Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Dinner Party by R J Parker - A Review






Eight friends – four couples, get together one evening for some food, some wine, and some conversation. This is not the first time they have gathered for a dinner party. They have known each other for years, and are comfortable with each other’s company. This evening however, something new will be added. A game. A game they will all play. It is a game based on trust. What better game to play with friends, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, for those involved, this game is also full of secrets and betrayal. While this was not the first time they got together, it most certainly will be the last.

Their game of trust was supposed to alleviate guilt, and bring peace and forgiveness. Instead, it brought fear and division. Secrets that were never meant to be shared hang over them all like shrouds. The game didn’t bring them closer; it brought them death. One by one, they begin to die. Game over? Not a chance. R. J. Parker has effectively delivered to his readers the dinner party from Hell. You are introduced to the characters, and feel like you are getting to know them. Before long however, you realize that you didn’t know any of them at all. The surprises never stop coming, and neither do the nightmares. The Dinner Party is loaded with twists and turns, lies and deception, and will take you to the edge over and over again. Make sure you have plenty of time when you begin reading, because it’s impossible to put this thriller down.

You can purchase Dinner Party here or here.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 38 - Perfection


The prompt this week was as follows: The genre was fantasy, the setting was an antique shop, and the item was a gold fish. Love begins in many ways, and for my character Sarah, it started with a peek into a glass bowl.

Perfection

“Janice, I’ve enjoyed our lunch, but before you drop me off at home, could we stop in at that antique shop by the mall? I want to see if they have anything new.”

“New? Sarah, everything in there is junk. It’s all cracked, dusty, and…”

“Come on, you know what I meant. I love the knick knacks I’ve found there. Besides, it’s okay if they’re flawed. Something doesn’t have to be perfect to be loved. All it takes…”

Sarah stopped, and turned away to look out the car window. She had been born with deformed legs, and wore braces that enabled her to walk. A childhood disease had left her blind in one eye. She had never dated, and even her own parents had been ashamed to be seen with her in public.

“Sarah, we’ll stop there. You take your time. I don’t need anything, so I’ll wait in the car. There’s no hurry, hon.”

***

Sarah was surprised to see a young man behind the counter. The elderly lady who ran the stop was very unpleasant and always seemed angry, but Sarah was used to her. She was concerned, and asked about her.

“My grandmother passed away,” he said. “I’m here to close the shop. I have my own business out of state, and there’s no other family to keep this going. Everything is half off, Miss. See anything you like?”

Sarah noticed the goldfish on the counter. It looked pitiful with only one eye, twisted fins, and malformed tail.

“Is the goldfish for sale?” Poor thing, she thought, it needs someone to love it.

“That thing?” The young man handed the bowl to Sarah. “It was behind the counter. I was going to dump it in the river. You can have it. Anything else for you?”

“Not today, but thank you. This is all I need.”

***

“You bought an ugly fish, Sarah? How much did they cheat you out of for that?”

“He was free, Janice, and he’s not ugly. He’s flawed – like me. I can’t explain it, but he needs me, and I need him too.”

“As long as you’re happy, dear. I’ll drop you off at home now.”

***

Sarah put fresh water in the fish’s bowl and sprinkled some food on top that the man in the shop had given her. She placed the bowl on the kitchen counter, and cautioned her cat Tangerine.

“Tange, this is our new friend. You leave him alone because he’s not very strong. I’m going to get a book from the living room, and then you and I will go sit in the back yard.”

When she heard the crash, Sarah ran into the kitchen. She saw that her cat had gotten on the counter and knocked the fish bowl on the floor. Tangerine was standing over the fish, nibbling at its tail.

“No! Get away!” Sarah shouted and clapped her hands to get the cat away from the fish. She couldn’t bear the thought of her poor little fish coming to such a brutal end. She opened the back door and Tangerine ran out into the yard. She picked up the fish, and quickly got a bowl from the cupboard and filled it with water. She hoped it wasn’t too late to save her beloved fish.

“Please don’t die,” she said quietly. “I need you to be all right. I love you.”

All of a sudden, the fish disappeared from her hand, and a tall young man appeared in front of her. He was missing one arm, and his back was hunched. She looked up at his face, and thought he had the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. She felt faint.

“Do not fear me, dear lady. I am Simon, and you have said the words to break my curse. You told me you loved me, and broke the spell. You see, the old woman in the shop was a witch. Ages ago, she wanted us to marry, but I loved another. She had an ugly soul and caused my beloved to fall ill and die. She then approached me again, and I told her I could never marry anyone with a hateful heart. She put a spell on me, and turned me into a deformed goldfish. She said now, no one would ever love me. Then she laughed, and said if some poor soul did, the spell would be broken. She had added that as a cruel joke, knowing in her black heart it would never happen.

“She kept me behind the counter to make sure I’d never find a caring home. When she died, the Heavens blessed me because her grandson brought me out of hiding, and you, my lovely one, took me and saved me.”

“I am not lovely at all. I am crippled, and half blind.”

“Your heart and soul are pure and kind, and you are filled with love. I knew these things the first time I saw you through the glass in the shop. I also knew I loved you then too. Time had stopped for me while cursed, but all is back in order now. You and I will grow old together, my precious, and a perfect future awaits.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 37 - School Days


The prompt this week was about the start of school, and sending someone (or something?) to school. We were to write from the viewpoint of the sender, not the sendee. Those first days can be exciting or traumatic or even both, and not just for the kids!

School Days

MONDAY

Today is my daughter Mara’s first day of school. Of course, that’s a big deal for her, but it’s an even bigger deal for me. I’m the one who has to stay home and worry all day about her. Why, you ask? Let me explain. When I sent her to nursery school, she had a great time with all the kids. In kindergarten, she was with the same group of children, and had a wonderful year. First, second, and third grades were a dream come true, because living in a small town, that same group of children stayed together year after year, and Mara was able to maintain all her friendships. Then, in the middle of fourth grade, it all came apart.

My husband is in the Army. Now, do you see the problem? He was transferred to a new city in a new state, so a new school was on the horizon. She would have to continue fourth grade in a different school in the company of strangers, and would be miserable for the rest of her life. Those weren’t my feelings, they were Mara’s, so I tried to be as upbeat as I could as I walked her to the bus. I had offered to drive her to school on the first day, or even for the first week, but she would have no part of that. According to my daughter, her life was going to end anyway, but having Mommy drop her off in front of the other kids would cause it to end sooner. I walked her to the bus; then, went home and cried.

TUESDAY

Monday night went badly. Mara got off the bus, went in the house, and locked herself in her room. I thought I’d attempt to communicate pre-bus this morning.

“Mara, how did school go yesterday? Did you meet anyone new?”

“Teacher told the class I was new, told them my name, and asked them to show me around. Why didn’t she just kill me then and there?”

“Honey, she was just trying to make you feel welcome, and to involve the other kids.”

“I threw up on the bus on the way home.”

Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

WEDNESDAY

We got the silent treatment again Tuesday night. I thought about calling her teacher, but remembered my own mother doing just that. The next day, my teacher announced to my class that my mommy called her because she was worried, and that she wanted the kids to be friends with me. It was several months before the kids stopped laughing at me, so I decided to let time work its magic. Walking to the bus this morning, I tried again.

“How was school yesterday? Did you have a lot of homework last night? You went to bed quite late.”

“Teacher gave us a lot. I had to read a whole chapter. Susie and Kevin said she does that a lot.”

Susie and Kevin? Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

THURSDAY

Wednesday night, Mara had dinner in the dining room with her father and me, and then went to her room to do her homework. Her bedroom door wasn’t slammed or even closed. It stayed open all night.

We chatted on the way to the bus this morning.

“What does your teacher have planned for today, Mara? Anything special?”

