Patiently Waiting in the Cupboard 0

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The mouse sat with the candle light filling his eyes. The light flickered in syncopation opposite his heartbeat with a fast shadow or a flash of color. He drew closer to the sound of laughter. He could be patient. If he sat still enough, and long enough, their eating and laughter would end. Nothing would disrupt his patience. He had to believe it. His wait could last a while.

A wooden spoon, dipped in tomato gravy, danced before him. The blood-red sauce dripped down the handle. He flinched thinking fateful thoughts and brought his hands to his face. He dropped his head as a booming declaration bounced passed his ears emphasizing each period. The punctuation buzzed his brain, so he played with his mustache. He listened as the booming intonation echoed through the kitchen and rocked the spice rack with a deeper thrum.

A crumb of lint sat next to him. He brought it up and touched it to his lips. Only a small wad of hair; a discarded piece of an idea. He tossed it to the side and watched it roll away. The shadow jumped back and forth quickly through the mouse hole in a frenetic dance.

Then everything stopped. The animated sound quieted, and the booming became a snore. He heard a female’s unhappy sigh. The light went out.

He inched closer to the jagged hole and poked his nose out. A cool breeze met his mustache. He shuddered. A few more steps, and he clampered out of the cupboard.

He viewed the room. A table with a burned out candle sat in the middle where a large man slept in a seat. Crumbs littered the table next to a half-eaten plate of spaghetti with a large meatball sitting on a bed of red noodles.

He spun around headfirst, dropped to the floor, smoothed out his mustache, and made sure no one saw him. The coast clear, he ran to the nearest chair and scampered up the side.

The reddened edge of the spoon sat near the spaghetti. The sauce sitting in the dented ladle reminded him of his mother’s death. He twitched and made a wide arch around it and turned with relief once he safely escaped it.

On the table, he stacked a few crumbs and tossed some Parmesan behind the candle. He climbed the mountain of spaghetti and rolled the meatball to his feast. He pondered for a moment on the risks and the wait.

Then he ate.

Peaches 0

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Cling. Yellow flesh. Sweet and tart. Melting vanilla ice cream on hot cobbler. Peanut butter and jam. Spicy cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Schnapps. The red and orange caramel around the crust of a pie. Burning the roof of my mouth. Grandma’s kitchen. The sticky, sweet, smell of canning.

They disgusted him. The black birds sitting on the wire looking down at the peaches. The small, green, fruit barely larger than a seed. Skin stretched around the seed. Nothing to see here. Shoo!

The Smell of Sage and Iron 0

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The day-long truck ride started out as an adventure, then a journey, and after the third basin and range, it became a challenge to overcome boredom.

Victor rolled down the window. He stuck his head out far enough for the wind to buffet his face. The blowing wind helped. He shuck off the grog. He blinked a few times. The cool air made his face numb but the inside air made him sleepy.

He reached back in and the heat hit again. He looked at the thermometer. Still more than 96 degrees. Was that inside or out? It didn’t matter. It was still hot.

Not a car passed in two hours. The desert highway lived up to its name as the loneliest road. Looking east across the playa, Victor saw the heat waves rising off the sand. Blue and green forms rose in a dance hypnotic and he ran too close to the edge. He pulled back with a sharp turn. Another mistake would either leave him awake or dead.

He reached over for some water. The bottle felt light and only a sip remained. He took it. The little wetness only made him thirstier. He reached behind him for another bottle. Finding none, he licked the bottom of his front teeth and wet his tongue.

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Tall Tales of Sin 0

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I moved this series of four short stories to Channillo for a couple of reasons:

  1. to force me to keep writing each story;
  2. I like the community.

Readers can now follow the adventures of Cindy Lash. Currently, she is trying to find her dad’s killer and fend off the advances of the manager of a Las Vegas strip club. She also has just met the protagonist of our second story. Eventually, all these stories will overlap and impact on the other.

