Renegade Writers Guild

Published 9:36 am Thursday, February 16, 2017

“The Old Mountain Place”

By Linda Barnette

When Ashley was a young girl, she loved exploring nature. She walked in the woods, played in the streams, and built imaginary playhouses out of old logs and pieces of glass she found in the woods behind her grandmother’s house. In those days there were no local swimming pools, so her family went swimming in Dutchman’s Creek or some other nice creeks in their area. One of their favorite spots was out in the country in a place known as the Old Mountain place, which was part of her great-grandfather’s property. It consisted of several hundred acres of land mostly unsettled except for a house here and there. The creek at the bridge was just right for good swimming right after a rain shower.

One weekend Ashley and her parents, grandparents, and a good friend of hers took a picnic lunch and spent the day beside the creek. Ashley and Brook played in the water on old tire tubes and then decided to go exploring in the nearby woods. As they were climbing up a hill, they suddenly fell inside of a hole in the ground. They were petrified!

“How are we going to get out of here?” Brook cried.

“I don’t know,” Ashley whispered, “but we’ll find a way.”

They soon realized that the hole led to an underground tunnel which they had no choice but to follow. Inside the tunnel were roots, leaves, rocks and all kinds of bugs. Both girls screamed when a frog jumped out in front of them. Of course, their biggest fear was they might see a snake! Luckily, both were Girl Scouts and had some training and experience in outdoor survival. For what seemed like hours, they moved slowly through the tunnel in almost total darkness. The girls were hungry, thirsty and tired. Suddenly, they came into a fairly large area that had obviously been cleared out by people at some point. In the wall and on the ground, they saw what appeared to be shiny rocks so they picked up some of them and put them in their pockets to show to their parents.

After awhile, the girls heard voices hollering for them. It was Ashley’s dad and grandfather! Her grandfather had remembered hearing about the Old Calahaln Mountain gold mine where he had played years earlier and had searched for the old mine not too far from the creek. He and her dad dropped some large vines down in the mine, and the girls were able to climb out.

When the grandfather saw the gold the girls had, he cried, “Pomp (his own grandfather) was right all along!”

Control + Z

By Marie Craig

Technology keeps rolling forth, and I have kept up with it on my phone and computers. But I think back to typing class in high school with non-electric typewriters. The goal was to type fast and accurately. You didn’t dare make a mistake because it was so difficult to correct. If you used a specially coated paper, you could use a designated eraser that removed what you’d typed wrong. If you had carbon paper and were making more than one copy, you had to roll the carriage around so you could erase each layer of paper and blow the debris away. But wait.

First, you had to insert a small piece of paper under the carbon in each layer because the pressure of the eraser would cause the carbon paper to make a smudge on your copy. After erasing, you had to take out each of these little papers or the carbon paper would not duplicate onto the copy. Then you had to roll it back to get it at just the right spot to resume typing. This was a lot of trouble, and you had to concentrate with a great determination not to make any more mistakes.

The next correction tool was a little bottle of white liquid with a brush. Most of the time, if you shook the bottle first, you could hide the mistake. Typewriters with changeable type, built-in correction tape, and electric motors made this a little easier.

Young people who glibly type with computer software should be required to type on these old clunker typewriters to appreciate having computers that are so easy to use. With computers, if the spell-checker doesn’t automatically correct your spelling, it’s not a problem to hit backspace and take out the errors.

My favorite computer trick is Control + Z. If you’ve typed something and want to trash it all or reverse a computer choice, just hold down the Control key while tapping the Z key. Just magic! I wonder if our young people live their lives like that. If they make a mistake in their lives, just hit Control + Z. Easy ways to do something seem to be the goals today. No evidence of mistake; it never existed. Perhaps we need more accountability.

“Cryptic Revelations”

By Kevin Wishon

Time passed quickly, and Jared’s eyes began to ache from skimming so many lines of code, but this was his window of opportunity. Forty-five minutes to either find what he was looking for or quit.

He knew the risk and continually felt the icy fear he kept contained just below the surface of his brazen exterior. If they knew he was the intruder, he would not only lose his job, but the authorities could detain him too. Who knew what he would have to admit to behind closed doors before he would have a chance to plead his case? Jared squinted harder at the alphanumeric lines and scrolled faster.

Jared recognized some of the lines of code as they rolled by; it was code written by his coworkers and other coding teams from prior weeks. He slowed for only a moment but continued perusing screen after screen of code looking for something suspicious. Jared felt hot in the glow of the LCD monitor and wiped his face and glanced at his hand anticipating sweat but found there was none. Annoyed by the distraction, he ignored it for the moment.

