Short Story: Mordred

When first I arrived, they made believe at being happy. Living meaningless lives, doing trivial deeds for small moments of levity. Truly loving no one but themselves. In their vanity, they all looked right through me, as if I were nothing more than metaphysical dust, sprinkled far and loose in the dark unseen spaces.

So I took away the sun.

Their reaction was swift, yet impotent. And how could it be anything more? They cannot fight what they do not see. What they do not even truly believe.

They came in droves with their war machines, wasting away their precious fuels in search of a cosmic Kraken. They found only death. Of course, they did not need me to serve it. I merely laughed at their impudence.

Such pathetic creatures, with their weapons of carbon and metal. What are these to me? A joke. Nothing more.

But I was merciful. I left them light, though it was a dark, bleak memory of sunshine. And I left them heat, though it was a faint cousin of warmth.

Their world grew cold, dark, and withdrawn.

For a time, there was respect. And for respect, properly shown, I do grant small favors. I am not unkind. A precious few became my blessed ones. I gave them far-seeing eyes, with which to enjoy the slow death-march of their kind.

But in others, there remained discontent. After several centuries, they adapted their infantile technology in an absurd attempt to master their lessened world. For them, their achievements were remarkable. Their lives approached a past normalcy and I was nearly forgotten.

So I took away the rest of the fuel.

How amusing, as the once-proud masses huddled in their once-proud homes for some last vestige of warmth. Seeking refuge from an unforgiving landscape in the only way they remembered how. Many did not remember. Their hands and their minds were too soft, and they withered away on the vine of their former lives.

But I am not unforgiving. I left them their wind. How amusing to watch their futile attempts to capture its energy, to warm themselves by the very thing making them cold.

For a time, their fear sustained them. A few blessed ones again found small favors of my affection. To them I granted heightened hearing, so that they could delight in the death-rattle of industry.

For a millennium, the tales of my power rang strong and true. Until an insolent few found their errant courage again. Though they did not know my name, they sailed out in massive ships of wood to lay me low, with vague ideas of recapturing their pathetic former glory. They screamed at the skies and stabbed with their knives. How silly they are. I stagnated the wind, but they rowed on. In search of what? Death? I was happy to provide it. But only on my terms.

So I poisoned the great seas.

I watched with rapturous delight as their boats slowly sprang leaks, disintegrated by the acidwater. They sank as they rowed to nowhere, and their cries of anguish turned to shrieks of pain and terror as their flesh melted away into the once life-giving water.

Those left behind on the shores were mostly the young, the weak, the infirm. Driven by the stagnant, fetid air and the evil waters, they sought shelter, cowering in the deep crypts of the world. There, they felt safe. Protected from the soured world by their comforting walls of dirt. So there I left them, minds and bodies rotting while they repented.

And I am merciful. I did not sentence them to death. I left them their underground aquifers.

For a time, there was respect. To a blessed few I granted unnatural sense of smell, so that they may sniff out the last gasps of civilization, and watch as it crumbled.

After two millennia, they again forgot my lessons. A few dug deep into the ground, hoping to find me unawares. They had not lost their senses of humor. I let them dig for a long time, enjoying the show as they dug tunnels deep, far, and wide. Rudimentary tools and conviction they had, but it was a slow affair, with thousands of meaningless deaths. At length, I grew bored of their pointless display.

So I sent the worms.

Great monstrous beasts of slime, hair, and scales, they woke from the depths and swallowed everything in their paths. The degenerates were driven from their precious earthen holes and back into the fetid air from which they’d sheltered. They found the air thick, and impenetrable. Many perished, lungs unable to cope with the prolonged effort.

But I am not unmerciful. I left their bodies intact, with which to enjoy the bleak, poisoned world that I allowed them to keep, in my generosity. To properly take in the fruits of their foul efforts against me.

But still some looked with disdain on the landscape. Unable to appreciate the world I had left them. They were blind to the brilliant gift of life that I allowed.

So I took their eyes.

How hilarious their dead, milky orbs looked, gazing aimlessly about. They would see no more. Do not think me unkind. I left them their ears, with which to hear each other speak to my glory.

But still some spoke out against me. Seeking to do with words what their creations could not. To defile my aura.

So I took their tongues.

I observed their sightless stumbles and as their shapeless cries of anguish faded into shapeless resigned mumbles, I knew that they had finally learned.

Then, they knew me as Mother.

(Originally posted on Geeks and Geeklets)

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Snowbound

2/16/16

I think I’m okay. For a little while longer, at least. My fingers are basically frozen from all of this digging, so I’m attempting to thaw them  by writing. Who knows? Maybe these will be my final words. If someone finds this without me, just know that I believe I did the best I could, under the circumstances.

I guess I should begin with what happened.

Long story short, there was an avalanche a few days ago, and I might be just about completely screwed.

Technically, I guess it began while I was asleep, but all I remember is dreaming of a distant rumble, like a far-off lightning storm that grew steadily louder, until suddenly I was screaming and trying to get away from the bunk bed amid a crash of rending wood and obliterated rusty nails. Sort of like a much worse version of the nightmare where you’re falling from a cliff, and you wake up when you brace for impact and bounce yourself off the bed. Yeah. But way scarier, because I woke up with my right ankle crushed under the weight of the top bunk, which had, in turn, been demolished by the weight of a collapsing roof and several tons of snow. I’m pretty sure my ankle is broken. I can’t put any weight on it, whatsoever.

Slowly, painfully, I maneuvered my foot out from under the bed, and dragged myself over toward the front door, and the main light switch for the cabin. I made it to the wall, climbed up on my good foot and flicked the switch, but nothing happened. Since then, I’ve come to realize that the generator must have been knocked loose in the crash, and even if it hadn’t been, I don’t think gas generators work long without oxygen.

I made my way over to the utility sink and found a flashlight, and then I realized how lucky (relatively speaking) I really was. The roof had collapsed in the corner of the cabin over the bunkbed, and the uphill-facing wall under the collapsed roof was also bowing inward dangerously; in fact, several boards in the wall appeared to have splintered inward.

Things are still creaking suspiciously, and I have no idea how stable the walls and ceiling really are. Anyway, the structural integrity of the house (or my ankle – ha-ha) isn’t so much my immediate concern. It’s about 2 pm, and there is no daylight coming in here from any direction, meaning I am basically frozen underground, on the side of a damn mountain.

I still can’t believe how lucky I was to have slept on the bottom bunk of that damned bunk bed. If I’d chosen the top, I would have been crushed completely, from the weight of the roof beams and snow crashing down on me. Broken ankle and all, it could have been much, much worse.

I don’t know what happened to Mike. The good news is he was not in the top bunk when all of this happened. The bad news is that he’s also not in the cabin with me. I wonder if he made a late night trip out to the outhouse. He said he was feeling a little ill last night. Jesus, I hope he’s okay, but I’m beyond worried. That outhouse isn’t much more than a glorified lean-to.

Now I am doing what I can to try dig out with this bum ankle before I freeze or suffocate or starve or God knows what else. Speaking of.

 

2/18/16

It was a long, painful process, but I’ve tunneled my way to air. That’s the good news. I don’t know if I really would have suffocated, but I won’t now.

Bad news: roughly speaking, I think about 9 feet of snow are currently sitting on the roof, and all I can see around the cabin are a few trees, meaning my car and the path of a “driveway” leading here are completely under snow. I’m not getting out of here anytime soon, unless someone thinks to check on me. I’ve spread out some orange hunting vests around the entrance to my tunnel.

I’m beyond worried about Mike. I don’t think he made it. I don’t see any sign of him out there, and it’s been too cold to last long in the elements.

 

2/19/16

Food stores are running low. We were only planning to hunt out here for a couple days, and it was two days already when the avalanche hit. Fortunately, there were a few cans of vegetables and some white rice stored away. I found a mini Coleman stove and some kerosene containers under the sink that I could use to boil the rice with some melted snow. I’ve been stretching it out as long as possible, but it won’t last much longer.

I’m tired of being cold all the time, but if I wrap myself up in all of the blankets in the cabin, it’s not too bad. Snow insulates the cabin pretty well.

