Wednesday, December 26, 2012
The prompt this week, coincident with yet another prediction of the end of the world, is to use some of the words we’ve been hearing a lot lately in our story. They are: End, apocalypse, fireballs, zombie, alignment, and famine. The word count, fittingly enough, is 1,221. Perfect. I decided to have a bit of fun with this, and I hope you will enjoy.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
Oh no. Have you seen the news? Those wackos are at it again. I’m not sure how this started, but I think someone made a comment like ‘gee, isn’t that a sign of the end of the world?’, and before you know it, the press jumped on it. It’s on the news that our imminent apocalypse is on its way. Well, I’ve got a news bulletin of my own. I’m not falling for it this time.
Thing is, it isn’t just that once all the planets in our solar system are in perfect alignment, giant fireballs are supposed to shoot out of the sky. It’s that those damn zombies are going to take over the whole shebang and be the only ones to survive it all. Why should they have all the luck?
I remember a couple of times not too long ago when the end was supposed to occur, but the z-bombs got bumped because that prediction was way different. I heard some were supposed to be taken up to something called Rapture and the rest would be left behind. But the key word with that one was that it involved people. I don’t consider those nasty dead things ‘people’ in any sense of the word. Have you ever been up close and personal with one of them? Well, I have and let me tell you, it’s no picnic.
Zombies aren’t like the rest of us by any means. They don’t keep their places in very good order and they’re not divided up into family-type units. A whole bunch of them just find a big building on the outskirts of a town and they all stay in there like some kind of weird cult. They kidnap folks and bring them back to what they call home and all feed off the same sets of brains. Okay, so they do share. There is that. But that’s the only positive comment I can make about them.
They don’t clean up around their place and once the bodies start piling up, the whole neighborhood goes straight to Hell. There’s a rumor going around that if one of them bites a non-Z, then the bite-ee becomes one too. Come on, people, where’s your common sense. It doesn’t work that way. Only vamps can pull that off, and even they don’t have much of a taste for that--please excuse the pun, because it creates competition. I don’t mean for attention either. It creates rivals for food. Sustenance is tough enough for all of us to get our hands on, so if you’re, say, a dominant predictor, why clone yourself? You’re only going to end up going hungry some night. Get my drift?
Anyhow, back to this end of the world thing. The wife and I tried to prepare for it each and every time it’s been announced. The warnings throughout history have always been pretty precise too. I mean, no exact time of day or anything since the world does operate on a lot of different time zones, but a specific date has always been announced. I used to wonder how the time zone thing would work, but the way I see it is right after midnight on the day in question, whenever it’s right after midnight on the day in question, stuff starts to fold up and disappear. If nothing happens at the place with the earliest time, then it’s just not happening. I’ve lost a lot of sleep over that in years past, and this time, I’m not falling into that same trap.
I built this place way back in Harper’s Woods when we first got hitched and nobody ever bothers us. I doubt anyone even knows we’re back here. We live off the land pretty much so we don’t have to deal with the townsfolk at all. They’re pretty clannish anyway; you know the type. Everybody knows everybody and everybody is in everybody’s business. That brings nothing but trouble right to your front door, so we stay out of all that nonsense. The wife’s got quite a nice garden out back and I hunt up our meat. We’ve got plenty of clean streams for water and a big clearing close by where we can get some sun here and there. It’s all we need, but now our little paradise is being threatened yet again.
Channel 9 said after the fireworks start, all the oceans are going to heat up and boil over onto the land. Whatever was in there is going to be deep fried and the crops will get all soggy and you know what that means: a shortage of food. Famine, they‘re calling it. There won’t be anything for anyone to eat, and that’s where the dead things come in. They’re not big fans of Waldorf salads and BBQ spareribs. The only thing they eat is brains. Certainly not each other’s since I don’t believe they have one brain between them, but the story is that they will wander planet Earth, eating up the brains of all the humans and they will be the only creatures to survive.
Now, that sounds creepy and all, but think about it. What happens when they run out of humans? Then what, huh? Nobody seems too concerned to find out the answer to that one. That’s why I’m not going to get overly anxious about this latest zero hour crap. Whoever started this stupid rumor that cycles around every so many years really didn’t think it through. I’m going to keep on keeping on and let the dice roll how they roll. If those mindless freaks try to cross my threshold, I’ve got my welcome mat all ready for them.
