Category: Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic

Dianna Sinovic's column
Home > Columns > Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic

Room with a View

May 30, 2023 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , ,

The top floor of Brindle Hall overlooks a grove of red maples, the crowns of the trees only a few feet below the windows. Nyla smiles at the leaves in motion below her. It would be like living in a treehouse. A bit, anyway. 

“How much is the lease?” She’s sure the price is beyond her budget, but she has to ask.

The agent names a price that’s a stretch, but the trees outside the windows are calling to her.

He promises the key and the paperwork by tomorrow. She can move in the following week.

Later, sitting on the couch she’s temporarily commandeered at a friend’s house, Nyla considers the floor plan of her new place. Two tiny bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room combo, and the living room with the balcony overlooking the maples. It must do.

Sam helps her move, but not without grousing. “You have too much stuff.”

“You mean books.” She knows that’s where she overbuys and shrugs. “I can’t help myself.”

They load box after box of books onto the handcart and take the elevator up. When he departs, after a feast of carryout pizza and chocolate chip cookies she had stashed for emergencies, she sits on the floor amid the boxes, which take up much of the living room.

She reaches into one of them, lifts out a volume, and opens the cover. Through the sliding glass door to the balcony, the maple leaves rustle. 

Nodding, she checks her phone.

Almost time.

An hour slips past, as she reads several chapters. The darkness of the evening deepens beyond the windows, and Nyla switches a floor lamp on low. 

After emptying her pockets, she lays her phone on the kitchen counter and places her shoes next to the fridge. On the balcony, she gazes down to the sidewalk that runs along the front of her building, four floors down. It’s empty and quiet at this hour.

Overhead, clouds drift past a waxing crescent shining in the east. A slight breeze brings the odor of diesel fumes and—as her nose morphs into a beak—mice and a wandering housecat. She can hear the rodents skittering in the alley. She shakes out her wing feathers, russet brown and soft, and swivels her head to check herself in the window. Her ear tufts stand out against the night’s backdrop. With a brief hoot, she hops onto the balcony railing.

One push up and she’s airborne, skimming above the maples, and then over the nearby streets of the town. 

Dianna’s Books

0 1 Read more

A Bone to Pick

April 30, 2023 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic, Writing

Claire was lost in her thoughts when Mason crunched on something in the weeds. 

“No.” Claire tugged at the leash, trying to pull the Lab back to her side. “What have you got?”

The dog kept his head down, not allowing her to reach the object, and growled.

“Mason? Give it,” she commanded. But still the dog worried the thing.

Whatever it was, it couldn’t be alive, she decided. Most likely a bone, but you never knew with a dog. She didn’t want a mess back home, when the object Mason had disagreed with him.

“Let’s go.” Claire tried again to separate the dog from his newfound fetish. Mason lifted his head and shook it, then responded to the pull of the leash. He wagged his tail as if to say, Aren’t you proud?

Protruding from either side of his jaws was a length of deer leg, stripped mostly of fur and skin. A strong whiff of decay floated up, making Claire scrunch up her nose.

The trail through the woods behind her house often crossed paths with the narrow routes made by white-tailed deer. It wasn’t unusual for Mason to flush out a doe or even pounce on a fawn hidden in a clump of wild grasses. 

“No,” Claire said. “You can’t bring it.” 

The dog pranced around her, and each time she tried to snag one end of the leg, he moved away from her. 

Giving up, she turned toward home, and the dog followed, still grinning in that canine way with his prize in his mouth.

It was a lot like her brother, Duane, and his endless stories about their childhood, unearthing a past she had done her best to bury. A past now thankfully down to the bones and a little skin. The meat—the core of what had happened—had rotted away, as long as she didn’t go looking for it. 

Duane knew only the good side of their father. And with the funeral in two days, she would steel herself to listen to the well-wishers and keep her mouth shut. Let her brother do all the eulogizing. She’d told him she didn’t like talking in front of a crowd, and he’d believed her.

Back at the porch steps, Claire pulled her house keys from her coat pocket and bent to unclip Mason’s leash from his collar. The dog dropped the deer leg into the flower bed and looked up at her with a whimper.