 

2/21/16

I found a deer Mike shot! Can’t believe I forgot about it. I guess it slipped my mind in all the confusion from the avalanche and worrying about Mike. I was digging behind the cabin to find the generator and I basically ran into it. Generator is completely wrecked, but that’s okay! I have food! I cut off some meat, and I was able to cook a decent portion using the mini stove. I’ve never tasted anything so good. I feel guilty because it was Mike’s kill, but he’d want me to survive, of course.

 

2/23/16

I’m finding it hard to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time. I keep hearing noises and wake up seeing Mike standing over the bed, nearly frozen solid, but that’s not possible. I think it’s the loneliness getting to me.

 

2/24/16

I KNEW I was hearing voices yesterday. i went out to the end of the tunnel and almost had a heart attack at what I saw. There were streaks of blood in the snow. not a lot of blood, but it was unmistakeable. And lots of Footprints. Some don’t look like mine. I saw one line of prints leading away from the Cabin, and I tried to drag myself out after them, but I lost them in a snow drift. i’m scared. I don’t know who is out there or What they want from me. I just want out of here.

 

2/25/16

still no sign of my “intruder.” I’ve got both my rifle and mike’s ready in case they try to come in. i strung up the empty veggie cans in the tunnel to alert me of any movement. Let’s see them try! HA!

 

2/26/16

i’ve accepted now that the avalanche wasn’t an accident at all. someone wanted me Here. It’s too convenient. stranded with No supplies. they didn’t know how resourceful I cold be. How prepared. maybe it was Mike! HE could be the one out there, just waiting for me to slip up. thinking about it, he WAS acting weird that day. I’ll be ready.

 

2/27/16

feeeeeel the heaaaat Burnin you up some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on bumbum dadada dumdumbumbum BUM 400 degrees that’s why they call me mr. fairin’ hite. burnin at the speed of lighhht i’ll make a supersonic man out of youuu like pina coladaas and gettin caught in the rainnn singinnn in the rainnn i’m sinnngin in the rain what a wonderful feelin im happy againnn im lo

what was that?

— — —

 

News column from The Gazette, Tuesday, March 1, 2016

GRUESOME SCENE UNCOVERED FOLLOWING AVALANCHE

Hinsdale County, Co – State police were called in after a local logger was nearly shot while attempting to clear an access path following an avalanche. Police say that Gunnison man Jacob Grimes, 36, was quickly disarmed by the logging crew, but the subsequent investigation uncovered disturbing details regarding Grimes’ apparent activities leading up to his arrest.

In a nearby cabin buried in the avalanche, police found the body of Michael Calhoun, 38, of Grand Junction. A police spokesman states that Calhoun’s cause of death is currently unknown, but it appears that large sections of flesh are missing from his body and unaccounted for.

When asked whether foul play is suspected, police  state only that the investigation is ongoing and Grimes is currently a person of interest.

Grimes has retained defense counsel. According to his attorney, “my client is currently in a state of extreme distress related to the extreme nature of his isolation and the recent death of his good, close friend, Michael Calhoun. He and his family would appreciate respect of his privacy during his journey to recovery from this tragic ordeal.

The Gazette will continue to monitor this story as more information becomes available.

(Originally posted on Geeks and Geeklets. Also check out this awesome narration by Kalabajooie)

Short Story: Field of Bad Dreams

Mitchell dreamt that he was rising slowly through a long, dark tunnel, surrounded by uneven walls painted with viscous, slimy gray mud, blistered frequently by ugly outcroppings of jagged rock. He tried to remember how he’d arrived there, but the beginning of the tunnel was nothing but a dark pit in his mind’s eye. As he gazed at the walls around him, he thought he could make out faces in the mud. Were those smiles or grimaces? Laughing faces or screaming? As he gazed closer, the faces seemed to melt back into the walls, or perhaps they were never really there at all.

At length, Mitchell began to perceive that the walls were growing lighter, and the faces disappeared with the murk. Mitchell began to make out a light at the end of the tunnel, but he also felt as if the light was beginning to emanate from the walls. The air grew warmer, tickling his back and sides as it pushed from beneath. The tickling became more forceful until Mitchell decided it wasn’t really tickling anymore. It was more like scratching. He wanted the scratching to stop, even as an itching sensation came on that demanded it. These sensations intensified as the light brightened, blinding him so he could no longer make out the walls at all.

Mitchell woke up. Blue skies above, broken by bright, fluffy clouds. The sun was high in the sky.

What the fuck?

He didn’t say it, because he wasn’t really capable of speech at that moment. Or any physical movement, really. Mitchell’s head was wrecked with a pain he rated equivalent to a face-melting brain-freeze, coupled with a hundred cataclysmic collisions of rusty nails and chalky blackboards.

What the hell happened last night?

This train of thought quickly went off the rails as Mitchell took in more pressing matters, like what the hell was happening now. Mitchell was surrounded by nothing but a forest of wheat, rising green and tan several feet above his prostrate body. Mitchell took this moment to recognize that hay, for all its appearances as a delightful, soft bed to lay among, is incredibly itchy. Mitchell next recognized that the reason he was acutely aware of this at this moment was because he had no clothes on.

Mitchell lay, naked as the day he was born, in what appeared to be a wheat field, in the middle of the day, with a pounding headache, and no idea how he had arrived in this compromising position. And, to his dawning horror, he was unable to move a muscle, apart from his eyeballs and eyelids.

Am I paralyzed?

Mitchell summoned all of his current available focus and willpower into an effort to move his left big toe. After 20 seconds of strenuous effort, he felt his toe wiggle, and relief flooded his mind, only to be quickly replaced by a resurgence in his splitting headache. Mitchell’s world swam for a moment, and he shut his eyes to compose himself.

Seriously, what the hell happened last night?

Mitchell racked his brain for answers, but his brain felt sludgy, and every time he felt like he was getting close to something, it slipped through his fingers, and he was fumbling in the dark to hold on. He’d met Parker and Mike for dinner, and they’d stayed for drinks afterward.

A girl?

He could picture dark hair, smoky eyes, a slight smile that curved slyly from only the left side of her lips. But he didn’t recognize her. No name appeared out the murk to attach itself to her, and when he tried to focus on more distinguishing features, she swam away from him. She’d been wearing a blue dress. Or was it a blouse? Purple?

Shit, what does it matter? There’s this naked in a field thing to consider. Yeah. About that.

Mitchell wasn’t sure, but he thought he could feel sensations of pins and needles gathering in his toes. He was considering whether it would be preferable to wait until he regained his faculties enough to search about for something to cover himself with, or for someone to come across him as he lay there helpless and offer help. Just about at this moment, Mitchell heard a low rumble in the distance.

Oh. Wonderful. Someone is working nearby. Maybe they’ll come across me and have pity.

Mitchell’s thoughts returned to last night. He definitely drank too much last night. No matter what came of this awkward situation, that much was clear. He cringed inwardly as he pictured the annoyed looks from across the bar as he yelled something inane to Parker and Mike. He had a propensity to get a little loud when he drank, and this had been a particularly long week at work, so he’d felt like blowing off steam. Mitchell reflected that he may have been a little out of control, but it still didn’t explain his present situation.

Who was that girl?

He remembered Parker frowning at both him and Mike as they observed the “hottie” at the bar. Felt her look of disapproval, as he knew the word SLUT was virtually emblazoned above the woman’s head, in Parker’s eyes, at least. Mitchell knew it was her protective nature. Mike met lots of women; he knew what to look out for, and how to handle conversations with a certain type. Mitchell was not so suave. His few success stories had been rare instances where he blundered his way into a relationship with a girl he was already friendly with. As it had been with Parker, last year, before that flamed out spectacularly. Mitchell and Mike both spent months repairing that particular bridge. They’d all known each other for years, and it didn’t make sense for their friendship to end just because Mitchell was sometimes stupid and insensitive. They all knew he was stupid and insensitive. They also all knew that he usually meant well. So, eventually they’d all started hanging out again, and here they were. Parker knew Mitchell was likely to strike out, and be hurt about it for days afterward, and she looked unhappy as he clearly began to gather courage for an approach. She’d been staring at him that way, as he took a sip of his cheap, bitter beer.

