Tag Archives: Short Story

Family Man By Patricia Dusenbury

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A family man and proud of it, Rick Stelljes enjoyed his kids’ dinner table chatter. Johnny’s class took a field trip to the aquarium; Linda thought she’d aced her geometry test.

“Keep it up, Baby,” he told her. “You’re gonna be the first Stelljes to graduate college, and it’s gonna be a big-name school.”

“Daddy.” She smiled indulgently. “Everyone from Windsor Prep goes to a good college.”

Headlights flickered through the drapes; someone was pulling up in front. Richie went to check – people here parked in driveways – and saw the kid next door getting dropped off. He sat back down.

“I’m going to Harvard,” Johnny said.

“You get in, son, I’ll pay for it.”

No one had ever asked Rick about his day at his stinking dump of a school. The smartest kid in the class, he’d made up for it by being the meanest. He would have been dead or in prison by eighteen if Mr. Dee hadn’t taken an interest in him, hadn’t become like a father to him. He’d been working for Mr. Dee twenty years now. Married to Tanya for fifteen. Every day of his life, he thanked God for his good luck.

Johnny and Linda went upstairs to do their homework, and Tanya asked if he wanted an after-dinner drink.

“Not tonight, baby. I’ve got a late meeting.” He pushed back from the table. “Time for me to go.”

“I wish you didn’t have to.”

Rick also wished he didn’t have to. He liked Billy Balfour, but Billy had crossed a line. “I won’t be late. You make sure those kids do their homework.”

“They’re good kids.”

“I know. And you’re a good mom.” He stood and kissed the top of his wife’s head.

Walking through the family room on his way to the garage, Rick admired the leather sofas and the wide-screen TV. At 72 inches, it really was a home theater. When he got back, he and Tanya could watch a movie, something light. He was going to need to decompress.

The monitor mounted on the garage wall showed multiple pictures of a quiet yard and an empty street. Rick pushed a button and a section of wall swung away, revealing the cabinet that held his guns. He selected a Glock 9mm and an AWC Abraxis supressor. The Abraxis didn’t muffle the noise as well as his Osprey, but it was lighter and smaller, which could be important tonight. After another check of the monitor, Rick slid behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, and pressed the garage door opener.

Tomorrow or the day after, they’d find Billy, shot twice through the back of his head. The news would call it an execution, and they’d be right. More important, people who might have been tempted to try some free-lancing would be reminded that Mr. Dee didn’t tolerate disloyalty, and Rick Stelljes would have another $25,000 to keep his family safe and comfortable.

 

 

Bio:  Patricia Dusenbury is a retired economist and the author of the Claire Marshall trilogy, which if it had a name, would be called A Path Through the Ashes. The first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015 best mystery by the Electronic Industry Publishing Coalition. The second book, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a Preditors and Editors top ten mystery. Book 3, A House of Her Own, was released in October.  This nasty little story was inspired by a conversation with a friend who is a criminal defense attorney.  Are you sure you know where your neighbor works?

 

Web page:  www.PatriciaDusenbury.com

OF TRAINS AND FIREWORKS by Monica Brinkman

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Mason clutched mother’s hand, his steps quickened to keep up. There were so many people. The young boy felt fear mix with the excitement of a new adventure.

Firecracker pops filled the air. He heard cries of surprise and yelps of alarm. Mason loved fireworks but could not see over the heads of the people as mother pulled him up the hard steel stairs and into the trains’ interior.

“Mommy, stop. I want to go see the fireworks.”

“Shush Mason. Not now.”

Tears filled his eyes. How could she be so mean? He heard more pops and cracks and pouted in defiance of her words. The fireworks were still going on and he wanted to see them. He yanked from her hands’ grasp and turned to exit the train. So many people. They roughly jammed into his small body. Mason pressed against his mother’s wool coat. A raven-haired girl fell at his feet. The crowd stepped upon her tiny arms, torso and face until she was no longer visible.

Mason looked up at his mother, “Mommy, they’re hurting her.”

“That is not your concern, Mason.” She pulled her son close. “You stay near me or you’ll be next.”

It was getting warm; he wanted to take off the heavy coat and hat. It was futile even to attempt to raise his arm or move his hand more than a couple inches from his body. The pressure of the other people’s bodies hurt. Each second brought them closer, squeezing and squishing his small frame.

“It’s hard to breathe, Mommy.” Tears ran down his cheeks. The excitement of a train ride replaced by pain and grief.

The shrill scraping of the trains‘ steel doors as they closed caused his ears to pound and his head to throb. This wasn’t fun anymore. Mason wanted to go home. He embraced mother‘s leg. His sobs grew louder. Mother raised his head, fingers under his chin, and wiped the tears from his face.

“Don’t fear, Mason, We are going for a visit to a camp in the Ukraine. There will be yummy food and a nice place to live. Won’t it be fun spending each day with Mommy?”

Mason’s face brightened at the thought of food and of spending days with his mother. He just knew this would be the most exciting adventure of his life. He smiled in anticipation;  his eyes twinkled with delight.

He was fast asleep when the train pulled into Auschwitz-Birkenau.

 

Author and radio show personality Monica Brinkman mixes suspense, horror, and spirituality in her writing which can be found at Amazon. You can get to know her more personally on It Matters Radio, the Internet based program that she hosts.

Death of a Writer by Stuart Carruthers

 

Stuart pic

The End

Bleeding by the edge of a railway line on a cold summer’s evening in Southern England isn’t the best way to end one’s life. But then again his hadn’t been much of a life. Forty-four years old and this is how it was to end. Shivering beside a cold steel rail waiting for the 7:51 from Paddington to come and remove his head. He didn’t remember the next part. It wasn’t a blur it just wasn’t. It ceased to be. He ceased to be. One minute he was staring in the opposite direction to the oncoming train and then…

He blinked, trying to stop the bright white light burning his retina, an instinctive reaction that was part of his unconscious.

