Tag Archives: Fiction

THE NEIGHBORHOOD WARS by Sal Buttaci

 

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“Not anymore,” Giosif said. “Remember? It’s 2212. Nobody needs no permit to fire one of these.”

The old man shook his gray head as the boy tapped his thumb on the hammer of the gun.

“We gotta defend Dartmouth Street, Gramps. Ain’t no other way.”

“Don’t go out there. It ain’t safe,” he said, but even as he spoke the words, he knew warning him was a waste of time.

Great-grandpa Alowishis remembered when he was even younger than the boy. Porch-chair afternoons found his ears glued to the stories his own great-grandfather recounted of Old America when the national pastimes were baseball, football, hockey. It was a happy time when spectators in sweating shirts came in droves to cheer their teams.

Now the pastime was fear, a wave of quaking civilians cowering indoors behind their conviction that life was a brief candle. Still, the unwritten gang law of “Tutum Domi,” (safe at home) declared them untouchable. It was only a matter of time before home became a cell and death by escape seemed preferable to life by containment. A step outside meant leathered delinquents on the streets would snuff out that flickering flame.

He felt sorry for the twelve-year-old. The boy had lost his parents in the Neighborhood War. They had ventured from home onto Dartmouth Street, claiming some false sense of courage compelled them. The old man knew better; he called it reckless bravado, an agreed-upon pact to take that final walk.

Giosif’s father made light of the gunfire deafeningly flashing overhead. “We’ll pretend it’s a rainbow,” he joked. And Giosif’s surrogate-mother added, “Or an arch of flowers above us as we walk.” The two held hands but the old man could detect, even with fading eyesight, both their hands trembling.

They never came back.

Giosif and the old man. Prisoners in their stone house, nibbling rationed morsels unfit for rodents. How much longer? he wondered.

Suddenly, the stars and stripes of Old Glory waved proudly in the old man’s memory. He bit his lip to dispel it. He remembered placing his hand on his chest like school children of old who for so long recited allegiance to one nation, this nation, this home of the free and the brave and now the center of siege. Foreign oppressors he could have predicted, even in his youth. They stormed the skies, bombed the cities, planted their dark flags as they burned ours, but instead of freedom fighters banding together to save the nation, street gangs grew in numbers and strength. Their objective?  Retake the cities for themselves.

“Life’s different now,” Giosif said without looking up from the green Spetzer in his hand. Hypnotically he ran the chamois up and down the green triple barrel. “We gotta show them.” Show them what? the old man thought. That we could possibly put a stop to this? To these neighborhood terrorists? Even the Radical Armies are afraid to march down our streets!

“Ain’t a crime no more.

Then the boy walked towards the door, released the deadbolt, yanked down the chains, and stepped into the light of machinegun fire. He raised the shiny Spetzer, aimed it with a cool hand and fired at Clara somebody from Arbor Lane, Jacksonville Jack’s woman who co-led the Z-Ford bikers up and down city-block streets. Clara fell, her bike spinning where she lay.

“Stay your ass on K Street,” Giosif shouted at the dead woman.

Alowishis gasped and called to him. “Cold-blooded murder.” But the boy laughed, reloading for Jacksonville Jack. He’d take no chances. He vowed he would never make the mistake his close friend Daveed did. Turning his back on the street, heading back into his Dartmouth Street home, Daveed was shot dead by a survivor from a Harris Road family he was so sure he had wiped off the asphalt face of their street

Giosif walked backwards into the dark house. He shut the door, chained it, threw the deadbolt, and puffed his thin lips into a full-of-pride smile. Then someone knocked on the door. The only sound Giosif offered was the click of his Spetzer’s hammer.

“It’s me, Giosif. Your neighbor here on Dartmouth. Margie. Margie Pederson. You knew my dead husband Sam. Please let me in.”

His inner voice said No, let her die out there; that ain’t Sam’s widow, but tough boy with gun was still boy with a heart full of street honor. He unchained the door. Slid the deadbolt free. Expected Margie to dash inside quickly enough for him to slam the door behind her.

Instead, he saw Jack. Margie was gone. Armed with a Thompson-Abdul M9, Jack forced his way inside.

Straight off, he sprayed the peeling walls, then shot the boy. Giosef lay crumpled and bloody on the faded green living-room carpet, his unfired Spetzer clenched tightly in his hand, blue unblinking eyes locked open as though in rapt attention to what Jack had to say.

Alowishis furrowed his stubbled face into waves of wrinkled skin. Jack had set down his machinegun, then removed from his leather jacket a Ruger pistol, plunking the barrel hard against the old man’s temple

Giosif lay dead at his feet. Through the still-open door Alowishis could see the sun, so many years a stranger, sting his eyes. He shut them. Filled his mind with happier times. The Independence Day Parade up and down Dartmouth Street. The neighbors from every street and avenue marching proudly to patriotic tunes. Ice cream cones and blue cotton candy. Mayor Billy Quince shouting to visitors, “Welcome, neighbors! Welcome! Welcome!” Old Glory filled with the promise to wave forever.

The old man sighed at the volley of first fireworks.

Jack squeezed the trigger.

  * * *

Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer whose work has appeared widelyHe was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.

His short-short fiction collections, published by All Things That Matter Press, are available at Amazon.com:

Flashing My Shortshttp://www.amazon.com/Flashing-My-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci/dp/0984259473

200 Shorts: http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci/dp/0984639241/ref=sr_1_1?Ss=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314991699&sr=1-1

A Family of Sicilians, his book portraying a true image of what it means to be Sicilian, is available at https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=A+FAMILY+OF+SICILIANS&type=

Sal Buttaci lives in Princeton, West Virginia, with his loving and much loved wife Sharon.

The Gathering by Monica Brinkman

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The night was approaching and with it growing excitement for what was to come. Maurice had heard about the gatherings which took place on this very special day. His dream was to one day be part of the exclusive group. They only selected the most perfect to partake in the festivities, and here he found himself, amid the flawless beauty of the others.

He knew Sheila would be picked, with her round curves and broad smile. She was second to be chosen. He could see why with a face that lit up the night with its brightness and warm glow. He’d secretly had a crush on her, yet would never let on, for she had her heart set on Louis.

Suppose if you were to measure excellence in form and face, Louis would win by a landslide. Somehow the crooked leering grin and arched eyes drew the crowd. He’d come in first place with the judges who selected those who would be part of the celebration. Maurice was tiring of the relentless reminder of superiority Louis exuded. Still, it was worth putting up with his boastful nature to be within this exclusive assembly.

Darkness now engulfed the night, which only accentuated the glow emitted from the windows behind them. So proud were they, for they had been carefully chosen from hundreds, maybe even thousands to bring in the season. And now they sat on the porch, he on the bannister, Sheila on the stool and Louis on the front step.

Though he realized he did not have the firm, broad form of Louis, or the curvy elegance of Sheila, he had something special indeed. He was the tallest and leanest of them all and he wore a devilish grin, accented by the wink of an eye. It somehow captured the heart of the people, and he was delighted!

So, they did what only the winners of the gathering were meant to do. They shined their beauty upon the world, and people stopped and looked and laughed and smiled. It felt so good to bring such joy to others, especially the children, who delighted in their excellence.

The night grew longer and soon the people were far and few and a chill set in, forming ice spots on his lids and mouth. He noticed Louis and Sheila were experiencing the same discomfort. Wasn’t it time to go inside the house and warm their cold at the fire? Why wasn’t anyone coming for them?

The light from the windows disappeared and they were in total darkness, apart from the glow of the candles, which were melting at rapid speed. He could feel the flicks of melted soy against his skin. Now it was becoming unbearable. Icy cold around his form and extreme heat within his body. He heard Sheila gasp and Louis groan.

