On A Small House (Free … Poetry?)

On A Small House

A.J. Brown

The storm rages outside.
Lightning flashes,
Thunder rolls,
Rain pelts down on the small house.

Trees bend with the wind.
With candles in each room
Their flames flickering high
Casting shadows of dancing people along the walls,
The child lies in bed.
He stares at the window
With blanket tucked beneath his chin.
He holds the stuffed doggie tight to his chest
And the lightning flashes,
The thunder rolls,
Rain pelts down on the small house.

Shadows flicker in the room,
The tree outlined by the streaks in the sky,
He shivers as a cold finger tickles his spine.
A fan on the dresser
Blows the curtains about
They sway away from the window and lay back into place.
He clutches the doggie and whispers,
“It will go away.”
The lightning flashes,
And the thunder rolls,
The rain pelts down on the small house.

His eyes catch blinding streaks in the night sky
Through the light blue curtains.
Tree branches stretch like fingers
Reaching for him,
Grasping for him.
And the doggie is held tighter.
His eyes grow wide as the curtain lifts upward.
And the lightning flashes,
The thunder rolls,
Rain pelts down on the small house.

He stares at the window
Two eyes stare back.
The child stifles a scream,
Or it catches in his throat.
He pulls the blanket over his nose
Hiding all but his eyes.
The fan flips off as the power dies
And the curtain lays flat against the window.
The lightning flashes,
The thunder rolls,
Rain pelts down on the small house.

A head appears behind the curtain,
On the other side of the window.
A shadow, that’s all,
Is what he tells himself.
Then comes the scratching.
Scritch, scritch,
Scratch, scratch,

The boy’s heart skips a beat,
Then another.
And he watches the window
Waiting for
The lighting to crash
And the thunder to roll,
As the rain pelts down on the small house.
A sound, like glass tinkling on the floor
Fills the room.
The curtain billows inward
In front of the broken window.
Cool air enters the room
And the rain becomes loud.
He hears the steady
Clink, clink, clink
Of raindrops on a piece of broken glass.
The lightning flashes,
The thunder rolls,
Rain pelts down on the small house.

A hand reaches in
Boney and pale,
Fingers like knifes with sharp pointy tips.
He pulls his legs to his chest
And he screams.
“Go away!”
The hand retracts
As the lightning flashes
The thunder rolls,
And rain pelts down on the small house.

Daddy comes into the room.
His savior arrives.
He picks the little boy up
Holds him in his arms,
“All is okay, little one.”
The boy looks at the window
As the light flashes across the sky
The head slinks into the darkness
And the lightning quells,
The thunder quiets,
And the rain slowly ceases

The boy lies back in bed,
Grabs the doggie and holds it tight.
Daddy leaves and the boy smiles
“I told you he would go away.”
And somewhere in the distance
The lightning flashes
The thunder rolls
And rain pelts down on a small house.

__________

Poems are a fun way to make you think of your word usage. Each poem has its own meter, whether it rhymes or not. Your choice of words is crucial to a smooth, lyrical poem. So often when I wrote poetry, I had the most difficult time actually making it smooth, making it sing. So, when I succeed, I am usually ecstatic.

This poem is about every child’s fear, both of storms and of the dark. I wanted to capture the raw emotion of a young boy on a dark and stormy night after his imagination has gotten the best of him. Was there a shadow lurking outside his window? Was there a hand reaching through broken glass to get him? Was there even a broken window, or was it all the boy’s imagination. I’ll never tell because, at the end of the day, the ending will always be left to interpretation.

I hope this poem didn’t bore you and that you enjoyed it. If you did, will you, please, like this post, comment on it and share it to your social media. I greatly appreciate it.

A.J.

 

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Creating Shadows

“To cast a shadow, you have to do something.”
–Bill Walton

5dfa6c90a5f9ed88cfe6038fd12a7e7aBefore I get into my blog, let me give you a brief history on Bill Walton. Stick with me for a paragraph here. Bill Walton played basketball for the UCLA Bruins in college, where he was on two national championship teams and was part of one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports. He then went on to play professionally for the Portland Trailblazers, San Diego Clippers and Boston Celtics. He was part of two NBA championship teams. He is currently a commentator of NBA games. Walton, in my opinion, sees the world differently than most people and his seemingly joyous outlook can sometimes be hilarious when he goes on one of his humorous rants.

