Category Archives: Short Stories & Vignettes

Vivid dreaming last night

This doesn’t happen every night, but when it does it’s usually interesting. Here is the dream I woke up from last night. Oh, and the extra spacing at the beginning is on purpose. So is the last word.

***

Cybernet Library Access Point……………………

 

General Public Profile…………………..

 

Sarah,

I stole this computer from an abandoned library. Dogs are howling down the street, so I don’t have much time.

Wind is from the west, but I can’t smell them yet. They must be east of me. I hope they’re east of me. I won’t let them get their tentacles on the baby again, I promise you that. Little Bit is fine, but she misses her mommy.

I’m going to head north, then veer west. We might make the safe zone in three days, two if we’re lucky. Whatever you do, stay in the safe zone.

The howling is getting louder. We’ve got to go. Love you.

PS: Hope they aren’t monitoring the library sy

2001 A Space Odyssey GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Advertisements

34 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

Does this Macabre Macaroni still smell okay?

Lisa BurtonHi Gang, Lisa Burton here with the last of Macabre Macaroni for 2017. So far, we’ve raged through the streets as a monster while exploring some of the broken things about various systems. We’ve looked behind the curtain at a hospital to poke a stick in the idea of accountants running our medical professions. We even pulled up a lawn chair for the end of the world.

I’ll, sadly, be retiring my witch’s hat for now, but not until I go trick or treating. I may get to wear it a bit during the editing of Craig’s novella, The Hat.

Today, we’re just going to enjoy a bit of nature in a story Craig calls Little Brown Bat.

Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat crawled out of a crack along the cliff face. The crack, no wider than a bottle cap, had housed bats for over a hundred years.

He squinted at the setting sun, but decided to leave the roost early. Soon the nighttime sky would be full of his brethren, but Little Brown Bat knew something they didn’t.

They would all head for the college campus nearby and hope to find the night insects fluttering around the lights surrounding the quad.

Little Brown Bat was headed for Randall’s Marsh. Situated on an abandoned farm, the waters had not been dredged for swimming or poisoned for mosquito control.

Sometimes, if he was early enough, he could catch the last of the day-flying insects. Fat blowflies, and yellowjacket wasps full of meat, made for a satisfying snack. It takes a lot of food to keep Little Brown Bat in the air.

Once the sun set, the marsh itself always had a hatch of water borne insects. Sometimes they were mayflies, sometimes caddis, and if he was lucky a giant stonefly or two.

He ducked into the forest along the way, the shade protected his sensitive eyes from the setting sun. He caught a lazy moth in his tail and flipped it into his mouth on the way to the marsh. A tasty snack this early at night.

He veered onto the muddy two track road, and stayed about three feet off the ground. A fat blowfly gave him hope that he arrived early enough.

Wild yellow iris bloomed along the edge of the first pond, and spread across the boggy area. Later tonight the scent might attract one of the gigantic sphinx moths, nearly as large as he was. He moved on to the first small grassy mound, but it produced nothing more than a pair of lawn moths.

By the time he reached the earthen mounds, he’d scored a juicy yellowjacket and two more flies. The sixth mound remained bare earth. It takes time for the grass to grow over the fresh dirt. It appeared a coyote or some other creature dug deep here. Little Brown Bat caught flies by the dozens.

He made two more circles, but he’d caught all the day insects this evening this evening would offer. On his final turn he spotted a fresh hole.

Barely three feet deep, he knew it wouldn’t be long before it was filled back in. That’s when the day insects came. Sometimes they swarmed by the hundreds over the fresh mounds. He would be able to scoop up flies two and even three at once with his tail.

His friends could fight over the night insects at the quad, and scare the coeds to death. This was the place for Little Brown Bat. The holes always became a fresh mound in three days.

His radar detected the first of the caddis flies coming off the water’s surface. The day flyers were finished, but Little Brown Bat knew the ponds always held an abundance of night hatching insects. They’d been much more abundant this year for some reason. He veered out over the surface of the water.

