Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Niblet: To One and All

Some bah-humbug it as a shakedown. Others revel in the sight of an orange, or a game, or a tube of mascara peeking out of a stocking. Some laugh as tornados race through living rooms. Others fiddle with tokens and pray for peace and healing and a healthy and happy new year for everyone.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Niblet: Brothers in Life

The counterman skulked behind the bar, splashed coffee into cups, said he was really a musician looking to escape, trying to conjure a way to do so without telling his girlfriend. I said I knew how he felt, put my money on the counter, unwound myself off the stool, and said I'd see him tomorrow.


You know the drill. Write a story of 50-55 words incorporating the bold words above and post it in the comments section of this post.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


This story first appeared at Flashes in the Dark.

I started my secrets collection when I was eight years old. It began when I caught my dad kissing our neighbor, Mrs. Short. They didn’t see me, and I never told Mom. I don’t know why. I guess it was because Mom and Dad were always kissing each other--and me. Still, somehow I knew it wasn’t right for Dad and Mrs. Short to be kissing.

Sometime after that--I don’t remember how long--Mom kicked Dad out of the house yelling something about him knocking up Marylou Short. I didn’t know what that meant, but I could tell by how Mom was yelling that it wasn’t a good thing. I remember swallowing a lot as I watched him walk to the car carrying two big suitcases that Mom packed for him.

Mom took me to school the next day and spoke to my teacher. She offered me a sad smile and put her arm around me. I liked my teacher, but I wondered if she had any secrets.

From then on, I paid attention to what people did and said. In junior high, I started keeping a journal of what I heard and saw. Things like who did drugs, and which girls lost their virginity, and who cheated on tests. By the time I left high school I had nine notebooks full of secrets.

It wasn’t until after Mom’s cancer diagnosis that I started contacting the people in my books. We needed the money to pay for Mom’s treatments. Sara Jacobs was the first. She cried when I told her I knew about her abortion and asked if her husband did. She was silent for awhile, and then begged me to not tell anyone. At least I think that’s what she said. Her sobs made it sound like she was speaking some foreign language.

Most of the people I contacted I found on Facebook. A fake email address and a prepaid cellphone helped keep me invisible, and every packet of money was sent to a different P.O. box. 

The only time I got scared was when Billy Freedman threatened to call the cops. I spent a week looking out the window expecting to see a police car pull into the driveway, drying my palms on my jeans, even while I continued to call people. The cops never came, so I guess what I had on Billy was something he didn’t want people to know, after all. Still, he never sent the money. Maybe when I have enough and move away like I plan to, I’ll call the local paper with an anonymous tip.

Mom died yesterday. The doctors gave her eight months to live. She only lasted five. I could stop calling people, but I need more money so I can find Dad. I’m sure he won’t recognize me after eighteen years, and that’s okay. I don’t want to be friends. I want him to pay me the back alimony he never gave Mom. Maybe then I can finally get the degree in psychology I’ve always wanted.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Same Old Same Old

From a prompt to write a 53-word story involving an animal.

He appeared on my porch one foggy morning, his fur full of burrs, his meow no bigger than a mouse.

He was new to the neighborhood. I called him Pussy.

I cleaned him as best I could and fed him peanut butter. We slept together that night. The next day Pussy ran away.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Say What?

A story based on the five bold words

It was a comical plan. The note said: Meet me at the statue of the gnome in the park, and I’ll tell you who the embezzler is. Wear a tweed jacket and argyle socks. I threw the note away, treating it like so much pablum. Was this jerk really going to rat on me?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Niblets--bite-sized stories of 50-55 words

There are Dribbles and Drabbles of exactly 50 and 100 words, respectively. I’m starting a new form I call Niblets. These are stories of at least 50 words and no more than 55.

The skinny: Use the five words listed below to write a Niblet and add it as a comment to this post. Any genre is acceptable. Please keep stories no more than R-rated.

Here’s today’s list of randomly selected words.


** Thanks to Richard Osgood of the Flash Factory and his Sunday 5-50/55 whose idea I stole borrowed upon for this effort.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It Shouldn’t Have Happened

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

A piƱata swayed in the gentle breeze. A drunk clasping an empty bottle of vodka tottered through the neighborhood that had lost its jobs and its identity. The factory no longer oozed life, a life layered with people of all ages and races. It wouldn’t have happened if everyone hadn’t forgotten the meaning of compromise.

Sunday Niblets--bite-sized stories of 50-55 words

There are Dribbles and Drabbles of exactly 50 and 100 words, respectively. I’m starting a new form I call Niblets. These are stories of at least 50 words and no more than 55.

The skinny: Use the five words listed below to write a Niblet and add it as a comment to this post. Any genre is acceptable. Please keep stories no more than R-rated. Each week I’ll select my favorite stories for possible inclusion in an anthology of these bite-sized tales. 

Here’s today’s list of randomly selected words.


** Thanks to Richard Osgood of the Flash Factory and his Sunday 5-50/55 whose idea I stole borrowed upon for this effort.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Niblets--bite-sized stories of 50-55 words

There are Dribbles and Drabbles of exactly 50 and 100 words, respectively. I’m starting a new form I call Niblets. These are stories of at least 50 words and no more than 55.

The skinny: Use the five words listed below to write a Niblet and add it as a comment to this post. Any genre is acceptable. Please keep stories no more than R-rated. Each week I’ll select my favorites for possible inclusion in an anthology of these bite-sized tales.

Here’s today’s list of randomly selected words.

vincible (the opposite of invincible)

** Thanks to Richard Osgood of the Flash Factory and his Sunday 5-50/55 whose idea I stole borrowed upon for this effort.

A Thanksgiving Feast

Unemployed, homeless, vincible, Jack Little hunched over the plate like a simian warrior and gorged himself on his first real meal in two days. Nobody paid any attention to him, even though he was the biggest man in the room. He didn’t mind. He was grateful to be around his friends to give thanks.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Another Twofer (50-55 words stories)

Again, I couldn’t decide which story to post, so I used both.

We met at Chicago Pizza. She ordered a slice with chicken and pineapple. Sounded awful, but I took it in stride. Said I hadn’t seen her around. She replied she had to move after being falsely implicated in a murder. Perverse, I said. Then I felt the gun in my back as we stepped outside. (55)


Some call him The Chicken because of his long neck, skinny legs, and look-at-me stride. Said he came from Chicago. I call him perverse ever since he was implicated in vandalizing the school. The sheriff can’t prove it, but sometimes you know all you need to by how a person looks and where they’re from. (55)


Okay, you know the drill. Write a story of 50-55 words using the bold words and post it in the comments section. Fingers ready. . .write!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Two for One

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

#1 (55 words)

Coyote leaned against the wall and tapped the tambourine against his thigh. Hopeful aromas from the bakery across the street penetrated the frozen air. He glanced at the hat. Two more dollars, and he could get a bagel and some coffee. It wasn't like this yesterday, not until Mistress Sandy changed the meaning of life.

