Tag Archives: daily

Cold

It was the season’s first dip below 32 degrees. And the day’s wind was a harbinger for the months that lay ahead. As it picked away the leaves of fall one by one, and sent so many to their sleep, winter began its long crawl into Sterling Corners.

Chase Hatkins drove down that last mile of 420 before his exit to home. It was dark because it was late, but he reconciled that with the notion that with winter setting in, it would have been dark anyway. He glanced up at the billboard touting “Crazy Low Round Trip Airfares to St. Pete, Orlando and other Locales” and “Round Trip to Miami – $75.” He seemed to catch that one every time, as if it had brighter lights on it which more effectively drew his attention. Just thinking about the cold gave him an uncomfortable shiver in his spine, or perhaps, a touch of nausea.

He didn’t hate winter. It had its charm, in spots, but as he got older, the cold seemed to settle into his bones faster and deeper than he could recall and finding the charm in it all was more o f a struggle each year.

The billboard zipped by, but its message left a subtle impression on him that combined with the slight memories of his past few sightings which seemed to generate some consideration on its message. Chase hated the notion of being manipulated, but damn if the billboard wasn’t doing its job.

It had been over eleven years since he took a vacation. It was a long weekend in Virginia Beach because his feet demanded that they be soaked in the rippling waves of the ocean for a few days. He liked vacations. He liked being away. He was so good at forgetting everything he was responsible for back home that is was almost as if he became a wholly other person. And as he thought about “Crazy Low Round Trip Airfares to St. Pete, Orlando and other Locales” and “Round Trip to Miami – $75,” and balanced that against the pending winter, a tiny ember of longing stirred in his soul.

He could take a vacation, a trip to someplace warm. It would probably be good for him. The airfare seemed right. Then again, he knew those posted airfares were bait meant to lure longing minds like his to dangerous considerations with the promise inexpensive opportunities. A round trip flight to Miami might start at $75, but there would surely be rate windows and limitations, then fees and taxes to make the real cost something higher. Then, there was lodging to consider … and food.

If he tapped out his available savings he could probably spend three economical weeks away soaking up sun rays and forgetting about his frozen existence back home. Work would have no part of it of course. Nobody was allowed more than a week at a time to ensure production quotas. Another consideration was that even after whatever time he could cobble together, he would have to come back. Not only to work, but to the dark and the cold, to his humble abode and to the real life he lead, one far less dramatic and important than the lives he created while away.

He deserved it right? Maybe. Maybe he only deserved what he had because whether by design or by default, that was what he earned.

A burst of wind pushed hard against his car as he left the highway to head up Stiger Road. A neon palm tree flickered in the window of the Southern Heat Tanning Salon. The man on the radio began to talk about the possibility of snow.

Karrington Kipper

Karrington Kipper magnificent skipper,

Skipped all through the night and the day.

She skipped down to breakfast.

She skipped off to school.

She skipped through the garden on her way to play.

 

She skipped over puddles,

She skipped over bridges,

– through showers of April and flowers of May.

She skipped through the dark and the dangerous forest

– a trick that she learned to keep monsters at bay.

 

And if she was lonely or down in the dumps,

Or hurting, or angry, or blue,

Karrington Kipper, magnificent skipper

Seemed always to know the exact thing to do.

Her skips became bigger, or smaller, or louder,

or faster, or slower, or timid, or prouder.

 

She’d skip and she’d skip

and she’d skip, skip, skip, skip,

– until all was as well as it seems.

Then she’d skip off to bed and cover head,

so Karrington Kipper could skip in her dreams.

Sleep

Mart generally liked the night, the darkness. It was lonely and quiet, but he didn’t mind. He was starting to mind that he had seen so much of it lately. He looked over at the calendar.

Eight days.

He had not slept for eight days now – not a nap, not a nod, not so much as a slow blink.

There was no rationale for it. He went through the routine he followed for years every night for the last eight nights the same way he had every night for the last ten years. He turned off the television at 11:15, drank a half a glass of milk, went up stairs, changed, brushed his teeth, set his alarm and climbed into bed. Nine days ago, he slept for the last time.

For the last eight nights, Mart stayed in bed and stared at the ceiling until he decided to get up an watch the moon make its journey across the sky until the sun came to chase it away.

He liked watching the morning rise up. The long shadows shifting and hiding with the onset of the new day’s light left him with an odd feeling of renewal. Not as refreshing as sleep, but it was likely the thing that kept him going, at least for the first six days.

He never feared the night, at least not until night number seven. He knew the days and nights were slaves to the motion of the sun and the moon. It was planned, purposeful and ordinary. Nevertheless, on night seven, be it a lack of real rest and rejuvenation, or a true shift in his awareness, Mart started to see things. Very small things that lurked in the shadows pretending to be figments of the imagination, but as real as his cat Buttons used to be.