“Susie and Kevin and Molly and Tim said Thursdays are easy. We get to read form our favorite book and say what we liked about it. Here comes my bus. Bye.”

Susie and Kevin AND Molly and Tim? Mara got on the bus, and I went home and cried.

FRIDAY

Thursday night, we all had dinner together and even played some board games. Mara went on and on about Brian and Mary and Josie and… I cried myself to sleep Thursday night. My husband kept asking me what was wrong, and I told him everything was right. He was confused, but I said I would explain later.

This morning’s walk to the bus left me concerned. Mara had quite a serious air about her. She wasn’t angry or upset; she just seemed extremely determined.

“Honey, is something wrong? Do you feel all right? Is something bothering you?”

“I’m okay, but this new girl started yesterday. She just moved here and had to start school in the middle of the year. Teacher told us all she was new and all that stuff, you know, so the new girl felt abarr…ebarr…umbarrassed. So, at recess, I took her over by the fence and told her teacher was just trying to make her feel welcome, and avol…evolve the other kids. I was just trying to figure out how I’m going to get her into some stuff today cause I told her me and my friends would show her around.”

Wow. Buckle up, folks. It’s a good thing I carry tissues in my coat pocket…

Friday, September 6, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 36 - The Good Life


The prompt this week was to write about a needy pet. The pet is adorable, but wants a lot of attention. We couldn’t use a dog or a cat, which would have been great for me since I have the neediest puppy on the planet. Poor baby cries and follows me from room to room. I couldn’t use him though. We had to pick a random one from a list of ten mythical creatures. The number given to me was 9, and that meant my pet was a banshee. This was tough because I did some research on banshees, and I couldn’t figure out how to work one in as a pet, much less a needy one. Sorry, but I went another way with my story. I still put in the banshee, but in this case, instead of being the needy one, she sort of fills a need.

The Good Life

“Help! Cassie! Save me!”

Cassie knew she should never have let her sister come and stay with her. Virginia has always been a drama queen, a snob, and frankly, a real pain. Her daily crises were the reason Cassie left the condo they shared in the city, and motivated her to buy the cottage in the tiny village 50 miles away. After Cassie moved out, her sister decided to do some renovations, which meant she’d have to stay in a hotel for the week. Of course, that would never do, since, according to Virginia, there was no way any hotel in the entire county could be suitable for her. Cassie was surprised when her sister asked to come stay with her since she regarded cottages in the country lower than skid row accommodations. But, Cassie thought, beggars can’t be choosers, and since a hotel was out of the question, and her sister didn’t really have any friends to speak of, the cottage in the country would have to do.

Virginia had complained from the second she stepped through the front door, and now, at midnight, she was screaming at the top of her lungs. Cassie heard the moaning and groaning begin outside, and realized she had forgotten to let her sister know about the weird fairy that walked around the cottage from midnight to six, crying and whining. Funny how that slipped her mind. It’s amazing, she thought, how one can get used to almost anything. She went out to the living room where Virginia was sleeping on the couch.

“Cassie, thank goodness you’re here. There’s some strange woman wandering around outside, making these horrible noises. Plus, she must be at least eight feet tall too. What kind of place is this? I’ll never understand why you would want to live out in the country. I told you only weirdos live out in the country.”

“Virginia, this is a very nice place. It’s clean and safe, and the people in the village are great. There’s just one thing about this place that I forgot to tell you about. It’s my banshee.”

“Your what?”

“Banshee. I have one. She came with the cottage. She’s like a fairy, only, not cutsie like Tinkerbell. She’s dressed in a black shroud, and does nothing but cry. The real estate agent told me about her, and I know it sounds crazy, but having a cursed spirit that haunted the place made me want to buy this place even more. Every night from around midnight to six, she circles the place and wails. I have no idea where she is during the day, but you can set the clock by her every night.”

“What?”

“I know it’s nuts. See, the legend is that banshees come and cry and make all these sorrowful sounds to warn that someone within is going to die.”

“Oh my God! Cassie! We’ve got to…”

“Calm down. No one is going to die. I told you, she’s cursed. The story is that when the cottage was first built, the man of the house was very ill. The banshee showed up and started doing her thing, but the man completely recovered. Turns out, he never was that sick to begin with, so they couldn’t figure out why she was there.”

“She probably came to kill him, just like she’s going to kill…”

“Stop. Banshee’s don’t kill people. They have no powers to do anything. She just messed up and had shown up at the wrong place. Someone else nearby died later that night, and I guess the head banshee cursed her to remain here forever, whining and sobbing, but doing it all for nothing. Weird, huh?”

“Weird doesn’t cover it, Cassie. How can you stay here? I was never comfortable here to begin with, but now? There is no way I can remain here. I’ll just have to lower my standards and find a hotel.”

“Gee, so sorry to see you go.”

“Very funny, Cassie. But, seriously, aren’t you afraid?”

“Of what? She never does anything but make awful noises all night. I’ve reached a point where I can’t sleep until I hear her. The only time she really gets to me is if I decide to watch a late movie. Then all that noise outside keeps me from falling asleep. Wanna hear something freaky? When that happens, I open the door, ask her in, and give her some hot tea.”

“You actually come in contact with that…that…that…”

“Banshee. I don’t know her name, but she responds when I talk to her. She doesn’t speak, but when I say something, she stops crying and looks at me. Anyhow, the first time I asked her in, she walked in here and stood in the corner. I brought her some tea, and while she drank it, I told her about my day, and there was no criticism and no judgment. When I was done, she put the cup down, walked out, and started moaning again. Wild, right?”

“This is too much for anyone to take. I know it’s late, but can I get a taxi out here? I’m going back to the city and find somewhere to stay.”

“Sure. I’ll get you the one from the village. The driver’s always looking for work. A trip to the city will get him some big bucks. Tip him good though, Virginia. Mr. Hopper’s an older man and can’t work as much as he needs to anymore.”

“You certainly have changed, Cassie. You invite the death fairy in for tea, and you worry about a has-been cabbie. You belong out here with the nothings.”

“Always good to spend time with you, Virginia. I’ll call Mr. Hopper so he can warm up his cab. It’s getting late, and it gets really cold in the early morning hours. My death fairy could probably use a hot drink. Us ‘nothings’ do love our hot tea and a chat.”

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 35 - A Real Home


The prompt this week was to do zombies, but with a twist. Mine’s just trying to find his way…

A Real Home

“Young man, excuse me for bothering you. I normally avoid speaking to strangers, but I have something I must say to you. I take this Greyhound to Harpers Gate every summer to spend time with my grandchildren. The journey is usually unpleasant because the other passengers complain about this or that, and children run the aisle. You, however, have been upbeat during the entire trip, and since our departure from Winden Falls, you have had the most endearing smile. May I pry, and ask why?”

“Thank you, ma’am, for your kind words. I was born in Harpers Gate, but have been away for a long time. I felt like I needed to come home again. I have no family left there, but there is a lady…”

“Satisfy an old lady’s curiosity. Is she a past love?”

“She is, but we haven’t seen each other in years. Her family moved away long ago, and we both married others. I heard she was divorced, and I…well, I’m single now too. Things are a bit different though, seeing as how I’m…uh…”

“An accident? I know I’m pressing, but never be ashamed of stitches and scars. You’re a fine-looking young man, even though you are a bit on the pale side.”

“I am that. It was a kind of accident, yes. Goodness, here we are at the terminal. It was wonderful talking with you.”

“You too, dear. Wishing you all the luck with your love.”

***

“Welcome to Daly’s Five and Dime. What can I get for you?”

“Is Suzanne working today?”

“At the ice cream counter at the back.”

***

“Suzanne?”

