NaNoWriMo Day 23 (1827 words) [planning day] Visions from the Coffee Cup

—For anybody that reads this, I am using my writing for the day to collect my thoughts about the novel I have been writing. It has gone so far out of control that I need to take time to think about what I am trying to write at the same time that I am trying to write the thing. I am writing it down and counting it as part of my monthly word count because I have gotten to the point that I don’t know how to proceed on the novel. If you read this, you will see that the first fifty thousand words are only the beginning of my journey. I am going to have to rewrite almost from the ground up. I never thought writing a novel was going to be easy. Also I never thought it would be this fun.—

November 23 the day the novel died. Of course, it has been dead for a long time, but today is the first day that I actually had to resort to forcing my self to write anything despite it not even being disguised as part of the novel. Today I am simply writing to achieve the word goal. I had a general direction for my novel until about halfway through the month when Linda, the main character completed her story arc. This being a nonconventional story, her arc was about coming to grips with who she is. But there is so much strangeness going on in the novel that it makes drafting the story difficult.

I gave up on Linda’s story arc when she got Markey to come stay with her. I was having an easier time with that part because I could write about the strange goings on of a child that has come from a place where he held absolute power and could do anything he wanted to do without concern for guilt over the welfare of others. I thought this would be an easier story to write because it would be similar to Bewitched and all of the other Bewitched clones. However, I have this problem where I don’t want to make my stories to similar to everything else that you see out there. But when I started on this new story arc, all of the momentum of the novel went away.

I like the way the feeling of the story now that it is about Markey, Allen, and Linda, but it doesn’t feel like the same story. At first it felt like the resolution to Linda’s story, but it has kept going for far too long to be a resolution. I have even started to try to build up some tension in the story by reintroducing the cult aspect from Linda’s story, but it seems like the cult wasn’t fleshed out enough for me to make it come back to life in this second part of the story.

I am trying. But I don’t know the motivations for the cult other than they are the new villain. I should have known that it was going to be a bad angle because of how the cult just fizzled into a nothing in the first part of the story. I think what I need to do is look at what the cult is doing.

The cult has broken off from its original allegiance to Raul. Now it worships Stacy who was only ever an aspect of Mistress Carla’s greater personality. It had originally been an end of the world cult working to reunite Raul with his wife after she died. Raul had been working to help Linda reunite with all of the other aspects of Mistress Carla’s personalities. So that means I am going to have to rewrite the first part and add more places where Linda absorbs aspects of Mistress Carla’s personality. But what does that mean for the cult? So the cult of Raul could have been collecting aspects of Mistress Carla’s personalities. But Raul can’t have meant to reunite them in Linda because he wants to bring her back to be with him. Ok… I think all the cult stuff that I have been adding to the end of the story is going to have to go to the beginning of the story. Markey has to come with them to live earlier in the story too. Raul will be continuing to power his machine while he is allowing Markey to live with her. That means Raul finds out about Markey coming to see his mother after he comes to collect spot.

Crap! That means that I am going to have to create so many more characters. I don’t know how many characters I am going to need. Seven is supposedly a sacred number, but seven is a lot of characters to deal with. And seven seems like a lot of subplot goals to create. Three is another sacred number because it mirrors the Trinity, but that doesn’t seem like enough. So far, I’ve got Stacy. I think Judy will have to be sacrificed to become one with Mistress Carla. Judy and Stacy both have magical objects, the toy boat and the hairbrush. Those are parts of Raul’s destruction of the universe machine. So I need more of those. Linda’s mother was the original Mrs. Carla. She needs to be sacrificed. I don’t know how that is going to work because I thought I killed her off. That is right. Death is not Death in this story. It can happen at the hospital similar to the way she met with Markey and the other Allen at the hospital. So that’s three. Ellie May Henderson, Judy, and Stacy.

Mr. Branzino has a coffee pot. I think that means that his dead wife is going to be absorbed. Something bad has to happen at each of these absorptions too. I liked Mr. Branzino. I think he is going to have to lose all the memories and perspective that his talks with the coffeepot gave him. His life is going to have to go to shit. How does a life go to shit when all you are is a single old man who runs a sandwich shop? For one thing it means he doesn’t get to be grandpa for Markey. I get it. Mr. Branzino knows. He has been talking with Linda through the coffee pot for years. So he knows the plan. The same way he knew when to expect Linda through conversations over the years. I think he has to beg not to lose what she has given him. She had readied him for his wife’s death and readied him for her arrival but could never quite ready him for the sacrifice she is asking him to give. His scene has to happen earlier in the story. I don’t think that sacrifice is big enough for its placement late in the story.

So that brings me back to the cult. What do they want? Well, they must have to be controlled by Raul, but they have to be undercover. So instead of being the church of Raul in the beginning they have to start out as the church of The Mother Goddess as headed by Stacy. She can have gotten the toy boat from Allen, but she wouldn’t need to kidnap him until and unless she was trying to draw Linda to her. Then, that is why it is unusual when Linda sees Allen in her coffee. She is seeing him in her world because he has been placed there by Raul. Then, that means that Raul knew about Linda before Markey met her. Now, I remember. Markey saw her and told his dad about her previous to the spot incident. But that could be a good reason for Raul to get into contact with her and allow for Markey to stay with them. So Linda has to have found and absorbed one of the aspects of the Mistress Carla personality—Why did I have to write such a strange story without planning any of it in advance? It is making coming up with a story plot very difficult—so what is it I do know now?

Raul is orchestrating the cult.

Stacy is at the head of the cult as a kind of final boss or whatever.

Judy has to be absorbed.

Mr. Branzino’s wife has to be absorbed.

Linda’s mother has to be absorbed.

Markey has to go live with them earlier to have trouble at school and the park.

The appearance of a naked and beaten Allen is still the inciting incident.

The cult has to be involved in all of this. They were there on the street corner when Francisco disappears, and Allen ends up in her bed. Judy hasn’t simply cleaned up, but she had cleaned up with the help of the cult. So that means that the cult reaches beyond the city—also, I have to come up with a name for the city. Linda’s coffee powers need to have a use and a price. I know what that use is. Linda has to call the people through the coffee in order to absorb them. That goes with the undead theme of Markey’s powers if she has to absorb her dead mother and Mr. Branzino’s dead wife. That would give Markey a use for his powers too if they had to work together to call back the dead for Linda to absorb them.

Problem: Why is Linda going out and absorbing people? What is her motivation for this other than the cult is annoying? She has to have some motivation to bring her personalities back together. Raul has to be lying to her. He has to be telling her that she needs to regain her original personality in order to stop the cult from bringing on the destruction of the universe. However, it turns out that she must regain her personality in order for Raul to power his machine destroy the universe and bring her back to him.

Something has to be happening with Allen because he is the same person as Raul. Somehow, he regains his connection with Raul. It could be his taking over of the fatherly responsibilities of Markey. Markey still has to be evil-good so he has to practice his necromantic powers. I think that Allen’s accompanying Markey through the portals to hell and tutoring him in the Necronomicon and all that would require a bit of Raul’s powers. I think that Raul will have to intentionally diminish his own power to loan it to Allen. In the final battle Linda, Markey, and Allen will all have to work together to break Raul control of the machine and stop it from destroying the universe. I am not sure any of this helps me to come up with more novel to write for the rest of the seven days of this month, but at least I got today’s wordcount finished.

NaNoWriMo Day 16 (2003 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

Linda looked out at the crowd that had gathered in the street. She said, “I think I finally get it. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters.” She raised her hands and watched the people in the crowd follow them with their eyes. She said, “By right of birth and marriage, I am Mistress Carla Empress of Evil. I command all of you to disperse and destroy the city.

The people in the crow started to move away. Someone found a loose brick in a planter across the street and threw it through the nearest window. Another person pulled a lighter out of his pocket and started a nearby trashcan on fire. There was shouting and the sounds of breaking glass. Linda said, “Not here you idiots. Go down the road somewhere. I don’t want to hear it. I am tired of it all.”

Allen said, “Linda, why are you doing this?”

Linda said, “Weren’t you here to do the same thing, Raul.”

Allen said, “Don’t call me that.”

Mr. Branzino said, “This is all your fault, Allen. You have gone and broken her.”

Allen said, “I didn’t break her. She pulled me away from that woman in there. She got me thinking right.”

Linda said, “Allen, Mr. Branzino whoever you are whatever you both are. Consider yourselves absolved from any and all duties you feel you owe me. And if Judy and Hector are not gone destroying the city like all the rest of the mindless rabble, you tell them they are free as well.” She turned to walk away from them.

Allen said, “Linda, you don’t have that power.”

Linda said, “Don’t I? Am I not an all-powerful goddess of destruction?”

Mr. Branzino said, “No Linda.”

Allen said, “That is not all that you are.”

Linda said, “I used to think so, Allen. I tried so hard to keep things down to hide them from myself, but they just keep coming back. There is no absolution, Allen. What’s done is done.”

Allen walked up to her and tried to put his hand on hers. She pulled away. He said, “What about our son, Linda?”

Linda said, “What about him, Allen? What kind of a life is that? We raised him to kill and destroy.”

Allen said, “Don’t give up on our son. There is good in him.”

Linda said, “We raised him to be evil. He controls the powers of hell. He is only eight years old. He doesn’t understand what it means to be cut off from everlasting paradise. He has no chance at redemption. Allen, we did that to him. We don’t deserve him.”

