Friday, August 13, 2021

Side Effects: Use Your Words


Blackberry Cheesecake Bars, creamy cheesecake filling featuring blackberries and vanilla are baked into jam topped shortbread crust. | recipe developed by | #recipe #dessert

Today’s post is a monthly writing challenge. If you’re new here, this is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once. All of the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s  participating knows who got their words and in what direction the recipient will take them. Until now.

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.
I'm using:  fall ~ depression ~ sneeze ~ tiny trash can ~ pen needles
They were submitted by Sarah of What TF Sarah.


Last month I used my Use Your Words prompts for a fun challenge to my readers that I called Speculation. I wrote a story studded with hints and asked that you guess the character's profession. There were 16 guesses in total, and 2 people got it right. I have to admit that I had a lot of fun with that post.

If you didn't read it, or my addendum to the post in which I divulge her profession, please click on that link in the paragraph above and check it out. It's a really short post, but sort of a prequel to today's piece, where I give you a glimpse into that character's life:
As much as she loved her job, the diversity and the autonomy, she also had to admit that it had profoundly jaded her, permanently skewed the way she thought. She wasn't just skeptical of the people around her, it was much more than that, her mind could turn any mundane daily experience into a conspiracy. It was a side effect of the job, plain and simple. And it was a job she'd not just chosen, but honed, one that had provided her with a home, car, any needed equipment, and a lifestyle of comfort. Comfort, yes. Relaxation, never.
Side Effects (of the job) | graphic designed by and property of | #MyGraphics #fiction

Because, although she rarely took dangerous assignments, it's nonetheless a fact that any job she agreed to take could become dangerous. You don't always see that component coming, but you'd also be naive to not be on high alert whenever working. Call it a side effect, so to speak, of the job. Danger could insert itself when you least expect it.
And that high alert bleeds into everyday life. Vigilance, hyper vigilance in her case, cannot easily just be turned on and off as if there's a switch in her brain. She found that her safety, on rare occasions even her life, could depend on her not turning it off when in what could easily be perceived as a non-threatening situation. It had become second nature, even when she wasn't working, even when she was in the most benign of everyday situations. She found that she no longer had the option of taking that heightened alert mindset and chucking it into a tiny trash can in her brain. 

This morning, for instance, when stopping for a snack on the way to her appointment, she couldn't help but study that Blackberry Cheesecake Bar she'd ordered. That glassy looking top with little depressions, was she sure no one had doused it with Rohypnol?

Blackberry Cheesecake Bars, creamy cheesecake filling featuring blackberries and vanilla are baked into jam topped shortbread crust. | recipe developed by | #recipe #dessert
Blackberry Cheesecake Bars
She continued putting herself in these situations, quite deliberately. The alternative, never going to a coffee shop, or a bar or restaurant, could make her not just vigilant, but unable to function on a personal level. She needed to have a life, do errands, enjoy time out with friends, go on dates. So she went to that coffee shop, and she thoroughly enjoyed her treat.

On to the next stop, her appointment. Despite not being on the job, on any job at the moment thanks to falling and twisting her ankle on her last job, she carefully, stealthily, catalogued the room she sat in and the people in it. Hearing a sneeze, she turned, knowing that could easily be a diversion method, or a signal to a co-conspirator. 
No reason to be alarmed, the sneeze came from a baby. 
Turning her head back towards the front of the room, she heard a crash, another of her diversion triggers. Had she not been turning that way already, she wouldn't have caught a glimpse of the cause of the noise. Back behind the desk someone had tripped, sending a tray clanging to the floor. Her view obstructed by the desk, she couldn't see what had fallen off of that tray, but in the split second before the fall, she was sure she'd seen pen needles! In her line of work, just like conventional weapons or stun guns, needles signaled imminent danger.

Fight or flight, it was a life saving instinct, and hers was well developed. Despite the swelling in her ankle, she jumped up, ready to leave. It was just then that she heard her name called out from the front of the room.

"Come on in," the nurse said, "the doctor will see you now."

Use Your Words, a monthly group writing challenge | developed by and graphic property of | #bloggingchallenge #MyGraphics  
Here are links to all the other Use Your Words posts:

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics

Blackberry Cheesecake Bars

1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup blackberry jam

12 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2cup sugar
2 eggs
6 oz blackberries, halved
OPT: 3 TBSP blue sanding sugar

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 baking pan.
*Cream the butter, 1 tsp vanilla, and almond extract. Mix in the powdered sugar and flour to form a dough. Press the dough into and just a little bit up the sides of the prepared pan. Refrigerate.
*Beat the cream cheese, yogurt, remaining vanilla, and sugar. Beat in the eggs, then gently mix in the blackberries.
*Remove the crust from the refrigerator and spread the jam evenly onto the crust. Add the cheesecake filling over the jam and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the sanding sugar.
*Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool completely. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour to set before slicing. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.


  1. This is my kids when we go to the dentist. Or Caleb when he goes to ANY doctor. lol that fear is real, especially these days!

  2. Talk about "déformation professionelle" ;-)
    Hey, I just found out I was one of the two who guessed it. At the very least I'll get to have a slice of that Blackberry Cheesecake. Right?

  3. Hahahaha! You twisted this masterfully! I mentally had her in another coffee shop. Your 'doctor' line took me completely by surprise!
    It is so true that the life you lead colours the things that you are more apt to notice. Married to an historian, I could tell you every museum in every town we've ever driven through. Talk about hyper-aware!

    1. Oooh, you have a superpower! And a pretty cool one at that.

  4. That's about how I was feeling by April of 2020; just going into the supermarket and thinking that everyone around me could infect me with you-know-what....after that spouse (who didn't mind, thank heavens!) did all the shopping for months. He refused to use delivery services because he wants to see and touch all his food before he purchases. If I had a job like a PI, I could never turn it off. I would burn out so quickly, even if I was able to treat myself with your goodies. (Preening right now because I made one of the two right guesses.) Alana

  5. That's a job i couldn't do, i am glad there are people who can.

    Great twist at the end!

    1. I don't think I could do it either, but I love reading books about people who can.

  6. Made me think of my youngest who is terrified of the dentist

    1. Yeah, I have a hard time at the dentist when I see a needle too.

  7. Yes sharp needles become tricky. I found myself in a lot of dentist improv scenes this week;usually pointing out a root canal, in voicemail improv game, we all kept leaving messages for susan from her dentist office, one of the funniest was one where she wasn't allowed to kiss anyone in the office.

    1. Sounds like you had a lot of fun with your improv group this week.

  8. Hubby is going to love this! He is crazy about blackberries and I've been looking for something other than cobbler to make with them!

    1. That's great, and you can use your new KitchenAid to make it, that's a win/win.


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