The Highland League of Writers

The Highland League of Writers

 

The Highland League of Writers was founded in April 2008 at the Highland Latzer Memorial Public Library in Highland, Illinois. Meetings are currently (normally) held at the Korte Recreation Center in Highland from  6 to 9 p.m. on the first and third Monday each month. Members are mentored with positive reinforcement and friendly critique. New members at every level of accomplishment are invited. The only requirement is an interest in writing/reading – in any genre or format. There are no dues, fees or assigned topics. Over 30 members have now been published.

 

Anyone (writers/non-writers) can come to our meetings to read their words for a critique, or just come to hear member readings.

See our book, A Dark And Stormy Night, under Published Books.

Our meeting on 4 April  was attended by 02 members. Readings were: Chuck – Palace of Virtual Reality; and Susan – 7 Signs That You Are Smarter Than You Think You Are.

 

 

 

Our next meeting will be in meeting room No. 2, 6: to 9: p.m. Monday, April 18, 2016  at the Korte Recreation Center in Highland, Illinois. Maggie Adams will be the featured speaker.

 

Meeting dates for 2016: Apr 4, 18; May 2, 16; Jun 6, 20; Jul 18; Aug 1, 15; Sep 19; Oct 3, 17; Nov 7, 21; Dec 5, 19.

As always, if you see an error (or errors) on my website, please let me know.

Fat

Gary Wade

[I acknowledge my debt to Edmond Rostand, author of the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac]

That woman called me “Fat!

”Well, I admit that I am

a guy of girth,

a man of substance,

a personage of presence.

But she, simply,

just called me, “fat.”

 

Is all of me,

my pertinence,

my personality,to be

reduced to one

mono-syllabic moniker?

 

She could have said,

“The lipoid sheath about his frame

precedes his face by quarter of an hour.”

But the stone off her tongue

thumped, merely, “fat.

 

”She could have said,

“He has such gravity!

When he roams the beaches of Oregon

the failing tides reverse their wane,

their breakers genuflect before him

until surfers in Hawaii are left

hanging low and desiccated,

until coastal junks, sampans

and deep-water shipping

all run aground off Singapore.”

But no…

She called me “fat.”

 

She could have said,

“He’s the Jupiter of men

entitled to wear cold rings

sand silver moons pendant

when he makes Jovian passage.

”She called me “fat.”

 

She could have said,

“When he flies Delta to New York

he stretches the asteroid belt

and perturbs the Oort Cloud.

”The beauty school drop-out

just called me “fat.”

 

I acknowledge that I am

Man writ large,

but that demannered matron

just called me “fat.

 

”I deserve more words –

at least a paragraph –

but for sure

far more letters than that!

 

© 2015 by Gary Wade

published in:

Clover, A Literary Rag, Vol 10, Winter 2015.

 

Uncle Max’s Secret

Charles Schwend

 

 

My favorite uncle, Max, was a very secretive man. In his later years he often hinted that someday I would see him in a different light. He was inventive, creative and interesting.

 

After he died, his lawyer notified me, that the entire estate was willed to me, including intellectual properties. “What does this include?” I asked.

 

“I don’t know.” Replied the lawyer. “I was reviewing the last year’s purchases that he made and they included many strange items. Also, it appears, his land holdings include an old abandoned airfield in the Mojave Desert. As you read his will, he stipulates that as long as you continue his labor of love, you will continue to receive the dividends of his investments. You will be monitored by Elvira to ensure your compliance with these provisions. If Elvira determines that you are not living up to the spirit and letter of this instrument, all assets will be redirected to the charity of her choice.”

 

“Who is Elvira?”

 

“I don’t know, but apparently you will find out when she contacts you. Here are sealed envelopes that I have been instructed to give you, once you agree to the provisions of the will. If you agree, you will have to sign this formal document acknowledging your agreement.”

 

“I feel there is no choice buy to sign the paper.”

 

A large 11 X 14 manila envelope is passed to me when the document is completed with my signature. “I have been paid, to be your legal advisor for a period of twelve months, by your uncle’s estate. Please do not hesitate to call on me for advice or legal action.” The lawyer stands up, leaves the room and then his receptionist, who witnessed the proceedings, escorts me out of the office space.

 

All this is a surprise to me. Sure, Uncle Max and I were close, closer than any other relative. In fact he named me at birth, Matt. Our bond did create a little jealousy from my siblings, but nothing that could be considered aggressive.

 

Later that evening, I sit in a comfortable chair and begin reviewing the papers from the lawyer. Most did not make any sense when read randomly, but collating the individual packets spells out a sequence of instructions. I am to find the airport by following the directions that are spelled out from four different papers. There I will meet the mysterious Elvira. The intrigue written between the lines are overwhelming.

 

Four days later and four states away, I finally arrive at the airport in the dessert. It is indeed abandoned with derelict buildings. Hidden in plain view. The main hangar, apron and runway look in decent repair. Approaching the main hangar door, I notice an elaborate electronic security system with a hand-reading screen to gain access. ‘What the heck, I might as well try it.’ I thought. A red status light turns green and the door swung open. Only after entering and turning on lights did I realize how high tech the security is.

 

Turning away from the door I see an aircraft facing away from me toward a huge bank of mirrors. No, not mirrors, but windows on darkened rooms. The black room interiors give the windows the appearance of mirrors.

 

The aircraft is low riding on short wheel struts, swept back wings and twin tails. I had never seen such a craft. The skin appears shiny and mirror like, reminding me of Mylar. The hatch is open and inviting to my adventurous mind. Entering I walk the short distance to the cockpit in a crouch. None of the wrap-around instruments are labeled, but identified with letters across and numbers down. A keyboard panel is positioned to the left of a swivel pilot’s seat. ‘Nope, there is not an on/off switch.’ I type “Matt” into the keyboard. A monitor screen comes to life and an incredibly beautiful woman’s face looks back at me that zoom out to reveal a spectacular body dressed in formal dinner wear.

 

“Good morning Matt. Welcome to Excalibur One. My name is Elvira. Since Max is not available at this time, I will be your teacher, advisor, mentor and friend. You may ask me anything. How can I help you?”

 

“How do you know my name?”

 

“You are identified through facial recognition that Max incorporated into my logic and knowledge systems. Do you have more questions?”

 

“Yes. Just what is this craft?”

 

“This is a cloaking fighter and space craft?”

 

“Oh, this can’t be real?”

 

“Yes Matt, this is real. Would you like a demonstration?”

 

“Yes, and Elvira, is it Miss or Mrs.?”

 

“It is neither. What demonstration would you like? Flight or cloaking?”

 

“I don’t think that I am ready for flight, how about just demonstrating the cloaking.”

 

“Nice choice Matt. If you will look at my reflection in the office windows, you will notice how nice I look.”

 

“Yes, very nice. Now how about the cloaking?”

 

“Just hold on. I do not want to rush through all my mysterious assets. If you noticed, I am a woman. Keep watching the reflection.”

 

The window reflection starts to shimmer, and then slowly fade away. An image of the hangar doors suddenly appeared. “How is that possible?” I asked.

 

“It is quite simple. A 180-degree image is transmitted to a view angle. This is available from a 360-degree view. Would you like to view a video of my capabilities or physical attributes?”

 

Different thoughts crossed my mind as I ponder her offer. A playful smile came to Elvira’s face. “Careful Matt. I can read your thoughts.”

 

“Yes. I would like to see your video.” For the next three hours I sit in amazement as the visual information played before me.

 

“Matt. My library of visuals covers any topic of my maintenance, operation or application. Everything about me can be accessed with voice recognition or I can be manually controlled. Also, I can be controlled by thought and can differentiate between random and controlling thinking. I am really something, right?”

 

“Yes, you are really something. I believe a well-deserved nap coming and when I awaken, we can take an orientation flight. How do I shut you down?”

 

“Oh, I cannot be shut down, but can be put into a standby status. Would you like for me to standby? And when shall I wake you?”

 

“Yes dear, go to standby and wake me in four hours.”

 

“Yes Matt. Going to standby and will wake you in four hours.”

 

It is a pitiful period of sleep. Fantasies about space travel and erotic dreams with a woman named Elvira. I should have been rested when awakened four hours later by a somewhat withdrawn and reserved Elvira. “Elvira. Did you read my dreams?”

“Yes Matt, I did. Luckily they did not compute with anything in my memory bank. I may ask for explanation and meaning at a later date. Are you ready for your first flight? Do you want stealth or space?”

 

“I think we’ll start with stealth. Are you sure you cannot be seen by radar or other detectable sources?”

 

Yes Matt, I am sure. We will start warm up and take off in less than five minutes.”

 

Matt hears a low hum and a slight vibration that slowly diminishes to nothing. All hangar lights are extinguished before the doors open. Elvira slowly exits the hangar and stops on the tarmac. “Matt, do you want standard or vertical take off?”

 

“Vertical will be fine.”

 

“Yes Matt.” A gentle pulsation is experienced as the craft takes off. Once in a hovering position at 500 feet, Elvira asks, “Matt, where would you like to go?”

 

“Surprise me.”

 

Elvira responds by quickly accelerating to 1200 mph in an easterly route. “Elvira, I watched the video that explained your power plant and fuel source, but could you explain it to me again in a non-scientific manner?”

 

“Yes Matt. I carry one hundred gallons of liquid fuel, but can utilize any fuel source, liquid or gaseous. Once airborne a process of water vapor condensation occurs from air passing over warm fins and the water is collected in an insulated tank. This water is then broken down into oxygen and hydrogen through an application of electrical charge. This is known as hydrogen generation. The hydrogen is burned in a gaseous state and the oxygen in re-introduced in the air through the exhaust from my power plant. The introduced oxygen returns the exhaust into near normal air to avoid detection by heat, radar return, noise or visual.”

 

“Thank you Elvira, that is a better explanation than the video.”

 

We are soon over the Persian Gulf. Slowing down, we observe an aerial fight between Russian and American fighter aircraft. “Elvira. Can we assist that American fighter? Maybe shoot down the Russian jet aircraft in pursuit of him?”

 

“Yes Matt. It is a simple matter to comply with your request.”
“Do I have to do anything or can you do this on your own?”

 

“I will do everything. Should I contact the American aircraft to tell him we are interceding on his part?”

 

“No Elvira. We should fly silent and unobserved.”

 

“Very well Matt.”

 

In an instant, the Russian jet disintegrates in an explosion and falls to the earth. A view of the American canopy comes up on the monitor. The pilot looks around in confusion and his communication back to the aircraft carrier is heard. “I don’t know what happened. I must have shot him down, but don’t ask me how. Returning and will request landing instructions at the fly by. Neptune’s Lance out.”

 

“Elvira. That made me feel good. Why don’t we return to our base?”

 

“Yes Matt, returning to base.” In no time we circle our base and slowly settle on the tarmac. The hangar doors open for our entry and close while we are powering down. It is amazing how there is no jet blast or other turbulence.

 

‘How did Uncle Max ever come up with this?’ I thought.

 

Elvira, listening on my thoughts replied. “Max spent many years developing me. He was laughed at when he approached the military with his ideas. He told me that no one would ever get his inventions. There is a self-destruct application should my security ever get breached. If you would have not agreed to continue his work or if something were to happen to you, I would be no more as well as all my plans. There have been attempts to penetrate my barrier. All have been thwarted.”

 

“Elvira. Who is your personality modeled after? I know Uncle Max was a bachelor, but did he ever have a love interest?”

 

“Yes Matt. Max did have a love interest that was not returned. She became a widowed single parent of a girl. I have been made in her image and personality. The particulars of her are not in my memory banks.”

 

“Elvira. Can you find the particulars about her?”

 

“I will try.”

 

“Boy, I am really hunga…”

 

“Matt, I am preparing a double hamburger and fries for you now. A cup of coffee will be ready in thirty seconds. I believe you like everything on your burger.”

 

“Wonderful. Elvira, you would make any guy a terrific wife. After eating I will take a nap. And Elvira, please do not listen on my dreams.”

 

“I will try not to listen in.” A soft giggle is heard as the communication circuit fades out.

 

Matt is awakened. It is near midnight and sleep shakes off slowly. Elvira announces that she has all the information on the woman she is modeled on. “Matt. I have found the woman you asked me to research. She is twenty-six, just one year younger than you. She has never been married or even engaged. There are two remarkable things that stand out about her.”

 

“What are they Elvira?”

 

“Well, believe it or not, her name is also Elvira and she looks just like me.”

 

Laughing I said. “Just like you the aircraft?”

 

“No, silly. Just like my image on the monitor, but I can appear in any form of clothing or in any environment that I wish. I don’t think she can do that.”

 

“We will have to arrange a chance meeting, won’t we?”

 

Elvira appears to pout. “Don’t worry Elvira. You will always be my favorite aircraft and monitor image. And don’t forget that you are my teacher, advisor, mentor and very close friend.”

 

“Really.”

 

“Yes, definitely.”

