Thursday, October 21, 2010


This week things were a bit different. The prompt was a themed word list. The words were omen, umbrella, shallow and death. Perfect for this scary time of year. Here's my tale--a bit of darkness for you. Enjoy!


“Well, good morning, dear. How are you on this bright and sunny morning? Fancy running into you on the Boulevard. I’ve never seen you strolling here before, or anywhere, for that matter. I’d heard you even order your groceries on your computer thingy and have Billy Turner deliver them to your doorstep. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, my dear, nothing wrong with it at all. I mean, Billy does have his mama to provide for…in that awful place. Of course, I’m not one to spread stories about folks, but before you moved here, his mama had been found doing just some terrible things to Billy’s sister, Cassie Jean, and then they found Cassie Jean dead, hanging from the barn rafters, and according to the paper, the manner of her death was said to be suicide. Billy was there when they came and took his mama away, but he’s such a good boy. He makes sure she has money in some account where she’s at so she can buy some candy. She did always love her candy. Did you see that new shop on the corner? I’ve just made a purchase there. I bought a brand new umbrella. I didn’t require a new one, mind you, but it was so precious looking and so functional and I just couldn’t pass it by. Do stop in there now, honey, they have some lovely handbags and such, and reasonably priced too. Well, I’ve got to run now. You take care, and don’t be such a stranger. I’ll have to add you to my list of notifications about card parties and charity luncheons and the like. You all alone in that big house on the hill--bring some life into it, host some events and…got to run. The light changed. See you, sweet pea!”

Oh. My. God. I need a nap. And a drink. Or a drink. Then a nap. Then another drink. And I neither drink or nap. Serena Mc-something-something-something--she’s got three or four last names from three or four husbands--is someone I try wholeheartedly to avoid at all costs, and I usually succeed. But, on occasion, even the best laid plans and all that. Sweet and caring person, she is, who has taken me on as her personal cause. Get me out of the house. Get me involved in the town’s activities. Fix me up with some eligible man. Hell. I like being in the house, I’m not a shallow or vindictive individual, I’m just pathologically anti-social, and the love of my life was taken from me at our front door just a few months ago in a mugging attempt. Attempt. Why do they call it an attempt? They mugged him after all. Witnesses said he gave them what they asked for without resisting, but they shot him in the face anyway. They were subsequently arrested and convicted, and so? No sense of closure there for me though. No such fucking thing.

Then, I get the news that my father, who left us when I was a kid, had died safe and warm in his bed--oh, I’ll sleep much better now--and left me a big house in some rinky-dink town a hundred miles from the ass end of nowhere. So, never being one to stop to weigh the consequences of anything, ever, I left my apartment in the city, with it’s dark and deadly doorway, and came here, basically, to regroup. I didn’t know where my father had been all these years and didn’t care much really, but he did leave his house to me, so there’s that, I guess. I’m trying to look at it like it’s some kind of omen of good things to come. Like, maybe the place he began again might be a chance for my new beginning. I know that’s all crap, but I have to have something to grab, you know? Stop the freefall.

I did make a friend here though, and that’s a big deal for me. Like I said, I’m generally so anti-people. My Davey was what’s called a people person. He got along with anybody and everybody and was a friend to all he met. He often told me that’s what made us the perfect couple--complete opposites who each compliment the other. But he’s dead, so I should move on, right? Live in the now, right? Yeah. Right.

My new friend’s name is Charmaine. Charmaine Bradley. She’s a few years older than I am, but that’s okay. She’s honest and straight-talking, and she’s a widow too. Hers died in some battle in one of the wars and she carries his dog-tags in her pocketbook to this day. She’s a feisty broad, and I love her. Well, I did. No. I do. Why is it just because somebody hasn’t been around for a few days, we start speaking of them in the past tense? Charmaine is. Not was. She probably decided to visit her grandkids for a few days. Her car’s still in her driveway, but nothing’s disturbed and her house is locked up tight. I checked. I’ll see her at the soda shop by week’s end. I’m certain of it. I will. Please.

A new shop did just open in town on the Boulevard, as Serena calls it. The Boulevard. Sure. One block of a few small Mom-and-Pop businesses. Well, work with what you have. Apparently, the location has been dormant for some time. Goes to show that not too many exciting things occur here because I think the entire town showed up for the opening. Not me. I wait until Day Two. You know. That being-around-people thing.

Looks good from the outside. Basil’s Basics. How quaint. Gag and a half. Oh well, I’m here, so I may as well look around. I see now. Basics. Handbags, umbrellas and wallets for men and women and that’s it. Interesting. The stuff does look like quality merchandise, and buying a new wallet or purse here wouldn’t exactly put me in the poor house. You have to wonder though, how long they’ll last. How many purses and such can one town buy? Ah well. Not my concern.