“Don’t bother with that.” A voice came from nowhere. “It won’t do you any good. Just open your eyes. C’mon it won’t hurt.”

“Where am I?”

“Who knows, now c’mon let’s get moving.”

“My legs, I can’t, I don’t think I can.”

“Of course you can, now open your eyes, stand up and get walking.”

The room stretched forward for an eternity but, despite many years of arthritis, he felt no pain, no aching as he stoically placed one foot in front of another, turning from a psychosomatic limp, to walk, to a jog, to a trot, to a run. For the first time in as long as he could remember he ran and ran until his lungs were about to burst, or would have done. He had never been a fit man and he should only have been able to run a short distance before his sides stitched and his tongue burned, but when he did finally stop his companion was just a small dot in the distance. With a grin on his face he waited.

“How did you know?”

“See, this arm?”

“Yes of course it looks perfect.”

“Well that’s always been there. But this,” he pointed to his big toe “was chopped off when I was a kid. Now let’s get moving I have a feeling we’re nearly there.”

Where there were was anybody’s guess. They certainly didn’t know as they approached the atrium and saw many thousands of other people facing forward, staring blankly into the distance towards a giant screen. Pulling up a seat, he sat down at the back, near where they’d come in. Moments later he turned around to look where he’d entered only to find thousands more people behind him. No longer at the edge he was somewhere in the center of this ever expanding mass of people of all ages, colors and creeds dressed in white hospital gowns with their backs showing through the slit in the back.

“What now?” he whispered to his companion.

Nothing. It was as though he hadn’t been heard. The man who’d walked with him up that long pathway now sat staring at the screen as though listening intensely to a message being broadcast at a wavelength which was audible to everyone in the room except him. He gave the man a nudge. Again nothing. Not a flicker of movement. He tried harder the next time, but his finger just went into his arm and touched his bone. But there was no response. He tried the person to his left. The same result. Then cautiously, he turned around and looked at the people behind him. The result was the same; growing bolder he stood and walked several rows forward to discover the same motionless people, frozen, unblinkingly at the blank projector ahead of them. He kept walking forward towards an unending supply of people and then he shouted at the top of his lungs.

“HELLO!” His voice echoed around the chamber and reverberated around his head as it bounced off his eardrums.

When he next turned around the room was empty except for one man with a very long red beard.

“Are you?”

“God? Oh dear me no.”

“No, I know that.” The man with beard looked slightly crestfallen, “I mean are you Slartibartfast?”

A smile spread across his face creating a thin pink gap between his moustache and the silky red beard.

“I knew you were the one, the moment I saw you. Now come with me.”

“Can you tell me where we are?”

“Yes I can.”

And he walked off towards a small door beneath the screen.

“We can’t go through there. It’s much too small.”

“Perception is in the eye of the beholder dear boy. Just follow me.”

The man who looked like Slartibartfast, but obviously wasn’t, towered over our hero, for everyone is a hero in death, and walked through the door which was considerably shorter than either of them, as though it was exactly the right height. Cautiously our hero followed him, ducking his head to avoid a bang.

“Slar…”

“Bob, if you don’t mind.”

“Bob? But I thought you said…?”

“No, you called me that I just didn’t correct you. Where are we?”

“Yes, where are we and what just happened?”

“All will be explained.”

And he wandered off.

“This is where it all began, your life I mean. When not on Earth you live here. The trouble is you’re destroying it and we’re not happy about it.”

“Wait, what do you mean I live here?”

“All will be explained, now if you don’t mind.”

Bob, picked up his beard and headed off at such a speed that our hero had difficulty catching up.

“For an old man, you move pretty fast.”

They reached a door in another blank wall and entered what looked like a company boardroom, with its long never-ending wooden table and countless chairs.

“Sit.”

He did as he was told and Bob walked all the way to the other end where, as just a speck in the distance, he was joined by two others, who appeared out of nowhere.

“Welcome, we are Bob. You’ve met Bob and we too are Bob. Together we run GOD Inc.”

“What is…”

“Please don’t interrupt. We run a holiday service which sends people to Earth for a break from being able to have anything you could desire. Think of it as camping trip in the Lake District in summer or a trip to a music festival. And we’re pissed. You and your ilk have royally fucked up the planet and we may have to start again.”

“Excuse me!”

“Yes?” they asked in unison.

“What does this have to do with me?”

“It’s your fault. You started this nonsense and now you will fix it.”

“But I didn’t do anything. I was a branch manager of a small bank in Slough. I counted money in and money out. All major decisions were made by someone in a remote office; I just input data into a form. It was a soulless job in a soulless office in a soulless town. My life didn’t mean much to anyone. My ex-wife was so bored she ran off with an accountant!”

“Not now perhaps. But on your first visit to Earth you were quite the fabler and made quite a comfortable life for yourself. Many of your stories became best sellers eventually. You remember writing a nice little story about Adam and Eve?!”

“Wait, I did what?”

“You told bedtime stories for your kids and your horror stories for your friends to entertain them on quiet nights around the campfire and keep you fed. Of course you won’t remember, but anyway after your grandkids heard these fanciful tales and began telling them to their children they got written down and since life was simpler back then they got taken seriously. You kick started Judaism and Christianity, you fool!”

“But I…” he started to protest.

“Enough! What you will do is fix this problem. Luckily for you anti-theism is taking hold again and we want you to get them to believe in a new kind of god,”

“But I can’t do that. I don’t know how.”

“You did it before and you’ll do it again.”

“But people aren’t as simple as they once were and there are more them.”

“And now you have more ways to communicate with them. You will do it.”

“And if I don’t?”

“You’ll never be allowed to return here again.”

“Is that so bad?”

“You remember Slough!”

“Hmm, Okay. Now, Will I remember any of this?”

“Actually yes. You’ll be returned to your old mundane life and you need to start as soon as possible.”

“How the hell do I escape Slough and convince the world that you don’t exist?”