He noticed the eyes first, small and beady, they were as black as night itself when caught in the glimmer of light. In the dark, they glowed softly, red and bloody.

Then he noticed the whispers. Not words so much. The whispers came in short bursts of snarls and guttural giggles. Too soft to hear sometimes and easily confused with the sound of the wind or the heat turning on.

Then he noticed the grins…and the teeth…the very sharp looking teeth.

Like

Gell read the sentiment and realized it took him all of four days to become disenchanted with the wonders of Facebook.

This one in particular, started with some lofty, candy-coated, generalized phrase about the wonders of having a great mother and that if you loved your mother, you would click “Like” to share that notion with the world.

While this one was about mothers, in the four days since he signed on, he saw the same tactic applied to everything from cats and dogs and other household pets to siblings and uncles and grandparents and goat cheese and beyond.

His mother was a fine mother. He took her to lunch once a week. He talked to her on the phone every three days. He ran errands for her. He fixed things that broke around her apartment. She made him laugh. But he’d be damned if he was going to give some Hallmark writing, guilt-laden message scrawled across the view of a sunset and flowers his nod of approval known these days as the “Like.”

Just as bad were the, “Very few people will be brave enough to post this on their status even for an hour…” sort of messages which pandered to whomever’s concern of the day. If posting something regarding anything were the true measure of bravery, he’d rather be seen as a coward. On the days he hates cancer, he would just post, “I hate cancer” and leave it alone. In his mind, it was a forgone conclusion that the majority of the populace hated cancer. Why go through the exercise of getting everyone to “Like” hating cancer?

The one that puzzled him the most was the one he saw yesterday, from a person who noted she might not actually be friends with, or actually know in some way, the people that polluted her friends list. To clarify who these people were, all they had to do was respond to her request with the name of the city where they met or some other clue to cement their association. Then, they needed to make the request their status so she could return the favor.

Pinhead.

Gell had seventeen people on his friend list. He knew them all. They were his friends. It was not that hard. On day two, he received a friend request from a guy in Tulsa, who sent the request because, as far as Gell could tell, they both indicated they liked reading The Wind in the Willows. Gell had never been to Tulsa. Request denied.

Over his four-day initiation, he saw images and posts, ads and offers, rants and tirades, honors and tributes, jokes and many, many pictures of food. And he determined that Facebook offered one’s brain all the mental stimulation and nutrition of a giant cosmic jelly donut.

Centenial

“This is Turk Mangan, and today I am interviewing my great-grandfather Abel Thompson, for Media Arts 101. Today my great-grandfather turns 100 years old.

Happy birthday, Grandpa. How are you feeling today?”

“I’m good. Happy to be here.”

“So, you know I’m recording this for my class and I have five questions to ask you.”

“Shoot.”

“Ok. You are 100 years old today. What’s the secret of your long life?”

“It’s not a secret. There is no secret. You live to be 100 by either a curse or dumb luck. I knew people who supposedly lived better lives than me and they are gone. I knew people who did stupid things and they out-lived some of the better ones, for a while I guess. I guess they’re gone now too. You live your life. You do the best you can. You get what you get.”

“What was the best thing you’ve seen over the span of your lifetime?”

“Your great-grandmother.”

“Ah. I meant over the last 100 years, in the world.”

“I know. My answer’s the same. Humans have done some incredible things over my time. I’ve seen some amazing things. I’ve seen some terrible things. For all their brains, humans aren’t very good at what matters. It’s hard to find somebody who will go through the mess with you, who will put up with you. If you do, and you don’t screw it up, it’s magic. It beats anything.”

“What’s one thing you never got to do that you always wanted to do?”

“Deep sea diving.”

“Really?”

“Sure, why not?”

“I don’t know. I guess that’s just never come up.”

“What else is there? I’ve done a lot of stuff. My to do list is pretty short these days. Of course, I never shot anybody either.”

“That was a joke, boy.”

“Oh! Right! Of course. Uhm … How long would you like to live?”

“I think I’m pretty much done. A lot of people I knew are gone. I hate to think of them all having any kind of fun without me. When you get to be this old, there isn’t much use for you. I don’t have much use for me. I paint a little, but mostly people near my age spend most of their time waiting, waiting for their bus they call it. They don’t have any idea when it’s going to come, but they will be ready. I don’t see much good in that. Waiting is boring. Being 100 is boring. If 100 were the new 50, we’d have more to talk about.”

“I see. My final question is, how would you like to be remembered?”

“That’s a trick question.”

“How so?”

