Category Archives: 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.

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News and vignette

I got up late today and procrastinated with various forms of social media. I always flip through them before starting a writing day, but I lingered long enough to know I was goofing off. I still managed about 2800 words of The Yak Guy Project.

Yak Guy is the one where I’m trying to use the Major Arcana of the tarot as my story structure. I’ve had to meld some characters, and take a few out of order. Several things go on at once, and it doesn’t make sense to take them one at a time. For instance, the Empress character is also one of The Lovers. This overlaps the training of the Heirophont. I already had some of The Lovers, so I kind of moved faster on this section. It’s time for Strength, The Hermit, and the Wheel of Fortune. I may take some of these out of order, because it makes more sense to my story. I kind of want The Hanged Man before the Wheel. Right now I need to dwell on it some.

In other news, I woke up with a character and setting again. I don’t particularly want to dwell on her for weeks, and sometimes writing a vignette will get them out of my head. Here goes nothing, and remember I’m free writing this one:

Barbi Baronski awoke with a ringing in her ears. It was dark and dusty, and every muscle in her body ached. She stretched and her hands touched concrete overhead.

She’d driven into the city to model a new line of fitness wear, but couldn’t remember if she was going to the shoot or driving home. Daylight was visible if she looked along the ground above her head. She tried to rollover and crawl, but it was too tight in here. She slid along on her back using a kind of frog kick with her legs.

The ringing faded a bit, and Siri’s voice asked, “What can I help you with? What can I help you… What can I… What?, What?, What?…” Barbi kept sliding. Her back became a slow motion road rash of cuts and dirt.

Fresh air seemed like a wonderful thought, but it was dust, smoke, and grime. The sky above was brilliant blue, but there were no contrails, birds, or even trees. She pulled herself out of the rubble and sat upright.

The remains of her tattered top fell on her lap. Her $200 jeans were mostly threads, but clung together by some miracle. The entire world was silent except for the ringing in her ears. She covered herself with her right arm and stood up tentatively. There was nobody around. The place looked like a gravel pit, except for a twisted streetlight that snaked through the rubble.

She always drove home on 76, and thought she recognized some of its outline. Thank God her trainers survived. She walked for miles through the rubble. Pieces of automobiles dotted the landscape, and tiny bits of building foundations started appearing. The farther she walked, the more the rubble started to look like something. She stopped covering herself, because nobody was around at all.

By mid afternoon, her stomach reminded her that she was starving. She spotted a few walls and veered off her path to investigate. It turned out to be a family restaurant of some kind. A shard of mirror showed her that nearly six inches of her brunette hair had been singed away. A copper pipe produced a small blue flame at the end. The gas lines were still on out here.

She dug through the rubble and found a single can of refried beans, a tiny frying pan, and a bent chef’s knife. She used the heel of the knife to chop the can open enough to get it in the pan, then held it over the open flame until it smelled edible.

She kicked through the rubble and turned over a small table. A piece of concrete served as a chair. She managed to bend the tines of an old fork into a relatively useful position and ate in silence. Hardly health food, but it was food and that’s all that mattered now.

Across from her on a piece of remaining wall were three huge frames. Two were missing everything, but the third one appeared to be the dinner menu. It read:

  • Meatloaf $6
  • Prime Rib $13
  • Rack of Ribs $11
  • Sides…

The rest was torn away and it appeared to be cloth of some kind. Threads dangled in the breeze. She finished her beans, and used the bent knife to cut away most of her fancy jeans. $200 custom cutoffs? She split the pants legs and used some electrical wire to make them into a purse of sorts. She placed the pan and the old fork inside.

 

A rock smashed the remaining glass from the menu and she removed the cloth, cut a hole for her head and used more wire to stitch the sides closed. She looked down at her new shirt which now read:

 

Prime

Rack

 

Barbi tucked the bent knife into her belt and headed into the setting sun. Home was important, but if it wasn’t there any longer, she would head west until she found a new place to call home.

 

***

I have no idea what caused the disaster, aliens, war, the refried bean festival. I also have no intention of finishing Barbi’s story, but something may come to me in the future. These vignettes are a way of retiring some of the ideas I get. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I have to revisit them even years later.