Allen said, “He wanted me to warn you. He didn’t want you to break anything.”

Linda said, “I think I was better off broken.”

Linda said, “I am going back to my apartment. I am going to pour myself a cup of coffee and I am going to sit back and watch the places where I don’t exist. This world can burn down around my ears as long as I am left alone.”

Linda walked home alone in the city streets in the middle of the day. The light came down in a strange muted red and ash was falling from the buildings burning in the outskirts of the city. The ash came down in big flakes like falling snow and it drifted down the street swirling in the breeze. She had never remembered the city so silent or destruction so empty. She walked up the stairs wondering if she would ever see the man from downstairs again. If she would ever pass him on the stairs and smile. She wondered if she had it in her to ever smile again. Or how she had ever been so broken that she could feel simple joy in the first place. She didn’t know what else she could. Death was supposed to be the end, wasn’t it?

When she got to her apartment, she closed the curtains and turned off the lights. The only thing left on was the red light from the coffeemaker on her kitchen table and the smell of coffee in the air. This time she waited until the coffee pot was full before she poured her cup of coffee. She could almost see by the red light of the coffeemaker. He simple white coffee cup shone in a light red glimmer on one side. Then the red was replaced be a deep and ominous green that was coming from the bathroom. She had forgotten to close the door. There was a sound coming from in the bathroom. It was a low humming then a sound like fingers tapping on a microphone. A voice came from inside of the bathroom. The voice said, “Mistress Carla, are you there?”

It was the voice of Raul, her husband. Linda said, “What do you want? Can’t you tell I am trying to be alone?”

Raul said, “Would please come in here so we could talk face to face?”

Linda said, “I have seen quite enough of you already.”

Raul said, “I’ve been thinking about what you said about our son.”

Linda said, “I haven’t spoken to you.”

Raul said, “Fine. You want to pretend that Allen and I are not the same person now.”

Linda said, “You aren’t. He can be sweet, gentle, and empathetic. All you are is evil.”

Raul said, “Is that how you see me Linda. Is it ok if I call you Linda? You let Allen do it.”

Linda said, “Fine. If you are going to continue to talk to me, the least I can do is do you the courtesy of letting you see my face.” She got up, went into the bathroom, and flipped the light switch. She had thought that he would look comical in the bathroom mirror above the sink, but it was actually somewhat more personal and friendly to see him at a relatively normal size. She had only ever seen him project himself through the finely decorated full length mirror in the throne room of their floating castle. She said, “How is life? Are you still living in The Burning Hammer?” She had never thought abought how silly it was to name the castle let alone name it something as absurd as ‘The Burning Hammer,’ but now the thought was on her mind.

Raul said, “I am still living there. Well, residing might be a better way of putting it.” He stopped for a second to regard her through the mirror. He said, “You look good, Linda. I like what you have done with your hair.”

Linda said, “Thank you Raul. How have you been?” They seemed to fall into their normal rhythm despite the awkwardness of their situation.

Raul said, “Things have been better. I’m afraid I have let myself go. After you died, I spent so much time in my mirror looking for ways to bring you back that I seemed to let my body wither up and die. Our son is turning out to be a talented little necromancer himself. He was able to affix my soul to the throne room mirror. Linda, you would be proud of him.”

Linda said, “I am proud of him, Raul, but he needs more than we are capable of giving to him.”

Raul said, “I don’t think so, Linda. You seem to have found something there. And I have found it, too. I think we could build a life there. A real life. A regular life. We don’t have to be Emperor and Empress of Evil. We can raise little Markey like a regular child. I think you and Allen could teach him more than murder and darkness and world domination. Not that those aren’t worthy goals to achieve.”

Linda said, “Markey loves you so much. I can tell. I could never take him away from you. And even you Raul. I can’t imagine what kind of devil you would become without Markey there to guide you.”

Raul said, “But he loves you so much. How about this? He can come and live with you and Allen half of the time, and you and he come and live here with me the other half of the time.”

Linda said, “I am sorry Raul, but I can’t agree to that arrangement. I have grown beyond that stage in my life. I may be an Empress of Evil and I may never be able to escape everything that comes along with that, but I want to move on with my life.”

Raul said, “I think you are right. You would never be happy here, and I would never be happy there. I have gone too far toward the darkness, and I think there is nothing left but my love for my boy.”

Linda said, “We have that settled then. Markey stays with me half of the year, and you the other half.”

Raul said, “Yes, but you better make sure he writes and gives me a call once in a while. I am never farther away than the nearest mirror.”

Linda said, “Speaking of that, maybe you should have set times when you decide to call. We don’t need you scaring the bejesus our of any friends that Markey has over.”

Raul said, “Do you think, Markey will have friends?”

Linda said, “Of course he will. I plan on getting him enrolled in school as soon as possible. I am not sure that literary studies of the Necronomicon are highly prized classes where I am living right now.”

Raul said, “You never know when you may need to raise a three headed hellhound.”

Linda said, “I hope he never has any need for that here.”

Raul said, “Me too.”

Linda said, “One more thing before you go. Markey said you were building some kind of machine.”

Raul said, “Oh yes. The Portal of Souls. I should probably turn that thing off. You turned out to be much more reasonable than I had imagined. I was going to use it to tear the universes apart and bring you to me in eternal fiery destruction, but I don’t think that will be necessary now.” There was a series of beeps and a slow whirring sound that slowly came to a stop. “Things should go back to normal now. I am sure there were a few deaths and burned buildings. It is possible that several monsters have been set loose, but it is nothing that people across the multiverse won’t forget in a few days. People are easy that way.”

Linda said, “How soon are you planning to send Markey? I think I need some time to apologize to Allen. I said some really harsh things to him when I left.”

Raul said, “I think I will forgive you. You did hurt my feelings, but that wasn’t nearly as painful as finding out that you died just to get away from me. If Allen can get over that, he will get over you absolving him of his duties. As offenses go, that is probably not the worst.”

Linda said, “Still I have to apologize to him, Mr. Branzino, Judy, and Hector.”

Raul said, “I guess you really have changed. There was a time you didn’t care about anybody’s feelings but those of your family.”

Linda said, “Have you never felt there could be more to life?”

Raul said, “Every day, Linda. Every day. Thank you for letting me provide that for my son, Linda. You may not be as evil as you once were, but you are still a good mom. Oh, and before I forget, you should find a safe place to put the toy boat, the note, the hairbrush, and any other aspects of the portal of souls you may find. I am sure you wouldn’t want anyone to restart the machine now that it is at full power.” The evil face in the mirror faded until the only thing that was left was Linda’s own reflection.

NaNoWriMo Day 15 (1400 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

After Markey had gone, Allen was still on the floor playing with the toy car. Linda went into the room where Tracy was still lying on the ground. The woman was looking at Linda in terror. She said, “I didn’t mean it Mrs. Carla. I didn’t know what I was doing. Please don’t kill me.”

Linda looked at Tracy. She said, “Where is the boat?” Linda caught a glimpse of herself in the bathroom mirror. She didn’t like what she saw. There was a strange look in her eyes and her facial features looked somehow hardened. There was something strange about the mirror in the bathroom. It seemed too dark like the glass reflecting darkness and projecting it into the room. And she felt it too. She was angry at Tracy. She wanted to punish her. She didn’t like the way all of this felt.

Tracy said, “It’s over there.” She pointed to her purse. It had been on the nightstand before Tracy had rummaged through it when she had been going by Linda’s other name. Now, the purse was laying open on the floor with half its contents spread out on the floor. Linda almost didn’t need to see the boat to know that it was there. She reached in and pulled it from the purse. What Allen had told Stacy wasn’t exactly right. The GoFundMe account may have reached its fund-raising goals, but the boat was pulsing with power. The toy boat was just finished with Stacy. Linda put the toy boat in her pocket. She didn’t think it would be a good idea to let Allen see it. Especially after the way he reacted to the toy car. She thought maybe he shouldn’t have that one either, but it had calmed him and gotten him to listen to her.

Allen was still on the ground playing with the car and making sound effects as he played. Linda reached down to help Allen back to his feet. As soon as she touched him, he broke out of the spell. He held on to her hand and used his other hand against the wall to help her get him up. He slipped the car into his pocket without even seeming to notice that he had it. He said, “Linda, where are we? I want to say that this is the apartment building where I was beaten by those men, but it didn’t look like this.”

Allen was right. Linda hadn’t even noticed the changes before he had mentioned that things had changed. The dirty and peeling hallway linoleum had been replaced in places by what looked like pieces of hand cut stone blocks set with mortar. The floor was strewn with fragrant clippings of dried heather. There were other things too. The ceilings were, taller and the windows were taller and rounded on the top. Linda said, “Markey told me I need to get you out of here as soon as I can.”

Allen said, “Markey was here? He had something I was supposed to tell you only I never got the chance.”

They descended the stairs that went down in a spiral when they had been flights of stairs on her way up. The lobby of the building now had an old iron chandelier hanging from the ceiling and the broken-down elevator was a grand staircase that led up to and terminated at the ceiling. There was a crowd of people gathered on the street looking in confusion at the building. Linda thought that the changes that had taken place had only been unnoticeable to her.

Mr. Branzino flagged them down from the crowd of people. He said, “There have been strange things happening in the time since you have been gone. I saw it on the television in the ER waiting room. Buildings have changed all over the city and a cathedral appeared in the heart of downtown.”

