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|# ? Jan 18, 2014 03:42|
|# ? Oct 1, 2022 10:29|
MYSTERY TIME! LET'S 'DOME IT UP IN HERE!
The enigma of who keeps taking my drat lunch
When I came home from the supermarket, it was gone. I dropped the plastic bags with a shout. Baked beans and cat food clattered across the floor but I barely noticed. All my attention was stuck on the empty plate furnished only with a few specks of rye. The lettuce, the mayo, the corned beef: gone without a trace. I took out my phone and called Jimmy.
“Jimmy,” I said, “did you eat my sandwich?”
“What? No,” he said, “I'm at work.”
As far as alibis go, it was airtight. Jimmy had this thing called a job, which meant somebody gave him money to photocopy things. A crooked deal for a crooked system. He often told me I should get one, and also pay my fair share of the rent. Instead, I did the shopping with the money my parents sent, and even bought the nice squishy cat food for his drat cat. It was never enough, though. Sometimes you eat the beef and sometimes, the beef eats you.
“The broad then,” I said. “Did she eat it?”
“Stop calling Sandra that,” said Jimmy. Did I detect a hint of guilt in his voice? It was either that, or my own growling hunger adding an undercurrent of worry to his words. I decided to force the issue.
“She's a woman,” I said. “They're unpredictable, inexplicable. Driven by greed, lust and wiles. If there's anybody who might steal a man's sandwich, it's her.”
I don't trust women. Or doctors, or Russians, or marine biologists. Sandwiches don't just get up and eat themselves: that would be horrifying, and probably very difficult for them. Somebody had to have taken it, and my limited money was on the broad.
“Maybe she's pregnant,” I said, “and therefore filled with devil-hunger to feed her spawn.”
Jimmy hung up. The rat. He was as innocent as they come in this guilty world, which meant he was harmless, but happy to sit back and let injustice stalk the streets and kitchens, taking lives and lunches as it saw fit.
I heard a plaintive mew, and something brushed against my leg. I spun around and delivered a wide left hook. My fist hurtled like a disappointing meteor, hitting nothing. I looked down and saw Lux, the fat tortoiseshell stray that Jimmy had taken in. Was Lux a woman too? It was hard to tell with cats. She looked even fatter today. Too fat.
The puzzle pieces fell together. The cat was pregnant, and filled with mad woman-chemicals in her brain. She had devoured my lunch in a fit of savage ecstasy, and was here to gloat.
“You,” I spat.
In an instant, she tore off through the house. Nobody runs like the guilty. I didn't have a hope in the world of catching her.
I was left alone with my plate, my phone and my endless hunger.
[494 words, title inclusive]
|# ? Jan 18, 2014 08:49|
Rest for the Wicked
Brandon clung to sleep through the creeping dawn and his campers’ stirring until a child’s screams tore him awake. With blurry vision he scanned the cluttered bunk. Shane’s bed lay empty.
Brandon found the boy teetering on one foot by the latrine, scraping his flip-flop against a log, his t-shirt pulled up over his nose. “I stepped in it,” Shane whined to his counselor.
Brandon gagged as he entered the bathroom. Excrement coated the floor, walls, doors, and shower curtains. Flies darted between every defiled surface.
Outside, another camper stabbed a speared turd into an ant pile. Brandon tore the stick from his grip and threw it into the woods. “Did you do that to the bathroom, Nathan?”
“No!” Nathan said backing away. “I found it like that.” He ran back to his bunk, his untied shoelaces flecked with poo poo and streaming behind him. “Somebody pooped all over!” he called to the rest of the boys.
The boys’ counselors flung accusations at an impromptu breakfast meeting. Brandon defended his own like a mother bird. “Shane always takes a shower early, before the hot water runs out. I caught Nathan red-handed.”
“I wish we could just pin it on that little spaz,” Nathan’s counselor said, “but he never left the bunk last night. He pissed his bed twice, waking up half my kids each time. What about Joey, Robert, what was he doing sneaking around?”
Robert sighed. “He was visiting a girls’ bunk. They backed him up.”
“Enough,” the Assistant Camp Director said. “I’m sorry you guys had to clean that up, but this isn’t going anywhere. Cut rest hour and make them all pick up litter as a punishment.”
“That hurts us more than them.”
“Then withhold dessert until one of them tattles, it’s up to ya’ll.”
At the Art Barn Brandon grabbed a camper’s wrist moments before the kid plunged his colored pencil into his neighbor’s arm. “I said stop fighting, you two.” He slapped the table in front of the camper across from him. “Marcus, don’t color on the drat table.”
The Crafts Teacher waved him over. “Get them out of here.” Brandon started sputtering a question when her ponytail nearly whipped him in the face as she motion to the bathroom. Blobs of poop dotted the toilet seat and sink. Her eyes narrowed until they were swallowed up by the bags underneath. “Now.”
Hours later at the ropes course, a cacophony of squeals interrupted Brandon’s fumbling attempt to secure a harness on a wriggling camper. Another counselor stood guard at the nearby restroom. The boys scattered as Brandon approached the crowd. A turd lay nestled in a coil of rope. Brandon wheeled around. “Are you loving kidding me!”
“You guys are done,” the Ropes Course Coordinator said, letting the camper she had on belay freefall before catching him an inch from the ground. She threw her gloves off and began tearing at the knots tied to her harness.
At dinner Brandon tried to recall everyone who’d left his sight that day. Two more locations had been hit: a canoe and a saddle had been used as toilets at the lakefront and the stables. He stared down each of his campers. They silently traced the table’s wood grain rather than risk meeting his eyes. When one of the kitchen staff came by with a box of ice cream sandwiches, Brandon waved her away.
“It’s not fair!” Shane said.
“Who was it?”
A chorus of whines and “I don’t know” answered him.
“Can I go to the restroom?” a camper asked.
Brandon yawned while the camper squirmed. “Nobody leaves the table.” He fumed that other boys were still freely roaming the dining hall after the day’s incidents.
The Kitchen Manager slammed a ladle down on a nearby boys’ table. “Which one of you little monsters just did that to the men’s room?” Her head pivoted along the boys’ side of the room.
The Camp Director gathered the male counselors together in front of the dining hall while the campers fidgeted in single file lines. “You all are going to take shifts standing guard tonight. Three at a time. Spread out along the boys’ cabins. This isn’t happening again.”
“We barely sleep as it is,” someone complained.
“Tough. Some of you are under suspicion too. Watch everybody.”
“What about the girls? And their counselors?”
“The girls’ activities kept them far from the boys today, but I’m not ruling out anyone. It’s not a witch hunt either. Just keep your eyes peeled.”
The boys’ counselors could barely drag themselves to the next night’s campfire. Their campers, having been banned from most of the camp, were restricted to an isolated field. The hyper tweens had drained their counselors, body and mind, as they required constant, varied activity, supervision, and all their meals prepared for them.
A slumping phalanx of counselors now fanned out along the campfire’s perimeter. Brandon stood at the edge, his boots sinking into the soft mud at the lakeshore as the kids mumbled songs. He gazed into the dark water, fantasizing of leading his campers into the woods tomorrow and abandoning them there.
A loud pop followed by a dull thud announced the collapse of a heavy log into the bonfire’s core. A flurry of sparks danced into the night sky. In the flare of light Brandon saw his scowl reflected back at him. He stared into puffy tired eyes. His face softened and then faded back into the shadows. Darkness again enveloped Brandon, so too, did realization.
As he crept up to the boys’ latrine, shuffling and scraping from within confirmed his suspicion. He kicked open the door and trained his flashlight, one by one, on the Crafts Teacher, the Ropes Course Coordinator, a lifeguard, a kitchen staffer, and a horseback riding instructor painting the walls and doors with human excrement from coffee cans. Their bright bag-less eyes betrayed the extra sleep they’d gotten since banishing the boys.
|# ? Jan 18, 2014 21:37|
You know how sometimes you sign up but then don't submit because of a million different bullshit excuses? I bet most of you are like me and wished there was redemption.
Now there is.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 01:40|
How Tommie died. (993 words)
Inspector Isaac looked down the young man lying dead and stiff on the frozen parking space outside of “ Grootz`s Golfing shop”. Isaac waived the pathologist over to him” Good day Larson, give me the facts”.
” The victim`s head, neck, and forearms have been smothered with extreme force. It`s possible that he might have been dragged around post-mortem. Very little blood on the scene, so he probably did not die here. His clothes are partially covered in grey dust. We also found his keys and wallet, his driver`s license was inside.” Larson gave him the card” Tommie Mathieson” it said and included his address. Isaac bade Larson give him the keys.
Isaac walked towards the shop. The man who had found the body, Kenneth Grootz, a mountain of tense muscles, was sitting in the entrance. Going on instinct Isaac bent down to shake his hand and asked “ Good day, this is Inspector Isaac Dupont, I have a question for you. Why is there a bag of illegal steroids inside your shop?” Kenneth went pale and slowly got up” H—how did you know? “Isaac smiled. He had guessed correctly.
« Kenneth, I don’t care about the steroids. If you let me in and tell me everything you know I will forget about it, ok?” Isaac said. Kenneth opened the door and let him in.
The store looked like any normal sports store. Isaac noticed that Kenneth only carried the most expensive brands. A tiny irregular hole blemished one of the walls. Kenneth leaned heavily on the counter and asked,” What do you want to know?”
“ What do you know about the man you found? Tell me everything,” Isaac said.
“His name is Tommie Mathieson, he worked here in the summer. I fired him for stealing. All of this stuff is highly expensive, so he cost me more than a thousand bucks. I …given my habits didn`t want to involve the police”. Isaac scratched his beard and continued, “Tell me what happened when you came to open up? Did you see him snooping around? Did you think he was coming back to steal more? Did the steroids make you act impulsively? “
“No, I swear! When I get angry, I punch the walls. Look, you need to talk his friend Daniel Whitrope . He used to work here too, but he never managed to show up on time. He lives just a block down the street; I`ll write down his address. Those two are always driving around on Daniel`s ATV. You can`t walk peacefully in the woods here anymore because of those two”.
Isaac had heard enough. He bade Kenneth remain in town for the next few days. He left the store and got in his car. He felt he should take a look inside Tommie’s apartment before he did anything else.
The apartment was a mess, filled old beer cans. A thick layer of grey dust covered all the furniture expect for a beer-stained leaning chair. In the seat of the chair laid a diary. Isaac leafed trough it and took special notice of something Tommie had written last week,» Went out in the woods with D, had fun, stopped to play` carousel`». Odd, very odd he tougth. As he left, he received a text message from Larson” “The grey dust is probably concrete. “ Nice to know Isaac said to himself.
Finally, the time had come to visit Daniel. He lived in a small yellow house on the outskirts of the woods. Through the bare frosty trees, Isaac could see a construction site just a hundred yards away. Just beyond that, he could make out his own house. He walked past a dirty and bulky ATV parked next to a wheelbarrow and knocked on the door. A pudgy young man opened it. “Good day this is Inspector Isaac Dupont, is this Daniel Whitrope? » Isaac said.
"That`s me, what do you want dude? » Daniel responded.
Isaac stared at him and said with intensity “We have found a dead body, we believe it is Tommie Matheson, we also have reason to suspect you were with him yesterday”.
Daniel remained calm and said” Well he wasn`t, he wanted be alone.”
“Why , weren`t you two friends?”
“Yeah…but it`s not like we were gay either. We don`t always hang out.”
“Perhaps he was tired of riding around the woods late at night?”
“I don`t have time for this, I have to get to work” Daniel responded in a brusque voice. Isaac got out of his way as Daniel drove off.
Next morning as Isaac walked over to his car he pondered what Tommie could have meant by” playing carousel”. He looked over to the right where he could see a busy construction site. Isaac saw a worker making concrete. The mixer was going around and around….AHA!
Isaac sped away as fast as he could. Daniel was just leaving the house when Isaac arrived “Listen, I know what happened. Tommie kept a diary. I know what “playing carousel” means. So..it`s time for you to tell the truth.”
Daniel went pale and shivered, but he did not run “Ok, I will tell the truth. Tommie and I went over to the construction site behind us. Tommie got onto a cement mixer and told me to turn it on. We had done it before. But this time Tommie wanted to stand on his hands while the machine turned, he said he wanted to make a YouTube video. Tommie lost his grip and fell face first into the barrel. He was crushed to death almost instantaneously.”
“So you dragged him up here and dumped in front for Kenneth`s shop, why?” Isaac said.
“I didn`t want to go to prison, so I dumped him there to lay the blame on Kenneth. I figured the workers wouldn`t say anything 'cause they are all illegals”.
Isaac arrested him.
The rest was just paperwork.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 02:15|
Out of the Attic and into the Cellar
[999 words including title]
“No, you can’t move back in,” said Emily through the phone. “It’s over between us.”
“Wait, listen,” said Jerry, “just for a few days. I promise I can—hello?” The line was dead.
Soon, Jerry told himself, things would turn up. Sure, right now he was just working as a waiter at a dining club. Sure, he was homeless and had resorted to sleeping at the club too, upstairs in the old servants’ quarters. But if he could just persuade Emily to let him move back in with her, or at least just go see her, things could get better.