It had gone well, though, hadn’t it?

He could picture himself talking to the girl, so he didn’t think she brushed him off. She’d SMILED at him. That alone was a much more positive sign than usual.

That noise is getting closer. Someone really may be on their way over.

That was good, because although Mitchell could now move all of his toes with relative ease, the pins and needles were only just traveling up his calves, and he could do little more than lay there and think about what he had done. The girl had told him, what? She was a nurse? No. Teacher? Maybe. That seemed vaguely familiar. Mitchell could picture himself making some lame joke about her having summers off, something he knew wasn’t funny, or even really appreciated, but he’d said it anyway because he was nervous and couldn’t think of anything else to say about it. If he didn’t go with that line, it would have been something similarly tone-deaf and vapid. He remembered a weak, polite smile. Why did he have to be drunk to approach a girl? He always ended up getting his words twisted, and saying something inadvertently offensive. Had he pissed off the wrong person? Maybe her boyfriend had walked over and gotten offended that he was trying to pick her up? Maybe she slipped him something when he wasn’t looking. But what could he have possibly said to lead him that far astray?

That noise is either getting much closer, or it is much louder than I previously thought, or both.

Mitchell inexplicably began thinking of Superman 2. It was an old movie, but it had always resonated with Mitchell. He could relate to Superman’s desire to stop being the hero. To just be Clark Kent, and run away with Lois Lane. Mitchell often wished he could step out of his own skin and live his life differently, but he was always drawn back into his old behavior patterns, reluctantly, but willingly. Truth be told, it wasn’t Mitchell’s favorite Superman movie. He’d found Superman’s fate a little too uncomfortably predetermined. Superman 3 was more his speed. The ridiculous plot and Richard Pryor’s sense of humor added a bit of levity that Mitchell thought Superman 2 lacked. He also especially liked the scenes where Superman fought himself, and the scene where Superman saved little Ricky from the farm combine’s sharp oncoming blades.

Hm. Farm equipment is really dangerous, especially when one is laying exposed like I am, right now.

Mitchell felt a sheen of sweat break out on his skin, and it had nothing to do with the rising temperature under the hot sun shining high overhead. That noise was still growing louder, and suddenly Mitchell was very sure he did not want to be laying there in that field, for any length of time. He struggled to move his legs, but he could not turn himself over. He struggled harder, but movement was slow, and resisting, like in a nightmare in which he was chased by a monster but kept losing his footing even though he desperately needed to gain speed and break away.

I wish Parker was here. She’d probably know exactly what that machine was and set my mind at ease.

Parker talked frequently about a farm she used to visit when she was young. It was a big operation that her grandfather worked on weekends for extra cash, and he’d taken her along often to ride with him while he manned the farm equipment.

Mitchell couldn’t help reminiscing. He had really liked Parker, once. But, hoo boy, had he screwed that one up. He remembered her face that one night, after he’d gotten too drunk at the bar with Mike and Eric, and Mike had pulled him out of the bar by his collar when he found him making out with a random girl in the corner of the bar. He was sure Mike was about to punch him, and was bracing for it right up until he puked in the middle of the sidewalk. Mitchell was delivered, blubbering, on Parker’s doorstep, but there was no undoing it. Mike didn’t talk to him again until a few weeks afterward, after Mitchell had hounded both him and Parker for forgiveness incessantly. Still, that was the end of Mitchell and Parker, as an item.

Less thinking, more moving. That roar is getting louder.

Actually, Mitchell thought he could feel rumbling from the ground beneath him, and the air seemed to be humming with movement. He could smell the familiar odor of freshly cut grass, but while this smell usually brought him nostalgic memories of summer football camps, he felt nothing of the sort now. That smell meant something was cutting. And he was lying in its path. Mitchell tried to yell, but heard and felt only a weak groan emit from his chest.

Shit. No one is ever going to hear that.

With an immense exertion, Mitchell twisted his torso to the left, and then lay there, gasping, as he collected himself to move again. As he twisted onto the fresh hay beside him, he was reminded of the itching and scratching against his naked skin, and looked down at the ground, as he did so, what he saw made his blood run cold.

Written in red lipstick on Mitchell’s chest: “Nobody cheats on me. Ever. – PJ”

Parker Jacobs. No. Nonononono.

Mitchell, dumbstruck, thought back to last night, and the months leading up to it, and wondered how he possibly could have missed the signals.

Does Mike know I’m here?

He wondered whether his beer had been a little extra bitter-tasting as he walked away from Parker’s table, or if he’d simply gotten too drunk and passed out on his feet, possibly for the last time.

Mitchell’s heart racing, he found muscles he thought he’d lost contact with, and began to thrash on the ground. The sound in his ears from the farm equipment was almost deafening now, and Mitchell pictured a combine thrashing through his feet like so much butter, and churning up across his body until there was nothing but a mangled mess where the message was now written across his chest.

Mitchell felt the air swirling from the blades of the machine near his feet. With a final exhausted effort, as loud as he could possibly muster, Mitchell screamed, “HEEEEELP!”

As the toes on his left foot were neatly sliced off, Mitchell thought he heard a dip in the engine, as if it might be slowing, or turning off. He was hopeful as he lost consciousness, and slumped limply into the wheat laying beneath him.

(Originally published on Geeks and Geeklets)

Ancient History: Short Story: Swing Away

 

This story was an assignment in my Southern Writers English course at Westminster College. It was a two-part assignment. Part one was to carry a camera around with me and try my hand at taking pretty photos. Behold the spectacular quality of my camera and camerawork below. Anyway, part two was to find inspiration from one of my pictures and create a short story to go with it. Here it is.

Digital Camera

 

That swing still has an aura, even after thirty years. Real or imagined, everything just seems… lighter when I’m there. To you it may be just some broken down old swing, but to me, that swing is the beginning and the end of the world.

At first it was just my swing. Dad built it for me himself, so I could play and watch for him to come home from a long day of work at the farm. He was a teacher, but he took care of the farm in the summer. He said working hard all year kept him young. I just loved sitting there in the shade by myself, swinging lazily as the cows slowly moved and laid down in the sun. Sometimes I’d watch with jealousy as they waded into the pond to cool off in the muggy heat of a Western Pennsylvania August.

Even then, I knew I was lucky. Most kids had to wait all day for their fathers to come home from work, exhausted from another day at the Mill, or drained from the toils of the office. I got to see my dad all day in the summer, as he painted a new coat of deep red on the barn, or drove the tractor back and forth through the fields, cutting down row after row of hay. Every time I saw his blue ’57 Chevy rolling back down the road, I rushed inside. He must have been so tired in the evenings, but he never failed to give me a big smile and hold me on his knee. “How was your day, Maggie?” he’d ask, knowing full well that I’d been on the swing watching the farm since he’d been gone.

“Pretty good, daddy,” was my canned reply.

When my little brother was born, I was afraid to lose this attention. I didn’t hide it very well either. When Mom told me she was pregnant, I tearfully ran straight to my room and threw my head under my heavy down pillow. Mom lifted the pillow from my head and looked knowingly at me with her deep brown eyes. “You know, Maggie, it’s going to be just like having a new friend who looks up to you.”

“It’s gonna take all your attention,” I said.

“Don’t be silly, Maggie. We’ll love you every bit as much when she gets here. Look at it this way: you’ll have someone to play with all the time when I’m busy, and you’ll get to hold her, and look after her, and she’s going to look up to you for advice.” At this I smiled. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be an older sister after all.

As it turned out, Mom had a boy. They named him Kevin. True to Mom’s word, I got to hold and try to feed Kevin when he was just a cute little baby. As he started to get older we became nearly inseparable. In the winter we’d walk past the swing with our wooden toboggan on the way to the steep hill of the farm across the street. Usually I pushed, jumping on the back just in time, as snow flew by us in the wind. Occasionally, Kevin asked me to ride in the front, because it was “so much faster with me weighing down the front of the sled.” I punched him in the arm but complied, knowing he meant nothing by it.

In the summer, we both went out to the old swing to watch Dad work; picking corn, or mucking out the wagon that the cows ate hay from in the winter months. I tried to tell Kevin about the world, me at the wise old age of 12, while Kevin asked me again and again to push him higher.

