What the Day Allows

He saw them, the spirals trapping light by their feet. It was strange; he thought the moment was merely a distortion, a dream. Water normally didn’t move in such a way, not on its own. Nick was usually able to trust his senses. Yet there was this slight irreality moving in the distance. Was something in him fading? Was a part of his mind starting to bend reality on its own inexplicable terms?

He twisted his eyes away from the water’s movements and pinned them on the two sitting beneath the tree, at the edge of the water. He had followed them to this lake. This was a better spot than any motel which was where he would often gather info on adulterers. They were in the open, exposed to the air. But so was he. He zoomed onto them with his camera. Their faces were turned away, but he sharpened the camera on their hands, the intimacies between fingers. Simple body language that betrayed them, but he still needed more.

He waited up on the hill, in a spot obscured by some bushes. The sun started to drift away, but the two just remained there, watching the water. The spirals were gone, but their eyes fell onto the silent golds swaying on the lake’s surface.

This was not a profession that Nick enjoyed fully. There were aspects of it that he didn’t mind, and it paid well, but often it felt like a waste even when it wasn’t. It was a beautiful day, but it was almost done. He could have been elsewhere, or right there, watching the water without any deeper motive. But, he also knew himself. Regardless of the occupation, he would have been sitting in some sort of misery.

He sometimes wondered if everyone needed to work. There are tons of people who are, for the most part, useless. It was awful to think of such a thing, but Nick heard of “social media influencers” who simply exist to advertise products and make insipid remarks online. Technically they had a job, but wouldn’t things be better if they simply weren’t working instead of spreading their mediocrity? Nick was, in some ways, mediocre. A better investigator could be on this case, yet he happened to take their place just because he had to work, had to eat.

The water started to darken and he watched as the two started to stand. The man, Jacob, brushed off some dirt and helped the woman, Noelle, up. Nick quietly shifted his position even though the hour was nearly black, but Nick still feared being seen. That was perhaps Nick’s greatest fear: being terrible at his job. The pressure, no matter how minute at times, heaved itself onto every moment.

They drove off. He followed. Despite his worries he will have enough evidence of their affair to present to the client. There will be regrets, more things he could have done more “cleverly,” but then it will all pass. The next assignment will come and things will continue their own way. Nick felt this as he noticed the grey patters of rain on his windshield. Each day felt like a nothing, but he was entangled in it. Just as the two lovers, despite what they may think they feel, are entangled to what desire demands until they are forgotten, blind to what is near.

The two cars curved through the night and soon disappeared, but the sky continued its fall across the city streets and sidewalks; the rain bending the lights of street lamps and intersections bend to its own accord.


Written for Thursday Inspiration.

A Stranger

I had met the man many years ago. He called himself a servant though his master had let him go. He claimed that his whole life was tied to a purpose. He served his master. That was what he had been bred and trained for. I wasn’t sure why this man was speaking to me, bringing up such things, as we both stood alone waiting for the bus to come. 

He then turned his eyes away from me, his gaze reaching outward across the street, perhaps to scoop up the darkness huddled near the buildings. I didn’t ask him why his master had let him go. I wasn’t all that interested. I just wanted to see bus lights glowing into horizon. He then started to mutter something and his stare drifted downward. He was older, but not yet old. His best years were gone, but he was not yet done. 

Soon, the bus came. We entered. He sat near the front and I hurried to the back. His head bobbed to the movements of the road, but his face was fixed frontward, his mouth occasionally moving. He didn’t stop to read a book or disappear into a device. It was like he was sealed to something else. But the only thing in the window was the road rolling through the headlights, disappearing underneath the wheels. Perhaps I should have asked him some questions, but he seemed lost. Though through the cracks maybe I could have uncovered something. But he was just a stranger, and I was tired. Had a long day, and didn’t need the awkwardness of another’s life. My stop soon came and I was gone.


Written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #142. The prompt is “The genie is not getting back in the bottle” and this is what came to mind.

After Life

They waited, watching as the old man lied in his lavish bed. Many held tears in their eyes, but the old man just stared up at the ceiling. He knew he was dying, having experienced this variation before. He then lowered his gaze, scanning the faces of his large family as they watched his final moments. But the old man felt nothing. A part of him sighed. He felt bad for them, in a way, but he knew that they would all be gone soon and he would be back on that hill. 

Many lifetimes ago, he was a teenager, poor and alone, standing on a grassy hill when he caught a bolt of lightning and nearly died. But instead of death, he gained something else: an ability to live life over and over again. Each time he died he would reawaken as a teenager on that hill. He had experienced life in various forms, walking different paths. He lived as a rich man. He lived as a poor man. He fell in love dozens of times. Soon, he figured out the many variables he needed in order to “perfect” life. And now, here he was, starting at it, and it was almost over. 

The room whimpered. The old man caught one of his granddaughters staring at him; something stirred within, but it was too little. His eyes cocked back up to the ceiling. He was ready for something new. 

James v. James

INT. JUDGE MCTRUDY’S “COURTROOM” – 12 or 1 PM on a weekday 

The tiny courtroom is filled with law students and audience members who are now regretting coming to the show. Announcer blares in:

ANNOUNCER: The next case, we have James Shelby who is suing his past self for wasting his stupid-ass life on video games and Youtube when he could have been doing other things. You are watching Uncivil Court with Judge McTrudy!

The annoying DUN-DUN B-DUN-DUN music plays which was written in 3 minutes by a guy who now never has to work ever again.

JUDGE MCTRUDY walks in and sits in her judge tower. She’s in her 70s and doesn’t take shit from nobody. 

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Please be seated. 

Everyone sits down except for the accuser, FUTURE JAMES, and the defendant, PAST JAMES. They look almost the same except Future James has an unkept beard, is fat and looks generally miserable. Past James just looks miserable

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Ok, Mr. James, you are suing your past self for general negligence and abuse. 

FUTURE JAMES: Yes your honor.

JUDGE MCTRUDY: And do you have evidence of this?

FUTURE JAMES: Yeah. I mean, look at me. 

The courtroom, including the bailiff, who makes way more money than you ever will for just standing there, laughs. 

The judge bangs on her gavel. She doesn’t laugh. She hates laughter. Especially in her domain. 

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Be quiet! Now, Mr. James, as you say you–

PAST JAMES: Um, can I say some–

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Um, did I call on you, Mr. James?

PAST JAMES: Um, well, you kind-of did.

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Mr. James, what I asked you was a yes-or-no question, wasn’t it?

PAST JAMES: …maybe?

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Mr. James, if you don’t be quiet I am throwing you out of my courtroom. Is that understood?

PAST JAMES: Um–

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Good! Now, Mr. James, you believe that the defendant here has ruined your life, is that correct?

Future James doesn’t say anything.

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Hey! Are you deaf?

She bangs her gavel.

JUDGE MCTRUDY: I’m talking to you!

FUTURE JAMES: Oh, I thought I was supposed to be quiet.

JUDGE MCTRUDY: No, I said your past self has to be quiet. Now pay attention!

FUTURE JAMES: Does that still apply to me?

JUDGE MCTRUDY: NO! Now listen! Do you have any witnesses? 

FUTURE JAMES: Well, I have my, er, our mother.

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Mrs. James, please stand-up. 

James’ mother stands up and walks over to the microphone. 

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Now, Mrs. James, your future–current?–whatever son claims that the defendant here is–

MOTHER: Hi your honor! I just want to say I love your show! Especially when you yell at poor people for being dumb! 

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Mrs. James, flattery won’t get you far in MY courtroom. In fact, this whole case is making me very, very impatient! Now, have you ever witnessed your past son engage in the act of wasting time or such other unproductive tomfoolery?

MOTHER: Oh yes your honor! I mean, all he has ever done is play video games and talk to himself, like a weirdo! And then every once in awhile post crappy poems on the internet instead of learning how to code or work on his career. 

JUDGE MCTRUDY: I see, you may be seated. Now, I’m ready to make my decision. I–

PAST JAMES: Um, excuse me. May I speak?

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Did I ask you to speak? 

PAST JAMES: No, but I–

JUDGE MCTRUDY: Past James, you will be quiet! I won’t ask you again! In fact, as a judge I feel it is my duty to tell you, sir, that you disgust me. You are a disgusting, pathetic worm who doesn’t produce anything worthwhile! And I’m sentencing you to death! Good day sir! 

PAST JAMES: …what?

FUTURE JAMES: YES! Wait what? 

INT. “HALLWAY” OUTSIDE THE “COURTROOM” – MOMENTS LATER

Some guy in a suit with zero charisma holding a microphone talks to the camera.

SOME GUY: Alright, let’s see how the defendant feels about how the case turned out.

Past James steps into the hallway. 

SOME GUY: Now, it looks like you lost the case. What did you think of the judge’s sentencing? Did you agree with it?

PAST JAMES: Does it matter?

SOME GUY: No, it does not.

PAST JAMES: Um, so does this mean I’m going to die?

SOME GUY: Yes it does.

PAST JAMES: Oh, just because every time I get home from work I’m too tired to do anything other than video games and Youtube?

SOME GUY: Yes, that’s precisely it. Now, do you regret insulting the judge the way you did?

PAST JAMES: But…I’m going to die…I–I really did waste my life, didn’t I? Well, I guess I just hope my death will perhaps teach people that–

SOME GUY: Okay that’s enough time. We need to speak with the winner of this case. Please just step that way and you will be hanged soon enough. Thank you.

Past James leaves the hallway to meet his fate. Future James and his mother step in his place.

SOME GUY: Now step over here. Thank you. Now, how do you feel now that the judge sentenced in your favor?

FUTURE JAMES: So…does this mean that I will die?

SOME GUY: Again, yes. Don’t you remember?

FUTURE JAMES: Oh yeah…I guess what I was going to say was, I just hope that my death, unlike my life, will mean something. And I hope people will realize that video games and Youtube is fine once in a while, but you also need to go out and live your life. Because you only have one. 

SOME GUY: But what about those people who work 80-hour jobs in order to survive?

FUTURE JAMES: Well they’re fucked. 

SOME GUY: Okay, please step over there so you can watch your past self get hanged. Alright, have fun. Alright, Marvey?

Cuts to Marvey who is in a weird alleyway miles away standing in front of a bunch of people. 

MARVEY: Thanks Some Guy. Let’s talk to some randos for some reason. Alright, excuse me, sir? 

He motions over to a man with a dull expression on his face.

MARVEY: Sir, what did you think of the outcome of this case? Do you think people should be able to sue their past selves for not doing anything with their lives until it’s too late? Also, what’s your name?

PRESENT JAMES: James, Present James. And I’m actually the person writing this story or whatever.

MARVEY: That’s interesting. Do you think writing this story will inspire you to change your life in any way?

PRESENT JAMES: Nope.

MARVEY: Very well. Now, with all the protests and riots going on about police brutality and institutional racism, what made you want to write a story entirely about yourself?

Present James, upon hearing this, just stares off into space. 

PRESENT JAMES: Um…

MARVEY: Oh wait. It looks like we’re hearing reports that Past James has somehow escaped the state execution chamber and has stolen one of Judge McTrudy’s pink BMWs. Oh man, the judge isn’t going to like this!

Cut to aerial footage of Past James racing through LA. 

MARVEY: Yes. This must be an exciting time in James’ life. This is the first and last time he will ever drive such an expensive automobile. Though he might be having some trouble since he doesn’t know how to drive a stick-shift. That dope.

The BMW screeches to a halt in front of a Starbucks and Past James stumbles out, runs into the coffeeshop. 

MARVEY: Okay, it looks like he has stopped inside a Starbucks. For some reason…perhaps to waste more money on overpriced beverages. He will never be able to afford a house at this rate!

The police immediately pull-up and swarm the Starbucks, pull Past James out.

MARVEY: Okay, so it looks like he was in there to watch a video of a guy playing bass with a spoon. I hope it was worth it! Now, he’s going to be hanged forever. Now, in more important news, let’s see what people have to say about JK Rowling’s about sex or whatever.


Written in response for Sandman’s Writing Challenge. I’m so sorry.

Aliens

“Jeff, did you turn in the report for accounts receivable?”

“Nope.”

“Oh. Um…okay. You said you were going to have that done…How come you haven’t already?”

“Because aliens.”

Mr. Winderman sighed. “Right….Look, Jeff, just because a few extraterrestrials have come down and invaded earth, doesn’t mean you can’t do your job.”

“One of them took my laptop.”

“It took your…well, did you save anything on the cloud?”

“Nope.”

“Jeff, why didn’t you save anything on the cloud? That’s what it’s there for. For situations like this.”

“Dunno. Been distracted lately.”

“Gosh. Okay. Well, accounting isn’t going to like this. I will see if we can get a 2-day extension.”

2 days later:

“Alright Jeff. How is it going? And how is it going with the–Jeff?” He looked around Jeff’s office, looking under his desk, opening the filing cabinets. But he was not there. Mr. Winderman stepped out into the hallway.

“Maria, have you seen Jeff?”

“Jeff? Oh, they stole him sir.”

“Who? The aliens.”

