Sunday, December 29, 2013

Greener Grass

Today's prompt words in bold.

He rode the white mechanical rodeo bull in his basement, his head teasing the ceiling with each lunge. Aching muscles helped him see through his current life’s fog. The argument had been the same, another long day at work, another missed event, another reason for him to drift off to a wistful time and place.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Today's prompt words in bold.

Emma had waited in the wine shop for a rendezvous that never materialized. She tilted her glass, sipped. The liquid tasted brackish, earthy. 

She thought they had something, a spark, a magnetic attraction. The goblet on the opposite side of the table waited too. She tipped it over, let the wine spill over the edge.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Some decisions aren’t black or white. I understand that. Sometimes it’s what you believe in, like heaven and hell. To some they don't exist. For others, they give meaning to life. It's not even a matter of conservative vs liberal. There are always two sides. Fat and skinny. Ugly vs pretty. Smart or dumb.

Anyway, here I kneel, as nervous as a dog with severe separation anxiety, my bent knee aching, my back stiffening, anticipating her answer. If she takes much longer, I may not be able to stand. How embarrassing it will be if she has to help me up. 

It's probably only been a few seconds, but it feels like I'm in a doctor's waiting room. What's wrong? Why hasn't she responded?

Well, she is shaking, and her hands are over her mouth, and there are tears in her eyes. Maybe she responded and I didn't hear it. Maybe it was a curse word. Maybe her mouth locked shut. Maybe she swallowed her tongue. Maybe she's having a heart attack. Maybe I should have waited.

“Yes. Yes, I'll marry you." She bends down and kisses me, a wisp of gray hair tickles my cheek, and I feel relief. "When should I move in?"

What? Move in? With me? I didn't say anything about living together before we got married. It's too soon for that. We've only known each other for a few months. What's her hurry? Come on, Jack, think of something. OMG. What now? Like I said, not all decisions are black or white.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

His Wife’s Newest Diet Fad

Today's prompt words in bold.

Dan knocked over the umbrella stand during his latest nocturnal expedition to the kitchen. He hoped he hadn’t awakened Sue. He listened for footsteps on the squeaky stairs. Nothing. Delighted, Dan moved on. He opened the fridge door and gagged as the smell of pastrami filled his nostrils. He hated pastrami, and Sue knew it. (55words)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Heads Bruce Wins, Tails Bruce Wins

This week's prompt words in bold. A few readers have asked where I get the ideas for these shorties. I don't have a clue; but given this week's effort, it's obviously from some dark place where none of you want to be.

Welcome to MY playhouse. No miniature crap here. No silly butterscotch balls. Lots of real scotch and rum and whiskey, though. You'll need the strong stuff once the fightin' starts. You'll see. Gravity is a bitch when you're dropped from way up. What? The bag in the corner? That's where the loser ends up. Ready? (55 words)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Two Sentence Horror Stories

I was pointed to a site containing a few two sentence horror stories chosen from a group of stories submitted to Reddit. Of course, I couldn't help but give a try. Thanks, Colleen. Here's my effort.

Daddy said he loved his little princess more than anything in the world. He thought I loved him too, until I aimed the shotgun at his crotch.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Immortality Awaits

Today's prompt words in bold.

The tournament about to start, George opened the throttle on his moped and barreled ahead, his eternal string of wins in jeopardy. Hot dog mustard clung to his beard. 

Reaching his destination, George hopped off the bike and ran stiff-kneed toward the double doors. Taking his usual seat, he prepared for battle and yelled, “Bingo!” (55 words)

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Today's prompt words in bold.

Jerick twists his head, a radar antenna on alert; pacing, like a caged animal, escape impossible, unsure how long he can protect the diminishing space he champions as his own. He stares at the ticket to Vegas, the one she purchased, the one with the note that says "Love you. Next stop, the chapel. YAY!" (55 words)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

No Crowing Today

Today's prompt words in bold.

No Crowing Today

He'd masqueraded as a sponge before, acting as if he cared what his worthless brother-in-law paraded in front of the family as fact. Unlike other Sundays, Bruce grinned and nodded in faux agreement. He looked at his sister. She touched her arm where the police would find the first bruise. Tensions escalated. The doorbell rang.

Monday, October 7, 2013

To The Bitter End

This week's five prompt words in bold.

Lacking the elemental ethos familiar to the elders of his tribe, the savage stood, his sword poised to strike, a lone warrior in his efforts to ditch what had survived for years. 

Limbs soared across the room. Heads burst.