#2 (50 words)

The coyote stood where buildings used to be and howled. Stones propelled by frozen winds tumbled past sounding like plaintive tambourines appealing for alms. He sniffed the air, the bakery aromas replaced by smoke and gasoline. He ambled away but felt he wouldn't be safe for long anywhere he went.


Now it's your turn to write a story of exactly 50 or 55 words using the bold words. If you like your effort, feel free to post it in the comments section of this post. Hey, you could even challenge your writing friends.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

His First and Only: A Love Story for Halloween

Bryce stood on the sidewalk, wearing a clown mask, his hands in his pockets, and studied her as she dropped candy into the plastic pumpkins and white pillow cases and brown paper bags. She smiled at him and waved, thinking he was the father. He waved back, even though he had no idea who the brats were standing on her porch. It was the woman, Mary Lou Compton, that he cared about. They would've been happily married by now if Bryce hadn't killed his Uncle Ned.

It was after Bryce took Mary Lou home from a date that he walked in on Uncle Ned slapping his sister, Bryce's mother. Bryce grabbed an iron from the fireplace and forced Uncle Ned into a corner. "Here's some of your own medicine, you bastard," Bryce yelled. He continued to swing away until his uncle stopped fighting back.

But that wasn't the memory Bryce needed in his head tonight. He wanted to focus on Mary Lou and what they meant to each other. He'd often thought about their life as husband and wife, with lots of little kids running around the backyard playing with the dog--a Rottweiler named Gus. 

He wrote her twice from prison. She didn't respond. He was disappointed but not surprised--nor worried. He knew he could win her back. It wasn't until yesterday when he returned home after twenty-one years in prison and a two day bus ride, that he learned she'd married Peter Gorshen and had two kids. He didn't recognize the name Gorshen and pictured them with a couple of scrawny girls who didn't know how to throw a ball and some yappy little dog that wasn't worth a damn.

He followed the costumed kids to the next house, but continued to watch Mary Lou hand out packages of M&Ms to a new group. Her smile was the same one he remembered, and she still liked to wear dresses, even on a chilly October evening. The last time he saw her in a dress was the night they made out in his mom's Chrysler New Yorker, the night he decided he would ask her to marry him. The night he killed Uncle Ned. He glanced at her left ankle. He couldn't see the tattoo clearly from this distance, but he knew it was a miniature dragon that matched his. He took that as a sign she still loved him. 

With no more trick or treaters in sight, Mary Lou went inside and closed the door. Bryce moved on with his group so as not to draw unwanted attention. He'd come back later after all the children were home and pay Mary Lou a visit.


An hour later, he rang Mary Lou's doorbell, anxious to see the look on her face when he revealed himself.

"Trick or treat," he said when she opened the door.

The smile turned to a chuckle. "Aren't you a little old to be trick or treating?"

"Maybe," he said, "but I'm not here for the candy." He removed the mask.

"Bryce?" she said. "Bryce Mullens? What are you doing here?"

Bryce felt his hands get sweaty. He stared into those familiar hazel eyes and felt the same as he had on the night he picked her up in his mom's car. The night she professed her love for him.

"I got out of jail a few days ago and thought I'd stop by and see how you're doin'." His studied his fingers, as they crumbled the mask. "I. . . I missed you."

Mary Lou stood with one hand on the door. Her other hand fingered the material of her dress.

"Maybe I should have called first," he said.

Mary Lou remained silent.

Bryce cocked his head and peeked into the house. "Mind if I come in?"

"That probably wouldn't be a good idea," she said. "My husband will be home anytime now, and he might not like you being here." She stepped behind the door and started to close it. "Maybe you could come back another time."

"But I want to talk now." Bryce pushed the door open and grabbed her arm. The roots of a headache began to take hold. They'd started during the trial when his so-called friends and neighbors, even his mother, told lies about him.

Mary Lou tried to pull away, her eyes wide. He maintained his grip.

"Please, Bryce." 

He released her arm and exhaled, like the prison doctor suggested he do when the pain started. "I couldn't hurt you," he said. "Don't you know that?" 

She rubbed her arm and stepped back.

"I know it's been a while." He pointed to the living room. "Can we sit?"

She looked over his shoulder into the darkness. Seeing no one, she walked into the room and sat on a chair near the fireplace. A book lay on the adjacent end table. A pair of men's reading glasses sat perched on top of the tan cover. Bryce sat on the edge of the sofa.

"You've got a nice place here."

"Bryce," she said, her fingers interlaced in her lap. "It's been a long time, and I never said I'd wait for you, or anything like that." 

He noticed her glance at the family picture hanging over the mantle. 

"It wasn't like we were committed to each other," she continued.

"But you said you loved me," Bryce said, a puzzled look on his face.

"We were kids." She turned toward him. "You were the first guy who paid attention to me. I was a fifteen-year-old girl who didn't know what love was."

Bryce clutched the mask harder and twisted the plastic into a grotesque shape. "Is that why you never responded to my letters?"


"I sent you two."

 She paused. "My parents must have thrown them out."

"I see you still have the tattoo."

"They're hard to get rid of."

"Or maybe you still have feelings for me." Bryce smiled.

"No." She glared at Bryce. "I don't. How many times do I have to say it?"

"But you could--"

"Bryce, I'm happily married. I have no intention of leaving my husband and children."

"Lots of people get divorces. I bet if we spend some time together--"

"No." She stood and walked to the fireplace, her back to Bryce. "You should leave now."

The pain in his head increased, and he rubbed his temples. He couldn't believe this was happening. It wasn't right. She had to still love him. It was what had kept him sane. He rubbed harder, but it didn't help.

"I suppose you're married to some rich banker, or something."

"Bryce. Please listen." She took a deep breath. "You went to prison, which I never thought was right, and I moved on with my life. Lots of kids date in high school and don't end up together. That was our fate too." She nodded toward the front door. "It's time for you to go."

The pain felt like it did the day he attacked his new cellmate after the man tried to rape Bryce, a beating that earned him added time in that hell hole of a prison. He knew the violence was wrong, but he couldn't help himself. It was the only way to lessen the throbbing. Unable to constrain himself, Bryce lunged toward Mary Lou.

Mary Lou screamed.

Bryce grasped her shoulders, twisted her around, and slapped her. Mary Lou's head struck the mantle. Her legs buckled, and she fell to the floor.

"I'm sorry, Mary Lou," Bryce said, leaning down. "I'm so sorry."

He wiped a strand of hair from her face. A tear rolled down his cheek. "I just wanted. . .." He cradled her head in the crook of his arm and gently rocked and felt the pain subside.

"I need you, Mary Lou." He looked at the family picture. "Maybe more than them."

Mary Lou groaned and stopped breathing.