She nodded.

“Darn. Accounting isn’t going to like this. Well…hm…did they say how long they were keeping him for?”

She shrugged.

“Well, that doesn’t help, Maria. Real pickle…Okay, guess I’m gonna have to talk to accounting again. Was nice chatting with you Maria.”

“Um, sir?”

“Yes Maria?”

“Can I have some time off? You know, because of all that’s happening lately.”

“Hm. Yeah, a little break probably wouldn’t hurt. Take 5, Maria. You deserve it!”

“Oh, um…”

“And not a minute more. We don’t want our competitors swooping in thinking we’ve slowed down.”

“Right. Okay.”

Mr. Winderman took the elevator downstairs, but when he got to the accounting department he noticed all the desks were empty. He approached a nearby janitor. “Excuse me, what happened to all…”

“Who? Oh yeah. I think they were all stolen sir.”

“Really? Well…did they say when they would be given back?”

The janitor shook his head.

“Well…I guess this actually works in my favor. Well, take care.”

“Yeah…hey, wait!”

Mr. Winderman stopped and turned around. 

“Did you want to go out sometime?”

“…What?”

“I mean, just for a cup of coffee. It’s just you seemed so stressed. And plus I no longer have a wife because of, well, you know…”

“Oh. Thanks. But I actually don’t drink coffee though.”

“Oh…okay. Take care then.”

“You too!” Mr. Winderman strolled out of the department while the janitor continued sweeping up garbage that wasn’t there.


Written for today’s Genre Challenge hosted at The Haunted Wordsmith. I also posted a response for yesterday’s genre challenge because I originally didn’t see this one. Feel free to read that response as well, but I wouldn’t recommend it!

Chicken Nuggets

“Marty, check this out. Marty? Hey, check this out. Look.”

“What?”

“So a woman, disgruntled that McDonald’s wouldn’t let her inside, firing at the employees. Can you believe that?”

“Huh. ‘Gonna terminate some lives for mcnuggies.’ Why didn’t she just take the drive-thru?”

“What?”

“What?”

“Marty, this isn’t funny. People were seriously injured. All because of this damn lockdown.”

“Yeah.”

“You know, people wouldn’t be so upset if they just started opening things up again. I tell you, they’re gonna find that the lockdown actually did more harm than the virus itself.”

“Really?”

“Yeah really. Why?”

“Well, maybe–”

“There is no maybe, Marty. There is no maybe. And I’m not saying the virus isn’t serious. Any life lost is tragic, but–”

“We’re just going to shrug them off? Because people want fast food?”

“Because people are dying Marty. Have some perspective. You know, look at the numbers. This county has had, what? 3 cases.”

“I think it was more than that.”

“But it’s small. There’s a few million living here, and we should remain shut-down due to a handful of cases?”

“Well, maybe we should start opening places up. But we still don’t know how many cases because not everyone gets tested, right? And what if another strain or wave erupts–”

“Nonsense! People are literally killing each other. People are protesting. You know, and it might already be too late. You’ve got mayors and sheriffs threatening to take people out of their homes if they don’t follow every little step. Again, not saying the virus isn’t terrible, Marty, but the aftermath is going to be a whole lot worse. I bet you the government is just using this thing as an excuse to further their control. That’s what they do, Marty.”

“I guess. Maybe they should reopen, but gradually, safely. Everyone should still wear masks and stuff.”

“Yeah. I guess. But people are gonna get sick of that as well. God, I bet the Democrats are loving this.”

“Ok. Ok. Everybody out. Move,” I said, gesturing to the two men to leave the living room.

“Hey!”

“Excuse me, who are you?”

“I’m the author. Now move. Your business is done. Get out please.” I corralled the two men toward the doorway.

“I don’t understand…how are you going to end this piece without us?”

“I’m not.”

“What?”

“I’m going to scrap it. Too didactic. No one wants to read anything about this virus anyway.”

“Yeah, but…can we have some mcnuggies at least? Haven’t had them for so long…”

I considered this for a moment. Finally, I said, “No.” And brushed them out.

“I’m sorry you folks had to see that,” I said to no one in particular. “I didn’t know how else to end this ‘story’ or whatever you want to call this. So I guess, be safe. Don’t shoot anyway. And I really, really hope that Jeff Bezos continues to make more money. Because nothing really matters anymore.”

“Ok. Ok. Time to go.” Another me came out of nowhere and started gesturing at original me to leave. “Time to go. Bye. Bye. Time to go. Bye.”