What was such glory, had now turned into the worst nightmare. Where were the judges? Why had they abandoned them? Winners should be protected.

Wait. He heard footsteps and the sound of rustling leaves. They had not forgotten them. Maurice sighed with relief, his spirit perked. Two young boys approached, one tiptoed onto the porch and seized Sheila, tossing her hat to the floor, while the other raised Louis off the step and lifted him high into the air, and, no, Maurice could not believe his eyes, the young man threw Louis to the ground with such force it broke his body into pieces. The once magnificent Louis lay crumbled and dying.

Maurice heard the thud and saw his once lovely Sheila split in two.

The last thing Maurice heard was the taller boy state, “What a mess this will be for old man Phillips when he wakes up tomorrow.”

As Maurice lay broken on the porch, his insides leaking out onto the tattered floorboards, he realized this was not a great reward to be chosen as the best of pumpkins. In fact, it was the ultimate punishment.

***

Monica M Brinkman believes in ‘giving it forward’; reflected by her writing and radio show. A firm believer open communication is the most powerful tool to make positive change in the world; she expresses this in her books, The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, The Wheels Final Turn and in her weekly broadcast of It Matters Radio.

An avid writer, who has been proclaimed a true storyteller, she has been published in several anthologies and wrote a weekly column for over two years at Authorsinfo. Her works can be found at various sites throughout the internet. Visit her blog @ http://itmattersradio.wix.com/on-the-brink

Monica resides in the Midwest with her husband, two dogs and five cats.

Searching for More by Cynthia B Ainsworthe

Road to dead city

Carla ambled on the smooth black asphalt over to Richard, who sat on the gray concrete bench. Color had been absent in her life from birth. Not because of any hereditary defect, but due to the world she inhabited. She accepted this fact, as did the others. She had been taught not to question the leaders, and she knew Richard had the same upbringing. She gazed up at the gray towering buildings—the cityscape that made up her world.

He didn’t look up as she sat down. He kept his eyes straight ahead with a vacant stare. “In a couple of hours we’ll have to return to our quarters. I don’t want to be quarantined for missing curfew.”

“I know.” Carla sat down beside him. She studied the tattooed numbers on the inside of his arm. “I see you’re an odd. I’m an even.”

“Too bad.” Richard turned and looked at her. “We won’t be allowed to couple. They are strict about enforcing those things.”

“My roommate told me that when I first moved out of the children’s home.” She twirled a strand of her long brown hair. “Odds go with odds, and evens go with evens. I wonder if it was always this way—rules governing everything—even the way we’re supposed to think.”

He looked up at the blue sky. “There was a time, eons before us, before the Global Federation, when life was very different—full of plants, trees, flowers, people wearing colors for clothing instead of our gray protective suits. There was entertainment. People moved to music, known as dancing. Eating food that came from trees and the soil, and not the nutrient cakes with water we are served. They were allowed to choose their mates. There were places to which people could travel, too.”

“How do you know all these things?” I hope he’s not a subversive. If he is, I could be punished for talking with him. “Have you been snooping in the forbidden library vaults? You could be banished to the outland and never heard from again.”

“I have the elders’ trust.” A grimace thinned his lips. “I’m not about to start a revolution …. Have you ever wondered why we all look the same? Same color skin, eyes, hair, body type?”

“No. I just thought it was always the way it is now.” Her fingers lightly touched the top of Richard’s hand resting on his knee. “Don’t tell me more if it will get you into trouble.”

“From what I could tell from the archives, there were a series of massive wars between countries, all fighting for power and global control of resources as the population grew and food and water became more precious. Great scientific advances were made and would have benefited mankind if there wasn’t one last battle that ended most of life—plants, animals, and man. The few that survived were able to pull together and create what we have now.”

“Is what we have now really that terrible?” She lifted his chin to look into his almond eyes. “All you’re doing is creating a want inside yourself. That can’t be good. Certainly not good for the commune.”

“I’m thinking of how it might have turned out for us now if the actions of others, all those eons ago, were different.” He sighed, noticing the shadow elongate on the sidewalk from the setting sun. “I might have different features, skin color, or talent for something, instead of working at the same task every day.”

“What’s the use of thinking this way? I learned in school that the old leaders forced people of different races to mate until there was only one skin color—that was the goal—to stop prejudice.” What is he getting at? There’s no way to change things. “Remembering all those old history facts have nothing to do with us now. The elder leaders know what is best. We get a televised notice every morning in the common room.”

“But, we don’t know if that leader is real. All we see is an image on a screen. We never have the opportunity to ask questions—never allowed to ask questions.” He paused as his eyes roamed over her face. “Don’t you ever wonder what will happen to you when you can no longer breed? Wonder where you are shipped off to?”

“I believe what I’m told—a better place where I can relax and not worry about tasks.” Were the elders lying to us? “To have the freedom to talk with others as much as I want, instead of only a few hours each day.”

Richard sighed with a heaviness as if he held a deep dark secret and dare not reveal it for fear of an unknown retribution. “We’d better head to our quarters. We don’t want unnecessary punishment.” He offered his hand to Carla as he stood. “If you want to believe the others end up in a better place after they’re shipped out—go ahead. Nothing will change, unless …”

© 2016 Cynthia B Ainsworthe

Cynthia has longed to be a writer. Life’s circumstances put her dream on hold for most of her life. In 2006, she ventured to write her first novel, Front Row Center, which won the prestigious IPPY Award (Independent Publisher), as well as garnering numerous 5-star reviews, one from known Midwest Book Review. Front Row Center is the first book in the Forbidden Series.

This novel is now being adapted to screen. A script is in development by her and notable Hollywood screenwriter, producer, and director, Scott C. Brown. Remember?, and Forbidden Footsteps are books two and three in the Forbidden Series. She also contributed to the award-winning anthology, The Speed of Dark, compiled by Clayton C. Bye, published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. Cynthia enjoys retirement in Florida caring for her husband and their five poodle-children.

https://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8

https://www.cynthiabainsworthe.com

Sometimes, Karma Can be a Dog Trish Jackson

 

 Karmas a Dog

Romney Richlieu cursed. Bad luck was following her as usual.

Her whole life had been one giant screw up, and now this.

She mimicked Mrs. Breiton’s words. “We’re so sorry. It’s nothing to do with your leg, Romney. The company is in financial difficulty and we have to let a few people go.”

Sorry, my ass. I don’t know why they hired me in the first place. I didn’t hide my leg. It’s all skinny and ugly and it’s totally obvious my shoe is built-up. They could see that from the time  I  went for the first interview. I suppose it’s because of that silly woman with the Chihuahua in her purse. How was I supposed to know it was there? I like animals. I wouldn’t have put the file on top of the purse if she had told me it was there. And anyhow, the dog is fine.

She dragged her personal items from her drawer and tossed them all in the trash can. Like her life, nothing in there was worth saving.

She walked out of that place with her head held high. It wasn’t totally a normal walk, but she didn’t limp so much these days with the new orthotic shoe. So now what? She couldn’t even claim on unemployment because she hadn’t been there long enough. Maybe next time she should wear long pants to the interview and they wouldn’t see her leg. But these days with the recession, it seemed that the only way she could get a job was because of the sympathy factor. The poor crippled girl. We should be nice to her.

She stopped in the park and flopped onto a bench. She hadn’t allowed herself to think about her circumstances, but now fear clutched at her stomach. How will I pay the rent? Will they kick me out? Oh God. I wish I could just die.” She held her head in her hands and cried quietly.

“What the . . .?” She looked up sharply when something wet made contact with her arm. A dog—and he was licking her.