There was more too it, like a dried up river, and talking to a snake. The snake represented an ancient survivor, and Barbi drew a parallel to herself as a survivor. I figured the post was long enough, and maybe Barbi could go on her adventure without me.

How about it you writers? Do you ever wake up having been visited by the muse? Do you make notes, forget about it, start another project? I can’t write all of mine. Barbi could be a good character, she’s obviously strong. Maybe she can be a side character one day, or maybe her story will come to me later.

It appears my muse is getting back into shape. Back to the paycheck job tomorrow.

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A few loose things

I watched old movies, played with an app, and wrote another short piece. I also ordered some promotional material that I can use during some future promotions. I’ll address all of them in sections.

The new app simply allows me to take a photo and add text to it. All of the ones I’ve tried so far are kind of burdensome to use. This one is even worse, because it doesn’t allow me to squeeze it into a vertical shape, it simply flows beyond the box and doesn’t show everything I typed. I have other apps that work better.

Sometimes it’s nice to make up an image for a pinned tweet and get a few more words by making them part of the photo. Still, I made this and it might give some of you a chuckle.

I spent some time with my old mentor, Sir Alfred Hitchcock today. Since Halloween is on a Monday, they decided today was a good day for a film festival. I caught some of Vertigo, watched all of Psycho, and turned it off when The Birds came on. I think The Birds had a great concept, but failed to deliver. No doubt there are people who disagree with me, but that’s my opinion. I wish one of these outfits would rediscover Rope, I loved that one.

Psycho was ground breaking in its day. It was the first one that showed murder so brutally. Hitchcock was known as the master of suspense, but he drifted into horror territory with this one. (Aside: I could sure see Jamie Leigh Curtis’ face in some images of her mother.)

Psycho started kind of an arms race. Prior to this, monsters lumbered, howled, and threatened. I believe this was the catalyst of all the gore that’s come to be expected in the horror genre, and I think that’s what eventually killed it off. If Psycho were to be made today, Bates would have had sex with Janet Leigh’s corpse before dismembering it (Requiring power tools that are deafeningly loud), and possibly eating the evidence.

I kind of wish we could go back and erase all the blood and gore from this genre. That’s why I try to include a bit of suspense, but leave the rest out.

I broke down and used a coupon to order some promotional stuff for the next time I decided to do a push. Maybe people don’t want another gift card or ebook, but something unique will garner more attention. Maybe not, but I’m going to find out.

Finally, I wrote this thing. I don’t exactly know what to call it, but I’m calling them anthems. I am looking for input as to what they actually are called. They are from a narrator’s POV and use second person perspective.

I had another of my crazy thoughts, and intend to include them in my collection of short stories called The Enhanced League (TEL). They have nothing to do with the stories, but they might be fun to break things up. I like the idea of between three and half a dozen of them. TEL will be about a futuristic baseball league. Some characters will recur in the stories and some are one shot wonders.

Anyway, I don’t know how to solicit your input without sharing one, so here goes nothing. It’s draft material, but will give you the idea. Let me know if it’s too crazy to live, or has some merit.

Anthem #2

The Hardest Day

 

You took the wife and kids to the ballpark more religiously than most folks go to church. For you, it was church. Didn’t matter if it was blazing sun, or frosty nights, you were there.

Your wife was the life of the party. Everyone knew her, and she always seemed to draw the television camera the way she stood and led cheers. You wound up on the kiss camera more times than you were comfortable with.

You named your son after a Golden Glove winning shortstop. When the team travelled, the two of you played catch in the backyard and practiced that shovel toss to second base.

The kids grew up, and your wife passed away. Some of your old buddies from the trucking company bought your seats for a game or two when you didn’t have someone to take you. It wasn’t much, but the money helped pay for your meds.

Your son took you to a few games, until his own kids started playing sports. Now they spend most of their time kicking soccer balls around. Your daughter and her new husband took you once, but it felt like meeting your new step-parent.

Finally, the day arrived. You offered up your seats and sold them for five figures. The guys from the trucking company were pissed, but they couldn’t pay going rate.

You thought you were going to have a stroke. You sold out, Buddy. You sold a piece of your soul that day. You worried that you might have cursed the team somehow.

You wanted to give them to your kids, but they couldn’t have cared less. Your son-in-law would have sold them too and used the money to bet on horses.