“Yes, sir. What can I… Oh my God! Richie? It can’t be! I heard you had been murd… I mean, that your wife and her boyfriend kill…”

“It’s true. They did murder me, but that’s not all. This is hard to explain, but try to understand. They found an old voodoo priest to bring me back as a zombie so I’d suffer even more. But he was forgetful and messed up. He did bring me back, but I can think, talk, and I don’t walk like I’m right out of a horror movie. I got them both though. They were there when I was brought back and I pretended to be oblivious to everything. They told the cops I’d been killed by a robber, and talked about where they’d hidden the hammer they beat me with and where they hid their bloody clothes. I got the evidence and delivered it on the police department’s doorstep – literally. I’m not a vengeful person, but they had to be held accountable.”

“Of course, Richie.”

“There’s one other way I’m different from others of my kind. I can still love, and I still love you. We went our separate ways, but you were my first love.”

“And you were mine, Richie. I married Jim, but it didn’t work out. My heart has always belonged to you. Now, we can be together at last.”

“You make me so happy. But, you’re not shocked that I’m a zombie? What about the townspeople? What if they find out?”

“I’m not, and they would accept you without question.”

“How is that possible?”

“Remember old Mr. Hornsby that used to run the drug store? He’d give all the kids free candy and pop?”

“He was wonderful. Don’t tell me he’s still working.”

“No, he’s retired. But, one night on his way home from the store, he was bitten by what we learned later was a werewolf, and how he’s one. The widow Mrs. Milner is a vampire. That happened when she went to New York City on vacation alone. Sally Greene is a broom-riding witch, and… See? They all come here, Richie, to settle down, and they are accepted for who they are, not shunned and hunted for what they’ve become. Now that you’ve come back, I’ll just ask Judy Milner to bite me so you and I can be together forever.”

“Suzanne, This is more than I could have ever hoped for. I’m so glad I came back. I really am home.”

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 34 -

Story coming soon!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 33 - Finding Sarah


The prompt this week was to use a specific location in our story: a cottage. Also, we were to pick a random song (one of the top two from the link provided) as our inspiration. One of the top two songs that came up for me was The Search by Nathan Feuerstein (known as NF). The following verse was my inspiration:

“Yeah started thinkin’ maybe I should move out
You know pack my cart take a new route
Clean up my yard get the noose out
Hang up my heart let it air out”

Finding Sarah

The cottage was perfect. It was in the middle of nowhere, and no one knew where Sarah and her husband, James, went for the weekend. She’d rented it under an assumed name and paid cash. James had been hesitant to go off the grid, but she’d put on her ‘beg’ face and he’d relented. How he loved her ‘beg’ face, especially after he’d hit or punched her. This weekend would be different though. She’d done the driving so James could relax with a thermos full of his favorite gourmet coffee. The sedatives she’d added had dissolved nicely. When James awoke, he found himself tied to a chair in the living room of a strange house.

“What the… Where…”

“We’re at the cottage I rented for us. Isn’t it lovely? It’s clean, and has lace curtains on the windows, comfortable furniture, no neighbors, and…”

“What is going on? You think this is funny? You can be sure I’ll show you just how funny I think this is. You’d better listen to me. Untie me this second, and maybe your punishment won’t be too…”

“No, James. You’d better listen to me. I’m going to give you a choice. You can either sit there and listen to everything I have to say, or I can make a deep cut somewhere on your body with this carving knife I brought with me, leave the door wide open, and let the bears finish you off.”

“You have lost your mind.”

“You’ve got that right. Now, shut up, and listen. We’ve been married for eight years, and during those eight years, you have broken my arm, my nose, my wrist, my ankle, and knocked out several of my teeth. I put up with it be…”

“You know as well as I do that was because you were completely disrespect…”

Sarah walked over to James and slid the dull side of the carving knife down his cheek. James closed his eyes, and leaned as far back in the chair as he could.

“Please,” he whispered. Sarah noticed tears forming in the corners of his eyes.

“Did I hear ‘please’? I didn’t think you were familiar with the word.”

“Don’t hurt me, Sarah. I’ll listen. Go ahead and say what you have to say. Put the knife down. If you damage my face, my female clients won’t…”

“That’s what you’re worried about? Your looks? What are you saying? That your rich old lady clients won’t let you invest their money if you’re no longer a pretty boy? You sonofabitch!”

Sarah stuck the pointed end of the knife into James’ left cheek until a drop of blood formed.

“There. Now you’re not perfect anymore. Now will you shut up or do I have to…”

“Okay, okay, I’ll listen. But when this is over…”

“When this is over, what?”

“Nothing.”

“That’s what I thought, Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. The reason I put up with all your bullshit was because I watched my father do the same things to my mother, and she took it all, right up until the day she died. Why? Because that’s a woman’s lot in life. That’s what she told me over and over. Well, that may have been her lot in life, but it’s not mine. I’m finished with your moods, with your cruelty, with your abuse… I’m finished with you. I’m walking away from you, from our marriage, from our life together. You know what else? You’re not going to do anything to stop me.”

“There is no fucking way you’re going to… You know my money’s tied up in…”

“I knew money would be your first worry. I don’t want a penny from you. In fact, I want nothing from you, except the assurance that I will never see or hear from you again. I have a letter for you to sign that confirm your understanding of that condition.”

“You’re going to force me to do something? Now, that’s funny. If I refuse to sign?”

“You believe I just sat at home all day praying for my Lord and Master to come home? I printed files from your computer, and I wrote down your clients’ contact information. You’ve been screwing your partners and your clients for years, and from what I’ve seen, I know of at least three government agencies that would be interested in your overseas transactions.”

“What? You wouldn’t dare…”

“Wanna bet? Here’s what’s going to happen. You’ll sign what I put in front of you and I’ll walk away. I’ll let somebody know you’re here though. If you ever try to find me or bother me again, I go public.”

“I never thought you were the kind to…”

“What? The kind to think for myself? I know you didn’t, you bastard. Now sign.”

Sarah handed James a pen and put the paper in his lap. She saw him hesitate, so she brought the knife closer to his face. He quickly signed the letter.

“By the way, do what you want with my things in the apartment. I don’t want any of it. I’m going to start fresh.”

“And my car?”

“Your precious car will be at the airport. Goodbye, James.”

“Uh huh.”

Sarah put the carving knife back in her handbag and walked outside into the sunlight, closing the door behind her. She planned to dispose of the knife in a dumpster later. She could hear James cussing and struggling to free himself from the chair. I’ll call someone about him from the airport, she thought. There’s time. Hopefully, he’ll wet himself all over his Armani suit. Driving away from the cabin, Sarah knew she had found more than just the cash in James’ overnight case. She’d found something else too: a part of her that she believed had been lost long ago, and for this new go-round with life, it would be more than enough.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 32 - The Visitor


The prompt this week was one used by Furious Fiction for August. They provided six pairs of adjectives, all to be included in your story. Also, you had to make sure that one of the pairs was included in your first sentence. Their limit is 500 words, and I couldn’t quite make that work this time, so I went with the 1,000 words. Maybe the September prompt from Furious Fiction will be one I can do right by.

The list of pairs is as follows:

Shiny, silver
Cold and greasy
Scratched and weather-worn
Sweet and pungent
Ink-stained
Shrill, piercing

The Visitor

“Sheriff, how can you swallow that cold and greasy crap from Doug’s? Just because we’re on a stakeout, that doesn’t mean we can't eat decent. I could have gone and grabbed us a couple of burgers from Cassie’s.”

“Ray, I know you won’t eat from Doug’s, so I picked up a chicken plate for you from the Deli.”

Donnie opened his bag, and immediately, a sweet and pungent smell filled the car.

“You should eat that outside. Whoa! I wanna go home. Why do I have to be here to watch this thing? Why can’t you watch it?”