“But, can’t I just tell the nice people to socially distance?”

“They already know. And apparently they don’t care. Ok. Bye. Bye.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

“…Bye.”

“GO!”

“Ok. Ok. Fine. What happens if I step out?”

“You know what happens. You cease to exist.”

“Ok…that’s cool. And, wait. What’s that? You hear that?”

Suddenly, the windows shattered and SWAT came flying in, donning their rifles.

“Oh no…” I said. “Looks like they’re after the virus. Guess this story is going to take a little long–”

“Oh for fuck’s sake.”

One of the SWAT members approached the two of us and unfurled a scroll. “Greetings gentlemen. Martial law has been officially instituted and we are here to confiscate any illicit chicken nuggets you may be in possession of.”

“This is the stupidest thing–” Other me muttered.

“Why? It’s social commentary!”

“No! It’s incoherent! Are you criticizing the government? Do you think the virus is a hoax? What the fuck are you saying?”

“I’m just providing entertainment.”

“Entertainment? You have to watch what you say! People could interpret this as you not taking the pandemic seriously. They may think–”

“Look, people are going to interpret things in any way–”

“Because you want them!”

The SWAT member cleared his throat. We turned to him. “Now, have you two seen these fellas here?” He held-up a sketch of Marty and Eugene (the name of the other guy).

“Yeah. We made them.”

“Well, they are suspected of being in possession of and distributing black-market chicken nuggies.”

Other me glared at me. “What the fuck is this?”

I shrugged.

“Ok. We’re ending this. This story is over.” The SWAT team hung their heads and flew backwards out the windows. Other me turned to no one in particular. “We are so sorry you had to go through all this. In fact, I’m not even sure why you are still reading at this point. Unless you decided to scroll at this point in the hopes of reading something interesting. Well, you’re shit outta luck, bud.”

“But, we can’t end it this way.”

“Why not? It’s the only way to salvage this mess.”

“Well, like you, I wanted to just end this story. Fed-up with it. Then I realized, we can’t just end things to our own satisfaction. We have to consider the reader as well.”

“Ok…then why didn’t you just end it with Eugene and Marty? That would have been fine.”

“Well, that would have been boring.”

“Maybe, but a little blandness is ok sometimes. This story wouldn’t have been good, but it would have been better than whatever this is. Sometimes a story just has to dwell on the everyday. Not everything has to be a knock out of the park.”

Suddenly, the room roared with cheers. I turned and saw three snobbish-looking types sitting on the other side of the room. “Who are they?”

“Oh, they’re here to cheer whenever I make a good point. See, you have to have confidence in your writing. Don’t feel like you need to inject artificial excitement into everything. Especially when it comes to writing about a pandemic everyone is dealing with.”

More cheers. “Why do they look like Starbucks?

“Because they’re the types I loath, yet still want admiration from.”

“God, I suck.”

“Now, let’s have some chicken nuggets.” The peanut gallery was about to stand. “Not you!” And they sat back down. And the two of us ate there in the peace of the living room as the world outside burned and screamed at itself.

 

Education

“Okay class…settle down…” Ms. Gildner said, but none of the students turned toward her, but went on with their conversations as if she didn’t exist. “Please class…” Her voice was soft and raspy. It felt like every word she muttered instantly fell from her mouth and landed limp on the floor. She let out a deep sigh. The students just continued talking, and talking.

She closed her eyes then reopened them. The class was still the same as it was. Not one face was facing hers. She gazed up at the clock. It had already been 35 minutes into class.

“Ms. Gildner.” She looked over. It was Principal Erins standing in the doorway of the classroom. “I see that you have failed to take control of your class once again.” He said slowly and coldly. “If you do not start your lesson in 5 minutes your tenure at Shadow Hill High School is over.” He then disappeared. Ms. Gildner’s eyes started to water as they shifted back to her students.

“Please…” She said. “Please…” But the students just kept talking, yelling, laughing, and arguing. They were in another world. They had no need for her.

“Hazel.” Ms. Gildner saw a familiar face once again in the doorway. “I see your teaching career has been quite fruitful to you.” It was her mother. “I don’t understand why you didn’t marry Anders. He was such a nice young man. Now he’s married and has children. And what do you have?” Her mother squinted at the classroom. “Hazel, you were always weak. Took after your father. You weren’t cut out to be a teacher. You should have listened to me, but no one ever listens to me. Enjoy your life sweetie.”