A bullet to the brain will stop them cold and I’ve got enough ammo stashed to take out a whole platoon of them. Did you know they’re terrified of fire? Well, I do and I’ve got plenty of gasoline and matches stashed as well. I have to tell you though, I’m not really too worried this time around. Like I said, so many warnings, so many false alarms. ’The boy who cried wolf’ and all. Besides, I have to keep my cool and not scare the missus. I’m the man of the house and her protector. It wouldn’t do for me to start crouching in a corner and whining like a two year old, now, would it?
After all, I’ve faced many an adversity and I’ve made it this far. The rest of my kind are still running loose in the world‘s forests, barely surviving, while I have a roof over my head and a hot meal on the table every night of the week. Being a werewolf isn’t always a stroll down the lane, but when it comes right down to it, my claws and fangs have come in mighty handy at times. I wouldn’t touch one of those decomposing scumbags with a stick, but the humans’ weapons should work just fine.
Well, looks like supper’s on. Tonight’s veggie night. The little woman says once a week we should go vegan. After dinner, I’m going to doze off in front of the TV like always. I’m not worried about an invasion of the walking dead any time soon. Just as long as none of those clowns are carrying any silver…
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
The prompt this week was to write a story about a character that hates Christmas carols. Bonus points if we include a character named ‘Carol’. That made it extra fun! Please enjoy my story about a fella who just can’t seem to get away from all that holiday cheer.
WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS…
I’ve never minded being a shoe salesman. I can’t stand people, but I don’t have to deal with them. Not really. I mean, it isn’t like a bartender or a hairdresser that the customers share their life story with. Nobody tells their shoe salesman their deepest secrets. I never even look at their faces because then I might have to make some kind of conversation. I ask them what they’re looking for and most of the time, they shove a shoe from one of the displays in my face and quote a size. Dealing only with their feet can be a challenge though at times, since there are some who haven’t changed their socks in maybe a month or two, but they’re pretty rare in the store I work at. Mine is a high-end shop and the cheapest pair runs around $125, so we don’t get too many regular working class slobs coming to browse.
George Farland, the owner, never tries to engage any of his employees in conversation. He posts the schedule in the break room, and drops our checks through the slot in our lockers. When I got hired, after I filled out the application, he just nodded here and shook his head there and handed me a schedule with my name written in. I couldn’t ask for a better boss. There’s only one thing wrong with the guy and that’s his attitude toward Christmas.
In the 11 years I’ve worked here, we’ve never been open on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve though, we open at 6am and stay open until midnight, and for the entire day, Farland pipes those damn carols at full blast throughout the entire store. Momentary relief from that horrific noise can’t even be found in the men’s room, where the music seems to bounce off every wall. I even took up smoking so I could step out back every now and then, but my efforts to perfect that nasty habit went unrewarded when I discovered that speakers had been installed on the outside wall of the back entrance. And I had bought a damn carton too…
Sitting in my flat wearing my earplugs on Christmas Day was the only time I was truly free from all those cutsie tunes all about bells jingling, snow flaking, and all that other crap. Even going to the corner for a paper was an exercise in futility. As hard as I tried to run the maze of Santas trying to rob me of my last dollar, there was always one who would step right out in front of me and block my way until I put something in their bucket. Two years ago, I dropped in a pack of gum. Last year, I did the same, only I had chewed it all first. I wonder if they’ll ask me for something this year.
But now, even that last haven of peace and quiet has been stolen from me. When I came in this morning, there was a note on my locker to come to the office. When I walked in, there was a woman behind Farland’s desk, and not a hot one either. She looked like she’d been run over by a semi more times than one could count. I soon found out that I’d died and gone to hell. Apparently, Farland had croaked, she was his kid, and was taking over the store. We were now staying open 365 days a year, and on Christmas Day, we’d have some kids’ chorus in the store singing all day long. And, if that wasn’t enough of a kick in the gut, she told me I didn’t have to call her Ms. Farland. I could call her by her first name: Carol.
Having to spend Christmas Day away from my earplugs was bad enough, but having to listen to a live bunch of runny nosed kiddies tra-la-laing all damn day was the last straw. I swear, if I don’t get to spend even one day away from ho-ho’s and fa-la’s, I am going to go stark-raving cra…
Wait. That’s the answer. What I need to do is go stark-raving crazy before the store closes on Christmas Eve. I’ll need to check, but I think the max they can lock somebody up against their will is 24 hours. I’ll just make sure I sane up really fast on the morning of the 26th. That way, the world will be done with all that damn music, at least for another year. Right now, I’ve got to come up with a way to make my co-workers and especially, my new boss, believe I’ve got a lot of screws loose, and a nice quiet cell with padded walls and floors is just what I need.
It was much easier than I anticipated. Three hours before close on Christmas Eve, I engaged in a bit of jumping up and down and a few twirls, talking non-stop to myself, and laughing out loud for no reason. I soon had my new boss convinced I was so stressed out that maybe a couple days rest at Moorehaven, our local loony bin, was in order. The orderlies strapped me to a gurney and we headed out. You could hear a pin drop in my room--it was that quiet. I slept like I’d never had before, and I looked forward to my Christmas breakfast of mashed potatoes with a tranquilizer mashed up in them.
I was waiting to be fed when Raul, one of my nurses, came in smiling from ear to ear, and got me all wrapped up in a straightjacket and sat me in a wheelchair.
“Mr. Tim, I have a big surprise for you. On Christmas Day, we don’t keep our patients in their rooms. They spend Christmas in the Day Room and have all their meals there. And the best part? St. Peter’s Choir will be in there singing carols all day long. Isn’t that wonderful? Mr. Tim? Are you crying?”
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 108: JUST WAIT. I ONLY NEED TO TURN THE LIGHTS ON AND OFF TWO MORE TIMES...
The prompt this week was to take a peek into the life of someone with a form of OCD and show how it plays into an event in their life. The word limit was 1,500 words.
Several possible storylines ran through my mind until I remembered one I had done quite some time ago for F3. The prompt on that occasion was a starter sentence, but my story focused on an individual whose life was quite regimented, and to say OCD was a big part of his life would be putting it mildly. Since I feel this one slots in here quite nicely, I decided to resurrect my tale of compulsion and obsession.
ONE, TWO, THREE...
I stepped out into the frigid cold. Instinctively, I cowered into the depths of my heavy coat, shoving bare hands deep into its pockets. I couldn’t remember if I wiped down with my sleeve whatever I had touched, but there couldn’t have been that much. After all, I was only inside a minute or two. I was sure no one saw me, especially with this near-blizzard snowfall going on. Most people are safe and warm at home on this dreadful night. I would have been too if the evil man hadn’t taken it from me. It was supposed to be mine. I needed it to be mine. But, he wouldn’t give it up, so I took it. And now, it is. Mine. It wasn’t my fault, but I’m sure you know that. If he had just given to me what was rightfully mine, I wouldn’t have had to follow him home to confront him about it. He kept trying to push me back outside and saying he was going to call the police and have me arrested. Arrested? Me? For what? Taking what was meant to be mine to begin with? No. I tried to reason with him, but he wouldn’t listen. He pushed me really hard against the wall by the door, and so I hit him in the head with the ashtray on the small table by his front door three--one, two, three times. It was all his fault though, but I’m sure you know that. When I got back to my flat, I took one last peek over my shoulder, but I hadn’t been followed. I took it from my pants pocket, where it had been brought safely to its new home, and I placed it with the other two. Then, they were three--one, two, three.
I should be calmer now, but I am not certain how to work my way through the events of today. All should have been complete this evening, but the evil man almost ruined everything. When I went out to the grocery this morning and I passed the novelty shop on the corner, I saw them and knew they had to be mine. One was red, one was blue and one was green. I went into the shop and I asked the man behind the counter how much he wanted for them all. There were three--one, two, three of them, you see. He told me they were the last of their kind and once he sold them, there would be no more. He wanted $10 for the whole set because he told me that they play a little tune when you use them. I told him I didn’t care about any little tune. I just needed to have them all, but I didn’t have all of the $10. I asked the man if I could get two of them and come back this evening for the other and he said that would be fine. I was so excited. I took the red one and the blue one home and put them on a stand I made for them and it was so sad because there was one empty place. But not for long.
It had already begun to snow, but I needed to get the rest of the $10, so I locked up my flat with all three--one, two, three locks because you just never knew about people. My landlady is the only one I ever allow in my flat to see all my sets, and she promised she wouldn’t tell anyone that I had them. They are all such beautiful and perfect things. Three--one, two, three in all of them. I have china dolls. I have pens and pencils. I have mugs. I have drinking glasses (although I would never drink out of them), and so many others. All the same--all the last of their kind--all sets of three--one, two, three--all mine. And one empty space. So sad.
By the time I got outside, it was already hard to see with the snow coming down so heavily. Even though it was so cold, I decided to walk to the train station to get the rest of the money that I needed. The train station was a long walk for me, but I was certain I would be able to get the rest of the money I needed there, especially today. When the weather was bad, a lot more people were in the train station and they were all in such a hurry and not calm and it was easy for me to get some money. Sometimes people would just give me money if I asked them for it after I explained that I needed it to complete a set of three--one, two, three. Other times though, I had to take it from them because I needed it to complete my sets and they didn‘t understand. When I got there this time, there were so many people, and they were all in such a hurry and running around. No one was being very nice and I didn’t want to take the time to explain why I needed it, so I decided to just take it. There was a woman on Track 9 standing by herself talking on one of those phones you can take out of your house and still talk. I walked up behind her, pulled her purse off her arm and stabbed her three--one, two, three times with the nice sharp knife I take with me when I go out because you just never know about people. When you do it from behind them, you don’t get any of their blood on your clothes, which is a good thing because then you’d have to take your coat off before you could go anywhere else, and I couldn’t do that. I only had three--one, two, three coats on and there was no way I could have taken one off, but you already knew that. I pushed her down onto the tracks and no one even noticed. People never do when they are in such a hurry and running around.
I took her wallet and dropped her purse onto the tracks and went outside and saw that there would be enough money for me to get it. I practically ran to the novelty shop and I was ready to get it so I could complete my set, but the evil man was in there and he already had it in his hand. I told him he couldn’t have it and that it belonged to me and that the man behind the counter said he would keep it just for me. But they both laughed at me, and the man behind the counter said whoever had the money could buy whatever he had. I told him it wasn’t right. I told him I already had the other two and now I had the money to get number three--one, two, three and he couldn’t let someone else take it. The evil man told me he had already paid for it and I couldn’t have it and put it in his pocket and walked out of the store. The man behind the counter came around to where I was standing and told me to get out of his store and not to bother him anymore. I stabbed him three--one, two, three times with the same knife I stabbed the woman at the train station, but it wasn’t my fault, but you already know that. I got some blood on me that time, but it was snowing so hard, you couldn’t really see it. Besides, I had to go after the evil man. He still had it.
I saw him walking and that was good because I always walk. He turned down the next street and went up to one of the houses and I was right behind him. After he unlocked the door and started to go inside, I went in right after him. You already know what happened after I went in. It wasn’t my fault, but you already knew that.
The longer the green one is where it belongs with the other two, the calmer I am beginning to feel. All is never right with the world until there are three--one, two, three. I am truly enjoying looking at my new yo-yos. I wonder if someone else will be taking over the novelty shop soon. I didn’t have to wait too long after the last time this happened…
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The prompt this week was to write a story about a character(s) life-changing event and include the following words: December, blizzard, secret, clown, and doughnut. The genre was open and the word limit was 1,500 words. Please enjoy.
“I’ve got a secret, Mr. Tommy.”
Mikey resumed sweeping the floor behind the bar. Tom Ellison had inherited the bar and restaurant five years ago when the previous owner was diagnosed with a terminal illness he’d never heard of. No telethon for some, he thought, and no celebrity donating millions to find a cure. Jack Gennaro had been a great boss and gave Tom his start. He had taught Tom everything he knew about running a business and how to make every drink known to man. When Jack died, the Mrs. told Tom the bar belonged to him, lock, stock and barrel, and she was off to Wisconsin to stay with her sister. Tom made up his mind to return the favor, in a cosmic kind of way, by offering the opportunity for a better life to someone in need. Mikey was his life’s good deed.
The kid showed up at the back door of Tom’s Place looking for a cheeseburger and a job. Mikey produced a photo ID which put his age at 22 and showed an address four hundred plus miles west. Mikey told him he was looking for somewhere to settle down. He told Tom he wanted to learn to drive and buy a car and live like a real person. Tom never pushed the kid for more information about his past; something told him to trust his gut and give this odd young man a chance. His birth may have been 22 years ago, but Tom estimated Mikey’s mental capabilities and functional level at closer to 12 years of age. But he was anxious to earn his own way and eager to learn, so Tom took him in.
Tom arranged for Mikey to rent a room at Mrs. Hastings’ Boarding House for $40.00 a week, for which he received a clean and safe place to sleep and two hot meals a day. Tom paid him enough to make his rent plus a bit more so the boy could save for whatever future awaited him. For the time being, his career was sweeping the inside of the bar and restaurant, making sure the parking lot was free of cigarette butts, and running whatever errands Tom felt he could handle. In what seemed like no time at all, Mikey saved enough to purchase a car, and to Tom’s pleasant surprise, he had signed up for a drivers’ education course and passed with flying colors. When Mikey took him for a drive through town as his first passenger, Tom felt like a proud father watching his son on his first bicycle ride without the training wheels. Mikey was on his way to being able to live like a ‘real’ person. That’s when things began to get peculiar.
Mikey began to disappear for two or three days at a time. His rent was always paid, but he would pack a light bag, fill his gas tank and take off. He always let Tom know when he would be back, but never provided any details about where he’d been. Tom knew Mikey may present the appearance of a mature adult; however, mentally and emotionally, he was still a child, so he was concerned Mikey might get himself into trouble. He tried to get Mikey to tell him where he went on his excursions and who he might be hooking up with, but Mikey would never tell him. Now this business about him having a secret? Something wasn’t right and Tom was determined to find out what was going on with this young man who had, over the years, become his only family.
“Mikey, you were gone longer this time than any other, and I’m worried. For one thing, you are a great driver, but it’s December, and one day we get a few flakes, and the next, we could have a blizzard. The roads are dangerous out there. The world is dangerous out there too, and you never tell me where you’re going or staying. Tell me this secret of yours. If all is well, I’ll be happy for you, but if not, I’ll do what I can to help. You know you can trust me.”
Mikey leaned his broom against the back door frame and went up front to sit at the bar. Tom hoped this was a sign he was ready to talk.
“I‘ll tell you my secret, Mr. Tommy. I wouldn‘t have a secret from you. My secret is about my mommy. I lost her long ago.”
Tom didn’t want to upset Mikey, but it was hard not to visibly react with sympathy, and he gave Mikey a quick hug. He wondered how old he had been when his mother passed away.
“It‘s okay, Mr. Tommy. One morning when I got up, mommy wasn‘t there. That‘s how I lost her.”
With that explanation, Tom wanted to put his fist through the wall. What kind of so-called mother abandons her child?
“We moved around a lot and she brought home lots of daddies for me. They all were gone by morning, and mommy said it was because I was bad, so I tried to be the goodest I could be. When I was eleven, a carnival came, and mommy said if I was the best I could be, maybe the clown man would come home with us and be my forever daddy. I didn’t like the clown man very much because he smelled funny and stuck a needle in between his toes sometimes, but mommy said some big people did that to feel better. Funny, huh? If I wanted to feel better, I ate a doughnut--cream-filled with sprinkles on top.”
Tom had never met Mikey’s mother, and she was fortunate for that. He couldn’t remember ever being that angry.
“Anyhow, the clown man stayed with us for some days, then one morning, they were both gone. She left a note wishing me luck. I never knew where she and the clown man went, but I made up my mind I was going to find her so I could ask her why they didn’t take me with them. I made her and the clown man eggs and toast every morning and rinsed out the needle he stuck between his toes. I don’t know how I could have been any gooder.
“See, now that I have a nice bed and I can drive my own car and live like a real person, I go out and drive around some days and look for her. Each time, I go farer and farer, but nobody knew who she was. But, three days ago, I did it, Mr. Tommy. I found her. It was by accident even. She was one of those ladies who gives you coffee at a diner a long way from here. She said the clown man ran away with some other mommy, but it was okay. She found a man who sells vacuum cleaners that made her laugh and so she was staying with him. I told her we needed to have a long talk. Some guy in a movie I saw had a long talk with his mother and then everything was okay.”
Tom wished he could jump up and down and cheer for Mikey, but he didn‘t want to look like he was ready to be fitted for a straight-jacket, so he simply nodded and smiled. All his other accomplishments were grand indeed, but this? Searching for, and finding, his mother who had abandoned him, and having the courage to seek answers to the traumatic events of his childhood with the hope of attaining some type of resolution were signs of a maturity in Mikey that Tom had never believed was there. He swelled with pride and served Mikey his first bottle of beer.
“Mikey,” he said, “I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am with the man you are. Confronting your mother was probably the biggest thing you’ve ever done in your life, but it will help you move forward and be able to live your life free of that burden.”
He raised his bottle and tapped Mikey’s with it.
“Here’s to you, Mikey. Why don’t you take tomorrow off and have some fun.”
Mikey was happy he told Mr. Tommy about finding mommy. He had never had a beer before and he was really liking it. Maybe he’d go up to the Multiplex tomorrow afternoon and see one of the scary movies they had playing. He liked scary movies. First though, he’d have to head over to the landfill off I-95 to use their compactor. Then on to Mr. Phil’s Suds and Rinse to give his car a good scrubbing. He hoped those scented soaps would get rid of the smell in his trunk. By the fourth day, mommy‘s body will probably smell it up even worse.