“Who is doing the remembering?”

“Well … people, us, your family.”

“Most the people who knew me are gone. You will remember me as being old, and probably a bit crazy. Being remembered is only part of it, and it’s a useless part if you only get the bits and pieces. Hell, I don’t remember many of the details. I guess they don’t matter. If I’m to be remembered, I guess I’d want people to know that I was just man. I did the best I could. If I did anything right, it would be reflected in those I leave behind. That would be enough.”

Turk reached over and clicked the recording panel to off. The two sat together for a long while, mostly in silence as he pulled together his gear. 

“Grandpa?”

“Yeah.”

“Would you mind if I stayed and we could just talk for a while?”

Ledge

Elliston Craw stood on the ledge and looked down, slowly so as not to toss his balance. The view from seventeen stories above the ground was unsettling at first. The ledge extended a good three inches past the tips of his shoes, so he felt sure enough that he wouldn’t slip off too easily. His back and arms were pressed against the bricks behind him as if he were holding the wall back from tumbling down to the street below.

A gust of wind ripped by him and while he felt secure in his footing at the moment, the brush of the wind’s fingers caused him to jerk and to catch himself as if he might fall.

He closed his eyes and tried to relax a little. He took as deep of a breath as he dared and then stared out across the city. This might have been a mistake.

Initially, his being here was a clear case of his curiosity, clouding…no, obliterating his better judgment. For eight years, the window next to his desk at Harlow & Jenks afforded him the opportunity to stare out into the wild blue and gray of city and sky to wonder. What do pigeons do all day? Does that ledge go all the way around the building? Is it strong enough to hold someone? How long might it take to go all the way around the building on the ledge? Would anyone notice him being gone? Is seventeen floors high enough?

He wasn’t sure what actually tipped the scales between wondering and doing. It could have been seeing the window washers last Tuesday. It could have been that it hadn’t rained in eight days so everything was pretty dry. It could have been that in eight years of wondering he realized that he did and awful lot of wondering and very little doing.

The window in the older building opened easy enough. The height of his desk and the first drawer accommodated his getting to the ledge as if they were designed to do so. Actually standing on the ledge and getting adjusted so the he wouldn’t fall was a bit slow going, but he managed and the inching down across it was like walking, once he got a pattern down.

It was when he stopped to embrace the moment that things sort of changed.

He looked down again. It was exhilarating. It was the most dramatic thing he had ever done. It was life.

Another gust of wind raked over him and he tried to get even closer to the wall as if it might hold him if he got unsteady.

His goal, if he even had one, because at this point he realized this was all pretty crazy, was to step out onto the ledge, go around the outside of the building, get back inside and finish his work on the Whorton account.

But now.

A glimmer of the depth of what was happening crept into his thinking. This was not normal. Normal people may think about walking on ledges, but normal people usually discount those notions quickly in lieu of the greater call of a food craving or other useless distraction.

This was…

A lot of his thinking stopped when one thought, or the memory of the thought pushed everything away. Is seventeen floors high enough?

He had a nice place to live. He had a decent job that, while it would never make him a rich man, it would give him a decent life and the occasional trip out of town. Still…

Is seventeen floors high enough?

Elliston Craw closed his eyes. He opened them again to look at the sun. Another heart gust of wind blew towards his direction.

An open letter to Miley Cyrus

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to Miley Cyrus – Dear Miley Cyrus:

We don’t know each other and I doubt that the circumstances of our existences will ever allow our paths to cross. I also realize that it might appear a bit cliché to address you publicly at the peak of your current festival of weirdness. Considering all the other people in the world who have decided to weigh in on your recent round of personal and professional choices, I can see how easy it would be to assume I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

I want to be clear on this one point. I am not one of those “pile on” people who will berate you for what’s currently going on in your world. Frankly, I’m not a fan of your work, so I couldn’t care less about what you decide to do professionally. And since I don’t see you babysitting my kids any time soon, I couldn’t care less about your personal choices. I say, let your freak flag fly baby.

I was 20 once. I know what it feels like to want to break free of your childhood and establish yourself as an adult. I recognize that being 20 and wanting to be an adult is way different from actually being a mature adult. At 20, your head is still full of crazy. Some people tamp that down better than others. Very few get to go through this change as publicly as you, so they don’t know your circumstances well enough to bash you for bad decisions.

I’m quite sure that a lot of “mature adults” out there who are hating on you right now, might A) be a little jealous of your ability to completely disregard any personal sense of tact and grace, or B) be dishing out a little of what they got at 20 when they did something stupid on a grand scale.

There might also be a third factor in that many “mature adults” harbor a deep-rooted longing to break free from their own lives even now, and seeing you so loose and free only fills them with a feeling of venomous envy. I don’t know many adults who haven’t gone through a “take this job and shove it” phase.

