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Wingspread

April 30, 2022 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , ,
Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash

Darci waved the embossed certificate under her sister’s nose. “Don’t you realize it’s a red-letter day? I’m not letting you mess this up.”

Grabbing at the cream-colored document, Kara tried to take it from Darci, and in the brief tug, the paper ripped in two.

“No!” Darci shouted.

Startled at her sister’s vehemence, Kara dropped her half, and Darci snatched it.

“I didn’t mean for it to tear.” Kara regretted that she’d reacted in anger. “But I still don’t like it.”

Darci breathed out slowly. She set the two torn halves on the coffee table, fetched the roll of clear tape, and knelt to patch the rift, all the time ignoring Kara. When she was done, she sat back on her heels and held the certificate up to inspect it.

“It’s still ruined, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m going. You can’t stop me.”

No, she couldn’t, Kara knew. “I just wish you would reconsider.”

“Never,” Darci said, underlining the word with a scowl. 

“Ever since Mom died, you’ve been . . . ” Kara tried to put words to her observation. “It’s almost like you have a death wish.”

With her scowl deepening, Darci stood up. She hugged the patched paper, wrapping her arms tightly across it. “Mom would have wanted me to do this. She trusted me—she trusted both of us to do what we were meant to do. For me, this is it.”

Kara pushed away the memories of those last days of their mother’s life, the IV drip of pain medicine, the odor of bleach, the gaunt frame of the woman who’d brought them into the world. What was it Kara was meant to do? She still had no idea at twenty-five, but Darci was different. Three years younger, she burned with a mission. 

And to be accepted into the Gloved Force was an achievement few people earned. Kara had been astonished when Darci broke the news. Her sister, a Glover. To learn those secrets . . . 

“It’s dangerous.” Kara tried not to sound pathetic. “You’re so young.”

Darci’s face softened. “Life is dangerous. Every single day. You never know which hour will hold your last breath.” She moved across the room to sit next to Kara. Laying the certificate to one side, she picked up Kara’s hand and held it between her own. “If I can do this thing, and I know that I will, and I should die as a consequence, I’ll still be fulfilled.”

Kara saw the steeliness in her sister’s eyes. When did my kid sister grow up? “When do you leave?” 

Darci smiled then, accepting Kara’s olive branch. “Monday.”

In five days. 

“Let me give you something.” Kara brought back from her bedroom a maroon ring box. She ran a finger over the crushed velvet. “This was Mom’s.”

Darci opened the lid and sucked in a gasp. A slim gold band inlaid with three red sparks. 

“Rubies,” Kara said. “‘One for each of us,’ she told me.”

Her sister removed the ring and held it to the light of a lamp, her eyes glistening.

“Mom said to give this to you when you were ready to fledge,” Kara said. “Go fly.”

Some of Dianna’s Books

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Dianna Sinovic, Featured Author

November 7, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , ,

Author of the Month: Dianna Sinovic

picture of dianna sinovic

Dianna is a contributing author in the last two anthologies from The Bethlehem Writers Group, Fur, Feathers, and Scales, Sweet, Funny and Strange Animal Tales and Untethered, Sweet, Funny & Strange Tales of the Paranormal. She has also contributed stories for the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable ezine, including “In the Delivery.”

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dianna has also lived in three other quadrants of the U.S. She writes short stories and poetry, and is working on a full-length novel about a young woman in search of her long-lost brother.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Horror Writers Association, The American Medical Writers Association, and The Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC.

Dianna also has a regular column here on A Slice of Orange, titled Quill and Moss, in which she frequently includes short fiction.

Below, you can also listen to Dianna read her short story, “Cold Front” from the GLVWG Writes Stuff anthology.


Other books by Dianna Sinovic


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Dianna Sinovic, Featured Author

November 1, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , ,

Author of the Month: Dianna Sinovic

picture of dianna sinovic

Dianna is a contributing author in the last two anthologies from The Bethlehem Writers Group, Fur, Feathers, and Scales, Sweet, Funny and Strange Animal Tales and Untethered, Sweet, Funny & Strange Tales of the Paranormal. She has also contributed stories for the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable ezine, including “In the Delivery.”

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dianna has also lived in three other quadrants of the U.S. She writes short stories and poetry, and is working on a full-length novel about a young woman in search of her long-lost brother.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Horror Writers Association, The American Medical Writers Association, and The Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC.

Dianna also has a regular column here on A Slice of Orange, titled Quill and Moss, in which she frequently includes short fiction.

Below, you can also listen to Dianna read her short story, “Cold Front” from the GLVWG Writes Stuff anthology.


