I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours~~by Søvn Drake

I stood fists balled in my pockets outside the automatic sliding doors on a cold gray spring morning in May. I fingered the scrap of cloth in my pocket as my heart hammered in my ears. Here goes nothing, I thought.

The United States had just reached another milestone in the pandemic. Those of us fully vaccinated were free to take off our masks everywhere except inside health care facilities, public transportation, schools, homeless shelters, and jails.

Relaxed restrictions was good news for some, but bad news for others. All hospitalized patients could now have visitors, not just those nearing end of life. However, our public emergency department anticipated an uptick in violence and aggression as eviction moratoriums were removed pushing more people into homelessness.

I mustered the courage and entered the grocery store. Nobody paid me any notice. It was very early. Employees were stocking shelves and morning shoppers were intent on their lists. Everyone else wore a mask. I learned later that day that my county recommended continuation of masking indoors until June 30th as originally planned. (It’s states vs the federal government here in America!) Sheepishly I returned the next week with my mask back on.

We had almost taken flight but not quite.

I’m a smiley person and I like to smile at babies. Up until about 9 months when they naturally develop stranger anxiety, they universally smile back. It makes me happy. I found myself worried in the past year and a half that babies born during the pandemic might never know a smile other than their parents.’ Fortunately, I’ve found that the crinkles around the eyes are enough of a cue for most babies. It doesn’t matter that I wear a mask, most babies smile back when I smile at them. Try it. We all need more smiles in our life.

The day after I entered the grocery store maskless, I spoke to the owner of the coffee shop Tougo. It has been a bad 18 months for him as a black business owner who had just opened a new store as COVID hit. To make matters worse, vandals attacked it a few months later during the Black Lives Matter riots in Seattle.

After confirming we were both vaccinated we took off our masks, the only two people in a large well-ventilated beautiful space filled with plants. He shared his handsome smile with me.

He told me he would like people to continue to wear masks because he wants everyone to leave his shop better off than when they arrived. He related a story of a colleague he recently had lunch with. Even though they were both vaccinated he was nervous around this man because of his cavalier attitude early in the pandemic, going to bars before masks were mandated and lording his white-supremacist bravado over others.

We talked about how self-centered most Americans are. That we live in a me culture rather than a we culture. That in places like Japan people wear masks when they have colds so they don’t give it to other people. After chatting for five minutes, the next customer entered and we masked up again.

An article in our local paper the week of the CDC’s announcement quoted psychologists stating that some people are just not ready for the full reopening that Washington state had planned for June 30th. Humans are creatures of habit and it will take awhile to relearn social norms that changed so much in the last 18 months. The article pointed out that everyone had a different experience during the pandemic and all emotions and feelings and the decisions we make with them regarding personal masking are acceptable. We must be compassionate.

I started writing this article the day after my grocery store escapade and had to abandon the submission a week later when my husband spiked a fever of 102 F. He was sick, really sick. Damn it all, I thought. He was too ill to drive himself to the drive-thru COVID testing center, a refurbished emissions testing site. It is of course now the first thing you must do when you get sick. Thankfully it turned out to be Campylobacter, the most common type of traveler’s diarrhea world-wide. Since when are we thankful to get traveler’s diarrhea? And we haven’t traveled!

June 30th came and went and I didn’t go back into the grocery store without the mask. I just couldn’t do it. I lost my mojo, my bravery, my determination to be ruled by science and not emotion. But at the end of the day, so many of our decisions are emotional and not logical aren’t they?

I resumed writing this article a week ago and my whole family got a cold. Really? Colds still exist? It boggles my imagination. We of course trotted off back to the former emissions testing center to get COVID tested. Despite staying home from work last week, we managed to camp in the mountains this weekend at a very remote alpine lake near Mt. Rainier, away from cell reception and the rest of the world. The beauty and escape were much appreciated and needed.

Upon returning to civilization, my phone greeted me with the news that Seattle’s King County has decided to have everyone put masks back on inside. Damn it all, I thought. We just can’t take flight, it seems. I got home and rewrote this blog entry for the fourth time.

But…if you tell me you are vaccinated and we go outside, I’ll take off my mask. If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine. We all need more smiles in our life.


Søvn Drake is an emerging writer who can be found haunting coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. More about her and her writing can be found at: https://sovndrakestories.wordpress.com


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

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Names Ache~~by Mark Huntley-James

Names have power. They can amuse, embarrass, infuriate, placate and cause all flavours of angst and frustration following that traditional question: What are we going to call it?

Most of all, names can hurt.

Choosing names has been on my mind of late for various reasons, far beyond the stresses of picking one for the new baby, or new kitten. The currently fractious state of global politics is bubbling with name-calling, the COVID crisis has added a whole new layer of vitriolic terminology, the COVID variants themselves now have a naming scheme all of their own to head off the aggression of calling them by geography. Names have power, and like any true power, they have no allegiance, no affiliation with good or bad, but depend entirely on how we use them.

I got started on this train of thought because picking names is one of those great challenges for a writer. You want a good name for your character, something that feels right, that the reader can bond with, that has that thrill of perhaps being a little bit exotic, without being anything more unusual than the style of the writing can tolerate. From there, my mind took one of its frequent sideways rambles into the general business of names, the ones we are given, the ones we give others, and the ones we choose for ourselves.

Join any online forum or social media and the first thing you have to do is choose a name for yourself. Personally, I am utterly lazy about this and do that strange thing of using my own name. I’m sorry if that seems shocking, when most people seem to pick anything but. That laziness does mean I opt for variations on a theme of MarkHJ, because the only thing I in any way dislike about my name is just how long it takes to write. I can only think of one place I have ever deviated from this, where I called myself Biskit, which is sort of a given name, just not given to me by my parents.

It’s simple really. I lived and worked in Reading for a number of years, home to Huntley & Palmer biscuit makers. So I was given the name Biscuit, or Biskit as I deliberately misspelled it.

As nicknames go, it was one I was happy to use, which is a relief because some of the names we give people are mean, if not downright cruel. You only have to read the newspaper headlines to see a fine collection go past. After all, our prime minister is prominently referred to as Bozo the Clown by one newspaper, which is not kindly meant by any stretch of the imagination.

The thing that strikes me the most is that I have taken to using “Bozo” in conversation, which feels hugely childish in hindsight, and it’s not the first time. Looking back over the years, I have bestowed unkind names on people who have annoyed me, or adopted existing cruel monikers, because those names have a fearsome power to grant a sense of victory, superiority or just being a part of the crowd.

Names are a pain. When I started writing this, I had a bundle of ideas in my head for an amusing, frothy piece about choosing character names. I’ll probably write that article one day, but for now, it’s raining, and chilly, in the middle of summer, and my mind drifted down into the darkness of names.

Perhaps the next time I give someone a name, I will be more considerate, take into account the hurt I might cause, but probably not, which annoys me no end. Names have power, a dangerous power, and I use it as carelessly or maliciously as anyone else.


Editor’s note: I was tempted to use “Biskit” for the byline of this article, but my inner adult won that argument. If I can’t think of a name for a character or place when I’m writing a story, I use a placeholder of a letter and a digit, so that I can do a global search and replace with the real name later without fear of accidentally changing any other text.

OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.

He can be found online at his blog http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology