The Double Chocolate Bar 0

He brought out the candy and tore the top edge exposing the chocolate. She longed for it. He snapped off the end and brought it to his mouth. He felt eyes on him and looked directly at the girl. She sat across from him on the upper deck. She smiled, and turned away.

He moved the chocolate with his tongue and let the richness roll through his mouth. He caught her looking again. She smiled and buried her head in the sweater laying next to the window. He approached her. “Miss, can I give your daughter some of my chocolate?”

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Author Reading: A Diamond in Her Eye 0

“You’ll never get me to tell you where the jewels are,” the child said. She leaned back and smirked. So starts my short story “A Diamond in Her Eye” about a precocious little girl who also happens to be a jewel thief. How, you might ask? She is a shape-shifter. The story came about after one of those police procedurals on television where the detectives lean on the accused. I thought the twist of having a small child as the suspected thief would add a new twist.


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The Sweet Smell of Rotting Flesh 0

Hot breath touched her neck and she sidestepped left running hard until the sweet smell of rotting flesh faded. She landed in a hole and pulled leaves over her. She waited. The sweet smell drifted again to her nose. She stopped breathing and listened. Warm drool fell on her head. She drew into the hole and stifled a scream.

Now the sweet smell was gone. She sat listening. No sounds. She waited still before peeking out through the leaves. The black snout bared its fangs inches from her nose. Then the dog stuck out its tongue and licked her face.

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Greyhound Arriving – Chapter 12 0

The Coin Castle King

All the discarded neon from the hotels, motels, clubs, and casinos of Las Vegas ended up in the boneyard. Once shiny and bright, signs now waited here to die. Tucked behind a sign company, the boneyard only took visitors by appointment. It made a kitschy place to meet.

Todd preferred this spot to any other place in Las Vegas. It wrapped up all of the glitter, glamour, and glitz into one place where secrets came to be forgotten.

Wallace and Cindy found Todd standing beneath the Coin Castle King. The massive statue offered anyone a coin. For years, the king stood on Fremont Street until Todd decided to build his office and turned the casino below into a slots parlor. Nothing in Vegas lasts; the Coin Castle King stood rusting in the boneyard.

Two men approached Wallace and Cindy. A bigger man with a mustache outstretched his hand. He pulled Wallace closer as they shook hands. The big bodyguard whispered in Wallace’s ear. The man stepped back and waited. Wallace took out his revolver and handed the gun to the man.

“We’re just here to talk,” Wallace said. He regretted parting with the gun, but it made no sense to start a fight.

The smaller bodyguard smoothed his hands over Cindy’s leather pants. He found no weapons. Wallace never gave Cindy a gun, a pocketknife, or anything that could be used as a weapon. She even left the rim fire pistol behind.

She stood behind Wallace and peaked at Todd. A flood of emotions ripped through her and she lunged at him. Todd took a step back and let his bodyguards stop her.

“Look girl, my fight was never with you,” Todd said. “Me and your dad had a disagreement, but you never came up.”

Continue Reading

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Sheep May Safely Graze – Part Two 0

From his knapsack, Xabier retrieved a crust of sourdough bread and a jar of jelly made from some red berries that reminded him of pomegranate seeds. The jelly reminded him of the taste of Earth apples. He thought about his mother making jelly. Long dead, he presumed. He didn’t understand the reason why, but when he signed up for this job he was told time took on a different meaning here. Although he aged barely a year, decades past on Earth and his mother now likely rested in a plot under the olives.

He covered the bread in jelly and brought the crust up to his lips for a bite.

“Ze arraio?”

He saw the flock rush away from the center of the meadow and make a stand against the far rocks. Xabier saw the black and two white sheep fell on the ground bleating like they were dying. He rose off the ground grabbing his staff and using it like an oar to bounce across the field to the fallen sheep. He dropped to the ground in a dead run to the center of the herd. He touched the neck of the nearest animal and brought up a hand covered in blood.

Another animal fell to the ground and the herd ran away from the danger. Xabier thought he saw a ripple of light and a blue flash right before the ewe fell. Her lamb spun away as another blue flash zipped from a ripple of light.

Something was out there hunting the sheep!

“Atzera,” he shouted, but the threat seemed to move closer to the herd. He saw another ripple and, for an instant, he thought he saw a face. Another animal fell and he concluded he needed to move the herd.