The swollen faces of three coeds watched him from below the water’s surface. They’d been here for over a month, and the night insects seemed to hatch with greater frequency. They no longer screamed at the site of a tiny bat.

His radar detected a fluttering stonefly, and he veered left. He nearly brushed the exposed rib cage of another coed along the shore as he scooped with his tail, but he caught the huge insect.

Yes, Randall’s Marsh was a lonely place, but it was perfect for Little Brown Bat.

***

If you enjoyed Macabre Macaroni 2017, you can always keep reading. Stories from previous years are available in the sidebar under the category Short Stories and Vignettes. If you’re really into it, and we hope you are, you can pick up some of Craig’s short story collections. Go to his Amazon Author page and look for either of the Experimental Notebooks, or both of them. You can also find some of Craig’s work in the anthologies Quantum Wanderlust and Macabre Sanctuary.

52 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

Fresh from the microwave, it’s Macabre Macaroni

Lisa BurtonWhat if you were offered a front row seat to the end of the world. Would you take it? It’s a sight no humans have ever witnessed before.

What if that seat came with a price? You get to go on, but you have to throw the switch. Could you do it? Could you justify this act somehow? Someone is going to do it, but the price of survival is you taking the action yourself.

Would you weigh the consequences? Would you feel like a lottery winner, or prefer to move on with everyone else.

This little snippet explores this choice. I hope you enjoy it.

Collateral Damage

Lieutenant Scott Davies pulled the Humvee up to the bunker and parked. He left the keys in the ignition and the door open.

Captain Rhodes stood beside the airtight door the Navy provided to the project. “Scott.”

“Byron.”

“Let’s get inside and monitor the phone. Close the hatch behind you.”

“We still have time, Scott. I want to breathe the air and listen to the night sounds.”

Byron put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I understand. Secure that vehicle and make it quick.”

“Why? Who’s going to steal it?” He removed the keys and locked the automobile.

Byron never answered, having headed inside. Scott followed, but left the hatch open.

“You take the south button, I’ll take the north,” Byron said. “We will place our hands on our buttons and the commands will be press, turn. Execute your move immediately, no countdown. Understand?”

“Yes, Sir, but–”

“But what? We have our orders.”

“Maybe the phone will ring.”

“We’re already thirty seconds overdue. Hand on your button.”

“My sister and her husband are out there somewhere, you know.”

“They’ll never know what happened. None of them will. You trained for this moment, and volunteered for it I might add. Failure to execute is considered treason.”

Scott placed his hand on the south button. At Byron’s command he executed the moves exactly as practiced. “It’s just another drill, right? The phone will ring and we’ll have to stand down, won’t we?”

Byron pointed to the countdown clock on the wall. Ten minutes. “Not this time.”

Scott headed back to the hatch.

“Where do you think you’re going? We have supplies for two months then the shuttle will come.”

“Byron, I respect your rank, but we have ten minutes. I want to hear the insects one last time. Feel the cool night air, look at the glow of the city lights on the clouds.”

“Alright, I’ll go with you. Do you think we’re wrong tonight?”

“Orders. We follow orders, don’t we?”

“Politics, religion, drugs, global warming, it all ends tonight.”

“I get it. No more terrorism, no more suicide bombers, whatever. I sat through the same training you did. No more butterflies, flowers, tigers, or anything else either.”

“The sea will mostly survive. There are some remote islands that will be untouched. Those are the ones we’ll inhabit once the orbiter decides it’s all clear. They’ll send a shuttle, Scott, I promise.”

“Do we even want them to? Maybe we’d be better off to wait outside with everyone else. How much time left?”

Byron peeked back inside. “Eight minutes.” He leaned against the bunker wall and looked up. “I wonder how many people are looking up at that moon right now, completely oblivious.”

“Lovers, children catching fireflies, old couples rocking on the porch.”

“Terrorists, smugglers at sea, fanatics, zealots.”