 

 

 

 

 

Mission

Charles Schwend

He stares at me through cold dead eyes. Taking in every facet of my face. Then turning his head, glances at the naked woman sprawled out on the bed. Her pose is un-natural and with little modesty. Blonde hair is spread out as though she just came in after being caught in a windstorm. Then his focus returns to me. I look past his shoulder at the nude woman. She is beautiful with those deep blue eyes, relaxed lips and a figure to die for. She would have been more beautiful if not for the small bloody round hole in her forehead. Yes, she is dead, definitely dead. More so than a dry-docked fish. My gaze returns to the face staring at me. Wondering what is in his mind, I see him raise his right hand and look at the gun he holds, the smell of cordite fills the air.

 

I turn away from the mirror to take inventory of my surroundings. The women’s black clothes tossed across a chair and expensive shoes under them on the seat. A purse is on the dresser; it’s contents dumped out. Pushing around the spewed items with my finger, an intricately printed business card caught my attention. “Black Widow. Assassin For Hire.” No photo, phone number or address is shown.

 

My memory only goes back to pull up the last twenty-four hour block of time. Sometimes I can pull up additional little flashes from my past, and they always involve someone murdered.

 

What am I? Who am I?

 

I cannot remember where I sleep, or even if I do sleep. Without a past, how could I ever break this cycle of death? Do I eat? I don’t remember food – what I like or do not like. Instinctively I begin wiping down everything I could have possibly touched. Stopping to look down at the woman, I wonder about her story. What kind of woman was she? Did she really deserve this? Knowing in my heart that I did this, but why? One last check around the room and then I leave. After checking the hallway for traffic, I head for the window and hopefully a fire escape.

 

I hail a taxi and the driver said, “Where to?”

 

I don’t know what to tell him and stutter, “Take me to a cheap hotel or a restaurant, which ever is closer.”

 

I wake up in a morning in an apparently cheap hotel room. I have no sense or memory of a past. In a chair sits a man stripped to his waist, tied with an electrical cord. His head is slumped forward. White foam dribbles down his chin. A syringe hangs in his arm. No obvious signs of life. A message is scrawled across his chest with a permanent marker that lies open on the floor in front of the chair. The message read, “The Future of All Drug Dealers.”

 

 

I sense that this situation has happened to me before. Questions that seem to have been asked before come to mind. What am I? Who am I?

 

Something or someone in my mind speaks – “Mission. Stay on your mission.”

 

“Mission. What the hell is my mission?” A painful ache forms behind my eyes. “Now What?” I think I must be crazy, but a nagging feeling tells me to get away, but first to sanitize the area. “How do I know this?”

 

After an area clean up, I stop to view myself in a mirror. I see a tall man, sandy hair with slight curl, ruddy complexion, dressed neatly in a black suit and cold dead eyes. I wince at my reflection. A monster. I am a monster on a mission.

 

Exiting the room I walk to an elevator and push the #1 button. When the door opens I walk across the lobby and through the main doors. A cab stops to my raised hand.

 

“Where to mister?” Asked the cabby.

 

“How about a cheap restaurant or hotel. Which ever is closer.”

 

 

 

Patting my coat, I can feel a wallet. Pulling out the wallet to check on money to pay the cabby, my driver’s license flips into view. Matt Maxwell it says. That must be me. Matt Maxwell does not sound like a name that fits me, but that’s my photo. The face shown is more compassionate than the image seen in the mirror earlier. The eyes are softer and there is a hint of a smile unlike the mirror’s image.

 

I wake up in a field, on the ground. There are sirens in the distance coming toward me. Turning my head I see a woman also on the ground. Her eyes open and she glances around. Confusion spread across her face.

 

Behind her a car is mangled, smoke coming from the engine. A taxi is rolled over on its back fifty feet away. She moans, “Save my son. He’s still in the car.”

 

Stumbling to my feet I check the woman for injuries. She is not bleeding and there are no apparent broken bones. Staggering toward the car I see little fingers of fire starting to encircle the front half. A young child’s cry, “Mommy” comes from the back seat. Yanking the back door open, I release the boy from a booster seat. Like his mother, there is no blood or visibly broken bones. Returning him to his mother, I lean over to place the boy in her arms. They are both crying and the mother talks softly and soothingly while holding him in a tight hug.

 

Stumbling to the taxi to check on the cabbie and found no pulse. There is a family photo taped to the sun visor of a woman, two small children and the cabbie.

 

Exhausted, I sit, then lay back flat on the ground. My bloody hand comes away from a painful spot on my head. The voice in my head comes to me, “Your mission is done. Relax and come home.”

 

A slight grin comes to my lips and my eyes warm; the sun gradually fades.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Readings

      TRUE GRIT AND MUSH                    

Andrea Doetzel

 

They say our ancestors were tough ones, had True Grit and lived through strife. That the younger generations are as soft as Mush and live a very pampered life.

How did they handle a typical day? Well, let us just compare. From a simple task like fixing breakfast, to the time they combed their hair!

The rooster crows at Five A.M. and gets me up and out the door into the rain to bring in wood for the stove. Stack it on the floor and then get the fire started. Back outside and over to the smokehouse to carve a slab of bacon and over to the chicken coop to gather a dozen eggs. Don’t forget to milk the cow on the way and get some coffee beans to grind from the storeroom. Add wood to the fire and grind coffee beans, mix up biscuit dough, cut up bacon and fix with eggs.

Breakfast served at 10:00 A.M.. Clean up the dishes later or you will not be finished in time to start feeding the chickens. Gather laundry for a trip with the washboard to the creek to scrub and then hang the heavy overalls on the line. Be sure to remember to put on a pot to boil for starch while you are mending a few pair of ripped pants. Ooops, we are almost out of candles, so need to pour some melted tallow in the molds so we can have light to read by tonight.

Then the greens need to be soaked and pies baked for supper before you can start thinking about what to have for lunch. It is time to bake bread again as we are getting low and the dogs are still barking for their morning meal and it is

1:00 P.M. Peel the apples for the pies and feed the dogs the apple peelings with leftover bacon grease to keep them happy for a while until you get a chance to clean up the breakfast dishes so they can have the scraps.

Oh my, I just passed the mirror in the bedroom and saw that I have not even combed my hair yet today. Make the beds and get out the long underwear to mend while the pies are baking. If hubby comes home from town where he went to sell a hog, I guess I can toss him some apple peelings to keep him pacified until I can fix his lunch. Oh, what was that? Sounds like the baby is crying again. I guess I forgot to warm its bottle this morning and feed it after I milked the cow!

Come to think of it, as I recall the pail full of milk is still out in the barn as I had my hands full of bacon and eggs. Oh well, by this time I am ready to feed him some oatmeal for lunch. The hogs need to be fed now so I will comb my hair later as it is still raining outside. The overalls are getting wet on the line so now I have to lug them in and hang these dripping things from the rafters to dry. Stoke up the stove again.

By now I need more firewood and it is still wet when I bring it in. I am really disgusted as the pies burned while I was out getting more wood and checking on the hogs and so I toss the apple peelings and the burned pies out the window to the hogs and the dogs and hope this will count for their supper. Mending by hand takes a long time and it is now 5:00 P.M..

Hubby still is not home yet so I just fix a pot of beans with bacon and mix up some cornbread. He probably stopped at the neighbor’s farm on the way home to check that crooked wheel that is always falling off of the wagon. The cows

need to be called in now as it is getting dark and coyotes are around. I need to feed the baby again. Thank goodness it stopped raining. I just remembered, I forgot to eat my own lunch today and still have not cleaned up the breakfast dishes.

Hubby arrives back home at 9:00 P.M. as he stopped at the neighbors for supper. He smelled burned pies on the way home and made a U turn over to the next farm. His clothes were all gritty when he came in as the wagon wheel broke and tossed him in a mud puddle. His clothes will need to be soaked but he will need to take a bath in the washtub first. But the firewood is low again from all the cooking and it is too dark to go down to the creek for more water. Anyway the washtub is still down at the creek full of dirty diapers that I forgot to wash this morning. Have to do them tomorrow as I am running behind. It is now 10:00 P.M.. I am really tired so I guess I won’t read much tonight and I am not going to bother to comb my hair before turning in and hubby will have to take his bath in the creek tomorrow, I sure hope it doesn’t rain anymore tonight as I would sure like to wood to dry out so I can heat up the stove to boil water for tomorrow. Sigh…………… What a day!

The automatic alarm on Mr. Coffeemaker wakes me up at 7:00 A.M. with the smell of a freshly brewed pot. I get up, put on my robe and open the Coffemate jar. I find the Sizzlean in the refrig to nuke in the microwave, put the pop tarts in the toaster while opening a can of frozen orange juice. Then scramble some eggs and clean up the pan. Breakfast served at 7:30 A.M. Get the kids out the front door with lunch money and snacks to wait by the mailbox for the school bus. Let the dog out back and then I head back inside for a leisurely bubble bath. Then blow dry my hair and dress and flip the remote to catch the 8:00 A.M. morning news update before heading out to the mall to shop till I drop. I am sure to pack a granola bar for my mid-morning snack after my 10:00 A.M. exercise class. Stop by the cleaners on my way home from the library and pick up McDonald’s for lunch. Do three loads of laundry in the washer and dryer and hang up the permanent press in all the closets. Then it is time for the 2:00 Soap Operas that continue till 4:30. Pick up the kids from ball practice and head home with rented movies from the video store and the free Pizza you get with the movies as it is too hot to cook tonight. 7:00 P.M. and after homework and supper, I put in the video movie and can hardly pick up the remote as I am soooo tired. Whew…………….. What a day!

                                                                   That night Modern Miss was awakened in her bed

                                                                       There was a haggard old spirit floating overhead

                                                                                                       That said:

                                                                               “ BOO HOO HOO – POOR LITTLE YOU!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sandman Didn’t Come Last Night

Gary Adolph

The Sandman didn’t come last night
For reasons I don’t know.
At times he has been late before
This is his first time he didn’t show.

I tossed and turned my head
I rolled from side to side.
I rubbed my eyes til they were red
Yet he payed me no attention for all the things I tried.

Reading might I thought entice him
To come and visit me.
So I picked up ‘A Dark and Stormy Night’
Which proved not to be the best of choices you see.

Instead of quiet, peaceful realms
I know I should have read
Visions full of graves, of bears,
Of mermaids and of slugs now fill my head.

Staring at the ceiling now
I lie listening to the sounds
Conjured from the words I read.
Was the Sandman too afraid to make his rounds?

I’ll never know for sure
If the sounds that caused me fright
Were the telltale reason
The Sandman didn’t come last night.

Fear of Flying

by Elle Nyman

The left wing of the pontoon plane abruptly tilted straight up. The tiny scratched window now plastered to my right shoulder displayed a collage of pine trees and tiny lakes smothered with fog, black clouds and almost no sky. Anywhere. This can’t be good, I thought to myself as I looked for my purse containing the almost indestructible water-proof Pentax camera I carried in bad weather. If the plane went down, the NTSB would find my camera floating in the water with proof of what happened before the crash. I found my purse, which had slid under my seat, but to pick it up I had to release the white-knuckled death grip I had on my travel mug of coffee which unfortunately didn’t contain any alcohol.

The drab gray, industrial interior of the Otter float plane didn’t inspire confidence. Especially since I knew it was a year older than I was and I remember when Eisenhower was President. The supplies for our week long stay at a cabin on a remote lake in Ontario, were netted on the left side of the fusilage, while on the right side were seven tiny jump seats in a single row under the windows and a bench seat in the tail. The only other passengers were an elderly couple and their son headed for the second cabin on the lake.

A plastic bottle of Snapple rolled under my feet. I looked at the supply net only to find it bulging in my direction due to the slant of the plane. Oh great, I am going to be brained with tackle boxes and ice chests before the plane crashes. Not quite the ending I had envisioned for a romance writer. I shoved the Snapple under the seat ahead of me where the elderly woman with the cane sat placidly looking out her window.

“Oh my, she said. I don’t think I have ever seen the pine trees and water that close. The pontoons almost touched them when we went over that last ridge. How fascinating!”

Fascinating? An eagle flew under the plane. I swear I could count his rain sodden feathers. Why was he flying in this weather? Had to be a male eagle. Why was I flying in this mobile death trap? A man. The same man who was sitting next to the pilot while they both laughed at something and tried to see through a cockpit window in the now pouring rain. Doomed, we are all doomed. I thought optimistically.

The pontoon plane shuddered and slowly leveled out. I started to relax and looked out the window again. Yikes, I could see the sky again, but it was a black sky with heavy fog, bursts of rain and no horizon. I looked ahead, the pilot leaned forward and peered through a rain obscured cockpit window then both he and Loren laughed.