The door swung open and there stood Cheryl, his manager. “I thought I heard you talking,” she said. She looked at the unmade bed. “You mind explaining this?”
“I, uh,” Jerry stammered. He couldn’t tell her he was secretly squatting in the room. “I worked late last night,” he said, “and was too tired to go home.”
She furrowed her brow. “You wouldn’t have happened to run into any of our overnight guests, would you?”
“I’m sorry? I mean, no, definitely not. Why?”
“We’ll talk about this later. You need to go help set up Mr. Newell’s party. Go see Peter downstairs.”
Jerry found Peter in the living room, talking to a man carrying a piano on his back. “It has to go in that corner near the hearth,” Peter said. “No, don’t hit the croquet trophy! Hey, you over there, move that out of the way.” He turned to Jerry. “Oh, hey. I guess Cheryl found you.”
“Yep,” said Jerry, “and she sure is in a mood.”
“Tell me about it,” said Peter, “we have to turn this place inside out for the party.”
The piano clumsily thudded on the floor. A man dashed into the room. “Is everything all right?” he said.
Peter looked at the piano. “Yeah, should be fine,” he said. He turned back to Jerry and the man. “Jerry, this here is Kevin Finn, Mr. Newell’s son.”
The two shook hands. “Good to meet you,” Kevin said. He wore a perpetual smile on his face. It reminded Jerry of a used car salesman. Of course he’s happy, thought Jerry. His dad’s the richest guy in town, if not the whole state.
“If you’re not busy,” said Kevin, “could you go to room six for me? Please make sure my father takes his medicine.”
Jerry found Mr. Newell lying in bed, reading. Even as he lay, the old man didn’t look relaxed. He seemed as if the weight of all his years were crushing him.
After taking the pills marked for Saturday, Jerry helped him into his walker. Newell insisted that he could handle himself from that point, and shuffled out of the room.
Cheryl must have been in the hallway, because Jerry heard the two talking. “Absolutely not,” he heard Newell say. “I told you, young woman, I want Margaux. Twenty bottles, exactly. I expect everything to be perfect for tonight’s dinner.”
I wonder, thought Jerry, if everyone here is in such a foul mood today.
He felt a draft, and noticed the curtains billowing inward. Behind them, plastic sheet covered a hole where a window had been. He looked closer. Glass shards lined the pane, and a lamp next to it was dented.
“I thought I’d find you here,” Cheryl’s voice came from directly behind him.
“Nothing personal,” she said, “but right now you seem awfully suspicious. I don’t know who broke in here last night, but the guilty usually return to the scene of the crime.”
“I was just coming to help Mr. Newell take his medicine,” said Jerry.
“Is that so?” she said, “Because whoever broke in also tampered with his medicine box.”
What’s going on? Thought Jerry. Someone is up to something, and is trying to pin it on me. It must be Kevin. I don’t trust him. He was the one who sent me to this room, and had that goofy grin the whole time.
There was something else about Kevin too. His last name, Finn, wasn’t the same as his father’s. Jerry couldn’t put his finger on it, but he was sure he had heard it before.
When cocktail hour began, the estate was brimming with guests. Jerry had to squeeze between people just to hand out the plates of hors d’oeuvres. Mr. Newell’s frail frame looked suffocated by the crowd.
“Is your father okay?” Jerry asked Kevin.
“He’s feeling a little sluggish,” said Kevin. “That happens when you take too many pills.”
He still has that grin, thought Jerry. Kevin definitely knows something.
“Did you hear,” said Peter, “Mr. Newell just announced that he’s giving Kevin his house on South Boundary, along with its horses.”
Maybe Kevin was trying to kill him so he could get inheritance, thought Jerry. Although, if Mr. Newell is giving all of this property away anyway, what would be the point?
After the party, Jerry stayed out of sight. He snuck outside to call Emily when a scruffy man in a trench coat approached him. “I’m here to see Finn,” he said.
“Kevin Finn?” asked Jerry.
Now Jerry remembered. Finn was Cheryl’s maiden name. Was she related to Kevin and Mr. Newell? She’s mentioned that she hates her family. Was she just jealous of the money they won’t share with her?
“I’ll be right back,” Jerry said, and dialed Emily’s number.
“Hey honey,” he said, “don’t hang up. This is important. I’m solving a crime.”
“What?” said her voice on the other end.
“Listen. My boss is trying to murder her stepfather. She snuck into his room, or maybe got someone else to, and tried to poison him. Now she’s pinning it on me. I have to prove that I didn’t—hello? Hello?”
Jerry found the servants’ quarters locked. He snuck into the wine cellar and spent the night there instead. Any day now, he told himself, things would turn up.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 06:44|
A Grand Mystery 999 turds
A knock at the conservatory door and Eleanor almost dropped the derringer. She slid the pistol into her purse, took a deep breath and lifted the oaken cask from under the still.
Mr. Chiu’s men were waiting, silently. Their faces were blank, but she could never read an Oriental anyway. She handed over the cask, the taller one smiled.
“Many thanks from Mr. Chiu, he wishes to see you at the parlour tonight,” he said, lifting the cask into a shipping crate.
“Mr. Chiu can count on it,” she said.
Her father beckoned for her no sooner than the door had shut. She hurried off to his study.
“Eleanor, child, we worry about you. You’ve hardly left the conservatory in a month! A woman of breeding should not be so involved in botany, and these new friends of yours have people talking.
“It’s this dreadful cold, father. Really brings a girl’s spirits down. I don’t care what people say, Mr. Chiu and his fine restaurant enjoy my tomatoes and you can be sure they pay quite the out-of-season premium. You’ll be happy to know I shall be going out tonight with Arthur.”
Her father groaned.
"Honest to goodness, sir, that’s what ‘appened,” Willy said. He was sweating and shivering, he’d never been questioned before. His filthy sweater hardly kept him warm.
“Explain again what exactly happened that night,” Investigator Serpinski asked, taking a long drag from a cheroot.
The tobacco stirred Willy’s memories of the night at The Bell Hotel. He was suddenly thirsty.
“Me’n Eddie was jus’ horsin’ around. Now, mind you we was drunk, but it was all in good fun. I punched ‘im in the gut, real quick, jus’ for larks, I swear, Officer. That’s when somebody shot ‘im.”
“How many times did you hit him, exactly?”
“Once or twice, sir, I was blind drunk. I swear I didn’t kill ‘im,” Willy said.
“Do you remember what your brother was wearing that night?” Serpinksi asked.
“Just a brown suit, sir. Had some patches on, so I think he moved here to leave ‘em hard times out East,” Willy said.
“What’d your brother do for a livin’?”
Eleanor locked the gardener’s shed behind her. The still was dribbling away, another carboy almost full. There was enough rot gut whiskey to keep Mr. Chiu off her back for a while, anyway.
She cut the day’s obituaries from the paper and circled the most suspect ones. She pinned the strip to the wall, next to the railway cargo manifests. There was a pattern: unmarked shipments from the East coast, another handful of dead men. The pieces were fitting together like gears in a watch. Mr. Chiu’s criminal empire was about to collapse, and her gambling debts would be erased.
“Eddie always told me he was in sales, selling catalogue stuff to farmers,” Willy said.
“Willy, your brother was a whiskey runner. You haven’t had anything to do with the Chinese, have you?” Serpinski asked.
“N..no,” Willy was shell shocked. “Are you sure about Eddie?” he stammered.
“Positive. Say, Willy, for someone who says he doesn’t deal with the Chinese, you smell an awful lot like you spend time in Mr. Chiu’s restaurant.”
“No! No sir! The room Mr. Chiu rents me is right above the kitchen, honest to goodness. I ain’t afford to do laundry in weeks is why I smell like this! Honest!”
Eleanor knocked twice at the hotel’s back door. Someone opened a peephole.
“It’s Elle, with a friend!” She said, pulling Arthur closer. She didn’t have to look at him to know he’d be wearing that self-satisfied smile that drove her up the wall.
“Ah, Ms. Ashworth! Right this way!” The door opened up and the clatter of a Fan-Tan parlour filled the alley. She was led to her usual seat, drinks already waiting. Arthur looked around wild-eyed, everyone else seemed mesmerized by the games.
“I’ll have my usual game, usual stakes, and teach Mr. Penner here how to play Pai-Gow. He’s really quite keen at cards,” she said to the server, one of Mr. Chiu’s countless nephews.
“But first, I’ve got to go speak with Mr. Chin,” she smiled and rose, taking her purse.
She walked over to the far end of the room. Men stood at either side of painted blinds, looking straight ahead. She pictured Mr. Chin sitting at a table behind the painted dragons. She breathed in, the smell was unmistakeable.
The same one the night that man, Eddie, was shot outside the hotel. The same night she’d lost her inheritance twice over at the tables. She saw the tussle, the assassin running past with a sweater pulled over his head. A smell she couldn’t place until weeks after, when she’d gone to fetch her mother’s dresses at the Chiu Laundromat.
Spices, sesame oil, bamboo, rice and liquor. A smell so unmistakeable it could have only come from Mr. Chiu’s kitchen. She’d spent weeks piecing things together, trying to figure out the extent of his business dealings. She’d be a hero for bringing him in – she could always make up a story – he had, in any case, killed Eddie.
She nodded at the men, they bowed slightly. She stepped behind the blind and sat down across from Mr. Chiu. Vitality still shone through his weathered face. She smiled as if to speak but drew the pistol from her purse instead. Three short cracks and she let it clatter to the floor.
She stood and announced, “You’re all under arrest” before the screaming started.
I’m sorry to tell you this, Willy, but your brother’s death was an accident. I’m sorry I had to shake you down, but you were a witness. Y’see, when your brother came over, he’d been wearing a .44 under his shoulder. Except he didn’t quite get the holster right, caught a strap on the trigger. Our doctor figures that when you hit him it was enough to set the gun off.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 14:32|
By the Light of Stars
Djeser fucked around with this message at 19:44 on Dec 31, 2014
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 15:03|
I will judge this.
Early submission because tomorrow morning I'm gonna be bogged down by work.
The Saddest Rhino fucked around with this message at 02:12 on Jul 1, 2014
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 15:19|
It was a dark and rainy night when the monsters came for little Mary. She found herself awoken, by what she could not tell, to unnatural sounds and crooked shadows. The puppets in the corner of her room looked like a witches’ coven. The colorful shapes on the walls of her room were oddly twisted. Distorted faces – of demons and zombies and other scary things – maliciously stared at her from all sides. From the outside, something that looked like long, hard fingers repeatedly tapped against her window, and far off in the distance she heard the roar of creatures that were probably big and hairy and hungry for children. An occasional scratching and whining noise came from the door to her room. Mary hid under her sheets.
But no matter how long she waited, the monsters would not go away. They never did. This was not the first time they had come for her. Often she would simply close her eyes and keep hiding where they couldn’t find her until she fell asleep. Other nights she would call for her parents, who would make the darkness go away. Then they would insist that the monsters – the very monsters they had just scared off – were no real monsters at all. “You’re a big girl now,” her father had softly murmured just a few nights ago. “Big girls don’t believe in monsters”. Her mother had stroked Mary’s hair in silence, looking down at her with pity in her eyes.
Mary lifted the edge of her cover to peek out.
A pale grimace glared right at her. It took all of her courage not to immediately close the opening, wrap herself up and wait out the night in shame. She held her breath as she defiantly stared back at the satanic apparition. Then, for the first time, Mary saw through the unfamiliar shadows. As she recognized the shapes before her, the alien face turned into a friendly one; it was none other than Princess Sweetberry, ruler of Marshmallow Mountain.
This seemed rather odd to Mary. Had her beloved doll deceived her all this time? She edged further out of her sheets to take in more of the room. Suddenly that spooky shadow on the wall looked suspiciously like one of the plants on the window sill. The arm that reached out from under her bed was actually a violin case, sloppily stashed on the floor. Even as her head looked all the way out from under the sheets, the creepy clown on the opposite wall didn’t move and didn’t scream and didn’t jump out of his frame and eat her.
Her feet touched the soft fur of the carpet. Out in the open, Mary froze in place, fearing for a moment that the monsters had only hidden to lure her out of safety. She listened to the sound of her pounding heart and the howling wind outside. The clacking noise from the window persisted. She looked up, and sharply breathed in as long, pointy fingers clawed their way through the window right above her. But then there was another gust of wind, and the fingers bended just at the same time and sparse leaves fluttered and Mary understood. She narrowed her eyes and frowned disapprovingly. Lighting struck on the horizon, briefly illuminating the wooden texture of the not-so-scary twigs. Ordinary thunder bellowed in the distance.
The scratching on the door renewed in vigor. Mary spun around in alarm. She had been brave so far, but there were no trees in the hallway, no thunder or wind. Whatever made that noise was real. She chewed on her lower lip, throwing unsure glances towards the door. Then she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as if resolving herself to her fate. Arming herself with a ruler from the homework appliances that were littered around her backpack, she crept towards the door, raising her plastic sword over her head. Her free hand jittered slightly as she reached out for the handle.
She yanked the door open and something hairy rushed over her. The ruler slipped from her hand and Mary let out a hoarse cry as the thing clawed at her belly and slobbered all over her face. She pushed it off and turned to run, but a familiar yelp stopped her.