“Good dog,” she said, and dipped into another coat pocket for a biscuit. “We’ll leave it out here.” Mason trotted onto the porch with her, eyeing her hand for another treat.

If only discarding the past were that simple, she thought. Still, she could try.

Dianna’s Books

0 0 Read more

Flight Pattern by Dianna Sinovic

March 30, 2023 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic, Writing tagged as , ,
Photo by Marcelo Irigoyen @lu3fmm on Unsplash

Dianna has had a very busy month, so we’re rerunning a flash fiction piece from several years ago. She’ll return next month with a new post.

Flight Pattern

Joe cradled the cockatiel in his hands, then extended one of the bird’s wings to trim the flight feathers. His flock of birds now numbered eight, and one pair had three eggs incubating. The birds shrieked and twittered around him as the morning sun though the skylights lit up the aviary. 

            “Easy there,” he said softly, gently turning the bird and trimming the other wing. The bird’s mate was preening on a nearby branch.

            After releasing the cockatiel, he surveyed the aviary. Carey was coming by in twenty minutes, expecting a tour. Would she like it? It was important to him that she understand his passion. These birds were precious to him—they kept him sane. He walked with effort to the doorway and looked back one more time. 

            He had met Carey a month ago, when she sat next to him at a township meeting. He had come to make a statement about the pending municipal budget. She was there to see her friend’s grandson get a community award. They got to talking and discovered that they had both lost spouses. They both read voraciously, he about the Civil War and she about women’s history. And she loved birds. Joe had vowed to himself that no one would ever replaced Amelia, but he was drawn to Carey’s joie de vivre. She wasn’t pretentious, and she seemed genuinely interested in him. 

 Joe’s arthritic hip wouldn’t let him go birding with her, but she said she was intrigued by his cockatiels.

            But now he was nervous. Twice he checked his reflection in the hall mirror, smoothing his thinning hair. When he saw her drive up, he felt as he had all those years ago, when he and Amelia were on their first date. Could love happen twice in one life? 

            “Joe, you look pale. Are feeling alright?” Carey wore a peach scoop-necked shirt and tan capris. She looked lovely.

            “I’m fine, fine.” He ushered her in the door and accepted her gift of freshly baked bread.

            “I thought we might have a slice or two after we look at the birds.” She looked around at the modest living room, and Joe was pleased to see her nod in approval. 

            The aviary was at the back of the house, in a room that had once been the den. He had built a screened foyer that allowed him to look into the aviary before entering it. Most guests got only that far—a chance to see the birds but not handle them. Joe took Carey into the room itself. When a bird landed on his shoulder, he transferred it to her hand. He pointed out the markings that made cockatiels unique. He told her about building his flock after Amelia’s death. He showed her the nest with the three perfect eggs. 

            “Would you like one of the hatchlings?” 

            Carey shook her head. “Thank you, Joe, but I think the baby birds belong here, with your flock.” She seemed to sense his disappointment. “Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the offer.” Her eyes twinkled. “In fact, I will take one of the hatchlings—as long as it stays in the aviary. That will give me an excuse to come here as often as you’ll have me.”

Some of Dianna’s short stories are in the following anthologies.

1 0 Read more

The Birthday Song(s)

January 30, 2023 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic, Writing tagged as , ,

I often listen to music while I’m writing, and it’s nearly always to one of my two favorite college radio stations: WPRB in Princeton, NJ, or KVCU in Boulder, CO. No Spotify or Pandora for me. 

The other day the DJ Dana K from WPRB decided to celebrate her birthday by playing during her two-hour show songs only from the year she was born. What a cool idea, I thought. I’d never looked back at songs that way. And since this post is the closest to my birthday month—I won’t be posting in February because my slot falls on the 30th of the month—I am going to do that look-back here.

To give the range more breadth than Dana K did, I expanded my research (thank you, Google) beyond my birth year to all years that are decades for it—so, all years that end in the same digit. I discovered, though, that, like any best-of list, what’s “best” is in the eye of the beholder. Since I don’t currently listen to top-40 radio, those that floated to the top of the online lists were not often ones I would choose to play (or remember fondly).