Okay, now that you know a brief history on Walton, et me give you the context of the comment above. On Saturday, February 2nd, 2019, Walton was on either ESPN’s Sportscenter or one of the various NBA shows the network airs. He was talking about the groundhog and whether or not it saw its shadow. Apparently, he did not see his shadow. This prompted the statement, “To cast a shadow, you have to do something.”

Immediately, I wrote it down. It struck me as something more than just about a groundhog seeing his shadow. It struck me as a giant casting a long shadow over a small town.

So, what is a shadow? For the purposes of this blog, it will be what we all think of as a shadow: a dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface.

Also for this blog, we will look at this meaning as well: in reference to a position of relative inferiority or obscurity.

These two definitions go hand in hand with my personal interpretation of Bill Walton’s statement. (For the re

cord, I doubt Walton meant his comment to be taken the way I am taking it, but I’ve chosen to see it deeper than it was probably intended.)

1081455_1First, the shadow as a noun. We’ve all seen objects casting long, gray or dark shadows in its wake, especially in the early morning as the sun rises or in the early evening as the sun sets. Trees, buildings, mountains … people casts shadows as the sun’s rays hits them, blocking those rays from reaching the ground. A lot of reference to shadows in fiction are negative. He hid in the shadows. What loomed in the shadows? It lurked in the shadows. All statements that imply dread or something sinister. A shadow in and of itself is not scary at all. It’s what could be in those shadows that terrifies people.

Let’s add the other definition, because that is the one that I think is more powerful, when coupled with the first definition above. How often have you heard something like, ‘he is in the shadow of this great person,’ or ‘His people live in his shadows,’ or something like that?

As I mentioned earlier, when I heard the statement Walton made, I immediately thought of a giant standing on the outskirts of a small town, looking down on the terrified peasants beneath him. He cast such a long and ominous shadow over them, they can’t help but be scared. But what if that shadow was a good thing? What if that shadow was something good that someone has done that everyone else tries to strive for? Take away the doom and gloom and you get something far better.

michael-jordan-dunkMichael Jordan did things in the eighties and nineties on a basketball court that no one else ever had. From that point on, every great player that came into the NBA was compared to him. I don’t know how many times I have heard, Is he the next Michal Jordan? Kobe Bryant came along and did things that Jordan didn’t do. Lebron James followed. Teams built their rosters around the notion of how do we get by Jordan’s Chicago Bulls or Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers or any team James has played for. The standard of excellence keeps getting pushed higher and higher because there was a shadow of greatness left behind by someone who came before them. In order to cast a shadow, you have to do something. In order to be the greatest, you have to do something greater than the person before you.

What about Wal-Mart? Amazon? Apple? The Beatles? Michael Jackson? Prince? Stephen King? Nicholas Sparks? All of them had an idea and all of them became better than what and who came before them. They were innovative. They changed the industries they were in, and in some cases, changed the world. They did something and now they casts long shadows over those who follow. 

There was a man at the place I work. A big man, in size and stature and notoriety. He was known internationally for the great things he had done in the field he chose to excel in. He taught many people great things and he helped others achieve some of the most amazing things in their lives. He not only made his industry sit up and take notice of who he was, but he helped a lot of people along the way. He cast a vast shadow over those in his field of expertise. Many wanted to be like him. He had a little plaque on his desk that read simply: Quality is giving your best every time … with a personal touch. He lived by that quote and he achieved something that allowed for a huge shadow to be left in his wake. He was the giant on the edge of town. 

What does this have to do with me and you? Some artists—writers, painters, sculptors, musicians, craft makers, anyone who takes on an artistic endeavor—have this innate desire to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed, to be read, to be listened to. They are, in one way or another, exhibitionists waiting to happen. But it’s not enough to be seen, heard, read, noticed, listened to. They have to be felt. They need you, the fans of the various forms of artistic fields out there, to feel what you read, feel what you hear, feel what you notice, feel what you see, feel what you listen to. They need to touch you on a higher level. They need to move you to tears, to laughter, to anger, to something, to anything, but they need you to be impacted by what they do and how they do it. 

imagesArtists, such as Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Kiss created music and songs that were different from the norm of their day. They either disturbed the listeners, disgusted them, or excited them. Either way, people noticed, people listened, people heard, people saw and people felt their impact. They casts shadows, no matter how large or small they may have been. 