“That’s the point though. We can kill the people, but not the ideas. People are going to disagree over some things.”

“Yeah, but according to the big brains, not anymore. Defending our way of life is no longer sustainable. Eventually we won’t be able to keep ahead of the arms race. That’s why they poured everything into the orbiter and the seed bank.”

“Who got to choose entrants onto the orbiter?”

“You can’t worry about that stuff tonight. They made tough decisions, and we’re taking tough actions. The reboot of Planet Earth starts in… three minutes. We have the rest of our lives to debate whether it was a mistake or not. Come on, Scott, let’s get inside.”

They went inside and Byron sealed the hatch. “We have books, games, and food downstairs. Maybe we should get to it.”

“Who decided what was appropriate to survive in the new regime?”

“I don’t know, man. You have to accept some things as fact.”

“We could still stop it, you know.”

“This is a one shot deal. We can’t wait around for debate, then do it later. This is happening and there’s nothing we can do.”

“But we could, Byron. We could.”

“It requires two of us acting in concert, and I’m not acting.”

Scott slid open a tiny slot and looked through a foot of darkened glass.”

“What are you doing?”

“Taking the last look at everything. Art, literature, music, that all dies too.”

“Remember your training. We’ve had a year to wrap our minds around this. There’s meditation space downstairs, and it sounds like you could use it.”

“And I will, but I’ll see this first.” Scott wiped zinc oxide around his eyes and face. “The brains are doing the same thing as the terrorists you know. They’re forcing their will upon everyone else.”

“I’ve had the same thoughts, and I don’t want to see it. I’ll meet you downstairs. Do you want me to microwave a burrito for you?”

“No. I went to a nice French restaurant before I came here, and put it on a credit card. It’s not like they’ll ever collect.”

“Looks like you’ve found some acceptance in all this. No more West Nile Virus.”

“Political campaign season.”

“Spam email.”

“Split shifts, required overtime.”

“Road construction.”

“Sounds like you’ve found some comfort. Besides, you can always remind yourself that you were just following orders.”

***

Lisa here again. If you’re enjoying this year’s Macabre Macaroni, there are more of them available in the sidebar. The category is “Short Stories and Vignettes.” Craig also produced several books of this stuff and at 99¢ each they’re a steal. You can find those on his Amazon Author Page.

46 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

Of course you can have more Macabre Macaroni

Lisa BurtonHi gang, welcome back for another helping of Macabre Macaroni. This week we’re trying to garner a bit of sympathy for the monster.

Maybe the determination of a monster is just your point of view. Some of us are different, and that freaks people out. It isn’t what appears on the outside as much as the inside.

I’m not saying there aren’t monsters out there, but you might have to dig under the surface to identify them. Maybe it isn’t about the way you look as much as how you think or act.

Today’s story is called Monster Spotting. How many can you find?

Monster Spotting

Cori Vincent fought back the shadows and fog. Her entire body hurt. Not the sharp biting pain of something recent, but the throbbing ache of something long term. Before she blacked back out she overheard a few words.

“Day two-hundred forty-three. Stem cells and neural dust have accelerated healing, nervous system repairs are remarkable. We have not been able to stimulate the nerves that will bring her out of the coma.

“Ms. Vincent has taught us much, and there is more to learn. Ultimately, we will have to terminate the experiment if she does not regain consciousness–”

Cori fought to hear more. This time she was able to open her eyes. It was dark in her room, and only a faint glow told her she succeeded. A thin layer of gauze covered her eyes, and she pawed at it.

She pulled the gauze away and breathed deeper. The glow came from under the door. Her left eye told her more than the right. She rubbed the right, but complete vision eluded her. The window revealed only the night outside.

Her legs felt leaden as she swung them off the bed and forced herself upright. Even this simple act caused her to gasp for air. She breathed deeply, but didn’t feel as though her lungs were processing the precious oxygen.