Other books by Dianna Sinovic


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Living in Colors by Diane Sismour

February 13, 2021 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , ,
Diane Sismour | A Slice of Orange

This month in From A Cabin in the Woods, we have the short story Living in Colors by Diane Sismour.

Diane has written poetry and fiction for over 35 years in multiple genres. She lives with her husband in eastern Pennsylvania at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Diane is a member of Romance Writers of America, Bethlehem Writer’s Group LLC, Horror Writers Association, and Liberty States Fiction Writers. She enjoys interviewing other authors and leading writer’s workshops. You can find Diane on Facebook and Twitter.

Living in Colors

by

Diane Sismour

The last person leaves the gallery carrying an unframed painting wrapped in an oilskin sheath. The sole purchase of the evening, a painting of Mount Rainier at Sunset. Of the larger artwork hanging, only one holds a sold sign. A canvas I’ll never sell.

Tonight’s sales present a bleak outlook for my career. The prospect of continuing to paint, to doing something that brought such pleasure through my life is fading—fast. I throw the latch to secure the entrance door and draw the thick velvet drape closed across the storefront window before walking to the center of the room. From this vantage, each piece should give some glimpse into the emotion experienced when my brush stroked the canvas.

I feel nothing when looking at them now. I’m not surprised they didn’t sell. They’re colorless. The past year held no joy for me, and my art reflects the void. What was I thinking, exhibiting this trash? The piece that did sell hardly provided enough revenue for the booze everyone swilled.

Gathering the opened champagne bottles, I manage one glass more-empty-than-full from the dregs left by the customers. The smell of wine aerated too long and crab at the marginal time still allowed for consumption almost turns me away.

Who am I kidding? My morning toast and coffee burned off hours ago. I’m starving. In one swig, I down the flat vintage, and shovel the few remaining crab Rangoon through the Thai chili dip and into my mouth. The cleanup can wait until tomorrow.

The ever-present anxiety of whether to paint until morning or to spend time talking with Jeromy ultimately weaves an invisible door that closes me off from the studio upstairs. My friends’ condoling voices barrage my thoughts: “Julie, you’ll feel better in time.” He died over a year ago. The pain is still as deep today as then. “He’ll always be in your heart.” Yes, he will. “You’re young. Before long, you’ll find someone new.” I don’t want someone new.

Painting can wait until tomorrow, again.

Carefully, I remove the wire off the hook to carry him downstairs to the basement apartment. My sleeve catches the sold sign and rips the paper off the heavy frame. The tag flutters like a kite lost on the wind to the ground beneath the life-sized portrait.

The face I memorized is inches from mine. I can almost smell his scent of fresh air and salty sea above the oil paints. His mouth, a slant of the lips he greeted me with every morning. His skin tone, a perfect fleshy tan with sun-reddened cheeks from working the docks compared to the last time I saw him prone in the hospital bed.

The day he died held bittersweet memories forever etched in my mind. Often times I painted through the night, my muse freed from the everyday annoyances of running a gallery. That morning, I had just finished the last strokes on the canvas, the wisps of sun-bleached hair highlighted in Jeromy’s portrait.

He brought coffee up to the studio as sunlight drenched Mount Rainier at daybreak. The mountain effectively framed by the large bay window. The snowcaps glistened.

“A good looking guy. Anyone I know?” he teased.

“Just someone I found roaming the pier. Why don’t you pick a frame while I clean the brushes?” Turpentine fumes wafted in the small room overtaking the rich coffee aroma from the cup he had set beside me.

He placed several moldings alongside the canvas. “How about this one?”

The six-inch wide thick-ridged boarder didn’t overpower the image. “We’re going to need a forklift to help hang that thing,” I teased, and removed my smock.

Pulling me into his arms, he said, “I’ll carry the frame wherever you want.”

Hip to hip, our noses almost touched. We stared into each other’s gaze. Flecks of gold sparkled when he smiled. They sparked then. He smoothed a stray curly lock back behind my ear, and kissed me softly, tenderly, the black coffee flavor blended with his sweetness.

He bent on one knee, and removed a small velvet jewelry box from his jacket pocket. Inside held a marquise cut diamond. The engagement ring refracted the sunlight creating prisms of light around the room creating a surreal and magical moment.

 “Julie, do you remember when you were little, and how you wouldn’t go to sleep because you were afraid of missing something? I don’t want to close my eyes and miss spending a minute without you. Will you marry me?”

Why did I tease him by saying, “Let me think about it?”