Mary glanced back over her shoulder. A fuzzy, little dog wagged its stubby tail and ran after her, nervously trying to lick her hands and feet. “Puddles, you stupid dog!” Mary said, stomping on the ground in dismay. Puddles recoiled and whined and Mary’s pouting face softened a little. She whispered an apology and gently stroked the miserable creature’s fur. He was still young and must have been just as scared as she was, Mary realized. The thought of her frightened little doggy desperately trying to get into her room all these nights made her sad. She gave him a pitiful look.
Puddles calmed down a little and sat, looking back up at her expectantly. The wagging of his tail had resumed.
“You’re a big boy now, Puddles,” she said, scratching him between the ears. “Big boys don’t believe in monsters.” Puddles tilted his head. She didn’t know if he understood her, but that was okay. Mary hadn’t understood either, at first. She closed the door to her room with Puddles safe inside, and went back to bed, the dog curling up on the ground next to her. She wished him a good night, and they both slept well, despite the rain.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 16:59|
A Close Call
Harriet stared at Iris's corpse sprawled in the middle of the road. It was face-down, its neck loose and broken. It was a couple of blocks from the Kensingtons' house, which was just along her street.
"Are you okay?" Officer Graves asked. "Maybe we should contact Margaret."
"Mom's away. I don't even know where she is," Harriet mumbled. Her stomach churned as she walked. She had seen many photos of corpses in her mother's study, but not the real thing.
She squatted down and shone her flashlight on Iris's face. Dead eyes stared past her. She reached for the girl's long blond hair, then drew her hand back. Don't leave any prints, her mother would always say. Harriet's thoughts were lost in the rumbling of a truck in the distance.
"Their door was open," Graves said, standing beside her. "She was taken without struggle. Nobody saw anything until the body."
"No sign of other trauma," Harriet said, finding comfort at the sound of her own voice. "She was... she was terrified in her last moments."
Who could have done this? It was a small, quiet town, where people knew each other fairly well.
"Did you know her?" Graves said.
"She was in my class."
Harriet shook her head. "I'll help with the case. Though I can't promise anything."
"Okay. We'll check for prints, but it'll take a while for results to come up. Call me if you find anything on your own."
Harriet stood up. When she looked back, they were already putting the body away.
* * *
Harriet brewed tea using a bag instead of her usual loose leaves. She walked to her room, frowning at the locked door opposite it, leading to her mother's study. A curt note was taped on it. Don't worry about me, it said.
She left it there, in the off-chance that she could do what it said.
She plopped down in front of her desk. A desktop computer hummed to her right.
How did Mom do it? Harriet had never helped in her work, though she acted the part of a personal servant. She would cook her mother's meals and clean up after. Sometimes she would even drag her to bed after passing out on her desk.
Harriet grabbed a bag of index cards. They were a constant fixture all over her mother's study, taped on the wall, the whiteboard, the desk. She wrote anything and everything about the case.
An hour later, and she was still staring blankly at her pile of thoughts. Nothing was coming to mind. How was Iris taken from her home? Not how, why? Kidnapping? Then why was she killed? Why did they dump her on the street? How it could happen in the middle of the afternoon, without anyone noticing? She separated the questions from the facts and opinions, shuffling and reading the piles over and over.
Something clicked. She swiveled to the right, brought up a map of their town, printed it, and started attacking it with her pen. Here was Iris's house, and here was hers, three houses away. The body was found here, in another street. She drew a circle around the points, indicating arrows where the killers could have fled to. They were shrewd enough to get Iris to open the front door without suspicion.
"Maybe..." she voiced a budding thought in her head, "they didn't intend to kill her."
Did Iris die trying to flee? It could explain the body's curious placement. It would've been easy for them to dump the body farther away. Or make it disappear.
She twirled her hair with a finger. Iris wore her blond hair long, while she kept hers short. She wrote that down and shuffled the index cards. Blond hair. Broken neck. Terrified. Face-down. Kidnapped along our street.
She called Officer Graves.
"Did you find out anything?" Graves said.
"Yes," Harriet said. "Iris was a mistake. I'm their real target."
* * *
The next morning, Harriet was still in her pajamas when the doorbell rang. The peephole showed a man in gray overalls, with a truck idling in the background. She opened the door.
"Delivery for Ms. Florence," the man said.
Harriet blinked at the truck. "Hmm? I don't think my mom's--" her words were cut off by the man moving behind her, pinning her neck with one arm. In his hand a wet cloth descended on her face.
Harriet shone the tactical flashlight on her assailant's eyes. He gasped and loosened his grip. Harriet bent forward, throwing the man overhead, rolling with him down the steps of the porch. She came out on top, pinning the flailing man down with a joint lock.
"A little help here!" she yelled. Officer Graves popped out of the side bushes, training his gun on the man. More policemen emerged from the other side of the street.
The truck's engine roared, and it sped away, open doors swinging. It screeched into a halt on the corner of the street as police cars cut it off.
"That was risky, Harriet," Graves said as the police cuffed the delivery man.
"I needed them to come for me," Harriet said, brushing the dirt off her clothes. "They were most vulnerable here."
"Figured we'd mail you to your mother in pieces," the delivery man said. "Maybe we'll just do it the other way around. The next delivery's gonna be real!"
Harriet stared at him, wide-eyed.
He was still laughing when the police took him away.
* * *
Harriet lay down on her bed, wrapped in a blanket. She was still shivering.
"I've posted some guards on your house until this mess dies down," Graves said over the phone.
If it does. "Thanks."
She made a new call, her deep breathing timed to the numbers she pressed. It was a number not listed in her contacts.
"Mom, pick up. Please. What have you gotten yourself into?"
It rang without being answered.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 17:08|
Helios (996 words)
He wakes up in a bulkhead seat.
He wakes up, cold and soaked, in a tangle of polyester blankets.
He wakes from a dream where an octopus with a woman's face stuffs a gooey mass of seaweed down his throat and into his sinuses. He chokes and snorts, gagging on seawater. If only he could open his jaw a little wider, if only -
Gaspy buzzsaw snoring comes from the seat next to him. Rage burns in his jaw. He cocks back a fist to swing at the man, who coughs in his sleep.
Fist halfway to target, he stops. His muscles feel so strange. Like punching someone in a dream, Zeno's paradox made tangible. He starts to giggle.
He looks at his nailbeds, a startling robin's-egg blue. The freezing air has awakened a cramp in his gut and a twist in his bladder. He has something terribly important to do.
The lavatory. He needs to go to the lavatory.
Parts of him keep floating away. He gets one leg up and looks down to see the other one useless on the ground. He gives up, falling onto his knees, melting against the bulkhead plastic.
It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring. Soaked in his own piss, a coherent thought peristalses into his brain: I am shitfaced.
Is he? There's no quinine sticky-sweetness in his mouth, no rancid burped-up malt. The floor sways, but no, he isn't drunk. Drugs, maybe?
The cabin is foggy. His ears are popping, over and over. Drugs don't do that.
The first dynamic stability mode of an aircraft is phugoid motion, he thinks dully, stomach yawing. Tip the nose down and go faster. Go faster, and the nose points itself up. The plane rises and falls in rhythmic breaths.
Phugoid motion. Pilots usually correct it without even knowing it's started.
How does he know that? Is he flying this plane? He pats his chest with a sluggish hand. No tie. No pilot's wings.
A hanging garden of oxygen masks sways gently from the ceiling.
He rotates ponderously bow-ward. A flight attendant sprawls behind the drink-service cart. A dull urgency rises in his chest. He needs to do something. Not the lavatory. What is it? Think.
He wakes up in the aisle, emergency track lighting embossing a groove into his cheek.
He wakes up clutching a portable oxygen cylinder.
Hypoxia is a full-body hangover on top of swine flu. Every thought is twenty steps through knee-deep mud. Why is he on this plane? In his wallet he finds his private pilot's license, bluegreen and comforting. He had to do something important. Critical.
Something makes him reexamine the unconscious flight attendant. Long neck, slender limbs. One high heel dangles from a pantyhosed foot. Eyes wobbling over her face he thinks, Give her the oxygen. She isn't safe.
He shakes his head no. But her face has struck some unidentifiable chord. He has to ask her something, right now.
"Help," he mumbles past the oxygen mask. "Mayday."
The sound of the word and the breaths of oxygen rally his synapses to action. "Mayday!" he yelps. He stumbles back to the cockpit, where the pilot lies, mercifully, facedown. "Mayday! Mayday!" He scrabbles at the radio with frozen fingers.
He rubs at the frost-caked windshield, scraping his hands raw. And through the porthole he creates he sees a fighter jet, sillhouetted against the clouds.
Yet: radio silence. "Mayday!" he shrieks. He pounds his palm on the controls. The escort is no more than a thousand feet away. But he is encapsulated, helpless.
The radio! It's still set to RDU's frequency. Too far for waves to propagate. He flips switches frantically, a torrent of info from his last checkride flooding him. He is too busy, now, to wonder why he still feels like he's missing something.
He had to ask someone the most important question of his life. A woman -
A tinny voice squawks over the radio. "Do you copy?" He almost cheers.
He keeps reaching out, dazedly, to touch buttons that are in the wrong place. Flying this behemoth is like surfing a truck down the expressway, compared to the fluttering stalls and spirals of his tiny Cessna. Yet it already flew itself to Sea-Tac, a patient riderless horse. Air Traffic Control talks him down to earth in a West Coast accent.
Anybody can fly one of those things, he thinks through hypoxic migraine. He recalls the punchline, in a familiar woman's laughing voice: Yeah, all the way to the crash.
At eight thousand feet the crystalline fog dissipates, and the plane emerges, damp and squalling, from stasis. Passengers scream and sob.
Three thousand feet. The sensation of height lost at flight's apex - paper-mache mountains, lap-quilt fields, streetlights remote as the stars - returns with a thud.
Until five hundred feet, he really thinks this might be a landing worth bragging about.
To who? He has no idea.
Then the automated co-pilot chirrups "minimums!" and someone, behind him and very far away, yells "brace!" and they belly the ground and bounce, short of the runway and two hundred feet west, at twenty gees -
He wakes up. Metal groans and wings rip under eyeballs-out deceleration, the floor cants at thirty degrees and something twists and one engine spirals off, inscribing a charred circle into the grass, and the windshield cracks and bubbles and jet fuel boils in his nostrils, and -
He wakes up on the tarmac, gagging on fire-suppression foam.
He wakes up entirely alone in a hospital bed at three in the morning, having had no dreams.
On the nightstand sit his passport and cell phone and a seafoam green denture cup, and in the denture cup is a tiny wooden box, and in the box is an immaculate golden engagement ring.
On the inside of the ring, in cursive script: you make me feel like flying.
Engraved on the outside is a tiny, perfect airplane.
(loosely based on a true story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios_Airways_Flight_522)
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 17:34|
Just short of seven hours remain.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 20:09|
The Bottom of the Barrel
crabrock fucked around with this message at 00:14 on Jan 22, 2014
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 21:27|
The Lotus took a drag on her cigarette as Mrs. Berkowitz wept in front of her.
"Could there have been a worse time?" Mrs. Berkowitz wailed. "Things were looking up! Benny'd finally found a stable job, he kept talking about how good it felt to be providing for us, to do real work with his hands." She dabbed at her face with a stained handkerchief. "I'm sorry, you need the facts, not my grief. All this isn't important."
The Lotus exhaled, let out a tendril of smoke. "Everything's important. Mrs. Berkowitz, I can't promise that I can bring your husband back. It's a possibility, of course, but all I can promise you this: I will do absolutely everything in my power to find out what happened to him."
* * *
An hour later she stood outside the Hammond Inn, a rickety three-story shack outside the factory district of Prospero. Mrs. Berkowitz had said Benny often stayed there when a shift ran too late or the next one started too early. She walked in and found a few ruddy laborers drinking and milling around. A squat bald man stood behind the bar. The Lotus sidled up to him.
"Are you Mick Hammond?"
"The one and only, Missy. Anything I can getcha?"
"No, thanks. I'm The Lotus, private detective. I'd like to ask you about a patron of yours. Benny Berkowitz?"
"Ah. Yes. Look, why don't we, ah..." He gestured toward a corner with two high-backed chairs.
The two walked over and Mick began fiddling with the furniture. A corner of the carpet was bent up, so he kicked it down. He shuffled the chairs around so they faced each other more directly. The Lotus put a hand on his shoulder.
"Let's just get down to it, Mick. The chairs can wait till later, I'm not picky."
"Sure, yeah." He gave his chair one final nudge and then plunked down in it. The Lotus sat in hers.
"So, Mr. Berkowitz often stayed here?"
"Yeah, he'd come here for lunch or after work for drinks. Occasionally he'd stay overnight. You know, I'd had this feeling. He hadn't popped in for a week or two, and that isn't like him, you know?"
"He was in here practically every day for a while. Of course, that was before the Blue Gibbon opened up down the road."
"Blue Gibbon? Is that a..."
"A bar, yeah. Or a gaming club, I don't know. I don't fraternize with the competition. You know, far be it from me to spread gossip, but I've heard the place might be mob-run. Sketchy Italian types, you know."
"Once Prohibition ended, a lot of those mafiosos had to go straight, or straight enough anyway. I think Benny mentioned he was spending some time there."