The voice said two-hundred forty-three days. That’s eight months. How many days had it been since she heard the voice?

She reached the door by using the bed to get to her feet, then falling forward until she could lean against the wall. Her hands fumbled at the light switch, so she used the back of her wrist to swipe it on.

The room was spartan at best. A bed, a sink in some cabinetry, and nothing else; not even a call-button for the nurse. At least the door knob was one of the handle type and not round. She used the back of her hand once more to open it. Hello! Is anyone here? Nurse? “Naawwwrrrrss!”

She recoiled at the guttural noise. That isn’t my voice. What happened to my words? Her throat immediately ached, and she coughed up phlegm. She stumbled to the sink and spit.

The building was closed. What kind of hospital closes? She stumbled into the hallway and moved toward the front of the building. A surgical suite sat off to the left, and a private office to the right. She appeared to be the only patient here; the only person here.

The office had a desk, a computer, and a chair. She needed the chair. A newspaper article pinned to a board beside the desk caught her attention. She had to close her right eye completely to focus on the letters.

The headline read, “Automobile Accident Claims Couple.” Her head reeled. Eric was driving. She was trying to keep the girls from fighting. The girls!

She pawed at the article and tore it from the board. She froze in her actions. These aren’t my hands?

Her hands were huge masculine paws, with black skin. Possibly from an industrial worker or a carpenter of some kind, judging by the calluses.

The office had a private bathroom. Cori stumbled inside and found the mirror. She was a man now. Not just any man, a gigantic black man. Surgical scars completely circled her head above the eyes and ears. Her head was balding, and her right eye permanently squinted. Palsy claimed the right side of her face, and her lip and cheek sagged. Someone had dressed her in ill-fitting grey flannel pajamas. She spun to lean against the wall, and lifted the article to her good eye. She and her husband died, and the children were given to child protective services. My babies! “Baaaaabbbaa!”

The article said she and Eric were buried together in Shady Grove. Could Eric still be somewhere in the same condition as her? It didn’t matter. Someone else had her babies. She stumbled to the front door and forced it open. Glass shattered and an alarm went off as she stumbled into the night.

A street sign at the corner indicated she was only a couple of blocks from the courthouse. Child Protective Services would know where her girls were.

She tripped on the curb when she crossed against the light and stumbled into someone’s yard, taking out three feet of picket fence along the way. They’d left their sprinkler on, and thirst overwhelmed her. She pulled the sprinkler head off and drank. Water dribbled from the damaged right side of her mouth, but she didn’t care. She tried to avoid ruining any more of the fence when she left, but knocked another section down. At least it didn’t break, and they could stand it back up.

Her small-town courthouse was closed for the night. She battered the door open and went inside. Child Protective Services was simple enough to figure out. A sequence of locked file cabinets in alphabetical order. She found the drawer where V might be, tossed the wet and rumpled newspaper article from her hand, and ripped the cabinet apart like someone peeling an orange.

The girls went to two different foster families. How could they? They just lost their parents, now they have to endure losing each other. She screamed into the night, but it sounded more like an animalistic roar.

This was a small town. Her small town. She was alive, somehow, and these were still her children. They would figure out something.

She plodded along Cedar Avenue with the faint flashing of police lights behind her. They responded to the alarm at whatever facility she escaped from.

She lurched down the street until she came to the first house shortly after sunrise. A simple craftsman style, with a yard-full of toys. A purple tricycle, some multi-colored plastic construction blocks, and a small plastic slide.

The door opened and she slid behind a tree. Emily looked beautiful in her summer dress, if a bit sad. “Driveway only honey. No tricycle on the sidewalk or street. Remember?”

“Yes, Mommie.”

Mommie? I’m her mommie. It’s me honey. Everything is going to be just fine. “Hhhhoonn Maaaaam.”

Emily screamed.

The door opened.

A woman came out, scooped Emily up, and ran back inside. The woman peeked out a window, and held a cell phone to her ear.