When the last invader had been conquered, Bobby rested. He finally spoke.

"Mom. Is dinner ready?" (55 words)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Young Love

5 to 55 prompt words in bold.

Waiting for Jerome near the abandoned farmer's stand, their plan to run away in place, Grace adjusted the straps on her knapsack. A lawnmower groaned in the distance. She looked at her Lady Gaga watch, felt fluid from a tear on her cheek. Maybe he had changed his mind, decided to stay with his wife. (55 words)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Falling from Grace

Royce fell from Grace and landed in the fountain surrounding her pedestal. Grace Covington: town founder, town mayor, philanthropist, and according to some, town whore. Royce Jenkins: mediocre football player, community college educated, auto mechanic, and for the past year, town drunk. It wasn't the first time Royce had climbed the statue. It was the first time he'd been sober.

The town folks didn't know Royce and Grace were related. His mother, concerned about Grace's shady past and how that might affect what people thought of her family, had kept it secret. Grace was somebody's sister's mother's great aunt. Even sober, Royce couldn't figure it out. It didn't matter, though. Grace was the only one who listened to him without being judgmental.

Tonight, he chatted with Grace about his mother, who'd passed away a year ago, and his father, who'd run away long before that, and his wife and son, who he feared might leave him, too, and how his mother's death and his anxiety over his wife leaving and taking his son away kept him drinking.

"I should have done better, Grace, made Mama proud." He lay in her arms and shooed a butterfly from her mildewed chin. "But then I think, maybe I'm more like my dad, the kind of man who runs away from anything serious. Maybe that's why I drink so much."

That's when Grace dropped him. "What a twit," Grace said in a granite voice, the same one she had even before being immortalized in stone. "I can't believe I'm related to you. You have no gumption, no fire. Being a mechanic isn't a bad job. It's not glamorous, like being mayor or having your statue in the town square, but it's not bad. Your mother loved you for who you are. Your wife loves you, although maybe not for long, and your son needs a father. So, get over yourself and move on. You have a heritage to represent. And, perhaps—just perhaps—a future as town mayor."

Royce stood, unable to speak, his jaw locked open, and stared at Grace. He couldn't believe his mother thought he was worth something, that he mattered. Maybe she'd been too tired after cleaning houses all day and taking care of him and his two younger sisters to say anything. Maybe she assumed he knew, because he helped around the house, sometimes cooking dinner when she was going to be late. Maybe. . .He couldn't think of any more maybes.

Later, Royce would tell his wife what Grace had said and that she had winked at him and smiled, and he would swear he was sober when it happened. He glanced at the six-pack he planned to drink on his way home. Maybe it was because he was sober. Or maybe it was because he was wet and the breeze was cold. He didn't know for sure; but whatever the reason, he stood a little taller and felt less tense. 

He blew Grace a kiss, stepped from the fountain, and headed for home, leaving the beer for some loser to find.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Searching For Love In All the Wrong Places

This week's 5 to 55 prompt words in bold.

Randi sprinkled ginger on the pumpkin chips, part of the newest fad diet. The computer drive whirred. The video streamed. Screw photos, she thought, too easy to fake. 

Misleading online profiles lead to too many dating disappointments. Not that she should talk. Or should it be "he" should talk. S/he wasn't sure herself any more.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A New Life Goal

This week's prompt words in bold.

Bob banged the schooner on his personal altar, the bar at the Inn All Night, crushing a tipsy spider. The inn's name was a misnomer, as most customers paid by the hour. Bob had been one until he caught "the disease." Now, his granite ego turned tissue-thin, he waited for her return, his revenge planned. (55 words)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How Bruce Became a Lover of Key Lime Pie

Today's prompt words in bold.

How Bruce Became a Lover of Key Lime Pie

He consumed the key lime pie, while wearing a lime-green sports bra, the result of a lost bet with his bud, Paul. The brunette in the corner booth winked. Bruce mouthed a "help me." She nodded toward the rain. He pointed at the bra and mouthed, "umbrella." They left before Paul returned from the restroom. (55 words)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting for the Storm to Pass

"What's that?"  Angle said, pointing at the man's arm.

"What's what?"

"That thing on your sleeve."

The man looked at his arm, a frown on his face. "My heart. What the hell do you think it is?" 

"It's beating," Angle said.

"I sure as hell hope so. Wouldn't need to worry about the tornado if it wasn't, would I." 

Angle looked around the storm shelter. None of the other fifty or so occupants seemed to notice anything unusual. Most were huddled with family members, keeping an eye on the stairs leading to the exit.