"Hmm. Thanks, Mick. I'll look into it."
Mick nodded sagely. "No problem. Anything to help out a friend."
* * *
At the Blue Gibbon, The Lotus was invited in back and offered a cigar. She couldn't help but accept. The manager, Larry Spica, was a near-bald guy with a long, drawn face and soulful eyes that lit up when she mentioned Benny Berkowitz.
"Benny! How the hell is that sonovagun?"
"Missing, unfortunately, Mr. Spica. Tell me, what was your general impression of him?"
"Great guy. Straight and narrow, you know? But not in a dull way."
"How was he with money? Any outstanding debts?"
"Not that I can recall. I'm not intimately aware of individual tabs, but from what I gather he kept on top of things, you know."
"Mind if I take a quick look at your finances? I don't mean to intrude, but..."
"If it helps Benny out? Sure, sure. Just a sec." He got up and leaned out the doorway. "HEY, JIMMY!" he bellowed. "GIMME YOUR TAB BOOK A SEC, ALL RIGHT?"
The Lotus pawed through Benny's records and found that he did keep remarkably on top of things. He spent some dough, but never in excess. He never kept an outstanding amount on his tab.
The Lotus closed the book. "You're right, Mr. Spica, everything seems in order here. Just one more question: do you know exactly what Mr. Berkowitz did for a living?"
The man scrunched up his face in thought. "You know, he never said. Something rough-and-tumble, though. One time he came in with bruises all over his face, a real mess. I asked him what had happened and he just shrugged, said it was an occupational hazard."
* * *
The Lotus went back to the Hammond Inn just around closing time. The bar area was empty, and Mick Hammond sat in one of his high-backed chairs reading the paper. He looked up at her.
"Hey, Miss Lotus. You talk to those mob guys? I bet anything they knocked Benny off."
"Actually, Mick, they seemed just about ready to marry the guy." She gestured towards the floor. "So why don't we just see what's underneath that carpet, huh?"
Mick's face darkened. "Hey, Missy, this is my joint. You don't get to bark orders at me."
"It'll only take a second, Mick. Unless you've got something to hide?"
He grimaced for a moment, and then shoved the two chairs off of the carpet. He pulled the rug away, and The Lotus saw a wide trapdoor where it once was.
Mick's face had gone white. "It's the liquor cellar. Where I keep the, uh..."
"...liquor?" The Lotus smiled. "Well then let's go see it."
The Lotus climbed down the ladder after Mitch and flicked on the lights. A dusty boxing ring stood in the middle of the cellar, beer bottles and cigarette butts strewn all around it.
Mick sighed. "It was one bad blow to the head. Three minutes passed before I realized he wasn't just knocked out."
The Lotus kept quiet, stared at the dried blood ground into the white floor of the ring. She traced the rim of the stain with her finger and wondered what she would tell the widow of Benny Berkowitz.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 22:01|
The Mystery of the Milk Carton
Nigel slammed the milk carton down onto the countertop, and a spray of frothy, golden liquid splashed out. “Who the hell pissed in the milk!?” Nigel said.
Harry, Ernie, and Tyler stared at Nigel after the declaration. The silence hung in the air, until Harry broke it with a clearing of his throat. “Are you sure it was one of us?” he said.
The other three were arranged on the other side of the counter, perched in stools. Nigel search their expressions for guilt, but found only blank states . “Who else could have it have been?” Nigel said.
“We did have that party last night,” Tyler said. The scent of spilt booze and vomit mixed were reminders of the party’s intensity.
“No,” said Ernie. “You know I have to have a white russian before I can go to sleep.”
Harry said, “And I assume you noticed the milk situation when you came to make your breakfast, am I right?” After Nigel nodded, Harry continued, “Which means we have a rough timeline. Sometime between when Ernie had his white russian and Nigel woke up, one of us four pissed in the milk carton.”
“But why? I mean seriously, we all drink that milk,” Nigel said.
“Motive, yes,” Harry said. He began to pace around the cramped living dining room.
“Well, it’s pretty funny, right?” said Tyler.
The four murmured in agreement. “And it would have seemed even funnier if the person was intoxicated,” Harry said.
“And all of us were really drunk last night,” Ernie said.
Nigel slammed his fist down onto the countertop. “Well, it wasn’t me! I would have just emptied it out when I woke up. And I’m the one who always pays for the milk, why would I ruin it?” he said.
“That’s valid enough. But that leaves us three,” Harry said.
“Did anyone hear anyone going to the fridge in the middle of the night?” Nigel said.
“I didn’t, and I was passed out on the couch,” Tyler said.
“Yeah, but you were so drunk that an elephant could have marched passed and it wouldn’t have woken you,” Ernie said.
“We were all so drunk, gentlemen,” Harry said. “And so you can see that not only did all three of us have a motive, all three of us had the opportunity to piss in the carton. Which leaves only the means.”
“What do you mean?” Nigel said.
“I mean the means,” Harry said. “The opening to that carton is a very narrow space, and it would have taken some distinct skill to piss into it properly, and without leaving a trace.”
Tyler’s face suddenly brightened. “Does this mean what I think it means?” he said.
“Yes it does, Tyler,” Harry said. “Time for a pissing contest.”
Harry, Ernie, and Tyler lined up in the kitchen, facing the milk carton. Nigel hopped up onto the counter so that he could judge the contest from a proper vantage point.
Harry’s stream shot out in a strong arc, but burst too wide in the air. As the stream hit the carton, only a small percentage actually entered; the remainder splashed over the tile of the floor. As the acrid odor began to fill the room, Nigel waved a hand. “Next!” he said.
Ernie had to press down on the folds of fat around his dick to give the shrivelled, flaccid length enough room to piss without getting all over him. Even still, the stream sprayed randomly, mostly ending up in a puddle by his feet. Ernie did not even wait for Nigel, and slinked off to the dining room with Harry.
Tyler’s stream flowed forth straight and true. After getting the aim set, Tyler moved his hands to the back of his head. A smirk graced his lips as he glanced over towards Harry and Ernie in the room. The pair gave thumbs-up in return, their faces twisted into awkward grins.
“Well, I guess this settles it,” Nigel said. Tyler zipped back up and returned to the dining room with Harry and Ernie, a triumphant grin plastered onto his face.
“I think we have our culprit,” Harry said. “Tyler, you have been found guilty of pissing in the milk carton.”
Tyler’s grin disappeared abruptly.
Nigel and Harry clinked their glasses together, and tossed back the tequila. The kitchen smelled faintly of lime polish thanks to Tyler’s efforts, and a fresh carton of milk was waiting for Ernie’s late night white russian.
“I’ve been thinking,” said Harry. “That there is another option.”
“And what is that?” said Nigel. He smirked just a bit as he leaned back against the counter.
“What was this really all about? What is about a prank? Or was it something more?” Harry said.
Nigel studied the inside of his shot glass.
“We were almost out of milk. I talked to Ernie, and it turns out that he didn’t think we had enough left for another white russian. And I know you hate how Ernie is always drinking the milk and never buying any,” Harry said.
Nigel tore his gaze up and stared at Harry for a long moment, before walking over to the sink, starting up the water. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“I mean that you set up a frame job,” Harry said. He walked over to stand behind Nigel. “I think that you thought that Ernie was going to take the rap. You didn’t think that Tyler would win the pissing contest and take the fall!”
“So you got me,” Nigel said. His shoulders slumped in resignation. “I was just so tired of everyone drinking my milk!”
The pair were silent then, until Harry put his shot glass down next to Nigel’s “What are we going to do now?” Nigel said.
“Now, we are going to keep quiet, not pass along the blame. And you’re going to do my laundry for a week,” Harry said. “Oh, and don’t piss in the milk again.”
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 22:05|
curlingiron fucked around with this message at 06:34 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 22:25|
The Weight Of Things
954 words w/ title
My mother had been dead for three months when I found the glove. Pristinely white but obviously worn and loved, it was tucked away with some papers in the drawer of the roll top desk in her bedroom. It was an odd catalogue: a grocery list, a chain e-mail with an amusing anecdote, a half-scrawled short story idea that never turned into anything, a poem ripped out of Readers Digest, a newspaper article she must have meant to have shown me. One glove.
It bothered me immensely, more than it should have. My mother’s mind had been like a steel trap, and she always had to have everything in order; if I casually made reference to wanting a recipe or an editorial from one of the numerous publications to which she subscribed, she would beeline out of the room and return with the exact volume and issue in question, page open and ready for my perusal. But I was stuck with this glove, this lonely, single glove that seemed to have been tossed into a drawer and discarded in a fashion so unlike what I knew her to be, and for the first time in my life I wasn’t able to ask her “what the gently caress, Mom?” No longer would she laugh and explain the logic to me, why the glove needed to be there, specifically, waiting for something only she knew. At night she wandered the halls of my dreams, the distance between her departure and my pursuit increasing to nearly insurmountable lengths, but in the dusty daylight of her New England townhouse I was left with the silence of not understanding.
I moved from room to room, drawer to drawer, pocket to pocket, and the questions gnawed at my chest, like a glove that had no partner.
“Are you still going on about that stupid glove?”
My sister and I were packing another box. No matter how many we stuffed, we didn’t seem to make a dent in the clutter of having lived. Our packing had moved through the stages of grief, from reverent sadness to shattering anger to a period where we would look at things for hours on end without touching them. Currently we were in a state of unceremonious automation, shoving plates and napkins and tax returns into any open container we could find. I had hoped this was something akin to acceptance.
“I mean, look around you, Shar.” Carrie gestured with a commemorative plate and I had to resist the urge to snatch it from her before she accidentally threw it like a Frisbee. “We’re three yard sales away from a Hoarders episode. A random glove is completely within Mom’s character.”
I finished wrapping a teapot and placed it in the box before I looked at her. “What are you talking about? Mom was a stickler. She was eccentric, sure, but she had an order to things.”
“This isn’t order.” She put the plate down in the box, unwrapped. “Stacks of literary journals, unread newspapers like she was potty training a puppy, too much furniture everywhere. Three mattresses in the guest room, Sharon. It’s like the Princess and the Pea in there. That’s not eccentric, that’s crazy.”
I picked up the plate and started to wrap it in a dishtowel. “But she knew where everything was. And the mattresses need to be flat because otherwise they—
“Seriously, stop.” She reached out and touched my hand. “We’ve been packing up mom’s poo poo for a week and we haven’t even gotten out of the living room. This isn’t normal, Sharon. It just seems like it to you because you never left. But I’m telling you, Mom was nuts. In the real world, people let go, constantly, and without thought. Things, people.” She squeezed my hand gently before letting go. “Dead mothers.”
She picked up a sterling silver pitcher and tried to rub a mark out with her sleeve. I held the plate in my hands for a moment. Half of a rustic cottage peered out at me, hidden by green firs and blue fibercloth. Half a word announced the emotion the scene should have elicited for the brik a brak connoisseur: Sola-. I felt the emptiness of a single glove.
“I’m furious at her for leaving all this, you know.” Carrie tossed the pitcher into the box. “She wrote five novels and didn’t leave a loving will. What are we supposed to do?”
I stared at the plate in my hands, feeling the weight between my fingertips. “I don’t know.”
Two months later I found the second glove in the January edition of her favorite literary catalogue. The volume was buried in a stack next to her bed, one of many, many stacks I had meticulously collected from throughout all corners of the house. Carried rolled her eyes, shot a terse snort and a “does that answer your question” before throwing her hands up and walking out of the room, shaking her head.
I sat on the bed for a long time. The things that made up my mother’s life lay around me, seen and unseen, packed and unpacked, waiting for an owner, any owner, to love them again: a dog-eared novel, a glass topped hatpin, jury duty for next week, a Christmas card from 1987, a 48-record that nothing in the house would play. One glove.
And all the things the glove was: A memory. A message. A beacon. A secret. A bookmark, to a poem she had had published, entitled The Weight Of Things, which I had never read.
And so I read, and I wept, and I understood where she had left her will. And tomorrow, I would begin to unpack.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 22:35|
A Dirty Job - 909 words
Detective Davies had called in sick. I’ve cleaned that man’s vomit off walls and his diarrhea out of cubicles. The man never calls in sick. Norovirus, blood poisoning, swine flu, he’s on duty. If he was calling in sick then I knew something was wrong, and I was the man to find out what. I finished cleaning the locker room and went to see my supervisor.
“I need to head out and check on Davies. He called in sick.”
“I’ve cleaned that man’s vomit off walls and his diarrhea out of cubicles. The man never calls in sick. Norovirus, blood poisoning-”
“I get the picture George. You’re not leaving.”
“What if something’s happened?”
“Not your problem, George, and it sure as hell ain’t mine.”
“So that’s how it is, chief? What happened to looking out for each other? What happened to never leaving a man behind?”
“Don’t give me that crap, George. I’ve got to order in more stock today. We’re nearly out of bleach and the detectives complained they saw another rat in their break room.”
“And don’t call me Chief, George. It’s Barry. Can you get out of here and check the toilets on floor three? They’re out of order again.”
“You’re out of order, Chief!”
I’d had it with this guy’s crap. The whole drat department was full of half-job Harrys, men who’d wipe a urinal once and call it clean. The whole drat place was getting a foul stink.