Allen said, “I know you. You are the Man from the deli.”

Mr. Branzino eyed him up and down. He said, “Your shoes match your suit. What name are you using young man?”

Linda said, “He is Allen, Mr. Branzino.”

He looked at Linda. He hadn’t noticed at first, but she had changed. She was standing taller and looked more confident and maybe something else he couldn’t quite articulate. He said, “Tell me young lady, what name are you using?”

Linda said, “I didn’t do any of this if that what you are asking me.”

Mr. Branzino said, “Nothing. Nothing, Linda. It will all be fine. I think Hector should be checked out of the hospital by now. I told Judy how to get to my place and left her the keys. And it was good that I had sent them there because I have had several calls telling me that my store is on fire.”

Linda said, “Mr. Branzino, I think you are just going to have to disregard much of what is happening today.”

Mr. Branzino said, “What? Why?”

Allen said, “Yes, Linda. I would like to know why too.”

Linda said, “I am pretty sure the writer of this story has run out of ideas and is simply trying to meet some silly daily word goal.”

Mr. Branzino said, “It sure does sound like it. I mean taking a look at the craziness going on all over the city I might think that the writer is simply behind on words and trying to write whatever he or she possibly can in order to catch up.”

Allen said, “Honestly, that is what it has felt like the whole time. I mean what is next is there going to be some kind of zombie apocalypse or some other kind of lazy writing trope like that.”

Mr. Branzino said, “Hold on I am going to hail a cab. We really should get back to my apartment and meet with Judy and Hector because it doesn’t seem like any of the strangers on the street are going to step forward to help with plot advancement.” He turned around slowly to get a good look at the crowd. He say a man wearing a buffalo hair loincloth and a Viking helmet on his head. He was carrying around a toy spear and he had a sign across his chest that written in lipstick that said, Go Packers. There was a man wearing a gasmask carrying around several zip ties in his hands like he was planning on taking people hostage. The streets were full of people. Mr. Branzino said, “I don’t know none of these people look important at all.”

Linda said, “I wouldn’t think so. It is really too far into the plot to be introducing new characters.”

Allen said, “True and isn’t there already so many locations that have been previously introduced. Maybe we shouldn’t be headed to your place, Mr. Branzino. It just seems like none of these places even matter. They are all interchangeable, aren’t they?”

Mr. Branzino said, “Look son I never said anything like that about where you live have I. I know that each apartment looks pretty much the same as the next when you are talking about the floorplan, but do you think that individual’s personal tastes in decoration are not enough to differentiate one place from another.”

Linda said, “Wait a minute, Mr. Branzino. I don’t think Allen meant any offense to you or to your decorating style. But you did just say you wanted to signal for a cab when the street is full of people. There is no possible way that would even be able to happen.”

Mr. Branzino said, “Give me a break after the day I have had anybody could be expected to overlook something like that. Are you telling me you never miss anything simple?”

Allen said, “I was the one that made fun of your decorating skills. Why are you taking it out on her?”

Mr. Branzino said, “I don’t know. Things are just really confusing right about now because the plot has dragged to a halt simply because it started to look like it had an actual direction.”

Linda said, “That is right. Nothing would look more simple, stupid, and unbelievable in our story than a simple plotline.”

Allen said, “I agree with you, Linda. If something makes sense it doesn’t belong in our story. There must be something seriously wrong here.”

NaNoWriMo Day 13 (1718 Words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

Hector was in a room about halfway down the row. At least it is what doubled for a room in a busy hospital like this one that needed as many places to put people as possible and at as little cost as possible. The room was a space along a back wall big enough for a sink a few electrical outlets and single adjustable bed. The other three walls were created by a single reddish-brown curtain that started at the back wall and then curved around until it came into contact with the next rooms curtain wall. It wasn’t entirely clear how often these curtains would get cleaned and how often accidently wiped with dripping blood or bored people’s boogers. The part of the curtain the doctors and nurses used to gain entry to the room was slicker and darker brown from the oils on people’s hands. Linda was happy for the sink on the back wall where she could wash her hands after touching the cross contamination of the curtain’s edge.

Hector was in the bed hooked up to the IV drip with a butterfly needle to the back of the hand. The nurse said all his veins had been used up and they had to stick him several times before they decided to try a small needle on the back of the hand. Hector looked weak and pale in the emergency room light, but she could tell how much better he was feeling. Hector said, “They tell me it’s dehydration and they will be checking me out of here before long.” He held up several pieces of paper folded in half. “They gave me a phone number and an address of a clinic in the city that offers sliding payment scales that I can go to for help getting clean as well as a definition of opiate withdrawal. I already know what my symptoms are. I don’t know what good most of these papers are going to be.”

Linda put her hand against his arm trying not to snag the IV tube coming off his arm. She said, “It’s fine Hector. We will be here to help you recover.”

Hector shook his head. He said, “I know you would. But you know you’ve got something more important you need to be doing.”

Linda said, “You are my priority right now.”

Hector said, “And how does that work with people hunting you down to snatch you?”

Linda said, “I think I have come to an understanding with those people.” She didn’t think Hector was in the condition to hear whatever explanation she could give that is if she even understood well enough to explain it in the first place.

Hector said, “No, Linda, I don’t think you have. I have seen things through flashes of dream. This hospital is like the cathedral downtown only a little different.”

Linda said, “I thought you had forgotten the church.”

Hector said, “I dreamed of it. It is hidden somehow, and this place is just the opposite. It is bringing things forward. I don’t really understand, but I have seen the building at the address on the paper. And you are already there but there is something wrong. I think you need to be there.”

Linda said, “Allen explained it all to me in his way. Stacy is an aspect of me. All I have to do is concentrate and she will go away. You notice she has been leaving us alone since we have been here.”

Hector said, “I don’t think you have that right. I think all of this is intrusions from the coffee. I think you are simply the conduit and not the cause.”

Linda said, “If that is the case, what good would I do to go to the address.”

Hector said, “I think you need to break the connection. The boat, the paper, the hairbrush they are not evil they are not good. They are just aspects of whatever it is that is intruding. You need to send them back. Stacy and Judy and Allen too. They all need to go.”

Linda said, “No, Hector, I can’t do that. If it is not me, I can’t do any of that. And if it is me causing it, sending Judy back hurts both her and you. She has found some kind of stability and she is bringing it to you, too.”

Hector said, “If it is you, you are the one that caused all this trouble. Judy’s terrible life of addiction the things that don’t belong it is all your fault. It is up to you to send it all back and make things right. And yourself too. Send yourself back to the darkness of hell that you came from.”

Linda felt far away again, Markey was at her side holding her hand. He looked at Hector the way he had looked at Allen in the past. He said, “Don’t pay too much attention to what he is saying. I think my dad has found a way to tell people what to do. It turns out he is stronger than I thought.”

Linda said, “I just spoke to your dad. He didn’t act like this.”

Markey said, “Allen in not my dad. He looks like him. And I don’t think you are my mom either. I was wrong.”

Linda said, “Allen came to me here and told me about our life and I remembered. I gave birth to you.”

Markey said, “I know it is confusing, but you just can’t remember something that never happened.”

Linda said, “Allen came here, and he spoke to me.”

Markey said, “Linda, which Allen. It wasn’t your Allen. It wasn’t my dad. It wasn’t Raul.”

Linda said, “How can some be more than one person and not be the same person?”

Markey said, “I don’t know, mom.” He looked at the floor and started to whimper. “I mean Linda. I’m only eighty years old. I don’t know everything. If you were my mom, you could tell me the answers.”

Linda said, “You are right I don’t have the answers.”

Markey said, “Dad had a hard time when you died. I wanted to tell him that it was ok. I had seen you here and there, and I told my dad. I thought you were my mom. I did, but I was wrong.” He started to cry.

Linda put her arms around him. She said, “Come here my little boy. Don’t cry.”

Markey said, “You look just like her. You smell just like her. You feel just like her when you hug me.”

Linda said, “And you feel just like my little Markey Monkey.”

He stopped crying and only had a little shakiness in his voice. Markey said, “I showed him you. It isn’t like the way you see. It is blurry, but you are there doing things. He wanted to see you all the time. It changed him.” He pressed his face into her again but didn’t cry.

She put her hand against the back of his head. Linda said, “You didn’t do anything wrong little boy.”

Markey said, “I did. I told him you were mom. I told him he could get you back. I was so sad. I missed you so much. I wanted you back. I didn’t know he would build that machine. I didn’t know what he would go through to get you back.”

Linda said, “It is ok, Markey. An eight year old isn’t responsible for the things his father does.”

Markey said, “And the things I did.”

Linda said, “You are not at fault. You are just a little boy.”

Markey said, “I started taking pieces from his machine and hiding them where you could find them. I thought you were my mom. I thought you would know what to do with them. I was wrong. They just made things worse. Everything is messed up and confused and it is all my fault.”

Linda said, “Markey, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

Markey said, “I did do something wrong. It is all my fault. Now, he can see you without my help. He can find you.”

Linda said, “I won’t let you take the blame for something your father did. He is in the wrong not you.”

Markey said, “I really wish you were my mom, Linda. You always knew how to make him be good. He was happy with you. I really wish I could see him happy again.”

Linda said, “You will see him happy again, son.”

