Jane and the lorry driver were pronounced dead at the scene.
Jane loved observing wildlife as she drove the rural roads. One summer evening, turning a bend, she saw a magpie. Her stomach lurched. Whenever she saw a solo magpie, she was compelled to scan her surroundings to find another. She would keep looking until she found that magpie’s mate. Today she was lucky as she noticed a second magpie almost immediately. The tension in her stomach melted. As she relaxed, she failed to see another bend in the road and swerving, she drove directly into an oncoming lorry.
Jane and the lorry driver were pronounced dead at the scene.
The two geriatrics arrived ringside in a fanfare of hatred and contempt. In the blue corner, the Challenger commanded the sympathy vote. In the red corner stood the overweight, self-proclaimed Champion; he owed his title to a toxic mix of bullying, corruption and self-delusion.
They fought separate contests – the Challenger too weak to land strong punches, the Champion aiming only low blows, and missing.
The fight ended when the Champion accidentally knocked himself out with three of his own misplaced low punches. Nevertheless, he dragged himself up to claim a points victory, awarded by three ringside judges he'd appointed himself.
Jake awoke to the sound of his wife sobbing in her sleep. As he gently patted her shoulder she turned to him crying, “Jake, I had such a nightmare. I dreamed that we lost our health insurance, and we couldn’t get new insurance because of my breast cancer, and we went bankrupt and had to move into a homeless shelter. Our children couldn’t stop crying.
Jake shushed her and said, “Honey, that won’t happen. I won’t let that happen.” As Angela drifted back to sleep, Jake lay there, staring up at the ceiling, a single tear spilling down his face.
Your fingers are still. I wonder if they will return my touch.
They are hardened by age. I wonder if you can still feel. If. The operation was a success or not.
The rain starts and begins to come into the room. I should get up and close the window, but what happens if you reach out and I am not there.
I let the rain fall where it falls.
Your fingers are warm. Your eyes are closed. I hope that in your dreams you are young again, carefree, before time brought us here.
Back then it was only her small hands that were allowed to hold and caress me. She would let no one else near.
I recall her beautiful smiling face looking down at me with love and tenderness and the small cry of joy she made as I played my sweet tune and my ballerina danced for that first time.
Now I am long forgotten and left abandoned to sit gathering dust amid her many other discarded things.
She has new amusements and no time it seems to listen to me play my music or to watch my ballerina dance.
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The blushing bride drenched in a gown of jean. Puffed princess shoulders like mutated blueberries, a billowing skirt stuffed by more-deserving tule, and pockets—of course to hold loose change—for the off chance there was a tollhouse on her way down the aisle.
A farce of design itself, created with no compromises to ease its inert dysphoria.
Still, she walked through the holy doors with not a gasp bold enough to break the organ’s tune. Not a peep until the groom threw himself into a full-body laugh. “Sarah, you’re the dumbest woman I ever loved.”
Forward, backward, slightly higher and forward pinning him between the seat and steering wheel, all the while he’s furious that the driver’s seat has an evil conscience. The backrest offers aid by scrunching him into an acute angle causing him to boil out a few choice words as he peers over the wheel to maintain control. I should feel sympathy. Laughter is too provocative. Besides, it’s a country road. Grumbling that his legs are sweating; the heated seats turned themselves on. Getting home has reached threatcon level because my legs will start crying from the high pressured hilarity any minute!
My English teacher scans the classroom. I scribble in my notebook, avoiding eye contact.
"Richard, what's your opinion?"
Twenty pairs of eyes fixate on me. I stay quiet, hoping he picks one of the students raising their hand.
"Hands down," he tells them, then hovers over me. "Richard?"
Not able to withstand his arrogant smirk and my classmates' impatient stares, I surrender. "I can't remember anything I read. You happy now?"
"Actually, I am."
"You may have a comprehension problem. Stay after school and I'll help you."
I sit straight, take a deep breath. "Okay, I will."
“He came in after midnight last night again, reeking of whisky and perfume,” Lydia sighed dejectedly.