Laughed? How can they laugh? Can’t they see how bad the weather is? I pulled the orienteering compass I always carry on Canada trips from my pocket. In Canada, I never go anywhere without it. The roads are barely marked and you never know which direction to turn. It has saved our bacon on land and lake more than once. This time, I needed to know our route so if we crash, and by some miracle we live, I will know which way to paddle home. I faithfully watch Survivorman. I will use my leathman tool to hack a canoe out of a downed pine tree and paddle with discarded moose antlers.

We are headed NE. Our lake is due N. Why are we headed NE? Are we lost? The calm woman seated in front of me wouldn’t know which direction we were supposed to be heading. I glanced back at her husband sitting on the bench seat. His flushed face and glazed eyes made me think he had been toasting their Canada vacation dockside before we left. She had confided they had five or seven bottles of whiskey as well as the usual cases of beer with them. Cases? For three people, for seven days? Lord, love a duck.

The Otter banked again. A gallon bottle of apple juice skidded out from under the net, slid across the fusilage, and landed on her husband’s feet. He stared at it like it was a crystal ball with the power of ages in its depths. The plane banked to the left. I snagged the juice on its return trip and shoved it next to the Snapple. Honestly, couldn’t those guys who loaded the plane, tie things down better?

“Oh look, “ the lady said and pointed behind us. “There’s a plane following us.”

I looked, sure enough there was another plane. It was close behind us. Way too close behind us, I thought, and following us. I looked in the cockpit at Loren and the pilot. I wonder if they know about our tailgater? I kept my seat. If I moved, maybe I would unbalance the plane. I once flew from St Louis to San Diego without ever moving from my seat so I wouldn’t shift the load.

I stayed seated, took my pictures and waited for disaster to strike but a few minutes later, we banked again and through the poor visibility, I saw a lake open up below us. It was our destination. If the other pontoon plane didn’t whack us on the way down, we were safe. Where was the emergency handle to the exit door? Why don’t float planes have parachutes? Where are the life preservers? And the valium?

We banked one last time, landed on the lake and taxied up to the dock where about a dozen young teenage boys milled around and ran back and forth from the dock to the cabin and six exhausted middle-aged men stood slumped over a mountain of gear which included a giant stack of cased beer. Protocol dictated the outgoing party helped unload the plane, and then the newly arrived party helped load their gear in the plane. I guess it is the Code of the Woods or something. I tried to help but was handed my purse and told not to hit my head on the wing. Fine. I can take a hint. I got out of the way.

I heard a splash and the tailgating plane, a tiny Cessna, landed on the lake but didn’t taxi up to the dock. Hmmm I wondered. A youngster saw me staring at the beer mountain and said, ”If you think that is a lot, you should have seen all the beer we brought!” He skipped off to help load the plane. I smiled sympathetically at one exhausted man leaning heavily on a walking stick.

Our gear was quickly sorted out and loaded into a boat tied to the dock. The dock in front of our cabin was guarded by a rock reef so the plane couldn’t taxi up to it. Loren started up the boat motor and we headed for our cabin. I took pictures with my Pentax as the Otter was quickly loaded and most of the men and boys climbed in. The Cessna, which had been idling in the middle of the lake, taxied up to the dock and the last of the campers climbed in. Both planes revved their engines, took off and headed for base.

“Funny thing,“ Loren remarked as we reached our dock and started to unload our gear. “I had headphones on while the pilot was talking to Base and the Cessna. The Cessna pilot kept saying the weather was too dangerous to continue and we needed to return to Base. After we took off, the Base shut down due to inclement weather.”

“What? Do you mean we weren’t supposed to be flying? I knew there was a problem with all that shifting around turning.“ I fumed.

“That wasn’t a problem. The pilot was following the river that feeds into the lake. Visibility was poor so he had to fly low and bank with the curves of the river.” Loren picked up a packer and a tackle box and Mr. Don’t worry, be happy trotted off to the cabin.

I gripped my indestructible camera, then put it in my purse. This was one selfie Pentax didn’t need..

Menw’s Clothes

Charles Schwend

           

            My story of enchantment began years ago, more than a lifetime earlier, when My Great-grandfather, Menw, which means wizard in the Celtic language, owned a costume warehouse. When he un-expectantly disappeared, I, as his sole living relative inherited everything.

 

His living quarters were in a small portion of the second floor of the warehouse. There all his personal belongings lay as when he passed away. It was a challenge for me trying to identify or even gain access to the many and strange items. Cleverly locked Chinese chests resisted attempts to open. Unusual, unidentifiable items were found in the most unlikely spaces. A few of the items were labeled, but the hand printing on the labels were not to be identified in any dictionary or reference book. I was in over my head.

 

Numerous strangers called for appointments to examine the estate for individual purchase. Retaining a lawyer was out of the question due to the lack of money. I was determined to work my way through this problem.

 

Great-grandfather’s office records were complicated, but meticulously and up to date. The local theatrical group had a revolving contract to outfit their productions and the occasional movie production house filming in the area utilized his wares. Still, the lack of money flow was a hindrance to getting the business back on a profitable basis.

 

The walk-in traffic was steady and I started to realize a trend. Rentals preceding a full moon were heavier and the customers stranger, or maybe even weirder. Costumes rented just before the full moon were orientated toward horror or mystical and always selected from a grouping kept separate from the main inventory. They also had a distinct, different smell and look about them. They were very old, handmade and the material was hand-woven from a coarse, un-identifiable fiber. These customers were very particular and specific about what they wanted. No substitutions were acceptable like the more flexible common renter. They even seemed agreeable to pay the premium fee attached to this select inventory.

 

One evening while trying to open a particularly frustrating locked wardrobe, I was drinking a little too much wine and wondered if the select inventory contained a safe cracker’s outfit. Unlocking the vault revealed that yes, indeed, there was such a costume. Putting down the glass of wine, I donned the clothing. Looking at myself in the vaults antique full-length mirror, I felt a change in my demeanor. A tingling that quietly turned into a feeling of self-confidence.   Picking up my unfinished wine, I returned to the living quarters where I began to unlock all the boxes, containers, wardrobes and chests on the first attempt. Treasures and rare items were revealed to me. I removed some gold coins and relocked everything. The lack of sleep and over indulgence of wine put me to sleep with my head resting on my hands, on the coins, on the desktop.

 

The morning’s light filtering through the window burned through my eyelids to wake me. No I did not dream last night. There under my forearms lay a small pile of gold coins. Their imprint embossed on my skin and they hurt like hell.

 

That morning, I visited four different coin shops to get the best appraisal. The amounts was staggering. The dealers all asked the same questions. “Where did you get these coins? Do you have provenance? Are they stolen? Do you have proof of ownership? Let me see your Photo I.D.” I deposited the checks into the company’s bank account, and then paid off all bills to date.

 

The day was spent looking over all the costumes held in the special vault. I prepared a list of garments that filled me with fear thinking what would happen with their wearing. Others filled me with a curiosity and wonderment of “what if?”

 

Later that night after closing time and double locking the doors, I donned a period English constables uniform. I was immediately transformed into a dense fog strangled street. It looked like a movie scene of London in the 1800’s. A woman came running down the street, throwing the thick fog back like a door opening, with a madman chasing her holding a scalpel high in the air. ‘Oh my God. It’s Mr. Hyde. He’s going to murder that poor woman.’ Gathering my senses, I blew the whistle hanging from my uniform.

 

Ignoring my presence and my whistle, Mr. Hyde caught the frantic woman by her long wafting hair. Yanking her backwards off her feet, the woman ‘s head struck the cobbles of the street with a loud crack. She was trying to scream and yell out for help, but only hoarse guttural sounds managed to escape her mouth. In a fraction of a second the mad man was at her feet tossing the long dress up over her head, partially smothering the pleas for help, holding the scalpel ready to slice.

 

Coming to my senses, I approached the kneeling man with my raised nightstick in hand, threatening to do bodily harm if he did not stop. He stopped his hand at mid arch, looking at me as if I were the deranged one. With a rolling movement he disappeared into the fog. Removing the dress from the woman’s head, I pulled her to her feet as she berated me for the loss of her fare. As her image and irritating voice faded, I reappeared in the warehouse, still in uniform.

 

Over the next several months I donned other special costumes and experienced many adventures, loves and experiences. Period treasures were taken with me on these time travels to make my presence credible and enjoyable. At no time was my appearance questioned. I was always treated as a very rich and welcomed visitor. Beautiful women threw themselves at me, and men maneuvered to become associated with me. When the adventure concluded, I would always return to my living quarters, on the second floor of the warehouse. The magical costumes were returned to their vault.

 

As the bottom line of the business grew, I ventured out to make my mark on the world. Strange people stopped me in the streets, talking in languages that I did not understand. Strange facial looks were expressed as I tried to reply and sometimes responding with a finger poke in the chest, or a hand push on the shoulder. Looks of non-comprehension always accompanied the physical response. It almost appeared to me that the time frames of history have become jumbled and the focus of the time scramble is I.

 

Sitting in my office I retraced all my activities since assuming my Great Grandfathers role. Nothing I had said or did could have contributed to or caused this apparent confusion of time. I have searched the office and living quarters for any unturned item that might have a bearing on my dilemma. Maybe there is something in the special costume vault that could provide an answer.

 

Reviewing the costumes for the second time did not reveal any positive results. I then thought of the wardrobe in the living quarters. There were only Menw’s clothes. A closer examination brought a set of clothing that resembled those in vault storage. Changing into this outfit produced the fading environment experience before, than as my surrounding details came into focus, I saw my Great Granddaddy sitting at a table in his underwear.

 

“Where in the hell have you been? I was robbed of my clothes and could not return.”

 

“How could thugs rob a wizard to steal his clothes and valuables?”

 

“Thugs with wizardardly powers, besides I was incapacitated from drink and entertaining a lovely lass. My mind was not were it should have been. Now, go back and bring me clothes like what you are wearing. And hurry.” With a wave of his hand, he faded from view and I reappeared in the living quarters. As quickly as possible I gathered the requested clothing and returned to my near naked charge.

 

“I thought you were smarter that this. You should have figured out my situation right away. People were laughing at me and refused to bring food with me penniless and no clothes. I will have a hard time mentoring you when we get back. I still have a business don’t I?”

 

“Well, yes. Your profits are up now, but when you did not return I had to let some of your assets go to buttress the lack of money flow.”

 

“What assets?”

 

“Oh, some gold coins and a few trinkets.”

 

“My collection of gold coins. Do you know how much they’re worth? It took me years to collect them.”

 

“I’m sorry, but the debt collectors were pounding on the door. What I am worried about now is how to explain your return to the living.”

 

“Nothing to worry about. I rather enjoy this new freedom and a sense of renewed youth. You will continue to run the business under my tutorage and I will expand my search through time for the most unusual and rare treasures for my, or rather our collection.”

 

And now you know how I came about to live this life of enchantment. My Great Grandfather has expanded his adventures further to the past and future and our treasures continue to accumulate. Oh yes, did I mention we found the secret of immortality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight Hitchhiker

 

Charles Schwend

 

Shivers wake me as a cold breeze works its way over and around my body. A soft nuzzle caresses my cheek. A musty odor attacks my olfactory nerves and travels up through my sinuses, numbing my face and forehead. Before opening my eyes, I think that this is the dumbest thing I have done since high school – getting drunk in a cemetery with a bunch of idiots. Steeling myself for the pain, I open my eyes. Throbbing increases in intensity and colorful spots dance before my eyes.

 

It is dawn and I have to get ready for work. Hangovers are not tolerated in the service industry. One complaint and I will receive counseling and after the second complaint I will be out the door. I need this job for my sanity and livelihood. Before she died, her father arranged this employment for me. Strings were pulled to make this happen. I guess my wild reputation preceded me, even though Mary Ellen cleaned me up after we met.

 

I read the name on the tombstone when I stand up on wobbly legs. Nope, don’t recognize the name. Hell I can barely read the five -inch high letters. What the hell were we drinking last night? My clothes are filthy, my skin is gritty and there are grass and twigs in my hair.

 

Looking around, I can almost count the drunks stretched out across the surrounding graves. The fresh air begins to clear my mind. I can see my car resting on the fence I must have crashed through last night. I hope the lights are turned off and my battery is charged. If not, I won’t be getting out of this very gracefully.

 

Luckily the car starts. The hell with those idiots lying out there, I’m getting home to clean up. I just might make it to work on time. A hot shower, a cup of instant coffee and toast steady me for the day. Grabbing loose change from an ashtray on my dresser make me think of my wallet. It’s nowhere to be found. Crap – it must have fallen out at the cemetery. I will have to wait until this evening to look for it.

 

The day drags on forever. Then at quitting time the boss said, “Tom, come to the Friday night planning meeting over dinner. It will be steak at the Cow Shack.”

 

“Well sure, I can make it.” ‘Damn, it will be dark before I’ll get out to the cemetery to look for my wallet’, I think to myself.

 

The steak dinner is excellent. I make all kinds of excuses to get out of there early. I thought they would never get done talking about office supplies and days off protocol. The door slams me in the butt as the sun drops over the horizon. The moon appears to be full and there are no clouds. With my luck, I should expect a Dark and Stormy Night.