Channillo is a subscription-based digital publishing platform that allows writers to share their work with readers in regular installments. It is home to hundreds of great series by talented writers from around the world. Series categories include fiction books, columns, short stories, essays, poetry, journal entries, and more.

George Was A Good Man 0

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Edna sucked in the soup. A large noodle stopped at her lip. She tried to tongue it into her mouth and couldn’t reach it. She slipped back into the chair and let out a long sigh.

“I miss George.”

Larry stood up and wiped off her mouth. He lifted her hand up and placed the linen in her lap. She forced a smile patting his hand. He left her chair and moved to the window.

“George was a good man.”

Edna tried to turn her head to look at her son. “Would you mind showing me the pictures?”

Larry looked around his mother’s room. A picture of him and the kids in a frame on an old oak table. A white knitted doily circled the frame. On it another picture of a young George. He wore black Caterpillar hat and a blue jean jacket. He never smiled. He was too busy working.

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Can You Hear Me Now, L.A.? 0

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A loud sneeze sent a nose full of snot onto the steering wheel and the windshield. James held the phone away from the explosion; otherwise, it too would have been covered.

“Are you gonna be alright?” Sally snickered through the phone.

“Damn ragweed.” James looked around for a tissue. He also tried not to run his hand through the sticky mess on his steering wheel. “I’m either blowing my nose or snorting up salt water.”

He dug through the console for a napkin or any kind of paper. He found nothing to wipe his mess.

He clicked on the speaker button and dropped the phone on the passenger’s seat. He moved his left hand through the snot on the wheel. James shook his hand onto the floor and yelled into the phone.

“I don’t have time for this crap.” His pant leg was now covered. “Just email Mike the job, call my doctor, and find me some tissues.”

James turned his convertible onto Mullholland Highway and headed north. The other end of the line was silent.

“I’m in a hole,” he said. “I’ll pop out in a moment.”

The cell towers often dropped calls and Sally waited. She figured he would always call back.

The sun was shining through the dried yellow mucus on the windshield to create a rainbow on his dash. He looked at the light and ignored the bungalows and exclusive homes of Beachwood Canyon.

James turned a few more times up the winding road. He reached for the phone and heard static. Then a voice came through.

“He says he won’t do it this time.” Her voice sounded distant.

“What does that mean?” he shouted. “Of course, he’s going to do it. There’s no one else.”

“I think it will cost more this time.”

“It shouldn’t cost anything more than last time.” He looked at the screen. “The job hasn’t changed.” He slapped the phone on the wheel and turned the car to the right. He corrected before he clipped two bikers on their way to the Hollywood sign.

“Just email him again and make it clear,” James yelled.

He pulled into a far parking spot at Lake Hollywood Park and stopped the car.

WH-form

James fell out of the car along with a stack of bent coffee cups. A wadded up napkin followed the empties and blew off toward the grass. He stumbled up grabbing the wad and ripped it apart. With the paper remains, he dabbed at the steering wheel.

“You still there?”

He heard a silent sigh.

“Good, we can iron this out.”

He explained how Mike had no excuse to refuse.

“It’s easy.” James talked with his arms. He waved his left hand in the air.

“He parks on the fifth floor under the camera.”

“Uh huh.”

“No one will see him get out.”

“Uh huh.”

“He takes the box with him and inches along the wall.”

“Why doesn’t the camera see him?” she said.

“It’s pointed out at the cars and not the wall.”

“Oh,” she said. He could tell she failed to see it.

“The camera points across the garage,” he explained. “It doesn’t see up close.”

“I see.”

He lost track of the next step. Honestly, this would go a lot easier if he could just do it himself.

“No one will see him coming,” he said, while pushing his finger toward the ground.

“I’m not sure everything will fit in the box,” she said.

“They came in the box.” James clinched his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “Why is there a problem?”

“The canisters are too big and he can’t put his mask in the box with everything too,” she said.

“Just have him wear the mask and carry the box.”

A small boy and man passed him in the parking log carrying a kite. James looked up at the sky. A few clouds floated up from the ocean. It was a nice day for playing in the wind.