So here you are, in assisted living with no family around. You bought the league pass and get every game on your new big-screen television. The old farts come around to watch, and they seem to be enjoying the team as much as you do. You finally admit the air conditioning doesn’t ruin the experience.

You’ve seen more games this year than the last three combined. Your doctor even approved a beer, provided you only have one. You never told him about the hotdogs Mrs. Corrigan brings. A hotdog never killed anyone anyway.

It was the worst day of your life, the day you sold the seats, but none of this would be possible if you hadn’t.

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Last scoop of Macabre Macaroni this year

The Zombie Fighters

We stood back to back in the old basement. Joey held his sword off to his left, and I held mine up with the blade in front of my face. We made a deadly team, but the zombie horde upstairs would be the biggest one we’d ever faced.

Joey turned his San Diego Padres cap around backwards. “Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.” I rushed the stairway with Joey at my heels.

The zombies almost looked surprised. I probably imagined it, because they don’t have any emotions or feelings. They’d already eaten half the families in town, and I recognized a few of them as having been local people. I stepped into the shell of the burned out house and made sure to move far enough that Joey could support me.

I lowered my sword and thrust through the face of the first one, making sure to slice on the draw so my blade wouldn’t get stuck. He fell in a heap of stinking rotten flesh, and I swung at one to my right.

Joey gave a masterful stroke, slicing completely through one Zombie and into the skull of the one beside it. “That was my Tony Gwynn swing, you bastards.”

“Looks like you hit a double. There’s home runs waiting in the other room.”

We worked our way through the sooty kitchen and into the living room. Seventeen of the damned things greeted us there.

The fight was long and bloody. Joey went to his knees, but I rescued him before he got bitten. That only left the upstairs bedrooms to clear. Should be a breeze after what we’d already accomplished.

Joey led the way up this staircase, and we took care to avoid the ledge. The fire destroyed the railing and it was a long drop.

We kicked open doors and slashed our way room by room until we were the only things left standing.

The last room looked like it must have been the master bedroom. The fire damaged it more than the others. Even the exterior wall and roof were gone.

I tested the floor with each step. No sense surviving the zombies and falling through a crumbling floor. I looked out towards town, and everything was quiet as the sun dipped behind a ridge. More zombies moved though the forest, and they were coming our way.

Joey grabbed a ruined pillowcase and hung it from a nail.

“What’s that for?”

“It’s our flag. This is where we make our stand. If we get split up, we meet back here.”

“Good idea. This can be our fort.” I dropped my stick-sword onto the sooty floor. “Only we’ll have to defend it tomorrow.”

“But they’re almost here.”

I wrapped an arm around my brother’s shoulder. “The street lights came on. You know how mom gets if we don’t go home right away. Schools out now, we have all summer to defend our fort.”

***

This is my reminder that I have two books of short stories and micro-fiction available. There are plenty of Halloween suitable stories among these pages.

The best news is they are only 99¢ each. If you enjoyed Macabre Macaroni this year, maybe these books are what you’re looking for.

Book one

Book two

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Stick out your plate for another helping of Macabre Macaroni

Automobile Envy

“Man, that was some spread. Tony made his campfire beans, Jerry smoked those ribs for two days, and Mrs. Herrick made that wonderful peach dessert.”

“It’s time to leave, Mr. Arbuckle.”

“What’s the rush? There’s family here I haven’t seen in years. My sister came all the way from Pensacola, and my son’s never met her before. Good food, plenty of cool drinks – ”

“True, but they are breaking up now.”

“Let’s check out the car. Why is it the oil men and ranchers could afford Cadillacs, and us farmers get by with rusted old pickups? I don’t want any cattle horns on the hood; nothing like that. I always wanted a convertible. Something with enough room to take my whole family to church.”

“It’s very nice.”

“Do you see those leather seats? Look at the leg room it has. No more throwing the kids in back of the truck under a blanket. I want to ride in it. Wave to everyone in town. Old man Maughan can afford to give me a ride. Get in.”

“Alright, as long as we don’t take too long. We have things to do.”

“Don’t be such a stick in the mud. Look at that carpet. No metal floorboards here. Of course, white wouldn’t be my choice. I’d get a nice sensible brown. It might hide the farm dirt for a day until I could get to the car wash.