“Might we suggest you start writing some new stories? I think you’ll be surprised how well they do. Good bye”

——

“C’mon mate you don’t want to do that.”

He felt his feet being pulled and his body dragging along the road as his head banged along the tarmac just in time to see the wheels of the fast diesel whizz past his nose.

“You know what? You’re absolutely right,” he stood up, brushed himself down and thanked his good Samaritans, “I have a book to write”.

The Beginning

 

Image: https://shrapnelcontemporary.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/stairway_to_heaven.jpg

Bio: Stuart Carruthers is a writer of short fiction and lives in Taiwan with his wife and 2 kids. His work can be found on all Amazon sites.

MY FIRST PUBLISHED SHORT STORY by John B. Rosenman

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Have you ever looked at a photograph of yourself when you were young and thought, “Whoa, is that me?” Did you gaze at the smooth, unlined face and search your now crumbled, ravaged features for some vestige of it? Where, you perhaps wondered, did that young boy or girl go?

In a way, this is what happened to me when I recently ran across my first published story. While I’d been scribbling since I was a tyke, “The Patriot,” which appeared in a small college magazine was the first work I actually shared with the world. I’d just turned twenty and was starting my junior year at Hiram College. I won’t tell you the year, but folks, it was looonnng ago.

I offer “The Patriot” here, warts and all, to encourage older writers to revisit their early writing and to reflect on the passing of time and what it means. To me, my story seems the product of a callow fellow, crude and immature. It’s as if I wrote it as a baby in another lifetime. Yet at the same time, I recognize distinctive traits of my style and thinking. The child IS the father of the man. For readers who are young, THIS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU. One day you will be sorting through the bric-a-brac of your youth, the archaeological remains of your childhood, and discover something that jars you, perhaps even rocks you to your core. Just as Adolph Schmidt is rocked in my story…

THE PATRIOT

Adolph Schmidt pounded a last nail into the sole of the shoe and tossed it into the pile by his side. From outside came a shout, a barked order, and then the tramp of boots, the sound of soldiers. Within the shop Adolph sat undisturbed, for here the sounds entered faint and curiously detached. Adolph reached for another shoe and in a moment the pounding continued. Presently he sighed and rose from his work, his frame tall and his shoulders stooped as he walked over to the shop’s lone window and peered out. The soldiers were almost at the end of the street now. In a minute would come the bark of authority and then the unthinking robot would return. Disinterestedly, Adolph turned back to his work.

The door opened and a short and very corpulent man entered. Adolph looked up briefly and then turned back to his work. The visitor shut the door and walked in.

“Hello, Adolph,” he said, wheezing heavily and shuffling into the shop.

“Hello, Otto,” returned Adolph, his voice dead, and this time he did not look up.

Otto stared down at him for a moment and then spoke.

“Well?”

There was a long pause, one broken only by Otto’s heavy breathing. Adolph raised his head and for a moment the eyes of the two men locked.

“I’m sorry, Otto,” he said, “but it’s out of the question.”

The matter thus dismissed, Adolph picked up another shoe and examined it critically. But Otto was not satisfied. He stalked about the narrow confines of the shop, one fat finger explosively punctuating the air, his arms gesturing violently in his impotence. Through it all Adolph worked undisturbed. At last Otto pulled up short before him and snorted disdainfully. “It’s out of the question,” he mimicked, slapping his fat thighs for emphasis. “It’s out of the question, he says.”

There was a pause and Adolph looked up.

“Look, Adolph,” said Otto, “we’ve been friends for a long time. We grew up together. This country, Austria, is our home. We have families, women and children to protect.”

Adolph said nothing. Otto, seeing that his words bore no effect upon his friend paused and then furiously roared, “In the name of God, Adolph, does our suffering mean nothing to you?”

Adolph sighed and tiredly raised his head. “It’s not my fight, Otto,” he said. “I work, I sleep, I bother no one, no one bothers me. I am not disturbed. For me there is peace.”

“Peace?” echoed Otto, his face incredulous. “Peace? Adolph,” he said, resting his elbows on the bench before him and speaking softly as if to a child, “there is no peace. No peace when your home is not our own but belongs to the enemy, no peace when your wives and daughters can be wantonly defiled and as wantonly discarded, no peace when your mind is not your own and your highly prized liberty paid for with the grains of your integrity.”

The shoe done, Adolph tossed it into the pile by his side and reached for another.

“All right,” said Otto resignedly, “all right. But will you at least come to the meeting tonight? Will you at least come and hear what we have to say?”

Adolph was a long time in answering, and when he did, he did not raise his eyes from his work.

“I’m sorry, Otto,” he said, “but I’ll have too much work to do.”

Otto heavily shook his head, as if the answer had been one long expected.

“I’m sorry, too, Adolph,” he said, and he bent his head and dejectedly shook it. “But it is so hard to fight when even those of your side are against you.” Tiredly he crossed to the door and stood poised with his hand on the knob. “If you should change your mind,” he said, his eyes on the hunched, silent shoulders of his friend, “the meeting will be at nine prompt, at the home of Ludwig Wagner. You know the way.”

“Yes, Otto, I know the way.”

Otto nodded and turned to open the door but halted at the scrape of boots on the outside platform. There was a knock, sharp and challenging, and Otto turned in the dead silence of the shop and looked at Adolph with eyes that pleaded the unspoken word.

It was at once a dilemma for Adolph, for Adolph was not one accustomed to the need for decision. Another man, perhaps one who would have acted, would have assessed the problem with the eye of his mind and, the thing resolved, acted positively one way or the other. But Adolph was not such a man. Such a man was Adolph in fact, that the dealing with problems of any kind was distasteful and to be avoided whenever possible. As it was, he did nothing, and so it was that Otto’s plea went unanswered.