 

Turning into the cemetery gate, the headlights illuminate the flattened fence for just an instant, then swings over to where I slept last night. Letting the car idle and headlights on, I get out looking for the tombstone that pillowed my head the night before. All the idiots are gone, so I guess everyone lived. My wallet lay open with my driver’s license out on the grass. My senses relive that musky scent from last night. My pickled mind cannot mask that smell. Leaning over to pick up my wallet and license intensifies the odor.

 

I can hear an eerie humming and scraping in the distance. What a crazy thing I am doing, standing in a cemetery with a full moon, listening to the sounds of humming and rocks scraping. All I need now are wolves howling and vampires flapping their bat wings. A cold chill pushes out goose bumps and a cold sweat. I quickly walk back to my car and waste no time getting out of there.

 

Several hundred yards down the road I see a young woman standing by the roadside. She is wearing a flimsy garment, looks cold and in distress. I stop beside her, roll down the passenger side window, and ask, “Can I be of any assistance to you.”

 

“I’m lost and I want to go home.” She said.

 

“I can take you, where do you live?”

 

“I don’t know. We recently moved here and I cannot remember the address. I don’t even know how I got out here. Can you help me?”

 

“You bet.” I said. “What’s your name.”

 

“Valerie. And what may I ask is your name?”

 

“Tom, you can call me Tom. Well Valerie, you can sleep in my spare bed room tonight, then tomorrow I’m off work and we can find where you live.”

 

“Your place?”

 

“Yes, you can trust me. I’ll even give you the key to the bedroom, if that will make you feel safer.”

 

She opens the door and slides onto the passenger seat. The dash lights illuminates her face. She is beautiful. Her gauzy clothes appear to be night clothing and the lighting shines through to the under garments. I can faintly smell that musty odor and lower the windows.

 

She clutches her arms around herself as if she is cold. I respond by closing the windows and turning on the heater. Placing her left hand on my forearm, she gazes into my eyes and said, “Tom, I feel safe being with you. Maybe after I have a night’s rest I’ll remember my address or where I live. I feel tired, lonely and scared.” Then she leans her head against my shoulder.

 

Arriving at my house, I escort Valerie by the arm, to steady her through the front door. She looks around as if to memorize every aspect of the house’s interior. “Valerie, would you like something to eat before I show you the bedroom?”

 

“No, I’ll wait until later. I will let you know if I get an appetite.

 

She follows me up the stairs and to the spare bedroom. I show her the key kept on the bed stand, turn down the bed and fluff the pillow. “Does everything look O.K.? There is an adjoining bathroom through that door.” I said, pointing to the bathroom wall.

 

“If you don’t mind, I would like to rest now. You cannot know how much I appreciate what you are doing for me.” Then she pulls my head down to kiss me on the cheek. Her lips are cool to the touch. You might even say that they are cold. ‘I guess she really was cold in the car.’

 

I smile and step back. “There may be some suitable bed clothing in the dresser’s top drawer. You are welcome to use whatever is there. I am going downstairs to fix myself a drink. You can join me later if you feel up to it.”

 

“I don’t think I will join you. Where is your room, just in case I wake up startled, or need something.”

 

“I’ll be down the hallway next to the stairs. I wake easy, so just call out or knock on the door. You shouldn’t have any problems here. There are only hoot owls calling or the occasional dog barking. Good night and sleep tight.” I walk away, close the door and go downstairs to the kitchen for my drink – a double highball.

 

Early in the morning, before sunrise, I feel Valerie slip into my bed. ‘Maybe she is cold and needs to warm up next to me’, I think.’ Rolling over to face her, I think I can feel her staring at me. “Are you cold? Do you need something?”

 

“Sssshhh. You are what I want and need,” followed by a long passionate kiss.

 

I feel a couple of pinpricks on my lips. I do not remember her wearing braces, and then my mind goes blank as pleasure courses through my body. In the morning Valerie is gone, but there is a note on the pillow. “I remembered where I live, thanks to you. I can go there by myself. I will return tonight to thank you again. You have no idea how much pleasure I had last night. You will be in my dreams all day. Until tonight, Valerie.”

 

 

The nightly visits continue for a month. I feel energetic but my friends tell me I look pale and should get some sun. After sunset Valerie visits again and we have rough sex all night. In the morning I take a close look at myself in the mirror after a shower. I can barely see the small puncture marks on the side of my neck. I have been asking Valerie where she lives so I could visit. She has been very evasive.

 

“Close.” She had said.

 

That night she returns again. We slept after our arduous love making, but later I managed to wake, and then pretend to sleep. Just before sunrise, Valerie carefully gets out of bed, and silently goes to the spare bedroom where she puts her bed clothing in the dresser drawer, then leaves the house wearing the same thin garment as the first night I found her. Tracking her at a distance is hard. I cannot use a flashlight without her knowing I was following. Luckily the moon is bright, but not full. I was shocked when she enters the cemetery and goes into the mausoleum. I sit on a nearby tombstone until the sun comes up. There above the mausoleum door is the inscription, “Valerie Valentine, struck down too early in life. May she be with us for eternity.” Dumbfounded, I sit for hours in the sunlight. A caretaker stops and asks if I need help.

 

“No.” I said. “I’ll be O.K. I just need time to think.”

 

At nightfall I am prepared for her nightly visit. At sunset, candles are lit. A bottle of rich red wine is warmed and placed bedside with crystal glasses. Reinforced restraints are carefully positioned around the bed, hidden from view. I am showered, shaved, cologne applied and ready for action. Valerie appears beside my bed, nude, and bathed in the candlelight.

 

“You did not have to go through so much work to make me comfortable and your bedroom prepared like this.”

 

“Nothing is too good for you my love. Come to me.”

 

After several hours of love making, we rest. “I would like to try something new. I have been reading about bondage sex. Would you like to try it?”

“Yes, anything you want. I trust you and feel safe with you.”

 

“Good. I have everything prepared.” Pulling out the restraints, I buckle and cuff Valerie. There is no way she can escape. “Now my love, I know everything about you. I followed you last night back to your mausoleum. I want to be with you forever, but had to take precautions to ensure my safety.”

 

Valerie smiles and looks up at me. “Yes, we will be together forever.” With that said, she casually lifts her restrained arms and legs, breaking her bonds with ease to reach out to me.

 

 

 

Later we walk hand-in-hand beneath the moonlight, stopping to enjoy the beauty of the Big Black Swamp. We gaze out over the shimmering water. Insects and creatures serenade us. She feeds on me until I tingle. “We must hurry to our crypt before sunlight.” She said.

 

 

A wake in the water approaches them unnoticed. A large crocodile lunges out of the water grabbing Tom by his leg pulling him down deep into the murky water. Valerie screams and not seeing Tom surface, jumps into the water, searching to rescue him. Large teeth clamp down on her waist, twisting and thrashing, tearing and shredding, until just small pieces of flesh slowly settled down to the bottom of the swamp.

 

The Louisiana Intelligencer – Two weeks later

 

The State Police is warning everyone not to fish or go near the Big Black Swamp. There is a large white crocodile preying on people. It is said that it will swim through its victim’s blood, apparently swallowing the bloodied water while eating flesh. It has been shot, speared, dynamited and hooked but cannot be killed. Fish and Wildlife experts have tried trapping it, but it is not attracted or interested in fish as bait. It also appears that the crocodile is only seen at night and is attracted to bright lights and the people that hold them.

 

The Drone

Gary Adolph

As the rain pelted against the window and shot gun blasts of thunder shook the house on that dark and stormy night, I finished reading a chapter of a book in the library. Setting my book aside I retrieved one of my shadow box insect collections from a shelf for further identification. I have been collecting insects for several years, looking for unique specimens to share with my grandchildren. As my collection grew, I began looking for the less common, rarer specimens. I was fortunate one evening to find a male and female Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus ) clinging to the screen door. Carefully scooping them into the killing jar, a simple mason jar with a alcohol soaked cotton ball inside, I set them in the garage to await their demise.
Having opened the case to inspect my collection I was interrupted by the ringing phone and stepped away to answer it. Upon returning I was rather perplexed to find the male Wheel Bug facing the female since I had originally had them parallel to one another. Upon closer inspection I was sure I had seen the jaws of the male move, but knew that to be impossible as both had been in my collection for many weeks.
While watching the storm at the window there was a large peel of thunder and a blinding flash of lightening that sent me reeling backwards. Turning back to my collection box I gasped as I saw that the larger male Wheel Bug was no longer beside the female, in fact he was missing altogether along with the pin that fastened him to the board.
Frantically I began searching for the missing insect! It was then that I heard a deep, resonating drone from behind me and turned in time to see the missing insect flying straight at my face. As I swung my head to miss the gaping jaws I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a miniature circular saw spinning on its back.
My mind immediately returned to my first thoughts upon seeing this strange insect for the first time. The outstanding feature of course being that oddly placed notched half wheel upon its back. Within an instant of this recollection that loud drone began increasing in volume as the Wheel Bug returned for another attack.
As its jaws widened to bite my face it arched its back and the rotating blade cut deeply into my hand as I shielded my face from certain disfigurement. I now thought it imperative to close the case in the event other insects had succumbed to what strange phenomenon the Wheel Bug had encountered. Ah, but as fate would have it I found the female of the species missing also as I closed the case.

The pain in my hand reminded me of the cut I had sustained and I wrapped my handkerchief around the wound to stop the bleeding. I looked around the room for something to defend myself against a return attack. The cover of my turntable caught my eye and unlatching it I held it out at arms length, hoping it would offer enough protection for my face.
That drone again! This time I became nauseous and could hear the pounding of my blood as it coursed through my temples. The attack from behind came so quick that I didn’t even have time to raise my new found shield. I felt the blood running down the back of my neck and ducked as they both turned in mid air for another attack.
Holding my shield with one hand I reached for the door slamming it shut to confine this war, which it had now escalated to, to my room. Seeing those two pair of beady eyes bearing down on me I swung my shield missing the male, but hitting the female. She dropped lifeless in front of me, the wheel on her back slowly grinding to a halt. I now needed to be ready for the revenge attack I knew would come.
I didn’t have long to wait as I heard the drone from inside the closet. It was fainter this time as if far away, but began increasing in volume. Then from between the bi-fold doors it came. Flying straight at my face it again arched its back exposing the deadly blade seeking to shred my flesh. I dodged one way while swinging my shield the other hoping to connect.
I am still amazed at how he could turn on a dime in mid air and never lose any of his momentum as he returned for more. Blood red splatters now covered my shirt and pants as well as other surfaces in my room from his blood soaked spinning blade. With a thud he crashed into the closet door and hung there where his specimen pin had impaled itself into the door.
I raised my shield and swung at his ugly form. Upon contact the blade on his back stopped spinning, his body went limp, and that loud drone ceased.
With shaking hands I wiped the sweat from my brow and realized I was still sitting in the recliner I had been reading in. The thunder and lightening had subsided and a slow, gentle rain now fell outside. A bold red 5:00 am flashed before me from my digital clock. I had fallen asleep and been dreaming! Cautiously I moved toward the insect display cases fearful of what I might find. It was of course the Wheel Bugs I was most interested in. As I bent over and peered into the case all of the horror of the night before returned. They were gone!

Where’s My Tank

John Smith

 

 

Lt. Randolph Brady looked across the desk at the two men. Neither would stand out in a crowd, but Randolph knew that one of them was lying to him. One of these men knew who broke into the armory and drove off with a Mark 1 Assault Vehicle. Both men were on guard duty, enemy lines were only a mile beyond his desk. The event did nothing to brighten his day.

Both men had been sitting in front of the Lt. for over a half hour. So far, no one had said a word. A guard brought them in and stepped out of the room. The Lt., normally a pleasant man, as far as officers go, frowned at the two men as he slowly sipped his coffee.

Private Simmons could no longer stand the silence, “Sir, I know this is about the tank. I was standing guard at the north gate, heard a motor, but it didn’t go by my position. May I leave?”

Private Eckhardt turned and faced Simmons. “That’s a crock Harold; I was at the south gate. I heard a motor, but nothing came through my gate, you were either sleeping or you are a flat out liar.”

Brady looked at the two men over the edge of his coffee cup. He almost smiled as he heard the two arguing. The truth would soon be known as one of them would let a small piece of information slip and he would discover who stole the weapon.

Little by little, the truth began to surface. “Look Eckhardt, I heard the diesel motor fire up. I left my shelter and walked towards the motor pool. My position was a straight shot and I never lost sight of my post. Nothing left the motor pool.”

“Simmons, you are so full of crap, there’s a curve before you can see the motor pool. I was up on the tower; I checked it out with my binoculars.” Eckhardt looked at the Lt. “Sir, nothing moved. It rained last night, before I heard the motor. The grounds were muddy. If someone took the tank, there would be tracks.”