Fifteen minutes had passed since the internal network server had begun its nightly backup. The backup process took more than an hour to complete, but Jared had given himself just forty-five minutes to either find what he was looking for or disengage. Typically, the security system would have flagged his actions on the server, but he was taking advantage of a port usually reserved for off-site data backups to cover his penetration. Recently, Jared had practiced the steps required to address any security barriers. Now, after seven minutes of typing commands, running scripts, and scrubbing logs, Jared was finally able to access the source code file he wanted to view.

Dozens of lines of code continued to pass by as Jared felt his chances slipping away. Now, he wasn’t even reading the code anymore, Jared was looking for anything that looked out of place. Nervously, he glanced at the timer counting down at the top of his monitor and saw only ten minutes remaining. His head was aching, but Jared put all of his attention to using the last ten minutes to maximum benefit. Skipping ahead, he hoped to thoroughly skim the entire source code file before the time was up. With only seven minutes remaining, lines of redacted code suddenly began scrolling up the screen. Jared’s jaw dropped, and he stared at the final lines of code. The remaining code had black blocks covering each character.

“What is this?” he thought to himself. Never had he seen lines of code redacted in any application he had ever encountered. Sure, he had seen sections of code marked for removal. They often contained comments explaining removal but were never hidden from view. Shocked by the unexpected finding, Jared forgot the timer and stared at the copious lines of covered up code. He had been searching for something that did not belong but instead found code he was not able to read.

“What are they hiding here, and how had they done this without anyone noticing?” Jared whispered. Days earlier, all coding for the application concluded, so he knew compiling of the source code would start soon.

I suspected they were hiding something, but this isn’t what I even imagined. Somebody has gone to great lengths to add code to our application and cover it up in the process, Jared thought. He glanced at the timer as the last thirty seconds fell away. Jared scrambled to close out the file and back his way out of the network. He had gotten sloppy towards the end but felt satisfied his infiltration would go unnoticed.

Somebody in our company is modifying our work without anyone else being aware of it and for what reason I’m unsure. Jared thought. He leaned back in his rolling chair for the first time in an hour and rubbed his sore eyes. Now, Jared was sweating for sure.

“The Hunt House”

By Gaye Hoots

When I was a small child we drove to Yadkin County to visit relatives several times a year. The route we took was 801 to Farmington Rd., which connected to Huntsville Rd. There was an old house that always fascinated me. It was a short distance from where Farmington Rd. ended at Huntsville Rd. The house sat back from the road on acreage. I don’t remember it ever being occupied. The house was unpainted but had a front porch with large square columns. The porch supported a balcony of the same size. The roof was tin, so the house was well preserved. It had a hint of past greatness.

I asked my father about the house. The story he told was that the house had belonged to a Dr. L.G. Hunt. He had bought the house with land that he had sold for home sites and developed into the community of Huntsville. He was married to Mary Martin Hunt and they had only one child, a daughter named Daisy. Dr. Hunt died while Daisy was a teenager.

Mrs. Hunt continued to manage the farm with the help of a handyman, Will Kelly. Will had been with them several years. He had been seeing Daisy without Mrs. Hunt’s knowledge. When Mrs. Hunt learned Daisy was pregnant with Will’s child it was rumored that she shot Will in the barn. Her brother was the sheriff at that time. My father’s version of the story was that she shot Will and set the barn on fire to cover up the crime. The sheriff did not press charges.

Daisy is said to have witnessed the barn burning with her lover inside. When her son was born he was covered with scaly or scarred looking skin, as if he had been burned. He was named Joseph Hunt but was always called Jack Hunt. Daisy never married and Jack was rumored to have been kept locked in the house when he was a child.

I researched this story and found other versions of the story. One story did not mention a fire. It said his body was frozen to the ground and had to be pried loose with a shovel. Will had been born to Ann Juliette Kelly who was also an unmarried mother. In one source Will is said to have been the son of Dr. Hunt. Will was ten years older than Daisy. He was born before Dr. Hunt married Mary Martin. I found no proof of that Dr. Hunt was Will’s father.

The cause of Jack Hunt’s skin condition was due to the absence of sweat glands. He spent all of his life in the Huntsville community. Another reference claimed that Jack had murdered one or two men, but I found no proof of truth. He did outlive his mother by over 30 years. Daisy died one year before Mrs. Hunt. Jack, Daisy, and the Hunts are all buried at Huntsville Baptist Church. Will Kelly was buried there also. Their sites had much of this history on it.

