Flash Fiction – Bells

When it was quiet, it was possible to hear the bells ringing in the church clear across town. Erika heard them often in the crisp evenings when everyone else was asleep. They kept her company, marked the approaching dawn, giving her increasingly insistent warnings that soon it would all begin again.

It occurred to her that there might be someone on the other side with the bells—a Quasimodo. She refused to believe that they were hooked up to a system of levers and pulleys that were programmed by a faceless computer. No, it was someone with strong arms and legs; a solid weight pulling down on a thick rope that burned their palms as they let it slide through before seizing it tightly to pull down again.

“I want to go to the church,” she told Kerry one evening.

Kerry frowned, brow furrowed. “Any church in particular?”

“The one with the bells.”

“I think they hold mass at nine o’clock,” Kerry nodded and shrugged. “But we can go.”

“No, not on Sunday. I want to go now,” Erika insisted rising.

“Uh, honey…”

But Erika had already left the room and left the house walking in the general direction from which she knew the music of the bells carried.

Kerry ran after her with a blanket to wrap around her shoulders despite the fact it wasn’t actually cold.

“Let me do this,” Erika told Kerry. “I’ll be fine.”

Kerry pressed her lips together but stepped aside. “If you head for Main Street—”

“I’ll find it,” Erika dismissed the offered directions.

“Just… be careful.”

Erika walked. She stopped at the ends of sidewalks and waited for cars to pass and the light to turn. She didn’t flinch when dogs barked at her from behind their fences and ignored a group of teens gathered outside a fast food place jeering at her and smacking one another on their arms and backs as though they’d accomplished something.

She checked her watch and waited closing her eyes.

There it was; ten, perfectly-spaced, deep tones that resonated with her bones. She turned and adjusted her path.

Her steps were small but determined. It wasn’t as silent as she’d always thought. The noise from televisions slipped through open windows, the light peeking through the cracks in shades and blinds. There were insects out and about as well as the bats, electric zappers, and other nocturnal beings that caught and devoured them. Cars idled at intersections and then sped off when the spectrum shifted.

Knowing all this made the bells that much more impressive. They cut through all the nonsense and made themselves heard, made their presence felt. And yet for so many they faded into the background too.

Erika stopped and waited again ignoring the woman who spotted her through her front window and came out to ask if she was lost. Erika held up a hand, confusing the woman until she started; eleven.

“No, I’m not lost,” Erika whispered as she started walking again; she was close.

Most everything was dark when she finally found the church. Only the streetlamps and the headlights from a solitary car competed with the moon and stars to light Erika’s way.

It was different this time. They started early—five minutes before the hour; they had a whole song to get through before the day officially ended.

Erika stared up at the bell tower and smiled. She wondered if they played the same song every time or if the unseen Quasimodo changed it from night to night.

Tears of triumph trickled down her face with the tolling of each of the twelve bells welcoming the new day.


Drabble – The Box

Prompt: From generation to generation, a box has been passed down with strict instructions not to open it until a certain date. That date is today. What’s inside the box?

OPEN DEC. 31, 1999 was scratched clumsily into the tin box’s lid that had rusted shut decades before.

“How long did Gramps have it?” Pam asked.

“Don’t know. He got it from his mother and she—”

“It’s been a while,” Mother said brandishing a screwdriver.

Prying the lid loose, they collectively held their breath. Pam removed it.

Inside were petrified cookies.

“Why would anyone want this saved?” Pam asked, banging a cookie against the table.

Her mother scrutinized the date on the lid. “I think… this… was supposed to be an eight,” she pointed at the first malformed nine.

Drabble – Late Policy

Prompt: “And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees, When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, A highwayman comes riding— Riding—riding— A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.” (to be paired with whatever strikes your fancy)

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair,” Lucy finished to the applause of her class.

“Impressive, Ms. Skye,” Professor Diamond commended her as Lucy took her seat at the only empty desk in the classroom. “However, in future, please keep your selections to about the length of a sonnet. I don’t want to get rid of my late arrival policy because you choose poems long enough to waste additional minutes of class time. Or perhaps your classmates would prefer I schedule an additional class or online assignment to make up the difference.”

Lucy suppressed her self-satisfied smile.

Drabble – Plane Tickets

Only 100 words instead of 500, I’ve started dabbling in drabbles and might be posting some here to get back into posting some of my creative fiction. Most of these are inspired by specific prompts which I’ll also post for reference (and feel free to comment with additional suggestions/prompts, etc.).

Prompt: A pair of plane tickets but only one is round trip.

“You can have the window seat,” Mom insisted. “I’ve got it all to myself on the way home.”

She said it as a joke but neither of us laughed. She would fly home alone while I stayed behind on campus, thousands of miles from everyone and everything I knew.

The airline called our section and we rose to board.

“It’s not that long till Thanksgiving,” I said, trying to sound optimistic as I handed over my one-way boarding pass. Mom held out her round-trip boarding pass for scanning.

“I’ll start looking at the airline rates on the plane,” Mom promised.

April Fools

For the record, this is based on something that happened to me my freshman year of college, right down to the fact it happened on April Fools’ Day.



“Dad? It’s Em.”

“Em? Why’re you calling? You should be on the road still.”

“Well, technically I’m on the road—or the side of it anyway.” She sighed and waited for a large semi to pass by so she could be sure of being heard. “First off—I swear this isn’t a prank.” Why of all the days for something like this to happen did it have to be April Fools’ Day?

Not a prank?”

“Right. I’ve blown a tire on my car and I’m going to need you to come meet me.”

“A tire? On the highway? Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s late enough that it’s not to crowded on the roads so I was able to get over without a problem. I wasn’t going too fast either so I didn’t swerve a lot when it blew.”

“Have you called AAA?”