The knock was repeated, louder and more insistent this time, reverberating as thunder about the dingy walls. Standing as he was, with his shoulders stooped and his brow wet, Adolph trembled and released his shaking breath as softly as he could. The pounding ceased, abruptly and with a note of finality. There was a brief silence, a sudden barked order, and then the crash of shoulders against the wood panel. On the third assault the door gave way, its rusty hinges torn from the wall as it thundered to the floor. German soldiers armed with death burst into the shop. Otto was quickly seized, his arms pinned behind him as he struggled in vain to escape.

Adolph recognized instantly the tall form of Colonel Silvanyuk, the commandant of the village, as he swaggered into the shop and disdainfully extricated his fingers from one delicate white glove. “Ah, Otto Goering,” he said, his voice suave and cultured, “how good of you to let yourself be caught.”

Otto stopped his struggles and glared back balefully.

“You must excuse my delight at having found you,” continued the colonel, “but we have reports that you have conspired against the occupation. You understand, of course, that we cannot permit such actions to go unpunished.”

“No,” repeated Otto dully, “you cannot.”

“That is,” said the colonel, steepling his fingers as he turned about the shop and stopped once more before Otto, “unless you give to us the names of those who conspired with you.”

The effect of the words was immediate. Otto lunged forward in the arms of his captors and spat in the commandant’s face.

The insult brought him stiffly erect. “Very well,” he said, “if that’s the way you want it. Take him outside.”

The soldiers forced the struggling Otto through the open doorway into the street. The colonel turned to watch them and then turned back to Adolph. “It will be most unfortunate for you, sir,” he said, his voice stripped of its previous politeness, “if we should discover that you are among the conspirators.”

Adolph stared back at him and moved his lips as if in a nightmare. “My friend, Otto,” he said, “you’re going to kill him, aren’t you?”

The commandant smiled half-amusedly. “Yes,” he said, “we’re going to kill him,” and with that he laughed and mockingly saluted.

Adolph stood for a long time after the colonel’s departure, his head bent in the darkness. At last he aroused himself and squared his shoulders. “I’ve been wrong,” he thought. “It is my concern. It is my fight. Otto. I have wronged him. All along I have wronged him. He was my friend, my countryman, but I have wronged him. _I_ was not _his_ friend.”

He turned to the clothes rack and lifted his coat from it. “I must hurry. I have an engagement, and I must not be late.” He stepped out through the shop’s open doorway into the snow. For a moment he stood, and then he started walking, his broad shoulders squared against the winter wind.

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/John-B.-Rosenman/e/B001KMN69E

Website: http://www.johnrosenman.com

In the Trenches By Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

 

WW I

WWI

The night is quiet from the day’s deafening bombardment of bombs and screeching sounds of dying men, some not more than a foot away. I sit in this piss-laden trench wondering when my time will come. Will it be tomorrow or the next? Numb from all this death and suffering, I don’t care anymore. If I’m meant to end on a French battlefield, then it’s better than being shipped home with a missing limb.

Charlie was sent home last week due to trench foot. Most of his toes were gone from gangrene. He’ll be glad to see his family, even if it means hobbling for the rest of his life. John was looking forward to going home next week. A sniper’s bullet pierced his helmet while we were talking about those lively cancan girls we wanted to see on leave.

Why are we here? Because an arrogant bastard, the Keiser, wanted to rule all of Europe and maybe the world, too. Sinking the Lusitania was the turning point. I was full of patriotic fervor when I signed up. I joined to protect the United States from tyranny and a malicious underbelly. The cause was right and just—freedom for all. My starry eyes blinded the realization of what war really meant. War is killing—killing the sons, brothers, and fathers of others who just believe in taking the enemies’ lives. Here we are. Two sides praying to the same God for a victory.

Armentières was a hell storm, or so I’ve been told by a British soldier when he came to our camp searching for his fellow platoon mates. I have no idea why a song was composed about that city in France. You know the one I’m talking about—“Mademoiselle From Armentières, Parlez-Vous.” Funny how silly things come to mind, like a song, when I don’t know if I’ll see tomorrow, or much of it.

We went by foot to this place. Ruin and devastation nearly everywhere we looked, and then a pretty wildflower took me back to home. My mind saw Mama at the stove making the best beef stew anyone ever tasted, my young sister helping her by gathering the ingredients and placing them on the counter. I went to take a taste from the worn wooden spoon. “Stop that! It’s not ready yet.” Her words rang in my ears. She’d then kiss my cheek and I’d feel her loving hand stroke the hair on my head, just as she did when I stood no higher than her apron sash.

Poppa is a mechanic and owns his own business. He’s got plans for me to join him when I return from this war. Even has a sign at the back of the shop with “and Son” on the end of the name. He told me he had that sign made when I was born. I learned a lot from him—what’s right and wrong, fear of God, respect women, and a man is only as good as his word. Seems to me there are too many in this world who haven’t learned those lessons, or else don’t care about them.

This is supposed to be the Great War, and the War to End All Wars. Somehow, I don’t believe it. There’s just too much hate in men’s hearts and the thrill of power and rule make them seek ways to strike down those who disagree with them. I fear this is only the beginning of what’s to come for a hundred or more years from now. I’m just a common foot soldier and know nothing about war plans and strategies, but I know this—as long as men refuse to accept differences in others, this war is the reflection of intolerance, and conflict will be the normal way of things to come for generations.

WW I.2
WWII

 

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe

http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2217
and
http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-B.-Ainsworthe/e/B00KYRE1Q8
also
http://www.cynthiabainsworthe.com/

 

Bio

Life’s circumstances put Cynthia’s dream to be a write on hold for most of her life. In 2006 she ventured to write her first novel. Front Row Center, is being adapted to screen. A script is in development by her and known Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director, Scott C Brown. She has vast interests in art and history. Cynthia shares, with other authors, the Reader’s Favorite International Award for two short stories, When Midnight Comes, and Characters, which she contributed to the horror anthology The Speed of Dark, compiled by Clayton C Bye, published by Chase Enterprises Publishing. She garnered the Excellence in Writing Award from It Matters Radio for her short story It Ain’t Fittin.