The biggest surprise for me was finding that Dr. Hunt did not build the house. It was built by a Mr. Dalton, who was a plasterer by trade. Some sites referred to the house as the Dalton Hunt house. The story of the Daltons is a sad one as well. The Daltons had a young son who died at an early age. One version says Mr. Dalton had died before the son. When she lost her son Mrs. Dalton began to see him in the house. She would run around chasing him and calling his name.

She was out on the second story balcony and fell or jumped over the balcony. Mrs. Dalton was impaled on a stake that was used a means of securing their cow. This resulted in her death. I did not find graves for the Dalton family and was unable to establish the truth of this story but there were several references to it.

Many times I have considered researching the Hunt history and writing a book about it. Frances Casstevens wrote about this. Her book is titled Death in North Carolina’s Piedmont: Tales of Murder, Suicide and Causes Unknown. Roadside Revenants and Other North Carolina Ghosts and Legends by Michael Renegar also relates stories of the Hunt house.

“The History of the Valentine’s Day”

By N. R. Tucker

“I’m done. Can I watch TV now?” Sara’s eager eyes looked up at her mother. They had just gotten a color TV, and the Beverly Hillbillies would be on in a few minutes. It was one of the shows she was allowed to watch.

“Are you done?”

Sara sighed, “Yes. I still don’t see why I had to give one to everyone in the class.” She finished signing the last Valentine card for her class, even one for Jimmy. She didn’t like Jimmy, but her mother said she had to give everyone in the class a card.

“I don’t see why I have to give any.”

Joey, Sara’s younger brother, was still signing his stack of cards.

Their mother smiled. “We celebrate Valentine’s Day with small tokens given to friends.”

“I don’t want to be friends with everyone,” Joey muttered. Sara nodded her agreement.

“In class, you give one to everyone to be polite.”

Their mother’s voice told Sara not to argue, but Joey said, “It’s a silly holiday. How did it start?”

“I just finished a report on that. Want to hear it?” Allen walked into the kitchen to grab some milk. Allen was older and allowed to do his homework in his bedroom.

Joey sat up and grinned. It had to be more interesting than signing cards he didn’t want to give. “Sure.”

Allen grabbed his paper. “Many countries celebrate Valentine’s Day. Shakespeare created sonnets and plays about the romance of the day, but why do we celebrate? Is Valentine’s Day only about love?

“Stories abound about St. Valentine himself, but most have the following in common. Valentine was a priest during Emperor Claudius II reign. When the emperor outlawed marriage for soldiers because single men fought better, Valentine continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers. Valentine was arrested for breaking the law. In prison, before he was put to death, Valentine sent a final note to the jailor’s daughter who visited him. He signed the note “from your Valentine” a signature we still use today. Valentine’s imprisonment and death are also attributed to helping Christian’s escape the Roman prisons. His died approximately 270 A.D.

“In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. Many believe the holiday was placed in the middle of February to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival in honor of Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.

Spoken Valentine greetings were popular in the Middle Ages, but written Valentine’s didn’t appear until the 1400s. The oldest known valentine still in existence is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

The exchange of small tokens of affection or handwritten notes became popular in the 17th century. By the 20th century printed cards became the norm due to technology and cheaper postage rates. Here in America, Esther A. Howland sold the first mass-produced valentines in the 1840s. She made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures.” Allen finished his report and drank his milk.

“You’re telling me I have to give a card to everyone in class because some old soldiers wanted to get married?” Joey shook his head. At least he all he had to do was sign the cards. He didn’t have to make them.

“No, he’s saying Valentine’s Day is a day to thank those who make your life better,” Sara said.

A Heart of Steel, an excerpt

“The Final Straw”

By Stephanie Dean

Steele knew she had made a big mistake the day she allowed her husband to move back in the house. She relished the peace after David moved out and had used her time wisely. The couple had been separated for 2 months, and while he was gone, Steele had been hired for her first, full-time, day shift position as a nurse in charge. For the first time in years, Steele began to visualize her dream of living a life without abuse. A life single and independent, and without a husband. She began to mentally prepare for her departure from the marriage but didn’t move fast enough.

For no reason other than to thwart her fortuitous plans, David began to call Steele after learning she had landed a good job.  David begged to come home and try again and tempted her with an option of being a stay at home mom if they could put their marriage back together. David would have loved nothing more than to have kept Steele completely dependent on him. While Steele had some interest in salvaging her marriage, the prospect of a new life and job took precedence over feeling trapped and held captive by her abusive husband.   Steele allowed David to come back home, but doubting the sincerity of his promises, she made plans to start her new job the following week.