“Yeah and I’m pretty sure I have a donut but I’m not even halfway back to campus.”

“How long till they get there?”

“Shouldn’t be more than a half hour. One of the state troopers already stopped to check on me once. He said he’d come check on me again when he got a chance—that he’d make sure the roadside assistance guy showed up before too long. He offered to help me get the donut on myself but I don’t have the right tools to do it.”

“I thought we got you that kit for Christmas?”

“It’s got the lug nut wrench but no jack.”

“So the AAA guy’s on his way?”

“Yeah. Once the donut’s on, I’ll head up to the next exit and head for a gas station or something. If you can meet me there and then follow me back home—I just don’t want to wind up stranded again. If the donut goes, I can get AAA to tow it, but I’ll still need a ride back.”

“And you’ll need a ride to campus in the morning, I guess. What time’s your first class?”

“Not until ten. And I’ll buy you one of those pastries you like at the café. Coffee too.”

“Oh, I’ll be needing two of those pastries, at least—one for a late breakfast and the other for the ride home again,” her father teased. “What exit is it?”

“I think it’s Exit 15—but it might be 14.”

“You don’t know where you are?”

“It’s dark and I’m not near any of the signs. I know I passed Exit 10 but I don’t get off until 27. I think I remember the sign for the outlets a little ways back and those are at Exit 13. It’s not like I was expecting this to happen.”

“Fine. I’ll head out now and when AAA gets there and you get the donut on, figure out where you are and call me when you’re at the gas station.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Emily said, ready to hang up.

“You promise this isn’t a prank?”

“I swear, it’s not a prank.”

Flash Fiction – Toddler Carols

Karen double-checked the restraint on her daughter’s car seat as they prepared to head home from the day care center.

“What’d you guys learn in school today?” she asked, conversationally as she climbed into the front seat and fastened herself in.

“We gonna have a concert!” Maya shouted joyfully.

“What kind of concert?”

“A Christmas concert. They gave me a paper in my pack-pack.”

“You’re going to sing some Christmas carols?”

“Ah-huh. Can I wear my red dress?”

“We’ll have to wait and see—Gram-gram bought it for you to wear when we go to their house for Christmas dinner. What about your blue dress? That one’s pretty.”

“Blue isn’t for Christmas, Mama,” Maya said, laughing at her mother’s absurd suggestion.

“We’ll go through your closet when we get home then. What about the songs? What ones are you singing?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Well, here,” Karen said, reaching to turn on the radio. Some the main stations had been playing Christmas music since Halloween but it made Karen’s hair stand on end to have anything to do with Christmas until Thanksgiving was over—she had a three-year-old, she was incapable of planning that far ahead for anything.

“That one, Mama!” Maya started screeching. “I want that one!”

The Twelve Days of Christmas—the Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall of holiday songs.

“What’s a partridge?” Maya asked.

“It’s a kind of bird, Sweetie.”

“What kind of tree’s it in?”

“A pear tree.”

“Oh. Five golden rings, four killing birds, three French horns, two tuttle-doves, and a partridge in a pear tree,” Maya sang along, counting down with her fingers.

Karen smiled in the front seat glancing into the rearview mirror periodically to watch Maya’s enthusiastic expression.

Each time through it became harder for Karen not to laugh. They had almost made it to their driveway when the song ended and she began to breathe easier.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas came on—repetitive but that just made it easier for Maya to pick up… at least as far as the tune was concerned.

Karen waited until they were having dinner that night to bring up the concert again.

“It’s two weeks away,” she told him. “Do you think you can get the morning off?”

“I’ll put in for it,” he promised Maya who was beaming. “Do you know what songs you’re going to sing yet?”

“The teacher put in a list,” Karen said with a broad grin. “We actually heard a few of them in the car on the way home today. Honey, why don’t you sing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ for Daddy.”

Maya swayed in her chair as she started singing.

“We wish you a Merry Christmas,

We wish you a Merry Christmas,

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a cup of good beer.

“Oh bring us some freaking pudding,

Oh bring us some freaking pudding,

Oh bring us some freaking pudding,

Oh bring it right here.”

He nearly choked on his dinner.

Flash Fiction – The Arrangement

“But… that’s my allowance!” Caitlin complained when her parents told her they wanted her brother to start washing his own bed sheets and making the bed himself. “I get two dollars for each of the beds in the house, ten cents for each thing I iron, fifty cents when I put away the dishes…” she listed.

“We know,” her mother said in an exaggerated tone. “We’re the ones who set up this little pay-by-chore system. But you’re hurrying through and doing everything before your brother has a chance. He needs to have a chance to earn his allowance too.”

“He gets five dollars when he mows the lawn and he gets to sort the recycling,” Caitlin remained adamant in her objections. “If he isn’t fast enough to do the laundry, that’s not my fault.”

“He needs to learn how to do it and that’s that,” her father said, laying down the final word on the matter.

Caitlin turned on her heel with a loud grunt of frustration as she stormed off.

*          *          *

“But I don’t want to,” Caleb complained when his parents told him he’d be laundering and reassembling his own bed from then on.

“I don’t care if you don’t want to,” his mother said in a dismissive tone. “It’s something you’re going to need to know how to do for when you get older and move out. Get used to it now.”

“But—” he started to complain again but he stopped when he saw his father’s impassive expression, backing his mother up.

Caleb rolled his eyes and shuffled off with his a loud sigh.

*          *          *

Caitlin hovered near the door to Caleb’s room as he played his Gameboy sprawled across his disheveled bed.

“I’ll do it for you,” she said with a glance over her shoulder to be sure their parents weren’t around.

“You will?” Caleb asked, pausing his game.

“Five dollars and I will.”

Caleb’s face scrunched up as he considered her offer, his eyes lingering on the device in his hands. “Deal.”