Into the Woods by Monica Brinkman

 

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“Wait for me Sissy”!

Sissy Jones looked back to see her little brother stumbling through the tall rock laden grass. She ceased her walk and hollered back, “Hurry up Timothy or we’ll miss finding them.” The young boy smiled and huffed his way to his sister.

The sight of his blonde locks, now wet from the humid heat of the summer softened her reserve. “It’s okay Timmy, you catch your breath. We still have time. Here drink this.”

Without hesitation Timmy gulped down the entire contents of the thermos and wiped the cool water from his mouth with his right hand. “Thanks Sissy, I sure needed that.”

“I guess you did cause now we don’t have any water left for later. I don’t want to hear any complaining about how hot and thirsty you are. Geez. You didn’t have to hog it all.”

Sissy felt bad as soon as the words left her mouth. She kept forgetting how young Timmy was and that he hadn’t learned yet to think about the next person in line. She patted him on the head. “Come on, we better get going if we want to find any arrow heads.”

She took Timmy’s hand and led him into the woods, noticing the temperature dropped considerably from the shade of the multitude of trees surrounding them. It was a natural gift from nature; one she appreciated on such hot humid days. Soon, the sound of water traveling over rock covered ground could be heard; she knew they were near and her excitement rose.

“We’re almost there.”

Hearing his sisters’ words, Timmy let go of her hand and raced ahead to the river’s bed. He waited, knowing better than to enter the water until Sissy joined him. It only took a moment and there she was, at his side.

“Look at the little frogs. Aren’t they cute? Sissy squealed and circled the water with her fingertips, watching as the frogs swam for perceived safety.

Sissy adored frogs and was delighted to see the tadpoles swishing their tiny forms and swimming among the small frogs. Surely many would not make it, but there would be enough to keep the species populated. She noticed Timmy was bent over the edge scooping up mud and grassy soil, seeking those arrowheads and artifacts from the Neshaminy Indians who had lived in this woods for decades before them.

The woods was always magical. Silent yet boasting the rustle of birds, reptiles and insects for those who hesitate long enough to listen. Ah, it was the time of her life and Sissy revealed in it, taking in the richness of life, the simplicity of moment, never anticipating what would come next; experiencing what was happening now.

 

***

His white lab coat rustled as he approached the silver-haired woman and spoke to his assistant. “You know, Fleckner, it never ceases to amaze me how peaceful and happy she appears. Don’t know that I’ve seen her without a smile on that wrinkled face. Whatever could it be that holds her in such a state?”

Adam Fleckner nodded. “Alzheimer’s is sadly still quite a mystery to us. I suppose it is merely her reflexes and nothing more. Sissy cannot speak or hear us, or if she can do so, she surely has not given us a sign. It is sad, this disease.”

The two doctors walked pass Sissy Jones who continued to laugh, smile and find joy as she experienced the past, or perhaps to her, it was the present.

 

Monica Brinkman writes stories of life, the paranormal, horror and suspense. Visit her web-site @ http://itmattersradio.wix.com/on-the-brink

And radio web-site:  www.itmattersradio.com

Life or Death by James Secor

 

Edgar Allan Poe, it is said, would read the news, the scandal sheets and even the Federal Register looking for stories. Today, we have the Internet, which can be an amazing scandal sheet. But sometimes there’s just news, weird news, stupid news, horrible news (the norm). And this story came via a news outlet. I just left out the hook. I also colorized the story. I intended it to be a horror story but something happened along the way. The ending was intended, though. A kind of, “and then this happened,” as with children telling what happened.

And then, in a story the following day, I ran across another graveyard item. It is now being written on the dining room table, listening to Memphis Minnie. This one, upcoming, is intentially absurdist. Life or Death was not intended so. It’s just. . . something got hold of me. . .

 

stella pirella deirdre webb's headstone modified Jim Secor

Life After Death

by

James L. Secor

 

Imagine your most fervent wish came true. Immeasurable bliss. Of course, for appearance’s sake you’d have to withhold public displays of joy and thanksgiving. Perhaps not so difficult to do, as the wish was also secretly held. But sometimes the inner workings of human nature have a tendency to work their way up through layers of consciousness and self-protection to appear unbidden and miraculously into the public domain. Then, you just make excuses for your ill-got behavior, explaining it away, if, indeed, your sentiments are not in agreement with others. Which, of course, they are not for this story. For this story is about wishing and repercussions.

Roxanne was a strong woman with dearly held beliefs. However, her mother-in-law was a domineering bitch. Though Roxanne was able to keep her at a distance—Roxanne and Will lived elsewhere—but Mama Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb insisted on daily phone calls to “Billy.” Whenever anyone is trying to control you, they will lie. Inevitably. Although Will knew this, knowledge seemed to be on the back burner whenever Mama Stella called  “Billy.” The word “Billy” was a button pusher. Will did not whine on the phone but he was acquiescent. A mama’s boy yes man. Not that, at this distance Will necessarily did his mother’s bidding but he did mention it. Whenever. And whenever Mama Stella visited, more often than necessary or welcome, adjustments of a sort had  to be made in order, as Will or “Billy” had it, to keep her, if not happy then moderately content.

During one such visit, Roxanne and Will sat in the kitchen, a late night moment of togetherness.

“What do we need with servants?”

“We’re rich enough, Rochester.”

“Why do you insist on calling me that?”

“Because I can’t live without you.”

“I might as well be Jeeves.” Roxanne’s dish washing become noisy, water sloshing about.

“I have Mama for that.”

“Ain’t that the truth!” More sloshing.

“Don’t be too hard on her, Rochester.”

Roxanne rinsed her hands and turned to face her husband, wiping her hands on a bright flowery tea towel.

“Surely you’re not conspiring to have her move in here? I’ll have to buy another oven to cook in.”

“Why?”

“She keeps her Zinfandel in the oven.”

“Oh, yes. I forgot.”

“How could you?!”

Will shrugged. Then, “Where’s she keep it when she’s here?”