Once David returned to their house, deep down inside, Steele already knew their marriage was over. Any feeling of love had been destroyed little by little over time by the abuse. The issue wasn’t a question of when the marriage would end but how soon? If only to prove to herself she gave the marriage another try, Steele equipped herself with patience and resolved herself to being temporarily reunited. She waited for the final straw. The straw that surely came and broke the remaining tie to the marriage.

Part of the summer weekly schedule was every Wednesday night, David and his older brother Steve cut their grandmother’s grass, and in exchange, Big Momma, as they called her, cooked dinner for the boys. The boy’s wives, Steele and Debbie met their husbands at Big Momma’s house at 5 p.m., and following dinner, the girls cleaned up dishes while the boys mowed her yard. On that Wednesday, just three days after David moved back in their house, Steele helped her brother in law mow the yard as her husband didn’t show up that night.

Early Thursday morning around 3, Steele heard David unlock the back door of the house. He turned the overhead light on, stumbled into the bedroom and shut the door behind him.

“Where have you been?” asked Steele as she got out of bed. Crying with voice escalating, “You promised me again things would be different.” She moved towards the bedroom door.

David lunged at her, pushing her up against the back of the door. “Why? You in a hurry for me to leave again? You already found ya a new boyfriend?” He slapped her a few times across the face.

“No, I didn’t, get your hands off me,” Steele screamed, trying to open the door.

With the palm of David’s hand pressed firmly on the door, her exit was blocked as Steele couldn’t budge it.  Then, with both his hands on each side of her head, David attempted to twist her neck, but he was drunk and clumsy. With one lifted knee, Steele mustered all her strength and kicked him away from her. Opening the bedroom door, she ran and grabbed her car keys off the kitchen counter. As she drove away in her car for the final time, she never once looked back through the rearview mirror.

“Saying Goodbye”

By Mike Gowen

I thought I was in a flower garden. A sweet smell of honey filled the room.  There were bright red, yellow and white carnations, lilies and baskets of wildflowers. They surrounded the room and almost reached the ceiling. The room itself was cold but the flowers added warmth.

My eyes hurt from crying, and I couldn’t make my nose stop running. My Grandmother stood just a few feet away from me, her left hand resting lovingly on the edge of Grandpa’s casket. Mom and Dad almost didn’t let me come. Finally, they decided 8 was old enough, and I needed to say goodbye.   

The room was noisy which didn’t make any sense to me. People were dressed up just like at church. We were never noisy in church. There was talking and laughter all around me. I knew a few people, but most I had never seen before. Uncle Bob came in with Aunt Billie and laughed telling my Mom how I was growing like a weed. I don’t think I ever saw Uncle Bob before without a big cigar stuck in his mouth.    

Grandma motioned me to her. Her eyes were swollen, and she smelled of lilac perfume. She wore a long dress covered with pink and black roses. A black shawl draped around her shoulders.

“Doesn’t Grandpa look good?” Grandma asked.

I could hear myself breathing and wondered if everyone else in the room could too? I was afraid to look. Peering over the casket side my first thought was who was this man? He didn’t look anything like my Grandpa.

When Grandpa was alive he was always smiling. He wore false teeth that made his perfect smile look funny with his thin face. Now his mouth was closed tight, and he looked like he was frowning. He wasn’t wearing his glasses. Grandpa always wore his glasses. He said he couldn’t see two feet in front of him without them. How would he see in heaven without them I wondered? He wore a brown suit. I had never seen him wearing anything but overalls. I used to sit in his lap and play with the gold pocket-watch he kept in the pocket on his chest. Sometimes Grandpa would put candy in there for me to find. We would sit laughing and eat candy while Grandma scolded him about ruining my dinner.      

He looked sound asleep.  I stared waiting for his chest to move. I couldn’t believe he was gone. I loved Grandpa. He took me fishing, told me stories, and always kept my Mom from being too hard on me when I got into trouble. My Grandma took his hand and held it just like I had seen her do many times before. I felt something sting my cheeks and realized the tears had started again. Reaching into my pocket I pulled out a piece of peppermint candy and slid it into Grandpa’s coat pocket.

“Here Grandpa, this is for later,” I said smiling through tears.

For a moment I thought he smiled back at me.  walked back to my Mom feeling hurt and wonderful at the same time. I closed my eyes and the smell of the flowers swept me away to another time and place when Grandpa and I walked hand in hand through a field of daisies. I could feel him beside me and realized I hadn’t come to say goodbye after all.