He stared at the beating appendage, as it's pulse quickened, and idly raked bony fingers through his beard, not sure what to say. "What's your name?" he asked.

"Harold, but most people call me Hank." A honed edge remained on the man's voice, like he didn't want to be bothered. "What's yours?  Not that it matters. I'll be continuing on my way to Kansas City once the storm passes. That's assuming the bus is still upright."

Angle decided the man was right—that it didn't matter. He told him his name anyway. "Angle."

"Angle?" Hank scratched his heart.

"That's my name."

"What the hell kind of name is that? You Greek or something? Shortening your name so people can say it?"

"The person who filled out my birth certificate misspelled angel. My dad was so pissed when he found out he went to a bar and drank an entire bottle of Jack Daniels."

"Can't blame him," Hank said. "I would'a been pissed, too."

Angle nodded and smiled. "I don't think I would've killed the parrot, though."

"He killed a parrot? Did the bird make some wisecrack about your name?" Hank put his fists in his pits and flapped his arms, the heart beat faster with each movement. "Polly wants an Angle. Polly wants an Angle. Waaak!" Hank laughed so hard he nearly fell off his chair.

Angle reached out to steady the old man but pulled his hand back, not wanting to touch the beating heart. "Some other drunk challenged him to a game of darts. Dad threw the first one about thirty feet right of the target into the bird's cage." A loud bang from outside the storm shelter interrupted his story. Everybody in the room jumped. A woman Angle couldn't see screamed and prayed to Jesus to save her. Just her. No one else. "The owner tried to have my dad charged with murder."

"This just keeps getting better," Hank said, as he started to cough.

Angle patted Hank on the back until the barking stopped and the heart slowed its pace.

"Hey, folks." It was a high-pitched male voice coming from across the room. "I think the storm's passed. We're going to open the door."

Angle and Hank and everyone else sat still while a large man in a Chicago Cubs t-shirt, his bloated belly uncovered, a tattoo of a hot dog in a bun with cole slaw under his belly button expanding and contracting with each breath, opened the hatch. Sunshine brightened the dim room. A breeze carried fresh air into the dank rectangle.

"Well," Hank said. "I don't know what we're going to find out there, but it was nice talking to you." Angle noticed Hank's voice had calmed to normal, so had his heartbeat.

"Same here," Angle said. "Hey, you going to get that fixed?" Angle asked, pointing at the man's heart.

"Not sure." Hank cupped it in his hand, like it was a baby's head. "It kinda fits there don't you think?"

Angle watched Hank's fingers caress the organ as they climbed the stairs. "Yea. I think it does."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Calvin Seeks Perfection

Today's 5 to 55 prompt words in bold.

Calvin smiled: the camper, the tall trees, the waterfall, his wife, her lover, the blood. Perfect. Until the branch snapped. 

He sidled behind a pine. The ranger approached.

Calvin frowned. The licence plate stolen. The trailer unregistered. He'd thought of everything.

There should have been applause. Instead, there was likely to be a dead ranger. (55 words)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Three Lives Altered

This week's 5 to 55 story.

He changed the station in his mind. The news remained the same. His daughter. Dead. Her life shortened by a known hazard, a disturbed man with an assault rifle. He flung his reading glasses.

The cellphone lolled in the forgotten pasta, a voice echoing from inside, pleading. But there was no one left to reply. (55 words)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sometimes You're Better Off Minding Your Own Business

This week's 5 to 50/55 challenge was even harder than last week's, but I gave a try anyway. Here's what I came up with.

Like an oquessa, I felt at times like I was swimming upstream in my attempts to northernize my new neighbors. Just as lath and a sledge hammer don't mix, my suggestions for making friends plummeted to the ground. Ultimately, I decided their friendship was delible, and I returned to casting my line into fresher waters. (55 words, not counting title)

NOTE: An oquessa is a trout found in western Maine.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hopes Dashed

I haven't written one of these in a while. Maybe this will start a new batch. The object? Use the prompt words—in bold—to write a piece using exactly 50 or exactly 55 words.

Hopes Dashed

The pochard's webbed feet propelled it in a broken circle, as if it were high on grog. It was how Martha felt after she learned her uncle's bequest was marred. The will didn't allow for death by laqueus, a noose to most. Martha shrugged and directed the cart with all her belongings back to reality. (55 words)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


This story first appeared at Thick Jam.

The faucet is leaking again. So am I, my penis an open hydrant. Do they make diapers for faucets? I'd ask my son, if I could remember his number.