Christina poured her some tea. “I don’t know how you put up with him. I’d never allow it.”
“Yeah well, not everyone’s got a perfect marriage like you,” Lydia retorted as she sipped from Dimitri’s World’s Best Husband mug.
“My Dimitri certainly is well trained,” gloated Christina. “Everyday he’s straight home, in the door by 5:15,” she declared smugly.
Christina’s Dimitri was a clever man.
He always made sure to visit brothels on his lunch break, so he was never ever late home.
He loved birdwatching. He knew so many things about the avian variety, she didn't care to hear, so she left him to it.
She thought nothing of him sitting at the window, his ‘favourite window’, with binoculars, for hours, watching.
She didn't even find it peculiar that he enjoyed this activity mostly at night. Birds, you see, were most interesting then. —Or his insisting the lights be off. This, she was told, was imperative.
She never thought much about this, nor to look out from that ‘favourite window’, to see the alluring young nudist living by herself across the carpark.
The American tour group is sitting in a restaurant in Edinburgh. Susie had signed up for the Dinner Tour, which included a meal and entertainment. This was part of the “British Isles in 10 Days” which was now in its eighth day. All Susie really wanted was a McDonald’s hamburger.
The waiter is serving what looks like a lump of potatoes, another whitish lump of something, and slices of a black sausage.
The waiter explains, “This is haggis, a Scottish specialty.”
“OK, I’ll try it.”
Susie took a bite. Her face froze as her hand grabbed her napkin. She gagged.
Warm hue: honey and amber, the first sip of whiskey. I went on a date and he called me vanilla before asking what my favorite ice cream was. I said pistachio, he said chocolate. We had a mundane conversation about his work and love for dogs. We each took home our leftovers in styrofoam boxes. I wished the sweltering embrace of love would reach me again but I never saved his name in my phone and when he texted I had forgotten him already.
Since childhood whenever a cat approached him, Ron suffered from severe allergy with itchy eyes and runny nose. However, recently Ron realized his misery was slowly disappearing. He attributed this development to admiring the lovable cat on the cover page of a web-literary site, while submitting manuscripts there. He rationalized his good fortune to the healing power of a feline “Pavlov Response” (tele-medically).
Recently, Ron stumbled into an image of a historic Nazca painting of a cat on the surface of an ancient mountain in Peru. His allergy roared back, supporting his belief of “No two cats ever behave same”.
He stared at the blank canvas again. She waited, leaning onto the worn-out balls of her feet, exhausted from another shift at the diner, recalling a time when he would cover canvases with stories that instantly transported her—not only to there, but away from here.
This was some bad karma, she was sure of it. It was her decision then, and now, looking at his frail back and trembling hands, she was the worst kind of alone. She raised a hand that reeked of garlic. Chicken soup again, but he wouldn’t remember.
Then, he turned to her and smiled.
I make landfall here every so often. Trip’s last leg is an hour’s toxin-purging travel by car uphill. With Pine aroma wafting in the air, I bounce back, away from sensory onslaught and humdrum of metro-life. The lodge where I stay sits on a grassy knoll overlooking a valley that drops steeply away into a ravine. This is where I love to spread my wings. The freedom to park anywhere along the paths wound around the haunting hills, and jot down impressions, unnoticed, with hardly any care in the world. When it’s time to go downhill again, my spirit toboggans.
Jeffords stepped down off the train. The ride from Tulsa had been tiring, and at 62 he was tired of tiring. All he wanted was to return to Oklahoma and his three-room cabin, and stay there forever.
But first, he had one last job.
Salter came toward him, grinning. "I see you got my telegram, old man. Thanks for coming--and making my reputation!"
The younger man made a move for his gun, but Jeffords was faster. One shot through the heart, and Jeffords holstered his gun and sat on the worn bench to await the next train back home.
“Great job!” yelled Tony.
“Wife’s creativity.” Al chuckled, setting out carved pumpkins.