“Look we’re going past the feed store. Wave at them. And there’s the old folks’ home. There’s Marie and Jack. They waved back, see?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That old biddy, Nurse Davis didn’t wave though. She’s a tough one. It’s so pretty and green out today, not a cloud in the sky, you think that would take the sour look off her face. There’s the oil rigs pumping. I’ll bet all of them own a Cadillac. I should have bought one. Maughan is a lucky man. They won’t let me drive anymore, not for a few years now.”

“No, sir.”

“Look over there to the left. Those light poles are at the football field. My son ran for three touchdowns there about twenty years ago. These seats are so soft my back doesn’t hurt at all anymore.”

“It is a very nice car. But we really need to go. The hearse is pulling up to your grave now.”

“I suppose you’re right. Thank you for letting me ride in the Cadillac, even if it was the last ride I’ll ever take.”

***

If you’re enjoying Macabre Macaroni this year, you might enjoy my Experimental Notebooks. They’re full of short stories and micro-fiction across the speculative genres. Plenty of paranormal stories though, if you’re looking for some Halloween reading. At 99¢ each you really can’t go wrong.

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II

 

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Macabre Macaroni, just like Mom used to make

Matricide

“Once more, from the top, please.”

“I thought it would be easier. Just take a knife, slice her in half and be done with it. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. The knife only goes in about six inches, then stops.”

“Where did you do it?”

“The garage. It’s easier to clean up the mess. I’m telling you, crap goes everywhere. I finally had to use some large pruning shears to get her into manageable chunks.”

“And where are these pieces now?”

“The landfill, I suppose. Look, I know that isn’t the right place, but my car’s broke down. I figured if I could bag up the pieces the garbage truck would take them. I had a hell of a time getting her into the garage too.”

“So you premeditated a plan to get her into the garage? Tell us about the plan.”

“I knew I couldn’t do it in the house. I can clean out the garage easier than the carpets, but it was a fight to get her out there. She weighs about the same as I do, and it was all dead weight, you know?”

“So she didn’t go to the garage on her own?”

“They never do.”

“You mean there are more of them? How many more?”

“N, no. This is the first one. I promise never to do it again.”

“You won’t, you sick bastard. We’re going to need those tools as evidence too. You can allow us to search the garage and take the tools, or we can get a warrant. What’s your choice?”

“Will, will I get my tools back? They were my father’s.”

“I don’t think you’ll be needing them where you’re headed.”

“Maybe you ought to get the warrant then.”

“Alright, let’s see if I have this right, before I wake up the judge. You pushed her off the bed, then kicked her over the headboard–”

“Footboard.”

“You kicked her over the footboard. Then you dragged her to the garage, tried to cut her up with a knife, but decided to use some pruning shears instead.”

“Uh huh.”

“Then you placed her pieces in garbage bags and tricked the sanitation company into taking her to the landfill.”

“Yes, sir.”

“How many bags? We need to recover all of them.”

“Th, there were six in all. Four to hold the big parts, and two to hold all the insides. That stuff goes everywhere.”

“Where did you wash up?”

“In my shower. It was hot and sweaty in the garage, and I had crap all over me, so I took a shower.”

“We’re going to have to collect the shower drain too. You seem pretty relaxed about it all.”

“Haven’t slept this well in years.”

“You’re a cold bastard, you know that?”

“I couldn’t take all the sleepless nights, you don’t know how noisy she was at night, and she stunk too. When they get that old they aren’t the same anymore. I sprayed her down with Febreze and gave her a new blanket, but that smell always came back.”

“Good, God. My mother stinks too, but I’d never spray her down with air freshener and cut her up in some dingy garage.”

“Me either.”

“Are you now recanting your testimony?”

“Look all I did was get a new mattress and tried to slip the old one past the garbage man. I never knew it was a crime.”

“Randy at the bar called 911 at 01:34 this morning and said you were in there bragging about matricide.”

“What else would you call it? I got rid of my old mattress. I never knew it was a crime.”

***

With apologies to John Howell who writes these kind of stories better than I could ever hope.

PS: The 99¢ sale for The Playground is going on right now. Take advanatage of the sale price before it goes away.