Ray Donelson had worn that badge for the past three years, and Donnie asked himself daily why he kept him on. The man was completely unprofessional, and everything he was, and did, reflected badly on his position and on his boss. His hat had a torn brim and was worn backwards, there were huge circular stains under the armpits of his wrinkled uniform shirt, and the pocket on his shirt and both pants’ pockets were ink-stained. It was obvious to Donnie that the man didn’t give two cents about the way he presented himself, either as a law enforcement officer or as a man. He’d let Ray go, but no one else in town had any interest in the job. I guess beggars can’t be choosers, Donnie thought.

“We’re watching it in case it moves or something comes out of it. Think of it, Ray, we would be the first people on Earth to make contact with a space creature. Don’t you understand how important that would be?”

This shiny, silver flying saucer landing on Ebb’s south forty, was the biggest thing that ever happened in Hixon Falls or in Donnie’s life. Ray wanted to pass the buck to the Army, and maybe Donnie would tell them after he made contact. Some general would take all the credit, and Donnie’s shining moment would become a blurb on the back page of some supermarket tabloid. No. This was his find and his chance for fame. Too, maybe his wife might even look at him with a bit less contempt in her eyes.

“I do, but what if some six-eyed squid crawls out of it? I don’t like the two of us all alone out here. What if nothing ever comes out? How long do we have to wait?”

Rather be at Dodge’s Bar and Grill feeling up that new waitress? Donnie knew if anything did happen, Ray would fold, and he would have to face it on his own. Just as well, he thought. I’m the only professional here, and if there’s any credit to be earned, it should be mine. He stared at the craft and wondered how far it had traveled. The bottom half looked scratched and weather-worn, but how was that possible? Was there any kind of weather in outer space? Maybe those dents were from their world. Did it rain there? Did they have hailstorms? Did they… A shrill, piercing sound snapped Donnie back to the moment. He got out of the car and moved toward the ship. Ray was frozen with fear. As they both watched, an opening appeared in the center, and a ramp began to descend outward from it.

“Sheriff, get back in the car. We need to get out of here. What if they vaporize us with…”

“Stop it, Ray. Nobody’s getting vaporized. Come out here with me. Let’s show them we aren’t afraid.”

“Okay, but I don’t think we should get too close because… Oh, God! Look! Something’s coming out!”

A figure in a spacesuit emerged from the ship and started down the ramp. It was about three feet tall, and shaped like a man, with a head, two arms, and two legs. The gloved hands however, showed only two long fingers, and the visor on its head was tinted, so no face was visible. One hand held an object that resembled a small green I-pad. It offered the object to Ray. The other hand reached out to Donnie.

“What should I do? Should I take it? What if it blows up?” Ray was terrified.

“Take it,” Donnie said calmly. “It’s probably some kind of gift. See if there’s a message on it.”

He offered his hand to the creature, who immediately looped both of its fingers around his hand and began to pull him up the ramp.

“It wants me to come inside, Ray. It trusts me. Wait here. I won’t be long.”

“Don’t go in there. Let me get some help. You don’t know what it’s… Come back! This thing’s flashing and beeping. I think there is some kind of message on it. Wait until we figure it out. Please! Wait! Donnie, give me your hand!”

Ray tried to grab his boss’ arm, but it was too late. The creature had moved quickly and pulled Donnie inside. The ramp had been drawn back and the opening had clanged shut. That shrill, piercing sound assaulted Ray’s ears again. All at once, the ship began to spin, and flames and smoke shot out from the bottom. The craft rose a few yards slowly, then quickly darted out of sight into the night sky. The object in Ray’s hands began to glow gold, and letters began to form on the small screen.

“It is a message,” Ray said, his eyes filling with tears, and his voice breaking. “Oh God, Donnie That’s why they came. I need to… Wait... Who can… Donnie? Oh, please, God... Please… No…”

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 31 - It's Gonna Be A Really Bad Day


The prompt this week was heat – lots of it. Heat in a random location, with a random object. We were given six choices of location and six choices of things.

Location:                                                                           Thing: 

Awards dinner                                                                    Press-on nails
Dark lake                                                                           Onion rings
Car wash                                                                            Remote controlled drone
Parking garage                                                                   Box of animal crackers
Village plaza                                                                      Plastic fork
Quiet suburb                                                                      Folded sheet of paper


I rolled a 3 and a 4, which was a location of car wash, and my thing was a box of animal crackers. What a combo! I decided to have fun with these, and I hope my little tale makes you smile too.

It’s Gonna Be A Really Bad Day

Of all the days for aliens to pick to invade and deep fry Earth, why the hell did they have to pick today? Saturdays are my day to catch up on all the household type nonsense I put off during the week. Since the wife ran away with the mailman – I know, it’s the classic stand-up comic’s line – I was left with this five-story house and credit card bills. The house was always more than we could handle financially, and those credit accounts in my name that she maxed out just add insult to injury. I wonder if these tentacled space goons have incinerated my house yet. Surely those blood-suckers at the bank wouldn’t expect me to finish paying off my mortgage, would they?

Currently, I’m solely responsible for all of it. I do the cooking, the dishes, the laundry, the shopping, the vacuuming… I don’t want you to think I expected my wife to do everything on her own. I helped her with the housework when I got home from my job and on my days off. I believe that marriage is a partnership; although, my scrubbing the kitchen floor while she was linking up in the sack with our mail carrier is not exactly what I had in mind when I described our relationship at a 50-50 level.

Work is a nightmare, with all the young studs climbing over close-to-retirement me on their way to the executive suites, and for the reasons I’ve listed, home’s no picnic either. The time I most look forward to each and every week is the 15 minutes or so I spend here at the car wash. I can sit back and relax while my car is pulled through on the track and chow down on my favorite snack of animal crackers. Weird? Maybe, but spending those few minutes with the water sloshing all around and the zero taste of tiny tigers and giraffes bring back memories of a happy childhood. Now, these bug-eyed bastards from outer space have ruined it. Why do these kinds of things always happen to me?

I can hear people screaming outside, and buildings exploding. Their heat rays are sure doing the trick, especially in here. The water’s so hot, it’s melting my windows. The contents of my box of animal crackers look like they just came out of the oven. As my SUV caught on the track and started moving inside, I saw the ships coming down closer and closer, and all of a sudden, streams of what looked like liquid fire began raining down. The hits seemed random though; it appeared as if they deliberately chose not to wipe everyone out in one swoop. They’re probably planning to use survivors as lunch meat on their sandwiches for the trip home. Then again, perhaps, this will become their new home, and those same survivors would be lined up as the entrees in some grand buffet.

Who knows where they came from or why they came here. In the overall scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter much. Obviously, we have no defense available against them, so why fret about it. I’m going to continue to enjoy my animal crackers that are pretty hot right now, and wait out the melt. I have to admit that in these last moments, I’m going to try to find some comfort by imagining my ex and her mailbag-toting boy-toy ending up as hors d’oeuvres.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 30 - Be Careful What You Wish For...


The prompt this week was as follows: “It’s a birthday, with a cake, and candles. Someone makes a wish and there are consequences.” ‘I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.’ Do you? Really?

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR…

“Happy Birthday, David. I’m so happy we were able to surprise you.”

“Aunt Josie, you’re such a sneak. You ask me over to check through some documents, and all the while, you’ve had a party planned.”

As if I couldn’t figure out what the old gal was up to since she does the same thing every year.

“Your birthday is two days away. That’s why the party is early. We wanted to fool you for real this year. You’re not an easy man to fool.”

Old man, since you always schedule my ‘surprise’ birthday party two days before my actual birthday, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

“I hope not, Uncle Seth. But having a party early sure did the trick. I never suspected a thing. My goodness, you’ve even got what’s left of our family here. Uncle Mike and Aunt Geraldine, and even cousins Harry and Suzanne. Millicent? So nice of you to come too, and you’ve brought your fiancĂ© Bernard along. That’s yet another surprise.”