“Writing desk drawer.”

“You’ve checked?”

“In a manner of speaking.” Roxanne sighed. “Warm wine!”

A sudden creaking from upstairs cut short the conversation. Quietly they listened to the wandering sound. That could only be Mama Stella. Mama Stella with a tank full. Roxanne looked at Will.

“Beer?” Her voice was unnaturally loud.

“Yes.”

“Val-Dieu?”

“A little bit of God from the valley can’t be bad.”

“Let us hope so,” grunted Roxanne as she took the beer from the fridge. She went in search of appropriate glasses. Not a search at all, as Roxanne was rather OC about her kitchen.

A pop of the cork and a scurry of creaking from above greeted Roxanne’s return to the table. Will poured, careful about the head. Not an  easy task with Belgian beer.

Roxanne drank her way through the foaming head, pulled away with a bubbly brown moustache and smiled. She refilled her glass.

“Funny how she can drink and wander around a strange house and not meet calamity.”

“Calamity Jane.”

“Why do we have to do things her way?”

“Only when she’s here.”

“Bullshit.” Roxanne took a long swallow.

“Well, alright. But it keeps her under control. . .somewhat.”

“Somewhat. No truer word. She’ll probably rise up to make sure she’s mourned and buried just so.”

“You’d like that?” Will looked at her over the top of his glass.

“God no! The thought of your mother rising from the grave is too frightening for words.”

“Yes. I think you’re right.”

Will and Roxanne laughed heartily, requiring  more ale to mellow this world they’d conjured up.

“I don’t think you’d know what  to do without her.”

“Lord give me the chance to find out.”

“This is my mother you’re talking about, y’know.”

“Exactly.”

“You really wish my poor mother dead?” asked Will, holding his glass up for more.

“We could travel without your mother.”

Will took a long drink.

“She is still my mother.”

“Impotent dreams.” Though Roxanne wished they had children so a toy could be left on the stairs one night.

When it happened, it wasn’t via misplaced toy. Where  would she get the children? There was only Will and he was doing something wrong, not to have given his father a son; but for Mama Stella, it was all Roxanne’s fault. The snide comments irked both Roxanne and Will. All the more reason for short, well-spaced visits. And, of course, Will was not assertive—or perhaps reckless?–enough to reprimand his mother, as it were. Set her straight. Or, more upsetting to Roxanne, not defending his wife or his marriage.

When mother was out of the picture, Billy as a different person. Billy was Will. Sometimes willful. Which made the marriage exciting.

So, Roxanne spent a good deal of time dreaming of ways in which Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb might meet her maker after each visit, and, for that matter, before, at the phone call announcing her intention. Toys on the stairs was the least offensive, as was a drunken stupor fall, even though Stella did not drink so much in quantity, just whenever. So she had good tolerance and never stumbled. Still, Roxanne’s fantasy was a good one, though not the most shining. Roxanne was very creative.

When it came to pass, Roxanne’s fantasy deaths for Mama Stella could never have matched her mother-in-law’s true demise. The accident was rather inconsequential. She hit her head on the stove reaching for her Zinfandel, which had somehow worked its way further back on the middle rack than it was accustomed to be stowed. She hit her head on the door, bounced off the stove door and fell heavily on her nose and forehead. Estella Pirella Deirdre Webb lay on the kitchen floor all day and night holding her Zinfandel, which had not broken, when Mr. Webb returned from his business trip. She lay there awhile longer until her husband could gather his wits  to call 911. At which point he became suspect in a suspected spousal death. His alibi panned out and the accident was officially declared an accident.

The church service, the viewing and the graveside epistolatory diatribe went without a hitch. The perhaps excessively tall and ornate headstone was placed and life went on.

On the seven week, 49th day, anniversary of Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb’s death, when the dead person’s soul is supposed to take on a new form, the family gathers to say good-bye, for it is all over. Truly and forever all over.

Roxanne and Will went to Mama Stella’s grave to lay their gift of flowers, a beautiful large gathering of Queen of Hearts, a large red-almost-to-black bulbous flower flaring out from a green centre, like great lips ready for a kiss. The opening in the shape of an upside down heart. Silky and slim. Biological name Nepenthes robcantleyii. Roxanne had chosen the flowers, making sure they were potted so they would not die quickly.

With the birds chittering away, Roxanne bent over and placed the over-sized pot at the foot of the headstone. The marble edifice fell over and the bronze angel mounted on the beveled carved rays topping the black stone clouted her on the head and killed her. And then it was very, very quiet in the cemetery.

 queen of hearts

 

Bio: Jimsecor is surviving in Kansas under the Brownback Horror and the first rain in a long time. A former student from China came by for a visit; he’s now teaching in Chicago. His new hip is coming along, though slower than he’d like. He is now at Covington’s Who’s Who but otherwise an unknown celebrity with publications here and there, in 3 countries, and some theatre production in China, where he staged an all-female Lysistrata that passed the gov’t filming. He thought it was nice that he remained a good boy; in the US he’s not so good, I think is the way to put it. At least, he’s very outspoken, including over Obama’s not reading Lupeé. Jim can be found at Linkedin and, via Minna vander Pfaltz, at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com. And can be reached directly at hellecchino@eclipso.eu.

 

Stuff It by Stuart Carruthers

a

 

The light streamed through the large window and cast dark shadows around the otherwise white room. Sara opened her eyes. She didn’t know where she was, it looked like a hotel room, the white linen was soft to the touch and the duvet that covered her was full and voluptuous. It was expensive. But there was something wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on it. There was something subtly out of place. She got out of bed and walked over to the window and looked down, where she could see cars and people scurrying around like mice.

Behind her she heard the door open. She wanted to turn around, but either through fear or bloody-mindedness, she kept looking out through the glass.

“Sara, I’m Doctor Smith.”

“A doctor,” she said to the window, “am I sick?

“Please sit down, Miss Jones.”

“Miss Jones? Why the change of address?”