 

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Get it while it’s hot, Macabre Macaroni

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve tried to post some spooky themed stories in October.

I make them all micro-fiction so nobody has to panic about finding part two, or missing one in the middle.

There is a style of micro-fiction called creepy pasta. Someone eventually glommed onto that name and started a website to host stories, the whole works. I know you can’t copyright a name, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes either. Maybe someday, that person will become a friend.

That’s why I call my stories Macabre Macaroni. And here we have the lovely Lisa Burton bringing us a platter right now, so everyone dig in.

The Woodworker’s Dilema

The tiny bell above my shop door jingled. It was early in the day for tourists to be wandering. I sat down my tea, checked my face in the antique mirror, and walked into the front. “Good morning, and wel–” I crossed my arms at the sight of Reverend Whitaker. “What do you want?”

He held up his palms. “I, I come in peace. I want to discuss something with you.”

“Like closing my shop down and running me out of town? Three years now you’ve been trying to put me out of business.”

He glanced at the apothecary section, then quickly looked away. He moved a hand-blown glass vase off the table, and sat down. I suppose he never noticed the furniture and the vase were for sale.

“I hope we can put all that behind us.” He placed a small cardboard box on the table. “I’ve come to the conclusion that… Well, that maybe there is more to this world than I know.” He gestured to the seat across from him. “Please.”

“I’m just having tea. Would you like some?”

He glanced again at the apothecary section. “No, I um. Thank you.”

I slid into the chair and adjusted my apron. I waited for him to speak, not wanting to invite the condemnation papers or whatever he was up to this time.

“I have a hobby, you see. When I’m not preaching, I have a life just like everyone else. One of my parishioners knows I’m a woodworker, and asked me to remove one of her trees in exchange for the wood. She seemed very upset about the tree, so I agreed to help.

“It turns out it was a huge maple, hundreds of years old. I had to get some of the other members involved to help remove it, and haul the trunk to my farm.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“Right, um, it turns out it was all curly maple; lovely stuff really. I make knife handles, mirrors, brushes, duck calls, that kind of thing. I have so much of it, that guitar makers and violin makers are calling me.”

He placed a block of wood on the table before me. It was breathtaking. The lines and swirls had a kind of reflective quality that was mesmerizing. I looked up and pushed a hair out of my face. “It’s beautiful. I might be able to sell a few pieces for you.”

“Yes, well, that wasn’t what I had in mind, but perhaps. I was, was, am hoping you could lend a special kind of assistance.” He removed a second piece from his box and turned it towards me.

“I, um. I don’t know–”

“Please. I need to know if this is demonic, or, or witchcraft.” He loosened his collar and wiped his brow. “I can’t let anyone else have this if it’s going to, to, to curse them.”

I lifted the piece and turned it in my hand. I detected nothing evil about it. “I think it is exactly what it appears to be; a cry for help.”

“But from whom, and what kind of help? Can you tell me anything?”

I tossed the wood between my hands to get a reading, but got nothing. “Are there any more messages?”

“Not so far, just this one. Can you help?”

“Perhaps, but we’ll have to work on it together. You find a way to count the tree rings. That will tell us what year it was planted. Figure out what age the message came from too. Then find out who owned the property at that time. Search also for news from those years; tragedy, missing persons, unsolved crimes, a reason to ask for help.”

“What will you do?”

“I’ll try some divinations. I will also interview the woman who owned the tree. She may have dreamed something, or noticed strange things. Together, we may be able to figure out something. Right now, do not discount that this message came to you. It is your help being sought. It looks like whoever sent it knew how to write, and they chose not to use cursive script. Possibly they were too young to know it. That is all I know today.”

“Thank you, and – this is hard to admit, but I may have been wrong about you.”

“Your culture has been wrong for centuries. Perhaps you and I can change that.”

***

You guys know me, I’m always trying out new things. This time it was pictures to enhance the story. What do you think? Did the pictures help more than a lengthy description would?

Just a couple of quick announcements. Both of my Experimental Notebooks contain short stories and micro-fiction. Many of those have a paranormal bent to them. If you need something to keep you awake at night, maybe one of those would do the trick.

This week is also the free week for my novel Panama. If you like historical fiction with some creep factor involved, this might be the story for you.

 

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