I can’t believe that bitch showed up with her bastard of a boyfriend.

“David, you know I wouldn’t miss this. I’ve known you all my life, and Bernard thinks the world of you, don’t you, Bernard?”

“Of course, Millicent. Positively. The world.”

That warms my heart, Bernard, you ass. If only I could shut you up permanently…

“You’re too kind. Well, let’s get this party started. I see a cake with candles on the table. Aunt Josie, you make the best cakes in the world, and that’s where I want to start. Somebody get my candles lit so I can make my wish. I already know what it’s going to be.”

I sure do. I’ve known what to wish for since day before yesterday. I’m not into witchcraft or voodoo, but by all that is holy, I pray that my birthday cake wish comes true. It has to. Uncle Seth said I’m not an easy man to fool, and up until day before yesterday, I thought that too. I was lunching at the Windview downtown, and who slides into the booth next to mine but Millicent and her sister, Louise. They didn’t see me, and I overheard them chatting about Millie’s upcoming wedding. She talked about how anxious she was for the wedding to occur so she could spend her life with her one true love. I couldn’t stand to hear any more and made my escape.

All the way home, I couldn’t believe how I’ve been played by that bitch. She and I have been lovers for many years, and often spoke of marriage. Millie’s father had a problem with his business though, and she was determined to help save it before we began our lives together. Bernard and his company purchased small companies, shut them down, and screwed the employees out of any benefits or compensation. Apparently, Bernard wanted to marry Millie, and told her father that he would sign a note confirming his intention to leave her father’s company alone if he would arrange the marriage. Millie had overheard this conversation, and also heard her father tell him that it would be a cold day in Hell before he would do that to his daughter. Millie knew her father would be ruined, so took it upon herself to pretend to love Bernard and accept his proposal. It was supposed to be a ruse to help her father. Her one true love was not supposed to be Bernard. Her one true love was supposed to be me.

“All right, David. It’s time. Blow out these candles and make your wish.”

“Oh, I’m ready, Uncle Mike. I am more than ready.”

Done. Now, I wait. I’ll hear about it because the families are so close, Millie will call one of them, or she might even call me directly. There’s no way out for her either since she takes marriage vows very seriously; you know, that for better or worse crap. She won’t walk away from her one true love. She won’t live happily ever after either. I made sure of that. You see, my wish was that once their wedding was over, on Sunday evening, that her one true love would lose the ability to speak. Permanently. It would make his and Millie’s married life a bit dull, but it also would save the world from Bernard’s cruelty. He could still have his minions continue to ruin lives, but how long would that last? Sooner or later – hopefully, sooner, his power would fade and he’d end up like those he destroyed. And Millie right along with him.

Come on, wish. Her one true love. Ha!

*****

Well, I’ll be damned, my wish came true. When I said ‘I’ll be damned’, I meant that. You see, Millie and the Jerk King got married Sunday morning, had their reception, and arrived at their honeymoon hotel in the evening. Shortly thereafter, Millie came to see me at my apartment. As soon as I opened the door, she rushed in, threw her arms around me, and told me everything was taken care of. Bernard had signed the agreement to never bother her father’s business right after their I do’s. She played along until they got to their hotel, and it was there that she told him she was divorcing him. She had already hired an attorney to draw up the papers, and she had them in her overnight bag. She told him he’d better sign them and let her walk away clean or she’d go to the press with his blackmail scheme. He couldn’t sign them fast enough.

She then told me she was happy the wedding was over so she could spend the rest of her life with her one true love, and that her one true love was me. Me. I started to tell her about how I had misunderstood what she said in the restaurant, and all about the wish I’d made, but…

Friday, July 19, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 29 - The Mystery


The prompt this week was to use the genre of mystery, the location of a surveillance vehicle, and include a helmet. I don’t know if my story qualifies exactly as a mystery, but hopefully, I’ve muddied the waters enough to surprise you.

The Mystery

“I still don’t understand why you feel you need to be here in the car with me. I do surveillance all the time. It’s part of the job.”

“It’s no reflection on you, Mr. Russell. My employer wouldn’t have hired you if he didn’t feel you were qualified.”

“That’s all very flattering, but again, why are you watching this woman with me?”

“My employer simply requires ample documentation. We shall both take photographs and document her comings and goings. One can take over for the other when using the restroom, etc. I am only here to assist – not to hinder.”

“I guess it will be okay. I’m just used to working alone. I‘m curious though. Does your boss really believe this lady murdered her husband? I mean, she’s your employer’s sister-in-law.”

“Without question. This woman killed his brother, and he is determined to gather enough evidence to bring her to justice. That is where you come in. My employer also believes she had an accomplice – a lover, who assisted her. He must also be made to pay for what was done.”

“Of course, Well, she’s going out now so we’ll follow. She’s probably going to dinner since it’s 7. She eats out all the time. Must be nice to be so rich.”

“Yes. I’m certain it would be.”

“How did her husband die?”

“He was beaten to death with a crowbar. There were witnesses who said it was a man on a motorcycle. No identification was possible since he wore a mask and a helmet. You also possess a motorcycle, don’t you, Mr. Russell?”

“Well, yeah, I do, but lots of people have them. I suppose whoever killed him is kind of like a mystery, right?”

“Yes. A mystery it remains.”

“This one’s awful, but usually, I like mysteries, don’t you?”

“Not particularly, Mr. Russell. Not particularly.”

*****

“I was right. Dinner at the Pelican Club again. I wonder why she always sits by the window. She does the same thing at home; I mean, she never draws her drapes. At least we can see that she is always alone.”

“Perhaps that’s the point.”

“What point?”

“None really, Mr. Russell. Let’s just observe and wait. Perhaps we can use this opportunity to have dinner ourselves. Why don’t you get us some burgers and drinks at that fast food place down the street. I will keep my eyes on the woman, and update my employer in the meantime.”

“Great idea, although, for some reason in this area, cell service is kind of sketchy. Hope you get through. Be right back.”

*****

“Sir, Day 3’s activities are exactly the same. Yes. For both. Always by the window. Exactly the same times. Phone reports confirm? Yes, sir. Tonight. Without fail.”

*****

“I guess she’s in for the night. Wait. What’s that? It looks like there’s someone in there with her. Oh my God! He’s grabbing her and putting a bag over her head. We need to… What the hell are you doing? Let go of my arm. Sondra needs help. She…”

“Sondra? Are you accustomed to referring to your subjects by their familiar name?”

“No, I just… I mean… Look! That man is… What the… What did you just stick me with?”

“A clever little drug, Mr. Russell. It takes some time for death to occur, and the entire process is quite unpleasant, I am told.”

“Why? God, I can’t bre… My head hur…”

“As I said previously, it will take some time, Mr. Russell, so I am able to explain. My employer knows you were his sister-in-law’s lover who helped to murder her husband. That is why he hired you. He needed to keep tabs on you while awaiting critical information. Both your phones have been monitored, and when out of my sight, you have been in communication with her. My employer was waiting for the final report about your 2 am meeting today. The video was quite clear. You both laughed about what you had done, and planned to simply wait out his brother’s suspicions. You see, we had another PI following you and the lady. Turns out, he is extremely well qualified.”

“The pain… You don’t know… She was the one who… They’ll know it was him who…”

“No, Mr. Russell, no one will know because you and the lady will disappear. It should make for fascinating tabloid fodder. We will make the media aware of the rich widow and local private investigator vanishing, and the connection between the two of you will be established. You know, it may even ultimately be made into one of those made-for-television films, and yours and her whereabouts would most likely be considered a mystery. But, that would be all right with you, Mr. Russell, wouldn’t it? I mean, you do like mysteries, right?”