Cori glanced left and right, then faded into the shadows of a nearby alley. This woman cared. Emily was safe for the time being. The police, or her attorney could sort it all out later. She needed to see her other daughter. Dawn was older, and might have deeper understanding of her parent’s death. She needed to know Dawn was alright too.

Cori trudged her way across town. She stopped frequently for rest and water, hiding occasionally as police cruisers combed through the neighborhoods. She cut through an industrial area and the police presence faded.

A chain-link fence prevented her from leaving the industrial park. She tried to tear through it, but it just pulled loose from the poles. She rampaged at being tangled, but managed to crawl over the wiring and out the other side. After crossing a dry irrigation ditch, she wound up in the right neighborhood.

The doublewide sat back from the street. It was at least twenty years old and in need of serious repairs. Tall trees cast deep shade across the yard. A yard cluttered by old appliances and plastic garbage bags.

She flailed at a swarm of flies as she lumbered toward the sound of voices in back.

“I told you to clean up that dog kennel! What do I have to do to get it through your thick head?”

Cori quickened her pace.

A man in his late twenties backhanded Dawn and sent her sprawling to the ground. Her second hand jeans looked like they had never been washed, and someone had cut all of her beautiful hair until she looked like a boy.

“Your mother’s going to be pissed when she gets off shift.”

“She isn’t my mother!”

The man kicked her with his boot.

Cori charged in, but it was more of a rolling act of desperation. Don’t touch her, you bastard! “Bassssttaaa!”

The man looked up and his eyes went white.

Cori swung both arms at him by turning her chest and popping her hips. They didn’t work very well, but made heavy clubs. She knocked the man to the ground and moved forward.

Dawn screamed.

Someone’s voice caught Cori’s attention. “…that’s right officer. The Lawrence place again. Send someone quick. It looks like one of his drug deals went bad. I’m going to film it…”

The man got up, made a kick at Dawn. “Get in the house.”

Cori grabbed him around the neck. Her hands only moderately functioned, so she used the crook of her elbow. She stomped the man’s foot and jerked upward.

The man’s neck broke with a sickening sound.

She flung him across the yard like one of the bags of garbage. He hit an old washing machine and knocked it over. It’s alright now, honey. Mommie’s here. “Mmaaaaam.”

She lumbered to the door as the police car skidded to a stop with lights flashing. Two officers bailed out, and drew their pistols.

Cori gestured toward the officers with her arms outstretched. Thank God you’re here officers. This man was beating my daughter. “Daaaaghhhhrrr!”

“Turn around. On your knees. Lace your fingers together on top of your head.”

You don’t understand officers. My daughter needs your help. She could be injured. “Jurrrrddd!” Cori took a step toward the policemen.

The younger officer opened fire.

Cori stumbled forward.

The older officer joined his partner, and they poured rounds into Cori’s chest.

The bullets hurt, but not like she expected. Much of her body was without feeling. She felt the impact more than anything, but any remaining strength left her and her legs buckled.

The officers stood and approached with guns pointed at her. Cori lay still.

Before she lost consciousness forever, she over heard the neighbor. “I told you the Lawrences were awful people. Look what they brought to our neighborhood. They should never have been given a child either.”

“Go back inside, ma’am. It may not be safe yet. I don’t think the girl will be staying here any longer.”

***

Lisa again, Craig tells me I’ve been a bit remis on these posts. I need to point out that if you enjoy micro-fiction, Craig has plenty of it available. They are bundled together with some short stories into two Experimental Notebooks. There is a third collection called The Enhanced League and the stories there tell an overarching story. Many of the micros in Enhanced League are in the form of second person point of view “anthems.” You know how Craig likes to experiment. You can pick up any one of them for 99¢, just click on the covers.

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. BoyackThe Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack IIThe Enhanced League

43 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

Order up! Macabre Macaroni

Lisa BurtonLisa Burton here with another serving of Macabre Macaroni. I try to avoid the dark side of technology, being a robot myself. Even I have to admit it can be misused.