“What are you doing?” She pushed him away. He stood there and wagged his tail—and his whole butt wagged with it. He showed her his teeth. But he wasn’t snarling. He was smiling. The mutt was smiling at her. She tried to keep the stern look on her face, but he looked so funny with his butt wiggling like that and the goofy grin, she laughed out loud. Then she noticed his leg. One of his back legs was all shriveled up, the muscles useless and wasted like hers, and he held it up off the ground.

It didn’t seem to bother him. He wasn’t pissed off with life. In fact, he looked epically happy to see her. He had matted, dirty white fur, and he wasn’t wearing a collar. When she looked closer she could see he was all skin and bone. She reached out and patted him on his head and his butt wagged harder than before. He made a whining kind of noise.

“I do believe you’re talking to me,” she said. “You must be a stray, and yet you look so frikkin’ happy despite your bad leg, and you probably haven’t had a square meal for a while.”

She jerked when she noticed an old lady sitting at the other end of the bench. Where had she come from? She was smiling at Romney and petting the dog. “This is Andy,” she said. “He was mine, but I passed, and he was left to fend for himself. He’s yours now.” Before Romney could even open her mouth to reply, she was gone.

Was she really ever there?

Romney shrugged and smiled down at him. Smiling did something to her. It made her feel hopeful. “Well, Andy, let’s go see what we can do to get back on our feet. The first thing I’m gonna do is get you a square meal. I feel like our luck has just changed.”

Andy barked twice, and they limped out of the park together.

Trish Jackson grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, Africa, and lived through some crazy adventures that sparked her imagination; including having to keep a loaded UZI by her side every night in case of an attack by armed insurgents. She loves all animals and often includes them in her stories. She’s happiest with her wonderful family members, or in her country home in Florida tapping out a new novel on her computer. Find out more at http://www.trishjackson.com .

 

Bow Tie Judge by Kenny Wilson

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“All rise,” the bailiff bellowed.  “On this day of our Lord, August 4, 1997, face the flag of our country, recognizing the principles for which it stands; one nation under one God.  The District Court for the great State of Alabama, for the County of Cher-o-kee, Department One, the Honorable Beauregard T. Callahan, Judge presidin’, is now in session.  Be seated.”

I noticed that fat little judge walkin’ through a door ‘hind the bench while the bailiff did his hollorin’.  A red bow-tie was peekin’ out ‘a top of his shiny black robe.  It looked like a jewel on some fancy Hollywood lady’s neck.  Lord, I knowed this was trouble.  Pappy tol’ me: “Never trust no man wearin’ a bow-tie”.

There I was.  Wearin’ stripes an’ feelin’ weak from only eatin’ hot baloney and gravy top a’ slice a’ Wonder Bread.  Least Sundays they throw on an egg.  My head was throbbin’.  My hands was shaky too.  Not a drop a’ alcohol since bein’ jailed last week.  I weren’t in no mood for some bow-tied judge.

Junior Patton, sittin’ side me sweatin’ an’ stinkin’ like year ol’ possum grease, was the other prisoner in court.  We was walked ‘cross the lawn ‘tween the jail an’ courthouse chained like cat-fish strung on a line.  Deputy Atkins kept a twelve gauge at our backs.  You’d think we was murderers.

“Call the case of The People vs. Silas Fenstermacher, 0-7-3-1-9-9-7,” that sour ol’ clerk yelled.  An’ sho’ nuff, that clerk was wearin’ a yellar bow-tie.  ‘Least the re’ porter weren’t.  She was a nice lookin’ gal with legs comin’ out ‘neath a’ pink dress.  But I weren’t in no mood.

“You be Silas Fenstermacher,” the Judge asked, his jowls jigglin’ while his bug-eyes narrowed-in on me.  A fan on the wall ‘hind ‘em was on blowin’ a draft down his back.

“Yes, Sir,” I said, ‘fore the bailiff jerked me up by the collar.

“Stand up when addressin’ the Court,” he shouted in my ear.  “It’s ya’ ‘onor, not sir, inmate.”

“But y’all tol’ me to sit down,” I said.

I looked at that re’ porter to catch if I was right.  She kept on plukin’ on that machine ‘a hers.   Didn’t pay me no mind.

“My, my, ya’ ‘onor.  Looks like we got r’ selves a smart boy here,” the bailiff grinned, fixin’ to bash my skull with his stick.

I tried standin’ full-up but them wrist chains were so short I was yankin-up Junior’s hands.  Junior didn’t help none neither.  I was haulin’ up his lazy arms the whole time I was in front ‘a that judge.

“I’m only goin’ repeat myself once, Mr. Fenstermacher.  Are you Silas Fenstermacher?”

“Sorry sir, ah, I mean judge, ‘er, I mean ya’’onor.  That’s me all right.”

“You been charged with a violation of Alabama Code Section 13A-6-68, Indecent Public Exposure, a Class A misdemeanor.  How do you plead?”

“But ya’ ‘onor, I was only peein’ ‘hind Smitty’s bar.”

“Mr. Fenstermacher, you got cotton in your ears?  How do you plead?”

“I don’t rightly know.”

Mr. Fenstermacher, you plead guilty or not guilty. Otherwise, I’ll lock you up another week to think on it. Now what’s your plea?

 

##

 

I heard tell ‘bout Beauregard becomin’ a judge.  He went to law school but worked as a disc-jockey ‘til Judge Curley, the one ‘lected ‘fore him, threw Leonard, Beauregard’s cousin, in jail.

Leonard was ‘cused a’ mo-lestin’ a Curley relation livin’ outside a’ town.  A feud ‘rose ‘tween the Curleys an’ Callahans.  The town was split even ‘bout whether Leonard did it.  Beauregard decided to run against Curley in the next ‘lection an’ won by three votes.

Anyways, I learned ‘bout mo-lestin’ sittin’ in jail.  Ol’ Junior was a real criminal, not a drunk like me.  He’d been sentenced to five years for rape a’ his fourteen year ol’ step-daughter.  At least she weren’t blood.   He was also facin’ charges in the federal court down in Birmingham for sellin’ illegal firearms.

I didn’t have no lawyer, but Junior did.  His name was Bobby Davis, a real smooth talker.  No one called him Lawyer Davis.  He was jus’ Bobby ‘cause a’ that baby face a’ his.  Bobby won last year’s bass tournament.  It don’t count for much though ‘cause  a’ his ad-vantage havin’ the best damn bass boat in North Alabama.  Cherokee County a-signed Junior’s case to Bobby.

Sound echoes off them jailhouse walls.  I could hear Junior an’ Bobby talkin’ a day ‘fore we was sent to court.

“Listen, Junior, I need help.  I’ve gotta’ tell Judge Callahan something good.  Give me anything.”

“Why shit, Bobby, I was drunk, passed out, don’t remember nuthin’.”

“Anything Junior.  We’ve got to change that sentence.  Did she entice you, come at you with her tits showing?”

“Listen Bobby, y’all know how it is.  Hot-blooded fourteen-year-olds is all hormoned-up an’ stuff.  She’s Elmira’s kid.  Growed-up jus’ like her Mama too.  Never saw a dick she wouldn’t suck.”

“Look, Junior, I’m trying to get your time put together with the federal sentence so you won’t serve two terms on top of each other.”

Hearin’ Junior and Bobby talk got me thinkin’; why don’t they ‘gimmie some silver-tongue like Bobby?   

Then a loud commotion on the second floor made it so I couldn’t hear ‘em anymore’.  A deputy was arguin’ with a’ colored inmate.  Us white boys was kept on the first floor ‘cause it’s cooler.  Course, even downstairs was scorchin’ hot in the summer.