My room shrank today. It's not the first time. In another month I won't fit in it. The nurses keep telling me not to worry. They'll move me to a bigger room. Are they speaking the truth? I'd ask my son, if I could remember his number.

We had a fire drill yesterday. I think it was yesterday. It could have been today. I don't think it was tomorrow. I trudged along the hall, the wheel on my walker squeaking like a mouse with its tail in a trap trying to get loose. Maybe the squeak wasn't from a mouse, or the walker. Maybe it was someone whimpering for freedom.

Ellen hooked her fingers around my arm on the way back to our rooms. She's my neighbor. Ellen scares me. This place scares me. The fact I can't remember my son's number scares me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Job Well Done

Luke "The Oak" Joseph stood about 6'6", weighed around 240 pounds, and looked like he'd eaten the Golden Gate bridge for breakfast, or could have. Playing hide and seek wasn't his specialty. I, on the other hand, could walk down the street wearing all white and no one would notice, which was good, since my job was to follow cheating husbands and boyfriends and get the dirt on them, if you know what I mean.

A scholar athlete from a wealthy family, Luke looked forward to a career in pro football as a tight end. His jealous fiancee hired me because Luke was "sleeping with every bimbo wearing a tight dress and slut heels."

I'd been following him for two weeks and had yet to see a bimbo. There'd been a few mothers with kids asking for autographs, but no bimbos. Well, there was that slender babe with the short blond hair dressed in tight, lavender shorts, loose green top, and yellow sports bra in Starbucks who sashayed up to The Oak's table and handed him a napkin. He smiled and scribbled his name on the paper. I'm not sure he noticed how hot she looked, but I did.

The fiancee had the usual evidence—a lingering perfume odor that wasn't hers, late nights out, sudden business lunches with his agent. She practically paced the color out of my office carpet making sure I understood how awful her situation was. By the time she stopped to take a breath, I felt sorry for the guy. I wanted to suggest she go elsewhere, but then I spotted the second notice from my landlord relaxing on my desk giving me a little wave.

At our next meeting, I told the fiancee what I'd found, which was nothing. No groupies. No bimbos. Evenings studying at the library, sometimes with a group. The only lunch meeting was in Starbucks, where two men in suits discussed an endorsement deal if The Oak got drafted in the first round. The fiancee snorted. Twice.

She said I was a waste of money and worthless and implied my manhood wouldn't satisfy a midget. She insisted I get back out there. She was paying me to find something she could use to suck some money out of The Oaks' old man, money she said she'd earned for putting up with — "not putting out, mind you,"—that bimbo-chaser as long as she had. Before I could reply, she stomped out of the office and slammed the door so hard the bowling pin trophy sitting on my desk nearly tipped over.

I tailed The Oak a couple more times and decided I wasn't going to find anything. On the last day, I approached him in the same Starbucks where I'd first seen the blond in the lavender shorts and told him what I'd been doing. At first he didn't believe me, but when I explained what the fiancee was up to, his shoulders slumped and he thanked me for being upfront with him.

The last time I saw The Oak was on ESPN. He'd been selected the fifth overall pick in the draft by San Diego. He stood for pictures with one arm around an older woman I assumed to be his mother and the other around a younger version, who wasn't his fiancee. At least not the one I knew. I saluted The Oak with a bottle of Budweiser and then myself for another job well done before finishing the rest of the cool liquid.

Oh, and the saucy blond I ogled in Starbucks? Her name's Leila and today's our wedding. She promised she'd wear something lavender for the ceremony in honor of our first encounter. She's walking down the aisle now, and I don't see any color other than white. I can't wait to go treasure hunting later.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Wish I Could Say This to Your Face

You bullied me into being your friend, with your threats and name-calling. Even in high school you wouldn't let go, not until you enlisted in the Army. You tried to shame me into signing up. I finally said no and braced for a response that never happened.

I missed you when you left and disliked myself for it.

The day you came home, after three extended tours in Afghanistan, I wanted to welcome you at the bus station, but I was afraid you'd attach yourself to me again. My therapist understood, said it was why I had so few friends, said the decision was mine. Damn him.

I hid the picture you gave me the day before you left. I didn't want you staring at me, making me feel guilty for not going with you.

When I heard you were coming home for good, I took the picture out and wondered if you looked the same. Being in a war had to change people, just like missing a friend stopped the hate and anger and replaced them with confusion.

Mom said I spent too much time talking about you as if you were some kind of hero. I hadn't realized I was.

