Sunday, February 26, 2012


This week we are going to make a deal with ‘ol Scratch himself. Tales of bargaining with the dark one are as old as written history and he is a slippery cuss to deal with. So this week write a tale under 900 words where you make a deal with the devil.

I had so much fun with this one. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

What is time, after all? Well, live and learn…


He was admiring all the expensive appliances in his newly remodeled kitchen. That’s what it was all about, he thought, the flash. If stuff didn’t shine, sparkle, or glow in the dark, how could one be expected to impress the hell out of all the ordinary chumps in the world. Not that just anybody would be permitted entry to his apartment anyway. He decided he would make a list of those he deemed worthy of a chance to possibly earn that privilege, and how it might be accomplished. The wisps of smoke wafting in from the living room made his knees buckle.

“What the hell‘s burning? These detectors are supposed to go off before I even get a whiff.”

He ran into the living room and saw a figure sitting on the couch, with flames surrounding its face and hands, if you could call them that. There were two horns on either side of the head and the hands looked like claws.

“Who are you and how did you get in here? Wait until I get my hands on those jokers that call themselves security. But, right now, I’m calling the police and my attorney because you are going to get locked up and sued for destroying my property. I’ve got a fire extinguisher here somewhere.”

“No need, Mr. Danninger. I’ll just change over.”

The figure closed its eyes and transformed into a middle-aged man with a full head of gray hair, bright blue eyes and dressed in a stylish three-piece suit. The couch transformed too, back to its original state.

“Armani,” he said quietly. “I have to admit, I’m quite the clothes horse. But then, I get so few opportunities to really dress up.”

Blaine knew all the years of cell phones, microwaves and computer terminals had finally taken their toll. He had thought there would be more warning as the brain tumor’s growth progressed, but perhaps this way was best. One, two, three, and it would be over. No lingering for weeks or months in a bed in one of those vegetable farms.

“You’re thinking brain tumor, right? Let me explain. I wouldn’t have come here looking like that, but that’s how people recognize me. I like this look better though. The horns, long fingernails and flames--so tacky and uncomfortable too. It’s the heat, you see. I get enough of it 24/7. I’m sorry, I’m rambling. I am the Devil, but you can call me Gavin, if that will work for you. I like ‘Gavin‘. It’s trendy. I’m here because I have a proposal for you.”

Blaine thought, this is really happening. But why?

“Gavin, huh? Okay. Oh, and thanks. I just bought that couch. What could you want from me though? I shut businesses down, put people out of work, cheat families out of their savings with my scams, I’m already bad, and very rich. I don’t need to sell my soul to you to get anything. Besides, if I accidentally called you up, I apologize.”

“You don’t understand, Blaine. I don‘t want your soul. I’ve got too many as it is. You know, way back when this all started, I only got so much space. And it’s not like my house has a revolving door. They come and they stay. Forever. That’s a long time, bro, and it’s getting tight in there. We’re three deep already. It‘s like this. Hell’s crowded and full of whiners. There’s no fire and brimstone like in the movies, just a lot of nothing. Drives ‘em batty, and they whine because they know that’s all there will ever be. Fine and dandy, right? For them maybe, but not for me. They deserve what they’ve got, but where’s the perks for me? I separate friends and relatives, trying to make them as miserable as possible, screening the newbies, and it takes up all my time. I can’t get out to recruit, and I haven’t tempted anybody in years. I’m burned out. No pun intended. What I propose is you and I swap places for a month. Thirty days from now, I’ll bring you here and we‘ll swap back. You get a vacation from all your wheeling and dealing and I can stretch my legs, so to speak. I’ll even sweeten it some. When you get back, I’ll grant any request, no questions. What do you say?”

Blaine thought he had heard everything, but this beat all. What have I got to lose, he thought? I could use a vacation. Gavin pricked Blaine’s finger so he could sign the contract in blood. A bit dramatic to be sure, but the old guy seemed to enjoy it. Before he knew it, he was sitting on a tarnished throne, looking down on stacks of people, and they were all indeed whining. I can make people miserable anywhere, he thought, and enjoy the hell out of it. He had to laugh. Pun intended.

Two years later, Gavin returned home after a particularly exhausting day. He had convinced two stockbrokers to commit suicide, one bank executive to murder his entire family, and three teenagers to begin selling cocaine to third graders. He loved this apartment, with all it’s expensive furnishings and especially, the silence. That fellow, Blaine, certainly did have good taste. Wonder how he’s doing. Probably still waiting for those thirty days to be up. Should have read the fine print. Thirty of MY days…

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


The theme this week, for Valentines’ Day, was My Steamy Valentine. We were supposed to write a story about love and romance. Ah, love. Such a misunderstood and elusive emotion. I offer a glimpse into the romantic exploits of a couple on the edge of commitment.  Well, definitely on the edge...


Sylvia was feeling quite apprehensive about this evening’s possible outcome. It was her fifth date with Burt Downy, the Stockroom Manager at Tilson’s Market, and if the past was any indication, tonight would be when he made his move. At the conclusion of the fifth date had been when all the others before him had made their moves on her--all eleven of them, in fact. But, she had been alert, aware, and on guard as Mother had instructed her to be, and she had escaped their clutches unscathed. All eleven times. She hoped with all her heart that Burt was different, but considering that he had requested she prepare a home-cooked meal that the two of them could enjoy privately in her dining room, the prognosis was dim at best. He wanted to be alone with her in her home on their fifth date. Oh, how history repeats itself. Yet, still she hoped…

Burt was ten minutes early, but he knew how important punctuality was to Sylvia. He did not want to disappoint her--not tonight. He needed her to be completely at ease and without suspicion. One opportunity was all he would have, and everything about tonight must be flawless. He had already experienced this evening over and over in his mind, meticulously planning every word, every action. All that was left was to fit Sylvia into the scene. She didn’t know it yet, but soon it would all be very clear. Soon. Burt rang Sylvia’s doorbell.

When Sylvia opened the door, Burt noticed her blouse was buttoned up all the way to the collar. Her sleeves were long, with folded cuffs covering her wrists, and her skirt completely hid her feet. All this time we’ve been together and she’s still so proper, he thought. Interesting. Sylvia pulled Burt in and pushed him into the dining room.

“Dinner’s all ready,” she said, shoving him into his seat. Best to just go along and try to throw him off his game. “You see, it’s all on the table, nice and hot, right from the oven. I made roast chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, apple pie, and my special iced tea that you love so much. You can’t get a more home-cooked meal than that, can you?”

Burt was impressed and knew he had made the right decision.

“Sylvia, before we have our meal, there are a few things I need to say to you and something I’ve wanted to do since the first time I saw you. I don’t want you to say anything until I’m finished, okay? I’m already more nervous than I thought I would be.”

So now it begins, Sylvia thought, giving orders, and the desire for complete control. Textbook typical.

“Sylvia, the first time our eyes met, I felt a stirring in my soul that I’ve never felt before. I will admit I’ve dated a few times, but it generally didn’t turn into anything. I’d pretty much given up on finding the perfect woman. But then, I met you, and I knew you were the one.”

So, she thought, I wonder what it was about me that slotted me in--made me fit the pattern--made me THE ONE.

“I know this is only our fifth date,” Burt continued, “but I am certain I want to look no further. I don’t want you to look any further either and tonight, I’m going to make sure that the thought of seeing anyone else never crosses your mind.”

Oh my God, she thought. It’s really true. He’s going to do it. This is really going to happen. Again.

"I’m rambling, I know, so let me get to the point. Sylvia Potter, I have a surprise for you that I’m sure you never expected. Now, just close your eyes and…”

“And WHAT? You’ll tie my hands behind my back and drag me to the bedroom and ravage me and then slit my throat from ear to ear? Or maybe you’d rather strangle me with my own pantyhose? Well, brother, you can’t kill me with those because I’m wearing sandals. Outsmarted you on that one, didn’t I, mister man?”

Burt was confused. What was Sylvia going on about?

“Sweetheart, what are you saying? All I want to do is…”

“I know what you want to do. You came here to kill me in my own house just like all the others wanted to do. But I figured them out and I figured you out too. ‘I’m the one’ and “you’re going to make sure I don’t want to see anyone else’. I know what that means. Choose, then stalk, then murder. What kind of a fool do you take me for?”

“Murder? How can you think such a thing? Why, I would never harm a hair on your head. I don’t understand you at all.”

Burt drank half his glass of iced tea.

“Please, let me explain. I…” Burt grabbed the table to stop himself from falling off the chair. Why was he suddenly dizzy.

“I mean, I wanted…“ Why did his head feel like it was going to explode. He’d never had a headache in his entire life.

“What is hap…” Burt was finding it impossible to get a breath.

Burt clutched at his heart, slid from the chair, and when he collapsed dead on the carpet, a small box fell from his shirt pocket. Sylvia picked it up and opened it.

“Oh my,” she said. “What a beautiful sparkly ring. The stone isn’t quite as large as most of the others, but it’ll do. Splitting it would make a pair of lovely earrings. Imagine him thinking that I’d wear jewelry that belonged to his dead mother or whoever while he was making me breathe my last breath. Where on earth do these men get their crazy ideas?”

She hoped Stan Burgess, who re-shelved books at the downtown branch of the library wouldn’t get any crazy ideas. Their first date was scheduled for tomorrow night and he was planning to take her out for burgers and fries and then to a movie at the Multi-Plex. She’d have to tidy up the house, especially the dining room, so she could invite him in for coffee and cookies after. There was plenty of time though. First, she’d enjoy the delightful meal she’d worked all afternoon on. Of course, she’d put on a pot of coffee for herself as a beverage. After all, the cyanide she’d mixed in with the iced tea wouldn’t go too well with apple pie…

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


This week’s theme was Swords and Sorcerers and Dungeons and Dragons and MAGIC! We were include the following words: Forest, fortress, flying, forever, and brimstone, and keep it under 1500 words. It was a lot of fun trying to create these images and weave a story around them. Please enjoy.


Soldana was afraid. Being adjudged evil and outcast and forced to reside alone in a small shack on the edge of the forest delighted her to no end. Keeping company with the malevolent spirits and hideous creatures her power allowed her to control brought only rapture to her cursed soul. No. It was not the adulterers who sought a potion to forever silence their demanding mistresses or the aging wives pleading for an enchantment to make them appear to their husbands as still young and desirable that caused her this overwhelming fear. It was the gentleman who had come calling on this, the darkest of nights and who now sat before her. Lord Dolwin of Millcroft, eldest son of the High Priest, Caulder, who she, along with all in the province, knew lay dying.

“My Lord, forgive my impertinence, but I cannot, and will not, use my power to hasten the death of your father. Good Sir, it is true I am already damned for my deeds, but to aid in the killing of a High Priest would certainly bring thrice the torment in the afterlife that my soul is already destined to endure.”

“You stupid cur, I should draw my weapon and open your throat for your insolent manner. No one refuses me, you miserable slug. Never forget that. But for once in your worthless existence, a spot of good fortune shines upon you. It is not my father whose end I seek. He is already very weak, and his soul will leave this world before the hour is done. I am certain. It is Albert, my younger brother, who you must destroy. And it must be done at daybreak and he must suffer great pain and fear for all the injustice he has visited upon me.”

Brother against brother, Soldana thought. No taboo there, but still it troubled her. She knew of these two. The eldest found disfavor with the father because of all his cruelty and corruption. The youngest was kind and loved by all. He even saw to it that the soldiers never assaulted her person or plundered her supplies. Word was he offered prayers for her salvation and begged forgiveness for her sins. Wasted effort to be certain, but still. She wondered why his death would benefit the elder. Surely Lord Dolwin was first heir to the father’s fortune and high standing. The younger brother would gain nothing until death of the eldest. That was the law of the land.

Her attention was drawn back to Lord Dolwin, who was opening a pouch and placing two chains, each with a jewel-encrusted pendant attached.

“This round one with the small diamond, this is the one my brother wears to battle. This is the pendant I want the spell on. He’s off at sunrise with his brigade to the hills of Toradunne to deal with some bandits who have been desecrating the churches there. He wants to remain at our father’s side until the last, but I’ve taken steps to ensure father will breathe his last well before morning. Protecting places of worship is the duty bestowed on the youngest son, and when he wears this, I want his sword to fail it’s intended purpose. I want the enemies to run him through and through again without him being able to raise a hand. He will die slowly, his life’s blood staining the churches’ aisles crimson. Then, they shall all be damned and I will be avenged.”

“And the other, my Lord? The large triangular one with the rubies and emeralds?”

“Mind your curiosity, witch. But it matters not if you learn it’s significance. This is, was, our father’s. You see how he mocks me even as he dies. This should be mine, but it was already given to my brother. He keeps them pouched side by side, but the one I will claim as mine will remain at the Manor when he takes his leave.

So. I’ve had enough conversation with you, servant of the Almighty Evil One. Do you need to touch it to enchant it? Quickly now. I have to place them both back with his belongings.”

“Sir, I do not wish to anger you further, but I cannot render his sword a passive companion. If he thrusts, it will deliver its wound. But, since you desire fear and suffering, I have a solution I feel will please you. I have a pet. He is as large as 10 men, with teeth as long and sharp as your sword. His claws grasp and tear and once the victim is rendered defenseless, he begins to feed until not a trace remains. He can penetrate any fortress, flying on black leathery wings to do his assigned duty. Close your eyes, Sir, and the spell will be cast. When the chain is applied, it will tighten and the clasp will be permanently secured. My pet will then seek as his living feast, he who wears the chain.

The smell of brimstone was overpowering and Dolwin knew true evil was near. He smiled. Soon, he thought, very soon, and I will have it all.

Dolwin awoke and asked his aide about his father. Died shortly before dawn, he was told, as had been arranged. At Dolwin’s command, the aide had added the poison to the High Priest’s cup of water. No point letting him linger. Put him out of my misery, Dolwin thought. He decided he’d have the aide executed later. Wouldn’t want him to suddenly develop a conscience.

On the writing table in his suite, he noticed a pouch with a note. Within the pouch was the gold chain and the large pendant, the rubies and emeralds filling the room with flashes of colored light. He read the note.

Brother, I have taken my leave to bring the bandits to justice and to send each one to the God he has defiled. I remained with father until the end, and his last wish was that I present his beloved pendant to you. He never understood the distance between you and he, but he respected your need for it. He hoped you would accept it from me as a symbol of his love and devotion to you. Your servant, Albert

Dolwin dropped the note and grabbed the chain, put it around his neck and fastened the clasp. His right hand cradled the large pendant and he sighed. Well, he thought, Albert will be permanently gone and I will have this too. Good fortune certainly has shone its light down upon me this day.

He heard an unnerving flapping sound and went to the window. Heading directly toward him was a creature straight from the depths of Hell itself, mouth open, teeth bared, claws reaching…

Dolwin felt the chain tighten around his neck. He grabbed the clasp, but it would not release. She couldn’t have, he thought, she wouldn’t have… As the nightmare landed on the balcony outside his window and made its way inside the room, Dolwin screamed. Once.

Soldana shut the door of the creatures’ pen. It was home now, today’s duty completed. As she made her way back to her shack, she smiled. She knew she had done the right thing--the honorable thing. This time. She decided never again though. Bad for business…

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The prompt this week was Groundhog’s Day. The story needed to take place on or around Groundhog’s Day and include the word ‘salad’. Here’s my offering, and I hope you enjoy a day in the life of Bud and Jimbo.


“What? You need to wait for what? You know, Jimbo, I’ve put up with all your superstition crap since forever, but this is too much. You want to wait to hit that bank until what happens?”

Bud knew he’d regret asking for an explanation. He always did because Jimbo always gave him one. But, like slowing down as you drive by a train wreck to see what’s what, some things you just gotta know.