Bryce kissed her forehead and lowered her to the floor. He stared again at the family portrait hanging over the fireplace and tried to imagine himself in it. When he couldn't, he rose and walked to the table near the doorway where the phone waited. He dialed 911 and explained the situation. The operator instructed him to wait until the ambulance arrived. He said he would. He was going back to prison, this time for becoming Uncle Ned.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Man's Best Friend

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Shipwreck sniffed my Rueben. Strange name, I know. But that's what he reminded me of when I found him in the hedge, his fur filled with burrs. I took a bite of the sandwich, let him lick the dressing off my polyester shirttail. After Rhonda left, I felt like gelatin. Shipwreck saved me from myself.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Where have they all gone?

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Alice dropped the candy into the bottomless fissure for good luck. She watched it disappear from view, noting the swarthy degenerate who approached. 

"Is this a trick?" he asked. 

"No," she replied. "It's a mystery."

"How so?"

"No one can figure out where those like you have gone," she said, pushing him into the abyss.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Robbin’ in the Hood

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

The fundraiser was held at The Old Mission. Our host, dressed as Friar Tuck, welcomed us in from the rain. A gowned woman with a powdered face ushered us into the main hall where other guests mingled with other monks. A door slammed shut. A gun appeared from under a frock. I prayed for deliverance.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Circular Sidewinder

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

The rattlesnake drinks champagne and speaks Spanish with a lisp. Members of his audience shake their tails in approval, even though they've heard the speech before. His words take flight and sputter through the overheated air as if their batteries are weak. At his next rally, he'll advocate the same almost truths using recharged words.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Search of a Dream

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

The experimental duck barks at the ersatz moon. He nods to his lab mate, the miniature wolf, signaling it is time to make their break. Outside the rising sun smiles, clouds streak the sky like linguine, trees whisper encouragement. The pair heads in different directions planning to rendezvous later. Their goal freedom. Their hope understanding.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Company Outing

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Jason pressed a key and the software agent began to canvas Anna's hard drive. Whatever power it was that got her promoted over him had to be there. He stared out the window until he heard the computer chime. His mouth gaped when he saw the picture of him and Carlos in the computer room.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


"They broke into my house. I can't stay here any longer."

My mother sat on the bed, hands shaking, water dribbling from her quivering lips onto her slip, her tattered dress on the floor, defeated.

"We have to wait for the police, Mom. I can't take you anywhere just yet."

A stranger looked at me. "Please, Shelly?"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Wonderland Or Bust

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Alice sat on the edge, her legs dangling in the void, the notebook page blank beside her. The flow of new words had stopped, leaving her stuck on the precipice--alone, remote. A bell beckoned from below, the sounds of a party wafted up the tunnel. Conflict without compromise kept of her from venturing further.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Just What the Neighborhood Needs, Another Wacko

I crouched behind a lilac bush and watched the horse gallop down the street and stop in front of my place. I hadn't received any mail for three days and wondered what was going on. I thought maybe kids were pranking me.

The rider wore a Stetson, chaps, and cowboy boots with silver inlays in the toes. His back was hunched, and he must have weighed 125 pounds stepping out of the tub. He rode a black stallion big enough to win a game of chicken with a bulldozer. His pants were AWOL.

"Hey, pardner," I said, as he reached down and opened my mailbox. "What the hell ya think you're doin'?" I didn't normally talk like this, and even odder I felt like spitting into a bucket.

He snatched my mail out of the box, rifled through it, and spurred the horse on to Fred's. I sauntered over--I'd never sauntered before either--and repeated my question. He looked at me like I was the one who belonged in the hoosegow. 

"Only advertisements." He looked at me and shrugged. "Same as you get every day."

We stared at each other for a moment and when I didn't respond, he reached down and opened Fred's box. The horse snorted and pounded the ground as if instructed to count to three. I took a step back.

"Well, it just ain't right--stealin' a man's mail," I said, my thumbs hooked in the waist of my jeans.

When I realized where my hands were, I lowered them and watched the rider take Fred's mail. It didn't look any more important than mine. Still…

I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to get into an argument with anybody, especially someone not wearing pants. I couldn't call the police. They'd ask lots of questions and make me write stuff down. I was too busy for that.

I looked up and spotted Fred waving at me through the window. I couldn't see him well enough, even squinting over my glasses, to know if he was waving me inside or telling me to get away. I knew he wouldn't come out until the guy left, then he'd blame me for his mail being stolen. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Fred knew about the half-naked highwayman before I did.

I turned to see the rider put something back in Fred's mailbox. Without looking at me, he said, "Bill. I got enough of my own." He closed the box and picked up the reins.

"Well, tomorrow I'll be out here with a gun," I said. "So you better not come back." I realized my hands were at my sides as if I was reaching for a pair of holstered, pearl-handled beauties.

"Tomorrow's Sunday," he said and rode off to Edith Clanton's.

I watched him stop at two more boxes before I turned and headed into the setting sun, even though it was only two o'clock in the afternoon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Testing, Testing

This story first appeared at Ink, Sweat and Tears.

I awoke sweating like a

A. Mormon at an anti-bigamy conference.
B. farmer facing down a rabid donkey.
C. truck driver steering his semi down an icy road.

I assumed I'd had a nightmare, but I couldn't remember anything. It could have been about

A. losing my job as an apple picker at Claire's husband's orchards and having to tell Norma.
B. someone figuring out that was my boot print on the mayor's car door. (He should have known better than to say I was a no good SOB at last Saturday's town picnic. How was I to know his adopted son was one of those "Mexicans who take all the jobs?")
C. the heart attack I knew I'd have if Norma found out about Claire and me.

I knew I should

A. get my lazy ass out of bed and make Claire a nice breakfast, even though I sucked in the kitchen.
B. start looking for a new job.
C. forget about breakfast and have Claire help me with my morning hard-on.

Instead, I guess I'll

A. take care of my hard-on myself like I do most mornings. (Like grandpa used to say about playing cards, with a good hand who needs a partner?)
B. apologize to the mayor and his son.
C. pray to God that Claire doesn't leave me. (She's the best thing in my life, and I am a no good SOB.)
D. do all of the above.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Reticent Hero

This story was submitted to the first Catalyst 24 Hour Flash Contest. The prompt was to write a story of no more than 250 and include the following ten words: rain, voices, seagull, place, morning, shoes, flowers, village, love, girls. You can view the list of winners here.

Their voices drizzled to the ground, like a silent rain, as the villagers retreated from the cemetery. A seagull floated among the morning clouds, watching the solemn procession. 

A pair of shiny, dress shoes stood guard over the flowers posted at the gravesite, a place his girls would be forbidden to visit again until they were older. War had taken its toll, depriving the town of its young men. But no conflict, no man, no government could take away the one thing that mattered most. Love--for a father, for a country, for mankind.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

He Lives to Fight

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Steel the Ancient lives to fight, even if the prize is no more than a free bottle of tequila. Eight brutal fights in four months, all of them wins, has made him a legend in his impoverished neighborhood. At least that's what his brother tells him. Steel's memory is lost.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Note

First published in Kings River Life

The note said, "Meet me on the corner of Walnut and 14th this Saturday at 8:00 p.m." and was signed Emily. Someone had left it scotch taped to the front door. I looked around and didn't see anyone suspicious.

