Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Arborist

The Arborist

The tree it stood, strong and true
Its branches bent like elbows do
Flowered in colors, green in hue
It’s beauty not yet seen by you 

I thought by now I’d be
Somewhere new
I thought by now I’d be
Someone new 

The roots have died, poisoned the tree
Its limbs hang about helplessly
The leaves are dried, for all to see
All the beauty gone from thee 

The thoughts preoccupy my mind
(I never knew)
The thoughts preoccupy my mind
(but They knew) 

The axe is held, my hand it grips
The beaded sweat upon the lips
The action swung, the skin it rips
The markings left, as it whips 

Stuck in a cage of my own design
Alone with you
Stuck in a cage of my own design
Alone without you 

The tree once stood, strong and true
Its branches bent like elbows do
Flowered in colors, green in hue
It’s beauty no longer seen by you

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Loan

Emily found herself in a most difficult spot.  One she knew she couldn’t get out of.  She had tried her best to repay her debts and to make amends, but everything had gone wrong.  She took small gasps of air, trying to conserve the little she had left.
She was in way over head.  Literally.
She sat at a dingy corner bar, one she had never noticed before. She ordered a drink with the last of the money she had on her, along with the last of her dignity.  She had lost everything at the casino, and owed everyone she knew money.  She had been down this road before, but never this far down.  She supposed she could just take off and leave all of her debts unpaid. Her family and friends really should have known better than to lend her anything anyway.  She knew she couldn’t do that.  She might be a degenerate gambler, but she still had some semblance of humanity to her.  She was just about to leave, when the first of them walked over.
“Looks like you’ve had a rough night, missy,” the stranger said.  “Would you mind if I bought you another of whatever you’re having there?”
“Thanks, but no.  I was just on my way out,” Emily said.
“Nonsense.  Lemme buy you a drink. I promise, I don’t bite,” he said with a smile and a wink. 
Emily smiled.  He looked like a nice enough man, and old enough to be her father.  He was just trying to cheer her up, and she could use some cheering up.
“Ok, thanks a lot.  It’s been a hell of a night and I could use another.  It’s a vodka tonic with lime.  Or something that looks vaguely similar to a lime.”
“Terry, get – err, what’s you name anyway, Miss?”
“Emily.  My name is Emily”
“Terry, get Emily a vodka tonic and try to find a lime that isn’t moving this time,” the stranger said.
After the drink arrived, she sat and talked to James.  He told her that his family owned the bar.  “Murphy’s” it was called, apparently.  She hadn’t noticed the sign when she came in.  He explained that Terry was the usual bartender, but he filled in on occasion.  He introduced her to almost everyone else in the bar, all of whom were Murphy’s.  Her mind reeled as she tried to match each face with each name:  Patrick, Dennis, Kevin, John, Mark, Michael.  There were Juniors and Seniors in there as well.  She could keep only three straight in her mind:  James, who had approached her, Terry the bartender, and Kelly, the only other girl in the establishment.
“Is there some sort of a rule that you have to be a Murphy to come in here,” Emily joked, downing her 3rd vodka.   
“No, no,” one of them laughed.  “But we don’t let just anyone in.  You have to earn your way in.  You have to be worthy.”
As the night went on, Emily felt herself beginning to loosen up and share her troubles with the clan.  They seemed understanding, and best of all, willing to help.  She felt like she had known them all of her life.
“It must be nice to have a family that’s so close,” she said to the group.  “You all seem to really have each other’s backs. “
Emily swore she caught sideways glances between each of the family members, but she knew she couldn’t trust her senses.  She was how many vodka tonics deep and couldn’t be certain of what she saw.  She shrugged it off to paranoia and spending too much time with the underbelly of humanity, rather than with decent people.  Like the Murphy’s.
She woke up the next morning in her apartment, unsure of how she had even gotten home.  She stumbled out to the kitchen to get some water, and saw the cash stuffed envelope on her countertop.
“What the hell,” she muttered out loud.
She picked it up and counted the contents.  $10,000, all in hundred dollar bills.  She looked around her to see if this was some sort of a joke.  She looked out the window, and all she saw was her beat up Toyota sitting in its parking spot.  There was a note on the counter that read:

“Lovely to meet you last night, Emily.  So glad we can help you out of your jam.  Here’s the cash to pay your family and friends back. 
We’ll be in touch. “
-The Murphy’s