Now, this umbrella looks like something I could live with. Nice and sturdy looking. The tag says it won’t fold up in a strong wind and will never leak. Alright. I’ll take it. Then, I’ll return to my home, alone, and await an invitation to one of Serena’s social events. Or a call from Charmaine saying she’s back and let’s meet at the corner for a root beer float. I could sure go for a root beer float. With Charmaine.

It just occurred to me that maybe Serena and her friends are right. I have zero life. I’m in my house, alone, with all the drapes, blinds and windows closed, inspecting my new umbrella. It’s got such a great feel to it, I have to admit, like it’s been treated with something. That’s probably what stops it from folding up and leaking. Weird. Weird, yes, but soft and comforting somehow. I know it’s supposed to be bad luck, but you know I want to open it. Just to see. Okay. So the inside of an umbrella is nothing earth-shattering, but I’m opening it anyway. First, though, I think I’ll fix myself a drink.

Great. Opens really big. One finally that will actually prevent me from getting wet in the rain. But, what’s this? A mark? A stain next to one of the spokes? Crap. I didn’t pay a fortune, but I don’t pay for garbage. No. Wait. I’ll be damned. It’s like a picture of something. No. A word, maybe. Tor…? Ton…” Yes. Tomm. Tomm? No. Can’t be. What the fuck? Charmaine showed me a tattoo she got the night her husband got shipped overseas. The doer was a friend of a friend and drunk as a skunk and spelled his name wrong. They laughed about it and decided to leave it, thinking it would someday turn out to be one of those memories you treasure, and all that gunk. She never got it fixed. His name was Tom, but the moron tattooed it on as Tomm. Just like on the inside of my new umbrella. I say again. What the fuck? What’s their number? Where did I put that damn receipt?


“Pack up everything now, boys, we’re on the move again. Just got a call from the lady who bought that umbrella. You know, the one I didn’t want to put out in the showroom? Raymond, it was you who said no one will ever notice because who looks inside their umbrella. Well, this lady evidently did, and she said she saw something very disturbing and wants to bring it by in the morning to see if I can clear up her confusion about it.

I hate to relocate so soon; we’ve just opened up and have almost depleted our inventory from the last shop. We could have done a good business here, but no sense taking any chances. We’ll just go across the river and change our name again and start fresh. We’ll need to build up some stock though, so we’ll make a quick sweep of the homeless camps on our way. There are a number of them just outside the city limits. They’re always willing to go along with the promise of a few dollars and a home-cooked meal. No time at all and we’ll be open for business again.

And Raymond? Just a couple of reminders. First of all, let’s try to keep customers as customers and not use them as merchandize, okay? Not much profit in that, is there? Secondly, before you skin a person and prepare their hide for the chemical bath, check them thoroughly for any identifying marks and/or tattoos. Those really don’t come out during processing, and someone picking up a wallet or a handbag that reminds them, literally, of their Uncle Phil who’s been missing for a week or so, is not terribly good for business. Alright then? Super. Let’s load up the van. Sun’s almost up. We want to get to the camps before they’re all up getting their breakfast. Hard to cut a few from the herd by then, so to speak…”


  1. That's a sinister little tale that would make Ed Gein proud. The voice you used was interesting and it read briskly. Definitely pushed the reader forward.

    I don't think I'd return that Umbrella. ;)

  2. Thanks much, Ron. Really appreciate the reference to Ed Gein. The darker, the better! Oh, and I might return the umbrella, but I'd definitely slip it through their mail slot. I'd never visit while the store is open!

  3. Thanks so much, MR, for stopping by and commenting. Wicked IS good! Thanks again.

  4. That was a pleasant surprise-- didn't expect it to come out that way. Well done.

    Makes me wonder how the umbrella makers might eventually get caught...

  5. Thanks, Clair. That would explain why the umbrella was actually comforting. How they might get caught? Hmmm....

  6. Great choice of narrative voice Joyce, it undercuts the sinister aspects of the story superbly. You build this up so simply and easily and hook the reader in.

  7. Thanks, Richard. I've really been experimenting with the narrative thing. I love telling stories that way--seems to make them a bit colder that way. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your input, as always.

  8. Hi Joyce, Just checking out your blog for the first time. Very impressive! Found out about it / you over at A Twist Of Noir. Very much looking forward to reading you stories and learning from you.

  9. Hi Sean, Thanks very much for your comments. I signed on to follow your blog. I have several topics in the works (the next one will be aimed at one aspect of horror writing). My stories can be found on a regular basis at the new Flash Fiction Friday site. Love the way it began and where it's going. Some fantastic prompts and amazing contributions by extremely talented writers. Love ATON and very proud to have had some stories published there. Right now, just enjoying the stories from their challenge. BEYOND AMAZING. Thanks again for your comments and support.