To me, you and your circumstances raise different questions. For instance, what makes young stars, and in your case, young Disney stars, go so berserk, so publicly? Is the desire for admiration, adoration, fawning, money, or whatever might pass as genuine love in that world so strong that they are willing to do anything to keep it or grow it? I mean let’s face it, it could be argued that Disney has churned out some truly “damaged” young people.

Another question that comes to mind is what happens next, and then, after that?

There are things I did at your age, that if given the chance, I might go back and punch myself in the face for. After all, we are the products of all of our decisions. Some people get iggy if any sort of their past resurfaces say on Facebook or similar forum because they aren’t really those people anymore and they don’t want to have to justify any past decisions made with a 20 year-old’s crazy brain. I didn’t grow up in a time where every waking moment is recorded and shared so freely. You have, and you will have one hell of a time putting this all away once you decide to move on.

Maybe you won’t move on. Maybe this is the person you have longed to be and you have hit your sweet spot and the rest of the world can just suck it. If so, good for you, but I’d like to caution that the standard scale for “outrageous behavior” has shifted over the years.

Despite what some might see as your shocking display, you still have a way to go before you have to do any real damage control. I just hope you recognize that there is only so far a person can go and still look at themselves with comfort and calm. Once you’re all covered with ink, have been bare and naked to the world from head to toe, have stuck your tongue everywhere it could possibly go, have sworn and offended, have risen and fallen, and loved and lost, got loaded up and detoxified, where do you go for the shock and awe? Only you can answer that. I suppose it will come down to what you want more, the seductive drug of attention or some sense of personal joy and satisfaction.

The long and the short of it is, I wish you well on your journey. Again, I’m not a fan of your work, so the only thing I’m subjected to is the onslaught of imagery and news coverage that I wish frankly were dedicated to the more pressing matters we face here on the planet. But, I can’t control that either.

Whether you rise to the highest heights or crash and burn, it’s all up to you now. Many people have gone through far greater struggles than you are ever likely to face as a poor, confused rich girl and they come out just fine. I hope you find your path and your peace and if you could just put your tongue away, that would be awesome.

Your friend in the cosmos – Java

Writer

Copper Channing made a living from the extreme misfortune of others. Writing horror novels, and best sellers at that, gave him access to a world he would have never known otherwise. Had he not called in sick to work at the foundry and picked up a pen and a legal pad that day at the ripe old age of twenty-one, who knows where he would be today.

Still, despite the wealth and fame, Copper Channing suffered from the very same thing every mailman, housewife, café chef, preschool teacher and everyone else in between suffered from. He was dissatisfied. Despite his very enviable position he yearned for something more. It was a ‘grass is greener’ mindset that allowed the blues to settle deep in his soul. It generated a certain loathing for his position, a disconnection with his entire accumulated body of work and a nauseating guilt that came with wanting something else, something better, in the face of having so much already. It was greed and immaturity and envy wrapped up into one distasteful ulcer of woe.

It wasn’t the writing. He loved the writing. He loved the fact that words had given him so much. Where his hands excelled at typing, they proved to be of little use to him in any other endeavor. The writing was his still and long-standing silent partner, the agent of evil he sold his soul to in exchange for security and position.

It was what he was writing that was the problem.

Perhaps it was because success came so fast and the struggle fairly slight. It took twenty-three months from the time he scratched those first words onto that pad, until he secured his first publishing contract. It wasn’t that he was a particularly gifted writer, but more that his imagination allowed him to conjured the darker images that the general public yearned to look at. He simply wrote down what he saw in his mind.

Kill Eye, was his first book to top the best-seller lists pretty much everywhere. Plastic, followed the year after and triggered a windfall of luck which carried him over the years to fifteen best sellers, eight top grossing films and a mountain of awards which he kept in boxes in a storage unit at the back of his property.

Still, he would give it all up today, or so he told himself, if he could write something real. And what was real? He wrestled with the notion that because horror came fairly easy to him it lacked soul and skill. It was hack-work, and the popularity of his product showed him, at least in this moment, that the reading public required little from him beyond a good reason to invest in a nightlight and a vivid description of one of a hundred ways a human could be disemboweled. It was tripe.

He sold millions of books, but could even one of them compete as one of the great American novels? He created relationships and families, but had he ever written a great love story? He would likely be remembered beyond his time, but in the same hallowed halls as Hemingway, or Shaw, or Eliot or would he be packed into the circus tent of lesser writers known for their mass appeal, and not so much for the mastery of their craft?

