Keeping it in the Family

Addams Family

Good morning, dear readers! Today, where I live, it’s Family Day, which is basically a fancy name for a government-legislated, mid-winter day off. Given that I’m self-employed, I don’t actually get the benefit of a paid day off, but I do get to spend the day with my family. And that got me thinking about the word family and where it came from.

So I’m taking a break from my family to share my findings with you—members of my online family. Before I get to the meat of this post, I also thought I’d take this opportunity to lay a little guilt on you, because, after all, we’re family.

The Kickstarter for my novel is heading into its last two weeks. I’ve raised about 20% of my goal, which is awesome, but I won’t get any of those contributions if I don’t reach 100%. So I’d like to ask you to consider backing me, if you haven’t already. And if you have, then I’d like to ask you to spread the word on your social networks.

All right, so let’s look at family.

The word family first appears in English in the early 1400s. At that time, it was actually used to refer to the servants of a household. It comes from the Latin word familia, which referred to family servants and domestics collectively. Occasionally, familia was used to refer to the entire household, including relatives and servants, but very rarely was it used to specifically refer to parents and their children. This makes sense when you see that familia came from the Latin word famulus, which meant servant.

In Latin, the word domus was what they used to refer to the related parents and children who lived together in a house.

It wasn’t until the mid-1500s that family started to include parents and children—but in addition to the servants and including boarders. So really, just anyone who lived under the same roof. By the 1660s, family had shifted to its modern meaning, describing parents and their children, whether or not they lived together, or people descended from a common ancestor, which included aunts, uncles, cousins, et cetera.

So the next time someone in your family complains about doing their chores—or accuses you of treating them like a servant—you can tell them that’s what it means to be part of a family.

———————————————————————————————

Image credit: Google images

The Darkness

fort-point-arches

The Darkness

There was a time when her world didn’t look like this, Sarah thinks. But those days seem so far away now it’s almost like she’s remembering something from a dream. Or a movie about someone else’s life. With a weary sigh, Sarah pushes an errant strand of hair out of her eyes and resumes scrubbing the pot in the sink.

She can hear her toddler, Sophie, squealing joyfully at something on the television, and Sarah wonders what it must be like to experience the world through the eyes of a toddler. Every moment full of possibility and wonder. And even the bad moments pass quickly, soothed by a mother’s kiss or the discovery of a forgotten toy beneath the sofa.

Sarah can’t remember the last time anything made her feel that joy. She tells herself that she must have felt that way when Sophie and her baby brother were born. After all, they are her whole world. But she can’t find that joy anywhere within herself, even if she digs. All there is now is unending darkness, tunnelling through her insides like a very hungry caterpillar. And every so often, it reaches up to whisper in her ear.

The pot is clean now. Sparkling in the glow from the track lighting above the sink. Sarah places the pot on top of the pile of clean dishes in the rack and slowly peels the rubber gloves from her hands. At least the kitchen will be clean when Josh gets home from work, even if she has no idea when that will be.

When the darkness first started to grow, Sarah had turned it outwards, snapping at Josh and reprimanding Sophie for all the little things. Gradually, it had turned inwards, but by then Josh had taken on extra projects at work, often working well past the kids’ bedtimes and into the weekends. Sarah couldn’t really blame him. If she could have found a way to escape the darkness she would have done the same. But sometimes she remembered how full of life she and Josh had been, all those years ago, and she wondered if there was a secret hidden away in those moments that could have slayed the darkness.

Sarah shakes her head. It doesn’t matter now. It’s too late.

As if on cue, the baby begins to cry.

“Mama!” Sophie calls. “Milo’s awake!”

The walk down the hall to the baby’s room takes all the energy Sarah can muster. Her feet feel like lead weights and the air in the house presses down on her with every step. She stops in the doorway and looks at the baby, who is sitting up in his crib, his big blue eyes bright with tears. Like Sophie, he has blonde hair and fair skin. And his father’s charming smile. He beams at her and reaches his arms out to be picked up.

Sarah carries the baby back down the hall and then down the stairs to the family room, where Sophie is still watching television.

“Milo!” Sophie dances over to plant a kiss on her brother’s cheek. Sarah lowers the baby into his playpen.

“Can you watch him for a minute, Sophie?” Sarah asks. “I’m going to go get your snacks.”

“Okay,” says Sophie, and she proceeds to entertain her baby brother with funny faces and ridiculous sounds.