Markey said, “I wish you really were my mom.” Markey faded away, and Linda was in the waiting room again telling Judy and Mr. Branzino how much better Hector was doing. She told them that he was happy that they were going to check him out of the hospital. And she tried to come up with a believable reason why she had to leave them there. Judy just sat there quietly with a haunted look on her face. Linda knew that Hector must have told Judy exactly what he was going to tell her.

Mr. Branzino reached out to touch her hand. He said, “Don’t let him break you.”

Linda said, “I don’t know Mr. Branzino. I am already feeling pretty broken.”

The apartment building that bore the address was a strange combination of this city’s cluttered aesthetic and bits and pieces of her memory. At least, they seemed like memories even if they never actually happened. The building had the same sign emblazoned across the top of the building. In here memory, it had been The Circle Arms Hotel, red letters with black shadow on a white sign splotched and faded from the years in the sun. This was The Circle Arms Residences, the same red letters with black shadow on the same splotched, white background. This was the kind of neighborhood Linda had been never to go to alone, but it was broad daylight and certainly unusual circumstances. There was an intercom system to buzz up to the apartment of anyone who might be expecting you, but the door was propped open almost as if she had been expected to come. Linda felt a strangeness coming from this building something closer and more broken than the other faraway feelings she had felt.

NaNoWriMo Day 12 (1743 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

When Linda and Mr. Branzino arrived, they found Judy in the Emergency waiting room. It was a bright day outside, but Linda felt the lights seemed brighter somehow when she entered through the sliding double doors of the Emergency room. They had arrived to see an ambulance leaving the Emergency roundabout. Linda had assumed that this was the same ambulance that had brought Judy and Hector, but the sun came off the windshield in a glare and she could not see through to the paramedics in the front. None of this mattered to her as long as Hector had made there and was able to receive the medical care that her, Judy, and Mr. Branzino weren’t equipped to give.

The Emergency room was packed with families tending to their sick and injured loved ones. There was a teenaged boy with his father. The boy was holding blood-soaked paper towels to his shin. His father was holding a long scroll of paper towel that he had gotten in the bathroom, and he was trying to get the boy to swap them out with the new ones. The father told his son the paper towels were about to drip. The son said that they were stuck to his wound and removing them would hurt.

A mother had brought in her three young children, two boys too young for kindergarten and a girl still in diapers. The little girl’s face had gone pail, and she was having trouble breathing. The girl stood in front of her mother and held onto the hem of the mother’s skirt. The youngest boy had been playing peek a boo with a young girl with the sniffles two rows over. He started off toward her and his mother grabbed him by the back of the elastic waistband of his pants and pulled him back. She told him to go sit with his brother. He climbed up and sat side by side in the same chair with his older brother who was playing a game on his mother’s phone. The little boy whined for his mother to give him a toy. She said she would look in her purse for something she had forgotten from the last time they were at church.

An old man in a painter’s uniform was standing in front of his younger apprentice who was holding a bandage to the top of his head. The younger man’s hair was matted with dried blood and the older man was on his phone giving the hospital address to the younger man’s wife. And there was a very pregnant woman sitting in a wheelchair, and her husband was pacing back and forth in front of the other annoyed people in their row of waiting room chairs. Judy had been standing at the edge of the waiting area looking toward the entrance doors waiting for Linda and Mr. Branzino to arrive.

Judy said, “The nurse at the intake desk asked what drugs he had taken. I told her that he had taken none. She didn’t seem like she believed me. I told her I thought it had been at least twenty-four hours.”

Mr. branzino said, “You did fine, Judy. The doctors have him now.”

Judy said, “They wouldn’t let me back there. They said family only.”

Mr. Branzino pulled back his head and shoulders to get as tall as he could and looked around the waiting room. He said, “Let’s see if there are any open chairs. You look exhausted. It looks like a long wait.”

Judy said, “I heard some people complain when they took Hector right away. There’s no room out here to keep a man on a stretcher. What do people think, they’re the only one that matters?”

Linda watched from far away, and Allen was there with her. He said, “Do you remember when we had Markey? We were here. Well, not here exactly, but we parked out in the parking lot, and I helped walk you up to the door. You were breathing hard and had to stop several times.”

She said, “The nurses got mad at us because you had not pushed me through the door in a wheelchair. I told her I could walk, and she scowled at you anyway.”

He said, “I think she quoted something about the insurance protocols.”

She said, “You invited your whole family to watch me give birth.”

He said, “We were having my baby boy. And they weren’t in the room when you gave birth. They were all corralled in a waiting room around the corner. You know, I expected them to take him away like they do in the movies. I wanted to look through the window and try to pick him out among all the other babies. But it wasn’t like that.”

She said, “No, they seem to think it’s better to keep the child with their mother these days.”  She turned and put her head against his chest. She noticed how old he looked. The lines in his face and the thinning of his hairline. She said, “Allen, what are you doing?”

He said, “I’m talking to you.”

She said, “No. Why did you leave with that other woman? What is it you want with that toy boat?”

He said, “That’s not another woman, Linda. You gave me that boat. You ordered it through the mail and painted it for me.”

She said, “I felt bad because I had only wanted a little girl until we saw his little thingy on the sonagram.”

He said, “Is that why you did it? I thought you just loved me. I put that boat up with all the model cars I built when I was a kid. I still keep it with them. Only, I have a whole cabinet for them now. I started building them again.”

She said, “What are you building, Allen? Markey told me about some kind of machine.”

He said, “I’m not building anything, Linda. I’m sure he told you how hard your death was on him. It was hard on me, too.”

She said, “He didn’t tell me anything about that at all.”

He said, “I don’t know. Maybe he has forgotten.”

Mr. Branzino had found a place for Linda and Judy to sit. A nurse had called a woman in to be seen, and a man had followed her in. Allen stood in front of her next to Mr. Branzino. He said, “I am glad you have found yourself some friends. I know that none of us have been ourselves lately. I am glad you are letting yourself have a life.”

She said, “And you. How is your life? You’ve started building your models again but what else?”

He said, “I don’t know… business… our son. You would be so proud to see him growing into such a little man. I see him talking with the lady on the school bus just smiling and happy. Nodding at all the right places in the conversation. I mean, I can’t hear what they are saying, but she just nods back and then tells him something else.”

She said, “He does seem pretty smart for an eight-year-old. Really emotionally mature for that age.”

He said, “Wouldn’t it be great if he was frozen at that age forever? You know, before you got sick. Back when we were all happy together.”

She said, “Was that real, Allen? Were we really happy together?”

He said, “We were, Linda. Why would you even question that?”

She said, “Because of you. I mean look at you. You are with that other woman doing who knows what.”

He said, “You mean Stacy.”

She said, “Yes.”

He said, “She’s not another woman.”

She said, “Yes, Allen. Is there any other way to break down the language? You are with that woman. That woman is not me. You are with another woman.”

He said, “Do you remember that night at the costume party when we were first together? We decided we were going to go all out. You rented the red dress and the sunglasses.”

She said, “And you rented the expensive suit.”

He said, “But I forgot to rent any shoes for it. At the party you decided to call yourself Stacy and you slipped the address for that fleabag hotel into my pocket.”

She said, “And I grabbed your cock, and said come and find me.”

He said, “You were waiting for me there.”

She said, “And that night you told me to call you Raul.”

Allen took a step back. He seemed hurt. He said, “Look, Linda I didn’t say anything like that about you.”

She said, “What are you talking about?”

He said, “I’m just trying to be nice, Linda. I didn’t bring anything like that about you.” He stalked off down the aisle of the Emergency waiting room.

She said, “Wait Allen. Just come back and talk to me some more.”

He said, “No, Linda. You’ve gotten me upset, and I am not going to stay here and listen to you talk to me like that.”

Linda no longer had that far away feeling, and Allen was gone. He was in the room with Stacy, the room that somehow had the same address of that fleabag hotel. She was in the middle of light conversation with Judy and Mr. Branzino. In fact, that is what she had been doing the whole time. It almost felt as if she hadn’t even had the conversation with Allen in the first place. Although, she knew that she did.

After another short while one of the nurses came to the Emergency room door held it open and called out Judy’s name. Judy went and spoke to her and came back. Judy said, “They say he is responsive now. They put him on an IV drip of fluids and no narcotics the way I told them he wanted. The nurse said we can come see him but only one person at a time. I’ll be back.” After some time, Judy came back into the waiting room. She said, “Linda, Hector told me that I owe you an apology. He said the boat and the paper, and the other things are not evil. He said some other things, too, but I think you are going to need to talk to him in person.”

Linda went into the emergency room and the nurse directed Linda which way to go to find Hector.

NaNoWriMo Day 11 (1674 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

Linda knocked on the bathroom door. Judy opened the door and Hector was on his knees next to the toilet. He wiped beads of sweat from his forehead. “It’s good I haven’t eaten. Nothing is coming up.”

Judy said, “He needs to drink something. Can you bring some water?”

Hector said, “Please, no. I don’t think I can handle it.”

Mr. Branzino brought a glass of water and a packet of salt. He said, “Put this in the water. He is going to need to keep up his electrolytes.”

Judy said, “Thank you.” She put the glass down on the lip of the sink and ripped the top off the salt packet.

Mr. Branzino put his arm on Linda’s shoulder. He said, “Now is the right time.”

Linda said, “Judy, you know what this is. Hector needs to be in a doctor’s care.”