Layin’ on my bunk I wiped sweat outta’ my eyes tryin’ to catch a nap.  It was too damn hot for sleepin’.  ‘Fore’ long though, I could hear ‘em talkin’ again.

“Listen, Junior.  There’s no statute of limitations on those federal charges.  The Feds want you to serve time with the state.  Then they’ll re-file the gun charges so you serve both terms in a row.”

“So soon as I finish in the state pen I’ll start all over again?  It ain’t fair, Bobby.  It jus’ ain’t fair!  That weren’t the deal when I plead.”

“That’s what I’m telling Judge Callahan tomorrow.  Now give me a little help.”

“Shit, Bobby, I don’t know nuthin’.”

“Common, Junior, there must be something.”

“Bobby, jus’ tell that judge it was her fault.  She’d been askin’ for it.  I’d been resistin’ temptation for months but the Devil got me drunk.  I been prayin’ to Jesus ever since.”

“Shit, Junior!  Judge Callahan won’t believe a word of that.”

“Then ‘least tell ‘em my soft county-cut was gentle on her insides.”

“I’d be careful with that one.  It’ll remind the judge about the trauma Dr. Mary reported.”

“That bitch!  If she was any kind of doctor she’d a’ knowed it was on account a’ my big dick.”

“Junior, the last thing the Judge wants to hear about is the size a’ your dick.

 

##

 

“Your plea, Mr. Fenstermacher, your plea,” the judge said, still waitin’ on me.

Just then Bobby walked in with Attorney Dunsmere, the D.A.  Dunsmere always wore the same ol’ seersucker suit.    It had tobacco stains on front a’ the jacket an’ shit stains on back a’ the trousers.

“Ya’ ‘onor,” I said.  “How come I don’t have a lawyer?  I want Bobby to be my lawyer jus’ like Junior.”

The judge smiled, real big.  “Very well,” Mr. Fenstermacher.  “You’re hereby re-manded to the Cherokee County jail for e-valuation of your eligibility for a lawyer pro-vided by the county.  See y’all in a week.”

Everyone was grinnin’, even the re-porter.  At least I got to sit back down.

The bailiff whispered behind me: “you stupid drunk, he’d a’ given you time served for pleadin’ guilty.  Besides, only special criminals get free lawyers, an’ you ain’t special.”

That bow-tie judge never let on ‘bout time served an’ free lawyer rules.

“Calling the case of The People vs. Junior Patton, Case number 0-4-4-1-9-9-7,” the clerk yelled.

Bobby an’ Lawyer Dunsmere stood up.  Junior didn’t have to budge off his butt.

“Permission to approach, your Honor,” Bobby said.

The attorneys walked up to the judge all friendly like.  The clerk was shufflin’ papers an’ the re’ porter put her notebook on a table an’ went outside for a smoke.

The bailiff kept eyein’ me while he poured water in the glasses on the lawyer table usin’ a pitcher with a broke handle.  He wiped his forehead on his sleeve then went ‘hind the bench an’ ad-justed the fan to blow down on the lawyers too.

The lawyers was huddled in front a’ that bench yackin’ up a storm.  That bow-tied wearin’ judge’s face got redder than a baboon’s ass.  He slammed his fist on the bench.  “Junior is pre-vert’,” he said, “but he’s a son of Alabama!  The Feds are playin’ with us.  I hereby commute Junior’s sentence to time served.”

Then it was over.  The bailiff unchained that pre-vert sentenced to five years an’ lookin’ at gun charges to boot.  Bobby put his arm ‘round Junior an’ walked him right outta’ that courtroom.

Deputy Atkins walked me back to the jailhouse in chains, for a pissin’crime.

Jus’ my luck.

a

Kenny Wilson is an attorney who writes to clear his head. His work is seldom published, but we can report that one of his stories is included in the Chase Entertainment’s soon to be released anthology The Nettle Tree.

 

The Last Time I Saw You: Prequel to the Kit Doyle suspense series By Bonnie Hearn Hill

 

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This is the first chapter of the prequel-in-progress to Bonnie Hearn Hill’s Kit Doyle suspense series (If Anything Should Happen, 2015; Goodbye Forever, 2016, I Wish You Missed Me, 2017).

 

I went to Big Bob’s memorial service. How could I not?

I’d learned of his death from someone named Crystal, who’d phoned me at the radio station, and in a trembling voice, provided the details. Stunned, I had managed to say, “Thank you,” and hung up, not an appropriate response, but the best I could do at that moment. Only later, when I was driving home, was I able to cry.

Brent Roberts, aka Big Bob Runyon, was dead, killed by a fall in his home. He had been my friend, my protector, that first year I worked in radio. More important, he’d been beside me in the underground garage that October night I’d been trying to forget ever since – the night that Natalie had died.

Although I’d witnessed his fights with his ex-wife, I wasn’t convinced that she was the reason he decided to start a new life after their divorce. There had to be more behind it, but he disappeared before I got a chance to press him. His method had been drastic, a fatal “accident” he’d warned me about in advance. I hadn’t seen him since.

At first he moved to Hawaii and then finally Sacramento, where I had also landed after leaving Pleasant View. Every time I suggested getting together, Big Bob had an excuse not to, and finally I stopped asking. He kept in touch only by email. I let that be enough, afraid that if I pushed, he would end all contact with me.

The service was held in one of those neighborhood Baptist churches off Martin Luther King Blvd., a church he’d told me that he had to work his way through Sacramento to find. Big Bob, a born-again-and-proud-of-it Christian, could never settle on a place of worship that completely chased away his demons, but I guessed that he’d come closer to demon-chasing than I had.

Yellow, brown and rust-colored leaves that looked cut from construction paper crunched beneath the rose-colored suede ballerina slippers he’d forced me to buy four years before, because he’d said, I was the one redhead who could wear pink. The rest of my attire was funereal black, purchased for this event. I knew that I would never wear this shapeless dress again.

Fall in the San Joaquin Valley smells of hope—damp and earthy, the way it smells in the summertime if you spray a hose onto a hot sidewalk. The scent tried to remind me of other times. I left it at the door.

Once inside, I slipped past the human bottleneck around the easel of photos at the entrance and made my way to a back pew on the left side.

A large woman with a long, low-cut black dress and matching jacket approached me. Her hair was a deep chestnut color and even thicker and curlier than mine.

“You’re one of only two people here I don’t know,” she said, “so you must be Kit Doyle.”

“How’d you guess?” I forced myself to smile.

“’Cause the other one’s a guy.” She nodded two pews ahead of me.

“You’re Crystal?” I wasn’t certain how to continue since Big Bob had never mentioned her to me.

“He left word that you should be notified.” In spite of her swollen eyes, she seemed in control of her emotions, caught in that refuge of exhaustion and calm that follows an outpouring of grief. “Said he taught you everything you know.”

That made me smile in earnest. Big Bob was never short on hubris. I nodded and said, “He was wonderful to me. I’m working in a talk radio format now.”

“Rehashing those old unsolved crimes. We listen to you and Farley all the time.” Then she put her hand over her lips and said, “Listened.”

I knew that he tuned in to our show. He often emailed his encouragement. The surprise was that he hadn’t been listening alone.

“I never thought Big Bob would give up radio for good,” I told her. “But from what he said, he really liked his graphics and advertising work.”

“Not that he needed the money.” She gave a little laugh and added, “It’s so weird to hear you call him that.”

A dark-haired man two pews ahead of us turned around with a look that managed to be both hesitant and expectant, as if he wanted to join our conversation and didn’t know how.

I realized that they were both waiting for me to respond. “Did everyone in your church call him Brent?” I asked.

“Of course,” Crystal said. “That was his name.”