“Great. Get up and I’ll strip the bed while you get the cash.”

Caleb moved to his dresser and peeked to be sure Caitlin’s back was to him before reaching behind it to retrieve his wallet from a pocket he’d made out of duct tape and attached to the back.

With the sheets gathered against her chest, Cailtin took the five-dollar bill Caleb held out for her as she left the room.

*          *          *

“You did the beds?” their mother asked while they were eating their ice cream in the living room that night.

“Yup,” Caitlin answered.

“Here.” Their father handed Caitlin six dollars.

She furrowed her brow.

“You did all the beds, didn’t you?” he said.

She nodded. Caleb realized what was going on and objected. “Hey!”

“She made your bed didn’t she?”

“Yeah, but she made me pay her for it.”

“Well then, let that be a lesson to you,” their mother said with a shrug.

Flash Fiction – Trick-or-Treat Pt 3

With the exception of Zoe they were soon laughing about the incident.

“You should’ve seen your face,” Lani laughed with Rita. “Your eyes were like,” and she contorted her features so her eyes bugged out while she gasped and clutched the kerchief around Rita’s neck.

Zoe refused to walk ahead of them and clung to Travis at the next few houses, dragging him to the door while the girls waited on the sidewalk.

“How much longer do you think this is going to take?” Maggie asked, her arms crossed over her chest, her hands tucked into her armpits.

“Weren’t you the one who was all excited to be spending time with Travis?” Lani pointed out.

Maggie didn’t have a chance to respond because Zoe came running back towards them crying. She moved to go past the group but Rita reached out an arm and caught her.

“Thanks for that,” Travis said as he came up a moment latter with Zoe’s plastic pumpkin in one arm and a handful of candy that had fallen out of it in the other.

“What happened?” Rita asked, kneeling in front of Zoe and directing the question at her.

The girl was crying too much to make out anything coherent.

“Her tiara is missing,” Travis explained. “Do any of you remember where she had it last? She wants to go back and look for it.”

“Well, it can’t be too far,” Rita assured Zoe who was slowly beginning to calm down. “Why don’t the rest of you go on ahead and I’ll walk back and look for it?” she suggested. “I can find it and run to catch back up when I do.”

“You can’t go alone,” Maggie objected. “We all go or none of us do and frankly, I’m ready to call it a night.”

“No way,” Lani chimed in. “I’m not done yet.”

“Well I’m going back to the house where it’s warm,” Maggie insisted, turning to go back the way they came.

“It’s actually quicker to get back if you keep going,” Travis explained, hiding his amusement as Maggie turned around again, her exasperation building.

“This is ridiculous. I’ll find your tiara, Zoe,” Rita said before hurriedly retracing their steps.

It was getting late and most of the trick-or-treaters were finishing up. A few houses had turned off their lights and were closing up for the evening.

She spotted the red glow of the front door where the dummy had come flying at her and Zoe—the girl’s tiara must have fallen off there when she’d jumped in surprise. Easing her way back to the driveway, she kept an eye out for the movement that would indicate the dummy’s return. Spotting and nabbing the plastic tiara, she sighed with relief and headed back to the sidewalk.

Something reached out and grabbed her by the arm, causing her to scream.

Travis laughed before wrapping an arm around her and pulling her close.

“Relax. Zoe wanted me to make sure you were okay.”

Flash Fiction – Trick-or-Treat Pt 2

“I’m freezing,” Maggie whined hugging her arms to her torso as they walked along the sidewalk.

Rita refrained from commenting but Lani had no problem saying, “We told you so.”

Zoe skipped a few steps ahead waiting for them at the next mailbox.

Travis wore black robes and carried a cheap plastic sickle. When he put the hood up, he wanted to into the night, the foreboding figure of the grim reaper watching from the edges of perception. But his parents had forced him to put reflective tape across the back of his cloak as well as on the hanging sleeves for safety reasons. He decided it didn’t matter. He let the hood hang down, any enthusiasm he might have felt on his sister’s behalf would have vanished anyway the moment he came face to face with Rita and her friends—he needed to keep his cool.

“What are you supposed to be?” Zoe asked Maggie, pausing in her skipping for the rest of the group to catch up.

“A witch.” Maggie’s tone was blunt.

“You don’t have a broom,” Zoe pointed out. “And you didn’t make your face green.”

“Not that kind of witch,” Maggie tried to explain.

Zoe shrugged and continued on, stopping at the next driveway. She’d learned early in the evening not to run across the grass in her haste after seeing a boy in a pirate costume slip in a mess of dog poop on his way to get candy. His mother had carried him away crying and told him they were done for the night.

“Well, go ahead,” Travis urged. “Get your candy.”

“I want you to come too,” she insisted, tugging at her brother’s hand.

“Come on, you can do it by yourself. Just follow the path there and push the door bell.”

“But it’s dark and I don’t want to go by myself.”

“I’ll go with you,” Rita volunteered, reaching for Zoe’s hand and leading her down the driveway towards a converted barn. A rock-lined walkway ran from the driveway to the front door where lights on either side of the door had been shrouded with red tissue paper, casting everything in an eerie glow. Cobwebs were strung along the shrubs and somewhere they must have had either a fog machine or dry ice in a bucket leaving a cloudy haze hovering over the grass.

Rita tugged on Zoe’s hand, urging her forward. “We can skip this house if you want,” she suggested as Zoe froze in place.

The girl didn’t respond, her eyes locked on something just past Rita’s shoulder.

There was a high-pitched cackle as Rita turned and found herself face to face with a glowing skeleton dummy that had been attached by a zip-line from the barn to a telephone pole, a young boy laughed from the window of the loft where he was already pulling the line to retrieve the dummy.

They both screamed and ran to rejoin the others who’d been startled by the noise.