Judy said, “Doctors…” She shook her head. She knew what she was about to say was wrong. “Or more Junk.” She turned to Hector. “Are you sure you don’t have any.”

Hector said, “What are you saying, Judy?! Of course, I don’t. I would have used it.” Tears started to build up in the corner of his eyes. “And I don’t want to. Don’t you see that?”

Judy said, “Well it doesn’t matter anyway. We seemed to be followed everywhere we go.” Judy tried to stir the salt into the water with her finger.

Linda said, “I am pretty sure they are only after me. Judy, you can take him.”

Judy said, “And you do what, Linda? You walk right up to this address without me to back you up?”

Linda said, “And do what exactly? Drive me away? We don’t even have a car anymore, and that was Hector’s car. Tell me Judy, what exactly is it that you can do against men who may or may not have guns?”

Mr. Branzino said, “You are being too hard on her, Linda.”

Judy put up her hand to Mr. Branzino. She said, “No, let her talk. Let her hear the lies she needs to tell herself to keep her going down the same self-destructive path.” She looked at Linda. “Do you see what you are doing? You are pushing away your only support group.”

Linda said, “I’m not pushing you away. I need to go, and you need to get Hector some help. Can’t you see what is happening here, Judy?”

Mr. Branzino said, “No, Linda maybe she’s right. You need someone with you. I’ll take Hector.”

Hector got up to his feet. He said, “I’m not leaving, Judy. I’ve only made it this far with her help. All they doctors have is pills. They put you on pills, they get you hooked, and they take them away.” Hector lowered his voice and spoke directly to Judy. He said, “I’m not putting the blame on them. Not this time. I own my addiction, and I am going to own my recovery. It’s going to be me and not some pill. Judy, you’re not taking their methadone or suboxone. Judy, I will be here for you if you let me. I follow you. You walk blindly and selflessly to help Linda. I do, too.”

Judy said, “And I don’t think we do anymore. Linda, what are we all doing here?”

Linda said, “I am going to this address.” She reached into her pocket to find the address. She felt it sitting there against the car.

Judy said, “What about that piece of paper? Isn’t it too convenient?”

Linda said, “What are you talking about?”

Judy said, “You just want to use it, don’t you?”

Linda said, “I need to save Allen.”

Judy said, “I think that paper is evil.”

Linda said, “Judy, you are crazy.”

Judy said, “No, Linda. It’s evil. You want to use it, don’t you? You want to give your power over to it. The paper is evil. It just starts small. It does something silly, something strange, something magical. Then it wants more. You just want to use it.”

Linda said, “No, I don’t. I want to save Allen.”

Judy said, “Then why don’t you bring him here? You did it before. You did it to me.”

Linda said, “I can’t, Judy. I can’t see anything in the coffee.”

Judy said, “Yeah, you said that before. That was a lie then wasn’t it.”

Linda said, “I saw Allen. I saw what he becomes.”

Judy said, “And you are lying now, too. Aren’t you?”

Linda said, “No.”

Judy said, “You did. You saw something.”

Linda said, “I saw nothing. I only saw my own reflection.”

Judy said, “That’s not nothing.”

Linda said, “It’s not a vision.”

Judy said, “Isn’t it?”

Linda said, “I can’t pull him through if I can only see myself.”

Judy said, “You don’t need to bring him through the coffee, Linda. I came to The City with Hector. We came in a car. Mr. Branzino was waiting here, and we came to him.”

Linda said, “And Allen is waiting for me at this address.”

Judy said, “Linda, we came here without an address. Linda, this is life you wander your way from one point to another. Things are not plotted out like some poorly written television show. I’m telling you that note is evil. It is like my hairbrush, like Allen’s toy boat, like that little car in your pocket. They are all evil.”

Linda said, “It’s not evil. The car is not evil. It belonged to our son. Allen gave it to him one day when the boy couldn’t stop crying. Allen told Markey that he could play with the toy whenever he thought about me. He was too young. Eight years is old enough for some things. You can grasp certain ideas but they don’t make sense, not really. Not a diagnosis like that. Not seeing your mother poked and prodded with needles, being given medicine that makes her sicker. And then hospice. What the hell can a child understand about that. He was there. He watched. Allen made him watch. Markey didn’t understand. He thought I could come back. I can’t do it. I can’t.”

Mr. Branzino said, “But this isn’t a metaphor, Linda. This isn’t The Wizard of Oz. You are not going to wake up and find out that I am the Scarecrow, and he is the Tin Man. You told me yourself that the Linda in the coffee pot was real. The people you see in the coffee are real.”

Linda said, “They are real.”

Judy said, “Mr. Branzino, she brought me through the coffee, and I can assure you that I am real. None of us are simply waking out of existence.”

Linda said, “What do we do? Do we just wait here? Judy, you came to me. If we wait, is Allen going to come to meet us here?” Judy opened her mouth to say something, but she didn’t know what to say.

Mr. Branzino said, “It makes sense. He came here before. It could be like a criminal returning to the scene of a crime.” He thought. Then, he shook his head. “But there wasn’t no crime here. I gave him a sandwich and a coffee. And he showed me that note. I told him how to get there, and I told him it wasn’t safe. He said he wouldn’t go. But he did, didn’t he?”

Linda said, “I don’t understand. Does that mean I have to go there? Or do I have to stay here?”

There was a loud sound of breaking glass. Hector had been trying to hold down the salty water. He would take a small sip and hold it in his mouth until the urge to through up had gone away. Then he would allow himself to swallow a little. He had lost track of the conversation. Their voices were soothing like a warm buzzing, and he felt the glass slip from his hand. There was a sound and a feeling like falling that seemed to last way too long. He felt himself come to rest but he didn’t feel himself hit the floor. There were the voices again like the soft pulsing of a faraway engine lulling him to sleep. He felt hands on him and thought he could see the blurry color of people standing over him fading to black and grey.

He had dropped the glass of water. He took a step forward and fell to the floor and convulsed. Judy dropped to her knees and cradled his head in her arms. She was praying for God to keep him safe.

Linda said, “That settles it. Judy, you and Mr. Branzino get Hector to the hospital. I am going to the apartment to get Allen back.”

Mr. Branzino grabbed her by the arm. He didn’t squeeze, but he wouldn’t let her walk past either. He said, “Linda, you listen to me. You are not going to that address.” He pointed to Hector. “This man is your friend, and he needs you now as much as you need us. He is going to the hospital, and you are coming with us. Do I need to keep blocking your way while I call 911?”

She said, “No.” And he pulled a phone out of his pocket and got on the phone with the emergency operator. By the time the ambulance got there, Hector was finished convulsing and he was laying on the floor. He was in and out of consciousness and mumbling from time to time. Whatever he was trying to say, Linda was relieved that he was not asking for a toy boat. The ambulance had taken him across town. At first, the paramedics refused to allow Judy to ride along with him because she was not family, but she cussed the man a blue streak and he relented. He said, “I’m going to mark you down as the wife.” Mr. Branzino called a cab and he and Linda arrived at the hospital a short time later.

NaNoWriMo Day 10 (1813 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

The old man said, “Everybody calls me Mr. B. You can if you want, but that coffee pot kept saying my whole name. It said, Mr. Branzino do this. Mr. Branzino do that.” He shook his head. “Don’t think too much into that Linda. I know your dad took that name, but I’ve always told you it doesn’t mean nothing.” Linda began to feel the far off feeling again but not exactly the same as before. She looked around and saw that she wasn’t the only one to hear what he had said.

He brought everyone coffee and a bagel. Linda ate her bagel and when she looked into the coffee all she could see was her own reflection. Judy just nibbled at her food and sipped at the coffee. Hector didn’t touch his at all. He was sweating and had one hand over his stomach and the other over his mouth, and Judy was more interested in if he was going to be ok than her food. Linda said, “I don’t know you. I don’t think I’ve ever been in this deli before.”

Judy looked at Linda and Mr. Branzino. She said, “Come on Hector. I think you should be near the bathroom after all.” She gave him a hand up and they walked across the dining room hoping not to be seen.

The deli had a counter in front where a few customers could sit and eat while they watched Mr. Branzino serve up toasted bagels with your choice of toppings for breakfast, or his specialty chopped beef hoagie sliders for lunch on the grill. Behind the counter was a drink machine and of course the coffee pot. It didn’t seem to be talking to Judy, but Mr. Branzino seemed convinced. The dining room had a few small tables, and the back wall had a few shelves selling jars of olives, artichoke hearts and brown mustard and other products. They walked behind the shelves to be less noticeable from the street.

By now, the sidewalks were full of people walking and more than a few seemed put off by the sign and the locked door. Judy figured Mr. B’s Deli must do pretty good business despite the lack of seating. Hector put his hand up to her when she tried to follow him into the bathroom. She said, “I’m only there incase you need some help.” He relented and she closed the door behind them. Hector kneeled over the toilet and proceeded to dry heave several times.

Hector said, “I swear Judy. I am going to quit for good this time.” Judy wadded up some toilet paper and wiped the water out of his eyes.

She said, “Hush, Hector.” She didn’t even think about calling him a liar.

Mr. Branzino looked at Linda. He said, “That coffee pot has been talking to me for years since my wife died. It was always your voice. We’d have conversations in the mornings when I was prepping the herbs, jams, and spreads for the morning rush.”

She said, “You saw me? I thought only I could do that.”