Technology is wonderful, but it should be used with caution. This week, Craig takes kind of an extreme approach to some future advancements in the medical field… or are they already here?

***

Monitors

Mrs. Levine sat beside the hospital bed and held her husband’s hand. It had been three days this time, and only a few lucid moments passed between them.

She held on to something through her faith, but another part of her explored the value of their home, what might be left of their finances, and even the possibility of going back to work. One day per week at the library was all she’d found, so far.

They both knew one or the other would go first. After fifty-seven years of marriage, it was inevitable.

The doctor came into the room and placed a hand on her shoulder. “How’s he doing today?”

“About the same. He’s been pretty quiet.”

“Why don’t I have Nurse Silvio take you to the cafeteria for a nice cup of coffee? I want to check his vitals, and get someone to change the bedding today.”

“You’re too good to me doctor. You need to get some rest too.”

“I’ll be fine, don’t you worry. I have an intern helping today. She can do the heavy lifting.”

The doctor walked her to the nurse’s station and handed her off to Nurse Silvio before returning to his patient.

***

He waited for the intern, then closed the door. “Take some notes, Parkins. The Accounting Office needs this data.” He lifted the face off the patient monitor. The false data kept reporting even as he set the cover aside.

The real monitor revealed different data. “Looks like he has about two-hundred thousand, eight-hundred heartbeats left,” he said.

Parkins asked, “What’s that put it at, Tuesday morning?”

“Seems about right. I’ll be in surgery that day. The old woman is all yours.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“It’s part of the job. You’ll have to get used to it.”

“Isn’t there anything else we can do for him?”

“Look at this number. His bank account will run out just about the time his heart fails.”

“The third graph shows his insurance is still strong.”

“Doesn’t matter. If he can’t pay his deductible, the hospital gets stung for that part. Accounting keeps this hospital in the black and I, for one, want it to stay that way. Our new monitors are really helping. They allow us to do everything possible while the patient can afford it. This bed needs to go to someone who can pay.”

“I don’t know, I mean it isn’t like Accounting has to talk to the grieving widow.”

“The accountants are in charge, no doubt. I think they may be a bit more generous in the wage department this year. The new monitors are allowing us to detect all kinds of surgical options. Just the other day, insurance authorized the removal of a gall bladder for a patient who’d had a motorcycle accident. Insurance paid full price for the surgery even though we already had her open to treat internal bleeding.”

“That’s a blessing, I suppose. My parents bought me a Camaro before I headed for college. That was nine years ago, and I’m still driving it. The passenger window is held up by duct tape now.”

“Tell you what, I’ll let you notify the mortuary. They pay a nice referral fee and you can keep it. It won’t replace your car, but it might let you fix the window.”

“I really appreciate it.”

“If the widow gives you a hard time, hook her up to a monitor. Maybe she has something insurance will cover in full.”

“Hope so, we already know she doesn’t have anything for the deductible.”

“You’re going to make a fine doctor one day, Parkins.”

44 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

Fresh from the oven, it’s Macabre Macaroni

Lisa Burton
Welcome to Macabre Macaroni, 2017. I’m Lisa Burton, the robot girl, and I’m going to host the stories this year. I posted my new image full size this time, because some of you collect them. I’ll tone it down in the following weeks.

Macabre Macaroni will post every Tuesday in October, and it’s a collection of micro-fiction from my author C. S. Boyack. Today’s story explores the special relationship between parents and children. Some things are a bit confusing here, but that’s on purpose. It all becomes clear in the end.

Oh, and try not to cry, it’s bad for your circuits and messes up your cool Halloween mascara.

Life in the Shadows

Mindy folded a corner on the book she was reading. Something called an Experimental Notebook of some sort. She looked up at her daughter, Olivia, running around the playground.

Mindy decided to read another short story. Olivia seemed to be enjoying herself and it was such a nice day. Flowers bloomed, and the scent from the municipal rose garden made it all so much more lovely. She turned back to her book, when a man caught her attention.