Hours later, a fishing boat pinned his body against a piling and crushed him below the waist. If I had said yes and he stayed with me ten minutes longer, the dock handler’s rotation might have changed, and someone else’s husband-or-fiancé-or-brother would be dead instead of him.

When the dock chief called to break the news about the accident, he gave me hope, reminding me how strong Jeromy could be. The moment the nurse walked me into the room, his injuries appeared much worse than described­­.

Heavy dried blood splatter covered his face and arms. Antiseptic pierced the air. Multiple monitors cast a blue hue to his face and the pale yellow walls glowed a sickening putrid color. His broken body lay strapped to a gurney twisted in directions not humanly possible. My heart broke knowing he wouldn’t survive.

I intertwined our fingers. My thoughts reeled. How happy we were together. His proposal uttered only hours ago. He never heard me say, yes.

A doctor droned on in the background about the multitude of injuries Jeromy sustained. All I heard—he possessed an organ donor card, and he didn’t have much time.

Surgeons hovering outside the surgical room peered in at us from above through a wide window, waiting. They gleaned for each vital organ still functioning. None of them made eye contact with me.

My soul fractured, as crushed as his body. Tears fell onto his cheek off mine.

“I’m here, Jeromy. I love you.”

I rocked my body in distress and stared at the finest in modern medicine from the person who needed them the most. None of them would make eye contact with me.

“Can’t you help him?” I screamed. “You’re just letting him die?” His mangled body looked so…broken. “Please, somebody,” I begged, sobbing. “Fix him. Please, fix him,” I pleaded, my appeal ended in a whisper.

His lips paled with each passing minute. I kissed him, his mouth unmoving and cold. The coppery taste of blood mingled with the taste of him. The man I’d always love.

The numbers and chart lines fluctuated erratically on the monitors. Buzzers and alarms sounded. More nurses and technicians rushed into the room and they shouted orders to one another above the din.

“No,” I wailed. “Jeromy, don’t leave me.”

A nurse pulled me away from him. The moment I stepped back from Jeromy’s bedside, someone else pushed me from the room, into a hallway, and onto a bench opposite the doorway. A door blocked the view, but I knew the surgeons leeched to him and kept him comatose only long enough to retrieve whatever organs they could harvest.

They were vultures, the lot of them.

I waited, and prayed to the gods for mercy, refusing to acknowledge the brush of Jeromy’s soul against mine until his presence shifted. Air filled my lungs in a whoosh. With my next breath, I knew he was gone.

Through hiccupping sobs I whispered, “Look for me through the next door.”

An attendant brought two plastic hospital bags to me when they finished. One with Jeromy’s personal effects, and the other with the clothes they cut off him.

The trauma caused my hands to tremble when I returned the sack with bloodstained garments back to him. “I can’t.”

Without a word, he turned and carried away the carnage.

The remaining bag held a wallet, a watch, and a small jewelry box. How could I accept a gift so symbolic when he never heard me say yes?

I never looked at the ring again. The box sets beside Jeromy’s urn on the highest shelf in the closet.

I push the memories from the present and carry the painting to the rear of the gallery. The lack of sales has me irritable. The heavy clicks from my heeled boots on the polished concrete floor echo my mood in the large bare room. The champagne on my empty stomach takes effect, and the effort to move him this short distance exhausts me. I should remove the boots before managing the stairs, but carrying both Jeromy and the shoes down to the apartment seems an impossible task.

In order to open the door to the basement apartment, I place Jeromy on the floor and lean him against the wall. The stairwell’s motion light flickers on. Stale air envelopes us as we descend the first few steps into the windowless basement.

After we’re both through the doorway, I stop and balance him on the top of my foot before pulling the door closed behind us. I maneuver him in front of me and manage two more before having to rest the forty-plus pound replica on my foot again.

“You need to go on a diet.” I struggle to regain enough arm strength to complete carrying him the remaining steps to the apartment. Transporting him back and forth from the basement to the gallery, from the gallery to the studio, or from the studio to the apartment is the only exercise I’ve managed since he left that morning.

Such a different lifestyle from the long walks we took through Seattle to listen to bands playing around the square, or the strolls through the marketplace—the fish flying between sure-handed clerks at the wharf market, bountiful flowers piled into baskets, and crafts made by the Indian tribe from across the Sound.

“Maybe I should get out more.”

No, I would do anything to avoid seeing those knowing looks. What I can’t buy online, the corner grocer delivers with everything paid by credit card. People expect quirky from artists. Becoming a recluse didn’t take long.