Hadn’t he told her? Maybe I should just shut up, but I was already in too far. Besides, what difference did his identity change make now? “When I knew him, his name was Bob Runyon,” I said.

“That’s just what he called himself on the air back then.” She studied her acrylic nails and looked up at me. “He was born Brent Roberts, and he died Brent Roberts.”

Big Bob used to say that I never backed down when I thought I was right, but his memorial was no place to prove the point. A nice, neutral reply was what I needed.

“I see.”

That seemed to cheer her a bit. “Surprised you didn’t know,” she said, “considering how close you claim you were.”

My cheeks felt so hot that I was sure she could tell she’d gotten to me. I didn’t do well hiding my emotions under the best of circumstances, but I had to try.

“We were close.”

“Excuse me.” The man who’d been observing us leaned over the back of his pew. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation about Big Bob Runyon.”

“Brent Roberts,” Crystal said through tight lips.

He looked at her and then at me. If I had to guess, I’d say that he’d prefer to remain silent if he had a choice. Apparently, he didn’t.

“I’m Richard McCarthy,” he told her.

“Richard, the vet,” Crystal said, then hurried away from me toward his pew. “You and Brent went to high school together, right?”

“Yes. We met in kindergarten, actually.” He turned back around again and directed the rest of the statement to me. “His name was Bob Runyon then. We called him Bobby.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Crystal sputtered.

The sparse group of mourners drifted into the church. Women, mostly, they wore dark colors and hair-sprayed styles that probably hadn’t changed much over the years they’d occupied these pews. I watched them settle into their places with the ease that comes from habit, and hoped Big Bob had found comfort among these people.

Crystal thumped off, her dress swinging behind her. Richard McCarthy slipped out of his pew and stopped beside me.

“Do you mind?” he asked.

I moved over to make room for him. The pianist in front was already hammering out a hymn, and the minister had appeared out of nowhere in front of us. Richard McCarthy gave me a sort-of smile, and I settled back in the pew wondering how many secrets Big Bob had hidden in addition to the one we shared.

The memorial turned into an amateur talent show, with just about everyone but the two of us going to the front to share tearful memories of “Brent.” The emotional display didn’t feel right to me, but maybe nothing would have felt right just then.

After Crystal’s second trip to the pulpit, Richard nudged me and pointed down at the booklet in his hand. Brent Elliot Roberts. Born March 18. I met his eyes. Big Bob was born right before Thanksgiving.

When the service was finally over, Richard and I walked out together.

“So do you think Bobby changed his identity legally?” he asked, keeping his voice low. “The girlfriend is adamant that he was really Brent Roberts.”

“If she is the girlfriend.”

“What do you mean?” he asked in a calm voice that failed to hide his wariness. He hadn’t made up his mind about me, any more than I’d made up my mind about him.

“Were you and Big Bob in touch?” I asked.

He grinned and nodded. “Sure. If someone made a grammatical mistake on television, or worse, in the newspaper, I’d get an email about it the next day.”

“Me too,” I said. “But he never mentioned a girlfriend to me.”

“Me either.” We reached the foyer. He stopped and stared at me so intensely that I wanted to turn away. “The only woman he ever mentioned was you. Other than the ex, of course. I’m guessing she’s the reason Bobby did this whole identity switch.”

“That’s what he told me,” I said. “He lived in Hawaii until last year, you know.”

“He told me Canada.” Richard shook his head. “Bobby wasn’t the easiest person to understand.”

For the first time since Crystal’s call, the reality of what had happened began to sink in. “I didn’t understand him,” I managed to say. “But I did love him.”

“So did I.”

The intensity in his eyes had been replaced by an unreadable, distant expression. He moved away from me, as if ready to walk out the door, and I almost followed. Instead, I looked back at the easel of photos that had been blocked by the church members when I’d come in earlier. Now, I could see them clearly. High school photos similar to the ones Big Bob had shown me when we’d worked together. A studio portrait he’d used at the station back then. I touched Richard’s arm to keep him from moving past me, and said, “Look.”

“I gave the minister copies of his high school pictures,” he said.

The other photos showed Big Bob hugging kids, standing next to his pastor and sitting on a sofa, Crystal beside him, a Christmas tree in the background. Something about him was wrong.

“Is this the way you remember him?” I asked.

Richard followed me closer to the easel. “He was always a big guy.”

“I’m not talking about his size.”

“No. Of course not.” We stood side by side before the easel now. The man in the photo could be a distant relative perhaps, but there was something wrong, something about the nose, the cheeks, the chin. I couldn’t deny the similarities, but I couldn’t deny the differences either.

“That’s not Big Bob, is it?” I asked.

And Richard said, “God, no, it’s not.”

***

Goodbye Forever, Bonnie Hearn Hill’s thirteenth novel, will be published by Severn House in summer of 2016.

The Corpsman by Kenneth Weene

a

They called him Doc. It wasn’t his title or even his nickname, but it was what they called him. He knew if he were ever hit, killed, air-vacced out, they’d call the next guy Doc, too. Doc was better than the other name, “Medic, Medic.” That was what they called when somebody was hit, hit bad, bad enough to need him. Some nights it still woke him—in his dreams, them yelling, “Medic, Medic.” Him paralyzed, unable to help.

He is a bright guy. Career Navy, he’d worked his way up from corpsman to officer, gone to school—college. For all that education, he still didn’t have any insight, no self-awareness. Self-awareness isn’t something that comes easy with PTSD. Too busy reliving, too busy trying to keep his shit together .

Retired, going a bit to gray and pot, he and his wife were on a trip; they were staying at the same Bed and Breakfast as my wife and I.  The ladies had gone to bed; so there we were: just two guys sitting in a comfortable living room in small town Arizona.

He starts out telling me that he doesn’t much like being with people, being part of a group, doesn’t really join in, stays to himself. Then he spends the evening talking. Talking and sharing and talking some more. Guess what he really doesn’t like is listening. If the other guy is talking, how can he be back there, back then, reliving?

He starts by telling me about PTSD. I don’t interrupt—to tell him that I’m a shrink—not until he finishes telling me about what a Navy psychiatrist had explained to him—how if you take a cat, nice little cat, and put him in a back yard and start shooting at him and blowing shit up around him and then you take him back into the house, why that cat will be changed and that was how post traumatic stress worked.

Then I told him about my background; I mentioned there was usually something else about Post Traumatic Stress—something that cats couldn’t figure—not just the being scared but the guilt that somehow you should have changed things.

That’s when he talked about the ambush. He was supposed to go out with this patrol. They were going to do a sweep and set up an ambush, a standard night operation in Vietnam.

Bunch of kids; oldest, the corporal leading it, wasn’t any older than nineteen—kids, just kids. So this corporal tells me, “Doc, you ain’t coming with us.”

“Of course I am.  You got to have a corpsman.”

“You ain’t coming,” he says again.

“Yeah, I am.”

They go back and forth a bit before the corporal tells him that the patrol isn’t going anywhere, that they’re just too damned tired so they’re going to get a little way out of camp, and hunker down for the night. Just call in like they’re really out on patrol. Get a night’s sleep before they fall apart.

Well, he isn’t happy about not doing his job; so he decides that the least he can do is take a radio shift back at HQ, do something instead of taking the night off. At two, he takes over the C.P. radio. Everything’s quiet. The corporal calls in, his scheduled contact. Everything’s fine. A few seconds later, he hears hell breaking loose over that radio. First there’s a single shot. Then that patrol, the one he was supposed to be on, is screaming for help. Over the radio he hears the firing. Deep shit!

He’s one of the team that goes out for the rescue. Four medics, couple of officers, a bunch of riflemen. By the time they get to where this platoon is hunkered, every last one of those Marines has been hit. But everything is quiet, quiet as death.