Friday, July 12, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 28 - The Long Sleep


The prompt this week was as follows: Our story must take place on a train, it must include something frozen, and it must include three 3-word sentences in a row. I had fun putting this one together. I hope you enjoy.

The Long Sleep

“I do love train rides, don’t you, Phyllis?”

“This is my first time being on a train overnight, and it is very enjoyable. I do have to say though, Sarah, that it certainly is tiring. Ever since I had that hot chocolate, it gets harder and harder to keep my eyes open. It must be the way the car moves over the tracks – it’s so soothing.”

Sure is bitch, especially with a couple of benzos dissolved in your cocoa.

“Phyllis, I knew you’d enjoy yourself. I know it’s not the most pleasant of reasons for this trip, but having a dear friend like you with me helps me to get through this.”

“I can’t believe we’re bringing your husband home from the hospital in such a state. I’ve heard about this sort of thing, but I never knew anyone who actually had it done to themselves.”

“David’s been a supporter of arrangements like this for years. He always told me to call Dr. Jim if he was ever in a situation like this, and the doctor would take care of everything.”

“But being frozen? It’s so extreme. Why do this?”

You knew this was going to happen, you two-faced whore. David told you all about his plans during your last midnight romp.

“Well, he did give our family doctor a chance, but old Dr. Mitchell couldn’t figure out what the problem was. David felt sick to his stomach, dizzy, aches all over… The hospital ran tons of tests, but couldn’t find anything. David believes he’s contracted some exotic disease, so to stop its progression, he let Dr. Jim put him in a kind of hibernation. Dr. Jim took samples and when he figures out what’s wrong, David will be defrosted. Ha! My husband’s frozen and will ultimately be defrosted. How weird is that!”

It’s fascinating how many symptoms you can mimic with a combination of untraceable medications.

“I can’t believe the railroad let you bring him on this run; I mean, this is a passenger train, not cargo.”

“I’ve got medical documentation. He’s got the adjacent car all to himself. He’s in a locked cylinder, and a cooling gas keeps running through it to keep him cold. It’s wild. You can’t see him in there – it looks like a purple cloud. All the controls are on the outside, so everything can be monitored. That gas container keeps recycling, so I don’t have to do anything.”

“Amazing. Oh, sorry, I have to go again. Would you please order me another coffee, Sarah? I need to use the Ladies.”

“No problem, Phyllis. One coffee coming up.”

And your last dose of trancs. Time to move you to your final seat for the rest of this trip. You won’t die blind though. I’ll make sure you know why.

“Okay now?”

“Yes. Fine.”

“Good. Let’s go back there and I’ll show you how David’s spending the foreseeable future.”

“Is it scary, Sarah? I don’t think I could take a scare.”

“Phyllis, I told you. You can’t see him in the cylinder because of the gas. It just looks like a big glass tube with gauges, buttons, and a lock on the side.”

“Why is it locked?”

“For the occupant’s protection, of course. You wouldn’t want anyone opening it up willy-nilly if you were in there, would you?”

“Absolutely not. Okay. Let’s go.”

“Wait. Did I just hear the conductor call out Batesville? I didn’t know this train made stops.”

“Only one, then straight on to Harper. It will be dark soon and everyone will be going to their sleeping quarters after supper.”

*****

“Here he is, Phyllis, right behind these rows of seats.”

“I need to sit down for a second, Sarah. I feel peculiar.”

“Not for long, dear friend. Yep. Dear friend, who has been having an affair with my husband.”

“What are you…oh, I’m diz…why…key…”

“I’m unlocking my no-good cheating bastard of a husband’s current bed so you can join him.”

“I don’t…”

“Shut up and listen. Let me help you walk over here, you slug, and I’ll put you in here nice and cozy on top of David. You should feel right at home now.”

“Please…Sar…I…”

“You’ll be out cold soon. Out cold. Now, that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day.”

“No, Sar…Pl…”

Locked up tight. Some of that gas escaped and David’s probably not going to survive this trip. But that’s okay since neither will his paramour. I’m going back to my seat and order dinner.

*****

“Miss, will your lady friend be joining you for your evening meal? Should I bring two orders?”

“No, Conductor. She got off at the last stop. Some kind of emergency. Actually, you don’t need to ever give her another thought because I certainly won’t.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 27 - The Shoebox


The prompt this week was the following scenario: “You’ve bought an old chest of drawers and discover a piece of paper stuck inside. What is written on that piece of paper?” I’m not sure why I had a hard time with this one, but each time I rewrote it, it became more and more sappy. Hopefully, this version rises far above that.

The Shoebox

“Have you figured out those numbers on that paper yet?”

“Yes. These coordinates are so specific, I can narrow the location down to a small area in a little town not far from here. This is so exciting. I can’t wait to see what’s there.”

“You’re kidding, right? You don’t really plan on actually going there, do you? Ridiculous.”

“Why is everything ridiculous to you? I pick up a chest of drawers at an estate sale, and there’s a piece of paper stuck between the base and the bottom drawer. On that paper are detailed map coordinates that lead to a real place. I am curious about the reasons behind it since it hints at a possible adventure.”

“Grow up, Daniel. If you keep going on about it, I won’t drive you there. Why can’t you just wait until the cast is off your leg and then drive yourself?”

“’Danny’, and my cast won’t be off for another five weeks, Marci, and I don’t want to wait that long. This will also give us a chance to get to know each other a little more. After all, we haven’t seen each other in over 20 years. I would like to get to know my little sister.”

“All right, we’ll go, but I still say the whole thing is ridiculous.”

My sister, Marceline. Not a bad person really; she’s just cold and cynical. There’s reasons though. When our parents split, I went with Dad and Marci went with Mom. I loved my parents, but that was the worst decision any couple could ever make. Dad filled my life with love and hope. Mom filled Marci’s life with suspicion and bitterness. Our parents have both passed now, and sis and I reconnected. It’s a struggle, but I’ll turn her around – fingers crossed.

*****

“Here we are at 34 degrees, 57 minutes, and 42 seconds North, and 89 degrees, 49 minutes, and 46 seconds West. Isn’t this fantastic?”

“Yes. Wow. Here we are. We’re in a nowhere town, in a field behind a nowhere diner, standing in front of a tree. Again. Wow.”

“Marci, look. There’s an old treehouse up there. I bet kids had fun in there.”

“My grandfather built it for my father and his friends. There were three of them that were always together. There was Billy, Ada, and my dad, Jack. I’m sorry you don’t like my restaurant, Miss, but my grandfather built this too, my dad ran it after he died, and now I run the place. I have a son who will take over after I…”

“Sorry. I meant no harm. It’s just that…”

“It’s okay, Miss. It’s quite a mystery about the coordinates. My father had a note with the same coordinates taped to the bottom of his dresser. When I found it, I thought it meant the treehouse, but I couldn’t figure out why he’d hide it. Plus, this tree is in our backyard where he grew up so why figure out the coordinates. Just a kid thing?”

“I’m not sure either. This is so weird because the estate sale was for a lady named Adelaide Cooper, and she was your dad’s friend, Ada. She married and moved away, but still kept the note.”

“Yes, and even crazier, Billy Sandridge’s daughter contacted me after he died. She found the same note in his papers, and since he grew up here, she wanted to understand what it meant. Of course, the coordinates led her here, but we found no answers at that time. She left the note with me, and I still have his and Dad’s.”

“What if it’s not the treehouse, but something buried near the tree? The ground all looks flat, but maybe right under the ladder at the base? May I, Mr. Jansen?”

“It’s Ray, Danny, and please do.”

“What is that?”