"Who is Emily?" my wife asked, peeking around my shoulder.

I shrugged. "I haven't known anyone named Emily since high school."

"An old girlfriend?" Her eyes narrowed. "Why is she contacting you now, and why not just ring the bell?"

"There's no way this could be the same Emily." I reread the note.

"How do you know?" Karen stood, hands on hips, her nose raised. Her bathrobe fell open exposing the short, yellow nightie. She either didn't notice or didn't care.

I wadded up the note.

"Don't do that." Emily grabbed the mangled paper and smoothed it out.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Meeting Emily Saturday night."

After ten years of marriage, I knew better than to argue with the look on Karen's face.


I saw the bag sitting on the bench at the bus stop. I didn't notice my name printed on the brown paper until we reached the corner.

"Billy?" Karen said. "I thought you didn't like being called Billy." She reached for the bag. "Is that what Emily called you in high school?" She glared in my direction. "Billy." It was more of a grunt than a statement. I grabbed the bag out of her hands.

"This is ridiculous. We're going home." I started toward the car.

"No, we're not," Karen said and took the bag back. She ripped it open. A piece of paper fell to the ground. She picked it up and walked to the street lamp. "It says to go to the Shop and Save on 14th and Maple." Before I could respond, she headed west on 14th.


Six blocks later we stood on an deserted street corner, looking into a store that was empty except for the Arab clerk standing behind the counter reading a magazine.

"This is stupid," I said. "Let's get back to the car and go home. It's getting cold." I hugged myself to emphasize my point.

This time it was Karen who eyed our surroundings. No one magically appeared. "I guess you're right. This was probably some neighborhood kid's prank. They like to do that to teachers."

"Oh? How do you know that?" I cocked my head to one side and smiled.


We arrived home an hour and a half after we'd left to a dark house.

"Did you turn off the living room light?" Karen asked.

"It's on a timer. I rarely go near it."

Karen bit a knuckle and hooked her other hand in my arm.

"We should call the police," I said, reaching into my pocket. "Damn, I must have left my cell home." Our closest neighbors were all attending a party across town, so they couldn't help. "Did you bring yours?"

She shook her head, her mouth frozen in position. I felt her body shiver. I was certain it wasn't because she was cold.

"I haven't seen any movement since we got here," Karen said. "Maybe the bulb blew is all." Her face told me she didn't think that was what happened.

She pulled my arm, and we crept up the sidewalk. A board squeaked as I stepped on the porch. We froze for a few seconds. Nothing. I unlocked the door and inched into the foyer. A noise emanated from the living room. I reached around the corner and flipped the switch. When I did, a dozen bodies leapt out of their hiding places.


I turned to Karen and held out my hands, as if to choke her.

"Gotcha," she mouthed.

She was right, but her birthday was in two months. I'd get even.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Best Laid Plans

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold. [I overshot the word count this week, so sue me. :)]

My obituary wasn't in the morning paper, so I headed to Target. I entered the store and there she was. Red shirt, curly, grey hair, hunched shoulders. I smiled as I walked by, still unable to speak to her. But today I had a plan. 

I headed to the flower section to purchase a bouquet of green balloons. My passion wasn't the only thing left deflated when I was told about the helium shortage.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Missing Person

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

The drought had turned the lake into a pond. The trunk of the white Mercedes, her prison, glinted in the sunlight. Boots floated in the rear window. I thought she’d run away. Now a mental checklist scrolled through my mind, as I wondered what I’d done to lead us here. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Houseguest

"Who's that?" Carl asked about the man standing near the fence.

"Says his name is Angel Lopez," Jake replied.

"For real?" Carl moved to one side for a better look.

"I know. He doesn't look like a Lopez," Jake said.

"You got that right." Carl listed to the left and shaded his eyes. "What is he, Chinese?" 

"Does it matter?" Jake turned and walked away, dragging his right foot, the one that got run over and cost him his job right before the company declared bankruptcy and went out of business.

"What's he want?" Carl said to the air.

"Says he needs a new home." Jake bent down and picked up a Cheerios box. "Wants to know if he can stay with us while he checks out the area." He peered into the box and threw it back on the ground, away from his home. "He was snooping around our stuff when I got here. Said he was checking out the accommodations." Jake looked toward the fence. The guy named Angel Lopez was taking a leak. "Like we're some kind of hotel. I should have asked him if the minibar was to his liking."

"Does he smell?" Carl asked.

"Not that I noticed." Jake continued his housecleaning by throwing a tattered shirt into the neighbor's concrete yard.

Carl straightened and turned his head toward Jake. "Did you tell him our carton is hardly big enough for the two of us?"

"Of course, I did," Jake slapped the back of his neck. "Damn mosquitoes are bad this year." He wiped his hand on his shirt and continued cleaning up the area. "He said he didn't take up much room." Jake looked at Carl. "I told him to take a hike."

"Guess he didn't hear you." Carl walked over to where Jake was standing. "Maybe we could let him stay for a couple of days. It'd be a shame to throw him out on the street." Carl put his hand on Jake's shoulder. "You know how that is."

Jake looked at Carl and smiled. "Why you old softy. You know that's why I love you."

Carl shrugged, his face flushed.

"Okay, he can stay," Jake said. "We've been sharing the same blanket anyway." He stepped back and pointed a finger at Carl. "But you  gotta wear some pants at night."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sweating in the IHOP

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold. 

I took a visual tour of the town, while I waited for my organic catfish special. The restaurant sat across the street from the county jail, a building my eyes kept returning to. I wouldn't be here if the battery in my LTD hadn't died. I sure hoped the mechanic didn't look in the trunk.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Parade

Here's a bonus Sunday story. Patti Abbott posted a challenge to write a drabble (a story of exactly 100 words--not counting the title) based on a picture. Here's my effort.


The Parade 

The town folk waited for the maimed war hero to ride by. Small children held red, white, yellow and green helium-filled balloons, ready to release them in his honor. The older boys hung out by the trees, smoking pot and joking about the one-legged hero to cover up their own anxiety about being next. Others, dressed in summery garb, leaned over to watch the horizon.

The lead motorcycle carrying the fallen veteran approached the crowd. The soldier saw a line of enemy troops and grabbed his gun. As they rode past the horde, he sneered and emptied his rifle.

Life Imitating Art

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold. 

Mazie trudged through the Gallery of Fringe Art disgusted by what she saw. Statues with heads for feet. Torsos with genitals in place of belly buttons. Audience members oohing over every disgusting piece. She stopped at the statue of the boy, drama etched on his face. She touched his skin and he whispered, "Help me."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Still Life

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

They called him Camel because of his humped back. He was a master artist, his medium pasta. His most recent exhibit was of a pride of lions. He called it Wanderers. The title more suited him, especially after the earthquake leveled his home and killed his wife and two sons.