Suddenly, Ms. Gildner felt a burning sensation in her throat. Her eyes started to turn red. Her lips quivered. She looked up at the students. Their stupid faces yammering at each other. Arrogant. And, out of nowhere, her mouth opened, and she let out the loudest, shrillest scream. Her skull rattled. Her ears rung. After the screaming ended she panted. Life had drained from her. Her eyes opened. The classroom was still talking.

She shambled over to her desk and collapsed into her seat. She was never interested in giving students an education. She was never interested in anything. But she had to do something, and teaching seemed like a good idea. She should have listened to her mother. But she’s too old now.

“Ms. Gildner, I see you have failed to have a handle on your students.” Mr. Erins, irritated by the students, said, not loudly but sternly, “Enough!” And the students immediately went silent. He turned back to the teacher. “Have you packed your things yet? Students, say goodbye to Ms. Gildner. Your education will be completed with someone who is more qualified.”

Ms. Gildner grabbed her things and slowly staggered out of the classroom. She felt the eyes of all the students she failed cutting into her.

As she walked down the hallway she felt a shiver down her throat. “Honey. Where are you going?”

“Oh. Hello Dad.” Her father’s ghost was floating alongside her.

“Come on honey. Go back into that classroom. Prove them wrong.”

“…No.”

“Oh…okay.”

“Sorry dad.”

“It’s okay.”

She was now outside, walking towards her car. “So,” her father’s spirit said, “what are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know. Probably be unemployed for 6 months until I find a part-time substitute teaching job. Then be unemployed 3 months later. Rinse. Repeat. I guess…”

“Oh. Okay. Well, I just want to let you know that you’ll always be my daughter, and I’ll always be proud of you.”

Ms. Gildner finally made it to her car. “Dad,” she said. “Why are you proud of me? I’ve done nothing with my life, and I will continue doing nothing. I’m…”

“Well,” his father looked down at his ghostly tail. “At least you’re a good person. That’s better than most. And, well, just…just try not to die for as long as possible. Because being dead sucks. Okay honey?”

“Okay,” she said quietly, trying to hold back tears. She drove away from the school campus as if silently tearing away a large part of herself, and went over to Jack in the Box, where her dad used to take her after school.

“Ms. Gildner?”

“Um, yes. Mr. Erins?” She said into the phone, half-awake. It had been nearly 6 months since he heard his voice.

“Ms. Gildner. We…we need you back.”

She was taken back by this. “Um…what?”

“Your replacement, Mr. Keebler he, well…” Mr. Erins had a hard time admitting it, but Mr. Keebler was not only a better teacher than Ms. Gildner, but he was inspirational. He taught the students to love the written word. From the works of Wordsworth to Whitman to Morrison. But, he also inspired the students to question authority, and this simply won’t do. They could be a little rowdy and inattentive just as long as they didn’t cause others to question things. The students needed to be…contained.

“Ms. Gildner. Will you come back? It would be at a reduced pay, of course, but–”

“Yes! I mean, I believe I can take the offer, sir.” She was so excited to finally be employed again. To feel useful. She jumped out of bed and stretched before her window, the sun shining bright on her skin.

The next week she strolled into the classroom as the students chatted among themselves. “Class?” She said. But the students didn’t even acknowledge her. She smiled. Finally, she thought to herself, this is the one thing she was good at.


Written for FOWC with Fandango.

The Old

The old man knew it was coming. He gazed up at the white ceiling. He didn’t want his final moments to be here, in a cold, sterile hospital, but he didn’t have much choice. His eyes drifted down, catching a glimpse of his grandson on the other side of the room. The young child stared at him with his big, blue eyes.

“Child…” The old man wheezed. “Grandson, come closer…let me see your face…”

But the child just stood there. “No,” was all he said.

“Please…wait…” the old man tried to sit-up in his bed, but he did not have enough strength. “Did you say ‘no’?”

The grandson didn’t reply.

“Please child…let me see your face…grandpa is–”

“I don’t want to catch The Old.”

“…what? Grandson, please stop playing these games…your grandpa is dying…and I just want to see your face…”

But the grandson didn’t budge.

“Please…?”

“No.” The child said, almost innocently. “What if it’s a trick?”

“What?”

“I don’t want to catch The Old.”

“There’s no such–” The old man started coughing. Then he continued, “I mean, there is…but it’s not contagious.”

“What does that mean?”

The old man was getting frustrated. “Please. Come over here. Now.” He coughed some more.

“Why are you dying?”