The last thing on my mind was fixing those toilets. I went straight to the fifth floor and into the personnel files. One perk of the job is getting keys to every room in the building. Ten minutes later I had Davies’ address. Five minutes after that I was on a bus to his apartment.
Nobody answered the buzzer, and when I jimmied my way in I found what I’d known would be there all along. Davies’ body was lying crumpled at the bottom of the stairs, a knife in his back and a puddle of blood on the linoleum.
Blood on the linoleum. None on the walls. None on the carpeted stairs (a nightmare to get out). Just the linoleum. Easy, wipe-clean linoleum. Anybody else would think that was a coincidence, but I’ve been working this beat long enough to know professional work when I see it.
A rummage through his pockets netted me his wallet and I spread its contents over the kitchen table. Loose change, picture of his girl, receipt for a bar, stamp book. Stamp book? Who uses stamps nowadays?
I flipped it open. One was gone. The laptop on his kitchen counter was giving me the eye. I opened it up and soon found what I was looking for.
It was sitting in the Recycle Bin. Somebody had tried to get rid of the evidence but not gone far enough to outwit an old bloodhound like me. Just a single document titled “Letter of Complaint - Kitchen Rat”. I printed it out and headed back to the department. I’d got my man. I needed to confront the Chief.
It was just past noon when I got back and the Chief’s office was deserted. I swore and ran to the break room. “Where’s the Chief?” I yelled to the two other members of cleaning staff in there.
“I think he went to get lunch.”
“Lunch! Of course!”
Lunch for the Chief meant one thing: a sandwich from Eduardo’s. The slimy jerk would get a sub and then head to the bar across the road to eat it. Unfortunately for him, the only bar he’d see today would be in a jail cell. Which he’d be inside. After being arrested for murder. The murder of Detective Davies.
I caught sight of him just as he was crossing the road. “Freeze, Chief!” I yelled. He turned just in time for my fist to slam into his fat, sloppy gut. He went down like the sack of poo poo he was.
“Jesus Christ, George!” he wheezed as he lay on the floor, “what the gently caress is wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me, Chief? What’s wrong with you? I know you killed Davies.”
“I don’t know what the gently caress you’re talking about.”
“Oh yeah, Chief? And I suppose you don’t know anything about this either?”
I shoved the letter in his face. It was from Detective Davies to the company the PD’s cleaning is outsourced to, complaining about the rats, the constantly blocked toilets and the open hostility of the staff. I was referred to numerous times, but this was bigger than just me.
The Chief’s face dropped. “Hardly proof,” he said, “we get dozens of complaints like that every month.”
“Oh sure. We do. But does head office?”
“You still can’t prove it was me!”
“Can’t I, Chief? No blood on the walls? No blood on the carpet? Just on the linoleum? It was perfect, Chief. Too perfect.” I had him now and he knew it.
“You son of a bitch!” he screamed, still lying at my feet, “do you realise what you’ve done? I was keeping this department safe! I was keeping this department clean!”
“Then it’s too bad you got your hands so dirty, Chief.”
Three days later, the cleaning company had been shut down and I was unemployed. It didn’t matter though. I was the Janitor, and keeping this city clean was a full time job.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 23:03|
Running the House
One of the boys had defecated on the carpet, and Xander was going to find out which of the hellions did it. The three brothers sat with their backs to the shameful thing; it stood out on the carpet like an L.A. smog cloud on a Pacific Northwest morning. No one said anything, but the youngest, Charlie, verged on tears.
“One of you is going to admit it,” Xander said.
“You’ve got nothing on us, babysitter,” Drew, the middle child, said. The boy had been playing ‘innocently’ with a toy fighter jet at the scene of the crime when Xander walked in. Prior to the happening, he had been fruitlessly looking for a cheese-stick, or some kind of snack for himself. Xander smiled.
“I have this,” he said. Plunked down in front of the boys was a large carafe of oily black coffee. Rattling after, came three white mugs.
“The hell is this,” Alex, the oldest said.
“I said drink!” Xander slammed his hands palm down on the countertop, causing the mugs to skip. Drew scowled and stared at the babysitter. Xander poured three mugs and leaned against the counter, checking the clock. The innocent shall reveal themselves, he thought.
“Ech,” Alex said, sticking his tongue out. The other two boys still had their lips to the mugs.
“It’s hot,” Charlie said. Xander felt sorry for the youngest, but he had to be sure.
Every time the boys would get half way through their mugs, Xander would top them off again. He worried that the 12 cups he brewed might not be enough time before their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, got home.
“That’s it, I’m out,” Alex said, slipping gingerly off the counter stool. He made his way to the bathroom.
“Don’t flush, I want evidence,” Xander called through the door. The sink turned on and off, and Alex finally came out.
“Am I done here?” Alex said. Xander flicked his head towards the stairs leading to the bedrooms. Alex shook the water from his hands and sneered at the babysitter, but obeyed.
“And then there were two.” Xander shifted his eyes to look at the two children still left. Back and forth his gaze drifted. The baby of them looked nigh catatonic, staring at the empty mug of coffee he had been drinking from. Drew stared down the babysitter, a bead of sweat forming at his brow.
“Man at least give us some milk or something,” Drew said. Xander shrugged and opened the fridge. Shoving items out of the way, Xander pulled out a quart box of almond milk. On it was a post-it that said, “Dad” on it. Searching again, he found a half-gallon carton of milk and set in front of the boys. Then he refilled their mugs halfway.
Drew poured nearly a third of a cup into his, before letting out a deep breath. More sweat. He must be feeling the pressure now, Xander thought. I’m going to get you, you little twerp. Charlie shivered randomly, despite it being a warm 72 in the living room. Xander looked at the clock again and felt the temperature rise a few degrees.
He patted the half-empty pack of cigarettes in his front pocket thoughtfully. No, he thought ultimately, that would be too much.
“Oh god,” Drew said, doubling over. “Gotta go, gotta go.” Xander was taken aback, but the obscene noises coming from the bathroom squashed any suspicion of tomfoolery.
Xander sighed in disapproval at Charlie. He was so sure that the middle bastard was the culprit, but in the end, even he must have been too old and mature to have done such an act. He walked around to the jittery child, stopping in his tracks when he hovered over. Xander sniffed once, and then twice, while squinting in confusion. He hooked his index finger and made a quick check in the back of the boy’s pants.
“Charlie?! What did you do?”
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Charlie said. Round, red ringed eyes stared up at Xander, Charlie’s mouth slack-jawed opened, and slowly sank. He picked the boy up from under the arms, intent to carry him to the bathroom when the sound of car doors slamming came from outside. Stuck in frozen horror Xander tried to formulate a plan. He dropped the boy with a wet plop and tore after the crime on the carpet.
Xander slipped on a toy fighter jet as he ran. He shot the toy a menacing glance, realizing it belonged to Drew. Crawling on his hands and knees, he came face to face with the ur-mess right as the front door unlocked. Xander splayed out and scooped the crime in his hands.
“What the hell is going on here?” Mrs. Williams shouted. Xander rose to his knees, saying nothing. Charlie sat crying in a mess spreading faster than an oil spill. Alex leaned atop the staircase with a smirk on his face. Only Drew, standing outside the bathroom door, seemed unaffected by the scene.
“Xander, I think you should go to the car,” Mr. Williams said.
“Can—” Xander paused, “I wash my…?” Still clutched firmly in his hand was the fecal product.
“Yes, that would be best.”
Xander sat in the front passenger side of the sedan staring at his clean hands. He imagined them still stained with waste, that despite at least 10 minutes of furious scrubbing and soaping, that they were still filthy.
“I’m lactose intolerant.”
“I guess you could say, it runs in the family.”
Mr. Williams got into the driver’s seat and cranked the engine. Slowly the sedan pulled away, Xander’s face pressed firmly against the window. Drew maintained the icy stare as they backed out of the driveway and drove away, leaving the boy standing alone, unsmiling, unflinching.
|# ? Jan 19, 2014 23:15|
“I'm not a wimp, Mr. Flanagan. I can't keep letting him think that,” John says. Other than his voice my office is quiet; I can hear the administrative business of the school going on outside. John is moving stiffly. He won't say who's been beating him up.
An abrupt knock on the door interrupts us. I call out, “I'm in a session right now. Please come back in twenty minutes.”
Shirley, the assistant principal, sticks her head around the door in a halo of over-bleached curls and perfume. “I'm sorry to interrupt, but something important has come up that needs your attention as school counselor.”
John's face closes right up. Something important. Something other than him. “I'll be just a moment, Ms. Grimm.” I pack as much rebuke as I can into the polite sentence. I freeze, holding the door open for John, when I see the kid sitting outside.
His face is slowly swelling up, his eyes blackening. Important indeed. I turn to see John out, but he's already gone.
“This is Greg,” Shirley says. “Someone beat him up, and he's too scared to tell anyone who did it.” Greg glowers.
“I'm not a snitch,” Greg looks at Shirley for encouragement as he talks. “They told me what they'd do if I snitched.” She pats his shoulder.
“Come on into my office,” I offer. “We don't have to talk about who hurt you-” He frowns, eyebrows drawing together, “-but it's a nice safe place to sit and calm down.” His shoulder bumps me as he pushes into my office.
“Can you tell me what happened?” I ask, when we're seated. “You don't have to tell me who. Just what you remember happening.”
“Well it was in the back stairway, during class. I had a hall pass for the bathroom, but when I tried to go to the one upstairs they were there.” He speaks in a quick monotone. “They started saying poo poo, ya' know? And I didn't want to go with them there, so I went downstairs. But they must've followed.”
Finally he meets my eye, his voice coming alive with anger. “Right when I went around the landing, one of 'em jumps down off the railing and lands on me. Just starts hitting me on the back of the head. And my face goes into the stairs, that's where I got the bruise, see?” He waves a hand at his eye.
- - -
Julia's sitting with her feet propped up on her desk when I slip into the nurse's office. She gestures at the exam table. “Have a seat.”
I do, leaning back against the pillows. “So what do you think happened to Greg?”
“I think some kid jumped him when he had his back turned. He's lucky they didn't crack his skull open.” She taps a finger on her desk, lost in thought.
“He said someone followed him from the bathroom into the stairway and jumped off the stairs onto him.” I watch her graceful finger hit the wood. Tap. Tap tap.
“And he's not talking?”
“Whoever it was seems to have been lighter and smaller. Got him by surprise. I bet it's one of the kids he's always picking on. They won't turn him in, of course. drat stupid zero tolerance policy means they'll get in trouble too. But I know who does it.”
And as simple as that, I know who it was. Jumping off a railing will make a body sore and stiff. I'm not a wimp. “So if he's such a bully, why hasn't he been caught? You know it's him.”
“Every time I report it to Shirley it just vanishes. You know how she is...”
I do know how Shirley is. It was odd to see her so solicitous of Greg. “Julia, can you do some poking around? See if she's connected to Greg at all. I'm going to talk to someone.”
- - -
John looks guilty the second I pull him out of class. When we're seated in my office I wait him out. It doesn't take long.
“I didn't mean to,” he says. “I was coming down for my appointment. He followed me. I didn't want him to catch me alone. Again. So I hid behind the door when he came into the stairway, and jumped on him. I didn't mean- I didn't mean for his face to hit the stairs. I just wanted to make him stop loving with me.” The words tumble out all in a rush.
My phone chirps. The text reads: Greg is Shirley's nephew. She's been covering for him. Bitch.
“This is a serious assault, John. You could have really hurt him.”
“I know. Should I turn myself in?”
If I can bring the perpetrator forward on something like this, it will go above Shirley's head. “John, if you admit that you did this and tell someone why, you'll get suspended. So will Greg. The school has a zero tolerance policy to fighting for any reason.” I pause for a moment. “And if either of you is caught fighting again it will be even worse.” It's his choice. I'm bound by confidentiality.
“So if I turn him in, I get suspended for a few days. And then the next time he beats someone up, he gets in worse trouble? And everyone in the school will know what I do to bullies. And I'm not snitching, because I'm turning myself in. Seriously?” John grins.
I don't bother to hide my answering smile, unprofessional though it is. “Come with me. We're taking this to the principal.”
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 00:06|
The Song of My Mother
"Are you after something particular?"
I looked up from the sheet music and into the curious eyes of the lady who would have liked to sell it to me. I slid the thin, brown-edged pages back into their plastic envelope, the envelope back into her box of songs for sale, and I told her, "I'm afraid so."
She shifted her weight on her metal folding chair. "What, darlin'? I've got a few more pieces in the house. Might be something I could part with."
One of the baby's heels pushed hard at my abdomen. I put a hand on my belly, tapping it twice: settle down, you. "I don't know exactly. It's something my mother used to play when I was little." I took as deep a breath as I could manage and sang, "The road is golden and full of bends that lead to Forever, where Time itself ends. Life takes us far, but this is still true: more than my life is how much I love you."
After twenty-three years I didn't even have the full tune anymore, just that chorus and the memory of pressing close to my mother's side on the piano bench. Her long hair had tickled my face; we'd laughed together.
The woman shook her head. "I've never heard that before, hon. I'm sorry."
"Me, too," I said. I bought a bag of Michener paperbacks from her and left, telling myself as I pulled out of the drive not to bother searching at any more yard sales. Knowing full well that I would.