Monday, May 14, 2012

For Better or Worse

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

I married a penguin. Her waddle made for a scenic view. Our feud began shortly after the ceremony. She accused me of being an alien. I retorted she should have come with a manual. We bicker like politicians, neither of us giving in. It's been that way for six years. We plan on many more.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Battle of Jericho

Like every morning, the sun rose in the east, the neighbor's German Shepard barked at who knows what, and Jericho's parents' angry words flowed from the kitchen like a muddy stream racing off a fire-ravaged mountain.

Jericho pulled the covers off, sat up, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, slid off the bed, and sighed as another day began with a prayer unanswered. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine the perfect family portrait, but the faces were always of his friends. He knew running away wasn't the answer.

An idea came to him, and he smiled. He dressed and bounded off toward the kitchen to do the only thing he knew might work.

"Morning." Jericho walked to the table and sat in his chair, the one facing the window. "Sky sure is blue today, isn't it."

His parents stopped bickering. Jericho knew it was temporary, but it was a start.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Still Lifeless

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

The guests invited to his studio considered his sculptures anything but ordinary, the features so real, so precise. Many asked if any were custom designs. He smiled and answered they all were. How could they not be, he thought, when the model for each one was encased within the work.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What's a Girl to Do

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

It was not how Ella imagined her debut. No strawberries and cream. No slow ride on a tree-lined avenue at sunset. No magical moment. Instead, she felt like the only passenger on a mythical train. Even the damn slipper refused to fall off, no matter how hard she kicked.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Draftee

Jubilee Jones was a loan shark, an unusual job for a woman, most agreed. She was also the de facto Baptist in this all-Amish town. You're probably wondering how much business a loan shark would get in a place full of people who shunned money.

It turned out she ran one of the most successful money laundering businesses on the east coast. And why not? What cop would think to look here. Well one did, and I was his mole. I'd been drafted after my arrest for getting drunk and peeing in an alley during my Rumspringa. Once the elders found out what I was doing back here, I was certain to be shunned from the community. But it didn't matter. My plan was to do this one task and then disappear.

Jubilee stood looking out the window when I entered her office. A boulder of a woman, she wore a yellow kaftan and a red beret, an obvious insult against the rest of the women in town and the drab colors they wore. She turned to me and grimaced. When she did, the skin on her right cheek wrinkled and formed into what could have been a small pond.

"Ms. Jones?" I said.

"Yeah, what do you want?" She looked at me as if I was a bug waiting to be squashed.

"I have a delivery for you." I pulled a brown paper bag from my jacket pocket.

"Don't know what you're talking about, kid." She turned back to the window. "You must be in the wrong place."

"Enrique sent me."

She coiled around to look at me.

"You're not the usual guy."

"He's uh. . . He had a problem with Enrique." I twisted the bag's neck and wondered if the cop had been truthful with me. "I don't think you'll see him again."

"Enrique would have told me."

I shrugged my shoulders. "All I know is I was told to bring you the money."

"You live around here?" She waddled to her desk and held out her hand.

"I used to," I said and handed her the money.

I rocked from toe to heel while I watched Jubilee count, a low grunt coming out of her mouth as she flipped each bill.

"What're you waiting for? You ain't getting no receipt." Her faced turned into one big scowl.

"Um. . . Enrique said you'd pay me."

"I don't pay the mules. He does."

"He said he was a little short and that you'd take care of it. Said he'd pay you back in the next shipment." I tried my best to say this without shaking too much. It wasn't part of what I'd been told to say, but having been raised a pacifist, I needed some way other than using a weapon to get enough money to leave a life I no longer wanted.

Jubilee glared at me and drummed her fingernails on the desk. She puckered her cheeks and tossed a bundle of money at me. "He better."

I caught the stack of bills, put it in my pocket, and headed out the door. I didn't know how long it would be before the cops busted Jubilee. I hoped they'd wait until she did whatever she did next with the money. By then, I planned to be far, far away. At least that was my plan.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Uncle Puppet

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Uncle Puppet

Aunt Bell called him Puppet Man because he couldn't make a decision. She understood. It was the way he was raised. She'd asked him out on dates, picked out her engagement ring, named their children, took videos of graduations. Now, fifty years later, he sat next to her coffin, not frantic, but unable to move.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Saving His Marriage

This story first appeared at Near to the Knuckle.

Tony sat at a corner table, his fingers laced around a glass of water, and watched the man traverse the room. He wore a grey suit, blue tie and brown shoes; and except for the limp, the man looked like a basketball player. He sat in the chair to Tony's right, the one facing the door.

"How long you been sober?" the man asked.

"What makes you think I'm an alcoholic?"

"Who else would sit in a bar with a glass of water?"

Tony spun the glass in his hand. Stared at the water. "Three months, twenty-six days."

The man saw Molly crossing the room and waved her off.

Tony raised his glass and smiled. "I'll have another."

"You like her," the man said.

"She's my daughter." Tony spun the glass some more.

The two men sat in silence while Molly deposited a full glass on the table and took the empty. She smiled at Tony. She didn't smile at the man.

"I got stuff to do," the man said. "You want to hire me, or what?"

"My wife is cheating on me." Tony's tone was as flat as a club soda that'd sat out all day.

"And you want me to find the guy. I charge one fifty a day plus expenses."

Tony lowered his hands into his lap while the man watched Molly slide a quarter in the jukebox. After a few groans from the relic, Hank Williams' voice filled the dusty air.

"Not exactly," Tony said. "I know who it is. A friend saw them coming out of the Super 8 in Smythville."

"How long has she been cheating on you?"

"Four months and thirteen days that I know of."

"So why am I here?" the man asked.

"You ain't figured it out yet?" Tony shook his head. "Man, you're stupider than concrete."

"She's your wife." The man looked toward the door. "I didn't know."

"Now you do," Tony said.

Before the man could make a move, a gun burped under the table and a bullet enter the man's gut. He raised a bloodied hand as a second bullet joined the first. His hand dropped like it was weighed down. His shoulders slumped, and his torso bent to one side.

Tony walked to the front of the room and placed the gun and a Benjamin on the bar. The bartender put the bill in his shirt pocket and the gun under the counter.

"I'll see everything gets taken care of, kid."

"Thanks, Uncle Frank. See you around."

Tony nodded three times to Molly and left the bar to go home to his wife.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Together at Last

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.  

Scented candles lined the walls of the refrigerated room. The flickering lights echoed off the ivory inlaid on the sides of the open casket. Raymond had fantasized about them frolicking in a jacuzzi, but this would do. They were together, and once it'd become a reality, he lost his appetite. (50 words)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Today's Special

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.  