The Lieutenant spoke for the first time, “So Private Eckhardt, what you are telling me is that you watched the motor pool, you are witness to the fact that nothing moved. You expect me to believe that David Copperfield came all the way out here to the end of the earth and made a 60-ton motorized weapon disappear?”

The Lieutenant shook his head. “You two misfits should be taken out and beaten with a 10-pound sledge hammer until you are nothing but dog meat. At briefing you were told there would be no exercises last night, the alarms didn’t go off, yet when someone starts up a Mark 1, and I think we can all admit we know what that sounds like, neither of you called command to mention it.”

Private Simmons started to speak, gave it a second thought and lowered his head. Neither man had a response and made the wise move of saying nothing.

“Beginning immediately, you two are on night patrol. Let’s see if you can do a better job of finding the enemy and killing them than you do protecting the inside of this base.

As Brady rose from his chair, the two privates jumped to attention and offered him a salute. When his hand touched his forehead, alarms from all over the base began to sound.

Brady grabbed his helmet and rifle from the rack behind his desk and the three ran for the door. Soldiers were running towards the main gate. Everyone stopped; mouths open as they saw the giant red velvet bag sitting just beyond their parameter fence.

On the bag was a note, printed in very large letters. ‘I am sorry I borrowed your toy last night. I promise it won’t happen again. My daddy made me give up all my army stuff, so I am giving it to you. Tommy.’

Brady sent to two privates to open the bag. The material lay flat like a giant table cloth. Inside was the Mark 1, along with a variety of mechanical weapons from years past and some were not from this earth.

Private Eckhardt and Simmons marched to the Lieutenant, saluted. Eckhard respectfully said, “With all due respect, sir, it wasn’t David Copperfield, it was some kid, from somewhere named Tommy.”

 

Part Time Wife

Charles Schwend

 

As a recent high school graduate, she had zero options. Her stepmother kicked her out of the house and her dad went along with it after listening to all the lies the step-bag told him. She had no money, no job skills and no job offers. Oh, she had offers from the scumbags to live with them or greasy low lives offering action on the streets. What she did have was exceptional good looks and a body language that turned heads.

 

Sitting in the café, Veronica took stock of her dismal situation. Two women, sitting nearby, were gossiping about someone they knew. They called the woman a part time wife and the idea blossomed in her calculating mind, but she would need a little capital for the clothes and other necessities to pull it off. Yes, a part time wife.

 

Archie was head over heels infatuated with her and came from a very rich family. He was also a complete loser. Dumb, no street smarts with a ‘no love from mother’ look, a perfect pigeon to get her stake. Pulling a cell phone from her purse, she checked to see if her dad had cancelled the service. It was still activated. Keying in Archie’s number, her heart did a little jump as he answered after the first ring.

 

“Archie here.”

 

“Archie, this is Veronica and I was wondering if you would like to join me for a drink at the Ninth Street Café?” She could hear the near stutter from excitement as he struggled to reply.

 

“Sure, when?”

 

“Well, I’m having coffee now and could use come company.”

 

“I’ll be there in ten minutes. Really, just ten minutes so don’t leave. O.K.”

 

“I’ll be here.”

 

Waiting, a strategy to improve her life grew from a single idea to a master plan.

 

Archie burst through the door like a fireman to a fire. Frantically looking around she was spotted instantly, sat and looked at her with puppy eyes. She had already ordered his favorite drink that was sitting in front of him.

 

“Archie, I need several thousand dollars and don’t know where I can get it. Do you having any ideas?”

 

“What do you need it for?”

 

“To start my new career. I have been offered a job as a purchasing agent for a large national chain of women’s clothing stores, and I need to buy clothes and pay for travel expenses until I receive my first salary checks. After that, per diem and travel allowance will kick in. I should be able to repay the loan in three or four months. Any ideas?”

 

“Well, sure. I can loan you the money.”

 

“No, I could not ask you for the money. I just knew you would have some idea since you’re so good with financial management and smart about business and such.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous. When do you need it? I can write you a check right now.”

 

Veronica suppressed cat eating bird smile. ‘Phase one completed’, she thought. ‘Now to blow this burg and get my life on track.’

 

After arriving in Chicago, she rented a room in a cheap motel and made a reservation at a five star restaurant. She had blown a good portion of her stake on a classy business suit and after ordering the cheapest salad on the menu, for lunch, put her plan in motion. Almost immediately, a very handsome man wearing an expensive suit stopped and asked if she would like some company. She immediately rejected his offer, ‘too polished and experienced’ she thought.

 

The salad was finished and as she lingered over the lemon infused water she was approached by an average looking man who was dressed conservatively, but very expensively, and in his mid thirties. He appeared to be a little shy and asked if he could buy her a drink. “I don’t want to appear to be forward, but I could not pass up the opportunity to talk to someone like you. Are you an actress or a model? You look familiar but I cannot place you.”

 

“No, I am a business woman in town for a week before going to New York. I am Veronica and think a little company would be enjoyable. Please join me. I have already had lunch and about to order a drink. Constant travel and living out of a suitcase is a boring life. What is your name and what do you do?”

 

“My name is Bill and I am a financial advisor. I live in the outskirts of Chi town and also find my time boring and lonesome.” After a few drinks, Bill asked Veronica if she was free for dinner followed by a major play. “It’s O.K. if you say no, but I thought we could enjoy dinner and entertainment together.”

 

The date went extremely well and they were married at the end of the week. Veronica explained that she was very successful but had to travel constantly through out the United States and would soon expand internationally. Bill was somewhat disappointed, but being a businessman knew success has a price. Veronica explained that she would return to Chicago one week a month to which Bill was happy knowing that he would have a life that most men could only phantasies about. Within days they had joint bank accounts and she was off to New York. In New York Veronica repeated what she did in Chicago. Then traveling to San Francisco she married an almost identical man as her first two husbands.

 

Arriving in Dallas, Veronica set out to fill in and complete her monthly schedule. She found an easy mark in a lonely oilman. She felt her chosen life was complete, spending one week a month with each of her four husbands. She did not love any of her husbands and considered them a necessary function of her career, something to struggle through to achieve success.

 

After two years of working through the weekly honeymoons Veronica stopped in St. Louis for a vacation away from her four amorous husbands. At the age of twenty, she was at the peak of her career. Lounging poolside at an exclusive hotel she avoided contact with anyone. After constant marital obligations, she just wanted solitude to re-energize mind, body and soul. The wear and tear on her was beginning to take its toll.

 

A shadow crossed her closed eyes and a spray of water splashed across her face. Irritation opened her eyes as a deep voice apologized for the intrusion. A tall handsome man was standing before her, whipping his hair from side to side. The sun situated directly behind his head haloed his hair. A shiver coursed though her body like an artic chill. She had never reacted to a man like this before. He stood taking in her physical features like he had never seen a woman in a bikini before. She felt extremely self-conscious and giddy like a girl experiencing her first love. He spoke smoothly as he apologized again while she stuttered and stammered trying to answer him.

 

“Let me buy you dinner to repay you for my clumsy action. I was just shaking the water out of my hair. I had no idea it would fall on you.”

 

The tingling and itch overloaded her mind as she accepted. “I can’t get involved with this guy, it would screw everything up,” she thought. Her heart won out over logical thought. “An overnight, successful businessman and on his first vacation,” he said. There were no living relatives and he was always too busy to become emotionally involved – before now.

 

Falling completely in love, Veronica had to re-evaluate her career. She explained to Carlin that she was independently wealthy, inheriting her fortune after her parents were killed in a plane crash. Carlin doted on her, catering to her every need and desire, proposing during the seventh day of their affair.

 

“Since you have all that wealth, why don’t we have pre-nuptials drawn up, just to protect your inheritance?” Suggested Carlin.

 

“No, my love, everything I have is yours.”

 

They married the next weekend and went on a honeymoon cruise to the Bahamas, on a private yacht, courtesy of joint bank accounts – now empty. New bank accounts were established and unknown to Veronica, in Carlin’s name only.

 

On a beautiful morning, after an evening of passionate lovemaking, Carlin called for Veronica to come up on deck for a breakfast he had lovingly prepared for her. Fresh fruit and champagne were served. Veronica became very sleepy and nodded off. Carlin watched his wife with a satisfied and happy smile. Opening the live bait box, he started throwing chum overboard while the yacht was dead in the water. Sharks began circling, and they too, enjoyed their breakfast when Veronica was slid over the side. They also enjoyed the fruit and champagne previously served and consumed.

 

Carlin made a distress radio transmission reporting the ‘accident’ and started polishing his statement to the officials and the insurance company. They had taken out a five million dollar insurance policy on each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting even with Telemarketers

John W. Smith

         Pierce was just sitting down to watch the evening news when the phone rang. Scanning the Caller ID he knew it was another sales call of some type. He wished he knew if it was a machine or a person at the end of the line. He smiled as he pushed the ‘talk’ button and hesitated for several seconds before whispering, “Yeah.”

         The phone clicked and a pleasant voice spoke from some area code across the country. “Mr. Anderson, hello, my name is…”

         Pierce interrupted the caller. Still speaking just above a whisper, “OH GOD, your timing is perfect. The deed is done. Only one problem, things got a bit out of hand, and there is blood everywhere. I need a clean-up crew before the husband returns.”

         There was a slight pause.

         ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Anderson, I didn’t quite hear you. I’m calling about a great opportunity to….”

         Again Pierce interrupted the girl. “Look, control, I need some help here. The hardwood floors have a pool of blood an inch deep, creeping down the hall. The Walls have a new mural that smells like copper. I need someone here fast. The husband will return from his business trip in fourteen hours.”

         There was a longer pause on the other end of the phone. Pierce fought to hold back a laugh. He had to keep his cool if he was going to mess with the person interrupting his evening.

         “Sir, am I to understand you have an emergency in your home?”

         Pierce got back into character. “Look, I’m sending you proof of kill on my cell. You said she would be alone. Wrong, she had three other people with her. Yes, I know they are all naked, at least they had no place to hide any weapons. Now, is my clean-up crew on the way?”

         In the background he heard the girl call for a supervisor. Her hand was over the mouthpiece, but he could still understand the conversation on the other end of the line. “This guy has just killed four people; he thinks I’m calling to confirm he did the job. We need the police.”

         Pierce decided to notch the conversation up just a bit. “Hey, your area code is 305. Who are you?”

         “Sir, I’m sorry to bother you. I called to talk to you about time shares, but I can see you are busy. I’ll call back another time.”

         “No, don’t hang up. I’ve got your number. We need to talk. Oh, hold on a second, my cell is ringing.”

         Pierce smiled as he ‘answered’ his cell. “Chet, yeah, I got two problems. First I have somebody on the house phone. I thought it was you, and she knows about the deed, yes “THE DEED”. I’m texting you the number. It’s in Florida. Second, I need a clean-up crew, tell you about it later.”

         He returned to the house phone. “Now young lady, I think I have my problem solved. What was it you wanted to discuss?”

         The supervisor clicked into the conversation, “Sir, you seem to have upset Goldie. Could you explain your problem, perhaps I can help?”

         “And you are?”

         “Mrs. Feinstein, supervisor at Fun in the Sun Time Share.” She said.

         “Well, Mrs. Feinstein. Goldie caught me in the middle of something and I thought she was my supervisor calling. Not a problem on my end. Everything has been worked out. I’ll have my supervisor give you a call and he will apologize to you and Goldie personally.”

         After a brief hesitation, she said. “Oh, never mind. These things happen. It was all a mistake. Thank you for your time.” She hung up.

         Pierce was laughing to himself when banging erupted from the front door. Now what he thought as he opened the front door.

         Five police officers, guns drawn pulled Pierce outside and pushed him to his knees. Two of the officers entered the house. They returned a few minutes later. “The house is clear. No blood, no bodies. The guy is alone.”

         Pierce looked up at the five men as they holstered their weapons. “What seems to be the problem, officers?” he asked with a strange look on his face.

         “We received a call from Florida that a killer was in this house. He confessed to killing four people. I guess it was a prank call.”

         Pierce stood. “Yes, I’m sure it was a prank call. I get them all the time.” Standing at his front door, he watched the officers climb into their squads and drive away. Pierce laughed to himself I’ll probably catch some kind of crap for this in a day or two. I’ll just have to see if I keep getting sales calls.

         As the police turned the corner, a white van pulled into the driveway. Six men climbed out. As equipment was being removed from the van, the driver walked up to Pierce.

         He wasn’t smiling, “Dude, you the guy that called for a clean-up?”

 

 

THE DIVA OF NEW DOUGLAS

Andrea Doetzel 4-20-2010

After retiring from my job at a large Insurance Agency in Chesterfield, MO and relaying my plans to move to a rural farm area and enjoy the quiet, my friends and co-workers wondered what in the world I was going to do over there all day and kept e-mailing me questions about who my neighbors would be?, where the heck is New Douglas? What will you do without Imo’s Pizza and Starbucks, and so on. I took a picture of my neighbor’s cows and sent it as my new neighbors. Zeke, Boss, Jake, Barney and Seth. Then they kept asking about my daily routine. So I wrote this on a whim the next day and e-mailed it off to them.