I remember the first time I heard you swear. You fell off the playground swing, skinned your knees, and said, "Fuck!"

The teacher blotted the skin with a tissue and said if you ever spoke that word again, she would wash your mouth out with soap. Later, on the bus, you leaned over and whispered fuck in my ear, while the teacher stood outside the window chatting with somebody's mother. 

You swear a lot more now. I don't know why and wish you'd stop.

You came home on a rainy Sunday. The Greyhound stopped at the post office. I stayed where I was, looking out of the window of Bert's Diner, cradling a cup of cold coffee, and watched you exit the bus, wearing your fatigues, a duffle bag hanging from your shoulder. 

I told my therapist you were coming. He asked me how I felt about that. I said conflicted. He nodded and tapped a pen on the tip of his nose. I wondered if he was trying to hypnotize me. 

He said I should be there when you arrived. It would help me figure out how I felt. I nodded, my back to him. Do you think I'm gay, I asked. Do you, he replied. I wanted to take his pen and tap my nose.

Remember the time I brought you home for dinner? Mom's face sharpened to a fine-honed scowl when we arrived late. I worried she might cut you with it. She served loose hamburger, mashed potatoes and corn—my favorite dinner, ten years ago.

You mixed it all together like she said to and finished every bite. The best meal I've had in a long time, you said. Her face softened. She said there was more. You thanked her but declined, rubbed your belly instead and said you wanted to stay in shape. You told her I should go running with you in the morning. You laughed. I snorted. The next morning you and I went jogging.

It took me three weeks to ask you about the war, especially if you'd killed anyone. You had. You thought. We mostly fired over long distances, you said, and it was hard to tell if we actually shot anyone. They fired a lot of bullets, and we fired a lot of bullets, and then we all stopped.

I asked if it bothered you that you might have. Nah, they deserved it for flying those planes into our buildings and bombing our embassies, you replied.

Later, while we sat on swings at the school playground, you told me you'd lied. The only time you fired your rifle was at basic training. You spent your whole deployment walking the streets guarding your LT while he spoke to the natives. I stared at two boys playing catch and thanked you for serving. Really, you asked. Really, I replied.

My mother says I'm an adulterer. I tell her I can't be. I'm not married. She says that doesn't matter. 

I spend too much time with you, she complains. It 's not natural. She continues knitting and rocking. I tell her we are just friends, not lovers. My cheeks warm at the sound of the word. She says a few more sentences, then the bedroom falls silent, except for the clicking needles. I stare at nothing, my mind frozen, unable to break free, to move on.

The needles click. The yarn unravels. Mother looks up, says I'm an adulterer. I tell her I can't be. I'm not married. She says it doesn't matter. 

She's too young to be this old.

I swipe one of the french fries from your plate. You reach for it. I hold it away and laugh. You smile and laugh, too. You didn't used to be like this. Before, you would laugh, but it was an ugly laugh, a shield.

You get up, walk around the table, grab at the fry. I move my arm. You try again. This time you clutch my wrist. Your hip settles against my shoulder. Except for when you used to punch me in the arm, it's the first time we've touched. I like it, and I don't.

I tell Mom I'm going on a vacation to Florida. Just a week. Six days, really. She says I can't go. She needs me. I know, I say. It's him, she says. No, I say. She stares at me, her eyes tightening into knots. I hold her gaze for a few seconds, then look away. I know, she says. You're gay. I am not, I say. But I wonder.

I walk to the bed. Sit on the edge. Tell her I need to get away. To think. I don't tell her I won't be back.

I liked you better as a bully. I understood that, could deal with it. Now I don't now what we are. I only know I need to go away to find out.

I wish your parents hadn't moved here. I wish I hadn't been assigned to be your buddy. I wish either of those statements was true. 

I wish . . . I wish I wasn't so confused.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Day 1

The rifle rested in the crook of Adam's arm as he knelt in the blind and waited for a buck to appear. Not that he cared if one did. Hunting season was merely an excuse for a vacation day or two to enjoy what Mother Nature had to offer. He preferred hiking, but the IED made that impossible. Adam peered over the top of the wall. A narrow strip of forest rimmed the pasture behind him. On a normal day, there would be a small flock of sheep, a goat, a pair of horses, and, sometimes, two potbellied pigs. Today there were none. He turned his functioning ear toward the farm and listened for baas, or neighs, or any sound of animal life. Silence. He peered through his binoculars at the rundown barn. The grey-haired farmer limped into the open and headed toward the house. Smiling, Adam pulled his coat tighter and focused on the darkening western sky. Local meteorologists had predicted up to six inches of rain over the next two days. Adam wondered what kind of damage that might cause given the rivers and lakes were already high.