Flash Fiction – Trick-or-Treat Pt 1

“How did you get Travis to come trick-or-treating with us?” Maggie hissed at Rita.

Rita sighed as she untangled her hair from the kerchief tied at her throat. “We’re friends okay,” she reiterated. “He doesn’t want to get stuck taking his little sister out alone so I said we’d go with them.”

“But will he be dressing up? I don’t want him to know that we’re in eighth grade and still trick-or-treating.” She pushed the witch’s hat further back on her head and began playing with her hair.

“Lani didn’t freak out like this when I told her,” Rita teased lightly.

“Shut up. You know it’s just a little crush. I’ll get over it,” Maggie said forcefully—as much to herself as to a quietly amused Rita.

“Rita!” her mother called. “Lani’s here!”

“You look great!” Rita and Maggie chirped as Lani appeared in her cheerleader get-up.

“You’ll be happy you have that sweatshirt when we head out. It’s supposed to be freezing tonight,” Rita added as she frowned at her half-ass attempt at a cowgirl. The boots weren’t quite right but she had put off figuring something out sooner so she was stuck with the contents of her closet—and jeans were just so damn comfortable. Flannel shirt, checked kerchief, and the cowboy hat her mom had been trying to get her dad to throw out for ages and she had a workable costume.

“You look adorable,” Lani told her, tweaking one of Rita’s braids. “Did Travis say what he was going to be?”

“No, but Zoe told me all about her princess costume. She’s excited to be going out with the big kids tonight,” Rita smiled with amusement.

Maggie rolled her eyes not realizing Lani and Rita could see her in the mirror. They exchanged raised eyebrows of their own. Whenever Maggie had a crush on someone, she became incredibly possessive and defensive regarding any mention of him.

There had been times growing up when the three friends’ interests had centered on the same boy and after the first time they made the mistake of sharing that information with Maggie, Lani and Rita knew their friendship with her would never survive if they shared that kind of secret with her again—so they confided only in each other on that score. Lani had liked Travis briefly but now she had moved on to Ron and though Rita hadn’t said anything, Lani sensed that she too had a bit of a crush on Travis—of course, instead of being dramatic about it or simply liking him because everyone else did, Rita had been friends with Travis for a while.

“So, what do you think about my costume?” Maggie asked, posing provocatively.

She’d gone for one of the store-bought witch costumes. It sagged in unflattering places and it would have helped if there were more of it.

“Are you sure you don’t want to borrow an extra layer to wear underneath?” Rita offered.

Maggie shook her head. “I’ll be fine.”

Flash Fiction – The Prophet

“Are you sure you should be—?” Eric started to ask but Taylor had already downed the shot.

“Woooh!” she squealed after swallowing and setting the glass down. She shook her head as the others laughed with varying degrees of sincerity.

“I think you should slow down a bit,” Joan advised, nudging the bottle of tequila out of reach.

“What?” Taylor slurred. “Why? I’m just keeping up with this guy.” She threw an arm around Eric who was grinning from his own buzz. He turned to look at her and she pulled his head towards her so she could give him a kiss on the cheek. Before letting him go, she licked the side of his face and then giggled.

“Okay,” Steph said with a groan. Despite the fact that they were at Eric’s apartment and all lived within a three-block radius, Steph had switched to just water as soon as she felt warm enough to lose her jacket. Billy squeezed her leg to caution her about butting in but Steph kept talking. “Taylor, you can’t keep up with Eric. He’s got ten inches and a hundred pounds on you.”

“Watch me,” Taylor said with a wave of the hand that almost knocked the half-empty bottle of tequila over, the arch of her arm wider than Joan anticipated. She grabbed the bottle out of the way.

“No, we need to get you home,” she agreed, downing the last of her margarita and rising to fetch their coats. “I’ll walk you home.”

Taylor leaned too far into Eric and they both slumped against the sofa, Eric’s arm coming up and stroking Taylor’s arm. She didn’t seem to notice. She was too busy watching Steph and Billy. They’d just made their relationship official a few days earlier and it was the first time they’d gone anywhere as a “couple,” even if it was just hanging out and watching movies at one of their apartments.

“You know…” Taylor said, ignoring Eric’s other hand moving to her thigh. “You two… you’re gonna make it. I… I can just feel it.”

“You can feel what?” Joan asked, reentering the room with a pair of coats. Her eyes went straight to the hand massaging Taylor’s thigh.

“And you,” Taylor said, rising and pointing an accusatory finger at Joan. “When are you going to dump Jack-the-Ass? You can do soooo much better. He’s just gonna keep treating you like shit.”

Joan flushed and looked down, fiddling with the coats so they wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.

Steph shook off Billy’s touch as she hurried to get Taylor to her feet. “I’ll go with you guys,” she volunteered.

“Come on, Steph. Stay,” Billy implored. “I’ll walk you home later.”

Joan and Taylor were already in the hallway. “Nah, I’m gonna help Joan,” she said with a significant look, trying to communicate with him silently. Billy rolled his eyes and finally let her go.

They broke up a week later. Joan and Jack lasted six months longer.

Flash Fiction – The Walk Back

Kelly pulled her keys out while she waited for Cait to say her goodbyes. It was still relatively early in the evening but with a meeting at 8:30 the next morning, Kelly needed to get to bed and soon.

Cait was hugging Adam, congratulating him on his gallery show for the millionth time. Their eyes met. Cait rolled hers as she turned away from Kelly, who sighed and glanced at her watch. She felt guilty dragging Cait away. She walked over, pulling Cait gently aside.

“Look, if you want to stay, why don’t you see if someone else will just give you a ride home after?” Kelly suggested.