That’s what I want to do with my writing. I’ve always done things my own way. I’ve always said I don’t want to be a cookie cutter writer or word whore. I want to pull on your heart strings. I want you to remember Hank Walker and Cory Maddox and Humphrey. I want you to remember the Claires and Danes and Charlies of my stories. I want you to feel the heart ache of Art as he stands on top of the Seth Building looking at a painting he did right before his son died. I want you to feel the pain of the scars on Nothing’s body. I want you to feel the distrust and dislike Cassidy has for Cap’s former girlfriend. I want you to understand Mickie and why she makes stick figure dolls. I want you to feel the needle pricks as Irene sews herself together. I want you to smell the grapes. I want you to have the sense of loss and confusion at the end of Homer’s days. I want you to feel the desperation of Liam as he deals with the death of … himself. 

I want you to feel something when you read one of my stories. I want it to touch you deeply, so deep that you have to share it with others. 

To cast a shadow, you must do something. 

You don’t have to be Michael Jordan to cast a shadow. Or Prince. Or some big corporation. You just have to be willing to work at it, and work hard. You also need help and you have to know when to ask for that help. Nobody gets anywhere without help. Anyone who says they got to the top without help is probably not telling the entire truth. So, that is what I am doing. 

Help me cast a shadow. 

If you’ve read my work and I have touched you in any way, tell someone about it. Leave a review on Amazon or post one to my author page. Share this blog with people. Share my Amazon author page with people. Purchase books. If you share my work on social media, use my hashtag, #horrorwithheart. 

If you’ve never read anything I’ve written, other than the blog posts on here, get one of my books. Start with Cory’s Way and go from there. Here’s what I know: you won’t be disappointed. 

I work hard at this business, but right now I’m the groundhog who doesn’t see his shadow. That will change. I’m as sure of that as you are reading these words. So, let’s go casts shadows together. 

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.
A.J. 

Voices, The Interviews: Spencer

SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PM.pngBefore reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our little project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here). If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

One more thing before the first session: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.

SESSION 1

The doorknob is cold to the touch. Lisa let her palm linger as she takes a deep breath. She closes her eyes and gathers her thoughts. Beyond the door are the people she was sent to talk to, to interview. 

“You can do this,” she says and takes another deep breath. Forcing a smile, she turns the knob and opens the door. 

A room with gray walls and dirty white tiles greets her. The lights overhead are fluorescents and casts dim shadows into the corners where she imagines cobwebs cling to the ceiling and spiders caress the carcasses of dead bugs before eating them. There’s not much in the room. A brown piano along the right wall, its ivory keys yellow and its ebony ones having lost their luster. A table sits to her left, complete with clear plastic cups containing water and various juices. There are no snacks to be seen. 

In the center of the room are sixteen folding chairs, each one upholstered with cushions a shade of yellow out of the seventies. Stuck to the backs of each chair is a sticker that says Holly’s Mortuary. Fifteen of them form the shape of a U and are occupied. One of them—the one in the center—is not. 

Lisa doesn’t focus on any one of the fifteen people waiting for her, each one in their own little world, recalling the stories of their lives, possibly in vivid details, possibly through hazy clouds of the thing we call forgetfulness. Women. Men. Children. They all turn and look at her when the door closes with a click that is too loud in her ears. Her smile falters, but not for long. She forces it back in place, straightens her shirt and walks toward what she calls The Fifteen. She reaches her chair, turns and sits down. 

Scanning the room, she takes in the blank stares, resentful faces, some even with a touch of sadness filling their eyes. She settles on one individual, a young boy in his mid-teens and a pimple on the side of his face. She considers him for a moment. He is not fat, but he is not thin either. Most would call him chubby, something she knows bothers him. He stares at the floor, at his shoes. One of them is untied, the loose ends frayed

“Spencer,” she says and waits for him to look up. When he does, she sees the circle of gray beneath his eyes. “Hi.”