Dawn learned her relationship with Mark wasn't an exclusive one when he yelled, "Oh, Penny," while they made hot love in the market's meat locker. She took it as a sign they wouldn't be together much longer and wondered if anyone noticed a different taste in today's ground beef special.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

He Hoped She'd Come Around

First published at MudJob

I met Charlie at the first gator wrastlin' contest I promoted. Most of the female competitors looked like they ate airboats for lunch. Charlie was different. She had curves and all her teeth.

I watched her muscles strain against the tail-snappin' beast, saw the determination in her eyes, and fell in love. I chased her around Florida for a year before she agreed to be my wife. That was twenty years ago. We made quite a career together but age was catchin' up, and it was time for us to think about retirin' from the sport, especially Charlie. In the past two years, she lost a pinkie, suffered a dislocated hip, and ended up in the hospital for a week after comin' back too soon from a concussion.

I told her I was tired of the travelin', asked if she'd like to have a baby. Said I thought it would give us somethin' new to wrastle. Her eyes lit up like a volcano, and she stomped around the Winnebago and yelled so loud I thought she'd blow a wall down. I sneaked into the bathroom and waited for the floor to stop shakin'.

A few nights later, while we did the dinner dishes, I suggested we start a gator farm and sell admission. I told her she could still wrastle a gator now and then, as long as it was a small one. I was doin' okay until I got to the small part. She glared at me, picked up a fork with both hands, and bent it into a right angle. That's when I headed back to the bathroom.

Not knowin' what else to do, I spoke to Preacher Frank this mornin'. He's not a real preacher. He dresses like one, shouts preacher-like words, and then swallows fire and spits out the flames. That always gets lots of oohs and aahs and amens--and a few chuckles. He told me to be patient, that it took some people a long time to settle into the idea of retirin'. He also told me it might be a good idea if I didn't use the word baby again.

I can't say he helped much. Well, maybe the baby part. I love Charlie and want her to be happy. Hey, maybe I should take her to Disney World. She's never been there, and she might find a job that doesn't require wrastlin'.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

His Royal Highness

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.  

His aerodynamic ego puzzled many, but not Maeve. She possessed the magic to pierce his armored exterior. As if facing a rival, he stood before her, unmoved by her stare, until she pursed her purple lips and said, "No, you can't go out and play. It's raining you silly puppy."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Note

This fun little mystery is up at Kings River Life.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Stranger Amongst Us

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold. 

The man's face belonged in a museum, in the section for the not famous, for those whose advice was feared, a concealed room of an antiquated, forgotten period, one where the man's secret would remain just that, where no one would learn he was the unknown artifact from Pandora's Box.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Satisfying Afternoon

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

She won the award for best tattoos. She always wanted bigger breasts. Now she had them, albeit on her back. She saw his reflection in the window, standing behind her, staring. He smelled of savory. Said he was an Italian oil baron, never looked at her face. Asked if she wanted lunch. He tasted wonderful.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brothers Forever

The stench grew stronger as I approached the rusted utility cart filled with mangled bicycles. The wagon and its contents stood as a monument to the four members of the Crescent Valley Mountain Bike Club, my brother among them, who died ten years and three days ago when Clarence Bonnell drove his Jeep into a pack of riders.

The judge dismissed the DWI and murder charges on a technicality. Clarence left Harriston the next day. He returned last week to attend his mother's funeral.

Blinking away the memory, I followed the scent up to the shrine and looked into the mound of disfigured metal. Amongst the rusted spokes, chains, and crossbars, I saw the silver glint of a watchband. I reached down and lifted one of the frames. The bodies of Clarence and his brother-in-law/lawyer, Franklin Demming, III, were still recognizable, as were the single bullet holes in each forehead. I inhaled the aroma of their putrefied corpses and held my breath. I hadn't smelled anything as sweet in ten years and three days.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Can't Win

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold. 

My sister poisoned my relationship with Father. She baked Biscotti Toscani, served it with his favorite liquid pleasure. I struggled with the rigatoni. I knitted him a sweater and studied history. I wore dresses similar to mom's. One day he told me to stop. "My god, you have a penis!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Family Business (warning: language)

First published at Grift Magazine.

Two pairs of eyebrows jerked skyward when the gun went off.

“Shit,” Howard said, “I only meant to scare you.” He lowered Donnie to the stained mattress. “Why’d you have to go grab for the gun?”

“It hurts,” Donnie said.

“It should. You got a damn bullet in your gut.” Howard looked around the one-room pigsty Donnie called home. Dirty dishes filled the sink. Flies hovered over a pizza box spread open on the small table in the corner, a stack of phonebooks and a dowel supporting one corner. “You got any towels?” Donnie pointed to an open door across the room.

Howard hurried to the bathroom, walking like he was barefoot on a carpet of rose bushes. A bath towel lay on the floor. He picked it up. A family of roaches raced behind the cracked sink. Howard dropped the towel and backed out of the bathroom. He returned to Donnie, took off his hoodie, and held it against the wound.

“All you had to do was listen, and this wouldn’t have happened,” Howard wagged his head. “All you had to do was listen.”

“Wasn’t none of your business,” Donnie said. “You should've let us be.”

“My family is my business.”

“You gonna get me some help?” Donnie groaned as he straightened out his legs.

“I gotta think.” Howard sat and leaned against the wall. Worst thing he ever did, buy a gun. It didn’t protect anybody in the end. “All you had to do was walk away and leave my daughter alone.” Howard hugged his knees to his chest and stared at the sky through torn curtains.

He saw himself as a young boy, in the apartment with his mom and five siblings. He remembered the day Mr. Hodgins calmly answered his questions as the neighborhood electrician fixed a short in the plug for the refrigerator. Howard was seventeen, and old man Hodgins asked him if he’d like to earn some money. Howard worked for the man for ten years before Mr. Hodgins sold the business to Howard. 

Now he had a wife and two kids of his own. He was a respected businessman and an elder in his church. He couldn’t lose all that over a stupid punk. He put his head in his hands and thought about his options.

“I can't believe Francine kept your relationship a secret from me.”

“She was afraid you’d find out, because. . . Well, you know.” Donny stared at the blood then lifted his head. “It doesn’t hurt as much, but I still need to get to a hospital.”

Howard inhaled the fetid air and ran a hand over his bald head. He took in a deep breath and blew it out through tense lips. He knew this neighborhood. Nobody ever saw anything.

“Okay, I know what we’re gonna do.” Howard heard the life wheezing out of the boy’s body. “We're gonna sit and wait.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On a Dare

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Josh attended a magnet school before losing his sight. The radio contest sounded like fun -- a saltwater swim wearing a goofy costume. He chose orange feathers and Madonna mask. The locals stayed away. They were aware of all the pollutants that had killed the area. A star student once, now Josh couldn’t read a blind ad.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Saving Cletus Brockton

First published at Powder Burn Flash

The phone startled Edward. He laid his book on the end table and placed his pipe in the cereal bowl.


"Is this Edward Hairston, the attorney?"