“We didn’t do too well tonight, Jeromy,” I say. “Only one small piece sold. There’s only enough money for another year of mortgage payments. Should we sell and find another place? We could rent out the art studio,” I suggest.

The words barely leave my mouth before I’m regretting them. I can hear him. “You’re so talented. I can’t even draw a circle and you create art.”

How can I just give up so easily?

Exhaustion from masking my feeling for the public all evening wavers my resolve to stay strong. Tears well and I struggle to find the next stair tread through the emotional haze. Blindly reaching with my foot, I get down another step before stopping again.

“Tomorrow I’m building you a different frame out of balsa wood. Eight more steps—we can do this.”

I lift him higher. My arms are shaking under the strain. “One step, two steps, three…” The painting tips forward pulling me and gravity does the rest. We tumble, cartwheeling down the stairway and crash into the apartment.

Thankfully, Jeromy breaks my fall.

In a panic, I realize the absurdity of this thought, and hurry to remove my leg from the painting. At the same time, I’m trying to twist the wood into some semblance of a rectangle. He appears as contorted now as the day he laid bloody and mangled.

I run my hands over his limbs, and smooth the wrinkled canvas. He lay on the floor with rips shred up his neck and across his face. The hole punched through his body appears irreparable. A hollowness seizes my heart. Keening shrieks and crying fills the void for a long time before I realize the mantra of “I killed you” is coming from me.

Pain radiates up my leg. My ankle won’t support me to stand. On the floor beside him, sobs choke me. I trace his face, his lips, and rest my hand on his unbeating heart.

I wake on the concrete floor, stiff, sore, and cold, with the torn canvas clutched in my grasp. The painting lies in ruins beyond repair. “You will live again, my love.”

My ankle throbs in pain, but my toes wiggle on command supporting the theory that the injury is a sprain rather than a break. Nothing a good night’s sleep and some ice won’t fix.

Sorry, Jeromy. Wincing, I pull the broken wood off the canvas, and feel the last connection to Jeromy slip away. The void more painful than any injury sustained tonight.

Tears fall unchecked as I push myself off the floor using the support as a crutch for balance, and hobble to the small kitchen nook to assess my wounds and gather all the supplies needed. No cuts, just some scrapes. I grab three Ibuprofen for pain, use scissors to remove my leather boot, fill a plastic bag with ice, and hold the pack onto the ankle with painter’s tape.

The bed beckons only a few feet away. Jeromy’s broken body left just beyond. I shuffle and hobble my way to the rumpled sheets.

Three days later, the ankle is purple and black, but supports my weight without the makeshift crutch. I don’t want to chance destroying Jeromy any further by moving him up two flights to the studio. After several trips, I manage to carry enough art supplies from the studio to the basement to repaint Jeromy.

Every artist paints differently. My preference is to apply oils from top to bottom by overlapping my wrists to stabilize the brush hand. The focal point grows in small, finite strokes. The final details touched into place at the end.

The ultimate luxury of a windowless apartment, time becomes irrelevant. Unless I watch the clock, days can speed passed. I eat when hungry, and sleep when exhausted, my muse controlling my focus. At one point, I shattered the bathroom mirror to avoid seeing the haggard, half-starved woman reflected.

In tiny caresses, his proportions emerge onto the canvas. The pigments color a burst of brightness against the stark white. Days turn to weeks and weeks to months. The image before me expands to full height, the background, a hazed ocean scape. Finally, I step away. Before me stands a perfect portrait of Jeromy’s doppelganger, but not one of him.

What’s missing? I study the first portrait—his eyes, his mouth, the jut of his jaw. The painting, even fragmented, exudes his personality. He’s alive.

His twin doesn’t compare.

“I failed you. I can’t bring you back to me.” The croaking in my unused voice sounds foreign.

Tears don’t fall. A calm replaces the ache, cloaking my soul from the pain endured for too long. For the first time in months, I notice the piles of takeout boxes, and laundry heaps on the floor. A stench equally bad emits from me.

After a massive housecleaning task, and a long necessary shower, I climb the stepladder to remove the velvet box. The jewelry box shakes in my hands as I open the lid. The diamond band slides onto my right hand ring finger, very loose after my depression and weight loss, but still shimmering.

“Let’s put you on a chain, just in case.”

When the paint dried the next morning, I fit a thin frame and string a wire to the canvas to hang the portrait in the highlighted area centered in the storefront window. The idea of having people gawking at him as the surgeons had, almost forces me to return to the basement. Instead, I affix the for sale sign on the upper corner and open the heavy velvet drapes.