The light of relief in Cait’s eyes caused Kelly to shake her head. Why she couldn’t have thought of that solution on her own…

“You sure you don’t mind? I feel bad… I mean, I begged you to be my ride and now…”

“We’re cool. Have fun. I feel bad that I have to cut out so damn early,” Kelly assured Cait who looked visibly relieved.

Cait hugged her tight for a moment. “You’re the best,” she told her before disappearing back into the gathering of their friends for more art and wine.

Kelly gave a smile and brief wave to the few who noticed her departure before she’d vanished down the stairs and emerged into the cooler evening air. She checked her watch again—she hated how early the sun set during the fall. Was it one week or two until they switched the clocks?

She paused to look at the gallery behind her. The other thing she hated about early sunsets was the way it distorted things like distance as well as time. She’d found a parking spot on the street three blocks away from the gallery. In the daylight it hadn’t felt like a great distance but with the darkness stretched out between her and her car the distance felt infinite.

She felt her keys in her hand, making sure she had a good grip and at least two of them faced out from between her fingers. Her finger felt for the panic button on the remote door-lock gizmo and she prayed it she wasn’t too far out of range for it to work if she needed it.

Counting the deserted side streets as she passed, there was only one block left to walk when Kelly heard the chime of a bicycle. She turned, confused by the childish sound emanating from the shadows.

“Need a ride Sweet-cheeks?” The question set her skin crawling and her feet moving a little faster. She turned her focus back to the sidewalk ahead but could hear the bicycle’s chain as its rider followed her.

“Come on, Honey,” he called to her. “I’ll take good care of you.”

She spotted her car in the light of a streetlamp ahead. A few more steps and she was safely inside with the doors locked and the windows up, blocking out the noise of that now-creepy bell.

Together – The Call Pt 2

“Vanessa? I hope this isn’t a bad time.”

“Who is this?”

“It’s Rick. The only guy who would call that phone and ask for you.”

“Point taken. You managed to catch me during prep time. What do you need?”

“You hung up on me earlier before we figured out what we were going to do about swapping our phones back.”

“I did? Good. I thought we’d settled on something and I’d just forgotten. It’s been one of those days.”
“I’m familiar with those days. They’re part of what keeps me employed. Along with bachelor and bachelorette parties.”

“So, are you working at the bar again tonight? I can drop by on my way home later.”

“It’s actually my night off. I’ll be back at the bar tomorrow but you probably need your phone back before that.”

“Yeah, that’s the number most of my colleagues have and while I doubt there’ll be a snow day tomorrow or any other emergency, I don’t think you’d appreciate having the principal wake you up.” Continue reading

Together – The Reconciliation

Rick was waiting on her couch when Vanessa came through the door after work. He looked tense, leaning forward with his elbows and forearms propping his head up by resting on his knees. His coat was on the arm of the couch beside him, removed only so he wouldn’t overheat during the wait. It was a moment before he looked up from his lap which gave Vanessa little time to process the rush of conflicting impulses and thoughts that passed through her mind and paralyzed limbs.

Relief that he was still alive, fury that he hadn’t returned any of her calls and had made her worry, frustration with herself for caring so much when she’d spent the last few days pushing herself not to, and fear that this would be it, the end, that this would be the last time he’d walk away from her and that he wouldn’t look back again or come back. Was he back?
“What the hell are you doing here?” She couldn’t help the harshness of her tone and immediately wished there was a better way to convey her relief along with her frustration.

“I used my key,” he said a little sheepishly. He pulled it from his pocket, placing it gingerly on the coffee table, where it became a boundary of sorts between them. Was he really just here to return her key? Why would he stick around? Was he trying to make her cry?

He saw her struggling for control over her body which had begun to shake and thought she was fighting against the impulse to scream and scold, maybe even attack him physically with the purse that was slipping from her shoulder or, worse, the noticeably full work bag that was working with gravity to rest on the floor.

“I, uh… I was going to just wait for you out in the hallway but then Mrs. Jenkins came home with a bunch of groceries and gave me a funny look and I didn’t want her to think we’ve been fighting so I pretended I had been looking for my key and had just found it.”

Vanessa nodded but remained silent and continued to hold her stuff by the door. Rick took a deep breath and stood up. He looked down at the key on the coffee table and spoke to that instead of to her.

“I want us to move in together.” Continue reading

Together – The Meeting

“You remember the signal?”

“Yes, now go or he’ll get here and see you talking with me and wonder what’s up.”

“Okay, I’m headed over there now. Wish me luck.” Susan hiked her purse up on her shoulder and teased her bangs before walking off.

“You’re gonna need it,” Vanessa called after her in a teasing tone but Susan was already across the bar and setting into a booth. Vanessa spun the bar stool back around and found an angle where she could see Susan reflected in the mirror behind the bar.

“What can I get ya?” The bartender said as he moved towards her, wiping the bar down on his way.

“I’ll have a coke,” Vanessa answered as she shifted and contorted to see around him and re-establish her eyeline to Susan’s reflection. The bartender stepped into her way again, deliberately trying to get her attention. “Rum and coke or just coke?”

“Just coke. Designated driver.” She’d found Susan’s booth again but was nearly sitting on the barstool next to hers.

He moved a little ways back down the bar to fill a glass with ice. Vanessa straightened up and watched as the guy Susan had arranged to meet approached her booth. Then the bartender was blocking her view again and placing the soda in front of her with what became an inquisitive smile as Vanessa began to twist to see around him again.

“You meeting someone?” Continue reading

Together – The Scare

Vanessa came first. As she felt Rick’s rhythm alter, building to his own rapidly approaching climax, she had a flicker of doubt that blossomed into panic.

“Did you put on a condom?” she gasped, not having had time to catch her breath yet.

But it was too late and Rick finished with one last thrust. He only rested against her breast for a moment, then rolled still holding on to her, still inside her (though diminishing). Now on his back with Vanessa astride him, Rick responded.