The old man gulped. His eyes leaned back toward the ceiling. “How did they raise such a stupid little boy?”

“Um, I can hear you.” The boy said.

“I…I’m sorry,” the old man said.

“You know, you’re not very nice,” the young boy scolded. “Mommy always said that you were rude and very, very old. She said she hoped I never become like you. But I won’t because I know better not to catch The Old.”

The old man tried to smile.

“Do you even know what my name is?”

“Yes,” the old man gasped. “Isn’t it–”

“I need to pee. Where’s the bathroom?” But before the old man had time to answer the boy stepped out of the room and into the hallway. The old man listened as the tiny footsteps got smaller and smaller.

The old man was now by himself, surrounded by the dim glow of white walls. Waiting. Waiting.

“Mr. Steves? Mr. Steves?”

The old man’s eyes cracked open.

“It’s me, Doctor Carol. How are you feeling?”

“Good…” The old man said with a surprised grin. “Really good actually.” He then noticed his lungs no longer struggled for air.

“Well, that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, you reacted very well to the treatment.” She then smiled. “Mr. Steves. You’re cured. You no longer have The Old.”

The old man felt his cheeks. They were no longer wrinkly and cracked. “Wow.”

“Your case was certainly aggressive. But, with modern science you are now biologically 22 years-old. Your family is waiting.”

The young man stepped into the waiting room and saw his daughter and grandson in the distance. He approached them.

“Father! My God, they did it!”

“Yep!” The young man interjected proudly.

“So, now,” she brought the child in a little closer, “we can now, finally, be one big happy family!”

“Nope!” The young man smirked. “I’m going to start a hair metal band!” He slapped the backside of the child’s head and strutted out of the hospital, his daughter looking on with shock and dismay.

Mr. Steves went on to form one of the most popular hair metal bands of all time, Hard Screws. The group was so popular it ushered in the neo-hair movement that revived the cultural and mainstream significance of pop metal. He died in a pool of someone else’s vomit. It wasn’t pretty, but at least he didn’t die in some boring hospital. Mr. Steves lived a brilliant life, unencumbered by his ungrateful, sucky family, all thanks to science.

Justice & Other Trivialities

“Was that a knock?”

“What?”

“…Nothing.” It must have been Morrie’s imagination. After all, they watched the poor sod hang, his body swinging in the air for all the town to see. He wiped his brow and continued digging with his brother, Keith.

After they finished the hole they dragged the coffin from the back of the wagon and shoved it into the earth. As they proceeded to shovel the dirt onto the coffin, Morrie heard it again, and, this time, so did his brother.

“My God!”

“But we watched him hang.”

The knocking became more rapid. The two brothers stood above the hole, unable to process what they were hearing. Until finally:

“Um, hello? Can someone–I believe I heard voices unless my hearing is finally going. Oh, what a dastardly fate!” The voice was muffled behind the wood, but it was clear.

Morrie stepped down into the hole and onto the coffin. “What are you doing?” Keith asked.

“The man is clearly alive!”

“Right, but…he’s supposed to be dead, ain’t he? So why not just…”

Morrie stopped and looked up at his brother, considering for a moment. Then he said, “No. That isn’t proper. He needs to be hanged again.”

Keith sighed as Morrie pried open the coffin with his crowbar. After a few snaps the lid was released, revealing a well-dressed man squeezed into the box, his hand blocking his eyes from the sudden gaze of the sun.

“Oh my. Thank you good sir. I wasn’t sure how long that nonsense was going to last.”

Morrie pulled the man up. The man grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped himself. “I can’t say that was the most fulfilling sleep I’ve had. Ah, good day sir!” He waved to Keith above. Keith didn’t wave back.

“Now, thank you kind sirs for heeding my call. But I must depart. I have unimportant matters to intend to. Good–” The man clawed himself out of the hole, and as he was about to leave Keith placed a hand on his chest.

“Ain’t gonna let you do that? You killed a woman. There’s justice that has to be done.”

“Ah. Yes. ‘Justice’ as you call it. Right. Right. Well, as I insisted during what one could hardly consider a ‘fair trial’ I am not one to partake in such murderous activities. It is simply not in my character. In fact, I could hardly smother a fly without asking its name first.”

Morrie climbed out of the hole. The two brothers surrounded the Englishman, and the Englishman sensed this.

“And besides. Justice had already been met out. I was, unless I am mistaken, hanged.”

“And die. You died as well,” Keith said coldly.