“Canisters?” he asked.

“They’re cupcakes, for crying out loud,” he shouted. “Just have him carry the cupcakes, wear his mask, and surprise her.”

“Cupcakes?” she asked.

“Yes, a dozen red velvet with the yellow baby bottle sugar decorations.” Sometimes she exasperated him.

“Do you think you can pass this on Sally?”

He heard dead silence on the other end of the phone and he wondered if she understood him. He raised his head and stared at the clouds. He shook his head dumbfounded. He wondered why everything with her required so much energy.

“Sally?” she asked.

She had to know her own name. Sometimes she drove him nuts. He looked around the park for a closer cell tower.

“Sally? James enunciated to make sure she heard him.

“This isn’t Sally.”

He pulled his phone away and then brought it back to his ear.

He heard a man in the background tell the woman to shut up. Then the phone went dead.

A Slight Detour on the Way to Lunch 0

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Today, he refused to eat an ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich. His sandwich would express attitude. It would be special. He aimed to make it wonderful.

John Harvey Kellogg, the guy who invented corn flakes, figured out how to make peanut butter from raw peanuts. The guy who often gets the credit, George Washington Carver, had nothing to do with it. Richard Allen Hofacker knew all about the main use for peanut butter; a protein substitute. He also knew why doctors use it to detect Alzheimer’s; it tests a person’s sense of smell. A day without peanut butter was a waste.

The time making his peanut butter sandwich took too long. Hofacker figured it would take as long as the three-minute video. It took longer. Hofacker fired up the waffle iron. It took five minutes to get hot. He reached into the wrapping covering the bread, with organic blue cornmeal, and he pulled out two slices. The iron was hot and he dropped both slices in, moving them around to cover all the holes, and pressed down. The video explained it was best to flatten the bread first. That seemed like it would take longer, but Hofacker hadn’t tried the recipe before.

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Edit: An Accidental Life 1

The bumper he was following ahead suddenly stopped and he slammed on the brakes. In the rearview mirror, he watched as a red streak narrowed the distance. He turned to Candice and said, “I’m sorry,.just as it hit. She lunged forward in a violent snap. His head cracked on the dash as bits of metal flew by himHe saw bits of metal fly past his head, which landed on the dash with a crack.

The image froze and he watched the wreck from above. He saw all of the angles. He saw his BMW stop and the Mustang behind coming faster. He marveled at how the BMW’s trunk rolled up. The Mustang hit violently and its hood bounced over its top. He watched it again from the front mirror. He saw the red hood coming at him. coming up fast.  He looked down over at Candice. She lunged forward in slow motion. He wondered if she was okay.

He rolled the images back and repeated the accident. He was about to start a replay the accident again when he heard the voice.

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Edit and Repeat 0

All of the great writers say the real writing starts with the rewrite. Most of what I write comes out as first draft and I leave it alone; no sense in revisiting it.

However…

I want to get better and that means a rewrite is warranted.

What you may notice is that some of my stories will appear again with redlines and edits. Finally, I will post the final draft.

This blog was always going to be more of a working space rather than a place to showcase finished projects. In fact, I have a few projects underway that I have not returned to in a while.

Mark Twain used to leave stories in a cubby-hole until they wanted to be worked on again. I have a few cubbies!

Anyway, stories with an edit will be marked Edit and stories in final draft (is anything really final?) will be replaced after the edit.

Plato’s Bougainvillea Vine 1

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Merrily and cheerfully, Benedict woke from his night’s sleep and rolled over to silence the alarm. The time a precise 6 o’clock. The window blind remained down and no light streamed from underneath. The dark winter night refused to let any light in. Benedict rolled under the comforter and went about waking Alice.

He softly patted her ears with his nose and kissed her cheek. She stirred slowly and smiled.

“Another lovely morning dear,” she cooed.

“As good as the last,” Benedict said.

He reached underneath and tickled the soft skin under her knee. She laughed and pushed him away. She looked up at his scrabble of beard and placed a hand on his chin.

