Give ‘er the slip

Day 02: Traction
No Novel November 2020

Whatever brought him in here ain’t gonna be what sees him out. Between the empties on the bar and the slop under his chair, it’s more like to be an ambulance than a woman.

Fella lifts his head ‘n’ shows me four fingers. Lays down again.

“You sure, mister?” I ain’t never asked that question, but Providence moves me merciful. It ain’t water he’s drinkin’.

But he grunts, and I ain’t one to turn down coin.

The ‘shine disappears from the glass faster’n I poured it, though I ain’t seen him move.

I turn ‘round to toss the bottle when a queer feeling runs up my spine. ‘Fore I kin turn back, the door bangs open. I drop the empty. Fella don’t twitch a muscle.

Spurs cross the floor. I hold my water, if barely.

“You McCready?”

Takes a second to remember that’s my name.

“Yar.”

“You seen this man?”

I turn slower’n winter sap. There’s a paper hangin’ in the air with a pretty good likeness of Fella on it. The arm holdin’ it ends in a silver star.

I give the marshal a look like Momma gave when I asked a damn fool question.

I’m ‘bout to sass her some about Fella bein’ right in front of her, but when I look down, he ain’t there.

Marshal and I look at each other. Then she shakes her head and stomps out. As she goes, I hear her huffin’ into a walkie: “Slipped away again. Musta made me.”

Guess I was wrong: was a woman saw him out.


This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

The hero we deserve

Day 01: First
No Novel November 2020

Snow covered plant and road in city by Josh Hild via Unsplash

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen her.

She tiptoed down the street in battered high heels, purse clutched to the midsection of her bulky coat, eyes lingering on each department store window as she pushed against the current of bodies streaming past her in the holiday rush.

I watched her slow progress, camouflaged in the falling darkness by my cape as I paced her from adjacent rooftops, praying sirens wouldn’t summon me away again, that this time I could see her home, perhaps even speak to her. Let the city fend for itself for an hour.

We turned the corner out of the shopping district, twinkling red and green freckles on her cheeks fading as she clicked down the sidewalk, the swoosh of my leap between two brownstones covered by the swish of her brown hair as she looked furtively around before crossing the street.

Then there it was. After weeks of cold vigils and interrupted escorts: her front door.

A burnt-out street light encouraged me to silently drop down into the alley beside her.

But as I detached from the shadows into her full view, my gut froze as solid as the ice we stood on. There was no flicker of recognition. No sign she knew the mask. No excitement at my presence.

What there was was mace. Lots and lots of mace. And a devious smile.

It wasn’t the first time I’d seen her.

I wish it had been the last.


This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.

2019: The Year of Wonder

“Wonder” was my theme word of the year for 2019. But I had no idea exactly what I was getting myself into when I chose it.

Comic strip of an ice cube laying in the grass then melting to make the grass grow - CubeMelt by Peng Ven Wong WpVen

I didn’t realize when I chose my word of the year back in January that “wonder” is a double-edged sword.

The word came to me out of nowhere during a quiet moment, and I immediately got goosebumps. The kind that rise up as the overflow of a heart brimming with excitement.

Yes! I thought. 2019 will be all about opening up fully to experiencing the joy and magic in life, in God, and in myself. I was aglow with eagerness to receive the blessings God clearly had for me with a powerful word like that as the theme for my year.

But I gotta tell ya, friends: This year of wonder has been one of the hardest of my entire life.

This year I:

But this year I also:

  • Renewed my marriage vows
  • Created and ran a successful writing community
  • Facilitated an incredible women’s workshop
  • Discovered new strengths and abilities as an artist
  • Embraced a call to a different kind of ministry
  • Was provisioned from unexpected corners
  • Pushed ahead with immigration despite doubts
  • Invested myself deeper in the church
  • Trusted God when I couldn’t trust myself
  • Experienced true soul-freedom
  • Was melted down and reformed
  • Got stronger
  • Kept going

What I failed to remember at the start of this year is that there’s more than one way to experience wonder. It’s not always spine-tingling, goosebump-raising joy at the marvelousness of life, the universe, and everything. Sometimes it’s gut-wrenching “why”s or stupefied shock.

Because wonder isn’t safe. It’s not chaste or elegant. It’s not demure or neat. It doesn’t mind its manners.