He was only in her peripheral vision, and looked so tired and lonesome. He watched Olivia as she went down the slide. Mindy panicked and walked over to her daughter. The man was nowhere to be seen. “Time to go, honey. I still need to fix dinner. Your father’s working late again tonight.”

She buckled Olivia into her booster seat and drove three miles to her apartment. Olivia never fussed and always did what she was asked, the perfect child.

At the apartment, she sorted through the mail, then started cooking. “Honey, can you set the table for me? Then you can run upstairs and get into bed. I’ll heat up your bottle and be right up.”

“Yes, Momma.”

Mindy tested the formula on her inner wrist before heading upstairs. Olivia was so cute. Six pounds, three ounces, perfect size for holding in the rocker while she ate. Ten little fingers and toes. She sucked at the bottle and her eyes grew heavy.

Olivia’s father was missing too much. They needed the extra income, but sometimes it would be nice if he could share in all this.

She ate her meal alone at the table, while Olivia slept. She caught a vision of the man again, from the corner of her eye. She snapped her head around, but no one was there. She went through the house and tested all the locks before checking on Olivia.

The next morning Mindy yelled up the stairs. “Olivia, you’d better hurry up, or you’ll miss your bus.”

Olivia ran into the kitchen, wearing her cheerleader uniform. She grabbed a breakfast bar from the pantry, and picked up her backpack. “Chill out, Mom. I’ve got time. I won’t be home until after the game. Can you pick me up around nine?”

“Sure, honey. Have a nice day.”

She spent the morning reading, and cleaning. In the afternoon she colored the Easter Eggs, and wrapped all the Christmas Presents. Olivia was going to be so excited. The bicycle she bought for Olivia’s birthday was exactly the one she talked about all summer.

On the way to the gym, she spotted the man again on a street corner. He seemed to be crying and watched her drive by. When she looked back, he was gone.

Olivia looked so pretty, arm and arm with the handsome basketball player. She never protested when Mindy honked the horn, and came straight to the car.

The drive home was uneventful, and the man never appeared again. “I made all your favorites for supper. I waited for you. Get changed and we’ll eat together.”

Mindy sat the table like a gracious hostess and waited nervously for Olivia. When she finally came out, Mindy placed her hands over her heart and teared up. Olivia’s hair had been cut short, her three-piece business suit looked perfectly tailored, the huge diamond on her left hand sparkled under the lights. “Oh, honey, you look so beautiful.”

“Thanks, Mom. You really are the best, but we need to talk.”

“I don’t want to talk about that now. We have so much to do tomorrow.”

“I’ll bet it’s all wonderful too, but I’m not supposed to be here. You aren’t supposed to be here either.”

“Oh, nonsense. We have a perfect life together.”

“Life isn’t supposed to be perfect. It has struggles and imperfections. We have to accept some of that and move on. It’s time for you to move on too.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It’s called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.” Olivia reached across the table and took her mother’s hand. “It happens, and none of it’s your fault. You need to forgive yourself and get on with your life. I need to get along too.”

“Aren’t you happy here, Honey?”

“It’s been great. You had so many plans for me, so many hopes and dreams, but none of this is real. A birthday every month, trick or treating every week.”

“But you’re so cute in your little princess outfit.”

“I really would have been, but it never happened. Daddy is worried sick about you. He spends every night in your hospital room, reading to you. Your coma has lasted seven months now. He can’t afford the long term care any longer, and you have to help him out.”

“But you’re my only daughter.”

“I’m your first child. You can have others, and what happened to me isn’t likely to happen again. I know you’re aware of him. I’ve seen him too. Always there in the fringes. He’s so sad.”

“He’s a grown man. He can take care of himself for a little longer.”

“This conversation always comes back to a little longer. He’s there right now. I know you can see him.”

Mindy looked, and the man was there on the edge of her vision. His rumpled suit looked like he’d been wearing it for days.