“Did you say something?”

“Were you wearing a condom?”


“You idiot. Why not?”

Continue reading

Together – The Call Pt. 1


“Who is this? What are you doing with my phone?”

“Am I speaking with Vanessa, by any chance?”

“How do you know my name?”

“I’ve got your phone, remember? I could have looked it up but I actually just remember it from last night.”

“Right. But that doesn’t tell me who you are or why you have my phone?”

“Our phones got mixed up at the bar when I put you in your cab.”

“So we met at the bar? You’re not Susan’s date are you?”

“I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Susan but I think you told me all I need to know about her.”

“We didn’t… hook up or anything. Did we?”

Continue reading

Together – The First ‘I Love You’

Vanessa pulled off her shirt and looked at herself in the mirror, debating whether she should leave her bra on or take it off. She folded her shirt and put it at the end of Rick’s bed. She shook her head and picked it back up, shaking it out and tossing it haphazardly at the dresser. She kicked her shoes off in the direction of the door then crossed to set them neatly side-by-side, out of the way. Finally, she gently kicked one over and nudged it a little further away from the other. She let her skirt drop to the floor next to the bed and crawled between the sheets in her panties and bra.

Removing a balled up t-shirt from beneath a pillow, she settled comfortably in and debated how she wanted to pose herself for when she heard Rick coming. Blanket up to her neck? No, that wasn’t sexy. It would make it look like she had something to hide and not in a good way. Blanket covering her bra? Or not? Should she lose the bra altogether?

Vanessa looked at the clock on the bedside table. 1:30 am. Rick wouldn’t get off work until 2, and he probably wouldn’t get back to his apartment until quarter after or even half-past. She laid back so that she couldn’t see the clock and tried to guess how much time had passed since she last looked, attempting to stretch the time between peeks and will the minutes to pass faster.

When she felt herself fading at 1:58, she searched for something to occupy her attention and keep her awake. Leaning over the edge of the mattress, her hand clutched around in the space under the bed as she struggled to stay between the sheets warmed by her body heat. All she found was an old Playboy, its pages ruffled with age and she was afraid to imagine what else. Gingerly putting it back, she debated venturing to the living room where her workbag was hanging out with her purse on the floor next to the sofa. She could probably make it through the spelling tests before Rick made it home, but given how tired she was, she didn’t trust her eyes to see straight enough for that. The book reports would only make it harder to stay awake. The history quizzes would have been fine but they were still in a pile on her desk at work, waiting for Jimmy Flenderson to make his up at recess on Monday.

With each minute that passed, the bed became warmer and harder to leave; the pillow became more inviting and her eyelids heavier. At 2:43 she lost the battle and sleep triumphed. Continue reading

Together – The Fight

Vanessa tossed her keys down onto the decorative table in the hallway. They clattered against the blinking answering machine. Rick came through the doorway behind her, yawning.

“Why didn’t you wake me up? We could’ve left you know.” He pulled his coat off and threw it across the back of the easy chair in her living room.

“I thought you could use the rest,” Vanessa said as she put her purse on the table and hung her coat in the closet. “Besides, it would’ve been louder to wake you. You tend to scream if you’re startled awake.”

“What? You’re lying.”

“Really? What about that time I forgot to put my phone’s alarm on vibrate? Your neighbors almost called the police.”

“I just didn’t expect you to have that song for your ring-tone.”

Vanessa laughed. “Do you even remember which song it was?” She looked him in the eyes with eyebrows raised in expectation. He didn’t break that contact until his mental straining for the answer failed.

“Its… irrelevant.” He blinked.

“Ha!” She kept laughing and watched as he sunk down onto the arm of the chair bearing his coat. “You weren’t the only one asleep. Didn’t you hear the guy down front snoring after they killed off what’s-his-name?”

“No, that was when I lost interest and fell asleep. I mean, he was the only one of them that I liked. Why’d they kill him so early?”

“I don’t know. He was the only one I liked too. Though, it was almost entertaining to see just how bad it could get.” Rick raised his eyebrows. “I said ‘almost.’”

“You could have waken me up,” he paused. “Woken? Waked? Anyway, we didn’t have to stay.”

Vanessa flipped through her mail and set it back down beside the answering machine. “I told you, it’s fine.”

“But it’s not,” he insisted. “It was supposed to be a date night and I know I have a broad definition of what constitutes a date but even I don’t consider me falling asleep during a terrible movie to be a date.”

“I agree with that sentiment.” She crossed from the table to where he had perched on the arm of the chair his coat had been thrown upon. “But we can still turn the evening around.” She wound her arms around his neck and kissed him. His arms came up to hold her by the waist. She pulled back and headed for the kitchen.

“Where’re you going?” Continue reading

Together – The Work Thing

“Are you sure you want me to go?”

“Of course. You’re not backing out of this, not now. Taste this,” Vanessa held a spoon out for Rick to try. If it had been an experimental dinner or lunch attempt, he would have dug around for an excuse to avoid her catastrophic cooking. But the spoon bore something sugary. Desserts were her specialty and even when they didn’t turn out as planned, they were still pretty tasty. He could taste chocolate and a hint of raspberry, warm and rich and creamy.

“Mmmm.” Rick licked his lips as Vanessa turned back to the bowl and continued mixing. A timer went off and Vanessa whipped around to the oven and pulled out a golden pie shell crust. Rick hadn’t even seen her put the oven mitts on her hands, she’d moved so rapidly and fluidly. A trivet was waiting on the counter and she set the crust there to cool before moving to the freezer and pulling out a plastic bag of raspberries.

“Why do they need to be frozen?” Rick asked. He used his finger to wipe up some of the chocolate mixture that had run down the side of the bowl. He popped the finger in his mouth before Vanessa could turn back around and catch him.