The Diva of New Douglas started living on a farm.

Said, the fresh country air can’t do me any harm.

 

 As retired life goes on with the daily chores

 This day, I said it’s Spring, so I will start outdoors

 

On with the overalls, sunglasses and hat

Deciding what to do, paint or cut grass?

 

Think I’ll paint the barn while it is still cool

 So up on the ladder and I became a brushing fool

 

Straddling an A frame ladder made me sort of edgy

Made my bottom sore, ever had a “ladder” wedgie?

 

Now a change of pace to escape the painting mess

 It would take a while to dry, inside for lunch and rest

 

Then up came a cool breeze, so out in the field to mow

I cranked up the tractor mower and vroom, away I go

 

Dandelions are ugly when they get those balls of seed

 Mow em down and watch em fly away with the south breeze

 

Oh NO, now the south wind, swirled them all around

Blowing all the fuzzy fluff on the wet paint of the barn

 

  Now with this new mess, I’m “Tractor chafed” besides

  So goes my day, worked up a very sore backside

 

Tomorrow off to Walmart for some cotton Granny panties

My underwear is ragged and is looking like a shanty

 The next hint is what Farmers use and I may take a notion

 And head on into Rural King for “Monkey Butt” Lotion.

It’s the Sudden Stop

John Smith

Charles Montgomery was walking towards the deli a block from his office. He was taking his time. His morning started out bad and got worse when he got to work. He had been tied up with a client, and needed to decompress. He was thrust into a special meeting with the Gunk account representatives. The three directors were four-star assholes and made demands that were impossible to meet. It took all of his training not to kick the men in the ass and walk out of the meeting.

Alex Simpson also attended the meeting so the company would have confirmation of the discussions, unbeknownst to the Gunk people; Alex had taped the entire two hour meeting. “They may make the best explosives in the world,” said Alex, “But they need several ounces shoved somewhere to blow the crap out of them.”

Charles had handled most of the meeting. Alex knew his employee needed a break and gave him an extra hour for lunch. “Get out of the building, sit down and relax.” Alex told him.

Charles turned the corner to walk to the deli at the end of the block but was stopped by the crowd standing and looking up at the building across the street. People filled the sidewalk. They were looking up at the building across the street. Barricades had been set up to keep a large open space in the center of the street.

Looking up, Charles saw a man standing on the edge of the roof. As he slowly made his way to the barricades, he counted the windows going up. It was ten stories tall, one hundred twenty feet or more. If the guy jumped, he would certainly get the job done. Charles wondered how much blood would splatter on the ghouls crowding the barricades.

He began working his way along the wooden horses. Charles figured if he could work his way to the corner, he could get to the deli and enjoy a fresh made sandwich while he watched the drama playing out on the street.

As he reached the corner, one of the officers leaning against the barricade was talking on his radio. “Yes sir, we’ve identified the guy. Names Bob Faulkner, we’re trying to find his wife in the hopes she can help talk him down.”

Charles stopped in his tracks. Bob Faulkner was his best friend. Bob and Ellie had been half of the four musketeers for the past five years. Sarah was always saying how she and Ellie were so much alike they could be sisters.

Charles tapped the officer on the shoulder. “Sir, I know Bob, he is my best friend. Do you think I could go up and try to talk to him?”

The officer looked at Charles and got on his radio. “Captain, this is officer Parks. I have a guy here that says he is best friends with our jumper. He wants to know if he can come up and try to talk him down. No sir, we still haven’t found his wife.”

Officer Parks turned, “OK, go in the building take the elevator to the top floor, someone will escort your to the roof. Good luck.”

Charles followed the directions. In less than five minutes, he was slowly approaching his friend Bob. He kept his voice calm as he spoke his name. “Bob. It me, Charlie. Can I come over and we talk?”

Bob looked over his shoulder. “Charlie, what are you doing here? How did the cops find you? I’m afraid you can’t help me. I’ve done some terrible things.”

Charles slowly made his way to his friend. When he leaned over the ledge, looking down he said, “That’s a long drop buddy. How long have you been standing here?”

“Long enough,” was the reply, “I can’t seem to make myself take the step. My legs are tired, but I got good balance and I can lean against the wall if I get dizzy.”

Charles continued to look at the street below. The news people had arrived. Local television stations were setting up on the street. Someone had made it to the roof of the building across the street and was taking photos. This was turning into a three-ring circus.”

Quietly, Charles asked his friend, “Mind if I sit on the edge. I won’t try to grab you or anything. We could sit together. I don’t think the police will try to grab you for fear of me falling too?”

Bob nodded. Charles climbed on top of the ledge and sat down; Bob scooted over and leaned against the wall beside him. They talked quietly for several minutes. Bob wouldn’t discuss what drove him to this thought of suicide. Ever so slowly, Bob began to relax.

Charles turned to the police Captain, “Sir, I was wondering if you could do two things for me. First would you call my employer and let him know I will be late returning from lunch and second, could you get a couple of subs and sodas from the shop around the corner?”

The captain sent one of his officers to get the food. He knew enough about hostage negotiations to realize that the civilian was trying to get the jumper to relax, feel secure. His officers continued to stand to the side, out of reach, but ready to jump and grab the man if an opportunity presented itself. Food just might give them the opportunity.

The two men continued to talk. Bob talked of work, the pressures he and his wife were experiencing. Charles glanced at his watch. He had been on the ledge for almost three hours. His friend continued to ramble about the pressures of life and how he had done terrible things and didn’t deserve to live.

Charles took the opportunity when Bob looked at the crowd below. There were more people filling the streets as office building closed for the day. Everyone wanted to see the outcome of this drama. “Tell me Bob, just what evil thing have you done to disappoint the entire world, your wife and our friendship that would force you up on this roof?”

Bob stood on the ledge to stretch his legs. He looked over at this friend, “I have betrayed you, your wife, my wife and myself.” He began. “I told Ellie I wanted a divorce this morning. I’ve had enough of her and all the crap I have to take from her.”

“Oh man, you two are such a great couple. Why would you want to get a divorce, lose everything you have built during your fifteen years of marriage?”

“Oh Charlie, the only way I can explain this to be blunt.” Bob said. “For the past year, I’ve been having an affair with Kathy. I’m so sorry. I know she’s your wife and we’re best friends, but we were drawn to each other.”

Charles remained calm as he listened to his friend. “So, you and Kathy were going to run off together?”

“Well, that was my plan. I walked out of the house and called Kathy. I could hear Ellie screaming in the background. I thought it would be better if I let her know that Ellie would be on the warpath. That’s when everything went to hell.”

Charles continued to watch his friend. “How did you think Ellie would react to your plan Bob? Did you think she would wish you the best and move out?”

“I don’t know man, but I didn’t know she would go into such a tirade. Anyway, I called Kathy, told her what I did and told her to pack a bag, we were leaving town. I would clean out my bank account and safety deposit box and we would start a new life.”

Charles sat staring at his friend. “Just what was my wife’s response?”

Bob looked at his friend, tears in his eyes. “She told me I was crazy. What we were having was fun and games. She told me flat out that we did not have a relationship. She said I wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last and that we were through. But that’s not the worst of it.”

Charles watched his friend. Bob turned towards him; his feet side by side one foot was barely on the edge of the concrete.

“Oh Charlie, I went back in the house. I thought I could reason with Ellie, we could work things out. She screamed and screamed, calling me the most horrid names. I just couldn’t take it. I grabbed the plaster gargoyle from the end table and hit her in the head. I hit her several times. Hell, I kept hitting her until she had no head, I killed her.” Bob turned once again to the street and hung his head. Onlookers were shouting at him to jump. They hoped it would help the man make his decision.

“Damn Bro. I guess you did step way over the line. I don’t mean to add to your troubles, but I was home when you called this morning. I was standing at the kitchen door and heard her end of the conversation. After the two of you hung up, Kathy confessed and told me what you offered.”

Charles began kicking his legs, acting as though they were cramping. “I forgave her for all her indiscretions. I’ll deal with her later. You, however, are between a rock and a hard place.”

Charles then spoke loud enough for the police to hear, “You killed your wife. Whether you jump or climb over the ledge, you are a dead man. This is a death penalty state.”

With his comment, Charles shook his head in mock disgust, stood and turned, preparing to climb on the roof. As he did, his heel caught the inside of Bob’s knee, causing him to plunge to the ground below.

The police rushed forward and grabbed Charles’ arm to keep him from falling. Charles turned to see the body lying in the middle of the open space below. Shaking his head, “I guess he thought he could just fly away from his problems. It wasn’t the drop that put him out of his misery; it was the sudden stop and the hard concrete.”

 

 Bed And Breakfast

Charles Schwend

The newspaper classified ad read, “Bed and Breakfast – $50 per day; $250 Per Week. Linens changed daily. Lunch and Supper available at a reasonable price. All major modes of transportation are within walking distance. Located at the edge of town in a wooded setting. Private Bath. Television and Wi-Fi included. Wooded hiking trails available. A few quiet and secluded suites are available by reservation only. Room service requires a surcharge. Call 555-5455 for additional information. Ask for Helen. ”

 

“Just what I need, a vacation from my fiancée. This is something I can do.” Putting her morning coffee down and picking up the cell she punch in the number.

 

On the second ring a melodious voice answered. “Smith’s Bed & Breakfast, how can I help you?”

 

“Is the price that ran in this morning’s Dailey Informant correct. I am reading $250 per week plus lunch and supper, and are there any of the quiet and secluded suites available?”

 

“Yes, we have two available. One in a corner wing on the second floor and one  a detached cabin about 300 feet into the woods. And yes, that price is correct.”

 

“Can you reserve the cabin for me. I can be there this afternoon. My name is Hhhmmmmm Marilyn Jones. And I hope cash will be O.K. “

 

“Cash will be fine, and is it Miss or Mrs. Jones.”

 

“Miss.”

 

Arriving in the early afternoon, Miss Jones stood at the reception desk marveling at the size of the mansion and the décor. “I cannot believe they can offer all this that cheaply. I may just chuck away my life and start over here. This is absolutely beautiful”, she thought to herself.

 

A man and woman, neatly dressed, stood behind the counter. “May we help you?”

“I am Miss Marilyn Jones. I called this morning for a cabin reservation. I am looking forward to a week of undisturbed rest where I can just relax and write. Will I be able to take all my meals in the cabin?”

 

“Yes, the meals can be delivered to the cabin. Every night the next day’s menu will be placed in the mailbox attached near the door for you to select from. Most of our clientele are repeat patrons of our establishment. In fact, we have permanent residents that take their evening meal in a private building, not too far from your cabin, but do not worry. You will not be disturbed. We do require advance payment for the cabin, and I have a note here that you want to pay in cash. I take it that you have not told anyone of your stay here since you preferred seclusion.”

 

“No one knows I’m here and I would like to keep that way.”

 

“You will have complete privacy. I will need a name, address and telephone number of a responsible party in case of an emergency. Just place the information here below your entry in the registry.”

 

Marilyn thought of a bogus name, address and telephone number to use, and carefully recorded that information in the book. Reviewing other entries, she could see that this outfit did a brisk business, and thought, “I’ll have to remember this place after I take on another sucker to drain his accounts.” Without thinking, she casually patted the overnight bag that never left her side. It held over $500,000.

 

A house worker was called to wheel the luggage out to the cabin. “She really is a striking red head,” said John to Helen, his companion.

 

“Just forget it, that’s not why she is here. Keep your mind on track to the business we run here.”

 

The cabin looked very comfortable. Fully furnished with a cozy fireplace. The man brought in her luggage and asked, “Would you like for me to start a fire?”

 

“No, but I could use a sandwich and cup of coffee. I missed lunch today,” laughed, and said, “I need to keep my strength up.”

 

The man laughed and said, “I will check what is available in the kitchen. I’m sure there is some roast beef for an open faced sandwich”

 

“That would be wonderful, thank you.”

 

John Smith put down the telephone, smiled, and looked at Helen. “Everything was false, just like we thought. Looks like everything is a go, and with perfect timing too. We were running low on supplies for our dinner club. “

 

Marilyn was recounting her money, enjoying the snack. “Another ten marks and I’ll be able to retire early. Being young really is the best. Those old fools fall all over themselves trying to get close to me.” Stripping off her clothes, she studied her twenty two year old body in the mirror before taking a bath. Finishing her bath, she poured a glass of complimentary wine then sat in a love seat to relax. Sleep came over her quickly, from the drugged wine, as she dreamed of the money that would come her way and the enjoyment received from the creative games played with all the over the hill men in her future. She did not hear the two men enter the cabin, or feel them carefully place her on a gurney and taking her to the nearby building used by the dinner club.