“I think you should run to the shower,” she said.

He tried to grab her knee again, but she was too quick and jumped out of the bed. She turned on the hot water, slammed the shower door, and ran to toilet. He stood outside waiting his turn. Done, she squirmed past and avoided a kiss. He laughed and went in after her. Quickly, both were naked with the hot water swirling past their bodies.

Benedict picked up the loofah and soap. He started lathering up the suds and soon was bathing her shapely breasts. She was perfect. Smart, a great figure, and sweet. He had hit the jackpot. With the soap covering her wet chest, Benedict reached down and attempted to kiss her breast.

“Not today. We’re late for work,” Alice said. The clock on her dresser let her know 19 minutes were gone. “We have got to go.”

She rinsed the rest of the soap and turned off the water leaving Benedict without a shave.

“Sorry.”

Alice turned on the water again as she bounced out. The shower door slammed and she left him to finish his face.

Benedict parted his hair and reached for his pressed, white, dress shirt. He then put on his navy khakis. He pulled an errant hair in place and stood before the mirror. He presented himself as a successful young career man. He smiled back at the picture of himself.

Alice dabbed atop an eye and sat at the mirror half ready. She still needed to find her dress. Benedict’s digital watch plainly showed 10 more minutes gone. Both had a minute to leave. Not going to happen, thought Benedict.

“I’ll make you a coffee,” he said.

“Not too much creamer,” she said. He walked toward the kitchen down the unlighted hall. Benedict shivered at the cold, notched up the heat two degrees, and went straight to the coffee maker. It was still a bit too dark. The sun would soon rise along with another day of deals and phone calls.

He slipped the coffee pod in the maker, checked the water, and waited. A slow drip of coffee started towards his cup. He tapped the counter, rubbed his nose, and tapped again. Soon the maker let out an exhausted sigh as two errant drops filled the cup. Benedict topped it off with creamer and pulled the cup to his lips.

He looked down at the creamy coffee. Simply a sip. As he brought the cup down to his chest, he stared out the window. The returning darkness appeared too dark. Benedict dropped the cup into the sink and the ceramic handle broke off at the bottom. Benedict leaned into the window.

Alice ran into the kitchen alarmed.

“I dropped your cup,” Benedict said. He looked around the side of the window and stared off into the dark. Alice drank in the smell of the spilled coffee. She reached into the sink and pulled out the broken cup.

“Mother bought me this,” she said. Alice looked up at Benedict and followed his gaze out the window. Alice dropped the broken cup into the sink.

“Nothing but black.” Alice shouted.

Benedict turned to her scrunched face. Terror filled her eyes. He looked back at the nothingness and a wash of terror shook him.

He ran out the pantry, through the garage door, and flipped the automatic door switch. Darting to the door, he waited for it to open.

As the door moved up its rails, pure darkness filled the garage. He could barely see the tail end of his red sedan. Garden rakes and hoes lined up near the door and his rack of junk lined the other side. Outside the garage, deep blackness replaced the missing driveway. He reached out over the edge of the door and looked down. The house seemed to float above the dark. He looked around the edge of the door to the front of the house. From every corner, nothing remained of the plants, the trees, or the road.

Benedict jumped back feeling nauseous and dizzy. He turned back to look at Alice. She looked dead and he gasped.

“It is all gone.” she said.

Alice ran to Benedict and grabbed his waist. He felt off-balance as she reached out into the blackness. It felt cool and dry to the touch. No light came from the sun or the sky. Alice shuddered and held Benedict tighter.

Back by the sink, Alice gathered up the bits of cup while Benedict stared out the window. The dark took over filling his mind with dread. It penetrated his mind until his memory lacked definition. Everything seemed a blur. Alice dropped the broken cup into the garbage compactor and it thumped into the bottom of the can. Benedict continued to stare. The outside of the window never seemed important to him. Now he yearned to fill in the blank.

He closed his eyes and waited. He concentrated on his memory outside the window.