She replayed the events of last night in her mind, but could only get sketchy fragments:  Drinks, laughing, crying, hugs, drinks.  She couldn’t remember asking for money.  But she didn’t remember getting home, so she could hardly trust her senses.
She took a quick shower and divided the money into separate envelopes, one for each person she owed. 
She was paid off in full.  She had never felt so free.
She drove to the corner where she was certain the bar was, but there was nothing there except a vacant lot with twisted fencing keeping people out.  Signs reading:   “No Trespassing” and “Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.
Emily stared at the concrete slab and fenced in lot; long enough for an elderly gentleman to ask if she needed directions.  The passerby looked very familiar, but Emily could not place him.
“I must be on the wrong block,” Emily said nervously.  “I’m looking for ‘Murphy’s’, it’s a bar I went to last night.  I thought it was on this corner, but I must be mistaken.”
“Murphy’s,” the stranger said.  “You’re a day late and a dollar short, my dear.  Murphy’s was here.  And Murphy’s burned down 20 years ago.”
He started to walk away, but she stopped him. 
“I can’t help but think we’ve met somewhere before,” Emily said.  “Do I know you?”
The passerby’s eyes twinkled and he smiled.  “Oh, it’s possible, missy.  My mind isn’t what it used to be.”  Emily felt uneasy, but couldn’t place her finger on it.
“Sorry, but can I ask you one more question,” Emily inquired.  “D-do you know how it burned down?  Were people injured?”
“They never could say.  The whole family went up in smoke with it, or so the myth goes – they never found any bodies, though.  If you ask me though, it’s better off.  They were a nasty lot.”
The man walked away and left Emily standing in front of a vacant lot that had just given her $10,000.
Weeks passed.  Months passed.  Emily hadn’t gone back to the casino’s and was trying to put the “Murphy’s” situation out of her mind.  She got through each day by telling herself that it wasn’t “Murphy’s Bar” she had bellied up to.  It must have been some other hole in the wall dive bar.  As for the money, she couldn’t explain that one away.  She did pay everyone back, though, and even had a little left over for herself.
After the 3rd month, Emily received a knock on her door.
It was late and she looked through her peephole to see who was calling on her.  No one was there.  She walked away and the knock came again, louder this time.  She opened the door, annoyed at neighborhood kids playing a prank. 
Standing before her was the entire Murphy clan. 
“How?  Wha-,” she stammered, as they entered her apartment.
“Don’t tell me you forgot about us, Emily,” one of them said with a smile.  “We had a deal. Remember?”
“You should sit down, honey,” another said.  “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
Emily stepped backwards into her chair and sat down with a thump.  Her eyes, darting from one face to another.
“How have you been, Emily?  Things going well?  I hope you’re staying away from those casino’s.” The voice was familiar.  She remembered James.  He was the older gentleman who had a wink in his smile, the one who was old enough to be her father. He had aged considerably from what she could remember.
“I’m..I’m doing well, thank you,” Emily said, with a forced smile. 
“Good.  Good.  We’re glad to see that we could help. Unfortunately, we have come here to discuss the arrangement that was made 3 months ago today.  Such unpleasantness, I know.  But business is business.”
“Arrangement, what arrangement?  I tried to find your bar…it’s nothing but a vacant lot.”  She squirmed in her seat.  “I asked around and they said the bar had burned down 20 years ago.”  She then remembered the old man she met on the street that day, the one who looked so familiar.  It was James.
“Tsk, tsk,” one of them answered.  “The first rule of ‘Murphy’s Bar’ is that you don’t talk about ‘Murphy’s Bar – did I get that right?”
“No.  You’re quoting ‘Fight Club’, I heard one of the kids talk about it as they passed over us.  The point is the same though.”  That was Terry, she remembered him as the bartender.
“Regardless. A deal is a deal.  It’s time to pay up.”
A piece of paper was handed to her, the bottom of which contained her signature – sloppy and slanted – but her signature nonetheless.
“I don’t understand,” said Emily.  “What deal?”
“Read the contract, you stupid girl.”
Emily looked back down at the paper, trying to read the tiny writing.  She could only make out one paragraph in full.  But that was enough:

“…herein states that the below signee has agreed to accept the sum of ten thousand US Dollars.  In exchange for this sum, the below signee agrees to the terms of the contract herein, which designates that the signee must forfeit their human body to Murphy, Inc., 90 days from the date on this contract…”
Emily shook her head and looked up at the congregation in front of her.  “What does this mean?” she asked?
“Well, my pet, it means – in a nutshell – we own your ass.”
“Here’s the Cliffs Notes version. You came in to ‘Murphy’s’, talked to all of us fine folk and, after some negotiation, agreed to the contract.  You see, we can’t be free until we find someone to take our spot.  You agreed to our most generous offer.  Pretty simple, really.”
“But, but, but I wasn’t in my right mind. I was drunk and I was depressed.  Surely this couldn’t stand up in any court…,” Emily broke off, realizing just how stupid she sounded trying to reason legalities with immoral ghosts.
She found herself in over her head, literally.  Buried in a box under the vacant lot of ‘Murphy’s Bar’.  She wasn’t sure who was going to take her body over, but she knew her air was quickly running out.  Screams would mean nothing, and she had played her last hand.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Two for the Road

Clarissa woke up alone.  And blind.

