In Control

Today’s blog post is a Flash Fiction piece for Terrible Minds again. The assignment is to pick lyrics from one of your favorite songs and use those words as your theme. The song is In Control by Greensky Bluegrass, and the video is after the story. Enjoy!

The Theme:

Though I am not without weakness I will define what lies ahead; I’m not out of control    -Greensky Bluegrass from their song In Control

In Control — 1123 words

What are you going to do when you get out?

His words echoed in my head. Not this, I wanted to respond to his ghost. I didn’t know how much I’d miss Peter. I hadn’t thought the ache would drive me to the needle. I closed my eyes as the liquid seeped into my veins. I could see Peter’s face, his delicate eyelashes that looked too feminine against his scarred face. His bright blue eyes beacons of light which seemed to beckon me back to him.

What are you doing?

I could hear his words, as if he were speaking to me, echoing in my head before the sudden blackness hit me. Too much or not enough, my last thought.

When I woke up I wondered if sheer blackness was what we had to look forward to when we died. I still had a faint hope in God, but why would he give me so much pain? I tried to move but realized my arms were restrained. They took it as a suicide attempt instead of just falling off the wagon.

I opened my eyes and looked to my left.

Peter, my rock, sat in the sunshine next to the window. My eyes struggled against the too bright light to make sense of him there. I had not seen him in months. He looked good, his scar faded slightly, his eyes twinkled, as he leaned forward setting his elbows on his knees. His face emanated kindness and concern.

“Astrid.”

“I’m sorry.” I mouthed the words. My throat felt dry as if I had walked through the desert.

Peter stood up. He looked larger than life. He pushed a button over my bed. A nurse came in wearing a white cap.

“Water.” She nodded at Peter and left.

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The children’s song went through my mind as I gazed at my wise man, the rock, piedra, Peter.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.”

I couldn’t talk. My throat felt like sandpaper. The nurse returned with the water. Peter propped a pillow behind my back and grabbed my elbow, helping me up. He held the cup to my lips and I swallowed the water in one gulp.

“Don’t gulp it down. You’re already weak. You don’t want to throw up.”

“I don’t remember anything.” My voice was scratchy but there.

“Your mom found you. Called me here. It was touch and go at first. But they pulled you through. You were lucky. She let herself in two minutes or so after you overdosed.”

“I guess she’s sending me back.”

“You know it’s a voluntary program. Next time, you get the desire to use will you call me?”

I nodded.

“You know, you’re in control of your life. You’re the one who says whether you live another day clean. Whether you decide to use again. It’s hard. Trust me, I know. I make that decision every day.”

Peter brought his hand up to his face, touching the scar etched against his skin—a constant reminder of his weakness.

“Tell me the story.”

Peter grimaced. “I’ve told this story hundreds of time—to all of my sponsors—but it never gets easier. It’s a reminder to me that weakness has the power to destroy, but can be overcome. Your weakness does not define you. Through my tragedy, I took control of my life. I defined the way I wanted to live.”

He sighed releasing the pain into the story.

“It was Matthew’s eighth birthday. You know, the name Matthew means ‘gift of God,’ and he was. My wife and I couldn’t have kids. Or at least we didn’t think we could. We tried and tried, and when we gave up, Matthew came along. He didn’t seem like other children. He came into this world with his eyes open so wide. He always seemed precocious, like he knew something we didn’t. That day, I had to drive him to Chuck-E-Cheese for his birthday party. I wanted one hit. One hit before I left. I’d done it before, taken him places while I was high. It wasn’t like I was drunk. I felt like I had control when I did meth. Felt like nothing could go wrong. ”

He sighed again. He sat on the edge of my bed, smoothing down the wrinkles on the white hospital sheets and looking over my head.

“But of course, that was just the drug. It made me feel happy–invincible. Or I thought it did. And then we were in a wreck. And Matthew, Matthew who was only eight but acted older, Matthew was gone.” Tears sat in Peter’s eyes.

“I went to jail for 18 months for manslaughter. Driving under the influence. But the worst punishment was losing Matthew. Meg left me. I’d hit rock bottom. And then in prison, I met my sponsor. He took me under his wings. He taught me to forgive myself and to take control of my life again. He taught me to fight against my weakness, my addiction, every day. He told me nothing could bring Matthew back, but that I, like everyone else, deserved a second chance. This scar—” Peter touched his face, “reminds me of Matthew every day, but it also reminds me of the decision I made to change my life and take control. And I know, Astrid, this is only a minor setback for you. I know you can do it. If I can do it after losing everything, you can do it too.”

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” I said, finishing his story for him.

“You have the power inside you to change and to take control. It will be hard to conquer your addiction, but if I can do it anyone can.” Peter said.

He took my hand in his, warmth against cold stone, and squeezed it. In that moment, I felt my blood start pumping again. I felt alive, like I hadn’t felt in months. I felt willingness and control seep back into my veins, passed from Peter to me. Strength, like no other.

I knew he was right. I had to try and believe in myself, to take control of my life, and to conquer the evil that had invaded my life and tried to wrestle control away from me. I had to take it back. I had to become a rock like Peter.

2 Timothy 1:7 <em>For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.</em>

 

 

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A Fallen God

This flash fiction piece is written for The Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge.  This week the challenge was to write 1000 words or less on the theme of the danger of undeserved power. 

A Fallen God – 691 words

Hope had no idea how Bitty became the leader.

Perhaps the nuclear fallout had fried most of their brains. Bitty had an idiotic name, but worse than that he had a God complex.

They walked around aimlessly the first day, collecting people and food. Bitty had on a red coat, and people began to follow him. He dictated rules and led with an iron fist. Halfway through the first day, a teenager stole a can of green beans from Bitty, and he banished him to almost certain death. No one could survive this alone. Then they had found the clearing in the forest, and Bitty had set up camp.

Ash began to rain down on them, and Bitty sat in the center of the clearing like a lump on a log.

“I think we need to find shelter,” Hope said.

Bitty ate a granola bar, one of the few left in the stash. “They’re all dead.”