Eva stepped out of the hut she and Javier shared and slogged through the mud toward the coop to fetch fresh eggs for Javier’s breakfast. The serape draped over her shoulders did little to keep the chill from penetrating the thin material of her dress. She placed a hand over her mouth and gasped when she reached the coop and found no eggs, not even broken ones. Her stomach tightened. She scanned the yard in the dawn light for any sign of life. None existed. She took a deep breath and headed back to the shack. Javier became angry when he didn’t get his eggs. Eva slowed her pace as she neared the door. She knew what was in store for her.

Day 2

Adam returned to the blind, having had no luck the previous day. The field was still barren of animals. He sat this time and listened to the rain pummel the blind's roof. He enjoyed being outside away from his job and other people and responsibility and looked forward to the opening of deer season the most of any season. Adam rose to his knees when he heard a sound and held the gun to his shoulder. He turreted the barrel from side to side. Nothing. Must have been a squirrel, he thought. He lowered the weapon and stared up at the trees. For the first time, he realized there were no birds or squirrels or any other being in sight. Only him and the steady rain.

Eva rose before the sun to check the coop. The purple bruises on her arms and legs and chest ached. She couldn’t see the blotches on her back, but assumed they looked the same. As he always did, Javier had blamed her for the lack of eggs for his breakfast. She reached the coop and knelt down. Again, there were no eggs, or chickens, or rooster, or animals of any kind. She sneaked back into the house and placed her belongings in a burlap bag. She wove a rope through the material to create a harness and left. Eva couldn't take another beating. She stepped out into the rain, only a scarf protecting her head, and headed northeast toward Dallas and beyond. She hoped Javier would assume she'd head home to Mexico and look for her in that direction when he awoke from his drunken sleep.

Day 3

For a third day, Adam sat in his perch. The rain continued, longer than anyone had predicted. He wiped his nose, the morning chill snuck under his coat. He listened to the water rush through the stream along the south side of the field, overrunning it’s banks. He’d never seen it rise this high. The morning news reports focused on the rising rivers, especially the Mississippi. Farms along its banks were already flooded. He'd always been fascinated by nature and its power. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a meteorologist, or a geologist, or a forest ranger. That was long before he enlisted in the Marines and went to Iraq. Now, he felt lucky to have a job in the local hardware store.

Eva jogged toward the semi, the wet dress clinging to her legs and hips. She opened the door. An older man with unkempt hair covered by a green, sweat-stained cap asked where she was headed. She said north, and he said me too. At least as far as Kansas City, anyway. Hop in. She stared briefly at the hole in the elbow of his plaid shirt. Mud covered the knees of his jeans. Eva hesitated to get in but figured the man couldn’t do anything worse to her than Javier had. She glanced back down the road to make sure Javier wasn't following her, climbed into the cab, and placed the bag between her and the driver. He chatted as he wrestled the rig through the rain. She grunted in response and kept her eyes on the road. When the man stopped at a roadside diner to eat, he put a hand on her knee, said she could have something special for dessert, and nodded toward the sleeping compartment. Eva forced a grin and once inside excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. Exiting through the kitchen, she continued her journey north on foot. If only it would stop raining, she thought.

Day 4

The rain continued for a fourth day, and Adam found himself both nervous and excited. He’d heard on the radio that the Mississippi continued to rise. Forecasters warned of a doomsday scenario with millions of acres of farmland underwater, homes ruined by surging waters, and the potential for drownings. Excited by the power of nature, Adam decided to drive east to Kansas City to check the great Mississippi for himself. He'd made the trip many times and marveled at the site of  the river meandering along its way. As he neared the city limit, he saw lines of cars heading in the opposite direction. With no thought of joining them, he drove on, hoping he could get close enough that he wouldn't have to drag his right leg too far.

Eva slid out of the pickup truck, grabbed her belongings, and thanked the farmer for the ride. A thin layer of water covered the sidewalk. She hugged the bag to her chest and ran toward Meg’s: The Best Damn Diner in KC. She hadn’t eaten since leaving home. Eva rummaged in the bag and found the five dollar bill she’d stolen from Javier’s wallet. She could have taken more but was afraid to. Inside everyone was talking about the river. Some of the men said they were heading out as soon as the roads cleared a bit. Others said they'd lived here all their lives and weren't about to leave now. Eva slid into a corner booth. A waitress strolled over and Eva ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of water. It was what she'd ordered the only time Javier had taken her to a restaurant. Waiting for her food to arrive, Eva noticed water rising rapidly in the street and creeping under the diner’s door. She shivered, grabbed the burlap bag, and ran out into the street. She spotted a hill to her right and headed in that direction. She didn’t trust tall buildings. When she neared the top of the mound, Eva saw a man standing with his back to her.