Whenever I talked to Ken about the song, he was infuriatingly reasonable. "I can't be ready without it!" I would say.
He always had the same answer: "We are ready. As ready as we're going to get." He'd take my hand and lead me to the nursery to point out the cheerful yellow walls, the waiting crib, as though I hadn't helped build and paint them. But his calmness soothed me, so it was all right.
Not that time. I came home from the latest failed hunt and sank deep into our recliner, ignoring his attempts to coax me up, humming the scrap of melody until it must have driven him half insane. I'd been five when my mother had died, and her song was the only thing of hers I had to share with my child. No quantity of diapers purchased or mobiles hung would make me prepared for his birth while this one, critical thing was missing.
Ken broke my fugue by waving a phone in front of my face. "It's Ruth," he said.
My great-great-aunt Ruth had the thin, reedy voice of an eighty-year-old woman, which was impressive given she was ninety-seven. "Deborah, my grandsons have been going through my things," she said when I took the handset. "They found Billy's old home videos in the attic. I forgot all about those, but your daddy says you've been asking questions about your ma and would probably like to see them."
"Oh--" My breath caught. "Aunt Ruth! Yes!"
"Bring your daddy when you come by. You can watch them on my TV, and you can all sort out who gets to keep them after I'm gone."
So my father and I made the long trip to Aunt Ruth's farmhouse, with Dad holding my hand some of the way. Sometimes, it was me holding his.
We sat on Aunt Ruth's battered couch and started the first tape. A family Christmas. As soon as my mother appeared on the screen, I forgot about songs. She had the long hair of my memory. She sat on the edge of the celebration, quiet, mostly, except when the camera caught her stuffing fruitcake in Dad's mouth. Beside me, he laughed at that. Her smiles had an edge I hadn't recognized as a little girl, which went away when they were turned on him. That sharpness had softened, faded almost to nothing on the third tape, when she had a baby in her arms.
I hugged my middle; my father put his arm around my shoulders.
During a video of one of Aunt Ruth's birthday parties, the cameraman abandoned the crowded dining room. He stood behind the screen door leading out to the porch, where my mother sat with me, singing. I turned the volume up.
"The road isn't lonely, and it never ends. Love is forever, and time always mends. Life's full of lies, but this one is true: more than the world is how much I love you."
Her song. But not as I'd remembered it.
"I thought it had different words," I said softly. "Those are so... cynical. Sad."
"She could be both. She'd be glad you don't remember her that way, honey. I think--" My father searched for the right words. "Whatever she sang, it was a happy song when it was for you."
He got up and took the tape from the VCR. He held it out to me. "I'll square this with Ruth. It's yours."
I bought an old VCR of my own at Goodwill on the way home. Ken sat with me as I watched the tape the second time. I glanced at him at one point and saw he held a pen and paper, was writing the lyrics down for me. I caught his hand and held it still.
When the tape ran out, I sang to my husband and child. My mother's song, but my variation, born out of remembered love and the happy life she had given me. I believe she would have heard the truth in it.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 00:56|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 02:48 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 01:08|
Combined Mystery entry and Bad Seafood homework
Formerly of The Yard
Inspector Daggins, formerly of The Yard, nodded at the constable beside him and flung open the doors to the drawing room where the suspects were gathered. He strode purposefully inside, hangover pounding in his head like the guns of Passchendaele. Every eye turned to him as he announced, “Madame Guillinot is dead, and you, Miss Wilder, are the murderer!”
The room collectively gasped. Lady Boilingstoke clutched at her South Sea Pearls, Miss Tavisham collapsed dramatically onto a nearby chaise longue and Cribbens the butler almost rattled the tray from which the tea was being served.
Miss Wilder, however, remained calm, drawing her cigarette holder to her vivid, red lips. “Inspector Daggins, you preposterous little man,” she drawled in a heavy american accent. “Have you been at the Wild Grouse again? I would have thought your recent suspension from The Yard would have been a shot across the bow of HMS Plastered.”
Daggins ignored the jibe and stepped toward Miss Wilder, eyes never dropping from hers. “You thought you could cover your tracks with your attempts on Father Torrington’s honour, making sure Miss Tavisham saw you kiss him on the balcony, but that pillar of the community did not rise to your lascivious ploys.”
Miss Wilder waved her hand between Daggin’s mouth and her own delicate nose. “This is nonsense, flavoured with halitosis.” she said, arching a perfectly plucked eyebrow. “For one thing, Father Torrington is merely a man, and could never resist my feminine wiles. Isn’t that right, Father T?”
Father Torrington looked as if he would rather walk the stations of the cross before answering the question, but he did, ultimately, emit a sheepish response to the affirmative.
“And yet,” said Daggins, swallowing back a wave of nausea, “we know he’s lying, because Mrs Bulgar in the laundry remarked this morning on how preternaturally clean his underwear was. So what could cause a priest to lie? Only one thing - the threat of a greater transgression being uncovered. Isn’t that right, Miss Wilder? Or should I say - Mister Wilder?”
If the room collectively gasped before, this time it inhaled so hard it stole the very breath from the nearby village. Miss Tavisham even fainted but thankfully was already well arranged.
Daggins pressed on, sweating a tad now that the moment of truth had arrived. “Confronted and confused by both his and your arousal of manly parts, Father Torrington locked himself away in his room between nine and eleven. Then, while the rest of the party thought the two of you to be scurrilously alone, you appropriated the leaf of the Evalva plant from the Nativity diorama, mixed it with the Tinghams Earl Grey, knowing full well that the chemical compounds that make it England’s favourite tea would combine unfavourably. A relaxant in small doses, but an entire cup of tea would create a poison so insidious that it would seem as if Madame Guillinot had passed away in her sleep. A fact unknown to most, but not to an accomplished Chemical Engineer from MIT, such as Mister Everett Wilder, founder of Wilder Chemical, itself an ex-member of the Guillinot armaments empire after the recent human testing exposé in The Times of New York. Constable, if you would be so kind as to divest Mister Wilder of his handbag, I believe you’ll find the remains of the Evalva plant.”
The constable attempted to retrieve the handbag, but found Mister Wilder hanging on to it for grim life. A quick tussle ensued with the constable eventually wrenching it away. “She’s a strong one,” he said as he opened it, and turned it upside down upon the coffee table. There, amongst the illusory cosmetics of womanhood, lay a crumpled collection of fern-like plants. Satisfied, the constable produced a set of handcuffs and snapped them about Mister Wilder’s wrists.
“Well done, Inspector,” said Lady Boilingstoke. “To think that it happened under the Boilingstoke roof. I have to admit, we were none too impressed when we heard you’d been assigned to our Parish, after the Lewisham shenanigans, but you have redeemed yourself in the eyes of this house at least.”
“Thank you, ma’am. That means a great deal. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a mountain of paperwork yet to be done.” And a mountain of aspirin to swallow, he thought.
Daggins and the constable left the drawing room with Mister Wilder in tow. On a whim, Daggins paused for a moment, allowing policeman and perpetrator to continue past him and through the front door. He made his way up the stairs to the bedroom where Madame Guillinot lay, the continued discussion that could be heard in the drawing room growing softer as he ascended.
Daggins peered around the bedroom door and saw Madame Guillinot, her face pale as a tombstone, the half-drunk tea cup beside the cosied teapot on her nightstand. He watched her for a moment, rubbing his pained temples, considering the case. It would look good on his record, he decided, this murder solved for one of the most prestigious families in the district. It could even be his ticket back to The Yard. A word in the right ears from Mrs Boilingstoke could do wonders.
“Inspector Daggins,” mumbled Madame Guillinot. “What on earth? Oh, I feel so very tired.”
Daggins raced to her side. “Madame Guillinot? My word, are you all right? There’s been a terrible fuss. A murd...I mean, I suppose, an attempted murder.” drat it, he thought. Solving an attempted murder is hardly the kind of thing upon which to rebuild a shattered reputation. Completely different class of case.
“Sacré bleu! I feel as if the Hun had decided to invade me,” said Madame Guillinot. “Is there any tea?”
The pounding in Daggins head increased. His hand reached for the teapot.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 01:56|
Just under one hour left.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 02:03|
Under an hour? BOOYAH!
A Simple Question
Sol Greenham was a mess. His office, Detective Peters reflected, was no better. The forensics team bustling about the place had naturally left everything untouched, so the deep blue carpet was stained with vomit and spilled coffee. Papers strewn from the hand of the late CEO of Greenham-Landers Chemicals further added to the disarray. Death was never tidy, but the condition of the body, twisted as it was, implied deliberation.
Still, the forensics team were efficient, he noted with some satisfaction. The body, the office, the papers, were all being photographed, measurements were being made, and all Peters needed to do was flag down the team leader and ask what was what. Simple, tidy... Peters preferred things that way. Also, no ashtrays. Peters didn't get on with smoke and smokers, so that was another plus.
Sol Greenham had, it seemed, died of toxic shock, while looking over the latest reports from his head of research. Preliminary guess was between midnight and four AM, and interviews had established only three people on site at the time: The secretary, Carol Allen, the head of research, Peter Grenberg, and the VP, Michael Landers. All had been working late, all had visited Mr. Greenham before his estimated demise. Still, something felt off to Peters.
“So, what was the secretary doing here so late? I can understand the VP and the research guy, upper management tends to keep odd hours. But her?”
The forensics guy nodded. “She was helping to tidy up a presentation on their new rat-poison. Nasty stuff, but the formula's right there on his papers, and it seems like it'd work quick, and relatively safely for things that aren't rats, too.” Peters nodded, satisfied for the moment, and asked if the team were done with the papers. They were, so he flicked idly through. Greenham, it seemed, was a tidy guy in life. Diary neatly pencilled in with his appointments, even little meetings he had off schedule. Just as noted, three little notes were pencilled into last night's page.
11:43PM – Carol. Presentation guidelines. Raise discussion. Raise denied.
11:52PM – Grenberg. Brief discussion on research. Possible flaws? Benefits?
12:03AM – Mike. Just checkin' in. Untidy as always, but does people well.
12:05AM – Read local papers. Protests continue.
The last one confused Peters a little, because it was off tone, but a quick flick through confirmed that nearly all the entries about his VP were less formal, more friendly. Gotta check into that.
* * *
Greenham's body wasn't what was annoying Detective Peters. It wasn't the cause of death (poison), it wasn't the coroner's mood (annoyingly rapturous). It was much more simple than that, and he placed his hand over his face before trying, once more, to engage Doctor Mayles on the subject.
“Okay, so this businessman, Sol Greenham, was killed by... tobacco?”
Doctor Mayles grinned. It was a morbid thing, and the delight in his voice pissed Peters off. “Nicotine, in fact,” he said “Nicotine, the main active ingredient in tobacco, and some pesticides, if I recall. Not easy for an amateur to get in its purest form, but then, you don't need the purest form, since cigarettes contain -” he went silent as Peters held up his hand.
“It comes from tobacco, or pesticides, and it kills you if you take enough, like any drug. This, I understand. I also understand it's really common, and can be extracted really easily. Messily, with lots of other poisons too, but easily.” Peters sighed. “What I want to know, Doc, is how this can lead to a conviction, since we know the guy wasn't a smoker, and he died alone.”
Mayles grin, if anything, grew even wider. “Anyone can get hold of tobacco! But that's not the best part. The delivery method was through his coffee, enough... Well, he would have tasted it in his first swig, and it still wouldn't have mattered. Death was...” at this, Mayles hesitated. “...Ah, yes. You probably... think this is odd, don't you?”
Peters nodded. He didn't like talking to Mayles, because Mayles was a little too into mysteries. Mysteries were good, they passed time. But real mysteries were a headache, and often led to stupid, petty people walking away from stupid, petty things unpunished. “Doc, I appreciate that this is a brainteaser, but how... can we tell... who did this?”
Mayles, still excited, but more sober now, nodded. “Well,” he began “We'd start with the obvious: Who could put something in his drink between, say, 11:40 and ten past midnight? Any later, and somebody else would have noticed the warning signs.”
Peters explained about the three co-workers, and Mayles nodded. “So, you've got three people. All I can say is that it was relatively quick, for a nicotine poisoning.” At this last, Peters perked up, and grinned almost as widely as the doc had before. “Doc... You wanna go over some stuff with me? I was never good at this sort of thing.”
* * *
Peter Grenberg sat in the interrogation room, and Peters was sitting calmly, with a sheaf of papers in one hand, and a coffee in the other. Grenberg also had a coffee, but it was untouched. Peters laid the papers down, sipped his coffee, and smiled at the sweating chemist. A statement lay between them, a conclusion. A victory.
“Mr. Grenberg,” said Peters “Your idea was brilliant. Nicotine is a common toxin, and you could have gotten away. If”, and he leaned forward now, predatory, “you hadn't been the focus of Mr. Greenham's ire. Your poisons weren't working safely enough, you'd gotten some protestors' backs up, and you wanted to keep your job. That was unlikely with Greenham alive, and Landers was more of a people guy than a chemist. Thank you for your help, and putting it down to a simple question.”