“If we don’t want to be dead, I think we need to find a shelter,” Hope repeated herself.

The group squatted around Bitty, eyeing the granola bar. He smiled then let out a maniacal laugh.

“Need I remind you, I’m in charge, Hope.”

“And a fine job you’re doing,” she muttered under her breath.

In a previous life, one before the nuke went off Bitty had been a janitor at the school where Hope taught science. He terrorized the children by jumping out of the bathroom stalls. He thought it was funny, but no one else did.

Hope walked away from the group and started picking up twigs. She wanted to find a cave. The group had sought shelter in the woods so surely there was a cave somewhere around here. She turned around and saw the boy sneaking up on her. Dirty face, torn clothes. He’d been orphaned and added to the group somewhere along the way. Hope guessed he was about ten, but maybe a small twelve.

“You’re right about him, you know.”

“Help me find a cave if you want to tag along.”

“Are we going to just leave them?”

“They’re blind followers and that’s how we got into this mess in the first place. Hand me your coat.”

He looked at his coat, shrugged, slipped it off and handed it to her. She tore it to pieces, with the help of a hunting knife scavenged from one of the dead along the way.

“Tie it loosely around your mouth. This radioactive waste can kill us.”

They found a cave. It wasn’t deep. Scat littered the ground which frightened her but not as much as the death falling from the sky.

The winter sun hid behind the ash rain.

“Shelter is always important, no matter what Bitty says.”

It took two days. Hope heard Bitty preaching his nonsense on the first night. The sheep huddled around him. Bitty said sunshine and fresh air were more important than shelter. The sun could barely shine through the darkening clouds.

On the second day, Bitty’s big mouth remained unusually quiet. The ash had stopped falling. They covered their mouths and crept into the clearing. Bitty sat on a throne of pine needles and coats. Hope could see his chest moving up and down, but just barely. The group of twenty surrounded him. Some had fallen forward on their knees with their heads between their outstretched arms as if they were praising a deity instead of a stupid idiot.

Hope put her arms around the boy.

“Search their pockets and backpacks for food and water. We should move on before more ash falls.”

“Are they dead?”

“Not yet. But they will be soon. There’s nothing we can do for them now. Bitty with his asinine ideas.”

Hope and the boy packed up bags and began marching out of the woods. They stopped at the edge of the clearing and looked back on the scene. Bitty’s head had rolled to the side, propped at an odd angle on his shoulder. Power had corrupted him and led to the deaths of the others. Hope knew she would never make that mistake, not now, when the future depended on their survival.

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Seven Minutes in Heaven

So today, I decided to write something a little lighthearted. There has been a lot of bad news lately, and it takes a toll on me sometimes. I thought this morning, I’d get on here and blog about something serious. But this story of innocence came to mind, and I liked where it went. Sometimes we all need a break from the seriousness of life. Enjoy.  

The bottle spun on the wooden table. My stomach lurched as it came to a stop on Bennett. I’d never kissed a boy before, and here in this dark basement room, the other kids jeered and cheered.

“KISS HER!” they shouted.

“Holly and Bennett sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G–” Bracey Stacy said.

“Shut-up Stacy,” Bennett said.

He leaned over the table and placed his lips on mine. I hands felt sweaty and my heartbeat thundered in my ears.

“Tongue, do it,” Bracey Stacy said.

His lips felt warm, and I opened my mouth just a smidge. His tongue darted in, and it felt wet and slimy like one of those goldfish you win at the fair. I held my eyes shut as his tongue explored my mouth.  I ventured into his mouth with my tongue, feeling his molars, and tasting his breath. It felt like we kissed forever. And then I moaned, and the whole room burst out in laughter. My eyes flew open, and I could see every pore and pimple on Bennett’s face.

“Damn, get a room guys,” Mitch said as Bennett pulled away.

I blinked, and put my hands on my lap, squeezing them together until my pale skin turned bright pink as I sat back in my seat.

Bennett’s blue eyes stared at me from across the table, and he gave me a half-grin.

“Okay, next,” Bracey Stacy said.

Silence descended as the bottle spun again. Bracey Stacy looked hopeful, but the bottle never landed on her. It landed on Bennett and me three more times.

“We should do Seven Minutes in Heaven,” Bennett said after the last spin.

Ridiculously, images of angels and gospel music filled my naïve thirteen-year-old mind. I could almost see the pulpit and Father Roy up there preaching to the ladies in their Sunday best.

“Okay,” I said.

He stood up and walked over to me. I stared up at him in wild adolescent wonder. This good-looking, blonde, 5’7”, fourteen-year-old liked little old me. He placed his hand in mine. Skin-on-skin, I could feel the calluses decorating the palms of his hand. My hands felt sweaty and I worried he would pull away. But he held on tight, and he led me to the closet. I looked back at the kids gathered around the table staring at us with looks of astonishment as we headed into uncharted territory.

Mitch and the other boys stood up and set the timer on the clock radio.

“Turn on the T.V.,” Bennett said.

“Why? You don’t want us to hear you go smoochy-smoochy?”  Mitch asked with a laugh.

Five minutes ago I hadn’t even kissed a boy.

The closet smelled of mothballs and sweaty old tennis shoes. I pushed toward the back as Bennett pulled the door close. Total darkness descended upon us.

“What are we doing in here?” I whispered.

“Where are you?”

“In the coats—like Narnia.”

“We only have seven minutes.”

I felt his hand on my waist, and he pulled me close to him. I could feel his breath on my cheeks and see the white of his eyes. I wasn’t sure I’d ever been this close to anyone before. I could see the self-assured smirk on his face. And then his mouth was on mine, salty but sweet. Our tongues explored each other’s mouths. Bennett’s hand gripped my shirt, and his fingernails dug a little into my tender skin. He pulled away for a second.

“Can I touch you here?” he asked. But I couldn’t see what he referred to and his hands were on my chest before I knew it.

“Yes,” I said—an affirmation or an afterthought–I wasn’t sure which.

“Have you done this before?” I asked.

The dark seemed to be crowding in on us. Hadn’t it been seven minutes? It felt more like twenty.