“I wanna touch the sky,” he’d say, short blonde hair blowing in the wind. “Don’cha wish you could fly?”

Ignoring his question, I chose to impart some recently learned wisdom. “When you get to sixth grade, things are different. Boys and girls hafta sit at different sides of the table.”

“Mom and dad don’t sit at different sides of the table.”

“That’s cuz they’re married, stupid. When you’re married you’re allowed again.”

“Oh.” He looked out at the farm with Dad’s piercing blue eyes, working it over in his head. “Things must get confusing when you’re older.”

“Yep, but that’s why you have me to look after you.” Dad was coming home now, so I gave him one giant push. I had to dive out of the way at the last second to avoid a swing in the face. Kevin jumped off and we both lay on the ground, giggling and holding our sides as if they were about to burst open.

I wish that summer could have lasted forever. He never lived through another.

That fall, Kevin began to get weak. One night in October, Mom and Dad watched him nervously as he pushed away another plate of food. Having barely taken three bites, Kevin pronounced himself full.

“Honey, you have to eat. You’re never going to feel stronger if you don’t. Food gives you energy,” Mom insisted.

“I don’t feel good, mom. I was hungry earlier, but I can’t eat anymore,” Kevin replied.

Mom frowned at Dad. They got up from the table and went into the next room. We could hear their muffled voices.

“What do you think they’re talking about in there?” He asked.

“Probably how you’re being such a pain in the butt, complaining all the time when you won’t even eat.”

“I’m just so tired, Mags.”

“Tell you what. If you take two more bites, I’ll throw the rest away and tell Mom and Dad that you finished and went to bed.”

“Thanks Maggie.”

He walked out just as Mom and Dad came back into the kitchen. Mom looked like she was crying. Dad looked flushed. Both of them looked relieved when I told them Kevin finished before he went to sleep.

Two weeks later, Kevin and I were in the back seat of Dad’s Chevrolet, while Mom and Dad rode silently up front. Normally our car rides were fun. We played “I Spy,” and “Categories,” laughing and arguing about the validity of each other’s contributions. This ride was silent, morbid. Dad clutched the wheel tightly and stared at the road while Mom watched him, occasionally glancing back at Kevin, who sat diagonal from her.

Kevin’s pallor had visibly whitened in the past month, though it was hard to tell because everyone was losing their tans. He stared out the window as we passed new churches and houses; they were springing up where there had only been trees before.

“Where are we going, again?” I asked. I had a short attention span.

Exasperated, Mom sighed. “To Dr. Baker’s office. He wants to take a look at Kevin.”

Five minutes later, we were there. Dr. Baker’s office was an addition to the Baker family home. His three-story house had white siding and a wrap-around porch. Directly in front of the stoop, a heavy wooden door led into the house. We walked past it to the opposite side of the porch and opened a white door with a square window.

Dr. Baker sat inside, waiting for us. He was a tall, thin man with a bushy, white mustache that nearly covered his mouth. The mustache gave his face a sad look that belied his generally jovial manner. Kevin was directed to a wooden table with an afghan laid across it. After a series of tests that I didn’t really understand, Dr. Baker very seriously asked Kevin and I to wait inside the house while he talked to Mom and Dad.

When the three of them joined us in the house, Mom was crying. Dad, who never cries, looked on the verge of tears, and Dr. Baker looked sadder than ever. Dad and Dr. Baker sat down on a plaid couch opposite us, while Mom sat next to Kevin with her arm around his shoulders. Dr. Baker began to explain to Kevin that he had Leukemia.

Kevin took it all in like a champion. He looked very scared in Dr. Baker’s house, and continued to for some time afterward, but I never saw him cry. At the time, I thought he didn’t understand. In fact, I don’t think he ever understood; not the way Mom and Dad and I comprehended the situation. On the other hand, maybe it is more appropriate to say that we never knew what was going on the way that Kevin understood.

In the next few months, Kevin became increasingly bed-ridden. Mom and Dad stopped sending him to school after Christmas break, afraid that he might catch something and become even more ill. I knew he was lonely, so I picked out books at school that I thought he’d like and brought them home to read to him. His favorite was the Hobbit. “Will you read it to me again?” He asked me once in February.

“It’s so long, Kevin… How ‘bout one of Grimm’s?” I replied.

“Just read me the part where Bilbo flies with the eagles. That’s all I want to hear.”

I think he loved the idea of such a grand adventure, especially as it now juxtaposed with his condition. So, I read him the chapter. I would have read the whole story for him if he’d only persisted.

He lasted through Easter, although he wasn’t feeling well enough to go to church. One day that spring, when the sun was shining through his window onto his face, I walked into his room to see him looking brighter than normal. His eyes had regained some of their knife-like intensity, and blood that was absent from his face for months seemed to have returned. He hadn’t been outside in 3 months, but he turned to look at me and said simply, “Let’s go out to the swing.”

After bundling him up in a blanket, I helped him outside, doing most of the work. He sat down on the swing, and I pushed him silently as he stared up at the sky.

“I wonder what the clouds feel like. Do you think I’ll ever get to feel them?”

I was crying now, but I tried to stabilize my voice long enough to answer. “I’m sure you will, Kev, up in heaven… clouds will be everywhere.”

Kevin answered in a faraway sort of voice. “I feel like God is watching me, up here, with you… I know I’ll be gone soon, but when I think of flying up high, with God and Grandma, and Grandpa, I’m not afraid anymore.” He turned and smiled at me, and I couldn’t hide my tears. “How about one great big push, Mags? I want to touch the sky.”

Kevin passed out of our lives two weeks later. It is so strange now when I look back to that afternoon. All those summer days, I thought I was teaching Kevin the lessons he would need in life. In the end, he taught me something far greater.

Even now, thirty years later, that swing holds the same vibrancy; luminous with memories. And when I sit down in that chipped, green seat I think of God, and that soaring spirit that Kevin never really let die.

Ancient History: Short Story: Doldrums of Delays

I wrote this while I was bored in the airport coming home from a pre-preseason trip to London with my Westminster College soccer team; I was just trying to write something amusing to keep me occupied.

Doldrums of Delays

I.

Ben Knauff is bored at the Newark International Airport. His flight has been delayed for three hours. Justin Rivas sits before Ben and yawns as he flips through the pages of a UK-Edition Maxim. A brunette model named Sophie graces the cover. To Ben’s left, Samwise impatiently waits for the flight to commence. He has urgent business in Pittsburgh; the Allman Brothers are teaming with Tom Petty for a “CAN’T-MISS” event. Rumor has it that Stevie Nicks may even appear on stage with Petty.

The plight of young Sam is shared by Blake Ordell (sitting to Ben’s right) and Cory Burns and Ande Saporito, who sit at 1:00 and 11:00 respectively. Nick Hoover is talking as usual. In between words he plays with his fingers. Rounding out this group are Garrett Horvath, Keith Little, and Todd Atwood. Todd incessantly types on his phone to an unknown recipient. Garrett and Keith are in the midst of a grueling match of movie wits (by way of a game developed by Nick Hoover). Since Nick is too preoccupied to supply Ben with a name for the game, the author of this tale will henceforth attempt an explanation of the rules: One player names a movie at random, after which the subsequent player/team must supply the name of an actor in the movie. The first player then has to supply another movie that said actor appears in. The game continues as such until one player “draws a blank.”

The airport seems to vary between stages of unrest. At present it is relatively quiet, but soon the concourse will be crowded once again. The volume of passengers seems to be taking a toll on the terminal, as small articles of trash abound on the blue carpet of gate 108B. Unfortunately, the maintenance lady who just walked by failed to notice the mess. Apparently, she is only paid to maintain the integrity of the trash cans…

Several newcomers have now entered the fray. Nathaniel Gibboney meanders over to Ben and asks him about a “love letter.” Silly man. Also joining the group is Steve Hogya, who views the author of this note with speculative curiousity. Mark Sadler and Girsh Thakar have taken seats in the fringes of the homeward bound group.