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 02:11|
poo poo. Er, 979 words.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 02:14|
Geriatrics - 590 words
Clara Lansbury disliked funerals and avoided them out of habit. While her friends got enjoyment from knowing they had outlived their peers, Clara did not consider it healthy for the elderly to dwell on death. Today, however, was an exception. Her doctor was dead and Clara wanted to see if anyone suspected she poisoned the poor bastard.
“I just can’t believe he’s gone,” said the widow, proving herself as useless as ever, “Hank and I were planning to move down to Florida. I don’t know what happened.”
“The police haven’t mentioned anything, dear?” said Clara, trying to be patient after enduring thirty minutes of rambling stories and incoherent sobbing.
The woman shook her head, “No, they haven’t told me anything. I don’t know what they are waiting for.”
Clara nodded in agreement and excused herself. She had already thought the scheduling of the funeral suspicious, most people wanted to have the service as soon as possible. Arranging the ceremony a week after death was pushing the limits of acceptability. It was obvious that the police suspected foul play and had tried holding the body. The stupid woman hadn’t put the facts together.
Clara mingled around the room, collecting facts and snippets of idle chatter.
“Oh yeah, it took them forever to get back the body. It took so long that they seriously considered making the ceremony closed casket-.”
“Well, my brother plays golf with the city coroner on Sundays up at Lake Shore and according to him, Dr. Brenshac was given a lethal dose of his own medication! I could hardly believe-.”
“I guess you can’t say the family isn’t stingy. Look at all these hydrangeas, they aren’t even in season-!”
“…and the family just took out a life insurance policy too. My office is handling the case. It’s all mighty suspicious if you ask me.”
The room was a swirl of idle chatter. Everyone agreed that the doctor’s death was not natural, he had been far too young. The only person who suggested otherwise was the wife, which the guests found extremely suspicious.
“I bet she bumped him off,” Clara heard waiting in line for the viewing, “she’s got a big inheritance coming, you know.”
“Oh, don’t talk like that! Lana’s devoted to her husband. She would never,” someone whispered.
“I’m telling you. It’s all an act. She was sick and tired of his poo poo. You know he was messing around with his patients?”
Clara knew that fact firsthand.
“The cops are just waiting for confirmation that the doctor was poisoned. Then they’re going to lock her up. She’s the only person with a motive and access to the murder weapon. The house is filled with drugs.”
Clara didn’t hear the rest of the conversation because she was too busy with her own thoughts. Even if she didn’t fit the psychological profile of a killer, it would not be long before the widow was arrested. The insurance scheme was too juicy a motive to ignore. The media would devour her and the police would not stand in the way of an easy arrest. Clara estimated that the whole ordeal would be over in a few months. No one would question the old arthritic crone, let alone suspect her.
Clara reached the coffin and looked down at the man that she had killed. The mortician had done a wonderful job giving him the illusion of life. It seemed impossible that he was actually dead. She could almost see his eyes bulging open in surprise, his mouth widening to scream, nostrils flaring. It was a wonderful sight.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 02:29|
“Kids,” Miss Early said with crossed arms, “I’m going to leave the classroom unlocked during lunch, so whoever took Eric’s valentines bag can return it. This kind of joke is never funny, and all you’re doing is hurting a friend.”
Except, Eric White wasn’t a friend to any of us. In fact, I was the only friend he had, and I didn’t even like him. You know he once glued his own eyelids shut in art? If it weren’t for Miss Early helping him, he might have gone blind. It wasn’t that he was a bad guy, just weird. Eric was the kind of kid to eat sliced cucumbers for lunch instead of chips. Just yesterday while we were decorating our bags, he kept trying to make us laugh. “Orange you glad I didn’t say orange?” he’d ask nervously.
As we lined up in the classroom and held hands in a chain, I saw Miss Early take Sarah Burgess’s hand in hers. Her nails were painted like a summer peach and despite the coldness of her demeanor, sparked by this theft, I wanted to walk in her sunshine. I decided then to do it for her.
The cafeteria was a badlands of gossipers, pranksters, and fighters, and the kid I needed to see was a mixture of all three. Jeremy Griffib was a scruffy two-timer with a ringworm in his forehead, who spent most lunches trading away his snacks and always coming out with the better deal. If anything sketchy was happening at Plaza Elementary School, you can bet that Jeremy knew about it, if he didn’t have a hand in it from the get-go. After a quick scan, I found him in the back of the room, turning pretzel sticks into pixie sticks.
“Look,” he said while scooting next to a scrawny 2nd grader, “these pretzels are better for you than this garbage here. Don’t you know that candy stunts your growth? You’ll be little forever if you eat these.” As he talked, his fingers kicked the sweets in his direction, purple, red, purple, orange. I counted ten total.
“Jeremy,” I said. Both he and the boy seemed startled, but his busy fingers grabbed a handful more as he stood up.
“Rich, what’s up?” he asked.
As we walked toward the lunch line I gave him the pitch, “Well you know that jam I got you out of last week? I need a favor. I need to know who took Eric White’s bag of Valentines during the assembly earlier.”
Jeremy rubbed his head. “I heard about that. All that was left was a pile of glitter on the floor? Well, even with the candy inside, it’s not a good score.”
“Sorry, I don’t know anything.”
“Nothing?” I asked. “Can you at least give me any leads?”
“Sorry man. But here,” he said, “cheer up, have some pixie sticks.”
I pocketed them, opening one for the moment. The next step was to try and find Eric and see if he made any enemies recently, but after checking high and low he seemed to be missing too. I opened another pixie stick and flicked the wrapper to the floor, then another. The sweet powder did a good job of momentarily staving off the despair, but the feeling returned after learning that all my other sources were as blind as I was. Maybe it was the candy, or maybe it was the failure, but I felt sick, so I went to the nurse. I didn’t expect so see Jess Readings there.
Jess was always a quiet girl, and since she wore an insulin pump on her side, many of the kids thought she was weird. It wasn’t unusual for her to visit the nurse, but she normally didn’t go during lunch.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I feel anxious,” She said as she gingerly tapped her glucose monitor. “I’ve been in here all day,” she added with a huff as she blew a strand of her blonde hair upwards. “Great way to spend a Valentine’s Day.”
“So I guess you didn’t hear the news?” I asked.
“Eric had his valentines stolen.”
Jess frowned. “That’s sad,” She said “Eric’s always been nice to me; I just don’t get why people have to pick on him. Well, at least I still have my valentine to give him.”
Nurse Garcia walked in. “Rich,” she said, “What are you doing here? Trouble with your asthma?”
“Not today.” I replied. “Just a stomach ache.”
“Well,” Nurse Garcia said “We better take your temperature. Just let me clean the glitter off this thermometer. I swear Jess, you are the sparkliest girl in the school. Must match your personality”
A beeping interrupted my thoughts.
“Jess, you’re low.” Nurse Garcia said.
“I’ve got some candy, Jess.” I handed her the straw and as she dumped its contents onto her tongue, I kept my hand out, offering to throw her trash away. The wrapper was covered in silver glitter, but was it the same glitter as from the floor under Eric’s desk?
“I got to go.” I said, running out the door.
I thought about my victory as I ran to the classroom. Richard, Miss Early would say. Thank you for helping me. You are my hero. Would you like to be line leader? She’d ask as she offered me her hand. All I needed to do was match the straw to the glitter on the floor through the window. I looked into the classroom. The floor was red.
Then I saw Eric. He was with Miss Early at her desk with a crumpled tissue in his hand. They both stood up, and he hugged her fiercely. Head nestled against her side; he made eye contact with me, gently mouthing “Go away,” and waving me off. As the two left the room, I hid behind the trash can.
“Will you walk me to lunch?” He asked with a sniffle.
“Sure,” she said, opening her soft hand.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 02:56|
Gold in the Rough
Plop. Plop. Ppfth. Plop. Luke stood up from the toilet to wipe. Then he saw it. His jaw dropped. It can’t be, he thought. He crouched to get a better look. Holy loving poo poo. There’s a piece of corn in my poo poo. Impulsively he snatched the log out of the water.
There it was, a bright golden kernel shining bright against the light brown poo poo containing it. He snapped a photo with his phone, then dropped the poo poo back in the toilet. He washed his hands then walked back into the bedroom “I almost died yesterday! Can you believe it?” But the bedroom was empty. Mary had left for the gym early today.
He had dodged a bullet for sure, Luke was deathly allergic to corn. When did I eat corn? Why didn’t I have a reaction? Even touching corn produced hives all over his body and causes his throat to close up. Eating it would kill him within minutes, an Epipen would only reduce symptoms for a few minutes, by the end of which he would have to be in a hospital or he’d be dead.
He opened his food-log for yesterday to check what he ate. Seven am- health smoothie at home. Ten am- granola and greek yogurt. Noon- salad. Three pm- veggies and fruits. Then for dinner at six thirty pm smoked salmon and rice pilaf for dinner. Was the tamper-proof seal of tape broken on his Tupperware at work? No, he would have remembered if it was. Plus who would poison him there? That weasel eyed midget John? It’s true he was upset that his hours had been cut, but he was too big of a pussy to poison anyone. Wasn’t he? But if not John then who?
Last night Mary had been really insistent about cooking dinner. Weirdly so. She said she was tired of all the health food. Luke suggested she bake some brownies, he even said she could put some icing on top. That had been a good compromise. He had always told her that those brownies were filled with sugars and fats and salts that would kill her someday. A despicable thought popped into his head, had she turned his words around on him? Stuffed some corn under the icing she laid on top of the brownies. He pictured her laughing to herself as she stuffed some secret corn underneath the icing on his piece. But she wouldn’t do that, would she? She had watched him intently as he ate it.
Luke heard the door front door slam, Mary was already back from her workout.
Mary came through the bedroom door, a look of surprise on her face when she saw Luke.
“Surprised to see me up and out of bed, honey?” Luke asked.
“No, just usually you’re getting ready for work, you have to be at the gym in twenty minutes don’t you?” Cheryl asked.
“Come over here, I have to show you something that I found this morning. Maybe you can explain to me what it is,” Luke replied holding out his phone to show her the picture he took earlier.
Cheryl bent close and looked at the picture, “Ewww gross. Is that poop?”
“Yes it’s poop, what else would it be?” Luke asked, “See that yellow right there? See that?? It’s corn. Why would there be corn in my poo poo Cheryl?”
“How should I know? Did you eat corn yesterday?”
“No I didn’t eat any corn, I’m allergic remember? I’d die if I ate it, don’t play dumb with me.”
“You don’t need to raise your voice at me,” Cheryl said.
“Oh? I’m not allowed to be angry when someone tries to murder me? That’s not a suitable time to yell?” Luke asked, spittle flying with every syllable.
“You need to calm down,” Cheryl said. “You’re scaring me.”
“Just admit that you did it and I’ll think about whether or not I can forgive you,” Luke said. He had begun to pace the room.
“I’m leaving, you’re crazy,” Cheryl said. She gathered some clothes then left. “Only you could get so upset about some corn in their poo poo. rear end in a top hat.”
Good riddance you poisoning bitch, Luke thought. Don’t need you anyways. He pulled out his phone again to inspect the picture again, fuming. He zoomed the picture in close, then noticed something he hadn’t before. The “corn” shone oddly bright in the light. Brighter than a kernel of corn should after it had been passed through the digestive tract. It had some weird indentations in it also, cracks and juts in the bottom and smooth rounded sides. Then it hit him, he reached up and felt for the gold cap that the dentist had implanted a few years ago after a root canal. It was missing.
Oh gently caress, he thought
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 02:57|
'Nam Soliloquy - 748
The worst thing is the feeling that something irreplaceable have been lost. The white bones jutting out of my hand is the first sign. I don't know much about medicine, I usually leave that too the medics, but I know that a sufficiently serious wound will leave you with a permanently hosed up appendage, and that it's especially true for your hands. All those little bones.
I try to relate the feeling to something, and I remember all those awful moments when you're young and every mistake and poor decision feels like it'll stay with you for life. When that one time you broke a vase meant the end of the world. The difference is, all that fear was a child's mind, and at he end of the day, it meant nothing.
But this will stay with me until the end of my life, and it looks like that'll happen quite soon. The second shot has entered my thigh, just above the knee. That's another thing I know about medicine, a wound to the leg means you'll bleed out quick without attention. I could apply a tourniquet, but I don't really know how, and I'd probably need both hands. I if I'd known, maybe I'd be on a Chinook out of here.
For some reason I think about the place where I'll die. Tables folded together, stacked against the wall, chairs against the other wall. The smell of lasagna still in the air. Brass decided the troops needed a good meal before Khe Sanh. Not the kind of thing I'd think of. Maybe if I did, I'd be on a Chinook out of here instead of the mess hall floor. The drone of the rotors have grown dimmer, steady like some great beast departing. As they leave one by one, I notice more and more.
The dull, orange light of a grill in the kitchen. If I found out who left that on, I would have yelled until I was hoarse. Maybe I'd be on a Chinook right now if I were nicer.
That's not the kind of thing they teach you. But I should have been taught more. Every single one of them were right, I didn't deserve this.
The promotion, I mean. This, I probably deserve.
A fork in a corner, under one of the chairs, gleaming silver with flecks of red and brown.
Moonlight, shutter-pattern on the gray floor, hazy now and then from passing clouds.