“Never. I like you, Holls,” he said.

His hand felt my cheek. My heart thumped in my chest. I could push my way around him and leave the closet. But still, I liked the attention. I liked him. And I had agreed to go in there with him. I felt electricity between us and a stirring inside I’d never felt before.

“Is this what it feels like?” I asked.

“What?” His face was so close to mine, I could see his teeth and they seemed to glow white in the dark small space.

“Heaven?”

“I hope so,” Bennett said. “Now where were we?”

************


So when was your first kiss? How old were you?

I’ll share–I was thirteen and at Destin with some friends. I kissed a guy in his car, so he was much older. I don’t even remember his name. My first important kiss was with my high school boyfriend, when I was 16. And probably the most memorable one.

 

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The Tree

Here’s another one from Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds challenge of the week: write about a tree. I had a hard time with this, because I’m writing about a tree in my current novel. I wanted to share some of that novel, but I’m intent on having it published some day. At first, I thought I’d bypass this challenge, but this idea came to me. I hope you enjoy.

The Tree — 924 words. 

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Running. Feet pounding the ground. Ashton ended up where she always did, in front of the great big oak tree. The branches spread out like giants’ arms against the clear blue backdrop of the Southern sky. She placed her hand on the trunk and felt the warmth of the tree.

When she had been just a girl, her dad had strung a tire swing to the big horizontal branch. She had swung, laughing, and pushing her head back against the wind. She looked up at the green leaves as they danced in the sky. The tree held life. Her life, a memory of her fleeting childhood existence.

When she and Deke married, they took over the land. Then her dad got sick—lung cancer from too many cigs smoked as he herded cows into the dust. He held on for two weeks after the doctor diagnosed him. Ashton’s mom moved to the back room. She let Ashton, Deke, and their clan of little children take over the house. Ashton liked to listen to their bare feet on the wood floors. It reminded her of her childhood where there was always too much noise and clatter in the small farmhouse.

Ashton held her hands up to the tree. She rubbed the silkiness of the green leaves.


“You know, Ashton, this could all be yours one day,” her father had said, one day when he pushed her on the swing.

Ashton had laughed her high-pitched little girl laugh, tossing her blonde curls into the wind, feeling like she could fly away.

Her father stopped the swing. He kneeled down in front of her and took her small, soft hands into his rough, calloused ones. His blue eyes twinkled in the fading light of day. He smelled of Old Spice and cow manure, the smell of Ashton’s childhood.

“I mean it. You’re the one. This is the place.”

A rustle of wind blew through the tree, and it seemed to wave at Ashton. She looked up at the tree and could almost feel it wrapping its life-giving warmth around her. Her dad squeezed her hands, then hugged her. He started pushing the swing again.


“I want to put a tire swing up for the girls,” Ashton said.

“There?” Deke asked, pointing to the tree as they walked toward the wind.

The girls had stayed home with Ashton’s mom. The memorial service had been two weeks ago already. Ashton’s mom had taken to wearing only black and making pies: peach, apple, pecan. There were more pies than they could ever eat. The sting of Ashton’s father’s death still took her breath away. The tree gave her the air she needed to breathe again, to feel again.

“I was thinking about selling off this acreage to the Boyers’,” Deke said.

“Oh,” Ashton said. She looked at the tree, and it seemed to bow its head in sadness.

“We could make some money. Put it in a college fund for the girls. This farm just don’t produce as much as it used to.”

“You can’t.”

“Why can’t I?”

“Because that tree is important,” Ashton said, pointing to it. The tree seemed to stand up a little taller, the leaves danced against the bright light of the midday sun.

“Don’t be silly, Ashton.”

After dinner and the girls’ baths, Ashton sat in the living room with her mother while Deke read to the bouncing girls who had wired themselves up, slap-happy before bedtime. Ashton knitted while her mother ate a piece of peach pie a la mode. They conferred and agreed. Ashton kissed the urn on the mantle before heading off to bed.

The next morning, Ashton ran to the tree. Running made her feel so alive. She hugged it and swore it hugged her back.


“I met someone,” she said.

“Who?” her father asked.

She sat on the tire swing, holding the worn ropes, her keds firmly planted in the dip her bare childhood feet had made on the ground.

“His name is Deke Malloy.”

“Irish, is he?” her father had joked.

Ashton, in the full throes of adolescence, rolled her eyes.

“I think I’m in love, Dad.”

Her father smiled, held her hands, and gave her a kiss on the forehead.

“I think it’s about time we took down the tire swing,” he said.

“Oh Daddy, I love this old thing.”

They both looked up into the branches of the old oak tree. It had seen so much on this land for the last hundred years, so many people coming and going. Ashton could feel its spirit. The next day, Ashton’s father removed the tire swing. Five years later, Ashton and Deke married.


In the afternoon, they all dressed up. Ashton and her mother wore blue, the color of the sky, and her father’s favorite.

“I guess I didn’t realize how important the tree was to you,” Deke said.

Ashton’s mom held her hand. The little girls followed along, picking daisies they would later make daisy chains with. Ashton could almost see the outline of the tire swing. She looked at the tree, and she thought she saw her dad there waving at her. She smiled, and held up her hand. The tree waved back.

Under the tree’s shade, she and her mom struggled to open the urn.

“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” Ashton said.

She poured her father’s ashes into the dip her childhood feet had made. The leaves of the tree waved in the wind, and the ashes swirled a little then settled into dust. Ashton smiled, imagining her daddy standing there, her hand securely in his. She put her arms around her mother’s waist and around Deke’s squeezing them close to her and looking at the wonder of an old oak tree.

“Now about that tire swing…”

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Living With Harmony

Here’s another short story for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. This week, the theme was “To fix something, you first must break it.” I’m not quite sure if anything in my story ever was actually fixed, but maybe that’s the point. You decide and let me know what you think.

Living With Harmony (1,025 words)

Harmony liked to take things apart and try to fix them. Her mom and dad said she would be an engineer some day. Her brothers said she was the worst. She constantly took apart their drones, robots, or any other amazing electronic they had received. Most of the time she couldn’t figure out how to put them back together again.