"Retired attorney." Edward sat forward in his chair. "Is this another one of those telemarketer calls?"

"My name is Billy Gilbert. Moose Mankowski gave me your name. Said I could call you the next time I was in trouble."

"The next time?" Edward's eyebrows tightened, wrinkles outlined a V on his forehead.

"I've had a string of bad luck."

Edward heard a sniff on the other end of the line and imagined a man wiping a tattooed arm across his nose.

"Anyway, Moose told me you got him out of a sticky spot."

"What did you say your name was?"

"Billy Gilbert."

"Well, Billy Gilbert, I have an appointment in--"

"Wait. Don't hang up. I only get one call."

Edward placed the tip of his middle finger to his forehead and began massaging in tiny circles.

"I got arrested, but I didn't take the wallet. I found it."

Edward rubbed faster.

"I can't help you, sir," Edward said. "Like I stated, I'm retired."

"According to Moose, you're a damn good lawyer."

Moose. The curse that wouldn't go away. Edward fell back in his chair and lowered his hand. "What did you say?"

"Sorry. I was talking to the guard. He said I need to get off the phone. I told him to go screw himself. I have rights."

Edward shook his head. He'd had big plans when he applied for law school. Plans that didn't include guys named Moose and Billy.

"So when can you get here to bail me out?"

"Bail you out? How about April Fool's Day?"

"This ain't a joke, Ed? I got a party to go to."

"Well, Billy, I think you're going to miss the party."

"But Moose said--."

"Moose was wrong."

Edward loosened his grip on the phone, sensing the conversation was about to end.

"Do you live near Dallas, Edward?"

"Yes. Near there."

"I knew your name sounded familiar. You went to Garland High. Right?  Class of '87?"

"Y-e-e-s." Edward didn't like where this was going.

"Still live in your parents' house on Buckingham?"

"Maybe." Edward felt sweat forming on his forehead. He'd returned home after his father passed and his mother moved to the nursing home.

"Bingo. Billy Gilbert is an alias."

"You need to speak up. I can hardly hear you."

"I don't want the guard to hear. My real name is Clete Brockton."

"Name doesn't..." Edward paused. "Cletus? The guy who gave principal Brown a wedgie? The Cletus who wrote my name on a Whoopie cushion and put it on Mrs. Flatston's chair?" Edward remembered his classmate as being 6' 3", 265 pounds, and mean.

"Yep. Ain't this a coincidence?"

Memories of Cletus flashed through Edward's mind, none pleasant. "Yes. A coincidence." His body tensed, and his finger gravitated back to his forehead.

"So now that you know me, you can help me. Right?"

"Why would I want to help you, Cletus?" The pulsing in Edward's forehead returned.

"Well. . .because I'm sorry for what I did, and I'd like to be friends now."

"Huh. Friends. Let me think about that." Edward counted to ten before responding. "Remember what you just said to the guard, Cletus?"

"You mean to go screw himself?"

"Yes, that." Edward sat up, spine stiff. "And I say to you ditto."

"Come on, Eddie. Can't you help an old friend just this once?"


"I could pay you back--with interest."

"If you have money, why did you steal the wallet?"

"I told you I found it."

"Okay, why did you "find" the wallet if you have money?"

"Well, I don't exactly have the money at the moment, but I can get it no problem."

Edward shook his head and let if flop forward into his palm. He supposed he could be wrong about Cletus, but he doubted it.

"You still there? The guard's threatening to zap me if I don't hang up the phone."

"Tell the guard I'm thinking." Edward heard Cletus say something and a long time smoker's voice reply.

"He said one minute."

Edward made mental lists of the pros and cons of helping Cletus. Neither was very long. He inhaled a deep breath, and by the time it oozed out, he knew the best thing he could do to save his former classmate. He hung up the phone.

Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His recent stories have appeared in Flashshot, A Twist of Noir, The Short Humour Site, Dew on the Kudzu, and others. Jim's Six Questions For blog ( provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Family Affair

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

George retired and took up glassblowing. Ellen considered it a waste of time and money. Now, a year later, he sat in traffic with other cars and vans heading to the hobby show. His latest creation was on the seat, wrapped in cellophane and newspaper. The little bone chips in the glass were Ellen's contribution.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No Regrets

First appeared in The Houston Literary Review (no longer publishing)

I had dreams once. I was going to be a famous model. The day after high school graduation, I bought a bus ticket to New York City with the money I earned at Cubby’s Diner. The town folk wished me luck. Mom gave me a big hug. Dad said I was a fool.

I bought a paper at the first newsstand I came to and answered every modeling ad. Nobody commented on my big smile, my perfect teeth, or my short, spiky, blonde hair. Instead, they said I was too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, and that I needed surgery to make my boobs smaller. Smaller? The folks back home would’ve been outraged to hear such talk.

At the end of the week, I got a waitressing job in a bistro in the West Village. Like at Cubby’s, it didn’t pay much, the tips sucked, and I got my butt pinched or slapped at least five times every shift. Still, I earned enough to pay for my share of the flat I rented with Claire, another model-to-be I met at my first interview.

I wasted a year of my life before I realized I wasn’t going to be a model. I got back on the bus and headed home to West Virginia. Mom gave me a teary hug this time. Dad sat in front of the TV and mumbled a ‘knew you’d be back’ without missing a word of the news.

I sat in the tire swing in the back yard, facing away from the house, and cried every afternoon that first week. Saturday night I decided it was time to forget about modeling. I put on my little black dress and headed to Melvin’s for a drink. That’s when me and Richard got back together.

We’d dated our junior year until the night of the prom. He wanted me to have sex with him. I said no. This time, after two Bud Lights, when he asked if I wanted to have sex, I said sure. That was four babies ago.

I don’t regret having them. They make me complete. I don’t regret not being a model. It was just a dream. I don’t regret becoming the one person I said I never would be -- my mother. Most of all, I don’t regret that Richard’s nothing like my father.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Henry's Last Walk

Henry shuffled along ignoring his surroundings. He'd walked this same path many times in seventy-five years, first as a mailman, then as a freelance photographer for an insurance company. He knew every crack, chip and uprooted slab along the sidewalk over the twelve blocks from Elm to Harvest. He traversed the route today to visit his Emma.

A warped twig in a ratty overcoat, Henry walked slower now. Flat feet and arthritic knees limited his movement. But Emma was all he had left. He needed to take care of her.

Every structure on the street held a story. He passed the Jeffersons. They'd given him a fruitcake every Christmas. Unlike most of his coworkers, he loved fruitcake. The next house belonged to the Victors and their three daughters, who never gave Henry as much as a smile, not even after he found their lost poodle. The rotting Douglas fir perched on the edge of their yard reminded Henry of the fun he and Emma had decorating their Christmas tree. The joyous look in her eyes almost made up for their inability to have children.