The Englishman smiled and nodded. “Ah. I guess I had neglected that last part. However, it would be wise to consider that it is not in my interests, nor in yours, to–”

“Justice. That’s all that matters here. You killed a woman. And I don’t care if we have to watch you hang three or four more times. You will pay for taking her life.”

“Hm.” The Englishman rubbed his chin.

“Now,” Keith revealed the gun in his holster. “You’re either comin’ with us, or, we toss you back in that box. What do you say?”

“May I propose a third option? I’m a man of great wealth. Now, I do not wish to besmirch the occupation of gravedigging, but–”

“How much?” Keith sharply asked.

“$500.”

“Make it $1,000.”

“Hm. Hmmmm.” The man rubbed his chin. He then looked back at Morrie who gripped his shovel tightly. Then his eyes fell back on Keith. “I’m not one to bargain or negotiate, especially with two fine and experienced businessmen such as yourselves. But I believe $500 is a sufficient price to–”

SMACK! Keith smacked the Englishman with the butt of his pistol and watched as he collapsed onto the muddy ground. He grabbed his ankles and started dragging him back to the hole.

“Wait. WAIT!” The man yelled. Keith stopped and flipped the man over. “I believe we can make an arrangement.”

“$1,500.”

“Ah. So much for justice. Fine. I will have to sort through my finances, but I believe this is not an unrealistic demand.”

“Sort away.” Keith pulled him back up to his feet. But as soon as he did this the Englishman charged toward the other side of the hole and clutched the shovel on the ground. Keith started firing his gun into the man’s back, but the man hardly winced. He twisted back to Keith and bashed him upside the head with the shovel. Keith fell into the open coffin.

Morrie had watched all of this unfold before his eyes, but could hardly believe it. “You…You are the Devil…”

The Englishman’s eyes darted toward Morrie almost as if he had forgotten he was there. “No. Just English.” He smiled and dropped the shovel onto Keith’s body. The Englishman wiped his jacket off and his brow. “I was never one to engage in dirty work.”

Morrie crouched down and peered over the edge of the hole and started to weep. Keith’s eyes were wide open, but all life had faded from them. Blood oozed from the side of his head.

The Englishman noticed Morrie’s display. “You know,” he said, “any man can be a good friend if you try hard enough. I would wager that there are plenty of fine fellows out there willing to dig graves by your side.”

“He was my brother…”

“Ah. Those are a little bit harder to replace. Well…at least you don’t have to dig another grave tonight. Good day.” And the Englishman strolled out of the cemetery at a leisurely pace.


Written for First Line Friday.

12-Minute Tales – Unseen

Ever since he was young he enjoyed finding the unseen connections between things. Excitement came whenever a new path opened itself, one that others were unable to find and may even deny. To be honest, it made him feel superior in a way. Gerald, for most of his life, always felt like an underling. He was never the smartest nor the strongest. He was never good at sports or math. Girls hardly gave him a glance. He was nothing. However, none of it mattered, for he figured out the truth, or at least another one.

He pulled himself to his computer and began recording. From there a beautiful tirade spewed from his lips. He had uncovered something, something “they” did not want us plebs to know. But he knew.

“Bananas,” Gerald intoned. “My mom always told me that they were good for you. Filled with something called ‘potassium.’ When I asked her what that was she couldn’t tell me. She just told me that it made monkeys strong. Heh. Monkeys…that’s what they think we are. But let me tell you something: we are not monkeys. At least not anymore. Because I have come to believe that not only are bananas not as nutritious as ‘they’ claim, but they may not even be good for you. The banana lobbyists just want you to think that their bland, fragile plantains somehow contain…” No, this didn’t seem right. He stopped recording and leaned back in his chair. It felt like he was grasping for something, but it slithered above the air, evading his stubby little fingers.

Then he scoffed. No one cares about bananas. Sure, people were wasting their precious doll on a sub-par fruit out of some manufactured belief, but so what? Even if the evidence is compelling, his voice true, whatever he posts is only going to garner a measly 10-12 views.

It just…wasn’t satisfying anymore. Maybe he was wasting his time. But if he didn’t have this then what did he have? He had no real skills, no real hobbies. No friends. He sighed and leaned back into his microphone and continued. At the end, it felt good. Like he accomplished something. He smiled to himself before realizing he forgot to press record.


Written for Fandango’s Flash Challenge and the Daily Spur.

Photo courtesy of StartupStockPhotos at Pixabay.com.