At school, Harmony didn’t quite fit in. All the other girls talked about princesses then as they grew older they talked about makeup and boys. She liked boys, but makeup didn’t make one iota of sense to her. Why would you put makeup on your face like a clown? Didn’t people know lipstick had been created to cover up the effects of tuberculosis? She didn’t understand how she could feel so smart and so able, but not fit into the box of society.

Then she met Reed. Reed fixed everything. The first time he came over to her house, the door creaked as he opened it. Reed asked if they had WD40. This cemented what Harmony already knew: they were made for each other.

Their relationship grew and eventually they married.

“Are you sure he’s the one?” Harmony’s oldest brother asked.

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

“He’s a fixer.”

“I’m a fixer too,” Harmony insisted.

“No. You’re a destroyer. That’s what you are.” Her brothers laughed at her.

But Harmony didn’t see it that way. She and Reed both liked to fix things or at least try. She couldn’t figure out what her brothers were driving at so she ignored them.

Harmony and Reed moved into a studio apartment on the East side of town. The apartment started out as perfect as their marriage. They tinkered together toiling steadily over different projects. Reed landed a job in an up and coming architect firm while Harmony continually questioned what to do with her life.  And Harmony grew bored. There was nothing for her to take apart and for Reed to fix in the little apartment. The super took care of all of that.

On a Monday, Harmony burnt the pancakes on purpose.

“Maybe there’s something wrong with the burner,” Reed said.

“There’s nothing wrong with the burner. I just burnt them.”

“That’s okay,” Reed said, giving Harmony a kiss on the cheek as he headed out the door.

Harmony sighed. Now she sat alone in the apartment bored with her perfect little existence. She took apart the television. Only, she couldn’t figure out exactly how to get it back together. She did the best she could, screwing in bolts and nuts, and putting the bunny ears back on top of the television.

Reed came home, sat down, and tried to turn on the boob tube.

“The TV is broken,” Harmony said.

“How’d that happen? I wanted to watch Johnny Carson”

Harmony shrugged. She went into the kitchen and scrubbed the pristine counters. Reed worked on the television. That night they made love more passionate than they had in six months. Harmony knew what she had to do to make things work.

The following day, Reed’s car wouldn’t start when he left work.

“I’m going to be late,” he said over his office phone.

“Working on a tough project?”

“Car won’t start. But it’s the strangest thing—I took the car to the dealership yesterday and everything was okay. I’m wondering if someone messed with it.”

Reed’s voice had an edge to it Harmony had never heard before.

“Honestly, Reed. Why would someone want to do that to you? You’re being paranoid.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right. Save me some dinner.”

He almost caught her with the toaster. She pulled out a piece, and when he went to fix it he found the piece in the drawer.

“Harmony, did you mess with the toaster?”

“No,” she said from the living room where she worked feverishly on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle.

“But I found a piece to it, in the junk drawer.” He stood, towering above her, holding the piece.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Harmony said, looking up at him for a minute then looking back at her crossword puzzle. “Do you know a four letter word for sex?”

“Fuck, I just don’t get it. Everything is breaking around here.” He slanted his eyes toward Harmony, but she had returned to her crossword puzzle.

That night when he crawled into bed, his breath smelled of gin and tonic. Harmony pushed her body closer to him. He pulled away.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m so tired. Do you realize I’ve fixed three things today? I feel like everything is falling apart.”

As time marched on, Harmony became more adept at breaking things and Reed became more adept at fixing them. With everything Harmony broke, she felt closer and closer to Reed. She loved how he could fix even the most complicated things she broke. But then she started to notice Reed pull away from her and retreat into himself. She felt as if they were no longer in concord with one another. And she had no idea how to fix it.

The second summer of their marriage, the air conditioning went out. The apartment sweltered. The Super had gone on vacation.

“Aren’t you going to fix it, Reed?”

“Fix it? I’ve fixed everything. And everything keeps falling apart. It’s like I’m cursed or something.”

“Well have you looked at it?”

“Hell, I just don’t know what to do. It seems like it started when the car wouldn’t start. Then the TV broke, the fire, the carburetor in the car, the stupid toaster, and now this goddamn air conditioning. I just don’t see why all of this keeps happening?”

“But Reed, you’re so good at fixing things.”

“Harmony, there are some things that can never be fixed.”

With those lines, Reed walked out the door. Harmony looked out the second story window and watched as he hailed a cab. She had no idea where he was going, but she knew he wouldn’t be coming back. Harmony could create problems, but she could never quite figure out how to fix them.

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Pride Cometh Before the Fall

Today’s story is another flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog over at TerribleMinds. The assignment was to write Good vs. Evil in whatever genre we chose. I chose Southern Fiction. I had a hard time coming up with an idea for this, as I don’t believe in purely good and evil. Walking the dogs today, I thought about this character Henny who I had been thinking of writing, and the story came to me. Please leave a comment and let me know what you thought! Thanks!

Pride Cometh Before the Fall (795 words)

Henny bent down to pick up the pecans that had fallen from the trees. She loved pecans, hard on the outside but soft on the inside, just like Papa. Papa’s hands had calluses and his face felt like leather, but he had a soft kind spirit that made Henny prideful.

Mama always said, “Pride cometh before the fall.”

Henny knew it was a Bible verse but whenever she thought of that phrase she thought of Mama’s hard, grim face and puckered lips.

The bag of pecans rustled against the tire of her bike as she pushed it through Mr. William’s pecan grove. She almost had enough.  When Mama baked pies with Henny some of her worn-outness disappeared. Sometimes Mama would soften like the dough, laughing and smiling as they kneaded it, creating something out of nothing.

“Henny, you run out now and get some pecans from over at Williams’ place so we can have a sweet pecan pie tonight. Shoo—go along now,” Mama said.