A noise from the kitchen and I realize I'm falling asleep. I lift my head up, my neck aches, more than it should, black dots swim past my eyes, settle like falling leaves. Private McCullen appears, holding a steak knife. I don't think he was the one who fired the shots. He's sweating, fatigues damp. Scratches his neck and breathes heavily. He kneels down.
“I'm gonna leave this here,” he says, “ I don't know. Just, do what you want.”
“I don't know, man.”
I close my eyes for a moment. I try to smile, get on top of the situation, but it doesn't work, and I realize I can't open my eyes. That, or I can't see.
I don't know much about medicine, but if I were to guess, I'd say I'm dying pretty quick. Last steps of the journey.
“Did they tell you to finish me off?” I say.
He's further away now, on the way out. I guess he thought the job was done.
“The others. Did they tell you to finish me off.”
Going by the buzz, there's a single Chinook remaining by the time he speaks.
“Why didn't you?”
“You hosed up sarge, but I never wanted this. You hosed us up, Stenson most of all, but I never wanted this.”
“So you leave it up to me?”
“You're a coward.”
The door closes. The beast departs.
If I'd known more about people, more about palm trees at odd angles and hidden nails packed in hidden charges. More about leading from the front and taking advice. If I'd known more about men burning from the inside, trapped in a wreck. About danger close. If I'd known more about cauterizing wounds and tourniquets and Stenson's last wishes. If I'd known more about Phillips and Jackson and Rourke before I let them die.
If I'd known more about hell before I sent them there, maybe I'd be on a Chinook out of here.
But now I'll know no more.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 02:57|
[b]Free Parking[\b] Mystery in 528 words
I drove her to work 10 hours ago free and easy, no cares in our world. Now I’m seeing the damage for the first time. Her burgundy paint flakes from a deep new crease high on the left. Lipstick traces of a strangers white paint parallel the dent for a yard ending in busted orange glass that was the front turn signal. My car has touched another car. I don’t know where it happened or when. I don’t know the other car but the damage is plain. I got the news from Paco. He really gave it to me, socked it right to me.
When the swing shift whistle blew me down towards the exit Paco the fink was waiting by the door. His eyes fixed on me like to say something and maybe walk out together. Unwelcome attention. His lips curled and twitched and barely kept the lid on a sleazy grin. I guessed he was chewing some rude blue punch line with my name on it.
He coughed “your car is hosed ”.
I thought I got off easy, I thought he‘d choked on the line or spit too quick and queered the funny.
Feeling relief I came back “nothings wrong with her a hundred dollars won‘t fix”.
He fell in behind and we walked through the door. Now we’re out in the lot and all that relief is gone. How I wish I could have it back.
Paco slides up for the shot “Hundred bucks won’t fix that. At least the turn signal bulb didn’t smash; it’s still a violation though. You gotta be careful driving like that. The pigs out here love to catch a guy driving like that. Were you drunk when it happened?”
It’s a trick question. Was I driving when it happened?
Parked here all day, head in right next to Paco’s green sedan. Now here we are. No shards on the ground, the damage didn’t happen here.
“No. I don’t think so, I hope not…” my answer pleases the fink.
Wheel in hand I’m sweating cold lead wee wee wee all the way home.
I slosh her up to the curb below the bungalows. We street park just North of the driveway, same spot we left this morning. Jump out, take two steps and my heel scratches glass into asphalt. Amber twinkles in the gutter turn me around. Pluck a shard put it next to her wound: it’s a match for the turn signal. I begin to imagine a sequence of events for which I could be blameless.
Up the driveway I dash past my bungalow out back to the carports. A fat white minivan lays diagonal inside her own port. She’s pricked, pocked and scratched all over. Still it’s a trick to get my good look at the part I want. Some pawing and peeking soon reveals the reciprocal gash of burgundy paint deep in her sick pale bumper.
Flush and throbbing with self-righteous indignation I’m back out into the street. She was hit while stationary and unoccupied, by a lousy neighbor turning into the driveway.
Sometimes bad things happen to good cars parked on the street.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 03:00|
Hello TD regulators,
I think I'm not supposed to edit my submission, but while formatting the title I back-slashed where I should have forward-slashed and missed a return... would fix if allowed. Will ensure to preview thoroughly any future submission. Further excuses are available on request. Thanks in advance for your attention and, if I'm lucky, indulgence.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 03:13|
Hello TD regulators,
No edits means no edits.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 03:18|
The Dark Side of the Moon. 688
The giant wall screen on the side of the control room showed the Apollo 9 mission path up to the Moon and back to Earth in looped figure eight. At the top of the loop, behind the Moon, a small white dot crept along the track, representing the command module travelling at 20,000 miles per hour.
“Telemetry about to come back on line as the Endeavour command pod emerges from the dark side of the moon in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Fred, it’s good to have you back.”
Static hissed into the control room.
“Fred? Are you there? Comms, what’s going on, is there a problem with the pod?”
“Negative chief, all lights green.”
“What do you mean they’re all green, why isn’t he answering?”
“Video coming on line now chief.”
A separate monitor to the side of the main screen turned on. Its grainy black and white footage showed the inside of the module; the instrumentation, the heat cladding and the notable absence of its former occupant, Captain Alfred Worden.
Cigarette smoke wreathed around the fluorescent tubes in the conference room. It grew thicker as the three men seated around the table each lit up another cigarette and stared silently at the internal footage of the Endeavour before it went into the dead zone behind the Moon. The tape had stopped but the moment replayed over and over again in their minds, a brief smile and wave from Worden as he turned his head away and the feed cut out.
The Chief stubbed out his half smoked cigarette. “Alright, I have a meeting with the head of NASA in 15 minutes. What could have happened? Hans? You’re the rocket scientist.”
“Three possibilities,” said Hans. “First, the Captain was ejected from the module.“
“Telemetry shows there is no record of the hatch opening. Anyway, how would it close again after he was out?” said the Chief.
“You did not ask me for an answer Chief,” replied Hans. “I am outlining the possibilities only. Second, some outside interference may have vaporised the Captain. The pod may have passed through an intense, highly localised beam of radiation from a supernova that reacted with his organic matter.”
“And his non-organic suit but not the pod?”
“That is a problem with the theory, yes. Finally, there is the third possibility.”
“I do not know Chief, but as the first two possibilities have been eliminated, there must be a third.”
“Goddamnit you stupid kraut bastard, two men are stranded up there on the surface of the Moon while an empty command pod orbits around them. Where did he go and how do we get them all back safely?”
Hans drew in his cigarette, keeping eye contact with the Chief. He exhaled, the smoke blowing out over the table.
“I do not know. There is no equation that solves this puzzle.”
The Chief looked at the third man at the table. Dressed in a dark suit, he was looking down at his pale hands that were tapping a cigarette on the table. “What have you got to say Childs, have you told the President yet?” the Chief said to him.
“No,” said Childs. He looked at Hans. “You can think of no way to explain what happened to the Captain. This is important.”
Hans shook his head. “No.”
Childs sighed and looked back at his hands. “I was really hoping you wouldn’t say that. Well then, as they say in Hollywood, the show must go on.”
“Telemetry about to come back on line as the Endeavour command pod emerges from the dark side of the moon in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Fred, it’s good to have you back.”
“Hey there Chief, you’re interrupting my beauty sleep you know.”
“Yeah, yeah. Alright come on guys, let’s get the day’s metrics up and running.”
A separate monitor to the side of the main screen turned on. Its grainy black and white footage showed the inside of the module; the instrumentation, the heat cladding and grinning out at them, the figure of Captain Alfred Worden.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 03:27|
No edits means no edits.
Thanks for your consideration, I look forward to the result our contest.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 03:37|
I will judge this.
495 words with title.
The monitoring panel was pushing the bottom of yellow. Smoke filled the engine room, reflecting the warning lights in snake like wisps that undulated for an instant before disappearing into the nothingness of the dark. Above him, footsteps resonated, clattered down the hallways towards the escape pods, or what was left of them. The engine sputtered and burned half of the fusion core in an instant. A screen appeared, a holographic lighthouse beacon: Meltdown imminent; evacuation required.
It had all gone to hell, far faster than they said it could at the Academy. Three quick blasts from the pirates and half the crew were probably dead, if the engine room was any indication. The Engineer’s legs were crushed under some sort of industrial pylon that had hastily dislodged itself. One of his hands still clung to his shipmate’s, a pretty girl whose name he hadn’t yet learned and who had vanished under a large pile of heating duct. The other hand had somehow managed to reach a control panel in the confusion, and as his world stopped spinning he slowly realized the sequence he was typing was for “self-destruct.”
He hesitated, just for a second, the emotional part of his brain momentarily taking over as the faces of his commanding officers and the faceless bodies of the crew he had flown with for three days flashed before him. Half a second, really, a moment of an instant, but it was too greedy, it was everything they had beaten out of him in the Academy. He took a sharp intake of breath as he desperately clawed toward the fail-safe key. The monitoring panel clicked to red.
All at once, everything went blue.
He looked around, his breath pounding in his lungs. The engine was still, the fire immediately extinguished as the air rushed from the room, diverted to the bridge, the barracks, the pod bay. One by one the lights in the room shut off like a row of candles in a sudden breeze. The holographic screen flickered, changed its readout: Engine room secured. Then it vanished.
He turned the key once, twice, but no spark came in the vacuum. The gravity lock was released and the pylon floated off his legs. He clung to the key with his fingertips until the weightlessness and weariness won out. Then he floated.
The silence was deafening, more suffocating than his final breath. Through the bay window, the stars shimmered, cold, innumerable. Watching them, he remembered the nights on his home planet, when he would wander home and lay his blanket under the endless sky. There was silence there, too, but broken by signs of life: the howl of a distant animal, the whispering of the crickets, the gentle song of the night winds. On those nights, he had plugged his ears, longing for the silence of freedom. Now, floating helplessly, the hammer of his heartbeat faded away into cold clarity.
His eyes full of stars, he slowly exhaled.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 09:03|
What I learned this week- Never, ever try writing in present-tense, first person. Also don't brawl someone who's likely to vanish and leave you feeling quite stupid.
Why Not- 498 words
"Completely safe?" A bit of bacon dangles on my fork, ignored for the last ten minutes.
"Completely." Samson's smile was one I'd seen before, on an alligator. "Who's going to catch us? You? Raul, nobody watches the cameras now. Nobody cares." He leans forward and his hand makes contact with mine in a brief, reassuring way that completely changes my mind; A car salesman, not a crocodile.
"You don't know that. I caught you." I say, pointing fork and accompanying bacon at him. "Why take the risk?"
I chew on that for a while, along with my food. He does likewise, and a long silence settles between us.
More people come in for breakfast, bringing the chill of bleak January mornings in with them each time the door swings open. I look out the window and my eyes settle on the camera mounted to the storefront opposite; Unlike my dining companion, it looks back.
Together we press our way through a narrow alley between the looming grey buildings that blot out the evening. There's barely room for a fire escape between the buildings but we squeeze on to the narrow steps and make our way up, climbing through a broken window and into the empty apartment beyond.
The camera's vacant eye is waiting for me again. Samson ignores it, but I can't shake the twitch between my shoulderblades, that feeling of being watched.
I tear it from the wall. Then I put my foot through the old TV set. I leap on the bed until it breaks, and Samson smashes the porcelain toilet with a wrench, and we leave a merry fire burning as we crawl back out the window, laughing.
We do the same to twelve more apartments. Because why not?
We rest on the edge of the fire escape, feet swinging over the long drop. He puts his hand on my shoulder and my first instinct is that he's about to throw me over, but instead, Sam offers me a cigarette.
When I go back to work I wipe the tapes clean.
My morning nap is disturbed by a high-pitched bleep. One of the countless dusty machines stacked onto the racks around my desk coughs up dust, before rolling out a long sheet of paper.
The incident code is simple, unmistakable.
Arson and Assault.
Seventeen years of uneventful monotony roll to a halt as I recheck the numbers. They don't change. There is no mistake. Despite the eyes on every street corner, constant surveillance, the proven one-hundred-percent arrest rate set when the city restructured, someone has committed a crime.
As the machine winds down the silence is deafening. Far away Jamie tap tap taps away on his keyboard, and Henderson's voice drifts from his cubicle. I notice for once how yawningly empty the building is. A maze of old machinery left to grow cobwebs.
The first real crime in two decades is happening on my watch.
I need to meet this criminal.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 15:49|
Due date is tonight, Monday, midnight, right? I've been revising revising revising. If I read the due date wrong, I forfeit by stupidity but not vanishing. My 500-word story is coming. If it's late, then I'll post what I have right now. If it's not, I'll post it in another hour. Just let me know.
What I learned this week- Never, ever try writing in present-tense, first person. Also don't brawl someone who's likely to vanish and leave you feeling quite stupid.
So what's that? AM or PM?
Your prompt is to tell me a story. 500 words.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 18:31|
|# ? Oct 1, 2022 10:29|
Due date is tonight, Monday, midnight, right? I've been revising revising revising. If I read the due date wrong, I forfeit by stupidity but not vanishing. My 500-word story is coming. If it's late, then I'll post what I have right now. If it's not, I'll post it in another hour. Just let me know.
|# ? Jan 20, 2014 18:37|