“A bougainvillea vine with tiny pink flowers stood off in the distance. The wind would make its limbs float and the flowers bounced up from the ground,” he said. “Sometimes a ruby-throated hummingbird would jump in the flowers. She hovered and darted back and forth.” Alice smiled at the memory.

Benedict clinched his eyes and thought about the bird. He could almost see it bouncing flower-to-flower; its wings drawing a whirlwind of color. He liked the memory too.

“Tell me more,” she said.

Benedict thought more about the shape of the leaves and the color of the flowers. Each petal was a soft angel of pink and white. The leaves were thin and pointed; slightly narrow at the ends and light green. He told Alice about the leaves. She could almost see them framing the flowers. He moved on.

“At the front of the window, yellow and pink roses grew in the spring. And once I saw a huge grasshopper, yellow and brown, sitting next to one of the flowers. It sat on a leaf and didn’t mind my stare,” he said.

“Tell more about the roses,” she said.

“I know they were huge,” he said. “Big enough to fall apart in the wind. And each petal was tipped in white.”

He strained to paint the roses as the color swirled in his memory. He clinched his eyes tighter as if that would help him see better.

“The flowers grew in clusters of three and their colors blended together from white at the tip to deep pink at the bottoms,” he said. Alice started to see them too.

He opened his eyes and looked out at the dark. Ghosts of the pink tree and the roses began to fade. He tried to imagine them with his eyes open. The narrow green leaves held up the pink flowers. Slowly, he started to see more color through the tree. Its leaves bouncing in the wind. The ghostly image started to brighten and he could see the entire shape of the tree. In the dark a small tree filled the space.

“Tell me about the roses again,” he quickly said to Alice. She looked at his face. He seemed to be getting back some color.

“They were yellow and pink, growing in clusters, and you once saw a grasshopper staring back,” she repeated.

His gaze seemed distant and Alice wondered what he was imaging. All she saw was a milky black outside the window. Clearly, Benedict pictured their world in his mind.

Suddenly, the outline of a tree and a small clusters of roses filled the window. Alice jumped back. Color filled the right corner of the dark. She thought about mountains in the distance. They began to fill in the top of the window.

Benedict looked over at Alice and smiled.

“Did you remember the mountains?” he said.

She nodded and looked back at the scene. She thought about a fountain and birds jumping in the water. The dark green of the water reflected back light and glinted off the window.

“I remember,” she said. “Over there, a bougainvillea vine grew up on a trellis.” The left corner of the dark window began to fill with red flowers.

Color replaced the milky black and the entire window reached out with depth into the distance.

Benedict and Alice looked out the window and marveled at the colors and the objects in the garden. It was as they remembered it.

“Let’s go work on the rest of the outside,” said Benedict. He grabbed Alice’s hand and pulled her to the living room window.

~

In a dark room illuminated only by a computer screen, Charles nibbled on a pretzel stick and typed a line of code. He reached for another pretzel as Todd walked in looking like he needed a shower. His oily hair lined up in a string over the bald patch above his forehead.

“Hackers managed to scrub the background leaving just a few buildings,” said Charles. “I shut down the servers and am slowly bringing them back up.”

“Did we get the algorithm back?” Todd asked.

“Not yet,” Charles said. “But over here something weird is happening.”

He pointed to a small house inside the computer screen.

“The program seems to be healing itself,” Charles said.

“Without the background simulation algorithm? That makes no sense,” Todd said.

“I know. But look outside this window,” he said. “The plants are there and over here by this window the background elements are also filling in.”

“It has to be the cache,” Todd said. “These games don’t just pop up out of nowhere. They need someone to see the code and make the pictures. Now, bring it back up. I want to go home.”

Charles dropped in a new line of code. He brought up the first server and reached for a second pretzel. He looked at the small building in the simulation.

“I will debug that glitch later,” he thought, clearing the cache. He returned to his task of rebuilding the simulation with light, color, and depth. In an hour, Charles stuffed another pretzel in his mouth. On the screen, the colors of the simulated world returned and the game was back online.