Henny knew she had been sent away because it was her little brother’s nap time. Mama said Henny could make more noise than a heap of Indians. Henny couldn’t sit still either—that’s what her teachers said. She had an abundance of energy she somehow could not deplete. Papa liked to tease her and would say, “Henny, it’s a wonder your battery ain’t never run out.”

Henny heard a rustle on the far side of the pecan grove. She rolled her bike through mountains of nuts stepping gingerly to avoid crunching any pecans underneath her feet. What she saw made her eyes grow big. The Klan—just about six or seven of ‘em. Her heartbeat sped up making her feel light headed. She put the kickstand down, and hid behind a big pecan tree.

Two men with white pointed hats held a black man by the arms.

“Don’t do it,” the black man screamed. “I din’t do it. I promise. Lemme go. I got a family.”

The Klansman leaned close to the black man and whispered in his ear. The black man looked like he peed himself. Henny stood still with fear. Another man came from the distance carrying a length of rope. They all looked like little toy soldiers. Dressed all in white there was no way to tell who was who. The black man wept. His eyes were red with tears.

He prayed out loud, “Dear God, please save me.”

Henny repeated his prayer. “Dear God, please save him.”

The men switched places, and the tallest Klansman made a loop in the rope. He cut a piece of it with a knife and tied the black man’s arms behind his back. The black man began to shuffle, hysterically trying to get away. The tallest Klansman dropped the knife but kept a strong grip on the rope. He pushed it over the black man’s head and tightened the loop. By this time one of the other Klansmen had climbed the tree. They hoisted the black man up and tied him there. The Klansman in the tree jumped down. There was noise in the distance, like a gunshot. The Klansmen looked around, but Henny couldn’t see their eyes. All seven of them stormed off into one direction, probably looking for the source of the distraction.

Henny’s eyes filled with tears. The black man was not dead. He hung there, struggling for breath. His hands remained tied behind his back. He gasped for air, the rope slowly digging into his neck, and turning his face as red as a tomato. His whole body swung with the effort to escape.

Henny made sure the white-robed men were gone. She tiptoed out from behind the tree.

She grabbed the knife the tallest Klansman had forgotten on the ground. It felt familiar in her palm, but she had no time to think about it. She shimmied up the tree as fast as she could. The black man’s eyes finding hers as he struggled to breathe against the tightness of the rope. She started sawing into the rope as fast as she could. Harder and harder until clunk, the black man was on the ground.

He coughed, grabbing at his neck. Henny looked down from above. She could see a red ring around his neck. She wanted to throw-up.

“Thank you, little girl. Thank you.” The hoarseness of his words made him hard to understand.

“You better run,” Henny said.

He nodded, rubbing his neck, and took off.

Henny climbed back down the tree turned the knife over and saw the inscription.

“To Papa. Happy Birthday. Love Henny.”

She sunk down to the ground and began to cry. The wind rustled in the trees as pecans fell to the ground like bullets. Fall was coming.

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Finished

I wrote this for Terribleminds again. But I did have an agenda having to do with the Orlando shooting. Originally, I was just going to post this as a reconciliation story. In fact, I’d written something completely different. But in the light of what happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando over the weekend, I wanted to humanize the tragedy. I think so often, we aren’t able to see the human component of death and tragedy, because we are so desensitized by the media and the violence we see on television.


Finished – 836 words

Pounding. Like my head. I twist around in the sweaty sheets and stare at the numbers on the clock: 3:00 AM. The pounding continues. I try to grasp my bearings. I have no idea where I am. I switch on the light to see the impersonalization of a lonely hotel room.

Feet on soft carpet, but all I can think of is the grime of others feet before me. I realize when I’m almost to the door I’m completely naked. I turn around and walk over the sea of germs to the bed, pulling the sheet off and wrapping it around me like a toga.

When I get back to the door I look through the peep hole, but I can’t see anything. There’s something wrong with it—a little crack in the glass maybe—and so I open the door. And he’s standing there. I put my hands up to stop him from coming in but he stumbles forward, pushing back with both of his hands into my chest. I’m scared but it’s a silly feeling because I know he’s not going to hurt me.

He sinks on to the bed like it’s a sponge and puts his face into his hands. And he sobs. Giant ragged cries and inhuman noises escape his throat. They are noises no one should have to hear. And in a stunned moment I drop the sheet, standing naked in the middle of the hotel room with the door wide open. I slam it shut and gather the sheet bunching it up ineffectively under one of my arms so one breast is still visible, but I do not care.

As I cross the hotel room to him, I feel like I’m traveling a million miles and still unsure whether I’ll reach him. His sobs are becoming louder, and I feel a pit of sorrow lodge in my stomach even though I don’t know what’s wrong. I drop to my feet in front of him, placing my hands on the rough fabric of his jeans. His arms wrap around me and he leans his head down onto my shoulder. I can feel the ocean of his tears swimming down my back as his breaths become less jagged.

Finally he takes a deep breath and sits up straight. His hair falls in front of his eyes, and he pushes it back the way he always does with two fingers. I pull back and away from him and feel vulnerable and exposed, sitting naked in front of him.

“How’d you find me?” I ask. “And 3 in the morning?”

“One of your friends told me where you were,” he says.

“Lowell—”

“Shh.” His fingers are on my lips. Soft and inviting.

I hadn’t seen him in a month. Walked out. And as far as I knew he’d gone on with his life. The tears seemed too little too late. He wraps his arms around me again. I feel comfortable in his arms. Our bodies fit together as cliché as it sounds. I was never one of those people who believe in that hokey nonsense of we complete each other or soulmates.

When Lowell and I were together we laughed at each other’s jokes even when they weren’t funny. We didn’t resent each other. We argued and fought and found solutions. And I thought everything was as perfect as it could be for two tragically flawed human beings in love. But I’d been wrong. Because things fall apart. And our relationship began to unravel like an old quilt. One day, I left. I changed my number and walked out. I stayed with my friend for a few weeks. And about a week ago, I convinced my boss to put me up in temporary housing at an extended stay. After all, the reason I live in Orlando is for my job. I would have never moved here if it weren’t for Disney.