He says nothing, but he does frown, an expression that reminds her of Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons. “I understand you are a good student. Is that right?”

He looks at her with those sad eyes.

“Well? Are you a good student?”

Spencer nods. It’s a jerky sort of motion. “Yes … yes, ma’am.”

Lisa smiles. It’s a start. “Good to hear, Spencer. So, what do you do for fun? Any hobbies? Extracurricular activities?”

Spencer shrugs. “I … I don’t know. I umm … There is this place I hang out at sometimes. It’s called The Game Room and it’s … it’s where my friends and I play games. You know like Munchkin and Magic, the Gathering.”

“Interesting.” She stares at the boy. She wants to go easy on him, lob some painless questions his way so he can hit them out of the park. She doesn’t want to scare him, to make him any more nervous than he already is. 

You’re not here to be his mother, she thinks. Time to take the kid gloves off.

“Spencer, what scares you?”

photo-1504401774599-1b5378bfaae3His head jerks up. His eyes are wide. His bottom lip quivers. Lisa suddenly feels sorry for him, but she knows she can’t turn back now.

“Umm … what?”

“What are you afraid of?”

He licks his lips and then wipes his nose. He takes several deep breaths. “Umm …”

“It’s okay, Spencer. This isn’t the outside world. No one’s going to judge you here.”

“I’m scared of shadows.”

“Shadows?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Lisa points to one of the darkened corners behind him. “Like those shadows?”

He shrugs. 

“Is there something in the shadows, Spencer?”

He nods. His eyes focus on the corner closest to the door. 

“Are the shadows … bad?”

He looks back at her. His lip no longer trembles and his voice is soft. “Sometimes.”

It’s Lisa’s turn to nod. Her gut tells her she isn’t going to get much more out of him about the shadows. She switches gears. “What about pretty girls? Are they bad?”

“Sometimes.”

“What about pretty girls named Sarah?” 

Spencer stiffens. He looks down at his hands, then back up at Lisa. “Yes.”

“You fell for the pretty girl trap, didn’t you?”

His frown deepens. He gives a nod, but says nothing.

Lisa shakes her head. “What makes teenage boys fall for the pretty girl trap?”

“I didn’t know it was a trap. She was … was so pretty and she needed help with one of her classes and she invited me over. I just wanted to help her out.”  

“Did you really think it was a study invitation?”

Ten seconds pass and he says nothing. Another fifteen follows. “I thought she liked me. I hoped she liked me. No girl has ever liked me before. No girl has ever shown me any attention before, and she … she acted like she liked me.” His voice holds agitation in it, an edge that Lisa didn’t think she could get from him. She reverses gears this time.

“So, the shadows …”

“They’re not just shadows,” he snaps. “They are shadow people and they don’t like humans. They kill. They eat. They don’t like me.”

“But they didn’t kill you?”

He laughs. “No, they didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well, they killed Bobby.”

“And Sarah?”

He shrugs. 

“Did you let the shadow people harm Bobby and Sarah?”

The corners of Spencer’s mouth turn up slightly. “I didn’t let them harm Bobby and Sarah. I just let them take them. It’s Bobby and Sarah’s fault they got hurt.”

“Okay. How do you feel about letting the shadow people take Bobby and Sarah?”

Another shrug. “I don’t feel anything.”

“Do you think they deserved it?”

Spencer smiles fully now. It is a haunting expression. His eyes become darker. He isn’t looking at his hands now. He is looking straight at Lisa and his face is glowing. He laughs, a sound that is disturbing to hear. “Oh, yes. They deserved it. I just wish I hadn’t been too scared to watch.”

He sits back in his chair, puts his hands on his knees. “Is that all, Ma’am?”

“Yes,” Lisa says. 

“Can I go now?”

“Yes. You can return to the page now.”

Spencer stands, nods at Lisa. He doesn’t look at any of the others in the room. A moment later he stands at the door and glances back. His eyes are sad again. “Come,” he says and motions toward one of the corners untouched by light. A shadow pulls itself from the darkness and creeps along the top of the wall, staying in the unlit areas until it reaches the door. Spencer opens it. The shadow passes over the door jamb with an angry hiss and disappears before Spencer steps through and closes the door behind him.

To be continued …