He tried. October Frost had the makings of a great love story until the text, or his mind, demanded the introduction of a wraith. It ended up being one of his biggest, not because of his insights into the tender, fragile state of love, but more into the inter-dimensional and explosive struggle for the human soul at the end.

In Ferryman’s Wake, his exploration of the complications that come with the loss of a loved one showed depth and promise, but that was all but dashed with the appearance of Old Hamm, one of the many characters he created to represent Satan, or really, the darkness in all of us.

Even now, having traded legal pads for processing power long ago, he sat before the blank screen intent on writing something truly moving, or truly funny, or truly anything to show that his years of practice had not gone to waste. Anything to show that he could connect on a deeper level. Yet, all his head would allow was blood and a thousand gruesome ways in which to release it.

Aliens

“You’re out of your mind,” Durf said, flipping the tops of the boxes open to release the glorious scents and magnificent sight of two Canterelli pizzas. “Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?”

Lex reached over and grabbed a slice of pepperoni. “From heaven above,” he said plopping back down on the couch. “And I don’t know why you disagree with the premise.” His words wrestled with the molten glob of pepperoni, sauce, cheese and dough to make their way to the air clearly.

“Uh, because it’s stupid,” Durf said, plopping down on the other side of the couch while balancing a hearty slice of everything but anchovies.

“It’s not stupid. It’s amply reflected in popular culture. Popular culture represents us as a race and as a species. Therefore one can surmise that the popular culture, while admittedly glorified for effect, can be tied to reality.”

“Yes, but aliens?” said Durf.

“Absolutely!” said Lex. “Don’t confuse a truth with acceptance. Just because something exists and it is what it is, doesn’t mean we have to accept it or participate. But, we can’t ignore it as if it’s not the truth and hope that everything works out differently. I just think it’s some weird fascination of mankind’s that probably dates all they way back to when we crawled out of the primordial goo.”

“Some sort of latent survival instinct?”

“Exactly! It’s the desire to propel the species, if not forward, at least onward. I’m not sure what’s so hard to get.”

Durf took a big bite of his slice. After a few hearty chews he forced the mass into his cheek. “I wouldn’t do it.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I do.”

“You don’t and it’s stupid to say so.”

“I know.”

Lex licked his fingers and reached for another slice. “You don’t. That’s like saying if we discovered a new fruit deep in the jungle somewhere that could cure any disease, you wouldn’t try it because you never heard it before, because you had no familiarity with it.”

“It’s hardly the same thing.”

“It isn’t. All I’m saying is that if we encountered a race of aliens, someone, somewhere, at some point would try to mate with it. It’s inevitable. I never said it was right. I just said that it’s our reality. And…I’ll go as far to say that after a while, with enough time, it probably wouldn’t matter what the alien looked like. I mean it’s a slam-dunk if they all came down looking like Tani Capers.”

“Tani Capers?”

“See? I got you,” Lex said. “If a spaceship full of Tani Capers looking aliens dropped down into the backyard, I’ll bet your entire pristine collection of classic Hobarts albums that you would have more on your mind than finding out how the ship works or taking them to your leader.”

Durf sat and thought for a moment. “Fine. I can see alien Tani Capers, but not those from something like Space Scream Six.”

“What if they could transform?”

“Shut up.”

Warning

In a small town like Cromwell, it stood to reason that the Bronson Family Funeral Home would see nothing but slow weeks. And that was usually that case. Unless there was a service, Thad Bronson, III was generally in his chair at home plodding his way through the newspaper and capping off his first scotch of the evening by 6:30.

This past week however, proved something of an anomaly. Poor Tyler Montgomery came in after a tragic swimming accident at the quarry. There was the John Doe, found dead on Route 32 and if that weren’t enough, one of the town matriarchs, Maggie Crisp passed away in her sleep last night.

Creature of habit, Thad liked everything in its place, and with three in the cooler, he got to his routine a bit later than he anticipated. Deep in the heart of Fall, it was already dark outside by the time he put the last of the tools away and finished wiping everything down. When he gave the room his last inspection before heading out, he nodded silently to himself in satisfaction.

The Bronson Family Funeral Home had been a staple of the Cromwell community for well over 75 years. It was a fairly simple but effective operation that the people in town seemed to appreciate. Much like Pastor Kirt or Doc Matts, the folks who made their stay in Cromwell were destined to come to the Bronson’s place sooner of later.

Thad took over the family business just over a year ago after his father died. He liked the business overall. It was calming, quiet work that served a purpose. There was a simple level of gratification that came with it, a sense of peace.

Thad washed his hands one last time and wiped the sink out. Slipping his watch over his wrist, he noticed it was much later than he anticipated almost 11:30. He grabbed his jacket from the hook near the stairs and headed up. He was three steps closer to home when he heard the small crash behind him. He stopped, turned and listened. A small frown crossed his face as he stepped back down into the workroom.