“A shoebox, Marci, and there’s writing on the lid. It says ‘We were here’ and it’s signed Billy, Jack, and Ada. Inside there’s a bracelet, a baseball card, and a GI Joe wristwatch.”

“What does it all mean, Daniel?”

“’Danny’, and it looks like the kids made a kind of time capsule; you know, for someone in the future to find. It signifies their friendship and their strong bond with each other. They even put a favorite item of theirs in here too. Always friends, always together, always…”

“They must have been very close. I’ll bet they were never lonely. I’ll bet they felt… Put it all back the way it was. It’s important that it go back. It’s…”

“Don’t cry, Marci. I’ll put it back, and someday maybe other kids will find it. I believe that’s what Billy, Jack, and Ada would want. Other kids would understand what it all means. Kids know what it means to be so…”

“Is it too late for us, Daniel? Too late for us to try to be close like those kids?”

“’Danny’. Of course not, Marci. It’s never too late to try. You know what? I’ve got a shoebox and a football.”

“And I’ve got a high school class ring.”

“It’s a start, sis. It’s a start. Ray, are you still serving breakfast? What do you think, Marci?”

“I think breakfast at this charming diner would be perfect, Danny.”

Friday, June 28, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 26 - Simple Raymond


The prompt this week was a particular scenario: “You’re in prison and your partner is visiting for the first time. Write the conversation you have.” In my story, the convict’s partner is his partner in crime. Please enjoy.

Simple Raymond

“What the…”

“Hi, Gerald. I know you’re upset, but please try to understand. What I did was…”

“When they told me I had a visitor, I thought my old ma was finally able to raise bus fare. But you? What makes you think I’d ever want to look at your lying, back-stabbing… Guard! Take me back to…”

“Ger, wait, please let me explain. That’s why I came to see you today. It was hard too. You know how I get when I am in close spaces, and this prison is made up of so many small and cramped rooms. I am feeling very uncomfortable right now.”

“I’m sorry this isn’t fun for you, Raymond. I mean, the purpose of a prison is to make its residents and their visitors feel all snuggly buggly.”

“Thank you for your concern, Ger. I’ll be all right. I just need to keep taking deep…”

“What the hell is wrong with you? You’re uncomfortable?  I’m the one who got convicted and sentenced to do a dime, not you. Did it ever occur to you that I might be a little uncomfortable too? After all, a 6 by 9 room with bars and a metal bowl for a toilet is my home for the next ten years. What explanation could there be for you betraying me like that?”

‘Ger, I had to testify against you. You know I wouldn’t be able to stand being locked up. When I told the cops you came in and forced me to open the safe, they said I was lucky to be alive. They said robbers usually kill witnesses and…”

“Raymond! Tune back in to reality. You weren’t a witness. We both were in on it to rob the gas station. Remember the plan? You send the other clerk out for dinner, open the safe, take out the payroll pack, we clean out the registers, and drive away. Easy peasy. Once we cross the border, we’re home free. The plan was perfect, but you screwed it up.”

“How many times do I have to say sorry? I was just as startled as you were when the alarm went off. I thought I had turned it off, but I was remembering when I turned it off last Friday morn…”

“Raymond, why are you here? I thought you were going to explain why you betrayed me.”

“Ger, I wish you wouldn’t look at it that way. If it was a real betrayal, I wouldn’t be here to console you.”

“Console me? I swear, you are out of your…”

“Listen. Please. There are two reasons why I’m here, and they will both make you feel better about this whole situation. First of all, just think about how it all turned out. I’m on the outside and I’m not cooped up. I would be very unhappy if I was cooped up. You’re my friend, and I know how important it is to you that I am happy.”

“That is one of my personal goals in life.”

“I know, Ger. You have always…”

“What horrible thing did I do in a past life that’s causing me to be punished in this one?”

“What do you mean, Ger?”

“Nothing. What’s the other reason?”

“The money. Remember how when the cops surrounded the building, and you were trying to figure a way out through the vents in the ceiling the led to the roof?”

“Yeah, so?”

“I hid our bag of money behind some tiles in the corner. After we reopened, I checked, and it was still there. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t found when the cops went through everything.”

“They never did ask me about the money. I always wondered why.”

“That’s because I told them there was another member of your gang that drove up and you tossed them the bag and they drove away just as the cops arrived.”

“Another member of my… What’s the point of talking to you? What does it matter if you have the money? I’m locked up and you can’t spend it. That would attract attention.”

“It’s a good thing, Ger. When I get paid, I take a couple of twenties out of the bag and deposit them with my paycheck. I told the teller I got a second job with a Mom and Pop store and they pay me in cash.”

“I know I’m going to regret asking, but how is that a good thing?”

“I’m going to keep depositing that stolen money, and when you get out, we’ll take it out and go someplace nice.”

“You really think that we… Never mind. Great plan, Raymond. My time’s up and I have to go back. Do come again, okay? The next ten years promises to be pretty dull, and you’ll be good for a laugh or two.”

“Of course, Ger. I’ll keep you posted on the interest we’re earning too.”

“Lucky me. Guard? I am so ready to go back now.”

*****

“How’d it go, sweetie?”

“Perfection. Gerald bought it hook, line, and sinker. We’ll be in a villa in Rio by the time it dawns on him it was all bull. If he snitches to the law, they’ll think he’s making up a story to get out sooner. If he tries to put a hit on me with one of his people, they’ll never find us. I’ve got passports for us with new names. The haul from the Texaco, along with my other side deals, will keep us in champagne for years to come.”

“It’s wild how he believed all this time that between the two of you, he was the one with the brains.”

“Isn’t it? Every town’s the same, babe. Side deals are always on, but I always need a sucker to clean out somebody’s payroll. The first time Gerald pulled in for a fill-up, I knew I had found my fall guy for this caper.”

“You used Simple Raymond this time, right, honey?”

“Simple Raymond it was, doll. One of my faves…”




Friday, June 21, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 25 - The Last Pickup


The challenge this week was to write about a dumpster. That wasn’t all though. We were also supposed to include five random words from a random word generator. I got some doozies! They were: Grape, soda, protect, realize, and consider. I highlighted those.

The Last Pickup

Hey. It’s good to finally see somebody. I’ve been alone here for what feels like forever. Have you got a minute? I won’t take up much of your time. I really won’t because I don’t have much time before… Wait. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let me tell you my story from the beginning. The way you’re looking at me, I’m certain you have many questions. By the time I’m finished, I guarantee, they’ll all be answered. When I am done though, if you don’t mind, I have one question for you. It’s very important to me to be able to get another opinion from someone who can look at this situation objectively. Ready? Okay.

Consider this. Oh, I forgot. Sorry. My name is Two-Tone Tony. No, that’s not the one my old mama put on me, but it’s the one I go by. You can call me Two-Tone. Where did that come from? Some kids when they’re growing up, they’re watching cartoons, but not me. No. I was a different kind of kid. I watched every gangster movie that I could find. Yes, I said gangsters. I thought they were the luckiest guys on the planet. They were always dressed in expensive suits, had diamond pinkie rings, gorgeous dames on their arms, and special shoes.

Special shoes, you ask? Yes. They always had on shoes that cost more than my Pops earned in a month. And the shine? It was like they were walking around with mirrors on their feet. I made up my mind that if I were ever that loaded, I would wear shoes like they did. Mine wouldn’t be just one color though; mine would be two, like black and brown, or beige and tan – you get the idea. Mama gave me the Tony part, and the people in our neighborhood added the Two-Tone part. I knew with that handle, I could get what the gangsters had. The money, the dames, and most of all, the respect. That was the biggest draw for me. The respect.