As Ben looks around he feels a certain familiarity to this airport. It’s almost intangible, yet present all the same. The gates are incredibly similar to their counterparts at Pittsburgh International, the airport from which Ben hails. It brings somewhat of a calmness to his mind, despite the calamity around him. As he gazes at the white walls, moving walkways, and large windows, he feels strangely at ease. That was, until two unexpected events forced Benjamin out of his reverie. Blake struck first, asking Ben to pick up his weighty luggage. Ben agrees, but in doing so loses his state of euphoric relaxation. Keith moves in for the kill, hitting Ben with a barrage of dance moves. Though he was caught unawares, Knauff is able to maintain a modicum of concentration. Soon thereafter he falls back into the lull of familiarity.

 

II.

            After much delay the group has finally found itself seated randomly on a Pittsburgh-bound 727. It seems as though concert and company have decided they must scalp tickets to recoup their money. Illegal! This writer won’t tell though. Ben is receiving far too many compliments for his writing. Someone should probably knock him down like Nate always does. Ben gazes out the window at his right side. The scene seems eternally unchanging: a retracted walkway, a mobile staircase, a tranquil luggage cart, a squat control tower in the distance. Across the aisle to Ben’s left, Garrett worries about his wounded knee while he tries to distract himself by reading a book titled, How to Live the Holy Life. A noble choice.

Meanwhile, Keith has lost himself in the fantasy realm of Ipodia. Who knows what thoughts are coursing through his mind to the gentle tunes of Mike Jones. Atwood has borrowed Ben’s pencil. Ben hopes he doesn’t use too much lead.

The plane finally taxis out to the runway at 7:11 PM. It was a 3:40 flight. Ben is rather distraught, as with each passing moment he is inching closer to a scheduled meeting with his Playstation at 9:00. He’ll probably miss it. In his restlessness, Ben follows Keith’s blank stare to the cracked and grassy runway outside. The scene afforded by the cell-like window is now noticeable different. Several planes seem to be in line for takeoff. Our captain informs us that he is going to try to “bully” his way in, but perhaps we are being bullied out of the way.

Nick lets out a hearty laugh in the back of the plane and proceeds into a joke about two old guys. It is met with scattered laughter.

The plane jolts to a start. Finally, home we come.

Ancient History: Short Story: A Day in the Life of a Dreamer

This was a short story written as part of a final project for a Detective Fiction/Criminalistics cluster course that I took in college. It was based on details from a staged crime scene. My professor said I didn’t focus enough on the parts of the crime scene that I was supposed to. Probably true.

A Day in the Life of a Dreamer

Joel Postema smiled as he backed away from the poker table. It was the last time anyone saw that particular emotion grace his face.

***

Ben Knauff couldn’t believe the scene before his piercing blue eyes. As Chief Investigator of the New Wilmington Police Department, he had never seen a murder case before, let alone a brutal slaying like the one at hand. Pools of Postema’s blood mingled below his body as they drifted together toward a small drain in the center of the courtyard.

Knauff paused to reflect on the events that led him to this point. So often in life things don’t turn out as you plan. Knauff originally wanted to be a lawyer, but after several dull years, he realized that his soul would be better served if he could help people in a more direct way. Investigating was his passion, his be all and end all of human existence. It was perhaps also his bane.

A lonely man, Knauff had never married. He thought he might have loved, but invariably his drive and determination to help people resulted in a whirlwind cycle of pain and regret. Love for him wasn’t meant to be. He had more important things to do.

Knauff gathered his thoughts and pressed his attention back to his work. He closed off the area and began his methodic, concentric search for evidence. A scrap of paper reading “Court Yard 10 pm.” A bottle of Jim Beam. A can of Diet Coke. A bloody knife lying beside Postema’s body. A jack of diamonds that had fallen out of Postema’s pocket. It was missing its face, a hole bored straight through it. Knauff paused to think. The evidence seemed inconsistent and manufactured.

The courtyard was really a small pavilion, the result of two buildings connected by a hallway of classrooms. It was accessible by two sets of double doors on opposite ends of the pavilion, but on one side a sidewalk led straight to the crisp morning air. The bottle of Jim Beam was primarily distracting Knauff. It looked unnatural, nestled in the corner of the lower set of double doors. He dismissed it for the time being but noted that it would have to be analyzed for prints. Too bad. Knauff knew glass surfaces are notoriously difficult for print lifting. He would have to be lucky.

Knauff cautiously collected the peculiar evidence and sent it to the New Wilmington Forensics Lab for testing. He checked his phone for the time. 8:15.

“That’s odd,” he thought.

His phone had no service. Knauff suspected it was a temporary problem. His phone was very unreliable. He would have to track down his suspects in person, not that this was such a bad thing. Knauff had a knack for gathering vast amounts of information about someone before they even had a chance to speak. It scared him sometimes.

He walked to the office of Dr. Ann Murphy. Dr. Murphy was the professor who found Postema in the courtyard. She approached his bleeding body to see if he was ok, but when she touched him, he stiffly slumped over. There was no question about his condition, and in his now prone position several wounds were visible on his back.

Knauff speculated. Postema was found sitting on a bench where both doors were visible. Someone could have snuck up behind him and surprised him via the opening in the courtyard.

“I need more information,” he muttered to himself as he walked in to see a weeping mess of an instructor.

Knauff expected to have a hard time gleaning information, so he was surprised to hear about a secretive poker club called the PPOW. His mind drifted as he began to think of potential scenarios.

“…Dr. Sprow?” Knauff was shaken back to the land of the living by the inquisitiveness of Murphy’s voice.

“Sorry, could you repeat that?” he asked.

“I said I expect you’ll be wanting to get in touch with Dr. Bersett, Professor Garrison, and Dr. Sprow?”

According to Dr. Murphy, they were the only other known members of the club. Apparently, she found out about the members when an email was mistakenly delivered to her inbox. It was a memo from Postema, labeled for Bersett, Garrison, and Sprow. The memo read simply, “5 card stud Apr. 12. Usual place, usual time.”

“Interesting,” Knauff thought. At that moment he would have been willing to bet his entire life savings that the murder was connected to this memo. Then again, he hadn’t saved much.

Knauff thanked Murphy for the information and gave her his card. He walked briskly to the nearest pay phone and alerted the secretaries of the departments that he would need to speak with Bersett, Garrison, and Sprow immediately.

At 9:00 am sharp, Professor Garrison was the last of the suspects to enter the room. Knauff silently shut the door and smiled at the group as they nervously looked at each other.

“You need to tell me what’s going on here, now. I have no reservations about detaining each one of you for suspicion of murder if you don’t tell me exactly what is going on here,” Knauff said solemnly.

Garrison shifted in her seat.

“It’s just a poker club,” she cried. “Joel was kind of our unofficial leader. I hope you don’t think we had something to do with what happened…”

“So, what did happen last night?” Knauff asked.

Garrison was struck silent. Knauff wasn’t sure if it was because her fear had now turned to terror, or if she was just surprised by the bluntness of the question. He guessed the former. Finally, Bersett spoke up.

“It was just a typical game, you know? Joel doesn’t usually fare too well, but last night he mopped up. I lost $100 to him in the final hand of the night, but we all lost big. It was one hand among many,” he explained

His honesty piqued Knauff’s interest, but Knauff decided not to press the issue just yet. He turned to Sprow, who was sporting several red marks around his neck.

“Signs of a struggle?” Knauff wondered.

“Dr. Sprow, where were you at 10 o’clock last night?” Knauff asked.

“I was watching TV with my wife. She may have been taking a shower at that particular time but I’m sure she can substantiate my story,” he firmly replied.

His body language betrayed no sign of dishonesty. Knauff needed some time to think.

“I want all of you to stay in your offices for the rest of the day. I’m going to notify your secretaries that you are not to leave,” he said

After sending them away, Knauff bowed his head in thought. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d already solved the murder; he just had to work out the details. He looked at his phone. Still no service. Knauff walked to the nearest phone and dialed the number for the lab. Mallory Bugel picked up the phone on the second ring. She did it every time.

“New Wilmington Forensics Lab,” she chirped.

“Mallory, its Ben. Do you have any information for me?”