As her haze began to lift, her senses slowly came back to her.  She hadn’t lost her sight, as she originally thought – she was blindfolded.  She slowly undid the sash that was tied around her head and blinked in the dusty grey Autumn light. 

She was on some sort of hiking trail.  A pathway that had been formed overtime, by the footsteps of people more “outdoorsy” than she.  This wasn’t one of those trails that you see in Central Park.  There were no benches or picnic tables.  No vendors selling lemonade and hot pretzels.  This was the woods.  And she had no idea how she came to be here; blindfolded and lying on the ground with twigs and bronze colored leaves stuck in her golden hair.

She got herself to her knees and felt her head begin to swoon.  “Whoopsie Daisy”, she thought to herself, as she fell backwards on to her bum. 

“Who the hell says ‘Whoopsie Daisy’ anymore,” she said out loud to no one.

She sat there for a moment longer, gathering her energy, and attempted to stand once more.  On her feet - although not solidly - she turned and looked at her surroundings.  “Did someone drop me off in Vermont?” she thought?  “I’ve never seen so many trees in one place.”

She tried to paste together the events of the last 24 hours, but couldn’t remember much.  She remembered she was supposed to go out with her best friend, Jenna, for a girl’s night out.  She had already gotten ready, and was almost out the door in her stilettos, when the call came in to cancel.  That was around 9:30pm. Everything after that isn’t even a blur.  It just isn’t there.  She has no idea what happened between hanging up that phone and waking up blindfolded in this…forest.

She searched the ground and found her purse.  She breathed a small sigh of relief when she saw that it was her small black clutch.  She only used the clutch when she was going out on the town.  She must have gone out with Jenna after all.  But where was she?! She reached inside the small bag and took out her cell phone.  Of course, no reception. The date showed Sunday, October 13th.  OK – that helped.  The time was 9:30am.  She was now down to only 12 missing hours of her life.  Somehow, that didn’t seem to perk her up.

Her shoes were placed right next to her purse.  Her car keys were in her shoes.  Everything was lined up.  Not by accident, obviously.  Hmm.  Things were certainly getting weirder and weirder. 

“Thanks for that observation, Caption Obvious,” she said out loud. 

“People are going to think you’ve lost it if you keep talking to yourself,” she argued back. 

“Right, those blue jays and weeping willows are going to spread the word that Miss Fancy Pants is a loon.  Get it?  Get it? LOON? It’s a BIRD, you nitwit.”

“Weeping what? She asked.

 Clarissa’s mind was reeling from arguing with herself, she had obviously been away from civilization too long and was going a bit loopy.  She needed to focus on finding her way out of this place and back to her car.

To the right was an uphill slope, and to the left was a winding path that went gently downhill.  Looking at the shoes she had with her, she opted to go to left.

She leaned against a tree and went to slip on her heels.  She let out an “EEK” when she saw that the bottoms of her feet were covered in mud, leaves and filth.  There were some small pebbles still stuck between her toes and her once perfectly French manicured toenails were now outlined with a rim of grime and guck. 

“Blech!” she said loudly.  “My feet are shot, I’m not ruining my shoes too!”

Clarissa proceeded to limp along the uneven trail, her feet picking up more dirt, her shoes hanging from her fingertips.  Her skirt smeared with grass juice and whatever other dirty things she had managed to pick up during her stay in the “Forest of Filth”. 

She knew her face must look a wreck, but she didn’t have the heart to take out her compact and actually look upon herself. 

“I wouldn’t have the strength to look the world in the eye if I saw what I must look like,” she muttered. 

“God, you’re so vain!” she answered back.  “You probably think every song is about YOU.” 

Clarissa pouted and hobbled further down the trail, hoping she picked the right direction.

“There’s no need to get personal about it,” she mumbled.

Down the trail she went, trying to avoid the large tree roots that crossed her path and keeping a vigilant eye out for anything that crawled.  Or slithered.  Nothing she saw brought back any sort of memory whatsoever.  There was no sign of anything or anyone. 

The path eventually opened up so there was a field on one side. 

“A field is a good sign, right?” Clarissa said to herself.  “A field must mean that someone, like, plows it or something.” 

“You’ve got to be the biggest moron around, Clarissa.  Just because there’s a FIELD doesn’t mean that someone, LIKE, plows it.  You jackass.”

She put her head down and started on. Clarissa sneered as her foot landed on a broken twig.  “Dang it!”

Keeping her head down, Clarissa caught sight of a shiny object at edge of the path nearest the field. 

“You can always pick out the shiny things, can’t you?” she said to herself.  Clarissa smiled, it was true, she was all about the glitz and glamour, the shine and shimmer of life. 

“It’s not a compliment, you turd.  You’re just like a crow, and twice as worthless.”

Nearing the object, Clarissa saw it was a newer style camera.  Nothing hugely high-tech, but a digital camera, that was in good condition.  It looked like it had recently been left, since it wasn’t dirty or damp in anyway. 

“I wonder if there’s a Ranger station anywhere around here.  I can leave it with the nice bear who always wants to stop forest fires.” She turned the camera around and didn’t see any identifying marks, except for the initials ‘E.C.S’.   “That’s funny,” thought Clarissa.  “Those initials…”

“Why don’t you turn it on and see if there’s any pictures, Miss Hot Pants”, she said to herself. 

“I really shouldn’t, it’s not my property and it’s not right….”

“Oh, stop being a ninny and turn the damn thing on!” she screamed.

“Ok. Ok. God!”

Clarissa turned the camera on and saw the last picture taken.  She dropped her shoes that were still hanging from her fingers when she saw the image.  It was HER.  On this very trail.  In this very outfit.   The only difference was that her clothes weren’t dirty and she had a wicked smile on her face, the blindfold tied like a scarf around her neck.

Clarissa turned around in circles calling out for help and asking if anyone was there.  She had no idea what was going on and was seriously creeped out now.


“Stop your whining, you silly little cow!”  Edith said. 

Clarissa couldn’t help crying, but she did listen to Edith, who liked to take charge in these situations. 

“I’m so sick of you in your little outfits and your dainty little handbags.  Why don’t you grow a pair already?!”  Edith screamed.  “What are you doing with your life?  What is the purpose of you even being on Earth?  All you do is shop and get your nails done.  While I get to sit back and keep silent?  I don’t think so, not anymore, Missy.”

“The tide is high, and YOU are moving on Miss C.” Edith dictated.  “I’m not taking a back seat to you anymore.  Do you want to know what happened?  I’ll tell you what happened. ..

“I broke your plans with your idiot friend.  I couldn’t take another night of talking about Jake Gyllen…whatever the hell his name is.  I couldn’t take another night of eating sushi and complaining about your thighs.  I couldn’t stand one more minute of sipping wine and watching you play hard to get with the Ad Exec.

“So, I decided to take you out on the town, Edith style.  Take a look in your precious little bag, my dear.  You’ll find a receipt for a Motel, not a Hotel, for 2 hours.  A receipt for Pigs n’ Things Bar-B-Que. And a phone number…. for one Mr. Bubby T. Riley.  The picture is courtesy of him.  So is the blindfold.  I told him I liked it. He dropped “you” off about an hour ago.   Edith Clarissa Simmons is here to stay.”

Before Clarissa was pushed out of the way, she managed to get one sentence out:  “I ate at a Bar-B-Que?!”

This piece was written for a Google + Twelve Hour Challenge.  The Rules:  You are walking on a hiking trail and notice a camera laying in the leaves off the path.  When you pick it up, you see it is a digital camera and the last picture taken is of you, walking along the trail.  There is no one in sight.  What happens next?

The catch: 1500 words or less...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Road Trip