“Where the hell are they?”

“Sneaky bastards”

Then they figure it out. The corporal had called in at two, just like he was supposed to. Then he decided to check his men, make sure nothing was wrong. Damn kid forgot to put on his helmet. In Marine world after dark and no helmet, you’re the enemy. Shoot to kill. That first shot he’d heard over the radio.

Well, that shot and the other Marines had jumped up – still no helmets. More fucking shooting.

All those guys hit; all by their own friendly fire.

Friendly fire. Jesus, who could have thought. Too damned tired to know what they were…

His eyes clouded. He was someplace else.

I should have been there. Never could figure out why I wasn’t. I should have been out there with those guys, but … but I wasn’t. Why? … Why?

The thing was, he was serious. He didn’t understand why the corporal had told him to stay in camp.

“You were too valuable to waste,” I offered.

What do you mean?

“They knew they weren’t going to be fighting so why waste a corpsman’s time? Just like if they needed to dig a hole or some other grunt work, you’re not the guy to hand the shovel. Medics were too valuable to squander that way. Why have you waste your energy when you might need it to save one of them some time?”

Shit, I must have asked a dozen doctors why; and nobody ever… He sat—quiet, nodding his head from time to time.

Thing is I came back. I was never even wounded.

“That was damn lucky. Corpsmen, you guys—only ones more likely to get it were Second Lieutenants.” I hadn’t served, but I wanted him to know that I understood.

Yeah, butter-bars. You see a Lieutenant with a map and you knew you were in shit. Fresh from training and not knowing a thing about what they was doing.

I laughed. He smiled wanly.

When I was fresh in the field, you know maybe six weeks in, I noticed something strange. There was this snapping noise. I’d be working on a guy and suddenly I’d hear this snapping. I’d look around, but there wasn’t anything breaking—no sticks or anything – just that sound. I asked this Gunnery Sergeant, “Gunny,” I asked, “There’s something I want to ask you.”

“So ask, Doc.”

“When I’m out there and I’m working on a guy, I hear this noise, this snapping, any idea what it is?”

“Sure, Doc, that’s bullets. Those sons-of-bitches are shooting at you. When a bullet gets close enough it snaps. Most of the time you hear a whine, but when it gets close enough.”

“After that, when I was working on a guy, I’d kind of dart around.”

He acted it out, reaching for something quickly, changing direction, moving suddenly in another direction.

He stopped moving, sat still and looked at me.

“It sounds awful,” I said to break the silence.

Nothing.

Some, a lot didn’t make it. Some I didn’t think would, but they did. Worst one, one I saved but I didn’t think he’d make it—there was this kid. We were on patrol and all hell breaks out. I’m working on some other guy, nothing too bad, when one of the Marines comes up, says, ‘Doc, you got to come.’

“I’m working on this guy,” I say.

He grabs me; pulls me right away, right down to his buddy.

This grunt is leaning against a tree. His arm is broken in two; he’s holding it up, and it’s just hanging down from here.

He gestures to show that the bottom two thirds of the guy’s left forearm is hanging down like everything inside it is broken, like it’s held on by skin.

And his right leg is gone right to here.” He indicates the hip. “I could see his hip joint. The leg is a couple of yards away, lying on the ground like it’s waiting for him. And blood. Shit, you ain’t seen a femoral until you’ve seen a femoral A femoral and a radial and both going at once.

He jerked his hands in different directions like they were supposed to be the spurting blood.

First thing I need is a tourniquet. I dump my pack right there on the ground, but I don’t have another one. None of the guys have one either; we’ve just used them all. So I think about it, and we’re wearing these new uniforms, not the cammies, those hadn’t come in yet, but these green nylon uniforms. At least we were out of the cottons—sweat to death in nylon, but they dried faster. These new uni-s, they got pockets on the legs, and there are these cords sewn in to tie those pockets tight so your shit doesn’t jiggle around in there. I never put anything in those pockets, but I grab the cord from my left leg and pull until it rips free.

Again his hands are flying around.

I use the strap to tie up that stump of his. Use some stump pads and there’s all this jungle shit right in the wound, but I got it tied off … and the arm, and I say, “Call a dust off; we got to get him out of here.”

That’s when this guy—his leg gone, his arm gone—he says, “Hey, Doc, you looked down there.”

I nod yeah.

“So is it all there. Do I still got what I need?”

“Yeah,” I tell him and that son-of-a-bitch smiles back at me like there’s not a damn thing wrong in the world.

Course we’ve got that chopper all ready coming in; and he starts coming down, but then he pulls away.

“What the fuck?” I ask.

“Taking fire, can’t land,” the sergeant explains.

So we load this guy on a poncho and his leg and we carry him down to an LZ not too far off. But the chopper still can’t land. Sarge says, “They’ll lower the basket. We put him in fast, and they get the hell out of here.”

So they get about a hundred feet above us and they lower this drogue, and it starts rotating like a crazy-ass pendulum, but then that pilot—damn he’s good—he gets it under control and sets it down gentle. Somebody yells, “Get him in.”

b

We get that guy and his leg into the bucket and the copter takes off.

“Shit,” I yell, “We didn’t get him tied in.”

That basket is swinging around again, and we watch it gyrating as the copter pulls up and meanwhile I guess they’re pulling him in, too; but for a minute I expected to see that guy flying out of that bucket and…

Couple of months later, we get back from patrol and the shirt whose in charge of our platoon calls a meeting. “We got a letter,” he says, “from Clere. You guys remember him?”

Well, most of us—except the new guys—say yeah, and he reads the letter. How this guy’s back in the states and learning to use a prosthetic arm, one of those things that go across the back and you can move them around with your other shoulder and you can open and close these hooks.

He illustrated hunching his shoulders and clawing with two fingers of his own hand.

“They can’t do anything about a leg, too much of that was gone. But I’ll be going home and that’s what counts. So, I just wanted to let you guys know I made it out okay.”

The shirt gives us a piece of paper and a pen and tells us we should all write something back to this guy. Being I’m Navy, you know a corpsman and not a Marine, I get that piece of paper last and there isn’t much room; so I just write how most of us would give an arm and a leg to get out of Nam.

He nodded in appreciation of his own little joke. I tried to smile in response.

Didn’t hear from that guy for years. Then the VFW puts together a list of all of us members all over the country. Computers you know; they’re great. And each of us has written down his information. Forty bucks and you got a great big book to tell you where all your buddies are. It was brand new; my copy hadn’t come yet, but I was looking forward to it, maybe looking up a few of the guys.

Meanwhile, it was first day of deer hunting season and I’d spent it out in the swamps, wandering around and not seeing a single animal. I get home tired, hungry, out of sorts. Last thing I want is to talk to anyone. Just as my ass is finding my favorite chair, the phone rings.

I don’t answer; but it keeps ringing, and my wife can’t stand it so she answers: You know a woman, can’t leave a crying baby or a ringing phone.

“Tell them we don’t want any.”  He says it while making a cutting sign across his neck.

Don’t you hate those telemarketers? I figured nobody else would be bothering with us.

Anyway, my wife gets to talking, and I tell her again, “We don’t want any.”

Then she hands me the phone. “It’s for you.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know. Ask him.

So I kind of shout into the phone, “Who is this?”

And this deep, rough voice says, “Did you use to be in the Navy?”

“Yeah. And I still am. Who…?”

“A corpsman?”

“Yeah. But…”

“And you served in Vietnam?”

Now he was getting into some painful water, “Look, I don’t know what you’re selling, but who the hell are you?”

“Shit, Doc, now that ain’t any way to talk to a guy who gave an arm and leg to get out of Nam.”