A small pile of glass that used to be a beaker lay on the floor. “Hm,” Thad thought with a grunt. He secured the broom and dustpan and cleaned the mess quickly, but effectively to ensure no wayward shards got away. He took a good look around the room, even closer than before to make double sure everything was in its place.

Once more, he headed to the steps, but drew to a stop the moment he heard it…a small, single knock.

Thad turned to face the room again. He squinted as he traced the space from end to end. Sometimes kids like to mess with funeral homes, mostly because they were scared of them. Dares and double dares often led to small and mostly harmless pranks.

Silence.

Thad turned slowly toward the steps as if he was waiting for something to happen. The moment his foot touched the first step, another knock came. He spun around.

“Who’s there?”

He set his posture and decided on one more look, when another knock came and another. They were soft at first, but as the volume grew so did the intensity. Thad’s heart was pounding heavy in is chest. For a moment, he thought of his father who died of a heart attack. The sound of the pounding began to fill the room. It was coming from the cooler.

Thad stepped closer, almost as if hypnotized. The sound of the pounding grew and the cooler door, a good solid and heavy door, appeared to shake and rattle on its hinges. He placed his and on the door to confirm the vibrations. With his heart pounding in his ears, Thad reached for the handle. Taking a deep breath, he pulled that handle and yanked at the door forcing the light inside to click on.

He staggered backwards. Three gurneys sat in a line. All was well, accept for Maggie Crisp who sat upright before him, her drape had slid into her lap.

Thad gulped heavy breaths to try and keep pace with his racing heart. He stared at the woman, his face contorting with disbelief as her head slowly turned to meet his gaze, but with closed eyes. The stiff, deceased muscle made the movement slow and strained. Maggie lifted her hand, again slow and with substantial effort. She began to point at him.

Thad stepped backward. His chest heaved as he gulped in the cold air. His heart beat like a bass drum in his head.

Maggie’s mouth a jaw split open and worked itself a couple of times as if it had just been released from a vice.

Thad had backed himself up against the cooled wall and while he had nowhere to go his feet continued to push.

A long, soft, guttural whisper gushed from the deceased woman’s mouth, “Four Days.” It was then that Maggie Crisp truly expired. Whatever work she was intended to do was done. The corpse collapsed backwards with enough speed and force to knock it to the floor.

It was then that Thad Bronson, III began to scream.

Rock God

Nigel drew a deep breath and knocked tentatively. He got all the crappy jobs.

On the other side of the door was current rock god, “Dirt.” Known only to his mother as Stanley Krabbowski, Dirt, and his band “Bulldozer,” took the music world by storm last summer with a hard-edged rock single called “Stuff It” supported by a platinum record that followed with the same name.

Dirt’s stage persona was one of an angry, anti-establishment, man-beast who was prone to spitting on, screaming at and otherwise abusing the faithful who came to see his shows. It puzzled Nigel as to what the throngs of people found so alluring about paying good money to be screamed at and pissed on, but he learned quickly that in the music business, there was no accounting for taste.

A muffled response came from behind the door, “Yeah?”

Nigel drew another deep breath, turned the knob and slowly swung the door open enough to stick his head in. “Mr. Dirt?”

“Yeah?”

Dirt was in the offices of Atomic Blast Records to discuss the terms of his next record and to sign off on some merchandising agreements. Once this little snag gets resolved, he would be out and away and doing whatever rock gods do at 2:30 in the afternoon.

“I’m Nigel Cro…,” his voiced cracked forcing him to swallow and clear his throat. “I’m Nigel Croft.”

“So?” Even in the shortest amount of space Dirt’s thick scouse accent rang clear.

“I’m from Atomic Blast Records, but I guess that’s obvious since we’re both here in the offices here at Atomic Blast, right?”

Dirt stared at Nigel, emotionless and still. He was a big man. Most of the current batch of rock-god wanna-bes, were slight, thin and pale. Even sitting on the couch, he was imposing.

“Right. Uh, I, uh, I guess it’s better to say ‘they,’ gave me the, uh, they wanted me to, uh,” Nigel said, sputtering as he searched for his mental footing.

“What’s wrong with you?” Dirt said. Beyond the slight curl of his upper lip, he remained stoic.

“Nothing,” Nigel said quickly.

“Are those the papers they want me to sign?”

“Uh, no. No, Sir they’re not. They are almost ready for you, but they want this little matter ironed out before they grab your ink.”

“What matter?” Dirt said.