Jimbo shook his head and took a deep breath. It was really sad that some people fail to recognize the critical importance of signs. Considering all he and Bud had been through and considering the signs had always pointed them in the right direction, Jimbo couldn’t understand his judgment being questioned each and every time.

“Bud, Bud, Bud,” he began. “Like I told you, we need to wait to find out if he sees his shadow or not. Tomorrow is Groundhog’s Day, so we only have to wait until morning. If the groundhog sees his shadow, we skip this one because it will all go wrong. If the groundhog doesn’t see it, not only will we have an early spring, but you and I will score big and walk away clean. It’s a sign we need to wait for. You always need to wait for the signs.”

Bud had to admit Jimbo had been right in the past, even though the ‘signs’ he looked for were beyond weird. The broken weather vane in Summerville meant the sheriff’s car would stall out on the way to the store they were robbing. Check. The beer Bud had spilled at that tavern in Grantsberg meant the construction crew’s payroll was going to be rerouted to the next county due to last minute changes in the company’s structure. Check. The list went on and on. Jimbo came up with the most unbelievable reasoning, but so far, he’d always been right. But Groundhog’s Day? How long would Jimbo’s odd luck hold out? This town was a speck, where no one locked their doors and the bank had two employees and no guard. There would be no million dollar payload, but money was money, and all they had left was enough for tonight’s dinner and one more tank fill-up.

“Jimbo, this is different. It’s as sure as sure gets. A pudgy little man’s the bank pres and his pudgy little wife is the teller. We could probably walk in right now and clean them out, but I’m willing to wait till midnight when this whole town is snug in their pudgy little beds. But, that’s all I’m waiting for this time. Sometimes, Jimbo, you gotta trust your gut, and this time, I trust mine. If you want out, I’ll pick you up here at the motel when I’m done, but understand, the whole score’s mine then, agreed?”

Jimbo was never one to make waves, and he certainly didn’t want to create a rift with his long-time friend and partner. Something just didn’t feel right about going early on this one, but maybe this time, he could trust Bud’s gut.

“I’m with you,” he said. “Midnight. It will be fun though to find out tomorrow whether or not the groundhog actually saw his shadow, won’t it?”

Bud nodded. Yeah. Fun.

“Let’s go grab some chow and then sleep till close to twelve.”

“Great idea,” Jimbo responded. “But, whatever you do, don’t order any salad. The news anchor this morning had a stain on his tie and that means the local lettuce crop has been tainted.”

Okay, Bud thought, I’ll give you this last one. Cottage cheese and a peach it will be.

* * * * * *

As they were being handcuffed and led to the squad car, Jimbo was crying and Bud had another ‘gotta know’ moment. He looked at the pudgy little man hob-knobbing with the State police who had been waiting for them when they broke in the bank a few minutes after midnight.

“I heard you say you got a tip the bank was going to be hit at midnight. I want to know who tipped you. I sure plan to pay him a visit.”

The State cop pushed him toward the car.

“Watch your mouth, tough guy. Don’t be making threats. You’re already in deep enough.”

“You’d better not come near Horatio,” the bank president was trembling and moved slowly behind the policeman. “When the wife and I got home last evening and saw him laying that way, we knew we had to alert the authorities of the impending attempt to loot our modest vault.”

Bud’s gut told him to stop while he was ahead, but he dove in headfirst just the same.

“Horatio? Who’s that? Laying how? Where? What are you talking about?”

“My Horatio,” the man continued from his perceived position of safety. He’s the conductor figurine of my model railroad set and I keep him on our mantle when the train’s not running. He was laying on the carpet in front of the fireplace, pointing toward my wife’s shadowbox. It’s new and has twelve empty slots. That sign meant someone would try to rob our bank at midnight that very same night. You do see that, don’t you? You must be able to read the signs.”

Bud saw Jimbo wipe his eyes and nod. ‘Signs,’ he heard Jimbo mumble. ‘Signs’. Without waiting for the news, Bud knew at least six more weeks of a cold hard winter were waiting just for him. Six. At least. Bud knew how to read the signs.