He shook his head and stuck his hand in his pocket. He said, “I only heard. At first, I thought I was going to have to call out the Ghostbusters especially when this paper started ending up in my pocket.” He handed the paper to Linda. It was a scrap of notebook paper with a street address and apartment number written in a woman’s handwriting.  He said, “I threw it away several times, but it kept ending up back in my pocket.” Linda folded up the note and put it in her pocket. She felt the car in her pocket, but it was that far away feeling again, and it passed back out of her mind.

He said, “I wondered about that piece of paper. It’s the address to a ratty apartment building in a part of town I would never go except with a couple of other people looking for my cousin back before he had really lost it all to the drugs. But last year, when he handed me the exact same paper, I knew he was bad news.” He looked her for a second as if to get her approval. He said, “That was him, right? The young man with the shoes that didn’t match his expensive suit. He said his name was Raul.” Linda sat there while Mr. Branzino collected his thoughts.

She said, “That wasn’t his name.”

He said, “What was that quote about roses and names?” He looked at her looking at him. He said, “Oh well, it doesn’t matter.”

She said, “His name was Allen Parkins.”

He said, “Look, we’ve gotten to be pretty good friends over the years, me and the coffee pot, so I’ll tell you, Linda. That young man was confused. You always told me that I could see through people, and I never believed you, but I saw through him. I felt sorry for him like I feel sorry for everyone who is making the wrong choices, and I saw that he was ready to make a great deal of wrong choices.”

She said, “You are right he is confused, but he is a good man. He just needs a little help. I can help him figure things out.” She put her hand on the lump in her pocket where here leg had felt like it had chafed some during their long walk through the night.

He flashed her a resigned smile. He said, “I know you don’t believe me. You never would listen when I gave you advice about him.”

She said, “Are you sure I even heard what you were telling me.”

He said, “I am not even sure you hear what I am telling you now. Look, I just figured you were my own imagination, me talking to a coffee pot and all. But I felt I had the right to give you advice. And I still feel like it now. I know you, and you know that I know you, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

She said, “And I told you all this about Allen.”

He said, “No you didn’t but you did say that young man is not like you and me. He’s got something broken inside of him. You didn’t tell me this, but I am afraid he has the power to break you, too.”

Linda said, “You are sure this was me talking to you?”

He sat down next to her. “I tried to hide us talking. I think people don’t like to eat food made by someone who talks to his coffeepot.” He stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. “Really, it began before my wife died. You knew it was going to happen and you talked me through it. My wife began to suspect another woman at first. She thought I was on the phone when she heard me talking. She was already sick when she saw what was really happening. The doctor told her it was just my coping strategy. I let her believe that. Hell, I believed it myself.”

Linda said, “I am not saying that what you had wasn’t real. I have been seeing things my entire life. I watch people’s lives play out in the coffee, but I can’t talk to people through it. It’s like television. After a while, they start to feel like friends or part of the family. And you feel like you know them, but they’re not here. Allen was something else. He was here in this city.”

He smiled and said, “We have talked about this before, you know. I can’t resolve your issues any more than you could mine. In the end, I had to deal with my wife’s death like everyone else. You just offered me time to think about things and anticipate it. Maybe I understood her death better. Maybe I didn’t. But in the end, I had to except that she was going to die. I had to feel the pain. I had to go through the loss. By turning me crazy, by making me talk to that coffee pot. You helped me. Now, I am just trying to return the favor.”

She said, “Are you telling me that I should just give him up as lost? I don’t think I can accept that.” She put her hand in the pocket and grabbed a hold of the car. She said, “I think I can help him. I really do.”

He said, “I know you are going to go to the address, and I know you are going to find him there.” He put his hand on her arm by the elbow. “Just don’t let him break you the way that he’s been broken. I don’t think I could stand to lose a friend like you even if you are only a stained coffee pot.”

She reached over and put her hand on his on her elbow. She said, “I had always felt so lonely in this city. I wish I had known I was your friend. Maybe we could have known each other for real.”

He said, “I know you and the coffee pot aren’t the same person, but you are the same to me. And you think I can see through people. And I think I can see through you right now. And I see you are stuck with no way out. Just promise me that you will come back the same as you left.” He looked off to the shelves of bread flower and cooking utensils. He said, “I don’t know. Maybe he is not the same Allen that I saw. And maybe you are right about what I can and can’t see.”

He stopped and thought for a moment or two. “I’ll tell you what I do see. That man, Hector, is it? He’s not going to be as alright as he thinks he’s going to be. Maybe your friend Judy will listen to you if you tell her to take him to the hospital. I know she won’t listen to me.”

He said, “Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe you can’t stop being broken. Maybe all I can do is help you accept things the way you did for me with the death of my wife. Maybe you have to hurt. Maybe you have to grieve. Maybe what is broken can heal. Maybe it can’t. Maybe what is broken will grow back stronger. What do you think Linda? Or am I just lying to myself about that, too?”

She said, “It sounds like the Linda you know in the coffee pot understands a lot more about the world than I do. I hope she really is inside me somewhere.”

He said, “I am sure she is. I can see her strength hiding behind your eyes.”

NaNoWriMo Day 9 (2,156 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

Judy hesitated, looked up one end of the long downtown block, and down the other. She took one step and stopped. Hector put his hand on Judy’s shoulder.

He said, “If you don’t buy a lottery ticket, stick a fork in an unplugged toaster, and wait for a lightning strike, nothing will ever happen.”

Judy said, “You’ve never given me a proper explanation for that saying.”

He said, “It doesn’t matter where we go. We will find Allen, or Stacy will find us. Isn’t it the same either way?”

Linda said, “All things considered, I’d rather it be on our terms and not theirs.” Judy started walking and they followed her.

The moon was full that night, and it reached out with long shadows from the tall glass and steel buildings. Each window seemed a cosmos to itself sprinkling them with thin chiming bits of scattered moonlight. Night off glass was so bright that the streetlights were more set dressing than necessary sources of navigation through the darkness. Judy would lead them down one street and then up the next. It felt like they had been going in circles, and it felt like they kept being passed by the same five cars despite their inability to see anything past the headlights blinding in their eyes, or maybe because of their inability to see. The moon dimmed with the first traces of morning on the eastern skyline, and they started to see the silhouette of trees over the open space of The City’s biggest park.

Leucothea Memorial Park had been planted with ornamental trees that required regular watering to keep them green in the springtime and a crew of groundskeepers to clean up the beautifully colored leaves in the fall. There was a large pond toward the eastern side of the park that had been dug to provide the citizens with a place they could come and simply enjoy the view or cast a line in the water to catch the small trout that grew up and lived in the old irrigation ditches that had been widened to provide the pond with water.

The man-made canal was said to meet up with a natural river that emptied out into the ocean. The city didn’t allow people to swim in the pond and there had grown a local legend that a bull shark had swam up the river from the ocean and made a home in the pond. People would say the shark would eat any fish that grew to a descent size. They claimed this was why no one ever caught big fish from this pond. The more likely reason was that city runoff caused the fish to get sick and die before they could reach any notable size. That and legend because people did catch large fish in the pond. In fact, they held a small fishing tournament every year.

You had to pay some exorbitant amount of money to enter the tournament, but the money they earned was used by the parks department to help fund many of the smaller parks throughout the rest of the city. And they had signs at many of the entrances to the park that had pictures of past year’s winners holding up their prize winning catch. But this park was the crown jewel of The City and people from all over would come here and set up their cameras hoping to catch a picture of a shark’s fin sticking out of the water. Many of the best pictures of shark fins came at sunrise when the angle of the sun came off of the water washing out all color and contrast from the photos. Few people believed these were actual sharks being captured in the photos. The photos were always grainy and lacking anything to show scale. The photos were likely capturing a piece of garbage floating on the water, and some of them were obviously foam rubber fins floating in the pond that were either planted for the photo or dropped by a child. Many of the shops throughout the city sold exactly such shark fins in a clear plastic tub right next to the cash register along with other small pieces of memorabilia designed to catch a child’s eye while being cheap enough to add to a bill without breaking the bank of the unsuspecting parent subject to the whines and whims of a young child.

Despite the sound of the increasing traffic on the street, they could hear the photographers setting up their cameras along the boardwalk hoping to catch a picture of something on the water. Judy pointed to the park. She said, “I think we have to go through there.” Judy walked over to the next crosswalk and hit the button and waited for the signal so they could cross safely.

Linda had been bothered most of the night by something in her pocket rubbing against her leg. She reached in her pocket and found the toy car the boy had given her, but she had forgotten that she had it. She pulled it out of her pocket and held it out to look at. It was just an old matchbox car. It had been used. There was dirt in the crevices and a small scratch on the plastic of the windshield. And it looked like the molded black plastic seats held onto tiny amount of pocket fuzz by static cling or some other unseen force. She said, “Have either of you seen Allen with this?”

Hector looked at the car in her hand. He said, “I haven’t seen one of those in years. Do kids still buy them?”

Judy reached out her hand. She said, “Can I have that?”

Linda drew her hand back a little. She said, “I think it belongs to Allen.”

Judy put her hand on Linda’s and held it touching the toy car. “Please. I just want to look at it.” She started to close her fingers around it to pry it from Linda’s hand.

Hector said, “The light.” He tugged lightly against Judy’s elbow. “Come on let’s go.” Judy let go of the car. Linda put it back in her pocket. Judy led them across the street only she had picked up the pace and she was slowly getting ahead of them.