Lowell’s fingers slide into my hair. His lips are pressing against my forehead. And we kiss. He undresses and we make love with our bodies wrapped together and entwined like we have never been broken apart. Afterwards, we stare at each other. The soft pads of his fingertips trace the lines on my cheeks as if he is memorizing every part of my face. He starts crying too feeling lost and alone in his arms.

“The shooting last night,” Lowell begins. He seems to choke on the words. “Luis was there. Dad called me and told me today he couldn’t get a hold of him. He asked me to go by his apartment and check on him. He wasn’t there.”

My world sinks. It becomes dark. The hotel room looks concave. I want to faint. Lowell grabs my hands and pulls me closer to him. Skin on skin. Warmth. Love. We hold each other. The tears travel down my face.

“And he’s in the hospital?” I can hear the false lilt of hope in my voice.

“He’s not answering his phone.”

The world as I knew it crumbles into little pieces and breaks apart. I feel like I’m floating. Lowell pulls me closer and the ugly sobs of earlier return. We hold each other, and I try to comfort him. But I can’t.


How do you comfort someone who loses a loved one to a hate crime? There are ways to fix this problem, but we as Americans have to take action. We have to say no to the people who won’t compromise. Does the American public really need access to AK-47s and other assault weapons? The answer is no. Having fair gun control is not banning all guns. It doesn’t even affect your 2nd Amendment right. It simply makes it harder for people to gain access to guns they can use to exercise hate and small mindedness. These types of guns were created for the military, not for civilian use.

Unfortunately, the Orlando shooting has divided a lot of people instead of uniting us. But our brothers and sisters in the LBGTQ community have been affected. We need to use this as a reminder to teach our children that hate is wrong. We need to teach them love and acceptance. In the light of this shooting, it’s hard for me to understand how people are attacking Muslims. This spreads more hate against a minority group of people within our country. Not all Muslims are radicalized terrorists. In fact, the majority of them aren’t. When are we going to learn that judging others by the color of their skin, their race, their gender, and their religious beliefs is simply not productive?  If you think that way then you might want to look in the mirror, because studies shows white extremists have killed more people in the U.S. than Jidhadists since 9/11. The only thing you’re doing by spreading that false information is creating more hate, which leads to more crime and violence. Don’t we want a world in which our children can grow up safe and accepted? It’s time to stop the blame and create a solution. Enough is enough.


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Lost and Found

I wrote this story for Terrible Minds, yet again! The assignment only had one requirement: must contain a map.

Lost and found

(873 words)

Harlan didn’t trust GPS. The first time he used it he had ended up somewhere in bum-fuck-Egypt. At that point, he had been infinitely grateful for the stacks of fold up maps stuck in his glove compartment. Back then, everyone had maps. Most people used them. People understood geography and how routes connected to state highways, interstates, connecting all the states to make us somehow unified even from thousands of miles away. Now they summoned Siri and asked her to take them to a location. How did they know she’d comply? That’s what Harlan wanted to ask them.

Cheree thought he was ridiculous. A few years after GPS came out she’d bought him a TomTom. It sat in the box under the wilting tree for a few days. Then one day it magically appeared in the front seat of Harlan’s car, still in its box. It sat there too, until Cheree had to borrow Harlan’s car because hers needed an oil change. When she came back from work that evening the TomTom had been installed. Harlan had never so much as pushed the power button.

Which is why at this point, he was ticked off. The map open in front of him did not show the road he had been driving down. He knew he had made a wrong turn somewhere, but he couldn’t figure out where. And he sat, air conditioner blaring, needle precariously close to Empty, on the side of the road with his finger on an empty space in the middle of nowhere where clearly, in real life, there was an actual road. The TomTom glared at him, willing him to push the little power button. But he felt in this predicament the TomTom would have no idea the road existed either. Plus, it might drain his gas reserves even further. And it was the principle of the matter after all. All these years, the maps had always been right. This was not the time to change his firmly held beliefs, damn-it.

He turned off the engine and stepped out of the car. The heat beat down on him with its blaring desert-force. He kicked the tire to his 2009 BMW, because that was helpful. He stood in the breakdown lane with his arms over head and sweat stains spreading out on the new Oxford shirt Cheree bought for him. The heat played in dancing waves over the desert surrounding him.

He walked around to the other side of the car, opened the passenger side and took out the stack of maps. Nevada. He had two other maps for Nevada. They looked older than the one he had been using. He opened one up and laid it out on the hood of the car, then planted his hands on the black paint before realizing this was a mistake. The sun-heated metal burned the palms of his hand.

“Shit,” he said, shaking his hands in the dusty air.

He stared at the map, placing his finger at the location that looked like an undeveloped piece of land in the middle of the desert. He looked around, and sure enough that’s what it was, with a goddamn no-name, no-route road running through it that he’d been lucky enough to turn onto somehow.

Cheree would be worried by now. He knew she was sitting at the bar at the Bellagio having a gin and tonic and checking her iPhone for the time. God, he wished he had one of those too. Then he could call her if he could get reception out here. They had tickets for Cirque du Soleil at 7 PM. He knew he’d never make it if he didn’t find his way out of this place. He just couldn’t remember if he’d taken a right or left, then another right or left, and it was a horrible time for his memory to fail him. Or his sense of direction.

Cheree always joked that for someone who loved maps he got lost an awful lot. He always smiled and nodded when she said it in front of other people, but in reality the statement pissed him off. But now he knew she was right and that if he didn’t find his way out of this nowhere road he’d die of thirst and hunger in the middle of the desert.

“Stupid no-good maps,” he said.

He folded them up, stuck them in the glove department, slammed the passenger’s side door then walked around to the driver’s side. He started the car then powered on the TomTom. His first thought would be that it would need updating, and he’d still be lost, but to his surprise it had been updated and there were even addresses loaded into the machine. God love, Cheree. Always there for him. He pulled out his notepad with the address scrawled on it—3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South—and plugged it into the machine.

The little dots swirled around in a circle: Calculating.

And sure enough the road appeared. Continue for 35 miles, take a left. Clear cut directions on a road that did exist even though every single map he owned said it shouldn’t be there.