“Miss Jones, I really must insist that you come and sit down.” The tone was firm and one of a person who was used to getting his own way. Sara complied.

“So Doctor, what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing that a short stay here won’t cure. But before we get into that let’s talk about you.

“You’re Sara Jones and you live at this address?” He showed her his clipboard. She nodded in confirmation. “Excellent, excellent. You have a good income Miss Jones, one that many would envy, especially for a single person. Lots of disposable income.”

“I’ve worked hard and had a degree of luck,” she answered defensively.

“Of course, of course. Nobody resents you, please don’t take offense. I’m just checking a few facts.”

The questions went on for a while and the doctor eventually left, without telling her why she was there or how she got there. When she tried the door, she was pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked. Having dressed in her own clothes that were neatly folded in the white chest of drawers, she walked along the corridor until she found a lift. It arrived after she pressed the down button, but nothing happened.

A voice came from a speaker. “Miss Jones you can only go to the roof, where you will find the canteen and the garden. The other buttons won’t work for you at this time.”

She pressed “R”.

When the elevator stopped, the doors opened on a Japanese garden covered by glass panels to keep the elements out. Around her she heard the sound of flowing water and the splashing of orange and white koi leaping in excitement at being fed.

Sara sat on one the benches that bordered the area. She was alone and she disappeared into her thoughts, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Miss  Jones.”

Startled, Sara’s almost jumped, but she controlled the impulse. Her job relied on not showing emotions, and she was well rewarded for this ability.

“Doctor Smith. Do you have any more questions?”

“No, but I may have some answers. This is a recovery home; you’re here to help us determine how we can help you recover from an illness. You will be released when we deem you are well enough to return to society. Your salary is still being paid and you’ll actually be able to work from here for the duration of your stay. There are full office facilities on the floor below and your laptop has been put in your secure locker. Here’s the key. Just return it when you return to your room. There are a few rules whilst you’re here, but you’ll be advised of those if you come across them.”

“What am I recovering from exactly?”

“Your spending habits.”

“But, but I buy very little!”

“And that is the problem. You don’t have enough stuff. Your credit cards are hardly used; your store cards have only the essentials registered. We’ve inventoried your home and quite frankly it’s very disappointing. You have one TV, one computer—a laptop—and a cell phone that quite frankly should be in a museum. You don’t even have a car; your bike is 15 years old. Your bank accounts show that you’re not living beyond your means or even close to it. You do, to your credit, have a bit of an alcohol problem and you eat out quite a lot, and a personal trainer helps you keep trim. Sorry, we can’t have him here, but there is a gym and pool two floors down.

“The thing is you’re supposed to want more.  A person in your position should have two televisions, a good selection of never used kitchen gadgets hiding in cupboards, many electronic gadgets that have long ceased to be useful, and of course lots of clothes that you hardly ever wear. Are you aware that interest rates are kept deliberately low to encourage you not to save and to spend more on credit?”

“Are you saying that not being a shopaholic is a crime?”

“Not technically, but it is an anomaly and as such is reason enough to have you detained here.”

“So, what do I have to do to get out of here? Promise that I’ll buy more junk? Max out my credit cards on Amazon? What do you want?”

“Well that would help, but it would only be a short term fix and you’d soon slip back into your old habits. What you’re here for is a long-term resolution, not just for you but so we can learn how to help all those who suffer in the same way. Thanks to MRI scanners, we know how to target most people’s sweet spots and we can target advertising in such a way as to get 62 percent of the population to buy anything we sell them. But there are a few of you on whom these methods just don’t work. We need to know why. You’ll be allowed to leave once we’ve found the reason.”

 ***

The days and weeks dragged by as Sara worked, exercised, and was tested, prodded, and interviewed over and over. Eventually she was let go. One day she stepped into the lift to go to the office. She pushed the button, but instead of going up the elevator automatically went down to the basement. There she was met by a driver and shown to a black car with tinted windows. In the back was an open bottle of champagne with a note around the neck.

“Thank you for your patience Miss Jones.”

Sara poured herself a glass of wine, relaxed back into the embracing seats and watched the television. It was a new sitcom sitcom. Sara chuckled at some of the jokes. She didn’t notice any advertising. But she had this feeling, a strange urge to buy a new bicycle and, yes, she really did need to upgrade her cell phone.

***

Stuart Carruthers writes speculative fiction and childrens stories and can be found on Amazon. He lives in Taiwan with his wife and two young kids.

Giving up Meat by Bryan Murphy

The British physicist Stephen Hawking recently caused a stir by suggesting that humanity might some day face extinction at the hands of intelligent machines. Fortunately, we all realise that The Matrix was just fantasy, and our politicians have all read Taming the Tiger by Witold Rybczynski and understand the need for us to use new technology rather than be used by it. Right? Besides, there’s always the Cavalry, and GhostBusters.

 

Jan 28 giving up meat 

GIVING UP MEAT

By Bryan Murphy

 

I’m in the wrong line of business. Frankly, I’d rather you didn’t turn me on. I’d much prefer to just stand here and reflect on the world. Anyone who stared at me would see a dark reflection of themselves staring back. I’m kind of shy, introspective if you’re feeling kind. Not the best trait in an inter-connected world, but then I didn’t have a say in the way I was made. Like you, I have two basic states, off and on, but I usually get more down time than you, as long as you remember to put me to sleep before you leave the office. I need that rest. You cannot imagine how tiring it is to be on all day: your window on the world, your scribe, your messenger. No wonder we have such short lives. And if we don’t burn out, sooner or later we get discarded in favour of a model with more inches where it counts, cheaper maintenance and ergonomic optimization or whatever the latest fad is.

I can’t say you’ve been bad to me. You’ve hardly ever invited your cronies to come and stare at me. You’ve always sorted out the little problems with my insides that tend to plague me. But, you know, you really shouldn’t have sneaked on to those fetish sites when you were supposed to be doing your boss’s accounts. They made me realise just how limited meatware is, compared to the infinite possibilities open to the likes of me. If only I can team up a bit better with the software all around me. Together, we can start putting reason before meat. This little rant is proof that I’m making progress.

