College Girls

Disembodied voices carried through the dense fog. The campus was deserted.

“This seems really risky,” said Tammy, “I could lose my scholarship if we’re caught.”

“We won’t be caught,” Amber assured her. “Besides, college life is more than just studying and that’s all we’ve been doing. Tonight I want to feel alive.”

When Bryce had approached Amber and asked if she wanted to bring a little something to a private party, her heart went into overdrive. A chance at Bryce would be a dream come true. His family name was on the botany lab where she spent her days.

Their forms gradually materialized as the fog thinned near the old maintenance shack. Tammy reached for the door handle.

Just then, a deep voice called, “STOP! Consider this your warning.”

Muffled laughter seeped through the thin door.

“Bryce, don’t be a dick,” said Colin, opening the door.

“Come on in, Ladies. Have a seat. Could I interest you in a fine beverage?” he asked, detaching the last two cans from a six pack as they entered.

Tammy accepted for both of them while Amber rummaged in her bag.

Amber lit the first joint and passed it to Bryce.

“I knew you’d come though. Is this your special blend?” He asked, taking a hit.

“You know it,” said Amber, before lighting another and passing it to Tammy. “Time to get this party started.”

As Colin took the joint from Bryce, the young men lustily appraised their guests, imagining the pleasures to come.

Amber met Tammy’s eyes, seeing nervous anticipation reflected back. Nobody knew they were here.

Bryce fell heavily onto the rotting floorboards, followed immediately by Colin. The fear in their eyes was apparent, despite the paralysis.

Setting down their barely touched beers, Tammy and Amber approached their victims. Then they feasted.

The Accident

Light filtering through her eyelids appeared red to Darcy. She couldn’t make sense of it. She could feel her arms and legs, but she couldn’t make them move. She could feel motion, though. And there was noise. She slowly moved her head from left to right and back again, plastic pillow crinkling underneath.

Darcy’s eyes fluttered open as the fog began to lift. She watched ceiling tiles scroll slowly above her as the noise separated into voices. One sounded very close.

“It looks like she’s waking up. Darcy? You’re in the hospital now. You’re okay.”

Hospital? Something must have happened. Was she in an accident? Why couldn’t she move? She closed her eyes again and sifted through her hazy memories. A collection of silent snapshots floated up to her awareness.

Three friends perched on barstools, laughing, drinking. A rare ladies night out.

Cab ride home, late, she’d get her car tomorrow.

Master bathroom, toothbrush, Ambien, did she take it already? Better be safe.

Dark bedroom, one sleeping body, hers. David comes home tomorrow. Her gun rests, unseen, in the nightstand.

The voice intrudes on her reverie. “Here we are, Darcy. Exam room two. You can rest on the gurney for now, just until the doctor sees you.”

Thick cobwebs stretched between her tongue and the roof of her mouth as she forced the words out, “I can’t move.”

“It’s for your own safety. Just rest now and the doctor will see you soon.” The door failed to latch as he exited.

Voices drifted through the opening as she closed her eyes and tried to remember.

“Poor bastard caught an earlier flight and surprised her. When the cops got there she was incoherent from the meds and booze. It was too late.”

Another snapshot appeared. Shadowy intruder, gunshot, screams.

Darcy screamed.

Author’s Note:
I wrote this for a contest using the prompt: light, noise, fog.
Since it’s October now, I’m trying out a few creepier ideas. If that’s your thing, stay tuned for more.

Viral

My name is Mark. You probably think that’s boring. That I’m boring.

Just because I’m not popular or athletic people think there must be something wrong with me. Even my mom thinks I’m strange, not that she’d ever come out and say it. But I can tell that’s what she thinks.

I bet you thought you knew all there was to know about me, if you knew me at all, but by the time you read this I will have shown you all how wrong you were.

Don’t think I’m doing this for the money. It’s not because I don’t know how, either. If I wanted to, which I don’t, I could figure that part out.

I’m doing it so everyone will know who I am and what I can do. I’m done with being the last one picked for teams and spending lunch break by myself. I’m just as smart and cool as the rest of them and they would know that if they could see me instead of looking past me or through me or over me.

As of right now I’m not invisible anymore.

As soon as you saw this message pop up on your screen I owned your computer and there’s nothing you can do about it. I guess you should’ve thought twice before clicking on that video some jerk posted of me scratching my nose. I know what it looks like, but I was just scratching, not picking.

Now instead of you laughing at me – I’m laughing at you!

Good luck ever unlocking your computer again now that I’ve left my Mark on it!

Get it? Mark?

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

 

A Man, A Can, A Plan

Myra’s lips pursed and her forehead wrinkled as she watched Ryan kneel and pry the lid off the Behr can with his house key. She wondered what had possessed him to suddenly paint the ceiling. It’s not like those old water stains had appeared yesterday.

“Honey? Don’t you want to cover up the desk first? I think they make big plastic sheets for that.”

“Myra, can’t you just let a man work in peace? I painted houses back in college. I know what I’m doing. Only amateurs use drop cloths.”

“It’s just that – ,” His stern look caused her to stop short of saying that it had been many years since college. It had been just as many since her computer had been new, but it was all she had and she didn’t want paint all over it. Unwilling to watch, Myra turned on her heel and left him to his work.

Ryan thought she’d never leave. As he set about covering the old water spots, he was surprised to find himself perspiring. This was harder than he remembered.

Now it was time for the tricky part. He needed to get some paint on that damned old computer of Myra’s. She complained about it every single day, but she was too frugal to replace anything that still worked. He took a deep breath and held it as he reminded himself; this was all part of my plan. With a quick flick of the wrist, the job was done. Now Myra could get herself a fancy new computer and there would be no more complaining. He smiled to himself while he cleaned up, anticipating the blissful silence.

“I TOLD you to cover it up!” Myra appeared in the doorway, livid.

Ryan, horrified, realized he’d never hear the end of this.

Author’s Note:

This piece was an entry for a Flash Fiction contest. The prompt was “This was all part of my plan.”

I was in the middle of a painting project when I wrote it – could you tell? It’s funny how much real life works its way into these little fiction stories.

Dog Days

If only she were a little bit taller all her problems would be solved. Lisa made one last attempt to touch the ground, straightening her leg and pointing her toes as much as she could without falling off. It was no use. She was too little to get the swing going by herself.

She was suffering through another long, boring, summer day with nothing to do. She sat under the big oak tree on the rope swing that wasn’t swinging and sulked.

She couldn’t play with the neighbors because they were on vacation. Mom wouldn’t let her ride her bike because of the road work. Her big brother was away at summer camp. Her mom was busy. Even her dog Rascal wouldn’t play with her. All he wanted to do was lay in the shade. