Fiction



                               He Screams, She Screams

                                         622 Words

                                                             

     ‘You know you’re doing something right if children are screaming.’ That’s my motto, the one that I live by these days. Oh, and, I don’t mean screaming in the sense of; try to catch me -- screams, or, this is fun – and – games -- screams. I’m talking about, if you don’t let me out of here, I’m going to die -- screams, and I want my mom really bad -- screams. Those are the type of screams I long to hear every day. Those are the type of screams I work toward.

       My day begins with testing my equipment. I have to make sure the restraints will hold and that the latches won’t break through. I am pretty meticulous about checking everything over and over again. I don’t want any accidents to happen. The restraints are the hardest thing to check. I personally like to use a live person to do so, but that’s not always possible. On those days, I just hope for the best.

       Anyway, once the belts and locks are tested, then I check the motors. This takes a lot longer and isn’t as much fun, that’s why I save it for last. Once everything is primed, I’m ready to roll. Then, it’s just waiting for a victim to arrive. I travel a lot. You’d be surprised at how fast word gets around that a stranger is in town. But, even so, by the time they figure it out, I’m usually long gone.  Most places, however, the kids, they practically line up to see me. I have a knack; a way with them, which the parents just can’t seem to get right. Maybe it’s because I offer them a sense of excitement, a bit of adventure in their humdrum lives. Who knows? All I know, is that there is never a shortage of kids to choose from. Lucky me.

       I’m super hyper by the time the first kid comes my direction and it’s usually hard to contain it all. I do a lot of fast talking. Kids think it’s funny that I can talk so fast. That usually draws them in. Then, I tell them all the great things that I can do, places I’ve been to and stuff like that. They eat it up. They think I’m like a God. That first one, though, he or she gets the royal treatment - a little extra finesse, a little extra time before I secure the restraints. I tighten and lock the belts. I just explain that it has to be extra tight so they won’t get hurt when I perform my magic. They always believe me. It’s wonderful, that kid innocence. Then I start the real show. I rev up the motors but I can usually hear the kid whimper even over the noise of the engines.
     “I’m scared” they’ll whine.
      But I just tell them, “It’ll be all right, you’ll see. Don’t you want to be the first one?”
      That always gets them. Being the first is big stuff for a kid. They all want to be the first one to try something new. So that’s what I tell them-- they’ll be the first, and we’re off. The faster the motors turn, the louder the kid screams. Screams like bloody murder – it’s great, music to my ears.  They cry and beg and plead, but I don’t stop, no way. I’m here to have fun. When it’s over, some throw up, some stagger away, but most return for more. They’re gluttons for punishment, it’s amazing. By the end of the day, I’m usually exhausted and hate to clean up the mess, but a job’s a job. I love mine. I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I absolutely love being a carnie.

 

 

 

 

 

                                    

 

 

 

 



                                                A Heck of a Day at Sea

                                            2210 words

 

Roy owned the only drive through funeral business in Maine. He had angled for the perfect location and when he finally found it, a buzzing went through town like no other business had experienced. Never had a bottom feeder, such as Roy was considered to be, successfully opened a bank-fish of a place. He invited his fellow crustaceans to the grand opening and they were each rightly impressed by his baitwell- his opportune ability to make unlimited funds- as far as they could see.

The grand opening was full of barbs, hooking visitors from the moment they entered the door. Roy spread the attractant on thick.

“Good to see you, Amur, glad you could make it. Feel free to join Mary and John over by the bedding or Tim by the brushline.” He exclaimed as he waved his claw toward the various activities.

Amur nodded and slipped over by Mary and John, preferring not to be one of only two males hanging out by the brushline.

“Welcome, Mayor Gizit. Please help yourself to some hors D’oeuvres.” Roy shook the Mayor’s claw ardently and then waved his own in a sweeping motion to accentuate to gala before them.

There was no blind casting going on, as Roy knew every town member by name. He shook claws (pincher side only) with Chief of Police Mepps, and of course, Mr. Crickhopper, the bank president. He made a heck of a presentation with his homemade decorations and the table spread of clams, mussels, sea urchins and crabs. Many proclaimed the band he hired for the event was no foul hook and they all swam into the wee hours of the next morning.

His new business opened the following day with a jig. His drive through funeral business was the honey hole of the town. Everyone in town had someone lost at sea and they all ended up in Roy’s holding area awaiting a proper sea burial. Roy had his own method of taxidermy and his own line guides, which he adhered to rigidly. His fellow crustaceans were pleased with his work and soon were recommending him to out-of-towners.

Things were going well and the town inhabitants spoke of him as a ‘keeper’. That was what he portrayed to the outside world. Inside his home however, Roy was a single dad and not the perfect family man. He had lost his mate to a livebox some years ago and was forced to raise all 3500 eggs himself. It was a small batch considering, and for this he was thankful. Of the original eggs, about 980 offspring still remained and it took all his free time to teach them about the sea and the care they needed to take while playing there.  His children didn’t understand why he couldn’t spend more time playing with them rather than lecturing them, or simply just pay more attention to them. And, since his nest was attached to his drive through business, any plausible reason he felt compelled to offer, fell on deaf otoliths as far as his children were concerned.

Still, Roy tried to be the best father he knew how to be. He warned his children about the night fisherman, the moon times (a few days before and after a full moon were the safest), and the year round harvest season of Maine. They only flicked their antennae, as children are wont to do, and swam away, swishing and singing without a care in the world. Was it any wonder, he often thought, that only 2 of 50,000 survive?

On the evenings he wasn’t working, he would tell them their favorite story of ‘Big George’. Roy told of George’s astonishing weight of 37 pounds and his 2 foot length as his young ones ooh’ed and ahh’ed. He’d build the chase as he imagined it; giving Big Ol’ George the ability to snap nets made of steel and bust through ordinary wooden crates with a single blow of his crushing claw. He’d tell how George used the fine hairs on his body to sniff out danger. Roy hoped they would take the hint that no matter how strong you were, you could always be defeated, but doubted his children heard much more than how great Big George was. He didn’t think that it mattered to his children that Big George continued to elude the men until his fateful day in Cape Cod in 1974,  when the crate got the better of him. The young ones simply enjoyed the story of the chase and escape.

And so, between working days (and of course many nights), and caring for his young, Roy had little time for himself. Dating was simply out of the question. But, when Wanda sauntered into his parlor like a peacock lady, his heart sped up and his breath caught in his throat. He gripped the podium by the front door with both pinchers, his crushing claw doing just that to the piece of wood beneath. Before it disintegrated totally, he pried himself loose and forced himself to greet the beauty before him.

   “Hello Wanda,” he said breathlessly, hoping she wouldn’t notice the undertow in his voice as he stepped near her.

“Hello Roy,” she whispered as she dabbed at her eyes with a kerchief.

“How can I be of assistance to you today?”

“Oh, Roy,” she cried and she fell against him, sobbing.

He stood there, holding her, his antennae soaking in the scent of her. He didn’t know if he should speak, or continue to let her cry. He opted for speaking.

“Wanda, let me help you.” He eased her into the most comfy chair he had to offer and then brought her a drink of salt water – extra salt.

He stroked her cephalothorax and told her he would take care of ‘it’, (whatever ‘it’ may turn out to be), until she calmed enough to talk to him.

“It’s Mitch,” she cried, “they caught him and I need to give what’s left of him a proper burial.”

“Then, of course, you’ve come to the right place,” he replied as he continued to stroke her, calm her and take her scent in.

When she was once again poised, she held out an air bladder filled with the remnants of Mitch. Roy took the sack and excused himself. He stroll into the back of his shop, set ‘Mitch’ in the holding area, then returned to console Wanda.

When he returned a few minutes later, he noted she remained where he left her, kerchief still in her claw, her drink now as dry as her eyes.

Roy offered to renew her drink, which she gratefully accepted and then sat beside her. Neither of them spoke for several minutes until she whimpered, “I know I have to go home, I just don’t know that I can return to that empty nest.”

          That was how the romance started. Wanda accompanied Roy home that evening where he introduced her to his children. They schooled around her, asking her a hundred questions at once, she answered them patiently with a smile on her mandibles.

          When Roy awoke for work the next morning, Wanda lay asleep in the bedding beside him. He stroked her abdomen once before getting up and starting his busy day. The children bobbed about him as he readied for work, asking if she was to be their new mother, he whispering to them to ‘hush before she hears you’.

          Wanda stayed the day, busied herself with cleaning and playing with the children. That night when Roy entered the nest, she bid him farewell, and explained she needed time to grieve properly. Roy understood, or at least he tried to pretend he did. It had been so long since he had felt this close to another crustacean, he was afraid to let her go for any length of time. But he did.

          Wanda continued to stop in several times a day until the day of the funeral. The children adored her and she them. They all buried Mitch together; the children on their best behavior and Wanda and Roy each internally grateful for the new life Mitch’s passing had given them.

Within a few short months, Wanda had moved into the nest and had become a surrogate mother to his children and a wonderful companion to him. She assisted him in the drive through funeral business, learning the ins and outs of business management and helped the children grow into adolescence. The children migrated to offshore habitats and soon the nest was empty. Roy thought this was excellent, Wanda, however, had different ideas.

“I think we should travel,” she said one evening over dinner.

“What about the business? It’s just too busy to leave, even for a day,” Roy said his mandibles full and chewing.

“Ernest and Franklin said they’d take charge for a while, so we can go on vacation.”

“Ernest and Franklin?! They can barely care for themselves!” he exclaimed; his food falling from his mouth, only to be scooped back up again and thrust back in.

  “They will do just fine. You’ll see. They can take care of the business for a short while.”

Roy attempted to argue that his boys weren’t responsible enough to run the business, but it was a losing battle. He finally gave in to Wanda’s request and they headed for a vacation of indefinite length of time (according to Wanda).

          It felt to Roy that they had traveled halfway around the world. They swam in the Gulf of Mexico, part of the Caribbean Sea, through the Panama Canal and finally to the Pacific Ocean.

          “Oh, Roy, isn’t it beautiful?” she exclaimed.

Looking around, he had to admit that it was. He refused to admit to her however, that he was glad he had agreed to a vacation.

“I feel lucky,” she said as they swam trying to decide where to travel to next. “Let’s try our claws at poker.”

Roy laughed, “I doubt very much that we’d win anything amounting to the price we’ve paid so far for this vacation.”

“Well, you only live once,” she whined, “let’s at least give it a whirl.”

Roy gave in, as he always did, and they headed north to see the city lights of Vegas.

The journey was much harder inland and they had to make accommodations for dry traveling and carry extra salt to add to fresh water. Roy only hoped it would be worth it once they arrived.

“Wake up, Roy,” Wanda cried.

Roy had finally fallen asleep against the motion of the truck and so reluctantly opened his eyes. When he saw what she saw, he let out a gasp. Never, in his life, had he seen anything so beautiful (besides Wanda). The distant lights were gorgeous. Blue, red, green, yellow, white and variety of other colors, lit up the sky. Some waved their beams across the expanse of the night and others blinked and flashed and called to him like nothing else had ever done. He and Wanda sat eagerly at the edge of the flatbed watching the lights get closer and brighter and listened as the sounds of money rang through their otoliths.

They reached Las Vegas in a spin. They saw long lining, night crawlers, pencil poppers, crustaceans pegging, slack liners, snaggers, trollers, anglers and chuggers by the hundreds.

“It certainly is a lunker of a place,” said Roy as they slowly crawled the streets.

Wanda grasped his pincher claw and squeezed. She smiled sweetly to him and said, “Thank you, sweetheart, for bringing me here.”

That was all he needed, to know the trip was worth it.

They played the slots, spun the wheel at roulette, tried their luck at baccarat and of course, Wanda won a claw full of cash at poker. She really was lucky.

“I wish we could stay here forever,” she confided in him as they lay together after a long night of angling and gambling.

“I know what you mean,” he answered. Roy never would have imagined that he would enjoy the flutter bait and action as much as he did. His mind raced through ideas that would allow them to remain in Vegas.

Later that day when they awoke, Roy sent a message to his boys, letting them know that they were now the proud owners of the first and only drive through funeral business in Maine.

As he and Wanda ate their lunch, he proposed his idea to Wanda.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” she cried and kissed him deeply while crab crumbs and clam pieces fell out of their mouths and onto the table as they embraced.

Within a month, Roy had purchased a small lot and began constructing the building for their new endeavor. He bought them both the ‘required’ uniforms. They worked hard on decorating with the right ‘flair’ and planned for their grand opening. Roy studied hard to get the required certificates, which he hung proudly on the wall behind his new podium. When opening day finally arrived, he donned his outfit and she hers. They turned on the Open sign and waited - he dressed as Elvis and she as Dolly - for the first couple to be married at the first crustacean owned drive through wedding chapel.


 

                               

                           
He Screams, She Screams 
                                      (2nd Version)


                                          778 Words

 


         
Nick had considered himself a lucky guy, until now. He grasped his fingers around the restraints on his chest. His knuckles were white and his hands cramped as he gripped the cold metal. He wasn’t going to cry out, he knew that’s just what this guy wanted: to hear him scream in terror, to beg to be let go. He wasn’t going to do that if he could help it. He shut his eyes and wished he would have listened to his friends when they told him this guy was nuts. He figured he could just walk right by him, not get caught in the web of lies and deceit this guy filled kids’ heads with. He was wrong.


The guy leaned over Nick’s restraint and Nick heard rather than saw (as his eyes were still squeezed shut) the lock snapping shut. The man hovered over Nick and then bent in even closer.

He felt the guy’s sour breath against his cheek as he whispered, “It’s all right. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last.”

Nick opened his eyes and looked the guy in the face. He tried to memorize him. His black hair plastered against his head from the heat of the summer day, his partially toothless smile, the tattoos of the skull and dagger on his left forearm, a heart with a dagger on the other. He looked while he held his breath as long as he could – the guy smelled like dirt, sweat and rotten, fried meat. He didn’t want that smell imprinted on his mind.

“Just gotta make this a bit tighter, don’t want you fallin’ out on me, now,” the guy said in his smoker’s voice as he tugged on the restraint and then stepped back and stood upright.

Nick watched in horror as the guy rubbed his chin, smiled to himself and said, “I gotta knack for this kind of thing.”

Nick tensed but still didn’t scream as his body started to tremble. He realized it was the motor that was shaking him and not his fear, not yet. A whimper fell from his throat, but the guy didn’t hear it above the rumble of the motor. Nick was happy for that. He didn’t want to give this guy the satisfaction of knowing he had broken him simply by turning on a switch.

The roar of the motor grew with each passing second and soon Nick’s screams could be heard over the crashing gears. He knew the guy heard him now, ‘cause the guy’s smile grew wider and Nick imagined snakes pouring out from his toothless mouth and slithering down his legs and around his feet.

He struggled against the restraint, yanked it away from himself and then pulled it closer in. He tugged and jerked with the motor’s whine, his screams pounding in his own head and he wondered briefly if he could make himself deaf with his own screams.

Then the music started. At first he wasn’t sure he had heard right and really had gone deaf, with his mind just playing a stupid trick on him. But he watched as the guy sang to himself, words that weren’t playing with the music. He really was enjoying this. He was getting off, just like Nick knew he would, on the misery soaked screams that reached into the night. 

Nick’s voice rasped with dryness, his throat constricted and he couldn’t scream any longer. He felt rather than heard (the motor and the music drowned out everything now) his voice hissing his begs to be set free.

Just as he thought he would pass out or vomit or both, the motor sputtered and slowed. It popped again and slowed even more. Nick couldn’t believe it. The gears squealed in resistance as if they too wanted to keep Nick’s torture going all night long. His mouth was open in a perpetual scream, but he was really just trying to breathe, to drag oxygen into his lungs, to get his brain going again.

The guy stopped the motor then and walked up to Nick. Nick watched quietly as the guy reached across him and undid the lock. Nick squirmed to get out of the restraint and quickly jumped out of the guy’s reach.

"Whad ya think? Wanna go again?” The carnie asked as Nick stumbled out of the chair and staggered back to his friends. The guy shook his head and directed his sales pitch to another child walking the game-way as Nick tried to act like it wasn’t his screams his friends had heard as he rode The Zipper, but perhaps only some younger child that couldn’t handle such a ride.


 

 

 

 

                                        

                                                Mr. Karma

                             (Currently being adapted as a
                                  screen play and a novel)

                                                1708 Words

 

 

After nine years of marriage, Mary knew that the holidays were not a good time to ask her husband for a favor. Yet there she stood next to his desk, awaiting his response.

Ken sucked in a deep breath through clenched teeth and let it out slowly, shaking his head as he did so.

“Dammit Mary, you know this is the busiest time of the year for me and I’m already behind. Can’t it wait a few weeks?

          Mary picked a few lint balls off her sweater, not saying a word. She knew he really didn’t want an answer, just as he knew she wouldn’t ask him in the first place if it wasn’t important.

          He shoved his chair back from the desk with one hand, grabbed his Pepsi with the other, stood and began pacing the office. He stepped behind her, put his soda on the desk and grabbed her shoulders.

          She stiffened slightly, then let him turn her towards him.

          “Are you sure?” he questioned. This time, he did want an answer.

          She looked him in the eyes and nodded. “Yes, I am.”

          “You know this means I probably won’t have time for my November tasks then,” he stated, letting her shoulders go.

          “I know, honey. It’s just that,”

          He raised his hand and pressed his finger to her mouth, silencing her.

          “No explanation needed. I’m sorry. I know you wouldn’t ask if they didn’t need it more.”

          Mary nodded her agreement and gave her husband a hug. She knew he would take care of everything for her.

 

          This year, Mary was a high school teacher. Ken thought she changed jobs more than most people he knew, but this was one job she really seemed to enjoy. He wished she didn’t. It made his job a lot harder as it opened a whole other list of clientele he wished he didn’t have.

          He walked downtown, whistling, trying to make the best out of what for some, would be the worst of situations. His first stop was Gateway Mall. He watched as the teenager got out of his car. The boy carried a small package into the mall. He knew from what Mary had told him that Steven regularly bought computer games, downloaded the first version and then re-wrapped the game and returned it, then getting the second version essentially for free. Steven bragged at school that he was so good at the task that the store employees rarely noticed the package had been opened at all.

          Ken paced the parking lot while he waited for the teen to exit the Mall. Finally, he saw the boy coming out and his plan went into action. As Steven walked across the parking lot, a car pulled up to him and the boy talked to the driver for a few minutes and then got in and left with his friends in the car. Ken took the planned opportunity to walk up to another man who was dressed in stained baggy pants and a sweater that was not suitable for near 80 degree weather. The man looked at each vehicle he came near, glanced around, shrugged slightly and then approached another car. Ken walked behind the would-be criminal and without saying a word, gently guided him to Steven’s car - the teen who had just left with his friends. The criminal looked to the sky, said a brief thank you, and swiftly broke into the accidentally unlocked car. He took the wallet containing $60 from the glove box and the CD’s from the front seat. It took him all of 30 seconds to make the score and then he was on to another vehicle - this one, without divine guidance. Ken smiled to himself as he left the Mall parking lot. Things usually didn’t work out so evenly. It was shaping up to be a good day after all.

          Ken walked along 5th Avenue waiting for his next client to show up. He noticed her tiny pink purse before the short blonde curls framing her thin tanned face. Stephanie walked out of the bookstore carrying a paper bag filled with several books in one hand, her tiny pink purse in the other. Ken watched as she smiled at oncoming traffic and proceeded against the light across the street. He waited for the light to change and then ensued. He didn’t need to hurry, once he saw her, he knew where she was going. As he followed, he mused at how some would find it hard to believe that this presumably warm person was so cold on the inside. She often complained to Mary about co-workers when days were missed due to family concerns. She was becoming an expert at saying cruel things about those not present to defend themselves or their beloved family members. This last criticism had been about a co-worker who was out for two days due to a family member being in an auto accident.

          Ken followed her to a café. He observed as Stephanie ordered half of a croissant sandwich and cup of tea, then sat at a table facing the street. Ken sat at a table behind her and waited. He knew she saw her husband when her manicured, French-tipped fingers dropped her sandwich to the floor. Ken watched as Stephanie’s mouth hung open and chewed pieces of sandwich slowly fell out and onto the table. Stephanie stared at her spouse of seven years, grabbing a young girl’s ass, she giggling and slapping his hand away, only to take it and place it back on her bottom, giggling even harder. Stephanie couldn’t help noticing that the girl’s daisy dukes barely covered her teen ass cheeks.

The couple stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, her husband’s hands planted on the scarcely there shorts and groping their way to bare skin. The girl had one hand on his shoulder and the other could not be seen from Stephanie’s point of view. Stephanie’s mind raced with the possibilities of where and what that other hand was doing right there in public. As they embraced, their lips found each other’s and locked for what Stephanie thought had to be at least half an hour instead of the 25 seconds that Ken knew it actually was.

Ken stood up to leave - his job, once again, complete. Stephanie would now be one of the chastised as she phoned in to work for the next few days while she moved her things out of her home and filed for divorce.

Ken left the café and turned toward home. His last client was along the way, and he hoped he would make it home by dinner.

He cut back through an alley, stopped at the end, checked the wall for anything that might stick to his jacket then leaned against the wall watching the opening of the alley. He didn’t wait long before Mark stepped out of a side door into the alleyway. Ken knew Mark has led a troubled past, his sister had told Mary all about it. From the years of addiction to drugs, to robbing family and friends, Mark had walked away unscathed. Since getting clean, he had started taking martial arts to keep him focused. He had started his life over with the help of family that hadn’t disowned him. Today was the day Karma caught up with him.

Mark shook out his apron, put his hand into his pocket, pulled out his pack of Marlboros and lit a cigarette before closing the door behind him and heading the street. Another man staggered into the alley, undid his fly and aimed for the wall. Ken slowly pulled himself away from the wall. The gentleman finished his job, started to leave the alleyway, looked up and stopped.

“Hey asshole!” the gentleman yelled.

Mark stopped halfway down the alley, facing the gent who had just finished urinating and was apparently yelling at him. When he saw who it was, he tensed. His back straightened and he dropped his cigarette from his hand.

“Yeah you, dick-wad. I’m talking to you. Remember me asshole?”

Mark stood silent as the gentleman approached him – the gentleman’s hands now in his pockets. Mark knew him. His name was Jeremy Fox and Mark had been his dealer once upon a life-time ago. And, if he was honest with himself, he was the one who turned Jeremy on to heroin. 

Jeremy walked slowly towards him his hands still in his pockets. Mark stood looking relaxed hands by his sides, waiting whatever it was that Jeremy would pull from his pocket.

“I see you came out just fine. No worries about anyone but yourself, just like always.” Jeremy paused waiting for Mark’s response, getting none, he continued, “Ever think about the lives you fucked up? Ever think about us ‘low life’s’ left to live in the gutters?” He watched as Mark said and did nothing. “Yeah I didn’t think so.”

With those words, he pulled a knife from his pocket and swung it at Mark. His arms arched upward and out with the knife, missing Mark completely. Mark took a step into the wild swing and with one swift upward motion, hit Jeremy in the nose with the palm of his hand, effectively crushing his nose. Blood spurted over Mark and down Jeremy’s shirt before Jeremy fell to the ground unconscious. Before Mark could make sense of what he had done, he heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights coming toward the alley. He leaned his back against the wall. He was done running in his life and he would face the consequences.

Ken knew the consequences of Mark’s actions would be more than he ever bargained for. He would face three years in prison for attempted man-slaughter; his martial arts training now being used against him and posed to the jury as a lethal weapon. Karma was coming home as far as Mark was concerned. As far as Ken was concerned, he too was going home for he knew that now that he was done with the ‘naughty list’, Mary would have a ‘nice list’ waiting for him when he returned – after of course, he had a chance to sit down to a warm dinner.

 

                                    


 

You’d Better Hide It

                                            1211 words

 

 

          “It’s a crappy job, but somebody’s got to do it”. If he had a dime for every time he heard that line, Jerry knew he’d still be broke, but what he’d like even more, was to be able to sucker punch anyone who said it. He stared blankly at the man leaving the outhouse. The guy offered a weak smile to go along with his weak crappy job comment and finally got the hell out of Jerry’s way. Jerry grabbed his cleaning bucket, his shit - stained mop and headed inside the tiny building. He set his bucket full of cleaning stuff and toilet paper on the floor just inside the door and breathed deep. He was glad he was used to the smell and smiled to himself. At least most visitors didn’t want to remain in here long enough to do much damage.

 

      He actually liked his job when you got right down to it. He discovered all sorts of shit (pardon the pun) inside. Another smile appeared and as it spread across his well lined face, he actually appeared to be grimacing. He surveyed the room. Sometimes, he could tell who had been here, just by the mess left behind. He was amazed at the amount of head given in a public toilet. And this wasn’t even a toilet really, just a damn hole in the ground. He figured you’d have to be pretty damn hard up to get a BJ in an outhouse. Hell, he hoped he was never that desperate. As it was, he was going through a dry spell, but at his age (52), he figured that was okay for a while. Titty bars and the internet were enough to keep him occupied until something he could touch (besides himself) came his way.

     

He donned his rubber gloves from his back pocket and picked up the three used condoms left on the floor. He peeked in the toilet hole and then tossed them down. He had to peak to see what he was throwing them on top of. He couldn’t help it. He knew it was silly, superstitious behavior on his part. And, really the only time it bothered him was

when he was training some new guy. Then, the questions and comments would start.

 

      “What the hell do you think you’re gonna see down there, dude?”

     

      “Man, I don’t care what’s floatin’ I ain’t lookin’”

     

      “Dude, what are you afraid of – some huge turd monster jumpin’ out atcha?”

     

      That last guy he almost did sucker punch. Instead he laughed it off and tried to get the guy trained as quickly as possible. Not that there was much to cleaning shit houses – there wasn’t, but that wasn’t all he did working for the County. It just happened to be the best part. Now, he was finally off training duties for what he considered permanently. With all the County budget cuts, he really didn’t think they’d be hiring any more ‘dudes’ for a long time, and that suited him just fine.

     

      Jerry finished picking a few pieces of toilet paper and candy wrappers (who the hell eats on the pot?) up off the floor. He turned to wipe down the tiny polished metal mirror and he felt it. Son-of-a-bitch! He was hoping today would be quiet. He wondered if it really mattered what the hell he ate, since it always crept up on him when he didn’t want it to. He finished cleaning the mirror and made it to the toilet just in time. He glanced down the hole as he dropped his drawers and plopped down on the seat. Getting old sucked in his opinion. He couldn’t even make it a goddamned day without racing to the pot. He felt a small explosion come from his ass-end and sighed with relief. He felt another rumble coming on when he heard it.

     

      The tune (he was quite sure it was a tune) started as a low humming and gradually increased in intensity until Jerry was sure he could almost make out some of the words to a song. He wondered briefly who the hell was singing on the two-way radio out in the truck. Then, it struck him that he probably wouldn’t be able to hear the radio all the way in here. The tune became louder and now he was sure

it was a melody. It sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.

     

      “It’s occupied!” he hollered to whoever was outside, humming. The sound continued.

     

      “I’ll be done shortly, just hold your britches!”

     

      The tune continued and seemed to get louder.

     

      “Can’t a man shit in peace?” he yelled.

     

      He finally finished and grabbed for the toilet paper. Shit! What a day he was having! The roll was empty and the new one sit atop the cleaning bucket left by the door. He wiggled his ass to try to shake off any loose ends and stretched out his arm for the T.P. He couldn’t quite grab it - of course. His ass broke the seal on the seat as he leaned further toward the door. The song was still playing and now he heard the words clearly. 

     

      “I see your hiney. It’s nice and shiny. You’d better hide it.”

     

      What the hell? He knew that song. It was a kiddy rhyme. One they used to sing at each other when they were at camp. At least he thought that was where it was from. He was just too damn old to be playing these games.

     

      “Get the hell out of here before I kick your ass! Better yet, come in here and hand me the damn toilet paper!” He leaned forward a little more and heard a small ‘plop’ as one final remnant made its way to the waste below.

     

      The tune got louder.

     

      “I see your hiney. It’s nice and shiny. You’d better hide it.”

     

      With that last line, Jerry felt an immense pain on his ass. He tried to jump up but was jerked back down onto the toilet seat. His hands scrambled for something to hold onto as he felt himself being pulled down. He screamed as whatever had him chewed and pulled, chewed and pulled. The last thing he heard long after his voice gave out from screaming and his body collapsed from shock, was that damned song.

     

      “I see your hiney. It’s nice and shiny. You’d better hide it. Before I bite it.”   

          

                                         

Accolades A.E.

                                5748 Words

 

Jeremy Pinkett legally changed his name to Dockterr Eldridge when he was 25. Dockterr was now his legal first name although he preferred to abbreviate it as Dr. He finished High School somewhere in the middle of his class, non- descript and relatively unknown. He never went to college but felt that he deserved the title of Dr. for all the crap his parents put him through. That is, if you call living in the suburbs with a teacher and a banker and a Volvo at the age of 16, crap. They didn’t abuse him in any way; it was their very existence that annoyed him.

          When he was 31, he thought of returning to school. But, after staying up all night watching infomercials in his one room efficiency apartment (it was better than living at home), he decided he had found a better way of life. And so, placing small non-descript, relatively obtuse ads became his new occupation. He placed ads to sell ads. He placed ads to sell information on how to start your own business - State forms included (they could be found at any State licensing office and were free of course). He placed ads to sell information that any moron with half a brain could look up in their local library. He placed ads offering a list of websites that any search engine could come up with for government auctions and foreclosures. It typically cost him all of .90 per reply for copies and postage and in return he made almost a 2000 % profit. If this wasn’t heaven he didn’t know what was. 

           He checked his post office box and sent replies three times a week. He had enough money to live on and didn’t stress about checks that might be waiting for him on his days off. What he really wanted was to find some schmuck who would take care of all his replies and go through all the hate mail that he received (there was as much hate mail as there were orders) for a minimal salary. That would be the life; having an employee who did all the crap work for him while he reveled in the glory of cashing the steady stream of checks. And, there did seem to be an endless supply of stupid people willing to give him their money. So, he did what he did best, he placed an ad. It read as such:

          Wanted: administrative assistant to coordinate shipping and receiving, to work directly with and assist the Executive Director of Dream Reachers, LLC. Reply by letter only to: Dr. Eldridge, P.O. Box 126, Hawesville, KY.

 

       The company wasn’t legally registered of course, that would leave a paper trail should he decide this line of work wasn’t for him. He added the LLC as an after thought because he thought it sounded better than ‘Inc.
       It didn’t take him long to find the perfect loser. Kenny Whitner was his name and he was looking for administrative experience. The only problem was office space. He resolved this issue by allowing Kenny to work out of his own home. They communicated by phone and by meeting thrice weekly after Dockterr picked up the ‘company’ mail.  During an exchange of information during their second month of working ‘together’ poor Kenny had the gall to ask a question of Dockterr.

 

           “Why are we meeting at Howe’s park, Dr. Eldridge? Why not meet at your office building or at the corporate headquarters?”

           “Because my lad,” Dockterr preferred to use the term lad, he felt it gave him an air of importance that any doctor should have, “I like to get out into the fresh air and I’m trying to do you a service and save you the trouble of transportation.”    

           Kenny nodded, his red curls bobbing with his head, and silently agreed that this was indeed easier than taking a bus into the city. But what he said was:

           “But sir, I’ve been working for you for over a month now and have yet to see an office or even any other employees. Also, I’m getting worried about all the hate mail that you receive. Some of the letters are quite nasty and a couple of them even threatened your life. Shouldn’t they be reported to someone?”

           “My dear boy,” Doctkterr wrapped his own arm around Kenny’s large shoulder and led him near the park exit that Kenny had entered from, “many people just can’t see the truth. They want information and I give it to them. I give exactly what they ask for. But sometimes, when you get what you ask for, you realize it isn’t what you thought you wanted at all.  It’s just like that old saying, ‘be careful what you ask for’. It really does hold true for most things. Some people can’t handle that truth and they verbally abuse those who willfully give it to them in the first place. Now, sooner or later you’ll come across some positive statements and we’ll publish them with our ads and show the nay-sayers how wonderful our services really are.”

         They reached the edge of the park and Dockterr gave Kenny a gentle nudge and waved good-bye. Kenny, his arms full of letters to be responded to and orders to be sent, nodded and smiled and said good-bye after agreeing to meet Dockterr at this very park again on Friday.

Dockterr walked to one of the three banks he used (all three accounts under different names of course), deposited Wednesday’s checks and silently wished for some positive feedback to arrive in the mail. Something that claimed how great his services were would be the perfect thing to shut Kenny up and keep him content for a while.  

Dockterr changed post office box numbers when the hate mail arrived quicker than the new orders. Shortly after changing post office boxes this time, he met with Kenny at their usual spot in the park. Kenny ran up to him upon spotting Dockterr enter the park.

 “Dr. Eldridge! It finally happened!” He waved an envelope in Dockterr’s face.

 “What Kenny?” he sighed. He was getting tired of the theatrics of Kenny Whitner.

 “We finally have an accolade!” He waved the envelope again before Dockterr reached up and snatched it from his beefy hand.

 “Well, let’s have a look.” He tore the letter out of it’s casing and the envelope fluttered to the ground. He read the letter aloud and Kenny mouthed the words along with him.

 “Dear Sir Eldridge, (Dockterr frowned at the lack of the use of his first name)

   I would like to thank you for giving me hope in one of my darkest hours. Your advice was uplifting and I look forward to utilizing the information provided to me. Thank you for having the tenacity to continue on the venue you have so chosen.”

 Dockterr flipped the sheet of paper over looking for a signature or personalization, but the paper was blank except for the words he just read. He looked down at his feet, hoping to spot the envelope. He wanted to at least know the city that the letter had come from, but the envelope had apparently blown away.

 “Well, we’ll have to print this.” He continued turning the paper over in his hand.

 “But it doesn’t have a signature,” Kenny said as he looked on the ground for the envelope just now realizing that it had disappeared.

 “I’m sure whoever sent this would want us to enjoy and share their comments on our wonderful services with all who search for the information that we offer. Leave it to me my boy.”

 Dockterr said his good-byes to Kenny after turning over the latest pile of orders and hate mail, tucked the letter into his pocket and headed home. Upon arriving home, he read the letter again looking closely at the handwriting to see if he recognized it. Surely this was some kind of a joke. He could think of no one that would send such a statement and so finally decided it was authentic. He made up a name and a city and placed the accolade within his ad that following week,

 The second letter arrived much as the first, but this time, Dockterr was wise enough to keep the envelope. The postal mark bore the name of California. The letter was again without a signature but in line with the first, was again praiseful of his services.

 “Dear Dr. Eldridge, (he smiled at the use of his first name),

           Thank you so much for all of your assistance. I am currently finishing one project and your insight has been beneficial in helping to choose the next. I look forward to future correspondence.”

 Dockterr read the letter aloud over and over again. He decided that while it appeared to be by the same author, he would assign it a different name and print this one as well. The last had increased his orders by about 25%. Another would surely bring in even more cash. He thought about what he would do when he became filthy rich. Maybe sail the Bahamas, cruise the world, but getting rid of Kenny would be his first priority. Maybe he could do that before he was rich enough to travel.  Even though the amount he paid out to Kenny was miniscule, he wanted more for himself. Maybe hiring Kenny hadn’t been such a good idea. He could have been adding that weekly check to his own fortunes this whole time. He remembered the reasons he had hired Kenny in the first place and decided that he wasn’t quite ready to begin answering his own mail yet. There had been a tremendous increase in mail lately and that would take a lot of his time away from dreaming about what he would spend his money on.  He returned his attention back to the letter and smiled. This one would definitely help to increase his savings. A couple more like it and he could get out of the ad business – hell, maybe he could even sell the business to Kenny. The idea made him smile and he continued his daydreams late into the evening hours.

 “Dr. Eldridge,

           I just can’t thank you enough for the work you continue to do. I’ve decided to stop in Nevada on my way to your part of the United States and found the experience to be quite enlightening. It’s been an enjoyable break from the routines of my day-to-day operations. I will be in your neck of the woods soon and hope to be able to meet with the man who has given me such hope for the future.

                                                                    Sincerely,

                                                                             L”

 

 Dockterr read the third message within the past two months to Kenny and smiled.

 “Well, at least we finally have an initial and a confirmed state.”

 Kenny nodded in happy agreement. The postmark did indeed bear the name of Nevada, so at least that part was true. Dockterr wasn’t sure he was willing to meet with this person, however. Maybe he was some madman and would kill him and take over the business. Or, maybe he wanted to set up his own division here in Dockterr’s territory and cut in on his cash flow. Whatever the reasoning, he would have to think about if he really wanted to meet with this person, or how he could avoid doing so.

  “I don’t think we can print this one. I don’t’ want to give every quack the idea that they can come and meet with me, just because they think that they have some great scheme they want to share under the guise of showing their gratitude,” Dockterr announced to Kenny.

 “But what if he really does want to just say thank you? What if you really have helped him and he just wants to meet you and shake the hand of the guy who changed his life?” Kenny puppy dogged Dockterr through the park and stopped short of running into him when Dockter turned around and faced him.

 “Kenny my lad,” he draped a hand on Kenny’s shoulder, “I am a man of honor. I try my best to provide a service to people that I think they need. In all my years of doing so, I have never come across anyone who just wanted to ‘shake my hand’ as you so put it. More often than not, people are out to get something for nothing and I won’t stand for it. No, I won’t meet with this person, nor will I acknowledge their existence should they try to pursue a meeting with me.” 

 “Maybe I could meet with him for you? You know, good company relations and all that. I would like to get some practical experience, that is, if you don’t mind, sir?”

 “I’ll have to consider that one, Kenny. It may work out that way, or we may both want to avoid this situation completely. Give me some time to think on it.” 

 Dockterr gave Kenny the day’s supply of letters, reminded him that he’d see him on Friday and headed home.

 Friday arrived with a ten-fold increase in cash orders. Dockterr was elated, even considered (albeit, very briefly) giving Kenny a small raise.

 Monday brought about another letter of gratitude apparently by the same author as the first several letters, and with it, a quick change in Dockterr’s attitude. He was now suspecting that Kenny was behind the letters. What better way to negotiate a raise. True, Kenny hadn’t mentioned a raise, but maybe he just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. And, also true, Kenny didn’t travel out of state that Dockterr was aware of, but he could have family or friends that were willing to write and send the letters for him.  The letter bore the postmark of Kansas City, Kansas, so the author was allegedly getting closer to him. He decided he would confront Kenny first thing at their next exchange of letters.

 He went to the park as usual on Monday morning and before Dockterr was able to say a word, Kenny lunged toward him screeching that he had better take a look at the latest letter. He held it clutched in his fat hand and Dockterr had to literally pry it out of Kenny’s fingers as Kenny ranted about what were they going to do now?  

 Once he had the letter, he read it and then sat down on the bench with Kenny hovering above him switching his weight from foot to foot, as Dockterr read it again.

 “Dockterr Eldridge,

 I am going to be in your vicinity on Wednesday the 16th and would appreciate a meeting with you. No need to set up a special luncheon date, we can meet at Howe’s Park Wednesday morning. I have some very important information to discuss with you at that time. It will be my pleasure to finally meet you.

                                                        

                                                                             L.”

 

  “Why the hell are you doing this to me?” Dockterr stood up and put his face near Kenny’s, practically touching his nose with his own. He threw the letter on the ground and pushed Kenny down onto the bench.

 “What the hell do you think you can accomplish by these stupid ass letters? You think you can threaten me into a raise? You think you can scare me into giving up the company? What?!”

 “I don’t know what you’re talking about. All I did was give you the letter – I didn’t write it.” Kenny pushed himself further into the bench trying to recede from Dockterr’s wrath.

 “That’s total bullshit and you know it! You’re the only one who knows where we meet. What I want to know is how you found out my first name! I want to know what you think you can accomplish by this game you’re playing!”

 “I’m not playing anything, honest. I thought the guy just didn’t know how to spell.” Kenny tried to sit upright but it felt as though the weight of Dockterr’s yelling was keeping him pinned down. He managed to squeak out, “Your first name is, Dockterr?”

 “Don’t get smart with me.” He thrust his finger in Kenny’s face. “I don’t care how you found out. Just tell me what it is you want.”

 “I don’t want anything. I… I… just wanted to give you the letter. I thought you would want to see it right away. This guy’s gonna be here in two days. I thought you’d wanna know.” Kenny’s voice faded as he looked away searching for someone to assist him in escaping this situation. No one else was present in the park, it had been a nice quiet Monday morning. 

 “You didn’t write the letters?” he barked.

 “No sir, I…”

 “You had nothing at all to do with them?” Dockterr leaned over, put his face into Kenny’s and stared.

 “No sir.” Kenny tried to keep eye contact, but it was no use and he looked down at his hands folded neatly in his lap.

 “I see.” Dockterr stood upright and began to pace in front of the bench. “That causes an even greater concern then Kenny. That means that someone, some nutcase has somehow found out about me without my knowing and has somehow followed one or both of us to this very park and monitored every thing we’ve been doing.”

 “But, we haven’t been ‘doing’ anything sir. We’ve just been running a business.”

 “Yes, and a pretty lucrative one based on the latest increase in orders, that someone would want in on.” He flopped down on the bench next to Kenny. “We need to figure out what we’re going to do about Wednesday.”

 Kenny sat quietly, face forward and occasionally hazarded a glance at Dockterr from the corner of his eye. Dockterr sat rigidly and drummed his fingers on his temple. Finally, he spoke:

 “We’ll come to the park as usual Wednesday morning. I will meet with this fellow and you’ll hide in the bushes and watch. Should anything go wrong, I’ll signal to you and you can come out and help to confront him. Do you think you can handle that Kenny? Can you get enough backbone in you by Wednesday to help with this situation?”

 Kenny continued to look down at his hands and whimpered, “Yes.”

 “Well, that sure is encouraging.” Dockterr shook his head and stood up. “And, just in case you are together with this fellow, I’ll have you know, I will be bringing protection. So, you may want to warn him not to try anything funny. Now, get up, go home, grow some sack, and meet me back here Wednesday morning.” He left Kenny sitting on the park bench as he left the park and returned home himself.

 Wednesday morning arrived, as did Dockterr and Kenny to Howe’s park. Dockterr, true to his word did carry a concealed colt 45 in his jacket pocket, just in case things got out of hand, he’d be sure to be the one to remain in charge.

 Kenny approached him and handed him a box of mail with a letter taped to the top of the box.

 “It’s my letter of resignation,” he explained. “I won’t be working for you after today.”  

 Dockterr smiled. It seemed Kenny did grow some sack after all. It was just too bad he wouldn’t be able to put that attitude to his own use.

 “That’s fine with me Kenny. Now just go over there and wait behind those bushes and I’ll sit here on the bench until this lunatic shows up. Remember, I wave to you, you come out here and help me – instantly, no dicking around. Just get your ass out here and help.”

 Kenny nodded and trotted off to hide behind the bushes.

 Dockterr sat on the bench and went through the box of mail while he waited. Kenny had sorted out the hate mail and had it bundled together as were the checks. He mentally added the checks as he went through them, $1,200.00, Outstanding! This was going to be a splendid month. Now, with Kenny out of the picture, it was all his. He could handle hate mail and hours of tedious replies for that kind of money each week, and today was only Wednesday! He daydreamed about what kind of return Friday would bring until Kenny approached him.

 “Sir, I’ve been waiting for an hour now, how much longer do you think I need to hide in the bushes?”

 “Just go back and wait. I’ll let you know when we’re going to give up waiting for this guy. I want this situation resolved and don’t plan on leaving until it is.”

 Another hour later and Dockterr had changed his mind.

 “Kenny, come on out here. You are free to leave."

Kenny stood up and sauntered to the bench.

 “It’s been interesting working for you sir. May I count on you for a letter of recommendation?”

 “Yeah, sure,” Dockterr said with a wave of his hand. “I’ll send it to you in the mail.”

 As Kenny was leaving the park, Dockterr followed him to see if he was meeting anyone on his way out. Maybe the thought of Dockterr having protection had discouraged them from carrying out their plan. He carried the box of letters with him. Kenny left the park without incident.  Dockterr thought briefly of following Kenny home just in case he was conspiring there, but decided he should return home as well to decide what he should do should he get any more letters from this ‘L’ person.

 He carried his box back through the park. He passed the bench he had waited on earlier.

 “Have a seat Jeremy, I’ve been waiting for you.”

 Dockterr turned back and saw a middle aged gentleman sitting feeding pigeons. How he could have missed seeing him as he walked by, he didn’t know. Maybe the stress of this morning had really gotten to him. The man was dressed in a dark suit with navy blue tie and very nice loafers. Dockterr imagined the shoes alone must have cost upwards of $200.00, if not more. He stopped and watched as the gentleman threw bits to the birds. He was trying to determine if this could possibly be the letter writer when the man spoke again.

 “Good morning Jeremy. Sorry I’m late. It’s a shame I missed Kenny – nice boy you got there.”

 Stunned, he stopped and stared at the man.

 “How the hell do you know Kenny? Did he put you up to this?”

 “I know more than you can possibly imagine. And, no, Kenny had nothing to do with our meeting today. It’s all about you.”

 “How do you know my name – my real name before I changed it?”

 “I know a lot about you.” The man didn’t glance up but continued to feed the birds.

 “How and what do you know about me?” Dockterr said as he mentally noted the position of his gun in his jacket and approached the bench.

 “I’ve been watching you. You’re quite an interesting fellow.”

 “You’ve been watching me?! What the fuck? Are you some kind of perv or something? You just go around watching people and the casually stroll up and say ‘hey, by the way, I like you?’”

 “Nothing of the sort. I watch and learn. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders and I’m thinking, ‘now there’s a chap who’d be good for business.’ No Jeremy, I’d like to invest in your future,” he soothed.

 Dockterr took another, closer look at the man. His suit appeared to be made of silk, his hair was without an errant strand, black and slick but not oily. His goatee was neatly trimmed and his soft smooth hands looked as though he had never worked a day in his life. Maybe this was true, maybe he did want to invest in the company, or maybe he saw what a shrewd business man Dockterr was and wanted to offer him a position in his own company. Hell, if it afforded him to dress like that, maybe it would be at least worth to hear the guy out. He moved to the bench and sat down at the far end and put his box on the ground between his feet.

 “Okay, I’ll listen, but don’t try any shit.”

 “Now, that’s all I ask. An open mind and a listening ear.” His voice carried melodically to Dockterr who, as he sat this close, was entranced by the gentleman’s good looks and his soothing voice.

 “Fine, get on with it then.”

 “Jeremy, I’ve seen your business sense and I know you’re capable of making wonderful decisions. I also know that despite this talent, you’ve tried and failed at several business adventures. What I want to offer you is an ability to make an informed decision and should you make the correct choice, all your wishes can come true.”

 “I’ve got a pretty good thing going here now. Why would I want to give it up to join you?”

 “Well, for starters, this is a dead end job Jeremy. I’m sure you’ve realized that by now. Sure, things are looking up right now, but it’ll be like all the rest of your adventures, short lived and destined to fail.”

 “Yeah right. So let me get this straight. You send me letters saying how great my business is, find me, spy on me, decide you like my shrewd business sense as you call it and then just decide hey, I’ll give this guy an in, share my secrets with him, he looks like he could use it? What’s the deal? What do you get out of this and really, why me?”

 “Such a cynic. I like that. But, truth be told, I don’t want you to join my business, I do want you on my team, of course, but no, I’ve just come to give you information, much like that you share or should I say sell with others. With the information I plan to give to you, you’ll be able to make a decision as to which way you want your life to go. And, it can go either way at this point Jeremy. All, I ask is that you listen.”

 “Fine, I’m listening, but I would like to know what I’m going to get out of all of this.”

 I’ve come prepared for such a question.” He pulled some papers out of his breast pocket and handed them to Dockterr. “This is just a glimpse of what can be yours if you make the right choices. Like I said, I want you on my team Jeremy.”

 Dockterr thumbed through the papers handed to him. A deed to a house with a photo paper clipped to the top, the deed made out in his name; a check for $77,700.00, also made out in his name; a title to a 1968 corvette again in Dockterr’s birth name.

 “Those are yours Jeremy, just join me and you can have the life you’ve always dreamed of. It’s all waiting for you. All you have to do is say yes.”

 “I…I… really don’t understand. This sounds great, but…”

 “I know, I know, but what do I get in return? Well, I get you Jeremy. Well, technically, I get your soul.”

 “Oh don’t looked so shocked, Jeremy. You had an idea, I know. But really now, hear me out. You’ve surely heard all the rumors – and they are just that, rumors, wives tales, fables, whatever the word – lies. A soul really isn’t anything at all. Not your life essence, not the part that carries on into the ‘great here-after’, it’s nothing. It’s a means of keeping score, that’s all. Your soul is just one tiny bead on an abacus, if you will. I get a point, a bead moves over to my side. In the end it doesn’t really affect you at all. And, you get great wonderful things out of one simple choice.”

 “So what? You’re telling me there is no Heaven or Hell, it’s all lies and you want me – my soul because you need the points?”

 “Exactly. I know, a life’s worth of training down the toilet. Sad isn’t it, the lies told to keep the points skewed.”

 “I really would like to believe you, but…”

 “There are no buts Jeremy, only truths and I can offer you the truth. I’ve just shared it with you. Now who, can you tell me, in your entire life, has ever been so open and honest with you? No one. Not your parents, not what few friends you think you have, not even poor little Kenny. Did you know he was stealing from you this whole time? Signing your name to checks and keeping the cash? No, I’m the one who offers truth. I’m offering it to you now. I could have tricked you into it, made your business fail and come to you at your lowest. But instead, I come to you when things are looking up and offer you more. More of what you already have and more than you could ever imagine. You’ll have a great life Jeremy.”

 Dockterr leaned back on the bench and looked at the papers in his hand again. It really would be nice, his own home, all this money to start, a good car, no more walking or taking the bus. What if what this guy said was true? What if it was all lies? Would he want to waste this opportunity for nothing for a bunch of tall tales? Would he want to give up what was being offered to him in the here and now? And, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as he planned, he would still have the car, the house, the money, all of it sat in his hands right now, in his name. No one else had ever told him the truth - that much he knew. And, this guy had a point, he could have come to him at his lowest and said I can give you this stuff, but he came when things were going good and offered even more. How could he possibly turn it down? He held the papers in his hands.

 “What is it that I have to do?”

 “Nothing at all, my boy. Just start living the good life. You get rich, and I get a point.”

 “And what? All of this is mine? He waved the papers in front of the gentleman’s face.

 “Yes, it’s all yours. Your bank accounts can be full, your life can be richer than you ever could have imagined.”

 ”And all I have to do is agree? I don't sign anything?” Visions of bloody pens raced through Docterr's head. Wasn't that how it was supposed to work - sign your soul and life away? This seemed too easy.

 “That’s it, nod, say yes in any language at all and I’ll never ask for another thing from you. You’ll be able to live your life as you see fit, with all the luxuries you deserve.”

 “I don't know. There has to be a catch somewhere.”

 “That would be inane dear boy. Why would I lie? I can get anyone to agree with me. I chose you because I've seen how hard you've worked and I like your spirit. Just agree Jeremy my boy, and you can begin your life anew.”

 Jeremy nodded his head, not in agreement to take the deal, but just out of his habit of nodding when he was thinking things over, contemplating a next step.

 In that instant a scream carved through his head, He fell to the ground and clutched at his temples. He was sure his head was exploding and he thought his whole body would burst with it. His world tumbled. He saw grotesque images of burning people charred beyond recognition, men strung up by their intestines, women bent beneath huge carts of flames on their backs. He saw himself screaming in agony hung from a staff made of the heads of others.

 He lie on the ground and whispered, “What the fuck?”

 The gentleman kneeled beside him. “Relax Jeremy.” He placed his hand gently on Jeremy’s shoulder and this time the vision that crossed Dockterr’s mind was one of peace. A huge oak tree with branches reaching toward the sky rocked with a warm summer’s breeze as it stood near a small crystal blue river. He looked to the sky and saw a rainbow of so many colors he couldn’t name them all. He heard a faint voice whispering in the background.

 “All that you see can be yours: the eternal feeling of blissfulness, the peace of mind, a life without sin or guilt. All you have to do is choose it Jeremy. The choice is yours. 

 He shook his head and muscled his way away from the man’s grasp.

 “What the hell did you do to me? Slip me some kind of drug or something? What the hell is this shit?”

 “I’m just trying to show you the way.”

 “You know I saw something like this on T.V. once. Some guy touches a frog or some shit and starts to hallucinate. What the hell? How did you sneak it to me?"

 “I told you Jeremy, I’m here to give you a choice. You’ve seen both ways your life can go, the choice is yours to make.”

           “Fuck you, you fucking psycho. Now get the hell away from me before I kill your ass.” Dockterr reached in his pocket for his gun.

           “There’s no need for that Jeremy. I’ll leave, but please try to remember that you had a choice.” The gentleman turned and began walking down the path out of the park.

           Dockterr shook his head in disgust, He reached into his pocket and pulled out a single paper. “Fucking psycho, fucking weird day,” he mumbled to himself. He looked around but the gentleman was gone.

 He read the single sheet of paper pulled from his pocket “Wrong choice."

 "What the fuck does that mean?” He crumpled the note and threw it on the ground. Maybe the old guy had been right about one thing. This ad business was going to top off sooner or later. He should start thinking of a new venture – maybe diets – people were always looking for a new fad diet – he could make the big bucks. He smiled to himself and headed to the bank with his latest deposit.

 

 

                                         

         

A Meeting with the Devil

1,129 Words

 

 

I shivered as I picked up the phone. I couldn’t dial and placed it back in its cradle. I sat back down on the sofa, drink still in hand. I took a sip of my lemon and vodka, then decided I needed more to ease the pain. I drank the rest in one long swallow. I knew it wasn’t a good way to ease the tension, years of AA had at least taught me that much. But, I was too weak to phone my sponsor and too weak to call and cancel my meeting tomorrow with Him.

          I got up and made myself another drink. At this point I didn’t care what anyone thought. I needed to forget. Unfortunately, vodka wasn’t enough to erase the memory of Him. I laid my head back on the sofa and closed my eyes. Instantly, images of that night slammed into my brain.

          I tried to use my bio-feedback that my therapist had taught me, but it was no use, my breath came in rapid succession and my pulse raced as I tried to force the images out of my head.

          My hands felt bound and I tried to scream for help, but nothing could make it past the invisible gag that was shoved deep into my mouth. Post Traumatic Stress my psychiatrist called it. I called it living in Hell.

          Sweat poured into my eyes and I tried to wipe them, but my hands wouldn’t respond to commands from my brain. I opened my eyes, and instead of seeing the nice quiet living room of my apartment, I saw his sweaty face above me, grunting with pleasure as I writhed in pain and humiliation.

          I lay on the couch for I don’t know how long, trying to escape this horrid past, this nightmare that held my life in its grip. After about a fifth of vodka, the visions subsided and I fell asleep – passed out – it didn’t really matter, the images were gone for the time being. When I awoke, I ventured off the sofa cautiously and took a knife from the cutting rack in the kitchen before searching my home for the monster I was sure that had remained to torment me further. No one as there. It was just me and my dreams to keep one another company the rest of the night. I took a hot shower and scoured my body, scrubbing the filthiness from me for the one thousandth time, but afterward, I still felt fouled. I put on my flannel pajamas, wrapped myself in my blanket, cranked the air up and sat in front of the TV for the remainder of the night. My renewed glass of vodka sat next to me, just in case I needed a friend.

          I awoke in the morning to the knowledge that today was the day that I had to face Him. I knew it would come. I had thought I was ready for it, had convinced myself that I could handle it. I had reassured myself that I had been through enough and that now I could handle anything, but as I recalled last night’s events, I knew that I was wrong. I forced myself to get up and shower again before leaving the secure cocoon of my apartment. Before I left, I emptied the 2nd bottle of vodka down the sink telling myself it was a new day -- a new start. If I was going to be brave enough to venture out into the world, I could be brave enough to face the world sober. I took several deep breaths and left my apartment.

 

 

*****

 

He sat across from me, his black hair thinning and combed straight back from his face. His mustache was a thin line across his lip with the top half shaved off. “Too much snot in the winter,” he had told me once.

          He had agreed to meet me. The light above the café table was dim, but the sunlight shone brightly through the window our table was up against. I was hoping for a lack of lighting so I could hide my face and true emotions.

          “So, what’s up?”

He traced his water glass with his index finger -- more intent on watching the movements of his hand than looking at me. I was relieved that I didn’t have to make eye contact, yet angry that he wouldn’t at least give me that courtesy after all these years. I felt he at least owed me that much.

“I need to know why you did it.” My voice quivered as I spoke. I hoped he hadn’t noticed. I tried to convince myself that it was enough that I had said it. That it was out in the open.

He didn’t say anything at first, just tapped his fingers on the table. Then he focused on the utensils, unwrapping them from the napkin, placing them on top of it and them rearranging their order on the white piece of paper. Finally, he took a deep breath and breathed, “I’m sorry.”

The words I had waited for what seemed a lifetime to hear. They pierced my heart and gouged my brain. I realized it wasn’t enough. Maybe, I knew that all along, but had wanted to hear them just the same. Now, however, my quest was ‘why’.

I shook as I asked him again, “But, why?”

I felt some strength with asking the question and forced my body to stop shaking.

“Why did you do it? Why me?”

He looked up at me and made eye contact at last.

“I don’t know.”

He didn’t try to make excuses. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t try to hide it. Just said a simple, ‘I don’t know’. Well, I didn’t know if I could accept that answer after all this time.

“That’s it? You don’t know? That’s your answer?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know. I can’t give you what you want.”

“And, what would THAT be, father?”

“Your life back. Your childhood. Your innocence.”

“You’re right,” I whispered as I focused once again on my own hands.

At least he seemed to understand what he had taken from me. I could maybe get some peace from that.

“You can’t give me back those things. But, you can give me an explanation. I feel I deserve that much from you.”

“You do deserve it, but I can’t give it. I don’t know how.”

He folded his hands and placed them in front of him. Then, instead of staying, he stood and tucked his chair under the table.

“I’m sorry,” he said again, “That’s all I can offer.”

“Well, it’s not enough.”

He nodded.

“I wouldn’t expect it to be.”

He stood there for a moment by the table, reached out as if to touch my hand, thought better of it, put his hands in his pockets, then turned and walked out the door.

As he left, I realized that I was wrong about so many things. Mostly, I was wrong to think he was stronger than I was in any way. I didn’t get the answers I wanted, but I got something more. Facing him gave me a new sense of self, one that he could never take away again. 

 

 

               

 

            

 

Becoming

1480 Words

 

            I sat in the dark pondering why it grew there. I thought maybe the growth was simply a pimple at first. Not uncommon on one’s back, or so I’m told. Unluckily for me, it was not simply a puss filled sac of ooze.

            With the onset of age, I had sadly become accustomed to the occasional outburst of hair in places where there should be none. But quite frankly, nothing had prepared me for what I was sure was an unnatural growth.

            Upon my discovery, my first inclination was to pluck, shave, prune and in any manner rid myself of the atrocity. This remedied the situation for a short period of time, until the hormones once again went awry and my plight returned. Having a doctoral remedy was of no use. With all of modern technology; no lasers, waxing, or removal of follicles did the trick. I was eventually informed that I would ‘just have to live with it.’

            I was able to hide the growth from my husband for quite some time. This will happen when one is married for as long as we had been. The lights rarely go on in the course of time, the clothing becomes more layered and bedtime less intimate. But, of course, the laws of probability finally took over.

            “What the hell is that?!” he exclaimed upon entering the bathroom one evening while I was bathing.

            “What?” I questioned, although I knew there was really no way he could miss the blight upon my nudity.

            “That!” he said pointing at the space between my shoulder blades near the top of my back.

            “Why, it’s exactly what it looks like, dear; a hair.”

            “Well, get rid of it.”

            My husband, so simple, so honest, so naïve, to assume that I had not already tried was preposterous and I told him so, rather rudely, I’m afraid, and he left the bathroom in a huff.

            I finished bathing and while drying myself off, discovered yet another area of previously un-chartered growth. This time, the discovery was behind my left knee. Knowing full well, that my body was not that of a contortionist, I concluded that the new growth had in no way come in contact with the previous one and thus automatically ruled out contagion as a factor. Not being one to cry my way back to the physician’s, I decided to try home remedies instead. What did I have to lose?  I questioned. The medical profession had already established its inability to assist with my malady. I tried to recall if I had been bit by some mammal or bug, but could not think of any such cause for my body's sudden changes. And so, my quest for a homemade solution began. I started quite nonchalantly, but obsession soon took over and I was making new concoctions in earnest. 

            Before long, my kitchen counters were filled with bowls, small cauldrons, and bottles and boxes of every chemical I could legally purchase and some that I could not. For several months, I made potions, patches, solutions and numerous salves. Not one of them removed a single hair - patches of which had now sprouted up behind my right knee, above my buttocks and on both shoulders. In my minds eye, I was beginning to look like a wooly mammoth. The hair was coarse, black and very long. One section I measured ran almost six full inches.

My husband, appeared to take no notice of the disarray of the once tidy kitchen and seemed concerned only that his meals continued to be served on time. Thus, I was able to hide my condition for another four months. It was at that time that the dreaded night visit occurred.

            I should not relate it as a visit, I suppose, as we still slept in the same bed. But, we'd discovered that the very queen sized bed that used to be roomy and almost too big, had, through the years, become a tad bit too small to allow for our required personal space. The 'visit' took form in my husband snuggling up to me and rubbing my backside which he remarked was growing quite soft. I hadn't the heart to relate to him that it was the extra cushioning of what I now deemed as fur growing that allowed this new-found comfort. When he tried to coax me into undressing, I politely refused and claimed a headache. I should have known better. This excuse had never worked in the past and what tempted me to use it then, I really don't know. Maybe, I truly did wish to have at least one person to share my hairy secret with.

            Upon seeing my backside, my husband, being the caring, gentle human being that he was, screamed and called me an unsightly monster, carrying on so that it finally got the better of me and I had to dispose of him just to shut him

up. A small bit of one of my potions in a cup of nightly tea nicely did the trick.

            The next few months are but a blur. I spent much of that time wallowing in self pity. T.V. became my new best friend. Thankfully, I snapped out of it and decided to make the best of my situation. Once the decision was made, new growth areas filled me with delight. I had finally decided that to be half human and half what-ever it was that I was becoming, was simply a nuisance. I waited for the change to completely take over my body or abate all together. What ever the outcome, I wished only for my body to resolve itself to being one way or the other, not the hideous half-beast I had become.

            Food had become an issue as the cupboards and freezer became bare. The hair on my head changed from being the once soft red that I loved so much to the scraggly, coarse black hair that was taking over my body. It grew down the sides of my face into a long black beard that almost reached my breasts (which, as long as I'm admitting things, had started growing hair as well). I deemed myself too scary to go into public to shop for groceries. Alternative nutrition had to be planned. My meal times were altered as well. I was able to order some food items on-line, but with limited resources due to my inability to work and my husband's sudden yet planned demise; I had to rely on other means. Stray animals became a steady food source and coincided quite nicely with my meal time schedule changes for they were easily caught at night prowling around my yard. The neighborhood population of wandering cats, dogs and other stray creatures soon began to diminish. I considered myself the neighborhood hero.

            By the time I allowed myself to delve deeper into researching what it was that I was possibly becoming, I had grown what can only be called claws and sported a nice shiny set of fangs to boot. My first reaction was that I was now a werewolf. However, my ailment apparently was not associated with the moon. And, although I had by then acquired a taste for warm flesh, it was still not my initial meal of choice. I then thought maybe I was turning in a female version of Sasquatch. I discarded this idea just as quickly as I entertained it. I had not been born with unusual amounts of hair and no member of my family had ever exhibited any remotely similar symptoms. I was at a loss as to what I had become. After a while, I decided it didn't really matter as there was apparently no cure anyway.

            At night, I would wait for prey to enter my yard and think about where my life was to go from here. It was then that I heard it. It was so far away, I wasn't sure I had actually heard anything. The next night, I heard it again and the night after. Each night, the howling came a bit closer. I dared not answer for fear that I would wake the neighbors. Instead, I urinated outside in the hopes that the breeze would carry my scent to the creature coming to rescue me. For I am sure that is what he is doing. He has found out about me and knows that I await a new life - one where I will no longer be trapped within these confining walls. A life where I can hunt freely and without worry of being seen and possibly hunted myself. I await his arrival patiently, peering out into the nights, listening for the rustle of his paws through my yard, waiting for his scratch on my door.      

 

 

                                                         

 

                                                                Accidents for Sale

                                            2,017 Words


 
     I know it’s an unusual business, but it’s been handed down over the generations and I was next in line to take over. I remember coming to the shop with my dad when I was a kid and watching all the different people enter the store. Some were dressed in suits and tuxes. Others dressed in rags with barely enough sole on their shoes to make them worthy of wearing. But, they all came here.

 

 I’ve always been proud that we serve such a diverse population. Not many companies can make that claim. Just about everyone needs an accident once in a while. Our prices vary from the millions of dollars for the accidental death of a highly publicized figure, to a mere $1.95 for a stubbed toe. It all depends on the buyer and their needs, just like any other business.

 There isn’t much competition. Not everyone can make an accident look like an accident. Most people leave it to the professionals.

 Sometimes, we get someone in asking why exactly we need to be in business at all.

 “Wouldn’t the world be a better place without accidents?” they ask.

  “Well,” I answer, “Think of it this way. Let’s pretend for a moment that no one ever has an accident. Then, there would be no need for accidental insurance -- life, health or otherwise. Now, not to mention all the individuals that would be put out of business, think of how mundane and droll life would become. No one would ever again have to watch for traffic while crossing the street. No harm could come to them. No need to worry about that dull razor -- never be cut shaving again. No accidental forest fires, broken bones while riding bikes or parachuting. The mere thought of death would be even further from our minds.   

 Now, some areas of our life would benefit, sure, but at what cost? Take for example; accidental oil spills in the ocean. What will draw attention to the plight of marine life on the edge of extinction? Do you honesty think anyone will listen without a major catastrophe to surround the issues? And what about the accidental death of a love one? One must admit there is some sense of adventure in not knowing if, when your spouse leaves the house in the morning, they will return home for dinner that night.” These are compelling arguments, I think.

 My first customer of the day is the old woman, Marcie, from across the street. She’s about 90 or so and is here just about every day. Not for herself, mind you. She comes for the paperboy who never seems to get her paper in the right spot, the truck driver that drives down our street during the night using his engine brake, the grocer who she feels charged her too much, she has many reasons and we accept them all. It’s like our motto says: “No accident too big or too small: we have them all. No reason, rhyme or anniversary needed: just make sure our warnings are heeded.”

 Marcie is very good about heeding the warnings and we’ve never had a problem with her yet. And, she’s been shopping here as long as I can remember. She always brings me a treat too. When I was little it was a sucker hidden in a pocket of her apron. Now that I’m running the place, and a bit older, she brings me cookies. On holidays, she brings the best banana cream pies I have ever tasted.  Today it’s macadamia nut cookies, my favorite. I can smell their warm sweetness as soon as she enters the store and my stomach growls.

 “Good morning, Franklin,” she cackles.

 “How do, Miss Marcie.” I’ve addressed her as Miss Marcie since I was about five years old. Now, I can’t imagine calling her anything else.

 Our ritual begins. She puts the plate down on the counter in front of me and takes off the foil.

 She picks up a cookie, tastes it and says, “Nope, not poisonous,” then laughs.

 She hands me a cookie.

  “Here, you try one. Tell me if my recipe is still any good.”

 I take the still warm cookie from her wrinkled fingers and put it in my mouth, the whole thing, all at once. Her expression is always the same, one of shock, horror and disbelief all rolled into one.

 “Oh Franklin, how can you taste it like that?”

 “Mmmmm, itsh gooood,” I mumble through the crumbs coming out through my smacking lips.

 She laughs then, like she always does, a boisterous laugh that makes me giggle like a small boy every time I hear it. More cookie spills from my mouth before I can swallow.

 Finally, I swallow the cookie down and before I take a bite of the next one I ask, “What can I do for you today, Miss Marcie?” 

 Our verbal dance continues.

 “Well Franklin, I’ve been thinking, and I need an accident.”

 “That’s all I sell, Miss Marcie.”

 

“Yes, and you have such a nice selection. What do you suggest today?”

 “We have paper cuts on sale this week for $2.59.” I’m sure this price will draw her in -- she loves a good deal.

 “No, no. I’m looking for something a bit more substantial.”

 I put my third cookie down and look directly at her. This is an unusual request for her to make.

 “Has someone hurt you, Miss Marcie?”

 “Oh no, nothing like that, I’ve been thinking, is all. And, I think I’d like to go with a big one this time. I’ve never really tried a deluxe package, you know.”  

 “Well, who’s it for?” I get out the necessary forms and start filling them out for her.

 “It’s for me, Franklin,” she says barely above a whisper.

 “Miss Marcie, are you sure? Can’t you just ask a friend to get a small one for you? Maybe they would, as a gift or something.”

 “No. Not this time, Franklin. This one is my treat to myself.” She takes out her charge card so I know she means business.

 “Okay, Miss Marcie. Would you like to see the deluxe list?”

 “No, I know what I want.” She walks down the isle and fingers the packages on the shelf; lovingly, lightly caressing each one as she walks by, as she looks for the perfect package for herself.

 Finally, she comes to what she’s looking for and brings the box to me and sets it on the counter. I write down the code off the box. 

 “Are you absolutely sure, Miss Marcie?”

 She touches my cheek with that same flighty caress. “I’m sure, Franklin.”

 I complete the paper work for her and have her sign the agreement.

 “Now, you know, Miss Marcie, the store nor its employees are responsible for any accident that you purchase here. And, I must remind you, that once the box is opened, there’s no turning back.” I know she knows this, but it’s standard procedure to remind everyone, even though it’s in the contract they sign.

 “Yes, Franklin, I know.”

 I bag up her box and hand it to her from behind the counter.

 “It’s not too late to change your mind, you know. But, once you leave the store, there are no returns.”

 “Yes, I know. You’ve been a wonderful help and you are a good boy. Don’t ever forget that.” She takes her bag from the counter and walks to the door.

 “Good-bye, Miss Marcie. Take care.”

 "Good-bye, Franklin.”

 Marcie leaves the store and I watch as she walks across the street, struggles up the three steps to her door and enters her apartment.

 The rest of the day is filled with regulars; Mr. Johnson, wants an accident for his neighbor with the pesky cat that roams and howls outside his window all night long and Mr. Linkly, buys an accident for the bus driver who never waits for him. A few strangers who are passing through town stop and check through the merchandise before deciding on a value pack of sprained ankles, chipped teeth, and skinned knees.

 Only one major accident is purchased besides Miss Marcie’s. Mr. Kind purchases an accidental overdose for his wife who’s suffered from depression for the past 10 years. It seems he can no longer stand it himself.

 I close up shop at the regular time and go upstairs to my apartment. I spend most of the evening thinking of Miss Marcie and the accident she had purchased. I finally fall asleep in my easy chair and even then I dream of her, her cookies and her wonderful laugh.

 * * * * * * * * * * * *

 I wake and go right downstairs to the storefront this morning. I look across the street at Miss Marcie’s place and detect nothing. But, it’s early and she wouldn’t be awake anyway. I walk to the newspaper stand and get the early edition. I check the obituaries and sure enough, there is Miss Marcie’s photo amongst those who have passed on from this world and into the next. I read the by-line and it says she died of natural causes. Surely there must be some mistake, I think. The accident I sold her could not be mistaken for natural causes.  I read the paragraph again, just incase I’ve misread it, but it remains the same. I chalk it off to the ineptitude of the investigating officers or the coroner.

 The next few days pass slowly. I miss my cookie break every morning and I miss Miss Marcie’s smile. I find myself looking over at her apartment even when I think I’ve been working. Today I notice movement through the windows and go outside to take a closer look.

 Someone is in Marcie’s place. I lock up and cross the street. When I get to Marcie’s door, I stop and listen. There is definitely movement going on inside, so I knock. When a woman opens the door, I realize how stupid I must look. Of course, Marcie’s family would be here to pack up her belongings. The woman stands in the doorway looking at me apparently trying to figure out why this strange person would be knocking on the door. Before she can ask, I introduce myself,

 “Hi, I’m Franklin. I run the shop across the street. I saw some movement and thought I’d check it out. Sorry to have bothered you, I realize now that you must be clearing out Miss Marcie’s things.”

 “Hi Franklin, I’m Katherine, Marcie’s daughter-in-law. Jacob couldn’t make it due to work, so I told him I’d take care of everything for him. I don’t know that he could have handled it anyway, poor thing. He wasn’t very close to his mom, but I know all this would have brought back a lot of memories for him.”

 She waves her arm at the room behind her and I look past her into the apartment. There, on the kitchen table sits the box that Marcie had purchased just a few short days ago. The box sits open with a cup sitting next to it. Katherine looks at what I am seeing and shakes her head.

 “Oh that darn thing. It’s the strangest thing. I found this box all wrapped up with a pretty bow and thought, oh, how lovely, a surprise was left for her. Poor dear, she never had a chance to open it. So I unwrapped it and broke the seal on the box and you’ll never guess what.”

 I shake my head, for I do know what.

 “The darn thing is empty. Now who would give an old lady an empty box like that?”

 She looks at me then, and just shakes her head in disgust. I politely excuse myself and walk back to my store.  I get out Miss Marcie’s paperwork and tear it up. I find myself amused. In some quirk of fate, Miss Marcie has passed on of natural causes. And now, due to an unknowing suspect, there is an accident out there, just waiting to happen.

 

 

 

                                     

 

 

 

                        Don’t Play Dead

                       2,387 words

                            

For the last two weeks, I’ve noticed my friends are laughing at me. Every time I go to the stores to search for necessary items, there they are, my ‘used to be friends,’ snickering and yes, laughing. And, if that weren’t bad enough, now some have even taken to pointing.

I must admit, at first, I was laughing too, but I was only laughing at the irony of the situation. Here I am, without Maya, left alone trying to discover the rituals and spells of necromancy. But now, I have to focus because necromancy is serious business and I have no more time for laughing. And, I know Maya would not be laughing.

I have her notes, but they are barely enough to have led me to the right books. I’ve checked out dozens of books from the library and so far, everything I’ve read says Maya did it wrong. Well, I’m here, so she did something right, but she’s gone and that is the very wrong part.

And, according to my plethora of new-found necromancy knowledge, I have less than 48 more hours to gather everything I need, say the right incantations, and dig her up before I can try to bring her back.

I spend most of my morning making sure I have the right robes, candles, fetters and all the incantations I will need for later today, tonight and my final quest tomorrow night. Finally, I make sure I have the instructions I wrote that I have to place inside Maya’s chest cavity. Oh, and my mortician tools so I can sew her back up afterwards. I am Not looking forward to that ritual. But, I need to make sure that when Maya comes back, she acts like Maya and not some other wraith that happens to be along for the ride. I’m sure Maya will understand and eventually forgive me for any unsightly scars.

Once I am certain that I have everything I’ll need, I pack it all up and head over to the cemetery. Maya’s grave looks the same as the last time I was here which was shortly after she brought me back and subsequently when I had to have a funeral for her. I haven’t had the heart to return since her funeral. I know she’d understand.

Maya brought me back on what would have been our fifth wedding anniversary. I have to bring her back on a day that means something to her and if I wait until our next anniversary, it will be too late. Anything longer than a year or more and all I’ll be able to get back is her spirit. I want the whole thing. So, tomorrow is Maya’s birthday and that’s the night she’s returning to me. 

I’m not sure what order I’m supposed to do all the rituals in, so I’m just going to guess and hope for the best. The first order of business is to build a shrine to Maya. I put her favorite things on top of her tombstone: her favorite flowers (now dead of course), her favorite candy (molded and rotten), a piece of a beloved flannel shirt, a few photos of her growing up and some of us together as a couple. Finally, I light a purple candle and recite my first incantation. This whole ritual takes almost two hours and is supposed to give Maya the Pathos needed to return to me and the strength to stay once she gets here.

When I’m satisfied that her shrine is perfect and my incantation is as good as it’s going to get, I gather my things to perform an exorcism of the cemetery. I need to get rid of any wraiths that are left over from other necromancer’s spells or spirits that may be bound to the cemetery in any way, and for any reason. I don’t need any spirits hanging out trying to cause a ruckus when I’m bringing Maya back to me. It takes me about three hours to complete the exorcism and by then, I’m exhausted. I tell myself the old adage, ‘no rest for the wicked’ and then decide what to do next.

I figure digging her grave might be a good place to continue. The ground is hard and rocky for the first few feet, but once I make it past that, it turns softer. By the time I reach Maya’s casket, I’m covered in dirt and sweat which is turning the dirt to mud and dripping down into my eyes and I can feel it slithering down my back. I hope Maya will forgive me for not showering before she arrives, but now that I’ve started all this, I won’t be able to leave here until she comes.

When I hit Maya’s casket with my shovel, I make sure to get a small splinter of wood from it and put it in my pocket. I’ll need it later for the spirit vessel. I leave her casket closed for now and climb out of her grave and make my circles. The first circle is about 30 feet in circumference with Maya’s grave in the center. The second circle is about 8 feet in circumference and made at the foot of Maya’s grave. This, I might add, is where Maya went wrong. She never made the second circle to sit within while I was returning. The first circle binds her to the cemetery and the circle’s limited edge. The second, smaller circle, protects me until I can be sure that Maya is really Maya and not some wraith or demon along for the ride. Also, this way I’m protected and can wait until she realizes where and who she is. When Maya brought me back and I killed her, I didn’t know who or what I was, and she didn’t have a protective circle to stand within until I came to my senses. I won’t make the same mistake she made. I don’t know what happens when an undead kills another undead and I’m not willing to try to find out.

Before I cut Maya open and put the instruction sheet – the one currently wrapped in plastic and tucked safely into my own pocket – into her chest, I have to perform a binding spell. For this I need to prepare a spirit vessel. Experienced necromancers take a finger bone, or other tangible body part for the ceremony. Since this is my first and I don’t want to inflict any more cruelty upon her corpse than the chest wound, I’ve found other things to make the vessel with. I have some of her hair that I managed to get from her hairbrush, a few toothbrush bristles (I’m hoping there’s some DNA on them), her favorite pillow, a music CD that she listened to practically daily, some of her cat’s fur (she would kill me if she found out how I managed to get that), and finally, the splinter from her coffin.

I put all the items into a shopping bag. I figure it doesn’t really matter what they’re held in, as long as I have them all. The incantations will take several hours, but when I’m done, Maya will be bound to me forever. Since we will both be members of the ‘undead’, I think this will be beneficial.  I place my candles in my protective circle and sit in the center of them. Then, I light each candle; black - to keep the negative energies away, white – to draw the positive energies near, purple - for Maya, a blue one for me -representing the sadness and sorrow in my heart that I’ve felt since she left and a yellow one for hope. I sit for hours reciting incantations, dripping wax into the spirit vessel and around the edges of the protective circle and some onto myself (for luck – I’m a bit superstitious). When the candles are mere specks of wax without any wicks left, I put them into the spirit vessel and recite several more spells. 

Next is the part I’ve been dreading. I need to open Maya’s casket and cut her open to put the instruction sheet into her chest cavity. Once the instructions are firmly bound within her, she will have to follow them no matter what. Essentially, she’ll be like a programmed robot. I only wrote good things on the instruction sheet, like love and honor me forever, kill anyone who tries to harm me – stuff like that. I think Maya would approve.

I warily step outside of my protective circle with my mortician tools and climb down into Maya’s grave. I pry open the casket and yes, there she is in all her dead glory. I’ll snip the stitches holding her eyes and mouth shut later, after I’m done with the incision – just in case I’ve done something wrong and she comes to life early, I don’t want her to see me cutting into her. At least this way, with her eyes sewn shut, if that happens, she’ll be less likely to know it’s me.

I take a deep breath and take out the scalpel. I cut through her favorite dress (I’ll explain to her later why I had to cut it) and then breathe deep one final time before I cut into Maya. She doesn’t scream or flail as I half expect her to, she just lays there, cold and catatonic. I use the clamp to pry apart her ribs and then take the instruction sheet out of my pocket and out of the plastic I’ve wrapped it in and then place it into Maya. I deliver a few more incantations before I sew her back up. When I finish, I sit back and admire my work. Maya would be proud and I think there’ll be minimal scarring. I snip the stitches on her eyes and lips, leave her casket open, climb back out of the hole and crawl into my protective circle.

My last quest is the reciting of the final spells to bring Maya back to me. I have about two hours before midnight and her birthday. I figure it should be just enough time to go through all my incantations. If I can time it right, the final spell will be released at exactly midnight by the ringing of a small bell I have brought along solely for that purpose.

I put on Maya’s favorite flannel, minus the small swatch I had cut out for her shrine, and place my unleavened black bread on a small napkin in front of me along with a small bottle of unfermented grape juice. The only things I will have eaten all day will be representations of death in honor of Maya.

I start by making a few smaller circles within my own circle of protection. Each small circle represents an aspect of Maya that I love. I recite a spell and take a bite of the bread and sip of juice with each one drawn. I spend the next two hours reciting incantations and drawing signs of spells in the dirt and on parchment. My final spell ends at exactly midnight and I lean forward, as close to the edge of my circle as I can, and ring the bell, summoning Maya to me. I try to peer into her grave, but my circle isn’t close enough – a purposeful choice on my part for protection, but I still try.

I wait not so patiently and hear and see nothing. I figure I must have forgotten something or done something wrong and then I hear her. At first it’s just a small moan and then I hear her thrashing and wood breaking. I see dirt and pieces of casket fly up out of the grave. I scoot back away from the edge of my circle to the opposite side. I suddenly don’t want to see Maya’s revival. I hear her scream and all the pain and torment in the world is inside of that scream, it pierces my undead ears and I cover them in reaction. Then I see hands reaching out of the grave. She climbs up, falling several times before finally making it to the surface. I’m still in my circle as I watch her stumble from tombstone to tombstone, smashing each one she touches in the process. I feel sorry for any pain I must have inflicted on her when she brought me back, but I am glad that I can’t remember any of it and I desperately hope she doesn’t either.

When she sees me, she runs toward the circle but stops abruptly at the edge. She does a weird kind of stumble-walk-run around the edge of the circle, trying to get through to me, but my protection holds up and I am ever thankful for having read so many books on necromancy. Finally, she falls to the ground, in exhaustion.

“Go to sleep, Maya. When you wake up, you’ll feel better, more like yourself, and I’ll be right here waiting for you,” I say from the middle of my circle where I have unconsciously moved to.

She doesn’t move or acknowledge my voice, just lies there and I fall asleep myself after a while, watching her unmoving, undead body.

          I startle awake and quickly get to my feet, searching the last place I remember seeing Maya before I fell asleep. She isn’t there. I spin around and then I see her. She’s sitting by her own headstone which is now broken in half. She’s holding the dead flowers I had put in her shrine. She looks at me and smiles.

          “It’s about time you woke up. I was getting nervous,” she says as she comes near my circle.

          She still can’t cross over the protective edge, so I step out of it to meet her. She hugs me in the tightest hug I’ve ever had and I swear I can hear some of my bones cracking.

          “I’m starving,” she says.

          I take her hand and say, “Good. We have to perform a sacrifice in exchange for your summons. And, I know a few old, laughing friends I might like to start with.”