“She okay? Alice avoids the kitchen after sunset,” Tony grimaced.
“Funny, Barb too. Imagines scary cabbage heads at our window.”
Hallowe’en evening, the husbands returned early from work. Dinnertime progressed smoothly. Their wives happily greeted trick-or-treaters, handing out sweets.
Frost warped Barb’s pumpkins overnight. On Tony’s lawn, a cabbage had settled with a stick poking through. Black smiling lips quivered above its green face. Same shade of green stuck on the soles of Al’s shoes.
A skeleton hanging nearby jived to the beat of the wind.
It’s late afternoon, and the flowers Father brought in the morning have already disappeared.
“What’s the rush?” he yells at a tanned man cutting grass. “Why not a whole day, just one lousy day?”
The man on the tractor shakes his head and continues mowing. My father unfolds a letter. I ask him what it is.
“It’s from the groundskeeper,” he says. He reads aloud, “We’ll replace the sod after it rains.” He refolds the letter and tucks it away. “I’m sure it will be better in the spring.”
Somewhere under the brittle grass he’s sure there’s a listening ear.
I dreaded when Grandpa Joe made us get his toolbox. He’d ask for a socket or a ratchet and expect us to know the difference. We watched him put together a shed as he explained every move in excruciating detail. “Now, this is how you hold a hammer, and this is where you place the nail. Hold the power saw like this while cutting the two-by-four. Always be aware of where the blade is at all times.”
I often wondered why Grandpa gave us excessive instructions until I remembered that he lost three fingers while making a workbench.
The sky was sable, the headwinds were strong and great waves lapped at the deck. But the captain seemed oblivious.
“The sun will be shining in a minute,” he announced. “It will be like a miracle.”
The boat began to rock fiercely.
“Shouldn’t we hunker down?” cried the first mate.
“Full speed ahead!” the captain scowled.
The ship began to pitch so severely that crew and passengers alike were tossed into the maelstrom. Rats jumped overboard.
Gasping for air, the captain grabbed a sea-sick bag.
The ship’s doctor staggered to the intercom.
“Life vests on!” he directed. “Hold tight!”
Responding to my desire of learning how to throw a wicked curve ball Mom says, “You’ll have to wait until the baby bottles finish boiling. You can help by taking them from the kettle” handing me the tongs. “Put them on the counter to dry while I get Dori from her rocker, dressed to go outside and grab my mitt.”
The little league coach, Mr. Temple, praises my winning performance, says I’m his new star pitcher.
“What a great curve ball, Ace. I bet your dad is really proud.”
folded American flag
The mirror has witnessed her as a young woman, eyes shining with aspirations. It has viewed her kissing a young man passionately, a couple of cats and children too.
The mirror has observed arguments, laughter, tears, all the emotions which make us human, poor creatures that we are.
She can scarcely believe how swiftly the years have departed like frost melting in the spring sunshine but now she is in the winter of existence.
Could this old lady with the thinning white hair really be her? Unfortunately the mirror does not lie.
His leg muscles ripple, and night creatures cavort beneath a canopy of dense vegetation as he paces back and forth across wooden floor boards.
Sweat exudes from the pores of his body with every movement. A loincloth partially covers his naked body as he looks out from the interior of his treehouse.
"Jane, come home, it's getting late," he shouts, cupping strong hands around his mouth.
Fingers suddenly massage his massive shoulders. He turns, looks down and his eyes light up with mischief. Lips lock on a passionate kiss. An evening of tree surfing can wait.
Waves buffeted the distant sandcastle, pounding away at its turrets, before swallowing the castle whole and rolling back out to sea.
I’d been in a deep sleep when the children began their construction. They returned from the promenade, leaving ice-cream to melt down their fingers as they viewed their ravaged creation.
“Where’s Daddy? Did he go to buy cappuccinos?”
“He was fast asleep like you, and snoring, so we buried him in the sand then built the castle around his head,” they sobbed. “We thought he could escape.”
I crawled across to a sandy-covered hump.
Daddy was beyond escape.