Samantha was barely speaking to Matthew when they crossed the border in to Labinnac County, a tiny speck on the map in the western most corner of Pennsylvania.  At this point, even his breathing was making her squirm with rage.  He had told her they were going somewhere as a “surprise”.  A trip he said, “she’d never forget.”  He smiled his smile and she bounced with glee.   
Hours later, she realized that the “surprise” was a road trip to visit Matthew’s shirttail relatives, and not – as she had assumed – the trip to the Bahamas, as he had been promising.  She should have known better then to think Matthew had it in him to come up with something that grandiose.  Plus, he told her not to bother packing anything – everything they would need was right there.  She had still slipped a bikini in to her purse, the thought which now infuriated her more.
Matthew cleared his throat and she gave him a sideways glare that could cut a diamond. He glanced over at her and tried to restart their conversation from where it had left off.
“Honey, I’m sorry you’re disappointed.  I don’t know what gave you the idea that we were going to the Bahamas.  That type of trip takes a lot more planning, and I really thought you’d appreciate meeting my relatives.”   If he had left it there, Samantha might have tried to thaw the iciness that was hanging in the air.  Oh no.  He just had to go on.  “Besides, babe, you can’t honestly be angry with me for something that you made up in your own mind, can you?”  That was it.  That was the final blow. 
“You’re right, honey,” she started, “I shouldn’t have assumed you would do anything that you said you were going to do.  I should know better than to -what was it you said - ‘make things up in my own mind’?  Yes, that’s what you said.  I should have known better than to think you might actually try to surprise me with something we’ve been talking about for months.  Yes, snookums.  Visiting your backwoods relatives is a fine, FINE alternative to lying on the beach and sipping a Pina Colada.  Whatever was I thinking?”  Her sarcasm was cutting, but Matthew couldn’t help but smile.
“Like I told you, Sammy, this is going to be a trip you’ll never forget.  You’ll love my relatives.  They’re quirky and unique.  I guarantee you that you won’t have a thought of the Bahamas once this trip is over.  Come on, babe.  Let’s make this trip special.”
Samantha stared at him.  There’s no use in making a complete jackass out of myself in front of his family, she thought.  She better put her disappointment away with her bikini, because she knew they couldn’t be far now.  She tried to soften her voice when she next spoke.
“Matt, I’m letting it go.  For now.  There’s no sense in us driving out all this way just to argue.  I’m just not sure why you picked now to visit relatives that you’ve never even spoken about.  It just seems odd.  You can’t blame me for being disappointed – especially since we’ve been talking about going to the islands for ages.  Let’s just put it behind us and deal with it on our way back to civilization.”
“That’s my girl.” Matthew said, giving her a wink and a smile.  “I know you’ll have the time of your life once you meet everyone.”
“Alright, so tell me something about these relatives I’ve never heard a peep about,” Samantha said.  “I’ve never even heard of ‘Labinnac County’ before.”
“Ahhh. That’s because only a special few even know it exists,” laughed Matthew.  “Labinnac County is the best kept secret this side of the Pacific.  My family owns a lot of the business in town – the Bed and Breakfast, the Café.  If they don’t own them, then another distant relative does.  Everything in Labinnac  County has been built by my family.  It’s in our blood.”
“Well, if it’s so important to you, then why haven’t I heard anything about it before,” she questioned.  “We’ve been together for years and I never knew you even had family way out here, much less owned a town.”
Matthew answered with a smile and a pat on her hand.  “I had to make sure you were the perfect person to meet my family, Sam.  And you are.”
Samantha smiled and her feelings of anger quickly drifted away.  Matthew might not be the most romantic guy in the world, but he sure did know how to say the right thing sometimes.  Besides, it looked like they’d be spending the rest of their lives together, so she should learn to put away her pigtails and accept what she had.  A good, solid man who was dependable.  Romance was over-rated anyway. 


They crossed over a covered bridge into the center of Labinnac County.  She had to admit, it was beautiful and serene.  The town looked like it was a direct copy out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and the few people she saw, tipped their hats to her as they drove by.  “What the hell”, she thought to herself.  “Did I just step into Mayberry?”
“Here we are,” Matthew said, with joy in his voice.  “We’ll be staying here tonight. This is the place I was telling you about.   My Aunt and Uncle – well that’s what I call them anyway – should be inside waiting for us.”  Samantha smiled, and glanced at the sign: 

Niks Nook – Bed and Breakfast
The Dining’s on Us

That’s a cute slogan for a B&B, Samantha thought.  Maybe these people aren’t hillbillies after all.  Matthew held the door for her, and they both walked inside, hand in hand.
“Matty!!” an eldery woman called out from behind the desk.  Samantha’s eyes were still adjusting from the bright daylight, and couldn’t quite make out the figure speaking yet.    She could tell the woman was old, but her eyes were playing tricks on her.  For a brief instant, she could have sworn she saw yellow eyes and pointed teeth.  Quickly her eyesight came back in to focus, and standing before her was a grandmotherly lady, probably in her late 70’s.
Aunt Livee placed her hands on Samantha’s shoulders and gave her a firm squeeze.  “This must be your Samantha, the one we’ve heard so much about.”  Aunt Livee never took her eyes off of her and Samantha was getting a nauseated feeling in the pit of her stomach.  Why did Aunt Livee know so much about her, but she had never heard anything about Aunt Livee?  She put it off to having not eaten all day and the long car ride. 
“Yes, Auntie.  This is my Sammy.  I’m so glad you two can finally meet!  I know you two will get along splendidly.  Where’s Uncle Stan?” Matthew inquired.
“Oh, sweetie.  Your Uncle is still feeling a bit under the weather.  I’m hoping he’ll be up and about by tomorrow morning,” Aunt Livee replied.  Samantha couldn’t help but feel like she was being watched and judged, but she knew it was only her imagination.  She always got a little uneasy around strangers.