The walk to Emma's felt longer today. His legs hurt. His thin socks failed to protect his ankles from the cold. Still, he continued on. She got testy when he arrived late.

Henry walked into the Harvest Senior Home. He passed the reception desk with a nod and headed to Emma's room.

“Hello, Mr. Kemp," the aide said. "Emma's waiting for you.”

Henry struggled to lift a hand in response.

“You decent?” Henry asked at the door. There was no response. He entered the room and walked to the bed, checking on Emma before taking off his coat and hanging it on the hook in the bathroom. Emma would yell at him when she awoke if he put it anyplace else.

Back at the bed, he fluffed her pillow and straightened the covers. He checked her breathing and turned off the TV. He didn't like watching the soaps, and she didn't like watching sports, so they often sat in silence, one or both of them dozing.

He lifted the book off the table, Dr. Zhivago, opened it to where he'd stopped yesterday, and began reading out loud.

“Poor man,” the Head Nurse said to a trainee as they passed outside the room. “His wife passed away eight months ago. She used to reside in that room. Now he tends to Mrs. Cavender, even though she doesn't know he's there. She looks enough like his Emma that he doesn't know the difference.”

“Doesn't the family mind?” the trainee asked.

“She doesn't have any family that we know of. Just like Henry.” The nurse edged the girl along. "Mrs. Cavender won't be with us much longer. I don't know what he'll do then."

At the end of ninety minutes, his usual stay, Henry stood and gathered his things.

"So long, Henry," the Head Nurse said as he passed the desk. "See you tomorrow?"

"I don't think so." He said without looking at her. "Mrs. Cavender doesn't need me anymore."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Love is Blind

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

His accent drew her in. He introduced her to red licorice, gave her rides in a wheelbarrow. She felt different. He was her Fountain of Youth. It didn't matter that he wore tattered clothes, or that he was unshaven and his teeth rotting. She was in love with a man who didn't own a penny.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Borrowed Grave

Harold lumbered past the houses where impatient witches, ghosts, and vampires had visited the previous night seeking treats to fill their bags. His sack contained possessions no one would see but him. Eyes and ears on alert, he continued his journey.

Tonight was the one year plus one day anniversary of his mother's disappearance. The police ceased their investigation after finding no clues. They now considered the woman a runaway.

Harold approached the cemetery, the fresh grave, someone else's resting place, awaiting him. What better place to hide his mother's bones.

Harold grinned.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

She Should Have Stuck With Cooking

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

She was a gourmet cook from Alabama. Here for the Harvest Festival Cookoff. Crimson tide squid was her entry. What I didn’t know was how she stole the antique porcelain vase from Uncle Karl, or if anyone would miss her. Probably should have considered that before I smacked her in the face with the shovel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Do Unto Others

First published at Flashes in the Dark.

Florence exited the house, opened her umbrella, and spotted the girl standing on the brick walkway. She was nine, maybe ten, tall for her age and dark-skinned, wearing a yellow dress with a green brocade collar. A wicker basket filled with green, yellow and red vegetables hung in the crook of the girl's right arm. Florence stared at the girl. The girl stared back.

"Do I know you?" Florence asked.

She saw the girl's lips move, but heard no sound. She inched forward, her hands choking the umbrella's handle. Florence felt like a trout on a hook being reeled in.

Who is this girl, and what is she doing here? She stopped, not wanting to get any closer. The girl stepped forward, her bare feet floating over the wet sidewalk. Florence heard the voice now, but not the words, until the girl was close enough to touch.

"Any minute now, something will happen," the girl said, emphasizing each syllable.


"Any minute now, something will happen," the girl repeated without emotion.

Florence wanted to run, but her legs wouldn't let her. She looked around, her head snapping from side to side, eyes wide. Three houses down, Mr. Jenkins hobbled out to retrieve the morning paper. Florence opened her mouth to get his attention, felt her throat buzz, but no sound came out. She lifted her hand over her head and waved in quick, short motions. He waved back, a smile on his face, and retreated to his warm, dry house.

The girl leaned closer. "Any minute now, something will happen."

"Will. . .will it be something good?"

"No." The girl continued to stare with large, unblinking eyes.

"Are you sure?" Florence twirled the umbrella, thinking of the pointed end.

The girl's black hair framed her cheeks. The color and starkness of it matched the tone of her voice. "Yes."

"How do you know?"

"I just know." The girl stood, motionless, immune to the pouring rain. "It's your fault. You shouldn't have killed him."

Florence's eyes widened. She put one hand over her open mouth.

"I didn't kill him." She looked at the houses on both sides. "He was old and in pain. He wanted to die. I couldn't do anything more for him." She thought of the hours she'd spent at the patient's side, holding his hand, unable to lessen his pain, her nursing skills good only to a point. "It was the humane thing to do." She wiped a tear from her cheek.

"What about his family?" the girl asked.

"He has no family. He's all alone, except for me."

"You talk as if he's still alive."

Florence's lower lip curled between her teeth.

"None of that matters anyway," the girl said, waving her free hand, as if dismissing the older woman. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

"I didn't want him to suffer anymore."

"It was wrong."

Florence looked away. "He pulled the trigger." The words barely came out.

"With your help."

"I'm sorry."

Florence took a deep breath and panned her eyes back to the girl. Before she could say another word, the girl dropped the basket and raised both hands. Some of the vegetables split apart and lay in pieces on the brick walk. Florence recognized them as the broken pieces of her life.

She gazed at the girl's raised hands and pointed index fingers. Eyes narrowed to two slits, the girl uttered an unintelligible chant.

Florence retreated to the front door. She turned. The girl stood close by, her body shaking. Florence ran up the stairs to the bedroom where he lay. The girl followed. Removing the gun from his hands, Florence aimed at the child and squeezed the trigger. She heard a click but felt no recoil. She tried again with the same result.

The girl's body shook. The chant became louder.

"No," Florence yelled as the gun moved to her temple. Unable to control her actions, she pressed the trigger. This time the gun exploded, and she fell across the old man, her face on his chest. Blood oozed from the wound and mixed with his.

The girl stood in the doorway and waited until Florence stopped breathing, then turned and walked away. Exiting the house, she passed the vegetables and basket, leaving them where they'd fallen.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

The rabbit died. No, not that rabbit. My forever rabbit, my BRF. I called her Precious. She called me Honey. They say love is blind. I only know I am, and Honey was the catalyst that made me want to get up in the morning. Now what do I do?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


In public for the first time since the botched surgery that left her with a cabbage face, Alma held a blue and white umbrella over her head and spun it like a pinwheel to distract all but the most insipid. She approached the maroon Jaguar, the short, pointed screwdriver close to her side.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

A mother. A father. Triplet girls. An apartment better suited for a dollhouse. Worn linen dresses. Shoes with holes. No job. Unemployment. An eviction notice hanging on the door. Little food for their empty bowls.

Still. Jokes. Laughter. Promises and dreams of better days. Songs sung for Auld Lang Syne.