Like wind-blown leaves, a voice whispered, “Please come back to me, Mindy.”

Mindy’s blood ran cold and she straightened up in her chair.

“I heard him too, Mom. He’s at his wits end, and his financial end. His work is suffering and he could lose his job. You can’t help me, but you can help him. You can help yourself too.”

Mindy’s eyes blinked, and tears flowed. The dining room faded, along with Olivia. A plain white room took form over the elaborate dining table.

The voice of her husband came across loud and clear. “Please, Mindy, I’m begging you. I’ll do anything. I miss you, and I want you back in my life.”

Like a whisper, Olivia’s voice barely came through. “I love you, Mom. Try again, and stay away from those sleeping pills.”

39 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes

Out my window again

I took this picture at work today. Looks like the thaw, combined with the rain brought us another piece of junk. I hate it when people drop things in our waterways. Still, one man’s junk is another man’s story prompt.

junk

Fishing was lousy. Seven turns of the glass at least, and it rained the whole time. The scarf I used to cover my head was soaked before I cast out my first shrimp. One sand dab wouldn’t feed my sisters, let alone me and ma. Logs drifted past on their way to the bay, and I imagined the fish hid under them to get out of the rain. Then one came by that didn’t float right. It rode low in the water, and barely broke the surface. It had square corners too.

It rode until it lodged in the sand. I dropped my stringer and pole on the shore and ran after it. Maybe someone tipped a wagon upriver, and dumped something valuable in the water. Whatever it was broke loose and drifted again, but not far. The snag of a tree root grabbed it and anchored it until I could catch up.

Its lid was gone by now, and I looked inside. Something looked back.

A skull, not bleached and white like a proper skull, but muddy and covered with sand from upstream somewhere. I approached on tip toes. I’m not superstitious, mind you, but this isn’t something a kid finds everyday.

It was a casket. Nothing fancy, just a wooden box, and the person inside not more than a skeleton but for a few bits and pieces. Those pieces were covered with crabs, and none of ’em were big enough to cook. I looked at the poor skull, and it wore a big tricorn hat. The head rolled toward the sea, and revealed the fellow’s broken neck bones. “So it’s the sea you want, is it?”

I flipped the crabs into the bay. Sometimes people gets buried with coins and such. He didn’t need ’em, and my ma could sure use ’em. I patted down his rags, and found iron shackles around his wrists. I poked and prodded, but turned up nowt.

I looked around his eye holes, ’cause sometimes that’s where the coins goes, but there weren’t any. His hat was oily and stiff, but nothing was tucked inside. I tossed it on the shore. He wore better leather boots than I did, and be damned I decided to take ’em.

They were tall and fine, and turned over at the knee to make a large cuff. I tossed ’em beside the hat, and decided to push the box toward the sea. Better the sea than  another hole in the ground for this one. When the water reached my belly, I let him go. He rode higher in the waves somehow, like a small boat. Almost like he appreciated me setting him on his way.

I wrung the hat out first, and it weren’t in bad shape. Maybe after it dried, I could make some use of it. I poured another crab out of the first boot, and knocked the boot against a rock to make sure there wasn’t any more.

A couple of bones poured out of the second one. Could be I tugged too hard getting it off, but these boots were mine now, by right of salvage. At least that’s what I told myself. I reached inside to make sure there weren’t more pieces. I pulled out a soaked piece of parchment.

The parchment had some kind of writing on it, but it made no sense to me. There was a drawing of the local area too. I recognized the old West Road, and Barrow Point, but not much more. That and a big drawing of a skull, with an X to mark something north of Barrow Point. Maybe ma could read it after it dries out some. She used to know the letters, and maybe she could remember some of ’em. Might be it’d tell who he was, and I could make him a little marker of some kind.

***

Okay, so my favorite Superbowl ad was the one for the new pirate movie. Somebody needs to come haul their junk out of the stream.

37 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Vignettes