Since they brought no luggage, Matthew decided to show Samantha around town, promising Aunt Livee that they’d be back before dark.
Starving, they headed to the nearest –and only- café in town:  The Yendik and Revil Café.  Before Samantha could ask, Matthew said, “It’s an old family name.  Aunt Livee was originally a Yendik and Uncle Stan is a Revil”.  She nodded and smiled, pleased and a little confused, to find out so much new information about Matthew. 
They stepped inside and Matt was once again greeted with warm hugs and pats on the back.  “He wasn’t kidding when he said the family owned the town”, she thought.  Matt introduced her proudly and food was ordered for them by some relative or another.
She wasn’t sure what she was eating, but it was delicious.  As soon as she finished her plate, seconds were provided from out of nowhere.  She had never had such a voracious appetite in all of her life.  By the time the meal was over she felt like a bloated tick.
They walked back to the B&B and Samantha started to feel increasingly ill. Her sides were cramping up and the pain in her abdomen was almost unbearable.  “ I’m really not feeling so well.  I think I might need to go to the hospital,” she panted to Matthew.  “Nonsense”, he smiled “you just overdid it at the restaurant.  We’ll go back to Aunt Livee’s and you can take a nice long bath.  You know you always feel ill when meeting new people and, honestly…I’ve never seen a person eat so much in all of their life.” He took her hand and looked in to her eyes. “You know, Samantha.  Right here, right now.  I know you are the perfect person for me.  I’m so glad you’ve gotten to meet my family.”  She smiled through her pain and hobbled inside to the Inn.


She soaked in to the tub for what seemed hours and didn’t feel any better.  In fact, she felt worse.  She crawled in to bed and Aunt Livee gave her a sleeping pill, “to ease your tired mind, my dear.”
The last thing she saw before drifting off was a bubbling pot of water.  She was dreaming she was still taking her bath, her mind told her, and she passed out.


The next morning Matthew came downstairs with a spring in his step.  He greeted Uncle Stan with a warm hug and a satisfied smile. 
“Feeling better, Uncle?”  Matthew asked. 
“Much better, thank you my boy.” Uncle Stan replied. “That Samantha sure was a good sport.  And you, my boy have this down pat.  Bring the young things in, fatten ‘em up and have him soak.  Don’t much get the point of bringing a bikini, though” Uncle Stan chuckled.  He reached for his toothpick and picked out a piece of bone.
“It’s a shame, you know.   She seemed a good lot.  But she had a bitterness to her.  Some sort of acidity to the last bite.  Probably the sleeping pill.”  Uncle Stan chuckled.  “I’ll tell you, though.  She definitely put up a fight!  Your Aunt just ‘bout had to sit on top of her to get her to stop squirming.  All she kept doing was screaming:  I get it now!  Labinnac is Cannibal!  Yendik and Revil is Kidney and Liver! Niks is Skin!”  Uncle Stan kept laughing.  “That’s about one of the smartest broads you brought here yet.  Lot of good it did her. ”