“Yes,” Nigel said stepping into the room holding the papers out as he followed. “There seems to be some concern with the lyrics on your upcoming release. They, uh, them, not me, wanted to see if you could, uh, ‘take another look’ to see if you might be willing to make some adjustments.”

“Why?”

“Uh…well…they, not me, think this batch are…well…uhhh, offensive.”

“They’re love songs.”

“Wha…” Nigel caught himself before he let the full expression of his shock go. “I mean, yes. These are love songs. Of course…but, they, not me, are having a hard time, uh…seeing the love, as it were.”

Dirt sat still and silent.

“Let’s just take a look shall we?” Nigel quickly rifled through the short stack of papers. “Ah, here we go. This one. ‘Bleeding Whore.’ I guess that’s the working title. Uh, you start off really strong with the first word, ‘Woman!’ That’s really good, but then right after that where you talk about the ax and the long ride into the desert, and this bit with the rope and the animals nibbling and such…”

“What’s wrong with it?” Dirt said plainly. “It’s beautiful.”

“I agree there is some stark and vivid imagery there. I think you, ah, yes, you do mention a sunset there around the third verse. That’s nice. But then there’s this part with the entrails and then I guess Satan shows up at one point and there is something about collecting her eyes.”

“Beautiful eyes.” Dirt said, as a point of clarification.

“Right! Beautiful eyes. Nice. Still, they, not me are worried that this kind of imagery might negatively affect, well…everything.”

Silence filled the room. Nigel’s finger stayed glued to the printed phrase on the page about Satan’s collection of beautiful eyeballs. His arms stretched out so that Dirt could see the passage clearly. Never looking at the paper, Dirt fixed his gaze on Nigel.

“That’s offensive?” Dirt said.

“Yeah.” Nigel said nodding harder than he should, but unable to stop. “That’s… that’s offensive.”

Silence.

“I’ll change it.” Dirt said, his gaze never wavering, his expression never-changing.

Nigel deflated a bit with relief. “That’s…that’s just perfect. That will be great.”

“Change eyeballs to lips.” Dirt said. “That’s even more beautiful.”

Nigel deflated even further. He got all the crappy jobs.

Touch

Del slid his chair slowly to the edge of the bed. Before sitting, he leaned low and kissed Maxie softly on her forehead. He stood with caution, for sometimes moving too fast made him dizzy and sometimes he fell.

Looking down he reached over to adjust the oxygen tube that started to pull away from her left ear. His deliberate movements followed the instruction the duty nurse gave him to the letter. He wiped softly at the corner of her mouth with a tissue to remove a tiny crescent of spittle that had accumulated overnight. He brushed at a curl of gray on her forehead, which moved at first, but then slid back as his touch passed. He smiled.

Once Maxie was right, he lowered himself into his chair. He reached over and gently scooped up her hand, holding it like a child might a tiny bird’s nest she found in a bush. Her once strong hand, the hand that relished slow-pitch softball and performed Rachmaninoff piano concertos, looked… felt diminished, small and fragile in his.

“Let’s see,” Del said, looking up at Maxie’s stoic expression. “What do I have to share today? Hm…well, Del Junior said he and Tara would try to come up and see you this weekend. It depends on what the kids have going on of course. Rena might enter the national spelling bee and Carter has baseball games. Del said that boy has his grandmother’s arm and can really throw some heat.

I watered your plants, so you don’t have to worry about them. They look great and that little violet you wanted to get rid of, remember that one, well, it’s blooming again.”

Del put out a small laugh, and shook his head a bit side to side.

He talked to Maxie with a slow and steady pace as she lay resting. The beep of the monitor provided an ever-steady rhythm to his conversation. He covered the news of the day, a bit of gossip their neighbor Patty Conklin shared with him about some trouble the Anderson boy got into, and how he finally got rid of that old gray sport coat like she wanted to because, after giving it a good close look, she was right.

“You’d be proud of me Max,” he said. “I just clean got rid of it. I didn’t even entertain the notion of giving it to the Good Will, because you said, that coat had seen three lives already and there was no good reason on earth to force it upon somebody else.” When he said her words, he shifted his voice and tone a bit to sound more like her for a little poke of fun. Maxie lay still, resting.

Del fell silent. With her hand on his, he gently stroked her fingers. He looked down at her hand as his brain whirred through a cascade of memories that he and Maxie shared over their many years together. He clutched her hand as hard as he dare, hoping for even the slightest twinge of a response. He inched closer and held her hand against his lips firmly, warmly, creating a bridge for a tear to travel down his cheek and onto her now ever so delicate fingers.

Maxie stayed motionless. The beep of the monitor consumed the silence.