Wonder is wild. It’s passionate and messy. It’s brash and bold. It’s hilarious and still, curious and awed. It’s licking sticky fingers and weeping openly in public. It’s falling apart and fusing together. It’s just a little further, a little deeper, a little closer.

It’s God—in all His fullness.

That’s what I signed up for back in January. And it’s definitely what I got in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over into my lap.

I’m not sure what my word of the year will be going into 2020. Starting a new decade means it’ll probably be something grand. I am sure, though, that despite the pain of the year of wonder, the fruit I’ve harvested from it has been so sweet that I’ll plant those seeds again if I can.

And so, as I close out this year and look into the one to come, I’m choosing to reaffirm the dangerous prayer I tattooed on my arms for my 35th birthday:

For all that has been: thanks
To all that shall be: yes

Army of bun

A legendary bunny preps his troops for a raid on the most notoriously guarded vegetable patch in the world.

Bunny rabbits in military outfits - Rabbit Army detail by Fatemeh Kashfi via Art Station

“Listen up, you sorry crew of kits! This ain’t your momma’s vegetable raid, so pay attention or you’ll catch the business end of MacGreggor’s hoe in that fluffy butt of yours!

“Operations begin at 0500, half an hour before the old man walks out the door of that rundown heap of thatch he calls a house. Five minutes in, five minutes out gives us exactly twenny minutes—you hear me, Muffins?! TWENNY—to fill those double-extra-large potato sacks you’ve got slung over your miserable backs with anything BUT potatoes. We’re talking lettuce, cabbage, gooseberries, blackberries, carrots, but if you bring any gawdfersaken parsley back to HQ you WILL be on woodchip-clearing duty for the the rest of your hitch!”

A quivering paw in the back row shot up.

“By the great thundering gawds of the sky and sea, seriously, Huggy?! You got something to add? This better be good or it’s another turn in the pellet pit!”

It dropped again.

“That’s what I thought.”

The huge brown buck surveyed the tactical retrieval unit in front of him, then took a huge bite off the end of the carrot he’d been gesturing with and grinned at his men.

“Follow my lead, boys, and that son of a jackalope will never know what hit him—or my name ain’t Sargent Major Peter Rabbit.”

My 2019 in Books

Come see which books I loved and which ones I wished I had thrown out a window in 2019, then share your recommendations for 2020!

Ellie Di Julio's Goodreads book challenge 2019 23/12 books read

Every year, I set a goal on Goodreads. I used to get super ambitious with it (one year I read 100 books!), but since having a baby, I’ve had to adjust my expectations. It’s hard to concentrate on those little black caterpillars when someone’s screaming in your face.

For 2019, I set a now-standard goal of reading 12 books. One per month. I figured that’s my minimum while at home with a toddler—anything above that is gravy. But since it appears that I read 6,347 pages across 24 books this year (counting my in-progress which I’ll finish shortly), it might be time to aim higher.

I will admit that a large chunk of the books I read this year were graphic novels, and YA/children’s ones at that. My inner bookworm feels a mite embarrassed at counting those, simply because they’re so easy to read (and often quite short). But then I remind it that I also read an entire Bible and it shuts right up.

My favourite read this year was Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, followed closely by the Hilda comics by Luke Pearson. I’ve followed Kleon for years and finally reading his masterpiece on being a working artist was a balm to my frustrated creativity. Buy it now. And if you haven’t read (or watched) Hilda yet, you’re seriously missing out, especially if you have a girlchild in your home.

My least favourite was a tie between Tree and Leaf by JRR Tolkien and The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami. Both took ages for me to get through; the only reason I didn’t throw them out a window was a stubborn refusal to let them beat me. The Tolkien is obstructively dense despite the fascinating subject; the Murakami is downright boring despite me having loved hearing “The Second Bakery Attack” on LeVar Burton Reads.

Next year is the also the start of a new decade, so it seems appropriate to up the ante. 20 Books in 2020 does have a nice ring to it. I’m also hoping to read a better balance of fiction and non, as well as intentionally folding in non-cishetwhite authors. But no promises on cutting the number of comics. That stuff is gold, Jerry, gold.

What were your favourite reads for 2019?

What are your recommendations for me in 2020 (and what should I avoid like a flesh-eating fungus)?