“Clere, is that you? You know I never could find you, find out … How the hell are you? Wondered a lot of time, but couldn’t find you in any reports.”

He laughs. “That’s ‘cause my name’s not Clere, it’s Lehr.”

“So where are you? What are you doing?”

“We still live in Missouri. I work for the I.R.S.”

“Shit, I saved your life so you could go to work for the I.R.S.? What the fuck?”

He looked at me and shook his head like something worried at him but that nothing mattered.

We sat quiet for a while. We both knew there were no answers, no reasons, just the randomness of war. But on that night, that one night: yeah, there had been a reason.

Love Forgotten By Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

Cynthia cover

I want to share an excerpt from my newest novel,  “Remember?”
(book 2, Chapter 1, in Forbidden Series)

“PULL OVER HERE! Now! Quick!” Larry Davis exclaimed. “That face. The woman adjusting the scarf on that mannequin.”

Joe Winton raised his bushy black eyebrows in astonishment. “Chief, what’s goin’ on? You saw a ghost or somethin’?”

“Not a ghost. It’s Taylor! I’m sure of it.” Larry’s eyes remained fixed on the dark haired beauty in the store window. “After all this time and the endless searching, I’ve finally found her in that boutique. In London. Where are we exactly?”

“On a side street in the West End, near Mayfair. Lar, don’t jump the gun.” Joe must have seen his desperation. “It could be someone who looks like Taylor. Remember, Interpol didn’t turn anythin’ up after eighteen months. I’m your bro and your friend, not to mention your right-hand man. I’m only lookin’ out for y’.”

Joe’s words faded as Larry’s mind whirled with anticipation. The limousine driver pulled over to the curb in front of the dress shop. Larry’s heart beat faster as he anticipated reuniting with his lost love. He flung open the door and extended his long legs onto the slush-covered sidewalk. The brisk, cold air reddened his cheeks and a light breeze tousled his dark blond hair.

Joe sighed heavily as he followed his longtime friend to the store entrance. A crowd of fans quickly formed. They had caught sight of their American idol. Larry was oblivious to their squeals and cheers. He focused on his sole quest.

The shop doorbell cheerfully chimed announcing Larry’s entrance. All eyes turned toward his commanding, yet boyish stature, and then settled on his sparkling and piercing blue eyes. The dark-haired woman came from the display window as if curious from all the commotion. Her quizzical eyes froze on the good-looking stranger before her. As voices called out requesting autographs, Larry remained silent and mesmerized at the sight of this woman. He tentatively took a step toward her.

“Tay, is that you?” His voice quivered. “I’ve been looking for you for so long. I can’t believe I’ve finally found you.”

“What did you say?” Her words caught in her throat.

“I said ‘Tay’. Aren’t you Taylor?” Doesn’t she recognize me?

“That’s not my name. I’m Tiffany, Tiffany Bradford.” Her eyes held confusion. She shyly extended her hand.

Autograph seekers closed in around him as he sought her hand. Their fingers met briefly. Larry rejoiced in her fleeting touch. Her fingers slipped away. Joe did his best to hold the British fans at bay as they busily tapped the keys of their cell phones and sent messages on social media to spread the news.

His eyes fixed on hers. Larry didn’t hear the fans bombard him with questions and comments.

“Mr. Davis, may I please have your autograph?”

“How long are you staying in the UK?”

“I just love your music!”

“I’ve been a fan of yours for so many years.”

“Are you recording a new song?”

Joe countered the queries in his usual unflappable style. “Mr. Davis is tourin’ the UK for a couple of weeks. A new song is on the horizon. He loves his British fans. Most likely a return visit will be in the distant future.”

Larry’s voice was soft as he spoke to Tiffany. “I’m sorry. You look so much like a woman I knew.” He tilted his head boyishly. “Funny, you don’t sound English—your accent, I mean.”

“I’m not,” she replied. “I’m American. My home is here in London.”

“How about coming to my concert tonight at the Royal Albert Hall?” Larry turned to Joe. “Give Tiffany one of those backstage passes and that reserved ticket you keep in your pocket.”

Joe did as requested and handed the treasured document to Tiffany. Cheers came from the surrounding fans.

“Thank you Mr. Davis …” She fingered her hair. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend. Wouldn’t you rather give this to one of your fans here?”

I know you’re Taylor. You have to be! I don’t understand any of this!

“No. It would make me so happy to see you there tonight at the concert.”. He stumbled over his words, “Please say you’ll be there.”

“Maybe I can make it.” Her blue-green eyes looked up at him with an expression of remote recognition.

“Great!” Joy radiated from Larry. “I’ll be looking for you—front row, center seat.”

“Chief,” Joe interjected. “We need to get back to the hotel. You’ve got a press conference to get to.”

“Yeah,” Larry replied as he continued to look at her. “I’ll leave in a moment. Gotta sign a few autographs first.” I know she’s Taylor. It has to be her!

As he signed various pieces of paper, his eyes returned to her at every chance as if drawn to her beauty by a magical force. A small smile peeked from the corners of her mouth and a faint pink glow came to her cheeks.

Larry’s mind went into a whirlwind. Why doesn’t she recognize me? What is wrong with her? This isn’t at all like Taylor!

“C’mon, Chief,” Joe reminded. “We need to go! Can’t be late for the press.”

“Yeah, I hear you.” Larry reached for Tiffany’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “I’m counting on seeing you tonight at the Albert.” He punctuated his last comment with a smile and wink. “I’ll be disappointed if you’re not there.”

Tiffany looked up at him from beneath her long black lashes. “Maybe. We’ll see.”

Oohs and aahs rang throughout the room. Larry wedged through the throngs of female admirers.

Larry turned briefly at the entrance and called out to Tiffany, “I’ll be looking for you tonight. Don’t forget.” He quickly left, leaving shoppers buzzing about this impromptu visit from the famous American idol.

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

Cynthia B. Ainsworthe writes suspenseful romance. She has won multiple writing awards. Though she writes mostly romance, her short stories cross many genres. She loves animals and is a parent of five poodle children. Ms. Ainsworthe is currently finalizing Forbidden Footsteps book 3, and writing Dangerous Reach book 4 in her Forbidden Series. A lover of culinary arts, Passion in the Kitchen, is a whimsical approach to French cuisine with delicious recipes, a romantic story thread, and luscious photos of shirtless men.

http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8
and
http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=3372

Dear Mommy By Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

This very short story is a tribute to my furry grandson and my lovely daughter, Cindy. Fur animals and feathered friends have always been part of my daughter’s upbringing. She has a natural love for animals which illustrates her gentle and loving nature. I like to think I had something to do with that influence, but realize her true and giving heart guides her positive outlook and kind deeds.

Cynthia - kitten

Dear Mommy,

One night in September, at four weeks old, I found myself tossed out like a forgotten food wrapper. My left eye hurt from an injury. I don’t remember how I was hurt. I remember feeling cold, hungry, frightened, and wet. The rain poured down, drenching my fur and causing it to stick to my skin in wet mats. I couldn’t stop shaking. I felt weak, and only wanted to be safe and loved.

I traveled from bush to bush. Every noise caused me to jump. Where was my birth mother and my siblings? I missed them and didn’t know how to return to my home. I didn’t recognize a sound or smell. I knew I had to be strong or a mean person, cat, or dog would hurt me. Though I was young, I’ll never forget those feelings of being rejected. I was on my own and only want to survive the night.

I crept close to houses. I cried as loud as I could. I was desperate to be rescued, but no one turned on a light or peeked through a window.

I’m strong. I won’t give up.

