hours later I realized how foolish I’d been, running away from my own home. Pulling into the driveway, I took a moment to collect myself. The living room curtain pulled back and my wife peeked out. After twenty years of marriage, I could see, even through sheets of rain, that she was relieved I was back. She greeted me at the door, her eyes slick and red.

“Sorry I left,” I said, wrapping her up in my arms.

After a moment, she led me up the stairs and past the flaking plaster where I had punched the wall. We paused outside the bedroom door where a wooden heart, painted with the innocence of pink and purple flowers, hung like a lie. Staring at it only reignited my urge to run.

“I…I can’t do this, Julie.”

My wife studied me carefully. A million emotions passed behind her eyes.

“She’s our daughter, Paul. And at seventeen, she’d not our baby anymore. I’m sure she’s just as traumatized as we are.”

Julie took a deep breath and knocked on the door, swinging it open before getting a response. Tessa sat on the bed, her face pink with tears. In her arms, with one of his ears hanging limply from over a decade of bringing her comfort, was Mr. Bear Bear. And for a moment, all I could see was my sweet little girl.