With effort, Sarah drags herself back up the stairs to the kitchen. She has to fight the urge to stop and lie down on the floor—an urge that has been growing in frequency over the last two weeks.

Just a little further, she tells herself.

In the kitchen, she grabs the kids’ snacks, which she’d prepared before she washed the dishes. Then she opens the fridge and grabs three bottles of juice. She doesn’t normally let the kids drink juice, but today is special.

Back in the basement, she lays out the snacks on the table. Sophie and the baby are thrilled about the juice, draining their bottles in no time. Sarah puts her bottle on the end table, picks up the baby and persuades Sophie to come and sit with them, even though it’s not really in Sophie’s nature to sit still.

Only when Sophie and Milo have both stopped breathing does Sarah drink the juice in her own bottle. Then she lies down beside her children and waits for the darkness to take her away.

———————————————————————————————

This is my submission for the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge. This week’s 1,000 Words challenge tasked us with the following: “use one of the images in this gallery as a starting point for a short story, poem, free-write, or musing on whatever you’d like.”

I apologize for how dark this story is, but the character of Sarah came to me earlier this week and insisted that her story be told.

Also linking up with my lovely sisters (and brothers) at the yeah write Moonshine Grid.

———————————————————————————————

Image credit: “Emptiness” by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

John and Margaret

Moonlight night

John and Margaret

I watched my brother pour a teaspoon of salt into the mug on the counter. “John, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I said, glancing over my shoulder.

“Relax Meg,” John replied, stirring the cup of herbal tea so the salt would dissolve. “It’s gonna be hilarious.”

“But Sarah’s still upset about the worms,” I said.

“I know. So she won’t see this coming. And that’s why it’ll be so funny.” My brother was grinning that infectious grin of his. I smiled back, but shook my head.

“She’s gonna be pissed,” I warned.

When Sarah had seen those worms in her cereal bowl this morning, I’d thought for sure she was going to throw up. I’d never seen a bowl fly across a room like that. And the look on her face when she’d cornered us was like something out of a movie. I’m pretty sure she was at her wit’s end, or wherever it is grown-ups go when they’re really mad. It probably didn’t help that John and me had been pulling pranks on her since the day she’d moved in. But we didn’t like the way she changed things—the way she changed our Dad, especially. He used to be way more fun.

I led the way to the living room. John followed bearing the mug of tea. John usually came up with the ideas for the pranks, so my job was to help him pull them off.

Sarah was sitting on our mom’s favourite armchair. Dad stood behind her, rubbing her shoulders. They both looked at us when we appeared in the doorway. I lowered my head and walked over to stand in front of Sarah. John came and stood beside me, keeping his eyes firmly fixed to the floor.

“We’re really sorry, Sarah,” I said in my best quiet voice. “We made you some tea.”

John held the mug out and we both held our breath as we waited to see if Sarah would accept it. From the corner of my eye, I saw Dad nudge her.

Sarah let out a sigh and took the mug from John’s hands. Then she took a sip. And promptly spat it back into the mug. She stood up, her eyes blazing with anger.

“What’s wrong?” Dad asked.

With something that sounded like a growl, Sarah thrust the mug at our Dad and stormed out of the room. Dad sniffed the contents of the mug then took a little sip.

“Salt? Really?” He looked at us, frustration and disappointment written clearly on his face. He sighed. “Go to your rooms.”

I could hear Dad and Sarah arguing from my bedroom. She was really angry. I couldn’t hear everything they said, but I did hear her say she’d had enough and it was either her or us. Maybe that meant she would finally leave and things would go back to the way they used to be.

After a while, their voices got quieter. I played with toys, read some fairy tales, and eventually fell asleep. When I woke up, it was starting to get dark outside. My Dad knocked on the door, then poked his head in.

“Margaret, put on a sweater and come downstairs.” He pulled the door closed and I heard him go to John’s room and say the same thing.

Dad and Sarah were waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. Sarah stood with her arms crossed and her eyes averted.

“We’re going to take a drive,” Dad explained, “Your stepmother wants to show you something. Put your boots on and go get in the car.”

Something in Dad’s voice told me that this wasn’t a normal family outing. As we put our outdoor clothes on, a knot started to grow in my stomach. We stepped out into a crisp winter night. The full moon hung low in the sky, casting a creepy glow over everything. I looked at Sarah, and for a second, I could have sworn her scarf was actually a snake. The knot in my stomach tightened. I stopped walking.