Another home is ahead. Again I cry loudly and mournfully. What is that? A door is opening from that house. Someone is coming near. I sense kindness. Your warm hands pick me up and embrace my heart. I’m too weak and young to know how to purr. But I can kiss. Even though my throat is dry from incredible thirst, I manage to kiss your finger to express my thanks.

You bring me in from the cold, dry my fur, and give me food. You say my eyes are a vivid blue, though I don’t understand that. From the first, your voice makes me joyful and feel secure. I curl up in your lap and snuggle close to you in that warm towel. The sound of your heartbeat comforts me and allows me to release my fear. My only thought is, I have a mommy and she loves me. Peaceful dreams come to me that night. It’s been so very long since I dared to sleep more than a few minutes at a time.

You take me to the doctor for a checkup and to have my eye fixed. I’m scared, but won’t let that kind man know it. He seems nice and is gentle. I’m glad to have my eye feel better. I had almost gotten used to the pain.

You take such good care of me and pet me so gently that I forget my fearful beginnings. Every now and then all those fears and bad images flash in front of my eyes, and I lash out—not to be mean, but because of the trauma of being rejected so cruelly and I’m again scared.

I love your kisses and cuddles. You give me treats, toys, and gentle words. I couldn’t want for a better home or for a nicer mom. Be patient with me. I’m still learning how to belong to you and the rules that I must now live by. Every day, I’m doing my best.

I will always love you,

Draper xxoo, meow with purrs and kisses

© 2016 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

Cynthia B. Ainsworthe writes suspenseful romance. She has won multiple writing awards. Though she writes mostly romance, her short stories cross many genres. She loves animals and is a parent of five poodle children. Ms. Ainsworthe is currently finalizing Forbidden Footsteps book 3, and writing Dangerous Reach book 4 in her Forbidden Series. A lover of culinary arts, Passion in the Kitchen, is a whimsical approach to French cuisine with delicious recipes, a romantic story thread, and luscious photos of shirtless men.

http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8

and

http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=3372

 

Culture Clash

P1010111

This story is part of a longer piece about the misunderstandings when people or beings of different cultures and abilities must work together.

 

Characters:

Miss. Elizabeth – the president’s daughter who is working on her doctorate promoting education in primitive rural areas.

Miss Emily – one of the younger students recently moved to the mountains.

T’VN – a local youth from the mountains. He is illiterate and has little experience with outsiders.

Ophelia and Lizzy – sisters born to a white standard poodle and a Samoyed dog. Ophelia is Miss. Elizabeth’s companion. Lizzy is now living in the mountains with Emily.

 

Culture Clash

Miss Elizabeth stayed three days in the mountains. Emily tagged after her whenever she could. Miss Elizabeth even allowed the child to ride in the van to visit two other settlements that did not have schools. While Miss Elizabeth felt happy to have Emily with her, she did not appreciate the adolescent T’VN tagging along. His father had puffed himself up and insisted that as the most prominent family in the region, his son should represent them so the villagers would know the family consented to Elizabeth’s plan. To Elizabeth who had grown up witnessing the conflict between her father and the oligarchs who thought they should control the country, this decision irritated her. She understood that taking a local person with her would be a good idea and had planned to take Hannah or N’RA. She sighed, “Perhaps the arrogant lad would learn something.”

After making arrangements for the van to pick up students in each village twice a week for lessons, Elizabeth’s party drove toward home. Elizabeth put her arm around Emily.   “Sweetheart, I’m so glad you came today. You did a great job reading your story to the other children. I think you helped the parents see the advantage of educating girls and showed that our school staff takes good care of our children.”

Emily melted with happiness. The praise gave her the courage to voice something that troubled her. “I don’t like T’VN. Martha says he only flirted with her because he loves our truck.   Now he is flirting with you when Mr. Thomas is your husband.”

Miss Elizabeth laughed and whispered back, “Don’t worry about him. I don’t think he will try to touch me. If he does, I will teach him his mistake, if Ophelia,” she smiled at her large dog, “doesn’t get to him first.” The woman and child shared a giggle before Elizabeth added, “I think you need a room for a gym in your house so you can all practice your moves.” They giggled again.

As the situation played out, it proved that Emily had some wisdom for her age. Elizabeth took only one bodyguard, Lt. Chun, when she visited High Valley that evening to talk about the students needing someplace to study and read. She finally concluded, “Just a battery light by their bed will help. I will add providing one battery powered light per household to my list of things rural children need in order to keep up in school. Perhaps the Ministry of Education can provide that.”

Elizabeth needed to walk from the meeting place at the spring back to the truck waiting on the other side of the pass. She had Ophelia with her. Lizzy joined them just as Elizabeth stood to leave and the two dogs greeted each other joyfully. Delighted with a chance to play together, the dogs danced twenty feet in front of Elizabeth. One of the village elders trailed after her asking Lt. Chun questions about the army. Thus, Lt. Chun dropped behind Elizabeth for a few seconds at the top of the pass.

Things could not have worked out better for T’VN, or so he thought. He had convinced himself that Miss Elizabeth loved him.   Never in his life had a woman treated him so sweetly. Visions of her wealth and beauty danced in his head. He knew that the minute he kissed her she would fall into his arms and pledge her undying love. He’d imagined this so many times that he came to believe that every time she smiled at a child, or her dog, or one of her friends, she was secretly smiling at him, encouraging him.

He lurked in the dark by the trunk of a Scrubnut bush. He’d prepared a bed of ferns under the bush where they would consummate their love. Under his starry eyed fantasies, he nurtured a firm resolve to make this woman his, now.

Elizabeth reached the top of the pass and turned to say something to LT. Chun. T’VN saw Elizabeth pause to look behind her.   He knew she waited for him.   He stepped forward to wrap his arms around her. “My love.”

Elizabeth chose a move that involved elbows, feet and knees. Her master called it Dancing Goat.

All hell broke loose, or so T’VN thought. Something whirled into his chest at the same moment his leg flew up from under him. While he was off balance white demons attacked, throwing him into the Scrubnut. He woke up an hour or so later in the bed he’d made to share with his love. His nose bled, and he hurt in places no man should hurt. His clothes felt damp and smelled of pee.

Poor T’VN couldn’t imagine what had gone wrong. The idea that a girl had beat him up could never gain entrance into his head.   He thought about the problem for three days before confiding to his papa and grandpapa. “I have thought and thought about the attack on me. I think we have evil spirits at the top of the pass.   Perhaps they came for the president’s daughter, and I got in their way. Should we talk with the priest?”

As the next full moon started its descent from the sky, the shaman and High Valley elders crept silently to the top of the pass. Each man carried a smoking sheaf of grain for protection. The shaman had a small bell and each elder carried an instrument made of two pieces of wood that clacked when shook. At the top of the pass, T’VN pointed out the place of the attack. Searching the area by moonlight, one elder found the demon’s nest of ferns under the Scrubnut. The Shaman sniffed the air in every direction and affirmed that the demons lurked in this place and indeed evil spirits surrounded them.

With faces set in concentrated scowls the men began their ceremony. They walked slowly in a circle clockwise blowing on their smoking grain to spread the smoke. At the end of the first circuit, the shaman rang his bell, and the elders clacked their sticks three times. Next, the elders walked their circle counterclockwise while the shaman chanted. At the end of the circle, the Shaman rang his bell and the elders clacked their sticks three times.   After seven circles clockwise and seven counter clockwise had been completed the Shaman stood in the middle of the circle sniffed toward the four points of the compass and pronounced the evil demons gone. The men continued to chant quietly while they marched back to their homes.

 

Bio:  Delinda McCann is a social scientist with a background in working with at-risk youth. She has published 6 novels that focus on the foibles of the human race and their furry friends. http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/