Day 5

Adam surveyed the river as water continued to rise over the banks and race through the streets. He'd never seen anything like it. The Mississippi no longer had boundaries. He twisted counterclockwise and saw the young woman approach and stand next to him. She was pale and her hands were shaking. He asked if she'd eaten lately. She shook her head. He reached into the bag hanging from his shoulder and offered her an apple. She bit into it greedily.

They stood without talking and felt the water rise up their legs. Sensing the woman's fear, Adam reached for Eva’s hand, and she gave it to him. They stood like that as great mists of water rose into the cloudy sky, obliterating their view.

Day 6

Having nowhere else to go, Adam and Eva stood on the hill and watched the blackness envelop them. Adam squeezed Eva's hand. Eva returned the gesture, and they waited as the Earth went totally black and mankind ceased to exist. 

Day 7

Disappointed and saddened by his initial attempt at creating a new civilization, on the seventh day, God rested to consider what he’d done wrong and how he could do it better next time.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Update

I haven't posted as often lately. That doesn't mean I've stopped writing. In fact, I have been. It's just that most of it has been non-fiction. Here are a couple of examples.

I do have a piece of fiction available through Untreed Reads starting today. Below is the blurb and link.

The narrator is an out-of-work salesman looking for a job. Harry is an orphan, who's aged out  of the system, and a self-taught musician. After a chance meeting on a forest lane, the two partner up for a new adventure. Their first stop is a village named Hamelin that has a rat problem.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Warm Gesture During a Cold Snap

This story first appeared at Daily Love.

"Oh, snap," Father Pat said. His clerical collar prohibited the use of stronger words, even though he'd heard them all many times. He pulled the black coat closer to his body and stepped off the porch into the hostile wind. Mrs. Allgood needed him.

They had known each other since the diocese assigned him to St. Francis over fifteen years ago. She chaired the committee that put together the brunch served after his first mass. He remembered her welcoming smile, her husband's strong handshake, and the bashfulness of her twin daughters. 

The following week she asked him to attend the women's prayer meeting. She sat next to him, and when they held hands during the closing prayer, he felt a spark that made him uneasy. Through the years, they had many encounters, and he worried that her actions were flirtations in disguise. He smiled at the thought. It wasn't until late last year, when her husband passed on after a long illness, that she became more forward, brushing against him and gently touching his arm.

He stood in the doorway to her bedroom. She sat in a wheelchair facing a window. ALS had stolen the use of her limbs and the ability to speak. Still, her eyes glowed when she saw him. Aware of what she wanted and knowing he couldn't provide it, he sat next to her and held her hand, just as they had during that first prayer meeting.

A sound gurgled from her throat. He nodded and squeezed her hand. A deep breath escaped from her lungs, and he saw something in her eyes. In a few months, he would administer the Last Rites. For now, he quietly sang her favorite hymns and cradled her hand in both of his.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Not So Secret Secret

First published at A Twist of Noir.

The waitress laid the check and two fortune cookies on the table. The candy hearts were an extra treat for Valentine's Day. Kali grinned at the slender woman—a thank you, not an invitation.

"What?" Kali asked, as Jeff's smile withered. He handed her the paper from the fortune cookie.

"Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing. . ."

"This is a joke. Right?" Kali looked up and noticed Jeff scanning the room. "Jeff?" She touched his arm. "Jeff, you're scaring me."

He focused on Kali. "I. . .I don't know," he said, his words swathed in panic. "I hope so." He looked around the room again. "I received a similar note last week at work and laughed it off. Now I'm not so sure." He rose.

"Wait," Kali said.

"You read the note. It says my life is in danger."

"This has to be a practical joke. I mean you haven't done anything to cause someone to want to kill you." She read the note once more, then looked at Jeff. "Have you?"

He wiped his moist hands on his trousers and leaned forward. "I must have pissed someone off. At work maybe. I don't know. I can't think. I've got to get out of here." He tossed a twenty and a five on the table and dashed out the door. Kali snatched her purse and coat and followed.

"Jeff. Wait." She caught up to him and grabbed his arm. "You need to call the police."

"What part of 'say nothing' don't you understand?"