“Dad, can I grab a snack?” I asked. “John and I haven’t eaten since this morning.”

Dad nodded and told me to be quick.

I ran to the kitchen and searched the cupboards for something I could use. There, at the back of the top shelf, was a small box of breadcrumbs. I slipped it into my pocket, grabbed some granola bars, and headed back outside.

———————————————————————————————–

This is my submission for the Speakeasy #142. We had to write a piece of poetry or fiction under 750 words, containing the following line anywhere:

I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Our submissions also had to make some reference to the media prompt, which, this week, is the following picture:

There’s still lots of time to participate in this week’s Speakeasy, so come check it out.

—————————————————————————————

Full moon image credit: alexkar08 / Photoxpress.com

Speakeasy: Stalker

full moon

Stalker

“He had it coming to him.” Even though she spoke forcefully, Agatha’s voice trembled. “After everything he did.”

Candace closed the cottage door and leaned on it. She nodded, but she couldn’t seem to find her voice. Her sister was right. Todd Dewar had been a bad person who had done some very bad things. No one knew that better than Candace, who could still feel his warm liquored-up breath on her neck when she closed her eyes. She remembered the way he had follow her through the forest; how she had caught him spying on her in her most intimate moments. Candace shuddered.

When she’d first met Todd, she thought he was kind of sweet, even though he was a bit too old for her taste. He’d helped out in her classroom from time to time, which was a boon on those rainy days when all the children had to stay inside for recess. He was good with the kids and Candace had been quite partial to his smile.

But then the children had started disappearing. They’d been picked off one by one, vanishing into the night. The whole town had been on edge. Parents terrified to let their children leave the house, even to go to school.

It was around that time that Todd had started acting strangely. One morning, Candace had found him snooping through her desk. Although he claimed to be looking for a pencil, Candace knew better. She’d put a lock on her desk and told the office she didn’t need Todd’s help any more.

Then he had started following her outside of the school, turning up everywhere Candace went. The post office. The gym. The grocery store. That’s when Candace had told Agatha about him. Her sister had insisted she take action.

“You need to call the police and report him for stalking,” Agatha had said. “File a restraining order against him.”

But Candace had been afraid of what he might do.

And then, one night, Todd had ambushed her in the woods. He had waited for her in the dark, hidden behind an old oak tree. As she walked past, he’d leapt out and grabbed her, pressing her against the tree so she couldn’t escape.

“I know what you are Ms. Jaeger,” he’d whispered in her ear as the alcohol on his breath flooded her nose. “I have pictures—”

“Candace!” Agatha’s voice calling for her had interrupted Todd.

“I’ll be back for you,” he’d said, releasing her, “and for your sister.” The he’d turned and disappeared into the woods.

Agatha had been livid when Candace explained what had happened. But she’d stroked her sister’s head and told her she would take care of it. True to her word, Agatha had met Candace at their special place in the woods the following evening, an unconscious Todd in tow.

He was older than their usual victims, which made getting him into the oven a bit tricky. Teenagers and their long gangly limbs. Because of his age, neither Agatha nor Candace wanted to eat him, but his bones could be ground up to use in spells, and his organs would make excellent fertilizer for their garden. After all, they both knew the key to winning the County Fair award for biggest pumpkin was all in the heart.

So the sisters set to work, neatly disposing of Todd’s remains. What wasn’t used for spells and fertilizer went into the pumpkin stew they would feed the remaining children. The full moon would be here soon and no self-respecting witch would ever sacrifice a mangy child.

Agatha put her arm around Candace and kissed her sister’s cheek. “We’d better go,” she said. “Daylight’s coming and you have to get ready for school.”

—————————————————————————————

This is my submission for this week’s Speakeasy #129. Come and read all the other fantastic submissions, then come back and vote for your three favourites on Thursday (that’s tomorrow!).

This week, we had to the following opening line: He had it coming to him. We also had to make some kind of reference to this photograph:

—————————————————————————————

Moon image credit: Tammy Mobley / PhotoXpress.com

Trifextra: Countdown

rocketship3

Countdown

Five little astronauts tucked in tight.
Four minutes left until they reach the night.

Three stars twinkle overhead.
Two little astronauts rest their heads.

One by one they fall asleep,
to slumber deep.

———————————————————————————————

This is my submission for this weekend’s Trifextra challenge in which we had to write a  children’s bedtime story in exactly 33 words.

———————————————————————————————

Image credit: clipartlord.com