He whistled long and hard. The sheep scrambled away from the rock fall and ran toward the barn.

“Laster exekutatu. Run, my lovelies.”

He flew up the length of his staff and bounced up to the herd. He paddled forward over and over until he reached the barn door, opening it quickly to let the sheep spill in. Safe inside, the animals stood in their breathing masks against the far wall of the barn. A collective bleating sound could be heard as ewes searched for their lambs. Xabier looked through a portal to the meadow below. He saw a distinct ripple pattern moving the dead sheep off the field until five animals bordered the far side of the meadow.

He then saw the dead sheep vanish from the meadow as if they were erased. He had been warned about the hunters, but never thought he would encounter them.


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Plan for World Domination 0

A Conversation

“That’s interesting.”

“What is?”

“This video on stem cells.”

“How so?”

“It says we can convert fat cells into stem cells and rebuild our bodies.”


“You sound like you already knew this.”

“No. But it all makes sense now.”

“How so?”

“The plan for world domination. It all started in the 50s with Americans eating too much.”

“Okay. I still don’t follow.”

“Fatten up the populace until they can’t walk and then rebuild them into lean fighting machines.”

“I hardly think Uncle Rick will be turned into a fighting machine.”

“Just look at him. Paunchy, big ol belly. He’s perfect for fat cell conversion.”

“Yeah, but still. He lacks motivation.”

“That’s the genius behind this plan. They can suck out Uncle Rick’s fat cells when he’s sleeping and when he wakes up he’ll be a marine!”

“World domination huh?”

“Yep. Just another reason for the world to hate us.”

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Sheep May Safely Graze – Part One 0

Tin, ting, tin, tang rang the bells of Cantata Nº 208. The boy rubbed sleep from his eyes and covered them to block the dancing sunlight streaming through a slit. He slipped on boots, a filter, and gloves.  The red sun inched across the sky and it would be half a Earth-month before nightfall. Without the chimes, he might have missed feeding time.

Small frame, calloused hands, a full head of sandy-brown hair, he looked very much like a boy, although he celebrated his 20th birthday three Earth-months ago. He lost track of the time on this planet where the sun hung in sky for roughly 37 Earth days. Xabier escaped indentured servitude in the Kleroaren army by signing on as a sheepherder on this planet. Neither the nobles nor the clergy appealed to his solitary habits and rural ambitions, so he ran as fast as he could to the spaceport outside Barcelona. Nineteen months of hibernation, passage along Femmes Soliton, and then he arrived. Xabier was left alone with a coat, a knapsack, a blanket, a staff, and some sheep to herd on the outskirts of the galaxy.

The atmosphere felt dense as he floated to the barn sitting in the center of the Slydal Plain. The sheep numbered 99 and 1 huddled in a stable fashioned from a rusting freighter. The herd had trampled bracken across the metal floor, which the sheepherder had cut earlier when the sun sat only inches from its current position. He wished for nightfall if only to see the stars of the Pyrenees Constellation.

While close to a perfect mixture, the shepherd and sheep still needed a filter to achieve a good mix of breathable air. He retrieved a bag of filters from the tack and proceeded to fit them around black noses. “Egun ona Maite.” Xabier pulled the filter straps tight against the animal’s neck then placed a weight belt on her haunches. “Egun ona Ander.” He wished each animal a good day until the wooly faces stood in a corner anticipating the rush to the pasture.

Xabier slipped a weight belt around him, picked up a staff, and opened the gate. Bright, white light rushed into the barn and the sheep bounced back into the shadows. “Nire maitaleak. Run, my lovelies.” The sheep leaped from the barn spilling out on the bright green pastureland, their front feet floating off the ground, anchored to the soil with only their hindquarter weight belts. Soon they settled down, their heads bobbing off the ground with each taste of the grass, as if they were bottom heavy drinking birds bouncing into a glass.

He took flying leaps over to a rock slab where he rested watching the sheep graze nestled between towering cliffs and rock outfalls in the high-mountain valley. Nymphs and prairie gnats bounced in his hair, he smelled lavender rose, and heard the sound of locust hum interrupted now and then by the bleating of sheep. The shepherd believed this valley felt most like the home he imagined on Earth.

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Greyhound Arriving – Chapter 11 0

Neon Boneyard

Cindy slept in a grey REO Speedwagon shirt on the overstuffed couch in Wallace’s office. A gauze bandage covered the hole in her arm and she crammed her bare toes into the cushion for comfort. The day had been a whole lot of trouble.