“This evidence is all pretty sketchy, Ben. There is a single fingerprint on the Jim Beam bottle, but I don’t think it’s going to tell us much. I had to fume it to get anything at all. I also ran IR and UV-Vis on the alcohol and soda. They’re both what they should be,” she replied

“Alright, thanks Mallory. My phone’s not getting any service so I’ll check in with you in an hour.”

Knauff was starting to sweat. He wondered if it was the rising heat or the pressure mounting on his shoulders. He walked back to the courtyard to look at the scene. Postema’s body had been removed, but traces of the spilled blood were a grisly reminder of the horrific tragedy. It didn’t take long for Knauff to decide he would really be more comfortable somewhere else. He decided to walk to Bersett’s office so he could begin asking questions individually.

Knauff walked into Bersett’s office to see him rummaging around through his desk.

“Missing something?” he asked.

“Um, well, I thought I had a bottle of Jim Beam in here, you know, for safekeeping.” Bersett sheepishly replied.

“Funny. Dr. Bersett…” Knauff began. “I’ve got to be honest with you. You are pretty high on my list of suspects right now. Is there anything you can tell me about your crones that might help me out?”

“I am not a murderer!” was Bersett’s red-faced reply. “And if you think I’m going to implicate my friends, you can forget it. Anyway, I was at a concert last night after our get-together. Lots of people saw me there.”

Knauff was a little taken back by Bersett’s flaring temper. Why would he be so aggressive if he had nothing to hide? Knauff decided it was probably best to let things cool down. He took a phone number for someone who could corroborate Bersett’s story and stepped out of the office.

Knauff again checked his phone.

“Finally!” he said to himself.

He now had a full four bars of service. As he smiled at his phone it began to vibrate. Incoming call.

“Chief Inspector Knauff,” he said.

“Knauff! Stop calling yourself that. You’re the only friggin’ inspector, and a lousy one at that!”

It was Lieutenant Davoli.

“Who do you think you are, investigating a murder with your phone off?” he continued.

Knauff rolled his eyes. Lieutenant Davoli had no respect for his capabilities as a detective.

“I didn’t have service. What’s the problem?” Knauff replied.

“You’re going to be working in food service if you continue this way. Where have you been?”

“Investigating the case, like any good detective would.”

On the other end of the phone line, Lieutenant Davoli was slamming his phone against his head. He took a while to reply.

“You moron. Dr. Sprow came to the police station with a confession over an hour ago. Have you been badgering suspects all morning?”

“Well…” Knauff stammered

“Sprow’s wife was angry with him for losing so much money. She choked him until he told her he would kill the man responsible. He snuck up behind Postema as he was sitting in the courtyard and stabbed him in the back. Then he planted a bottle of Jim Beam to implicate Bersett. We checked, and what we could glean from the fingerprint on the bottle matched Sprow’s right thumb. Case closed. Come back to the station. I’ve got some papers for you to fill out. God knows you can’t do anything else right.”

Knauff thought he could hear the phone being slammed onto the hook. It was probably just his imagination.

“Ah,” Knauff thought. “Another day, another mystery solved.”

He couldn’t help being a little disappointed, but his mind was at ease. He would get his chance. He could feel it. Knauff walked off in the relentless sunlight of a spring afternoon.

Ancient History: The Music Store: An Epilogue to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

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This story dates back to my Freshman year of college. In my Writing 111 class, in which we read Carson McCullers’ classic novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, I received an assignment with the choice of: a) writing an essay, or b) writing a narrative “before or after Hunter in the life of the character you’ve been studying since Week 3.” In my case, this was the young aspiring musician Mick Kelly, and I chose to briefly check in on her life a few years after the conclusion of the novel.

Please understand that I do not consider this extended ending an improvement on McCullers’ novel in any way whatsoever!

Also, shout out to Ms. Garrison at Westminster College, who assigned this project, and whom I still consider one of my greatest influences on my desire to write. I am very grateful to have fallen into her class Freshman year.

The Music Store

On June 1, 1939, Mick Kelly walked down a Birmingham street on her way to work. Alone with her thoughts and the sounds of the city, she thought about the past five years that led her to this point. After her parents were forced to give up the house, she bought a bus ticket for the farthest distance she could afford and ended up in this Alabama town. Hoping to get a fresh start on her musical career, she found a job at Records and Reeds, a small music store. Unfortunately, the work involved took up so much of her time and paid so poorly that she could do little else but work and sleep. Time went by slowly and miserably. Suddenly, she was seventeen, with no family, no money, a shabby apartment, and no one to go to.

Thirty minutes later, Mick slouched into Records and Reeds. Her brusque manager gave her a cursory glance and a “Hmph,” as he looked back down at the guitar he was patiently stringing. Mick wove her way through the inventory scattered throughout the store. She began her usual task of dusting and cleaning every inch of the place. Mick’s job description was very clear: Clean Everything All The Time. When customers were in the store (which wasn’t often), she was expected to help them find what the needed (not necessarily what they wanted) and then resume her cleaning. Under no circumstances was she allowed to touch the instruments or records, ever. Luckily for Mick, her manager was often outside the store doing errands and looking for instruments and records to bring back to his store at discount prices.

It was during these times that Mick was able to take advantage of her job, and she certainly didn’t let the time go to waste. She usually spent at least an hour every day, either practicing on piano or trying out something new. Several times, her manager had come back earlier than expected. When he caught her, he would deduct the entire day’s pay, something that Mick could not afford to lose. As a result, she was constantly behind with her rent, and her gaunt figure was a sorry sight.

Despite his gruff greeting, her manager was unusually nice all day. “Please help the customers, Mick,” he said with a sympathetic smile. The “customers” were a skinny old man who looked around silently for a few minutes before easing his way out of the store. Nice as he had been, her manager still piled on the work, and Mick was exhausted by the end of the day.

Finishing her nightly chores, she made her way to the back room, where her manager was waiting to pay her for the day’s work. She hoped for her normal pay of $1.50, because her rent was long overdue. As she opened the door, her manager stood in the middle of the room with an envelope. She took it from his hand and found it to reveal a $5.00.

“Why are you giving me this much?” She started to ask, but the words died on her lips. The solemn look on her manager’s face told her everything she needed to know. Her time at Records & Reeds was over.

“The music ain’t sellin’,” her manager said anyway, sensing her question. “Hope this keeps yeh on your feet.”

Tears welling in her eyes, Mick made her way out of the store and back up the street toward her apartment. She walked in the front door of the building to find her landlord seated near the entryway.

“I don’t have my rent right now, but I will very, very soon, I promise,” Mick stammered.

“It’s too late, Mick. You owe me a month and a half, and you haven’t paid me on time in six months!”

“Please, just give me a chance. I just lost my job and I have nowhere to go…”

“I’m sorry. I have to pay my own bills.”

“How long do I have to get my stuff?”

“You can stay until noon tomorrow.”

Mick barely heard her as she brushed past to the staircase. She reached her small apartment and opened the door to find a dark room. She didn’t even bother to light a candle as she made her way through the room to her bed. Burying her face in her flat pillow, she cried herself to sleep.

Mick woke as the sun’s rays began to find their way into her window. Gathering all of her possessions in a small duffel bag, she walked out of her former apartment and building and onto the sidewalk. Glancing left, she turned to the right and walked toward the city limits. She reached the rural areas that surrounded the city by noon. As she walked on beside the road she glanced up to see a signpost reading “Atlanta – 100.”

With her eyes stuck firmly on the ground, Mick raised her thumb in the air. Four cars drove by within an hour, but none slowed. Mick walked on, music playing almost imperceptibly in her head.

Judith (NSFW) by Scott Hess

A self-described “really offensive” short story by Scott Hess. I take no credit or responsibility for the content of this story.

