Writing Samples

 The Scent of Gardenia

(A Killing in Princeville)


The South Carolina clay moved easily. Another foot would be enough. The moon cloud hindered his vision but did not impede his task. He dug the spade deep into earth’s flesh once more for surety she would accept his gift.

The spade fell onto the warm mound with barely a sound. It didn’t matter; no one would hear. He opened the tote size cooler and lifted the hands first. As he nailed them to the cross, the words he had seen repeatedly etched in bronze, he imagined on his rendition. "Do This in Remembrance of Me." The soft flesh of the palms yielded with each blow. He returned to the cooler for the feet and placed them in the imagined footprint of the Savior.

The hands knew not the feet and no body laid claim to either. He raised the offerings and let the cross find its place in the ground. He lifted his face and offered his first prayer.

When it comes to pass

They will believe that

I am He that sent me

By my hands, I render your deed

My feet, I concede.


 Lost At Sea

The ocean waves "c'mon"
and it's tempting.
But the cool, refreshing promises are tainted by fears of not following the bubbles to the top if I jump
and wondering how long I could float on my back.
Would someone find me
or would I be forever lost?
Which would go first:
my mind or my body?
Would the white-capped waves
that whisper relaxation turn against me
and bring stinging laps against my skin?
And would the shade from the clouds
trick me with momentary relief from the sun
or pelt me with more water
that can't wash away my fears
of dying alone in this vastness?
And when darkness falls,
am I really awake
and are those the stars I see twinkling?
Or have I closed my eyes
and seen the twinkles of angels?
Nikki Smith




She wasn't dying fast enough. There was no money. No inheritance. No Trust. She had nothing worth fighting over. They just wanted her dead.

     I am the product of MaeAlice, given her name--the one I changed because it conjured too much discontent. Required too much of me to overcome and now refuses me to forget.

     My grandmother and I were close; but it was closeness born of bitterness and despair. Hers came now from her date with death, mine was resentment for the woman who gave me birth. I would learn that our pain was the same. It came from a source that blessed us with special gifts and cursed us with its cost. 




The nurse left work at five o’clock. By seven, I would pretend to be what I already am. My ‘patient’ for the evening was on time, for him. He rang the door at seven-oh-two as if he stood on the other side looking at the long hand on his watch. In the briefing, Nelson said Mr. J. Jones threw away the top of everything like the first slice in a loaf of bread.

I pinned my cap in place and slipped into the three-inch heels. I took a last look in the mirror in search of compassion.  I saw the folded paper gown and slippers reflected from the bathroom counter instead.           

“Come in, Mr. Jones.” I expected someone larger. This little man could not be the terror Nelson had described. But Mr. J. Jones vaporized whatever impression I was forming when he barged by without the slightest courtesy. He hurriedly removed his jacket and tossed it onto the chair. Everything else followed. I leaned against the desk and crossed my legs at the ankles. Mr. J. Jones stomped into the bathroom and returned wearing the paper shoes and gown. He bounded the cot face down and plopped there like soft mud.

“I hope you know what you’re doing; the last cow nearly broke my spine,” he said.

A laugh stiffened in my throat and came out as one of those clearing noises. “This is my specialty, sir. When I’m done, you’ll know the sleep of the dead.”

Yes, I kill. Nelson was a former patient. While prepping him for a session, he asked, “Could this kill me?” I showed him one of the slivers of metal and said, “This little thing can introduce you to whatever maker you worship; and give you one if you don’t.”

“Are you capable of doing such a thing,” he replied. I stared in distant wonder at the needle.

A few days later, Nelson called. I couldn’t think of a single reason to decline his offer. And the rest, they say, is mashed potatoes. A year later, this Mr. Jones would be my fourth. They’re all named Mr. Jones. The alphabet determines the company’s count. Why they show up is not my business. Nelson’s corporation comprises nearly every talent imagined. I only know this based on the talent I may follow or precede. The operative who nearly broke J. Jones’ spine is a prostitute. I only play one pretending to be a nurse. What Nelson saw in me is put to use when tulips arrives at my office.

Mr. J. Jones relaxed into the aroma and heat of the oils I plied to his back. I wiped a spot and inserted the first needle. I heard him release the tension from the affected spot in a moan. I wiped the next spot and inserted with the same result.

 “Why didn’t I get this service the first time?” he asked.

I said, “It’s a process, Mr. Jones,” rather than, ‘you tossed her, remember?’ Besides, Nelson anticipated what Jones would do. That is his talent. 

“I can’t wait till you get down to business,” Jones said. I moved to oil his calves and placed needles in the appropriate spots. The dense mud that he was became potter’s clay. The sound of satisfaction left his throat.

 “I’m telling the Manager how good you are,” Mr. Jones offered.

I had moved to his neck with two metal slivers left. The first gleamed as it paralyzed his spine. The last went into the base of his cranium. “The Manager knows my performance, Mr. Jones. It’s still 100 percent.” 

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