Maybe Cheree was right after all. GPS had its benefits.

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The Last Push

Disclaimer: This is where I tell you that this story deals with adult themes and language. Do not read it if you don’t want to know that your daughter, aunt, mother, friend, whomever I am to you writes about adult themes.

I wrote this for Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. The assignment was to start with a BANG. I started with a banging.

The Last Push – 880 words

Banging her. Again. He looked out the window as he gyrated his hips. He couldn’t care less about this girl. She was loud in bed too. That drove him nuts. He just wanted to put his fucking hand over her mouth and tell her to shut-up.

Out the window the leaves had turned orange and red overnight. He pushed into her, and she squealed like a goddamn magpie. He didn’t like that. He wanted it over, but unfortunately they’d been screwing so much this weekend his stamina had improved. He pulled out and moved off of her.

“That’s it. You came?”

“Does it look like I did?” he asked, waving his hand toward his still erect dick. “On top.”

She obliged. He closed his eyes so he didn’t have to look at her face as she started moving and moaning on top of him.

On Saturday, he’d woken up and realized he’d spent the night. He kind of liked her smell. Melon—fruity—something like that. At the breakfast table, she poured a bowl of cereal and sat next to him. He ate his Cheerios and looked at the box, reading the words, but her loud chewing distracted him. Then she started talking. He thought they always ruined it with the talking.

“Next weekend my friend is having a birthday party. It’s going to be, like, this big blow-out. And you should come, Daniel.”

He should come. Like right now, come. He looked up at her, a mess of blonde hair in front of her face. He put his hands on her hip and adjusted how she sat. She thrashed about on top of him and made noises like a dying whale.

He’d known her exactly two weeks. They’d met at a party. He’d never invited her to his place. And for those two weeks all they’d done was spend time under the covers. He couldn’t talk to her about anything. She didn’t even know who Tolstoy was. “Is that one of your friends?” she asked when he mentioned the Russian author in conversation.

But she had a nice ass. And was a good lay except today with his mind on overdrive thinking about all the shit that made her so totally wrong for him. She looked nothing like Florrie. Maybe that was the only good thing about her. He couldn’t stand girls who looked like Florrie. He’d seen girls with short hair and that straight nose with the little upturned tip, and he’d run in the opposite direction.

And so he’d ended up with May. For the last two weeks. And he put in minimal effort. I mean, minimal, minuscule, the tiniest of tiny efforts. But she called him, texted, and sent him silly memes. He texted her too at like 10 PM every night to ask if he could come over. And then he’d come. A lot. And he liked that part. Well mostly, except moments like this when it felt like it would never end. When her groans were loud and annoying. When he knew implicitly that she wasn’t and could never be Florrie.

He pushed her over onto her back again. He needed to think of something, but Florrie’s face kept coming back to him. Once, a few years after he and Florrie had ended things, he’d been in the heat of the moment with a girl he actually liked. A girl he thought could maybe be more than just another fucking hookup, and he’d said Florrie’s name. The girl had freaked out. She beat his chest with her fist like some douchey cartoon character and demanded to know who Florrie was.

“Nobody,” he said. But the guilt of that statement stuck with him. Because she was somebody. Somebody he couldn’t forget or let go of no matter how many girls he’d been with since.

That girl had never called him back and since then he’d floated from one mattress to another. He’d seen purple sheets and pink sheets. He’d seen girls with OCD-clean rooms and disastrous clutters. He’d seen almost every size and shape one could think a woman could come in. Pear shaped, hourglass – that was his favorite–curvy. He’d seen girls who took care of themselves meticulously, and unfortunately, girls who didn’t.

And now he was here, in bed with May, wishing for an ending.

With May on her back, he began tracing her face with his fingers. He looked at her. He transformed her face into Florrie’s. He imagined the smile lines. He pretended she had Florrie’s deep set blue eyes. He erased May’s long hair with his eyes and transformed it into the short pixie haircut Florrie always wore. He saw the way she always bit her left lower lip toward the end of sex. He saw her face, and he began to move in a rhythm. May looked suddenly serious, but all Daniel saw was Florrie. He saw her on the summer day when they sat surrounded by dandelions in the middle-of-nowhere field where they stripped down naked and made love surrounded by picnic ants. Like some fucking Nicholas Sparks book. He saw all of the faces of Florrie on this girl in front of him. And he felt so turned on imagining her below him.

He put his head down on May’s shoulder, taking in her scent and pretending she smelled like Florrie. He felt the moment of explosion and his whole body shook with the last push.

One final release. He came. Goodbye to May. Bang over.

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The Weird Adventures of Dick and Jane

Here’s another piece of flash fiction from Terrible Minds. There are bad words in this short story. It is 1414 words, and a little bit looney! The prompt came from THEY FIGHT CRIME, which gives hilarious prompts apparently!

My prompt: He’s a Green-fingered advertising executive who believes he’s a wolf. She’s a mentally unstable astronaut with a magical ham sandwich in her pocket.

And the story:

Dick finished his nightly howl after checking in on his calla lilies. Of course they bloomed with the power of a thousand glories. After all, Dick had always had green-fingers as his  grandma liked to say. God rest her soul. He looked up to the sky to see the tiny dot, he thought was a star, traveling closer and closer. He didn’t think that was right. In fact, he’d drawn stars before. He was drawing stars right now for some pathetic ad he had to do for the Wright Agency. God, he hated the Wright Agency. They were always wrong in his opinion. He opened his mouth to howl again.

His neighbor threw open his window, “Shut the fuck up, Dick. You’re not a wolf. You’re just a goddamn asshole for waking everyone up with your incessant howling, every single goddamn night!”

Dick ignored his neighbor’s negative comments and asked, “How about those Braves?”

“Damn, your mother knew what she was doing when she named you Dick,” the neighbor said, closing the window.

Dick didn’t let it bother him. Instead, he focused on the dot. Now it looked entirely too close. And in fact, it wasn’t a dot anymore. It looked like a—s.