Judith sat there staring at the mailbox through the curtains of her living room window. The smell of rotting meat hung heavy in the air as swarms of flies circled around the piles of moldy-green beef and pork. Like little mountains, the mounds of warm flesh sat there on the filthy carpet surrounded by cigarette butts and crushed Diet Dr. Pepper cans. Judith was panting heavily. Not just because of her obesity but because today was Thursday and that was what Judith called her Meat Day.  “Sorry Mandy Moore I can’t feed ya now it’s my meat day. Gotta watch for the meat man.”  Mandy Moore was Judith’s beloved dog. Judith saw Mandy as a loving pet, but Mandy was more like a prisoner that had mistakenly snuck into the small house through the chimney and had been unable to escape for the last 2 years. Mandy Moore was not named after the singer/actress that Judith was unaware of and was actually a large male raccoon. Mandy led a miserable life. He hated Judith and the Dorito crumbs she fed him. He was never abused by her but the unsanitary conditions were slowly weakening him, poisoning his furry body every day. Mandy often prayed to Raccotrix, the raccoon God for guidance and help to no avail. At this moment Mandy just sat on his shoebox, reading a 1994 People Magazine, harshly judging Judith for the ritual that was about to play out.

For the next 20 minutes Judith nervously drummed her fingers on her sweaty thighs and made small talk with Charvis Brisco, sitting next to her on the sofa. Charvis Brisco was a pile of laundry that Judith thought was a charming Italian Immigrant that married her in the late 80’s. Among her many other issues, Judith had very poor eyesight and thought the soiled linens were a handsome but quiet lover. Mandy was always quite disturbed when Judith interacted with Charvis, especially when she disrobed and made love to him on Monday mornings. Why she never figured out the true nature of her husband, even when she had to reassemble him after love-making remained a mystery that Mandy couldn’t comprehend. On one occasion, while rubbing her genitals against what was once a pair of sweatpants, Judith accidentally moaned the name of another lover “Gubbert” in a moment of ecstasy. When Charvis elicited no response, Judith assumed that he didn’t hear and that she dodged a bullet. Who or what Gubbert actually was remains a mystery to this day, but Mandy vowed never to go near the stuffed SpongeBob ever again.

Around 3 pm the Burton’s Meats truck pulled up and Judith jumped to attention. Caught up in the moment, a dribble of pee escaped Judith and quickly soaked her large diabetic panties. Judith waddled over to the stairs and in her usual manner, closed her eyes and fell down them. She could not think of a quicker and easier way to descend the staircase and her fatty limbs were usually unharmed from the tumble. Today was different however, and Judith broke most of her remaining teeth. Judith didn’t care. She wouldn’t need them for the meat. All that mattered was the meat and getting it right now. She barely even noticed the blood pooling in her mouth.

Just as the deliveryman stepped out of his truck she was there waiting. Hunched over, spitting blood, dripping in sweat and piss she stood before him. “Hello ma’am, is everything ok?” He asked her not out of concern, but out of a morbid curiosity. “Hello Tyrese.. got my meats for me?”  “Yes ma’am, I have a package for you but please call me Thomas. That is my name.” It was then that he began to smell the urine so he quickly ran to the back of the truck, pulled out three boxes and threw them at Judith. “Have a lovely day ma’am” Thomas politely said as he smiled and hurried back into the truck. “Thanks for the meats Jamal!” Judith yelled. She looked down at the boxes but something seemed off. There were three boxes instead of two she regularly got. “Trombone come back, you made a mistake!” She screamed but it was too late. Thomas was already speeding away.

As she sat down on the sofa next to Charvis she picked up the third, smaller box and held it close to her beady little hazy eyes. “Bonus – Free Gift” was printed on the box. “I got a bonus meats Charvis because I’m a good customer!” she explained to Charvis. Mandy stood up and began to walk out of the room. He had seen the ritual before. Too many times.

Judith turned on the stereo and hit play on the Dance Mix cassette that she had re-labeled “Meat Mix”. As the opening chords of Straight Up by Paula Abdul played, Judith was already disrobed and tearing into the first box. “Beef -Assorted Clippings.” She laid there on the sofa completely nude, squealing with glee. Judith filled ever nook and cranny, every flap and roll with various pieces of raw, ground beef. Most of her skin was too greasy for the meat to stick. She had great difficulty getting the filets to stay in her hairy armpits today but wasn’t deterred. The meat ritual was an emotional roller coaster and by the time Step By Step started, she was crying with pieces of ribeye falling out of her vagina. After an hour, Judith stood up and grabbed the second box, “Pork – Soft, Ground”.

Judith laid there in the bathtub. This portion of the ritual was quieter and more peaceful. She inserted her second Meat Mix cassette into the stereo, this one was actually Professor Javier Mesquela’s “Learning Mandarin for Spanish Speakers.” Judith thought the professor’s voice sounded peaceful and it calmed her. Judith took handfuls of the mushy pork and jammed it into her eyes, ears, and nose. She rubbed the pork on her face and into her scalp. It was important for her to become one with the pork. Judith nodded off and urinated on herself once again. She awoke as Professor Mesquela’s Lesson 8 – Adjectivos came to a close.

Feeling refreshed, Judith returned to the living room. Still nude, pieces of the now-warm meats fell from her body to the floor. It was time to see what was in the third box.

Judith slowly opened the cardboard box and peeled back the tissue paper within. A dozen or so small pieces of chocolate was inside with a small note that read, “To our favorite customer. Please enjoy our new, pork truffles”. Judith began to drool a combination of hot slobber and blood from her broken teeth. She grabbed a handful of the candies and shoveled them into her mouth, moaning and gumming them with her tongue. She instantly felt weak and fainted, smashing her head on the coffee table as she fell. A minute later she awoke, choking and struggling to breathe. She grabbed at her chest as her lungs and heart tightened up. Her eyes filled with tears and her stomach was turning in knots. Judith loudly belched, then farted. Violently, gallons of hot, bloody feces shot out of her ass and sprayed the television and recliner behind her. She turned to her side and the shit fountain shot high into the air and covered Charvis who was unfortunately in the splash zone. Judith shrieked and curled into the fetal position as intestines and organs abruptly shot out of her anus and across the room. With a quick jolt and whimper she seized up and died. A small fart crept out and her body laid still.

The sun had set and the house was dark. Mandy picked up the phone and began to dial. “Thomas, it is done. Thank you my angel, I love you.” Thomas replied, “Finally we can be together. You are my stars and moon.” “You are my bright, shining King. You complete me” Mandy said. The two agreed to meet at the rendezvous point, a Denny’s, for coffee and desert. It was over. She was finally dead. Before leaving the house, Mandy knelt before his shrine to Raccotrix and thanked his God for the strength to finally free himself from this nightmare. He held a trinket in his small hand, an amulet depicting the son of Raccotrix… The Great Raccusamal, Opener of Trash Cans and Crosser of Streets. He closed the door behind him, got into Judith’s Ford Taurus, and turned the key. As he looked back through the mirror he started looking forward to his new life with Thomas. The house they would buy in Cape Cod, their children, and growing old together. A tear of happiness fell from his cheek.

The End

Epilogue

Raccotrix looked down upon Mandy Moore and smiled. “Raccusamal, the chosen one is finally free. Tell the others to prepare the relics of Racconsis.” Raccusamal looked up at his father and nodded. “Finally the reign of mankind comes to an end. The day of Racconisence is upon us!” “Not yet, my son there is much work to be done” Raccotrix explained. “Send word to our commanders on earth to gather all of the chocolates and roach poison they can find!  We are now at war!” Raccusamal nodded and began to walk down the golden hallway. He stopped and looked back at his father, perplexed. “Our followers, where will they find the supplies they need to kill the humans?” Raccotrix looked at his son with a knowing smile. “Where else, my dear son… Tell them to look where they have always looked. In the middle of the street.” “Yes of course, father. Of course!”

Little Sisters

Steve knew he wasn’t like most other boys his age growing up. He played sports with his friends, and even occasionally played pretty well in pickup basketball, but his heart really wasn’t in it.

He did better than average in school; just enough A’s and B’s so people knew he was smart, but the occasional C thrown in, so people knew he didn’t try too hard.

He had a few “good” friends, but no one he hung out with every day. He was the type of guy who always seemed to show up at big parties, though no one in particular remembered inviting him, and he never made a big impression. That was the way he liked it. Being at the periphery of the fold rather than right under the bright light focus of his classmates’ lives.

What Steve really loved to do, was to go home after a long day of school, and hang out with his six little sisters.

Most days were sort of a blur of distracted daydreams; cascading fragmented blurs of people and events moving through his conscious thoughts. But at home, after school, he came alive when he saw his little sisters.