"Not so loud, Jeff. People are staring." 

He pulled her into an alley.

"I shouldn't tell you."

"We've been dating for six months, and now I feel like I don't know you." Kali turned to leave. "Maybe this was a mistake."

"No, wait. I. . ."

Kali stood, legs apart, arms folded, her head cocked to one side.

"Okay, so maybe a few years ago I did something that got someone else thrown in jail. . .and maybe that someone got out of jail last week. . . and maybe he thinks I have something that belongs to him." He inhaled deeply and looked at Kali. "I'm sorry. I didn't think he'd find me."

"What are you talking about?"

"There are things about me you don't know—and it's better that way."


"I'm sorry. I have to leave town."

"I'll go with you," she said.

"No." He put his hands on her shoulder. "If he finds me, he. . .. Let's just say you might be in danger, too. God, I didn't mean for it to end like this. I do love you, Kali."

She thought about that. "Where will you go?"

"It's better if you don't know."

"But what if something happens? How will anyone find you? How will I find you?"

Jeff put his fingers together and placed them against his lips.

"Remember the cabin I took you to on our third date? The one near Grandfather Mountain?"

"Off Route 320."

"Yes. I never told him about that place. I should be safe there until I figure out what to do and where I can go."

"Okay, but I find it hard to believe you'd actually steal. That doesn't sound like the man I fell in love with." She reached for his hands. "Do you really have something this guy might want?"

Jeff paused. "Yes."

"At the cabin?"

He nodded.

Kali reached up and kissed him. "Will I ever see you again?"

"Probably not. Maybe. I don't know. I hope so once this is over." He pulled her to his chest and kissed her back. Finally, he let her go and dashed out of the alley, looking left and right when he reached the sidewalk.

Kali paused at the entrance to the alley, pulled her cellphone from her purse, and called her brother. She turned so her back was to the street.

"He's on his way to the cabin." She listened for a few seconds. "He said it's there." She listened some more. "Okay. Tomorrow at noon at the cabin. I'll see you then."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Love Hurts anthology

A story from last year, Ralph's Ruse, appears in this Valentines's Day anthology from Eric's Hysterics now available on

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Bitch, the Beach, and the Cub Scout

Karl spotted the woman and boy through the rifle sight. He knew three things about the witch. Her ass was way too big to be wearing a thong, the kid wasn't his, and she and her lawyer shouldn't have stole his money. He'd taken care of the lawyer. Now it was her turn.

He found her easily. She always complained about not going to that famous Daytona Beach.

"Bitch," Karl mumbled.

The boy giggled and ran away from the waves. Karl lowered the rifle, wiped the salty sweat from his eyes, and smiled. Maybe tomorrow would be better, he thought.

**This story is part of the Flash Jab drabble ( a story of exactly 100 words) challenge. Read the other stories here —

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Niblet: How Could He?

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

I attended the party undercover as my sister. After a few Irish coffees, even I didn't know the difference. Derek should have. He stood in one corner cheating on me with a busty brunette. I swatted him harshly on the back.

"What are you doing, man?" I asked.

He turned, his mouth frozen open. "Jonathan?"

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

You Told Him

First published at Burningword.

You gaze at the clothes flipping in the washer, because you don’t know what else to do. They’re not even yours.

You told Brad you needed something more, something he couldn’t offer, something you couldn’t explain. You rubbed your damp palms over the lime green material of your dress and told him you wouldn’t forget. You didn’t mention the inoperable tumor.

You changed jobs and moved to the other side of the city, so there would be less chance of you running into each other. You didn’t tell your new employer you’d be there for less than a year. 

You changed your cell phone number and closed your Facebook page. You knew Brad would try to find you.


You spin the diamond to match the cycle of the clothes. You don’t think about the future. 

You handed Brad a valise with his stuff from your apartment when you met at the cafe, everything except the ring, that is. You told him you lost it. He was too shocked to be angry.

He asked why. You couldn’t tell him the truth. 

You walked out of the coffee shop, leaving him sitting with his mouth open. You told him not to follow you. You needed some space.

People stared. You wanted to tell them you didn’t want to be a burden, like your mother had been at the end.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Niblet: The Best Present Ever

Prompt words are in bold.

Carrie crouched at the window holding the oversized, crystal spider in her sweaty palm. A present from Josh, it was his way of curing her "spiderphobia." 

She watched Josh, her lover turned antagonist, exit the car. She inched toward the door, twisting the bathrobe's purple sash around her finger, and waited. He wouldn't rape her again.