Close call, Dick thought, as he brushed himself off from where he’d thrown himself. The spacecraft landed on the other side of his fence sparing his morning-glories and forget-me-nots. The neighbor’s house had been saved too. Too bad. Dick didn’t think anyone could survive that kind of landing, but the spacecraft, the size of a mini-cooper, looked largely intact. His fur of his beard bristled up as he walked out the back gate and stood near the spaceship.

Dick sneaked up to the spacecraft on all fours. Smoke rose from one side. He knocked on it, hearing the hollow sound of metal ring out against the night. Other people looked on from their windows, but no one was as brave as Dick. He protected his territory with a canine ferocity and the machine had landed precariously close to his land.

The door opened and he jumped back, landing on his hands and feet. He barred his teeth and began growling as the astronaut stepped out of the spacecraft. She lifted the orange space helmet from her head, and shook out her long strawberry locks. Her eyes twinkled, illuminated by the moon, and to Dick it seemed as if she’d walked right out of a fairy tale to meet him. Dick barred his teeth and began sniffing as she walked closer to him. He stared at her orange spacesuit which looked a little too tight around her breast area.

“Where am I?”

He stood up and brushed the dirt off his arms and legs.

“Outside Atlanta. Name’s Dick. Top wolf, these parts. Somewhat of a Casanova, really.”

“Wolf?” Her brows knitted into a question mark above her head. “Tried to make it to Mars. Dammit. Failed again.”

Dick hung his head and whined.

“Wolf! The fuck you are!” the woman screamed.

Dick backed away from the woman, unsure why she was so angry. He wanted to go back into his house and work on his ad. He felt safe inside his den. He sat back on his haunches against the roughness of the asphalt as she came toward him. He thought she wanted to attack him, but instead she helped him up on to two legs then wrapped her arms around him in an embrace. She smelled. Not like perfume. Like meat. He stuck out his tongue and salivated, dripping salvia all over her orange spacesuit. He sniffed, leaning down toward her and she let him, amazingly. Most people hit him or attacked him with their purses when he started sniffing around them. He sniffed all the way down to her pocket. He could tell the smell came from there. He wanted to take a bite, but she gently pushed him away.

“Not that. Not here. Not now. Can we go somewhere private?”

He pointed to his backyard, and he opened the gate for her.

“The flowers.”

“Green-fingers,” Dick said, waving them in front of her face like jazz hands.

The garden brimmed with flowers of every imaginable kind. Dick could plant anything. Orchids sprang up from the mere thought of his touch. His backyard felt like paradise, unless you were allergic, then it would have been a nightmare.

Inside the house, the fire cackled.

“Fire in the summer?”

“I sleep on the hearth,” Dick said.

“Do you think you’re actually a wolf?”

Dick’s face took on a blank stare. “Tea?”

“I hate fucking tea,” she said. She picked up the closest thing she saw, a framed picture of Dick’s prized pumpkin from 1997, and threw it against the brick wall closest to her. Dick didn’t flinch. Instead, he went over to the fire and stoked it, ignoring the woman’s hostile glances. She broke into tears again, and Dick knew something was wrong with her. A mental illness. Depression maybe.

“Why do you have a sandwich in your pocket?” he asked.

“This?”

She pulled out a ham sandwich. Dick could smell it from all away across the room. Ham and cheese on ciabatta bread with honey mustard, lettuce, and tomato. It looked like something you’d order from Panera or Subway. Dick loved meat. Any kind would do. Of course he normally ate it completely raw.

“That,” he started salivating again.

“This is a magical sandwich,” she said. Her eyes glowed as she gazed at it.

“Magical?”

“Magical. It can grant my wishes. What’s your one wish?”

“Like a genie in a bottle?” Dick felt his ears perk up the way they did when he was out on a hunt.

“Yes, I suppose like a genie,” she said. She cradled the sandwich as if it were a piece of crystal. The smell wafted toward Dick, and the hunger in the pit of his stomach doubled.

“To find a mate. To expand my brood. What is yours?”

“To make it to Mars.”

“What’s on Mars?”

She shrugged her shoulders as if the answer to that question was not the least bit important.

“What’s your name?”

“Jane.”

He plopped down in front of the fire and stretched out, rolling onto his back and exposing his belly. He then turned to his eyes and stared at her with his wolf eyes, calculating the right time to pounce. Instead, he asked a question, because after all he knew in the human world the way to a woman’s heart was through her mind. And Jane was no ordinary woman.

“If the sandwich is magical, then why hasn’t your wish come true?

“If you’re a wolf, then why don’t you have fur?”

“Touché.”

Dick could feel the crazy emanating from Jane. But, still, he wanted to get closer to her. He did what he knew attracted female wolves. He climbed onto the couch next to her and began rubbing his head against her neck. He flicked out her tongue to groom her, but she pulled away and rose her hand as if she were about to slap him.

“What are you doing?” she screeched.

She pulled at her hair in distress. Dick moved closer then stroked her again trying to calm her down. She put her hands down on the couch and pushed herself further away from him. He growled deeply then pounced.

She screamed as his teeth ripped into the sandwich, shoving the whole thing into his mouth, hardly chewing before he swallowed.

“The magic,” she sobbed.

 

* * *

“She’s stabilized.”

“Jane. You were out a long time. But Dr. Hartsell said the shock treatment might have worked. Isn’t that great news?

“You Dick!” she shouted.

She tried to sit up, straining against the restraints meant to keep her from attacking. Dick backed up and shook his head dejectedly at the doctor.

The man in the white coat paced the room as Jane raged. He made his way over to the medicine cabinet and opened the drawer. He pulled out a needle and a vial. From previous hospitalizations, Dick knew it always took awhile to stabilize her. He scratched behind his ear, making his left leg move up and down slightly, as he watched the doctor inject her. Her screams quieted and an ominous silence filled the room.

“What’s that smell?” Dr. Hartsell asked.

Dick reached into his pocket to find the remnants of a half-eaten ham and cheese sandwich.

“Funny. I thought I’d finished that.”

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PS: The Devil Within is only available until May 31, 2016. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.