I did see some favorites, but many other popular hits did not register high on my interest gauge. 

I was delighted to find that both “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede and “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone were on the list. I am a big fan of the film Guardians of the Galaxy, and those two songs are part of the much-played soundtrack. “Jolene” by Dolly Parton is on the list; I also love Jack White’s version of the song, which came out 30 years later, on the White Stripes’ Under Blackpool Lights.

“Beeswing” by Richard Thompson was not a top-40 hit on the lists, but it’s a stunning song-story on Mirror Blue by one of my favorite singer-songwriters. “Crown of Love,” from the debut album by Arcade Fire, is another on the timeline that swept me away. And I was happy to discover that “Say It Ain’t So” on Weezer‘s Blue Album fit my time parameter; the song speaks to a topic that’s personal for me. 

There are many other songs I could mention. Instead, I’ll just slip on my ear buds, crank up the volume, and get back to writing my next story.

Some of Dianna’s Books

1 0 Read more

Rite of Fir

December 30, 2022 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic, Writing tagged as , , , , ,

Twig stood silent in the silver light of the full moon, listening to the rustle of mice or maybe voles in the dried grasses and brown leaves around her. No snow yet, but with the crystal clarity of the December night sky slowly being consumed by the advancing clouds, it was likely by morning.

Dipping into the deep shadows of the trees, she walked quickly back to the cabin. The stack of wood on the porch should be enough to last through the storm. 

In the smaller of the two bedrooms, Kayla lay asleep, snoring softly. Twig closed the door to the room and brought in more wood from the porch for the fire. 

picture of a bridge in a snowy forest

It was nearly midnight, and Charlie had yet to show up. Just like him, to promise and not deliver. 

Twig decided to wait up in case he texted that he was lost. From the cabinet near the kitchen, she took out twine, cloth ribbon and glue. She’d make a köknar, for the season, even if just for their short stay. Her grandmother had taught her how when she was nine, and Twig had made one every year since then. One day she would show Kayla how to make her own.

She set her supplies on the coffee table and sat cross-legged on the rag rug to begin her work. The bough of balsam fir she’d cut in the afternoon wasn’t exactly the right shape, but Grandma Pati said any shape would work if you looked at it from the right perspective. That was true for many things in life, Twig knew. Like her own situation. 

Likewise, the story of the köknar could be appreciated from different angles, depending on the weaver of the tale. It was a talisman of good luck. Or it represented winter, with the needles and twine standing in for ice and the thread of family and friendship. Or the red cloth ribbon spoke of the new buds of spring, still months away. The version Twig preferred was that the köknar whispered an alluring call to the sun, inviting it to stay aloft a few minutes longer each day.

By the time she heard Charlie’s SUV outside, she had finished the form. When she opened the cabin door to welcome him, the clearing was covered in fresh snow, the flakes still falling thickly. She hung her creation on the nail she’d driven in last year, their first year in that place, free finally from a past that was better forgotten.

Charlie slipped a strap over his shoulder and grabbed the handle of another suitcase. The falling snow turned his head white and speckled his beard.

“You’re here,” she said. Her shoulders relaxed. The weekend would be good after all. 

“The interstate’s a mess,” he said, reaching the porch and setting down his bags. “No cell service. I was afraid I’d have to pull off and spend the night and then come the rest of the way tomorrow. Kayla’s asleep?” 

She nodded. His embrace pulled her tight and she felt him shiver slightly. “You’re cold. Get inside. I’ve kept the fire up, knowing you’d show up soon.”

He paused at the doorway, staring at the köknar. “You made one.” His voice held wonder, and Twig felt her eyes smart. He’d watched her fashion one last winter, asking questions, holding a knot in place while she glued. 

“I did. Just this evening.”

Charlie picked up his bags and smiled at her. “Then we’re safe.” 

As she shut the door after him, Twig briefly touched the woven bough. “Do your best,” she whispered.

Some of Dianna’s Books

0 0 Read more

Copyright ©2017 A Slice of Orange. All Rights Reserved. ~PROUDLY POWERED BY WORDPRESS ~ CREATED BY ISHYOBOY.COM