They followed her into the park past the sign with the pictures of people with their fish. Linda was about to ask Judy to slow down. Hector could see it on her face. He said, “It’s fine. Why don’t we just let her walk ahead some. She is a big girl. She can take care of herself.” Hector walked next to Linda and slowed down just slightly causing Linda to match his pace. When Judy was far enough ahead, he said, “Is that one of those things?”

Linda had again forgotten about the car in her pocket. Hector said, “I saw the way that Judy looked at that car. Maybe you should just keep that in your pocket and not show it to anyone else.” They walked down a flight of steps and onto the paved running path that loops through several of the prime viewing locations in the park. Judy was up ahead of them walking toward some joggers who were using the bench of one of the many picnic pavilions to prop their legs up and stretch before their morning run. Hector frowned and then he said, “Maybe don’t even show that to Allen. Isn’t something like that what caused him to leave with Stacy in the first place? Judy wants it the same as she wants that hairbrush of hers. Whatever that thing does, I don’t want to find out, so please just keep it out of sight.”

An older man with a curled cowboy mustache and a bolo tie. Had set up his camera along the side of the path to catch the reflection of the steadily rising sun. He was definitely a tourist from out of town. He said, “Y’all mind stopping so’s I could snap a picture. Ya look mighty pretty with the sun on the winders of yonder buildings shining like pearls cast out to swine.” They ignored him, and he snapped their picture anyway. He said, “Mighty kind of you.” He walked up next to them and said, “I suspect y’all would really like to see this picture.”

Hector didn’t even look at him. He said, “We don’t got any money. We’re not buying your picture.”

The man said, “Don’t look behind you, but y’all are being followed by two fellers that look like they ain’t here to shake your hand. I’ll try to distract em while you two get your friend and sneak off somewhere unless y’all really don’t mind getting robbed.” They made around the grove of trees when they heard the man say, “Now, don’t y’all fellers look pretty with the sun behind ya like that?” They had made it to Judy when they heard him say, “Now, I think I owe you an apology for you bumping into me like that.” They snuck off down one of the other paths back to the street when they heard the man’s voice fading as they left him in the distance. “Don’t leave yet. I’ve got a story to tell y’all about just how clumsy I can be.” Linda thought there was something just too familiar about that man’s voice especially as it trailed off in the distance. Something about it reminded her just a little too much of Elmer, the man from the coffee, whom she had only ever seen through his eyes. She was wrong of course. That trick only ever worked when she was watching through the coffee.

The path they took brought them out onto the street across from a deli. The old man inside looked to be getting things ready for the busy part of the morning. They could smell bagels cooking and he looked like he was measuring out the grounds for a pot of coffee. Linda said, “I know you two are hungry. Let’s get in off the street.” They ran across the street dodging the cars and screeching horns. She thought it’s a good thing those are the normal sounds of a city morning. The door was still locked, and they stood out on the street not too far from a forty-year-old television sitting on the corner. The man unlocked the door and let them in. He locked the door behind them. He said, “I didn’t think you was real. Hurry up back here.” He took them behind the counter and into his kitchen pantry. He said, “I bet you is hungry. I’ll bring you bagels and coffee.”

There were three folding chairs set up and waiting for them. The old man grabbed a paper and a black marker. He said, “I can’t afford to do this, but it’s not everyday that your coffee pot starts talking to you and it turns out that you are not crazy.” He taped the paper sign to the window and turned out the lights to the dining room. The old man stood in the doorway to the pantry. The room wasn’t big, and Hector, Judy, and Linda sat there with their knees touching each other. Hector was rocking back and forth in his chair. He was rubbing at his neck with the palm of his hand. It was everything he had not to scratch with his nails. He knew that he would keep scratching even if it made him bleed. He was able to keep himself from noticing how sick he was when they were out on the street and still moving. He didn’t want to worry Judy. She was having a rough enough time without having to worry about him, too.

The old man looked at Hector. He said, “Sorry son. The strongest thing I got is coffee.” He pointed to the other side of the store. “I’ve got a bathroom if you think you need it.”

Hector said, “No thank you. I’ve been cutting back.” Judy opened her mouth to say something, but she stopped when she got a good look at Hector. Hector began to blush.

The Old man said, “No need to be ashamed. My cousin was hooked on that stuff I think worse than you. If you have help, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Judy said, “Oh, Jesus, Hector. Where has my mind been at? How could I not have seen?”

He said, “I promise you, Judy. I really have been cutting back. Just enough to keep off sick. I promise, I won’t have another seizure. I won’t die on you.” He smiled and sat up straight. He said, “I’ll even stop scratching. See.” He held both of his hands together in his lap.

She put her hand on his. She said, “It’s alright, Hector. I’ve been through it myself.”

NaNoWriMo Day 8 (1,734 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

Hector grabbed George. He said, “You told who what? Allen Just walked off with them.”

Judy stood up. She said, “Hector, just let the man go. What’s been done can’t be fixed.”

Hector said, “He’s just going to lie to us.”

Judy said, “Now, you’re speaking the truth.” She put her hand on Hector’s arm and he loosened his grip.

George said, “I don’t know if you know this, but people listen to them.”

Linda said, “I know that. They tell you something strange, and you donate money.”

George said, “It’s more than that. I will tell you, but we can’t stay here. I have seen people confess their sins to that woman.” He dropped his head to avert Judy’s gaze. He said, “I’ve done it. I’ve done it. I was drawn in and I was handing out pamphlets for them at the airport. She promised to make me forget about the drugs. I was clean for a while. I knew I was sick. I knew I was in pain, but I couldn’t remember why. Joey found me and told me what my real name was, and got me hooked back on the drugs.”

Linda said, “Allen would not tell them anything.”

Hector said, “He just walked away with them. He is going to sell us out.”

Judy said, “He will do what ever it is that gets him closer to having his evil thing. I think we should go somewhere. Allen knows we are here.”

George said, “I don’t think he could stop himself from telling them anything they wanted him to tell them. But maybe he is different. People have been calling him Raul.”

Linda said, “Why is it important what they have been calling him?”

He said, “Joey is on the street waiting in your car. I know of a place where you can hide out. There is an old church in the center of the city where we were told never to go. They tend to give that place a pretty wide berth.”

Linda said, “There is no church at the center of the city.”

George said, “I know. I used to think that, too.”

They took the backroads and avoided Stacy’s main sphere of influence, but George had said that Stacy had missionaries all over. They hoped that the night would help them make it through unseen. George reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He said, “I have a hard time remembering all of the goings on from my time with Stacy’s crew, but I still have one of the pamphlets we would give out in exchange for a dollar or two. Here.” He handed Linda the pamphlet. He said, “Take a look. I think they call themselves the Church of the Burning Hammer.”

Gorge had folded the pamphlet up small, and the corners were frayed and bent. The paper was slightly wet from the humidity of his pocket. The pamphlet had pretty pictures of smiling people handing out roses. It outlined some of the ways that the church claimed to be benefiting the community through outreach and fellowship. It had a link to the GoFundMe account, and it had a brief paragraph about how they were awaiting the return of their founder Raul Botulin. Linda handed the pamphlet back to George. He said, “Did that answer your questions?”

It didn’t answer any of her questions. Linda smiled and said, “Yes.”

George pointed in the direction Joey was driving them. He said, “Turn left on that street.”

Joey made the turn. He said, “Why are we going here again?”

George said, “Just keep going straight we are almost there. I don’t blame you for not knowing about this place. It has power like Stacy’s only at a much lower level. I think I developed a tolerance after she nuked my brain.”

Joey said, “What the hell are you talking about? Is it that stupid cult again? You know you’re better off.”

George said, “Slow down, Joey. It’s that building up ahead.”

Joey shook his head. “I’ve never seen that place before.”

The church wasn’t small, but it looked absolutely tiny sitting between two high rise buildings. This church looked as if it had been standing there for hundreds of years, but this section had been zoned and built on what had once been prime farmland back before the city had grown to the sprawling metropolis that they had all known. There was no way anything like this had existed in the flat hinterlands of cabbage, onions, and tomatoes. This was more a cathedral than a church. It was built of stone with large stone pillars. There was a plaza in front behind a wrought iron gate and planters growing red roses. The center of the plaza held a monument of a man and a woman holding hands. The monument was lit by crisscrossing spotlights that threw strange shadows on the front face of the church.

George said, “Stop here.”

Joey said, “What? Why?”

George said, “Just stop and let us out.”

As they were getting out of the car, Joey said, “Where the hell did that church come from?”

George leaned over to the driver side window for Joey to roll it down. He said, “Go find a spot and meet us inside. George waved as Joey drove the car down the street. He said, “I bet he’s already forgotten why he’s even here.”

Hector said, “I don’t think I like this place.”

Judy said, “It feels like it’s intruding like it’s pushing the other buildings apart.

George shook the wrought iron gate. He said, “Damnit. It wasn’t locked before.”

Linda said, “The man on that monument looks a lot like Allen.” Thinking back on her last vision in the coffee she thought maybe Allen looked a lot like it.

Hector and Judy went over to help George look at the gate. Hector said, “Are you sure you are trying to push it the right way? There isn’t a lock on it.”

Judy said, “Are you sure it’s not rusted shut.” She shook the other door of the gate and kicked it when it wouldn’t move.