December Rose

Sara had never smiled as much as she did the night of their first date.  It had been 4 years ago this coming December.  She knew immediately that Robert was “the one”.  She loved his nervousness, she loved his self-deprecating humor.  She loved him almost immediately. 
They took things slowly and after the 3rd year, Robert proposed.  He was so nervous that his teeth were chattering and his hands were shaking.  Sara loved him even more for that.  Of course her answer was “Yes”.  She would have said yes that first night.
They were now planning a December wedding to commemorate their first date and the date of the proposal.  Everything good and true in their lives together seemed to happen in December, and it seemed perfect to plan the wedding at that time.  They decided to have the wedding and reception at one of the smaller ballrooms of the Ski Resort an hour north of them, thinking how beautiful it would be with the fireplaces warming their friends and family, and the flames reflecting off the snow.  The flames dancing in rhythm to the celebration going on all around.  It was going to be magical.  She just knew it.
Flowers, music, food and entertainment were arranged.   Sara and Robert got a kick out of the menu tasting and everything that was offered as an “extra”.  They were laughing so hard at one point that a noodle actually came out of Robert’s nose -which only made them laugh even harder.  The wedding coordinator eyeballed them suspiciously, thinking them too low-brow to have a wedding at his establishment, and too silly to even get married.  His disapproving looks were not lost on Robert, who decided to needle the coordinator with inane questions.  “So, Goodman,” said Robert, “can you ensure that a bottle of ketchup is on each table?  Our family just loves smothering their filet mignon with a bottle of Heinz 57, makes for good eats. Plus the bottle can serve as a centerpiece.”  Robert continued, “I see that there’s no trash cans throughout the dining area, where are the guest to dump their paper plates and plastic utensils?”  Ending with, “If we bring out own salt and pepper shakers from home, can we get a discount?”  Getting the hint, the coordinator took his leave and left them giggling to each other. 
Sara found her dress in a little store off the beaten path.  A beautiful off-white floor length gown, with delicate bead-work at the bodice, and scalloped edges at the hemline.  Simple yet elegant.  Robert chose a traditional tuxedo, with a red cummerbund.  Their wedding party was small, with a maid of honor and a bridesmaid, a best man and a groomsman. 
The BIG DAY was 24 hours away, and Sara kissed Robert on the nose.  “The next time you see me Mister, I shall be standing at the altar, all in white.  A glowing vision. Follow the light, my love.”  She kissed him again and set out with her bridal party to the Ski Resort.  Robert watched her go and knew he was the luckiest man on Earth.
The morning of the wedding, the snow started to fall. It was perfect, just as she had wished.  The roads weren’t bad, and she could see people starting to arrive to check in to their rooms.  Her hair was set in curlers, and her makeup was being applied.  She had no nervousness, no butterflies.  Just pure excitement for what she knew the future would hold.  A house, kids, a dog – the whole white picket fence ideal was their dream.  And it started with today. In 3 hours.


There was a soft knock at her door, as she was putting her veil on.  She knew it was time to head downstairs, so she answered with “Be down in one minute.”  I’m the bride, she thought to herself, what are they going to do?  Start without me?  She smiled to herself at her the thought.  “I’m the bride.”  She giggled and took one last glance in the mirror.  The knock returned.
She opened the door to find Robert’s brother and best man standing before her.  “What are you doing here, Steven?  I don’t know, but it feels like bad luck for the best man to see the bride before the wedding, too,” she said with a smile.
“Sara, I’m afraid I have some bad news,” Steven started.  He sat down and put his head in his hands and started to sob.  “What is it Steven?  You’re scaring me.”  Sara had never seen him like this before, and for the first time in years, felt a shiver race up and down her spine.
“Sara, I’m so sorry.”  Steven kept repeating those words over and over again, in between his tears.  “Sorry for what, Steven?  What’s going on?”  Sara was shaking at this point and thousands of thoughts leapt through her mind at once.
“Robert is…gone, Sara.  He was struck by a car and killed just over an hour ago.  Sara, I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry.  He loved you so much.”
She stood there, in her simple yet elegant dress and stared at him.  Disbelieving.  “What do you mean he’s died?  What does that mean, Steven?!”
“Robert wanted to surprise you.  He knew how you loved red roses, so he made the plan to line your pathway to the ceremony with long stemmed roses.  He knew the roses in the snow would make you so happy.  He wanted you to be surprised.  He just loved you so much.”  He went on, “He forgot to bring the roses this morning, so he called the wedding planner and he gave the name of the local florist who could help him out.”  Steven caught his breath.  “As he was coming back up the mountain, a truck coming down lost control.    The truck hit the driver side door.  They said he died instantly.  I’m so sorry, Sara.”
The world went white, and Sara dropped.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Storm

The Storm 

The rain battered against the windows and doors, demanding to gain entrance.  The shadows of the leafless branches swayed in the driving winds, their skeletal arms performing a dance of the dead.  Lightening illuminated the world and thunder shook the earth - Mother Nature's equivalent to shining a spotlight on the players and giving a standing ovation.  There was no visible life outside.  Just echoes of the storm and whispers from the grave.

They had been prepared for this night their entire lives.  Their mother spoke of it with reverence, and told them how lucky they were to witness this miracle.  "Do you know how fortunate we are, children?" she would say.  "This is a gift.  This is an honor." She would speak in hushed tones, to convey the seriousness of the night. 