Steve didn’t always feel this way. If he was being honest, he’d spent long months being annoyed with his little sisters. When his mom brought them home, he’d first thought they were like ugly, misshapen, little raisin-people. Never doing anything helpful and always taking everyone’s attention.

But, of course, eventually they’d grown on him. Big brothers always come around, at least a little bit. So, eventually he looked forward to it, going home after school and talking to them, hearing their adorable little views on the world, watching TV (not too much, though), playing games, reading books… Mostly Steve read to them, of course, but occasionally he waited patiently as they worked their way through their favorite little girl books. He didn’t care. It was just so nice to spend time with them.

Stella was always talking about some little boy she clearly fancied, and Steve would tease her about it. Sarah was always running around yelling and screaming about God knows what, and loved to play tag. Sam wanted to play sports outside every day her favorite was playing soccer with Steve and her sisters. Sophie liked to sit down and have tea parties. Scout would never stop reading and loved to prove she could read chapter books even though most girls her age could barely read. And Summer was too small to do a lot of things, but mostly she loved walking around in her big brother’s footsteps, whenever he was at home, giggling at his jokes even when she didn’t get them, and screaming with joy when Steve chased her down and tickled her stomach and armpits.

17 years after high school ended, Steve was 35, and considered himself a bit old-fashioned. He wasn’t going to bars every weekend, or trying to flirt with all of his co-workers. If he was being honest, he didn’t really care much for romantic entanglements, female or otherwise. He’d had a few dates over the years, but it never lasted long; certainly not after any more than a few visits to his house. Steve guessed it was probably because he still lived in his parent’s house. Which wasn’t fair really.They didn’t still live there, and it wasn’t his fault he’d been left the property in the will with the market bottomed out. It was insensible to sell it for those prices.

Anyway, it didn’t really matter. Steve would still rather hang out with his sisters almost every day of the week. Just he and his sisters, who were all still as blissfully unattached as Steve was. Except Stella. Occasionally Stella got a little whiny about her lack of prospects, but once Steve reminded her that he was there for her, she usually calmed down.

So, this is still what Steve most looked forward to, almost every day after work. It was his tradition. Just him and his sisters. Against the world. And all of these thoughts were in his head Friday afternoon, as he walked home after another long week. He walked up to his parents’ old squat brick mid-century ranch house, cracked open the glossy brown front door, and tossed his satchel on top of his loafers just inside the door.

Grabbing a Coke from the fridge, he wandered down the hallway to his bedroom and shut the door. Stella was on the shelf over his desk where he’d left her. Frowning, Steve walked over, picked her up, and brushed her sweatshirt back up onto her shoulder. She wasn’t going to be naughty on his watch. He looked down at Sophie, with her tiny tea set, and thought, “this is probably going to be a tea party kind of day.” It was a long week of ponderous meetings at work, and he wasn’t sure he had the energy to keep up with Sam’s games or Sarah’s antics. Scout would probably just sit with her nose in a book no matter what everyone else did, and Summer would do whatever Steve said. So, tea party, it was. Steve picked up Summer, and, after parting her blonde hair just the way he liked it, set her down next to Sophie at the tiny set. Steve walked to the windowsill and changed Sam into her tennis outfit. Then, after handing Scout the next Boxcar Children book, and tucking her into bed next to the lamp, he sat down next to Sophie and Summer at the table.

“Time for gossip,” he said, picking up his pink plastic teacup. “Who’s been bad today?”

(Originally posted on Geeks and Geeklets)

Old Stuff: The Turkey’s Ghost Story

This is the very first story I ever wrote, from 1996 (5th Grade). I’ve only made a couple of light corrections to formatting and grammar. You might be able to tell that I wrote most of it on my way to a Thanksgiving dinner.

Introduction …Well, not really…

            Hi! My name is Big ‘Ol Fat Turkey. I am a Turk. I walk around on my drumsticks. I like to wave my chicken wings as people pass me by. But, I’m not a chicken, remember? I’m a big ‘ol fat turkey. I am Big ‘Ol Fat Turkey to be exact.

Since I’m a big ‘ol fat turkey, I hate Thanksgiving. Hee he he he haaa…ahem. If you believed what I just said, you should get mental help. I’m definitely NOT A TURKEY and I’m certainly not big and fat.

Okay, here’s the story; I’m being held prisoner in Windsor Castle in London, England. I’m writing this story in hopes that you, my lucky reader, will have a chance to save me! Again, if you believed that you should get mental help.

*Knock, Knock, Knock*

Ahh, I guess someone is at the door. Let’s see who it is.

Hello Turkey, Double-O Turkey! Geez, it’s only my neighbor, a secret turkey agent.

*Sigh* By now, if you believed anything I wrote, you should seriously consider getting a new brain.

I’M NOT A TURKEY

I’M NOT A PRISONER

And finally, my neighbor is NOT a secret agent named Double-O Turkey.

My neighbor is really just a normal person, and I, as you should all know, am just an ordinary author named Ben.

~ ~ ~

Interlude

            Does anybody have some Munchos? What? It’s hungrifying writing and reading and never actually writing a story!

Whoa, I just found a sparkly thing. It’s purple and blue.

~ ~ ~

On to the story!

 

Chapter 1: Strange Things

          Tony Malone is a boy in the 4th grade, just like you or me. He is nine years old and he likes to play hockey and football. Tony has a very strong throwing arm, so there is really no explanation for what I am going to tell you.

One day, Tony was playing catch with a football and his brother when strange things started to happen… Tony and his brother had been playing for a while, and they were about to call it quits. Tony threw the ball one last time, and he threw it so hard he felt like his arm was going to come off with it. It was amazing! The ball stopped in midair, then flew back at Tony so fast it knocked him out.

His older brother rushed over, hit him in the chest 10 times, dropped two buckets of water on him, then he smacked Tony across the face a couple times. Tony slowly opened his eyes and said, “OKAY YOU CAN STOP THAT NOW!” Then the football fell out of the air and knocked Tony out again. Tony’s brother was confused, but didn’t have any time to think. Tony was ca Ha-ha, fooled you. I didn’t mean to write that; it was a typo.

 

Chapter 2: The Hospital

            Tony was rushed into the house by his parents and put into his bed. He didn’t become conscious until the next day. When he woke up, he wandered down the hallway to the kitchen. As he was walking into the kitchen, he suddenly reversed course and flew backwards! He was knocked out again. Mr. and Mrs. Malone rushed him to the hospital.

As it turned out, Tony cracked his skull, and broke his right arm and his left leg. He had landed on a hardwood floor, so his parents bought a few rugs to make it softer in case it ever happened again. While Tony was in the hospital, there were two mix-ups. He had his tonsils and his appendix taken out while he was there. Five days later, Tony finally made it home.

Here’s what you probably didn’t know; it was a ghost knocking Tony around, but it never meant to hurt him! I guess you’re wondering? I’ll explain in chapter three.

 

Chapter 3: Bad Choice, Malones!

            If you really want to know, I’ll tell you. Tony made his mother call a medium because he just knew it was a ghost causing the entire ruckus. The medium found out what you and Tony already knew; that there was a ghost in the house. But he also found out why.

The ghost was really very friendly. It saw Tony and his brother playing catch, so at last it finally caught the ball and threw it back at Tony because it wanted to play too. Then, when Tony awoke, the ghost thought he was okay, and threw the football at him again.

In the kitchen, the ghost never meant to knock Tony out. It was just so happy Tony was okay that it rushed over to hug him and tackled him instead.

In case you are wondering, the ghost never caused the hospital mix-ups. Those were just an unfortunate coincidence. Mrs. Malone thought this was all too much. She fainted on the spot.

Mrs. Malone was so upset that the whole family packed up and left that day. They bought a pleasant little house on a farm in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, once they got settled, they found that there was much more to this house than meets the eye too; however, this house had a much meaner ghost…

 

About the Author

            Ben is a great writer. He helps me with my writing sometimes. I’m Brandon Murphy. Ben is my best friend. He has a very good sense of humor in writing.

Brandon Murphy (1997)

            Ben is very funny. He is a great writer and a great friend.

Mark LaCava (1997)