Linda watched them as if they were far away. It felt nearly like she was watching through the coffee.

A little boy was standing next to her. He reached up and held onto her hand. He said, “I always liked to visit this place before it ended up here. I am glad you could come and see it with me. This is where my Raul and Carla got married or will get married. I don’t know how it really works. I am only eight. That man Franky was confused about a lot of things, but I think he was right that the order doesn’t matter.” He looked up at her and smiled. “I haven’t learned everything yet. Maybe you can teach me after you start to remember.”

Linda reached over and scuffed his hair with her other hand. She said, “You look like a sweet little boy. Would you like to go in there with me and look around? It all feels so familiar. I bet it is beautiful inside.” She took a step toward the gate. The boy held on to her hand and wouldn’t move.

He said, “Linda, why don’t you and I just stay out here? My dad will see us if we go in. That man, George, he means well, but he is confused. My dad has been trying to tell him what to do. He can talk to the zombies, my dad can, but it doesn’t really work with people.”

Linda said, “No, I guess it wouldn’t.”

He said, “I tried with Allen. I thought it might work, but it turns out I don’t know what he is.”

She said, “I turns out, I don’t know what he is either. I thought we were friends, but he just walked away with some other woman.”

He said, “I think you need to get him away from her. She is a bad influence.”

She said, “She has something of his.”

He said, “The little toy boat.” He looked sad.

She said, “You know about that?”

He said, “That is what you took away from him.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a toy car. “My dad gave me this before he got mixed up. He said I could play with it when I felt sad.” He held it up to Linda. “Give it to Allen. I think it will take his mind off the toy boat.”

 She kneeled down to look at the boy at eye level. She said, “Little boy, I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere before.”

He said, “I know. You told me how to get here. I saw that things were disappearing from my dad’s machine. I didn’t know it was you. But I’m glad it was. I know you don’t know what I am talking about, but please just find Allen and give him the car. I won’t miss it forever. I think”

She said, “I don’t know how find him.”

The boy said, “Ask Judy. She knows how.” He gave her a big hug. He said, “We both need to get out of here before my dad sees us. He’s getting stronger every day. I’ve already killed him once. I don’t know if I can do it again. It was really nice to see you again, mom. Bye.”

She said, “I love you, Markey. Bye.” He was gone and she was already forgetting that he had even been there.

The gate swung open, and George walked in. Linda said, “Linda, Hector, what are we doing downtown?”

Hector looked at Judy. Judy shrugged her shoulders and said, “I really don’t know.”

Linda said, “Judy, we need to find Allen, and I think you know how.”

Judy said, “I do?”

Linda said, “Start walking like you wanted that brush.”

Judy said, “Like I’m looking for you. But were calling for help. And I think I’m calling out for that brush. But I don’t think Allen and I have that kind of connection.”

Hector said, “Just start walking. Both of us will follow even if you are going the wrong way.”

Judy said, “I don’t think anything could be more wrong than this place.”

Hector said, “I think you are right. Let’s get out of here.

NaNoWriMo Day 7 (1484 words) Visions from the Coffee Cup

Linda wasn’t strictly telling the truth. She had seen things in the coffee. And for the first time she thought that what she saw was the actual future and not just same old lives that she always got to watch. She had seen Allen only he had become Raul. He hadn’t simply assumed the name. The way he had told her the image on the GoFundMe page changed bit by bit to look like him. She had watched him change bit by bit to a maniacal and ruthless leader of people.

Hector said, “He left with her without a question like he had been planning it the entire time.”

Linda said, “I thought I was helping him.” She put her head in her hands. “I thought if I gave him what I was asking for.”

Judy said, “Gave him what?” Judy turned toward Linda. “What do you mean he was asking for something?” She had a strange intensity in her voice.

Hector put his hands up to motion for Judy to settle down. He said, “This is how you always got.”

Judy said, “Not now, Hector.”

Linda said, “It was just a thing.”

Hector said, “No, Judy. I will not be put off.”

She said, “Linda, where did he come from?” Linda was stunned and did not answer.

Hector said, “You’d go on and on about that stupid hairbrush.”

Judy grabbed Hector’s shirt and hit him with her free hand. He stepped back and tripped over an old baby doll that had been sitting in the middle of the floor. He grabbed her hand and she landed on top of him. She said, “That hairbrush was not stupid.” She tried to hit him again, but he grabbed her other arm too. “Let go of me. Hector, you fucking asshole.”

He said, “What? And let you run off and blow your sobriety.”

She said, “I ain’t running off.”

He said, “Bull fucking shit, you lying junky.”

Linda said, “He came from the coffee.”

Judy looked at her. She said, “Let go of me, Hector. I ain’t running off.” She climbed off of Hector and kneeled down in front of Linda. She said, “You were going to give it to him.” Judy grabbed Linda. “And you refused me.” She raised her hand to hit Linda.

Linda put her arms up to cover her face. She said, “I was seven years old.”

Judy stopped herself and sat down next to Linda and leaned up against the wall. She said, “I know it, Linda. I know it. I hated you for so many years, but I realized you were right.”

Linda said, “I saw what happened to you. It was all my fault.”

Judy said, “No it wasn’t. You saved me.”

Linda said, “You nearly killed yourself with all the drugs.”

Judy said, “You pulled me away from that hairbrush, Linda. That was how you saved me. The drugs were the only way I could keep myself from running to it. The drugs and knowing that you were watching.”

Linda said, “You knew?!”

Judy said, “You weren’t always watching, but when I needed you, you gave me the strength to light my brain on fire with the drugs.”

Hector grabbed Judy by the shoulder. He said, “Look at you, blaming her for your problem.”

Judy said, “I’m not talking about that, Hector. I did the drugs to myself. But the fucking devil gave me that hairbrush. And Linda took me away from it.”

Hector said, “Stop it, Judy. When you start talking crazy, the crazy comes true.”

Judy said, “I don’t know where that hairbrush came from, but I know it was evil. I thought it was magic at first. It just did silly things that didn’t make sense. I never brushed my hair with it. I always knew that wasn’t what it was for.”

Judy had just seen the hairbrush sitting on her bathroom sink one day. It had been there for as long as she could remember. She would pick it up and move it over when her mother had her clean the bathroom, and when her mother came to inspect, she would yell at her for not cleaning up the stupid brush. But mostly it was ignored. But the more Judy moved the brush the more she wanted to go in and move it. She started to pick it up and move it into different rooms. She would close her eyes or turn her back and it would be gone. Every time it would be sitting on the bathroom sink.

She had showed this trick to her mother one day. Her mother didn’t seem to notice the brush disappear. Judy asked her what she had thought about the brush. Instead of saying anything back her mother her mother walked out of the house and told the mailman that he was a dick head. Judy had been amazed because she had just been thinking that the man looked like a dick head. His stupid mailman hat on the top of his head bulging out and looked like it had a little dick slit on top. She couldn’t help but think he was a dick head every time she saw him. She had just figured her mother must have thought the same thing about the man. The man just stayed well away from her mother that day. And he seemed hesitant to deliver the mail to their house every day after that.

She tried this on her mother several more times before she realized that she wasn’t just imagining that she knew what people would say before they would say it. A few more tries and she realized that she controlled the words that they would say and to whom they would say them.

It was when she put the brush in her back pocket that things began to change. She would take the brush somewhere close her eyes and it was back in her pocket. And the things she would make people say were worse. There was a boy in her math class that always picked on her. She made him walk up to Mr. McGuffey and tell him that he wanted to pull out his penis and masturbate all over the man’s face. Mr. McGuffey punched the boy in his face and kicked him several times when he was on the floor. The boy never quit picking on Judy and Mr. McGuffey was arrested and she had a substitute teacher for the rest of the year. It was when she had made her mother go and tell her newest husband that she had just gone and sucked the neighbor’s dick that Linda had intervened. Judy had just wanted to hurt the man’s feelings. He was always such an asshole to her. But her mother was the one who got the beating, and the man wouldn’t stop. It was Judy’s joy in what she had done that made her so sad. She loved her mother and didn’t want her beaten.

Every time I used that brush, it had more power over the people that she showed it to. Every time she showed it to someone, it had more power over her. When Linda pulled her through, all she wanted was that hairbrush.

By the time Judy had finished telling her story they had drawn quite a crowd. They could hear people spreading her story like whispering rumors trickling through the crowd. Judy said, “Linda, I’ve learned to accept that the urge will never go away.” She pointed toward the street. “All I have to do is take one step out that door and follow that urge, and I know I will find that hairbrush wherever it was that you sent that thing. My foster families knew I was going to leave, and they tried their best to stop me. Eventually I learned to stop myself with the drugs. If I was numb, I wouldn’t go after that brush. And then it was the twelve-step program that eventually taught me to live with the pain.”

Hector said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me this.”

Judy said, “I told you every day.”

He said, “I couldn’t believe you, Judy. You were a junky.”

Judy said, “Linda, we have to get him away from there.” Judy reached over and grabbed Linda by the hand. She said, “I don’t have to know what you saw in that coffee to know the thing you took from him is evil.”

Linda said, “I didn’t see anything.”

Judy said, “We both know that is a lie.”

Hector said, “I think you are right, Judy. But where do we even start to look for him?”

During the story George had made his way to the front of the crowd. He said, “I think I can help you with that. I was the one who snitched you out in the first place.”