Since the twins birth, they were brought up to believe that they were the Chosen.  They were told time and again that when the storm approached on the eve of their 12th birthday, all would see what their Mother had always known.  They were not like all of those little brats running around the seaside town.  They were more than the bastard children of a woman who found herself pregnant after a drunken one-night stand.  No.  They were Chosen.  They were better than all of those other creatures that sat in school, with their shiny white sneakers and their designer jeans.  They were above material things.  They were above everything.

The storm raged on and their mother took out the battered book of poetry and rhymes that they each knew by heart.  The three sat in the flickering glow of the candlelight reciting each verse, as if an incantation:

I am not of this world, I am of the sea
My father is King and watches over thee
One day he will come, to reclaim what he owns
In a storm of great strength, and a rattling of bones 

My father the King will look down from his height
Casting a curse that will rage most the night
He will gather us children, and save us from strife
My father the King will give us new life.

The verses were read with the solemnity of a religious service.  Both children were hopeful and excited, but took great care not to show their mother their joy.  For "Joy", she had always reminded them, "was nothing but giving in to your weaknesses.  Joy is for fools.  You are the children of Kings, and no King wants a fool for a child."  The children were expected to appreciate their good fortune, but not to show happiness with it.  "Royalty is not happy to be royal," she would chastise, "Royalty knows it deserves its place.  To show happiness would mean you don't truly feel you belong in the Kingdom.  We can't have that."


The storm raged on and there was a knocking at the door.  The three of them looked at each other with apprehensive glances - this wasn't how they were to be given life.  A knock on the door was never in the tale. 

The Mother opened the door cautiously, carrying the candle and leaving the chain lock on the door.  Through the crack, their neighbor appeared.  A gentleman who can only be described as "round".  He was one of the only people who spoke to the family of his own free will.  He was kind, but the mother distrusted anyone who was kind.  "Yes?"  The mother asked, in an annoyed tone.  "I was just making sure you and the kids were safe, Ma’am.", said the neighbor.  "It's one heck of a storm and it looks like the sea is rising fast.  If you'd like some company and some hot food, my wife was able to make dinner right before the electricity went out.  There's more than enough and we'd love to see you."  He peeked through the small crack in the door, "I know these types of storms can scare the kids."  The mother swallowed hard and tried to hide her displeasure at the interruption.  "Thank you Mr. Shielding.  We are doing just fine.  Best you get home now to your wife and make sure she's safe and secure."  Without another word, the Mother slammed the door and slipped the deadlock in to place. 


 The storm raged all night.  The candle was quickly losing its flame and they had not another to light.  As the light waned, the last thing the children saw was the time on the windup alarm clock that read 11:11pm.  It wasn't much longer now, they both thought.  Instinctively reaching for each other's hands.


September 14, 2013, Massachusetts (AP) - by Kaylee Kreiger:  In an unexplained and tragic scene, the bodies of two boys, aged 12 years old, were found on the beach in this small seaside community of Monarch, Massachusetts.  Due to their age, the names and details have not yet been released to the press.  During the storm that ravaged the coastline last evening on September 13, it appears these boys might have been playing in the surf when the water overcame them.  More details to follow in the coming days.  Mr. Shielding, a neighbor, can account for their safety around 8:00pm, during the night of the storm

September 21, 2013, Massachusetts (AP) - by Kaylee Kreiger:  More details are emerging about the two boys who were assumed to have drowned during the storm on September 13th.  The coroner’s office has issued a statement indicating that the boys death was not due to drowning.  The apparent cause of death was a deep and fatal slash to both boys' throats.   There are no suspects at this time; however investigators have not yet been able to locate the boy’s mother.

 September 25, 2013, Massachusetts (AP) - by Kaylee Kreiger:  The police have issued an arrest warrant for the mother of the two slain boys, found on the beach on September 14 in the seaside town of Monarch, Massachusetts.  Any information you can provide should be communicated to the Monarch Police Department.

September 30, 2013, Massachusetts (AP) - by Kaylee Kreiger:  The mother of the two slain boys found on the beach on September 14, 2013 has been located 15 miles from the seaside town.  Ms. Green was found in a bar off of Route 18, her whereabouts called in by the proprietor of the establishment.  A fellow patron of the bar at the time of the arrest indicated that Ms. Green was continually repeating a poem about a King and the return to the sea.  “She seemed off her rocker, if you asked me.” The anonymous patron commented.

Dedicated to Ben Roach, for being a pal.