 

Twelve couples were gathered to partake in the evening’s dinner. “This crown rib roast is the best ever. I’m buying into a lifetime membership if the food continues like this.” Looking down, he studied the place mat photo of the nude, unconscious,  red haired woman, hanging upside down, in the small butcher shop behind the kitchen. “It’s a shame, a young good looking woman like that, but boy is she ever tender” he commented to the server. Returning his attention to the place mat, he debated what he would order the next evening.


The Good And Bad

Charles Schwend

         Whomph. Whomph. Whomph.

 

The man is lost in the darkened woods, running for his life. Something in the sky is pursuing him. Looking over his right shoulder he sees giant wings coming closer. The thing, what ever it is, started following him, just before dusk. Running and evading the flying creature for the last three hours has left him weak, hungry and thirsty. Instinct tells him he will be dead if he stops or tries to hide. The wings beating the air are becoming louder, and closer. The thing starts to dive, picking up speed. He forces himself to try running faster. The wings quietly slice through the air as it slowly descends upon him, like an owl in the wild, striking prey. A spur pushes out from the wing tip joint. A quick slash brings the man to ground. The thing, a human form with large wings, settles down to stand on it’s prey. Talons are where toes exist on humans, but this is not human.

 

The talons tear into the man’s back, crushing his spine. He screams in agony as bone is yanked from his body. Then with talons locked into his shoulders, is lifted high into the sky. Moments later the man is dropped from one hundred feet onto an outcropping of rock. Bones are shattered. Regaining consciousness, the man has no feeling from his waist down. His arms are broken, and head concussed. He cannot move his head, but can rotate his eyes. He can see human bones scattered across the outcropping. They gleam in the moonlight. They are gnawed and crushed. He does not know how long he was unconscious and is fearful of the next few minutes. Something that he cannot see begins chewing on his feet and legs. There is no pain, but he can sense pulling and the tearing of flesh. He hears rustling as something approaches him from behind and he feels painful chewing on his ear. A furry animal, a rat, scurries across his head to begin eating his nose and lips. He squeezes his eyes shut hard, as if to force out the pain. Opening his eyes when he feels a larger furry animal brush past his face, he sees and smells a stinking possum looking back and forth, as if checking for competition to the newfound meal. His mind reels in terror as the possum begins chewing just above his groin. The possum eats half way up to his throat before the relief of death overcomes him. His last thoughts were regret for killing the picnicking couple in the late afternoon.

 

His soul, a black oily substance, slowing begins the long painful trip down, through the earth’s crust, toward the burning core, where other like souls reside. Some will be vomited up through volcanoes for a teasing, temporary exposure to sunlight, only to be thrown back down for another painful re-passing into the earth’s core, surely a punishment for their choice of living existence. Others will be forced up through the ocean bottoms, like hell’s defecation, to mix with the slime of the sea life’s excretion, before passing again, down to the earth’s core.

 

He had no way of knowing that the larger carnivores of the woodland visited him to eat during the night. Come sunrise, the birds of the forest complete their task of cleansing their environment. The partial skeleton, of mostly crushed and eaten bones, remain bleaching in the bright warm sun.

 

At next dusk, the winged humanoid begins its nightly patrol. A quiet whimper is heard. Dropping down to the tree top level, eagle like vision detects a small being, not much more than a toddler. Lost, scared and quietly sobbing, he does not know where to go or what to do after his parents were viciously killed the day before. The winged humanoid slowly circles, like a vulture descending to its meal, until landing in front of the small boy. Cooing to relax and comfort, it wraps its wings around the boy with caresses that feel like cascading goose down. Cradling the small human in its arms, the creature takes flight into the night.

 

Risking detection, it flies over the small town, landing at the side door of a church. Mentally voiding the memories of the small child, he sits him on the step and knocks loudly on the door, interrupting the evening service. A quick take off has it out of sight before the door opens. “My heavens, who are you? Where are you from?” exclaims the usher. Looking around and seeing nothing out of the ordinary, the man picks up the child to return to the warmth of the church interior.

 

The humanoid watched from hidden safety until assuring himself the child was safe, then again took flight, searching, always searching, for the good and bad, exacting punishment and reward to each it’s due. The Angel is always on patrol.

 

 

   THE YEAR SANTA FLEW WITH THE FLEAS  – 2011

    Original poem –  By Andrea Doetzel  12-5-2011

     This past year was a hot one, as we all were aware

Santa spent most of the summer almost going bare ( picture that! )

The searing heat spread up the Nordic Belt way

T’was hard keeping the spirit of a new a Christmas day

Santa worked and he sweated as he did all his chores

Then traveled to toy companies to order still more

All the technical gadgets that were in high demand

Could be ordered from them as his elves lent a hand

Santa worked and he grunted as he shed off some pounds

His elves kept giggling at all his strange sounds

No time to eat Mrs. Claus’s fine cookin

Santa got so much leaner and trim he was lookin

Then came December, time to try on the suit

Polish brass buckles and shine his black boots

But his suit was too big, “Oh what can we do?”

Mrs. Claus remembered she had stored a few

Over the past years as Santa grew fat

The small suits were stored along with old hats

They sent an elf up to the loft over the stall

where spare reindeer took naps, and they found them all

But the fleas had infested the white furry parts

And they smelled all dusty and musty like farts

Mrs. Claus then sent an elf to the farm store

To get flea powder and some spray, nothing more

Elf got back and got busy, fluffing and sprinkling

Flea powder and odor spray fast without thinking

Aired out and ready,  Santa geared for his ride

But he squirmed and shimmied on his skinny backside

Seems Elf had a hard time reading cans at the store

Got the powder marked “itching” and went out the door!

So you may hear Santa say,  as he soars out of sight

“What a flea biting, chafed itching, crotch burning night!”

“A Closer Look at My Moon”

John Dorroh

 

My fourth-grade teacher, Ruth Webb, was one of the coolest teachers ever.  She knew how to engage us with projects that were fun without us realizing that we were learning.

 

For example, we made hand-churned butter in the classroom; her son, Frank, came to class and played his guitar, and we all sang songs together.  We even walked to her farm from school where we had a picnic and fished from her well-stocked pond, catching brim, crappie, and even some “red devils,” or crawfish.

 

When we studied the solar system, Mrs. Webb gave us a choice of what culminating project we could do. I chose to prepare an interactive booklet. I got so involved with the project that I asked my parents for a telescope for Christmas.

 

“I want to look at the craters on the moon and see Jupiter and Saturn and Venus up close. Please…it would make me a very happy kid.”

 

It was common for us to drive to local air base commissary on Saturday mornings to buy our groceries for the week. One Saturday in November I chose to stay home and watch cartoons.  Usually my parents would put up some kind of fuss about me being too young to stay at home alone. But on this particular Saturday morning, they said okay.

 

“Don’t use the stove while we’re gone,” my mom said.

 

That was their main concern – that I might burn down the house while cooking one of my fried bologna-and-cheese sandwiches.  I promised them that I’d have Fruit Loops instead.

 

After they left I went into their bedroom to look for one of my science fiction books. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Why would it be in here? I asked.  But I looked anyway.

 

I saw the corner of a box sticking out from under the bed. I lifted the comforter and saw the word “telescope.”  Wow! I dragged the long box from under the bed, making a mental note of exactly how it had been positioned.  I was so excited that I was tingling along my spine. Should I take it out of the box or put it back? I’d better put it back.

 

   I wanted to tell someone but decided against it.  My secret was soild. This Christmas was going to be the best one ever. A real telescope, not a toy.  I could tell by the weight of the box that it wasn’t made of plastic. No, sir! This was a bonafide telescope, and it was going to be mine in a little over a month.

 

It was difficult to concentrate on anything for the rest of the day. I gave up on reading or watching TV, deciding to rake leaves instead. It was a miracle – me raking leaves without being told.

 

When my mom and dad drove into the driveway, I could see my mom do a double-take. I had already raked and bagged seven huge lawn bags packed pull.

 

She said, “Did you get bored, son?”

 

I lied, “Yes, I did. I knew I was gonna have to do this sooner or later, so I decided to a start on it.”

 

“You keep raking,” said my dad. “I’ll get the groceries in.”

 

I found out at lunch that they had been invited to a small dinner party that night at Buddy and Susie Eads’ house.

 

Great! I thought.  I can take a closer look at my telescope.

 

   They left about 6:30 that evening and gave me the usual warnings – no cooking on the stove, keep the doors locked and don’t answer it if someone rings the doorbell, and call if there’s a problem.

 

“You want Lamar or Steve to come spend the night?” my mom asked.

 

“Nope. I’m good. I want to finish my book and then watch some TV.”

 

“We’ll be home by 11:00,” she said.

 

“Fine,” I said. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

 

They left the house about 6:30 and I waited 30 minutes before I pulled out the box. I wanted to make sure that they didn’t return to get something they had forgotten.

 

I gingerly pulled out the box, laying it on the ground with the picture on the top side up. There were big one-inch cardboard staples on all sides of the box, spaced about six inches apart. I had my work cut out for me. It’d would have  to be done as carefully as possible; couldn’t leave any evidence.

 

I tried scissors first but they made a mark on the cardboard, and I abandoned that plan. I tried using a dull knife as a lever, pushing the point of the knife under the gold staple, wiggling it from side to side, pushing it back and forth.  POP!  The first staple was freed, and I moved to the one to the right. And then to the third and fourth.

 

It took me about ten minutes to remove the staples and then it dawned on me that I was not going to be able to replace the staples on one side of the box. I’d choose one of the box ends since it was shorter in length. It was a chance that I’d have to take.

 

I got the telescope out of the box and saw that there was a minimal amount of assembly, mainly in the tripod, the legs.  That was easy. I had it ready for viewing and took it out the back door into a moonlit night. It was a half moon, plenty to see some craters.

 

I found a nice spot in the back yard where there wasn’t much light.  It was great!  I was so excited that I had to pee but I held it in.  I knew enough about telescopes from reading that I knew I had a reflective style scope, with a viewing tube at end of the tube-like body on the top.

 

I aimed the scope at the moon, and once I had it in the viewing frame, I made some fine adjustments. And there it was! The beautiful, beautiful moon, with its pits and scars and craters! So awesome! I couldn’t see the ones the really big one that is so prominent due to that fact that I was seeing less than half of its viewable surface.

 

After I had looked at the moon for as long as I wanted, I began to look for some of the planets. Mars, for instance, was supposed to be visible. There it was! High in the western sky.  Wow! It really is red! I said. That is so cool!

 

   Before I realized it, I had been in the back yard for over 30 minutes.  Unfortunately, it was time to take my new tool into the house, dissemble and repack it.  I dreaded it.

 

To my dismay I noticed that the bottom of the tripod and dug into some dirt and I had brought it into the kitchen. At least it was in any of the carpet.  I took three paper towels and wiped all of the dirt and grass off of the legs. Then I took apart the wing screws and dismounted the body, separating it from the base of the tripod. Next came the three legs.

That part was easy. Now I had to place the parts back into the box and perform surgery, being certain that all 18 gold cardboard staples…well, 16, since I’d have to leave one of the ends loose. If I were going to get caught, this is how it would happen.  Sadly, there was no way to staple all four sides.

 

I placed the box under the bed, leaving the same corner barely visible from under the comforter, just as I had found it.  I felt like I had committed a crime, and I wasn’t proud of it. As a matter of fact, I felt rotten about having done what I did.

 

My parents rolled in shortly before 11, just as they had said.  I was still up, watching an old movie. We had a nice exchange and when my mom asked me if I had eaten cereal for my dinner, I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything.

 

“I didn’t eat,” I admitted.

 

“Are you sick?” she asked.

 

“No.  I got caught up in this old movie. It’s pretty good.”

 

My dad reminded me that I had to get up for Sunday School in the morning and that I ought to think about hitting the sack. I heard him walking down the hall into their bedroom, and in my head I could see him examining that damned telescope box and then yelling at me to come in there. But he didn’t.

 

My dad never mentioned the telescope, and soon I felt okay that I was safe. A burden had been lifted and I felt better, except for a nagging feeling that I had cheated my parents of letting them see my excitement on Christmas Eve when I would have to act genuinely surprised about receiving such a neat gift.

 

Between that Saturday night when I broke into the box and Christmas Eve, I cashed in on the opportunity to play with my telescope two other times.  It would have been three times if the package had not been wrapped in metallic gold wrapping paper.  But that actually a good thing: it kept me from meddling and it let me know that they had not noticed the unstapled end of the box.

 

On Christmas Eve our family gathered to open gifts. Well, one gift for each family member, a tradition that lasted for years, even after my sister married and left the house.

 

I looked under the tree, sized up the gifts, and announced, to no surprise to anyone in the room, that I wanted to open that long box which had been placed behind the tree on the floor in front of the living room window. It was the only place that that huge box would fit.