Adrift

Maybeth’s eyelids slowly fluttered awake as her eyes beneath rolled in search of clarity and focus. The dream of her flying a hot air balloon over a chasm filled with churning lava dissipated as the light reached her. As the fog in her head seemed to thicken, George Harrison started in with the first verse of If Not For You. It was a bit louder than she wanted at the moment and she couldn’t be completely sure that the song wasn’t part of the dream.

She closed her eyes, drifting between the temping allure of sleep and the nagging need to stay awake.

The unpleasant pressure in her shoulder intensified as she tried to shift to a more comfortable position. She tried to turn her head, but stopped immediately when her brain began to scream with pain. Still not fast enough to stop her from wincing against the pounding.

Where?

What?

“Babe, I couldn’t even find the door. I couldn’t even see the floor. I’d be sad and blue…”

She instinctively reached out for the button to stop the music. She loved George, but not now. Her shoulder protested with a three-way shot of pain that radiated up her neck down her spine and into her arm. She winced again in response, sucking in air, which also seemed harder to do than usual. She missed.

Blinking, the only thing she did at the moment that didn’t hurt, she tried to focus as her eyes sought her hand. It was wet. Red.

Defying the order of her brain to sleep, Maybeth’s eyes shot open. Realization and recognition flooded her senses as the familiar collided with the unfamiliar. She glanced a little to her right. The gaze of her Perky Petz bobble-head puppy, whom she named Tiger gazed back at her, but the spring that held the head to the body was stretched and bent making Tiger’s head appear as if it popped off into mid air leaving a cartoonish swirl of motion behind it.

But, Tiger was in her car, firmly attached to her dashboard with a serious chunk of two-sided tape.

Where?

She shifted her gaze forward into an intense spider web of light.   

“Without your love I’d be nowhere at all, I’d be lost, if not for you…”

She turned her eyes to the left trying hard to keep her head still. Where she suspected glass, she saw dirt. It was then she realized she could not feel her legs.

100 Days

Yesterday, I capped my 100-day writing experiment/exercise.

The goal was to write something new every day for 100 days without missing. I had no length requirement, but I found that as I got more into it, the greater effort was in keeping the piece short and interesting than writing something daily.

I learned a lot about my writing style, the mistakes I’m prone to making and I discovered some good things about my imagination. I think there are other lessons there that I’m still working on.

My secondary goal in this exercise was to develop a field of ideas from which to build on. I feel a longer work coming on. Initially, I thought a play, some longer short stories or a book. But to do that well enough, I wanted to get my skills up to par.

Many people have been very kind and supportive in their comments and notes. It is a great compliment for people to ask for more. I really appreciate the time everybody took to check out the stories, or story bits, and provide feedback. That is just the best.

So I ask myself, what now?

I was hoping to get a bit more feedback from the people prone to reading my posts on what they might like to see. Since you are reading it, it seems contrary to produce something you might have little interest in. Some questions come to mind:

  • Is there any interest in a longer work?
  • If so, was there something you saw over the last 100 days you might like to see more of? Something I can flesh out?
  • Is that something you might be interested in reading along the way or would you want to wait until it’s complete?
  • What would you be interested in? A play? A book length piece? An array of dazzling advertising slogans?
  • Any other thoughts?

I can find all 100 posts here on my blog. Please share the link if you can: https://thejeffworks.wordpress.com

It would be great if you could take a moment to comment, or drop me a private message or email and let me know what you think.

I can’t see putting the brakes on now as I feel I’ve hit some sort of stride, so I’m thinking I will continue my posts, unless writing a longer piece takes up all my writing energy, but I’m thinking I might take the weekends off.

Thanks again for all your support. Now…let me have it.

Friendship

Mush pushed the Rambler to the limits of its abilities. Dap lay in the back. It was hard to see him from the front and even harder to hear his breathing over the rough running engine. The hospital was still at least thirty minutes away and the whole world was hanging from a fragile string of potential accidents waiting to happen.

The weekend was supposed to be a laugh. It started that way. Mush and Dap worked at the Mortworth foundry. They met in high school and became fast friends spending lunch periods and time after school getting to know each other. They had enough in common to become fast friends, and just enough subtle differences to build a mutual deep respect and genuine admiration.

The plan was to leave around noon on Friday and head to a cabin by Lake Morris. Dap’s uncle had cleared the weekend just for them with nothing to do but fish and drink some beer. If you told him he would be tearing up small mountain road, not 24 hours later, with his friend in the backseat fighting for his life, his only option was to turn you in and have you locked up.

Dap’s mind was far from the backseat, having been tucked away for safe keeping the moment he slipped into unconsciousness, but his body was full on and quietly fighting to retain life as it jostled, bounced and bled it’s way around the Rambler’s dark interior.