“I didn’t have the time to make this earlier so the crust won’t be able to cool completely. If I did it with fresh raspberries, I think they would get too mushy too quickly.” She was carefully lining the bottom of the crust with the frozen berries. “At least, I hope this will work. It won’t have much time to set either, just however long it takes me to shower and get dressed. I hope this helps, but I really have no idea.” She poured the chocolatey mixture over the berries and gingerly carried it to the refrigerator.

“I’ll go to the party if only to have a chance to try the finished product,” Rick was using his finger to scrape the excess chocolate from the bowl.

“Don’t get any on your shirt. The only change you have here is that vile monstrosity and there won’t be time to stop by your apartment on the way to Deb’s.”

She threw her apron on the table and hurried off to change. Continue reading

Together – The Tip

“Is this seat taken?”

Paul looked up and saw a woman indicating the seat next to him at the bar. The carpet had muffled her footsteps as she approached. As she gracefully alighted the seat of the high barstool, her knee length navy dress rode up just enough to show a little thigh. He wished he had been watching her wen she’d come in. Maybe she had scanned the booths and tables before noticing him and strolling over.

The bar tender was at the far end and nodded to acknowledge he had seen her and would be there momentarily for her order. Paul’s window of opportunity would be brief. Picking up his glass, he downed the last of his bourbon Manhattan then raised the remaining ice to indicate he’d like another.

He swiveled to face the brunette beside him.

“And what will you be drinking tonight?” Continue reading

Flash Fiction – Father’s Day

Jordyn laid the roses on the kitchen table. She began raiding the drawers searching for the good pair of scissors. Gabe came in. He wordlessly pulled a cereal bowl from the cabinet, filled it, and sat down to eat while Jordyn opened and rifled through each drawer for a third time.

Having taken a few bites, Gabe was finally in a place where he could coherently comment on Jordyn’s increasingly noisy search. “What’re you doing?”

“Looking for the good scissors.”

“I used ‘em last night. Other room,” he explained.

“Why couldn’t you put them away when you were done?” She shoved the drawers closed and marched to the den to retrieve them.

“Didn’t know you were gonna need ‘em.” Gabe was unfazed by Jordyn’s frustrated tone. “What’s with the flowers anyway?”

“It’s Father’s Day,” Jordyn responded as she made fresh cuts to each rose’s stem.

Gabe’s brow furrowed as he squinted at the calendar on the wall. “Huh. Still, what’re you gonna do with ‘em?”

“What d’you think? They’re for Dad, duh.”

Gabe’s chewing slowed. He watched Jordyn wipe the scissors and return them to their proper drawer. She avoided looking at him while she tore paper towels from the roll, folded them, and soaked them under the faucet. His spoon clanged against the ceramic bowl in a not-so-subtle attempt to capture her attention and force her to acknowledge the disbelieving and uncomfortable expression on his face. Fetching a sheet of aluminum foil, Jordyn returned to the table with her eyes intent on the materials she carried for the task at hand. The saturated paper towels were wrapped around the gathered and freshly trimmed stems before the aluminum foil secured the bouquet.

Gabe continued to sit stoically and will Jordyn to look at him as she shouldered her purse, tucked the roses into the crook of her arm, and grabbed her keys from the table. Before she could breeze past him, Gabe spoke up. “Dad’s dead.”

“Yeah, so?”

“So what…” he fumbled to try and make her understand. “Why… Don’t you think it’s… weird… to… you know…” He raised his eyebrows in the direction of the flowers.

Jordyn stared at him blankly for a moment. She opened the door and floated out, letting it slam behind her.

*          *          *

Jordyn laid the bouquet at the base of the granite gravestone. Running her fingers over the etched letters, the stone was warm from the sun.

A few rows over, a pair of boys played catch while their mother watched from a blanket spread on the ground by a carefully tended stone.

Off to her other side, Jordyn could see someone with grey hair and a dark jacket, man or woman, she couldn’t tell, on his/her knees pulling up weeds at the base of an old and weather-beaten gravestone.

Jodyn looked back at the stone in front of her. “I love you Daddy. And I miss you. Happy Father’s Day.” She kissed her fingers and pressed them against his name.

Flash Fiction – The Patch

“Where’re the extra planks of wood?” Ted hollered.

“They’re down in the cellar, just like last year,” Linda hollered back. She turned her attention to the book open to a glossy image of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. She took up her tools again. She just couldn’t get the shape of the head right. The pumpkin’s flesh wouldn’t cooperate.

“I don’t know why you’re trying to get another one finished,” Donovan said, leaning in to inspect Linda’s handiwork. “You’ve already done three more than last year.”

“Would you mind stepping back? You’re blocking the sun.”

“Yes ma’am.” He backed off but Linda still felt him hovering.

“Why don’t you go help Ted?”

“Am I bugging you?” Donovan smiled.

“What do you think?” Linda glared over her shoulder at her annoying neighbor. She hated that he showed up unasked every year, that he thought she was flirting with him. All she wanted from him was silence, to be left in peace.

“Linda,” Ted called from the back door. “Telephone.” He held up the handset.

Linda rushed off with relief.

“It’s that reporter again, from Letter something-or-other. The website,” Ted explained handing over the phone. He watched a shadow lift from her face as she took the phone and disappeared inside.

Ted headed out to the yard where Donovan was examining Linda’s work and waiting for her to return. “I could use some help setting up out front,” Ted offered.

“Yeah, of course.” They headed around the side of the house to finish setting up the makeshift tables before arranging the pumpkins out front. Pausing, Ted glanced up at the moon, already visible in the ripening late afternoon sky. A dark cloud on the horizon might carry rain but looked like it might keep its distance.