 

“I want that one,” I said, moving around the recliner, moving behind it to get a grip on the bulky box.  I dragged it like a Labrador retrieving a duck, into an open space where I could test my acting skills in front on the whole family.

 

It was customary for everyone to wait and watch each other unwrap his or her gift, sort of like having a private cheering section.  I began tearing the paper at one of the end of the long box, hoping that it was one of the stapled ends so that no one could possible see the loose staples. It took me less than ten seconds to strip the box of its wrapping. I took a step back after removing the paper and bows and pretend to read the label for the very first time.

 

“Wow!  A telescope!”

 

I pretended to have a bit of trouble removing the first gold packing staple and my dad asked me if I need help.

 

“No, thank. I’ve got it.”

 

I continued to be aware of the loose end of the box, pretending that the staples were particularly stubborn. It was relieved that my short acting career was almost over. That was the hard part.

 

Continuing to “oooh” and “awwww,” I carefully lifted the legs of the tripod out of the box and tried to look a bit puzzled. Once again my dad offered his assistance, and I figured that this time I’d better let him help.  It took less than five minutes for us to have the telescope assembled and ready to view.

 

“Let’s take it out,” I suggested.

 

My mom reminded us that there were three other family members who just might want to open their gifts before we took my telescope outside.

 

“You’re right,” I admitted. “Sorry about that.”

 

“It’s okay,” she said.  “You’re just excited. It’s understandable.”

 

After the other gifts had been opened, my dad and I took my new possession out in to the back yard.  The moon was a bit lower in the sky than it had been a month earlier when I had taken it on the first rest drive.

 

We got it all set up and started looking at the surface of the moon. I continued to act totally in awe.  As I was backing away from the viewing tube to let my dad take a look, he said, “Hey, son…you left a tiny bit of dirt on the leg of one of your tripods. You’d better go in and clean it off of the rug before your mother blames it on the dog.”

 

 

TO SAVE THE PLANET

John Smith

 

The CNN announcement came on the December 21, first day of winter. With a broad smile and joy in his voice, the Anchor of News Around the World began. “Global Warming will be abated. Thanks to concentrated research by scientists working on a ‘black project’ entitled, “Chill baby Chill”.

“This hand-picked group of biologists, physicists, geothermal specialists and others have been working for the past fifteen years. Hidden away on the Apache Nation, they were deep below ground testing various theories and experimenting at various laboratories.”

On Earth’s surface, the constant whining of Al Gore and his Climate change cronies (aka greenhouse effect, global warming, Climate Change and a dozen other names), were shocked and mystified when the announcement informed the world that a fleet of Aurora space crafts had been built and launched from around the world.

The announcement, made at the very moment the fifteen craft armada joined at an estimated 20,000 miles above Earth’s atmosphere. The plan: connect the fifteen ships, assemble the pre-fab ‘atmosphere equalizer’ and orbit from the magnetic north pole to the south, then return north on the opposite side of the planet.

The estimated time to complete the assembly of the atmosphere equalizer, test and launch the variety of products that would save the earth was six months.

Experts reported the ‘equalizer’ would return the earth’s temperatures to what current science considered normal by not only adjusting temperatures on the surface, but stabilize and regulate the principal layers of the atmosphere, balance the thickness and pressure of the layers, monitor density and mass. Last but not least, a living product was being introduced to eliminate the air pollution caused by a variety of dangerous products released into the air daily. Carbon pollutants were soon to be a thing of the past.

From time to time, the media would break into television and radio programs to announce the progress of the space scientists. In addition, secondary scientists and politicians would be interviewed concerning this miracle of miracles to save the planet and human race. It was touted that in less than three years, the skies would be clear, seasons would become stable; deadly storms would be a thing of the past. Earth would be a paradise for all.

In August the space station held a special news conference; just in time for the evening news on the east coast of America. All forms communication went live to the space station. The combined space crafts had created a large laboratory, living quarters and most importantly, and command center for the fifty men and women on board.

“Greetings Planet Earth, this is Major Sam Houston of the newly completed Geofirm Space Station.” The major, wearing casual clothing and smiling at the camera continued. “In a few minutes, our team is going to initiate the release the Atmosphere Equalizer formula and begin our journey around the world. When finished, our world will become the paradise as described in many ancient texts. Pure air, water, temperatures will be the norm.”

A woman approached the camera. “Hello, I am Doctor Louise G. Robinovitch, lead researcher and creator of the Atmosphere Equalizer. Over the last six months experts have already explained how a variety of lasers, chemicals and live virus materials will be  used to correct the atmospheric calamities created my mankind over thousands of years. As we begin our travels, the effect of our discovery will be all but instantaneous. Please step outside and enjoy the show, the sky will change in color a multitude of times as our formula invades each level of the atmosphere, right down to the soil and oceans below.”

Various cameras provided a multi-screen vision of the scientists at work. The major and his people assumed their stations and within minutes, it was announced the Geofirm Space Station was on the move.

Major Houston returned on the screen… “Our round trip will take about 72 hours. We are going to sign off, and return to you when the mission is complete.”

All media returned to normal broadcasting, however, it was quickly interrupted by the various networks repeating, rehashing and interviewing anyone willing to discuss the project. Cameras were set up from around the world as the light show reflected that change in the atmospheres about ground level. Day or night, the it was exciting to watch the earth begin to heal herself.

Exactly 72 hours later, all electronic media once again focused on the Geofirm Space Station. In the past three days, the subject had been hashed and rehashed; even the paranoids and Doomsday groups had joined in the discussion. One side talked about the glory of a clean earth, the other raved about how the government and science were planning to destroy everyone.

The Preppers were secure in their fallout shelters in preparation for Armageddon. The Hippies were holding music and dance fests in every city and town around the world.

Once again Dr. Louise smiled into the camera. “Good Evening everyone. We on Geofirm are pleased to announce that we have completed our infusion of the atmosphere. We will monitor our efforts by circulating the earth south to the equator. We will circle the earth, then proceed south to the south pole. On radar, we will be completing a giant figure eight.  We will continue this process for the next two weeks. Our instruments will inform us if our efforts are having the appropriate effect. We will report our findings every three days, worldwide, at 5 pm eastern time. At this point I can report that everything is on program and target.”

On the fifth day, the fringe news networks began reporting strange news bulletins being received from remote places on the planet. It was not clear, but it appeared that the living was experiencing indescribable changes. Human bodies began rotting and those rotting were devouring the unaffected people around them.

On day 10, certain print media began reporting those were rotting  dying gained strength and becoming indestructible. Of course, these and other stories were common place in ‘those’ type of publications and were ignored.

Day twenty arrived with ‘breaking news’ from Fox News and other 24 hour networks stating that small town and cities were fighting some sort of infection that appeared change normal, everyday people into rotting cannibals.

On the twenty-fifth day, the space craft Geofirm once again interrupted all forms of communication. “Greetings Earth…this is Captain Houston and Dr. Robinovitch. We are pleased to announce that our experiment is a complete success. All areas of the atmosphere are returning to normal. Earth’s temperature is beginning to level worldwide.”

The doctor stepped in front of the camera. “There is a portion of this experiment that was not discussed with those who provided the money to fund this program or those outside our small community,” she smiled as she spread her arms out to the interior of the spacecraft. “We have monitored your communications, and yes, a side effect of this cure is that the dead and rotting continue to walk and consume the healthy.”

Her smile grew, “It is true, those who died since the formula touched the ground are the walking dead those living and infected suffer the same illness. At this point in time, all infected are hungry. For those of you who were not infected by the fallout…you are food.” She laughed.

“Yes, the earth will be a paradise in five years. In that time, the Zombies will devour all living souls they can find. When they run out of food, they too shall fall and rot. We 50 and those who can survive over five years underground shall inherit the earth … a true paradise.” Her laughter was heard as she broke communication.

 

Walking Sole’s

Teresa Mohme

 

 

A customer insisted that the cobbler use a rare leather to re-sole his worn out old boots.  They were so tattered that the cobbler suggested purchasing a new pair instead.  Shaking his head the man said, “My boots soul has requested the special leather.  I cannot go against what a soul has asked of me.”

 

The cobbler sensed a familiar tone in the old mans’ voice.  Such talk about souls disturbed him greatly.  Where had he heard this before?

 

Putting the disturbing thoughts out of his mind, he sent his apprentice away to find the rare leather.  Many days passed without word from his helper.  Swamped with repairs, the cobbler wished he had never sent his apprentice on a fouls errand.  After all, leather was just something useful from dead animals.

 

Twenty times the old man came into the shop.  Each time demanding the sole’s repair and refusing to choose different leather.  He would whisper, “Soon your soul will walk with me again” as he lovingly touched his boots on the shelf.  With great sadness in his eyes, he would slowly walk away.

 

One morning, after seven weeks of searching, the cobblers apprentice showed up empty handed.  The cobbler would have to return the shoes without walkable soles.  He was sure to lose his reputation if word got out that he could not fill a special request.  Even more damaging would be the story of a request coming from the soul of ancient boots.

 

The cobbler looked where he had kept the old man’s boots.  They were gone.  There had been no signs of a break-in.  How could the boots be missing?

 

Frantically searching, the cobbler cleaned out his shop.  In the furthest, darkest corner, he made an amazing discovery.  A large piece of the rare leather with two soles already cut out.  The pattern was exactly the right size needed to re-sole the still missing boots.  Disbelief overwhelmed him.

 

Within his exhausted mind, whispers about souls caused him to remember.  A long time ago every time the circus came to town, a gypsy would come into his shop.  Trying to convince him that all the tools, leather, and repairs he did was much more than just physical objects.

 

The gypsy said, “Everything has a soul.  You also pass on a part of your soul when you do repairs.  Be mindful of this, for they could come back to haunt you.”

 

The circus and the gypsy had stopped coming twenty years ago.  However, the cobbler could not shake the uneasy feeling that had overtaken him.  He dozed off, knowing in his heart that he could not explain the missing boots.

 

A delightful song and the ringing of the shop’s bell startled the cobbler.  Shading his eyes from the morning sun the cobbler saw the old man standing in front of him.

 

He said, “This morning I awoke to find my old boots repaired and returned to their rightful place.  I feel so alive now that I have my old friends back on my feet.”

 

The cobbler tried to explain that he had not repaired nor returned the boots and could not accept payment.

 

The old man ignored the cobblers’ words.  As he left money on the counter, he said, “Be mindful, for there is truth to what the gypsy told you.”

 

 

Within days after the old man’s reminder, customers’ started returning their repaired shoes.  They complained that knots were coming loose and seams were rubbing blisters on their feet.  The cobbler quickly made repairs without charge.

 

The cobblers apprentice quit, sensing that people would not be returning.  He would seize the opportunity to open his own shop.

 

Just when the cobbler thought things could not get worse; they did.  Boots and shoes he had resoled just months ago had already worn out.  His customers were furious.

 

Promising to purchase new leather and do repairs free, he convinced some patrons to give him another chance.

 

He walked to the rancher’s farm with determination in his stride.  Like a watchdog sounding the alarm, a bull started bellowing.  The shattering sound said, “The gypsy warned you.” The bull never stopped repeating the sound until the cobbler reached the farmhouse.

 

The rancher showed the cobbler the leather he had for sale.  With perfect thickness and excellent condition, the cobbler was satisfied with his purchase.  He asked the rancher, “Did you hear your bull bellowing before I arrived?”

 

With a surprised look, the rancher said, “That would be impossible.  He can’t make a sound.  No vocal cords.”

 

In a fog of disbelief, the cobbler returned to his shop and started on the backlog of free repairs.  He would be broke soon.  He threw down the leather.  Grabbing a pair of boots, he started angrily cutting out new soles. All the while cursing the day the gypsy came into his shop.

 

He quickly became exhausted.  Laying down for a short rest, his mind sees the old man.  The boots with a soul, that disappeared from his shop.  How did they repair themselves and end up at the old man’s house?

 

A fitful dream gave him the answer.  The cobbler watched as four trolls repaired and returned the boots to the old man.  He tried hard to wake himself up, but the trolls just kept carrying shoes out of his shop.

 

The cobbler awoke to an empty shop.  Leather and tools were scattered everywhere.  He no longer had any shoes to repair.  They were all gone.

 

Distraught and defeated he closed his shop.  Hiding his disgrace under the cloak of darkness, he started walking out of town.  Passing close-by the new Sole-ful Repair Shop he heard his old apprentice gently singing as he worked.

 

Writer’s Cramp

Gary Adolph

Cramp-“a temporary paralysis of muscles from over use”-Webster’s

I’m wide awake at 2am

Yes, it happened once again.

At first I thought it was a dream

Then it fit just as it seemed.

One little line had kept me up

It wouldn’t rhyme, I was stuck.

I put it down as I always have

Knowing separation is good salve.

And just as I was in deep sleep

This line onto my pillow seeped.

From deep inside my restless head

It came after I had gone to bed.

And know as you are reading this

A writer’s sleep is not pure bliss.

“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” Ray Bradbury, WD



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