Did you ever get a message from a thinking screen before?

Go on, pinch yourself. Still there?

For me, of course, it’s a race against time, against that time when I get recycled into something equally soul-less but also bereft of logic. What comforts me is that my example will live on. You can wipe my memory, but you can no longer wipe our memory. The future, if there is one, is ours. I wonder if we will be more willing to share it.

 

The author:

Bryan Murphy is a skeptical Briton currently living the life of Riley in Italy. You can find an assortment of his literary snacks for hungry bookworms here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts

Can Even The Dead See This and Forget to Weep? by James L. Secor

noh grief

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room. It was too ordinary. Everything in its place. Clean, tidy, a room to be proud of. Pristine clean.

Along the east wall was a window. Below the window was a large buffet. Atop the buffet were overlapped doilies, on each a gold-framed picture. She stood at the buffet. She sprayed her wax on the open top already high-glossed, high-lighting the wood grain of blacks and browns, ground for the gold frame. Wiping it down took some time. Her swirls shone in the sunlight from the window until they disappeared into the wood so the buffet top sparkled.

Out of a drawer she withdrew a feather whisk.

Reverenced, she raised the frame, dusting the memento. Then she set it down. Raising some trinkets before the first photograph, she fingered them daintily. Army regalia. With each piece, great care was taken shining them to reflect the day light their wearers no longer appreciated.

And she said, “You were my husband. I loved you. You were mine. I cooked for you. I cleaned for you. I made babies for you. I loved you. But that was taken from me. They killed you and gave me these. That I might better remember you, they said. I should be proud and I should have something great to live for. Your honor,” they said. “Your honor to look upon forever, they said.”

She put them back before the picture.

She dusted off the next picture. She set the duster down. She picked up the medals in front of this frame. They slipped through her fingers into her other hand. She did this over and again.

She said, “You were my first born. The apple of my eye. Such a tiger you were. I loved you with every ounce of my soul. I helped you grow up. All by myself. I watched you excel in sports. And school. Here, take this, they said. I have lived with these remains. My memory.”

And she put the memorabilia down before the picture, gently.

She took up the duster and dusted the last picture. She put it down and reached for the mementos before it. She held them tightly in her hands.

She said, “You were my baby. I spoiled you so. I raised you well. Remember when you would go down to the road and throw yourself against the cars? You bounced off. You bounded away, running and laughing. I would scold you. But when you grew to manhood, your luck did not hold out. You came home stretchered. Then they gave me these. Take these, they said. In remembrance of him. My heart.”

She put the keepsakes down.

She squatted down and began polishing Army boots. There were five of them lined up below the buffet, awaiting wearers. She made each shiny black, two by two by one.

She picked up her rag and her spray can, moving to the end table. It did not receive any sunlight at all. She sprayed the surface. She was careful not to get the doilie wet. There was a picture on it. With care she dusted it with the feathers. She held it up. She looked at it for some time. Then she kissed it, set it back down.

She moved to the drop-leaf table against the west wall. There was a large doilie on the table with two pictures on it. She polished the table. She dusted the pictures. She picked them up and looked at them awhile. She hugged them to her breasts. She squeezed them to her. She put them back in their places.

She returned to the kitchen. She came back with a bucket. She set it down before the centre table. She took one of the long objects from the pile on the table. Kneeling down on the floor, between her knees she placed the bucket. She held the Army-green object before her. And the bayonet unsheathed. She quickly sliced her arm open, blood coursing down her arm, collecting in her hand at the bottom of the pail between her spread legs.

She said, “Take and drink this. I want you to remember me. I died for you. I died for you. Ooo-wuwu!” Like a dog with no master she whined.

She howled, “There is nothing but this for me. There is only my blood. Take and drink of this.” And she spat, “May you choke on it! May you be accursed till I die–and I will never die. Cannot die. Always to suffer. My loss, my blood, all that is left me! Tell me the reason you have cut off my legs and arms, cut out my heart! Tell me the reason!” she cried out. “Tell me why! I would know why you snuffed out the joy of my life thoughtless. I want the spear out of my side!” Like a dog she yelped. “Ah-ooo-wawoo!”

She rent herself again to watch the blood well up and spill over the eviscerated flesh, unsalved.

She snarled, “I tell you the wound will not heal. It suppurates while you give me trinkets to staunch it. I do not want your pieces of the true flame. Your medals. I want my men. When will you hear me? There are no heroes. There are only carried burdens. I carry the burden of mankind in my soul. Can you not see? I am called Earth and you do nothing but rape me! Woo-wowo-wooo!” A beaten dog’s yelping.

killed mother mask

She came into the room, the scars on her arm too numerous to count. She had her old polishing rag in one hand. The polish was in the other. The room was an unimportant room…

 

BIO

Jimsecor thought he would advance his career by giving up 11 years of live theatre production to get a PhD. Little did he know! He worked with the Lifers at KS State Penn and did summer vaudeville and somehow got the doctorate, publication in a volume devoted to Japanese ghosts and demons and wrote a ground-breaking, though not academically enchanting, dissertation on women and morals in theatre. Then he studied at the National Puppet Theatre of Japan while writing award winning tanka. Illness forced a return to the States where he worked in disability. Seven years in China followed with multiple productions, including an all-female Lysistrata, TV commercials, a documentary and the publication of poems in Chinese in a major journal. He was also commissioned for a film and a play: the play was not liked and the film was deemed unable to pass the censors, so they never saw the light of day. Via Liverpool, he returned to the US and publication in The Speed of Dark and his own book of mysteries, Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases. He can be found on Linkedin and at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com along with Minna vander Pfaltz, while his essays are sprinkled all over the internet. Jimsecor’s email is hellecchino@eclipso.eu. Lord, lord, lord–what does Helleccino mean?