“Where do you want these?” Donovan had a few pumpkins that didn’t fit on or around the display tables.

“Switch them out with some of the smaller ones on the ground. These will fall out of the tree but the smaller ones stay up okay.” Ted guided Donovan in the rearrangements, and then showed him a technique for hiding supportive boards in the lower branches of a nearby tree. “Once it gets to be dusk I’ll get out the candles and start lighting them. I guess we’ll be seeing you later tonight when everyone else shows up. Thanks again for your help.” Ted held out a hand for Donovan to shake and did his best to politely dismiss the man.

Donovan headed back across the street where he waited for the sun to descend. A flow of visitors coming along the road grew from a trickle to a river. He fought off sleep at the window as the crowd slipped away, one by one, eventually leaving just Linda in the yard. She went from pumpkin to pumpkin, blowing out the remaining candles that blinked like stars. Trails of smoke created a thin fog as she resisted glancing over her shoulder, somehow aware that he was watching her.

Flash Fiction – Grave

Matthew grabbed the bowl of candy corn off the table and rushed to the front door where kids were impatiently pushing the doorbell.

“Coming,” he hollered and pulled the door open. There was a man in a police officer’s uniform. Matthew looked around him in search of the shy child that had probably ducked behind him when the doorknob turned.

“I’m sorry sir,” the man said. “I’m afraid your wife and child are in grave danger.”

Part of Matthew was waiting for the guy’s serious expression to crack into a smile and for a playful laugh to go along with a, “Just kidding. Trick or treat.” But another part of Matthew began to panic as an image of Kim clutching a terrified Maddie to her chest flashed through his mind.

The officer remained calm but stoic and Matthew’s heart rate rose. He cradled the bowl of candy against his gut and used his free hand to grab his keys from the small decorative table and his jacket from the hook by the door. He left the candy corn on the front step.

“Are you gonna drive or should I just follow you in my car?” But the officer was already getting into a car and starting the engine so Matthew hurried to the driveway before he lost sight of his escort. As he pushed the gas to keep up, sugar-seeking kids in costumes flooded the sidewalks.

Matthew sat in the car for a minute when they finally came to a stop outside the hospital. He had to close his eyes and breathe deeply before he could open the door and step out. The officer was nowhere to be seen when he’d reached the sidewalk in front of the building’s main entrance. He couldn’t even spot the car. The guy must’ve gotten another emergency call.

It didn’t matter. Matthew strode up to the front desk and inquired after Kim and Maddie.
“I’m sorry sir,” responded a woman with whiskers drawn on her cheeks and black cats walking across her scrubs. “I don’t show them in our system. Who did you say you spoke to?”

“An officer. I didn’t get his name. He took off again after we got here.”

“I’ll go check with my supervisor. See if we have anyone matching your description. Wait here.” She walked off and Matthew looked around for a seat.

“I think I can help you.” The man’s face was obscured by the orange jack-o-lantern grin painted on it. “Kimberly and Madison, right? I’m afraid their condition is… grave. Follow me. I’ll lead you to their room.”

Matthew let the man lead through twisting hallways and down darkened stairwells. He turned a corner and the man held open a door. Matthew could see Kim and Maddie resting on beds. He walked through and looked over his shoulder as the door swung shut. The man had vanished. It took a moment before his mind set right the backwards letters on the glass window of the door. Morgue.

Flash Fiction – Bad Day

Jennifer saw Gina sitting at table with her forehead resting on her arms, swaying gently from side to side. As she got closer she could hear a slight groaning and Gina began lifting her head a few inches and letting it fall back onto her crossed arms. Dropping her backpack to the ground, Jennifer slid into a chair across from Gina.

“Been waiting long? Did you already eat?”

Gina just shook her head, still resting on her arms.

“Can I get you anything?”

Another head shake, this time with a small groan.

“Are you feeling okay?”

“You’re asking me if I’m sick?” Gina mumbled.

“I guess.”

“Physically, I’m fine. I’m just… embarrassed, humiliated, having the worst day ever.”

“It’s the first day of classes. You go to class, read through the syllabus and do some of those stupid getting to know you exercises that are absurd because all the students know each other already and the professors don’t pay attention anyway. They just do it to kill time so they don’t have to prepare a full lesson. How bad can it be?” Jennifer’s skepticism got Gina to look up and prop her chin on her arms.

“It’s bad. Awful really.”

“You need cheering up?”

“I don’t think you can say anything that will make it better.”

“Come on, give me some credit.” Jennifer smiled but Gina’s expression remained unconvinced.

“You underestimate the steaming pile of shit that’s been my day.”

“Okay, you think you’re having a bad day…”

“No, I don’t think. I know. I know I’ve been having a bad day,” Gina interrupted.

“Well, Tory’s boyfriend Al was talking about some poor kid in his class earlier today who was having a worse day. It was some kind of lab practical with the setups. You know, all the tubes, beakers, flasks, and the clamps holding things up. Anyway, everything was already set up for whatever they were doing. Don’t know what kind of professor would have that kind of lab on the first day. Actually… wait. No, it wasn’t for their class. The lab was for a class later this afternoon. So, they’re taking notes and the professor is lecturing and I guess this kid in class dropped their pen. Of course, everyone hears it but ignores it. So they’re trying to get it back, reach the pen. I guess they bumped the lab bench or something but the whole elaborate setup starts crashing down. Everything broke. Well, almost. Apparently they managed to grab a piece in each hand as it was going down. Don’t really know what happened after that. I guess it would be hard to regain control of the class after that. Not to mention cleaning up the mess. You can’t be having a worse day than that poor kid,” Jennifer said putting her backpack under the table and getting ready to get some lunch.

“Actually, my day is exactly that bad,” Gina said with a small nod.

Jennifer raised her eyebrows. “Oh. Um… oh.”