Wallace gave her the t-shirt and some jeans from a bag his daughter stashed under his desk. Laying on the couch, Wallace realized how much Cindy reminded him of his girl. She no longer seemed tough; she seemed more like a small child. He thought this over as he studied the Hacienda Horse & Rider sign on Las Vegas Boulevard. At this end of town, the sign seemed out of place far from the neon of the Strip.

He picked up the phone and waited for it to connect. He watched tourists walk past his window as he waited. The conversation went right to the point.

“The girl is here,” Wallace said.

He listened to the voice in the receiver.

“We’ll meet you at the boneyard at 7.”

The line went dead. Wallace watched Cindy sleep. He rocked back the chair and closed his eyes.

A few hours went by and the afternoon sun lit up Wallace’s face. He opened his eyes and spotted Cindy watching him. He placed a hand on his forehead and yawned. His nap failed to refresh him. Cindy tapped an impatient toe on the linoleum.

“So, now what?” Cindy asked. Wallace run his hands through his hair. He was unsure how to proceed.

“Todd will talk with you tonight. But he has his suspicions.”

Wallace wondered too what Cindy planned to do when she met with Todd. Unless she planned to choke him, murder was out of the question. Earlier he placed her bloodstained dress in his trash and he had not found a gun or a knife. Whatever revenge she planned ruled out a gunfight.

“What do you plan to do?” Wallace asked.

“He murdered my daddy and I plan to make up for it.” Cindy suddenly seemed aware of her lack of resources. The stub nose now seemed inadequate. She never wanted to fire it anyway. Still, shooting him was an option.

“I thought you could lend me a gun.”

“Oh, hell no,” Wallace said. “I am not going to help you shoot him. I will help you talk, but nothing more.”

Cindy considered using some charm then dumped the idea. Wallace was now a friend and she did not want to spoil it.

“Besides, I promised no guns, no knifes, no nothing,” Wallace said. “We’re just going to hear his side of the story.”

Cindy stamped her foot down hard and the lights on the Hacienda sign rolled around. Wallace watched the lights slowly dim and decided it was an odd coincidence. Cindy crossed her arms and stood beside his chair. She placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I made a promise to my dad,” Cindy said. “I can’t just let it go.

Wallace nodded in agreement. If Todd had killed her dad, she had a right to even up the score. Nevertheless, the years had taught him there are many nuances to consider. He wanted to hear Todd’s story.

“Let’s just go talk,” Wallace said. He still checked the Beretta in his holster to be safe. One thing being a deputy had taught him; it is better to come ready for a fight then to walk into an ambush.

Cindy hugged his neck and smiled. She was going to get revenge. All they had to do was meet up with Todd Loudin.


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Feeding Your Muse with Music 0

Sometimes the best way to fill a blank page is to feed your muse with some writing music. While I would love to have a writing table overlooking the ocean near the cliffs of Big Sur, I can still get there with some music to remind me of the atmosphere and the setting. Of course, writing music also helps me get into a new scene or chapter.

Now, this isn’t a treatise on what type of music to listen to. I get inspiration from country, rock, pop, or classical styles. However, it is a reminder that music is a powerful way to get you into a particular place or character’s mind. Is it any wonder music soundtracks often hang with us longer than the film? That is because music feeds our inner muse and makes the story stronger.

Merle Haggard’s Seashores of Old Mexico serves as inspiration for my work in progress, Fish Tacos. The song tells a story of a fugitive on the run who discovers love in Mexico and a reason to stay on the run.

In fact, story songs are often the best for prompting a new story. What happened to the protagonist? As a writer, we can tell their next story. So, dig out those old vinyl records or that lost playlist and listen. You might find a story hidden in the feeling you get from the music. Even our muse needs writing music from time-to-time to keep us writing.

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The Face Behind the Frame 0

In the periphery, he saw children wearing uniforms crowded around an adult giving them instructions for the day. He neglected to smooth his tunic. No need. It never changed. He clinched his knee keeping his slender fingers straight. The letter balanced on the edge of the table. One errant breeze and it would fall. He hoped it didn’t land out of the frame. He stared into the exhibit hall waiting for the children. One curiously looked up. He realized she had missed him to examine a pastoral scene over his head. He glared more intently to catch her eye.

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