Sunlight spills into the room. The diamond refracts prisms over the art and over me. The color sweeps across all the canvases, brightening each piece, bringing them to life. I unbolt the lock and flip the sign to open, ready to resume living.


Some of Diane’s Books

A READABLE FEAST

Buy now!
A READABLE FEAST
FIRST IMPRESSIONS SECOND CHANGES
FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales

LET IT SNOW

Buy now!
LET IT SNOW

ONCE AROUND THE SUN

Buy now!
ONCE AROUND THE SUN

ONCE UPON A TIME

Buy now!
ONCE UPON A TIME

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I Am a Terrible Would-be Novelist

December 13, 2020 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , ,

I am a terrible would-be novelist. I hack and struggle at it, only to discover my heroine in chapter one started as a red head and somehow became a blonde in chapter 29, and I’ve been at the damn story for nine months and am still nowhere near the finish.

In contrast, my short stories come to me fast and often. They’ve been awarded prizes and recognition and two of them have been read aloud by The Liar’s Leagues in London and Hong Kong. My recent collection of short stories (“Off the Rails”) won two Indie awards and some nice reviews.
This disparate mix of writing success does not surprise me. I discovered early that folks have a distinct talent for different components of the same activity: As a teenager, I discovered that I could run a mile faster than most kids. Fast enough for a couple of high school state championships. Fast enough for a college scholarship. Fast enough to run pro for a couple of years.

In contrast, was lousy as a sprinter and could never run a good marathon. I would be on that road for hours with kids, young women, young men, and several oldies, streaming past me. No matter how hard I tried, my mind and body could not form a relationship to enable me to be long distance runner.

Did that make me a bad runner? No. I just had to recognize where my talent lay. But I continued to run marathons for the experience and fun of it, knowing I would never be brilliant, but I would improve. And I could celebrate my improvement. Running is a sport that I love, both the short form and the long form.


Same as my writing.


picture of the author Jerome W. Mcfadden

Jerome W. McFadden is an award-winning short story writer whose stories have appeared in 50 magazines, anthologies, and e-zines over the past ten years. He has received a Bullet Award for the best crime fiction to appear on the web. Two of his short stories have been read on stage by the Liar’s League London and Liar’s League Hong Kong. His collection of 26 short stories, entitled “Off the Rails” was published in October, 2019, to great reviews. He is also the co-editor of the BWG Writers Roundtable e-zine.


The Bridge

A Short Story by Jerome W. McFaddn

“You gonna jump?” he asked.


She stood on the outside of the railing, one hand gripping the barrier, the other helding a small clutch bag tightly against her side. Her red cloth coat looked too thin for the cold weather.


“It’s a way long way down,” Duane said, “Gonna be a thrill, like a bungee jump without the happy ending.”


“Leave me alone,” she snapped, not bothering to look at him.


“Don’t get mad at me. I ain’t making you jump. I just stopped to watch.”


“Go away.”


“It’s a free bridge. You can jump. I can watch.”


Silence.


“Can I ask you a question?”


“I don’t want to talk about it.”


Duane smiled. “That wasn’t my question.”


A return to silence.


“If you’re gonna jump, do you need your purse? Got any money in there?

Credit cards?”


She turned to face him. “I’m jumping off the bridge and you’re trying to mug me?”


“I’m not trying to mug you, for chrissakes,” Duane said. “I’m panhandling. You jump, you no longer need your purse. I could use any money or credit cards you have in there. It’s ain’t like you’re gonna worry about paying the bills.”


“Go to hell.”


“You may make it there before I do.”


She sighed, “If I give you the purse, will you go away and leave me alone?”


“I’ll make you a deal. If you have a cell phone or any ID in your purse, I’ll call whoever you want and tell them you took the plunge.”


She surprised him by sinking down to position the purse on the ledge, next to her feet. “Come and get it if you want it that badly.”


He started to crawl over the railing but backed off. It was scary out there on the other side. So he lay across the railing, balancing on his belly, his legs dangling in the air as he stretched one arm out for the purse.


He was surprised to feel her hands on his collar and the back of his belt, pulling him over the railing. He scrabbled for a hand hold but she was too fast and too strong. He tumbled over and over for a long time before hitting the hard, cold water.


The woman picked up her purse, not bothering to glance down at the river.


“Annoying bastard,” she said to herself as she hiked up her skirt and coat to climb back over to the railing, “But at least he made me feel better!”


Jerome W. McFadden’s Award Winning Short Story Collection

OFF THE RAILS: A Collection of Weird, Wicked, & Wacky Stories
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Barnes and Noble

Other Anthologies with Stories by Jerome W. McFadden


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