You don’t call it respect? What do you think it was? Fear? You’re probably right about that. All right, maybe everybody in the neighborhood was afraid of them. But I still believe you can throw respect in there, because respect was what I had for every one of them. When I got older, I realized that I had real gangsters right in my own neighborhood. I saw what they did and what they had, and I wanted to be one of them. Big Belly Bob ran our neighborhood, and my old mama would invite him in for coffee when he walked through his territory. I asked her why she gave him cakes and lit candles for him in church, and she said it was out of respect. See? Respect.

Fast forward to now. I ended up working for Big Belly Bob. Don’t get the wrong idea about him. There’s no ‘shakes-like-a-bowl-full-of-jelly’ about Bob. He’s no Santa. He’s big, he’s tough, and he’s as hard as they come. But, if you do what you’re supposed to, you get paid, and his guys protect your family. Good deal, right? I used to think so, but thinking about how much green he was raking in, I began to want more. Now, mine was not a job where you get reviewed and then get a raise every year. I got paid what Big Belly Bob wanted to pay me, and not a penny more. It was okay with me at the start, but over time, it started bothering me that he was sitting back and taking it all in, while I was the one out there doing all the work.

I was a collector. Folks owed Big Belly Bob money every week. I collected it on Saturday mornings from everybody on my route, tallied it up, and laid it all at Triple B’s feet. Literally. That’s the way he liked it. We all had to do that. Sound like harassment of your employees? Yep. But, remember, we had no HR Department to complain to. Anyway, not making a cent more than when I started, I felt unappreciated and took a little bit of cash from each case I picked up one Saturday. I brought them to Triple B, handed him the tally sheets that I had made up, and went on my way. A couple of hours later, his guys paid me a visit and asked where’s the cash I took? Of course, I said, what? I wouldn’t… That’s as far as I got. Turned out that lately, Bob’s been double-checking counts against what folks owed, what they said they paid and… You get the picture.

So, here’s my question. I’ve worked for Bob for years, and I was honest and loyal, and never said a harsh word to or about him. Yes, I skimmed a bit of his cash off the top, but it was only one time, and I was never going to do it again. If you were Bob and you found out what I did, would you put the hit on me? You would? Wait a minute. Remember the bit about honest and loyal. Now, I’ll ask again. Would you order a hit? Yes? Huh…

Thanks for listening, but you probably have somewhere to be. Besides, the garbage truck’s coming to pick up this dumpster I’m hog-tied in. The driver won’t see me fall in the back because it’s all done automatic, you see. I’ll be in the middle of the landfill by supper time – me and the can of grape soda somebody rudely tossed in. I hear the truck coming. What? Thanks for your concern, but don’t worry about me. I knew the score when I took the job. One thing upsets me though. I’ve got new shoes on. Got them this morning. Navy and sky. Classy. Expensive. Now they’re all sticky with grape soda…

Friday, June 14, 2019

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 24 - The Road Ahead






This week's prompt was to click on Random Street View to get a snapshot of a random place, and build our story around the view we get. This is the view I got, and it inspired me to look ahead at what could be, rather than at what was. My story is a bit over the 1,000 word mark. It's 1,106 actually, but I snipped it down as far as I could and I'm going to let it stand. I hope you enjoy it.

The Road Ahead

Where am I going? I can’t say. It isn’t that I don’t want to say, it’s that I don’t know. What’s more, I don’t care. As I look out my window, all I see are empty fields that border a long, and even emptier, road. This bus only goes by our farm every month or so – sometimes several months go by. There’s only one other farm out this way for miles besides Jack’s and mine, and somehow, Greyhound knows none of us are ever going anywhere, so why waste the gas? Today though, it not only came by, it stopped. The driver saw me running toward the road. I was still pretty close to the house, so I was lucky the driver saw me at all. I started waving my Bible – that’s all I was carrying, and he pulled over, and opened the door. I wanted to kiss him for it, but I didn’t. How could he possibly understand? How could he possibly know he saved me?

I should have started at the beginning. This morning… I know what you’re thinking. You’re only going back that far? I thought you said you’d start at the beginning. Well, there’s no need to go back any farther since all my mornings are exactly the same, and have been exactly the same for the past eleven years. I’m supposed to get up before the sun, go feed the chickens, and collect eggs from the coop. Then, I’m supposed to make breakfast. I’m supposed to make eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast, coffee, and then I’m supposed to… Wait. Something doesn’t sound quite right to me. Does it sound quite right to you? I never said what I do every morning. I said what I’m supposed to do every morning. Jack told me right from the start that there’s things I’m supposed to do every day. If I don’t do them, I’m supposed to be punished. Wow. I’m saying ‘supposed to’ a lot, aren’t I? See the problem?

I knew how it would be from when I walked out of the church. Jack and me didn’t go for any honeymoon because Jack said that was a waste. Now that I was a wife, I didn’t need to be going on any fancy vacations where folks did for me. Now that I was a wife, it was me that should be doing. You may be asking yourself, why would you go along with an arrangement like that? I went along because that’s the way of the world; at least, that what I believed. Growing up, my mama did for my father each and every day until he buried her. Then, I did for him each and every day until Jack took me away from that life. Of course, my new life as a wife was to do for Jack each and every day until he buried me. If I ever had a daughter, then she would… See the problem?

It’s funny how we get caught up. Me, my mama, her mama before her, and her mama… You might be thinking I’ve just gone along and only woke up five minutes ago. No. I’ve been planning my escape for a long time, but my warden was always right with me. He was always watching, always checking, always… But, you know, there’s a few minutes each day where you’ve got a few seconds to yourself, and that’s all I needed. I was never allowed to leave the farm. It wasn’t my job to go to town. Jack went, and did the shopping, and sometimes, he’d have beers with his friends at the tavern. It wouldn’t have done me any good to go to town since I didn’t have any friends to go to a tavern with anyway.

Whenever he left, I’d go through everything to find the money he hid. He told me he had money, but I wasn’t supposed to touch it. ‘Supposed to’. I’m really hating those words now. Anyhow, I found where he hid it and took some. Not a lot. I didn’t want him to notice because my punishment would have been really bad. My daily punishment was bad, but not really bad. A few slaps, and sometimes, I got punched to the floor, but I always managed to get up. If I didn’t cry, he’d stop. That’s a good thing, right? Back to the money, I hid what I found in my Bible. I knew it was safe there because Jack wouldn’t put his hands on the Good Book. Personally, I believe if he did, he’d burst into flames. Ha! Oh no. Did Jack hear me laugh? I can’t let him hear… Wait. He’s back at the house, so HA! I’d better stop. The other folks on this bus are staring at the woman with the messy hair, bloody cheek, wearing a dress torn at the shoulder, carrying a Bible…

I’ve gone off the track, but I thought you needed some background. So, today? Jack went to town, so I was looking to take a bit more cash and then I’d be ready to find a way to leave. Turns out, Jack lied about going to town. I wasn’t paying attention – I slipped up, and he came in and caught me. I braced myself for a punch – that’s probably what I deserved for that, but he grabbed his shotgun and pointed it at me. He told me today was my last and pulled the trigger. That surprised me. If I got buried, who he’d get to feed the chickens, collect the eggs, cook his… I’m worrying about how Jack would get by after he buried me. See the problem?

The shotgun didn’t fire, and Jack started to cry. Cry. I felt bad for him. I almost went over and put my arms around him for comfort. I mean, that’s what I’m supposed to… No. What I was supposed to do was grab my Bible and run like Hell toward the road, and that’s what I did. Cars never come by out here, and town is miles away, but I figured I’d run until I dropped. If today was going to be my last, it would my last on my terms – not Jack’s. Like I said at the start, I saw the Greyhound and started waving. The driver stopped, I got on, paid to get to the terminal in the next county, and from there? I have no clue. I have no other clothes either. Or skills. Or friends. Or family… All I’ve got is me, my Bible, and a few more twenties. See the problem? Me either!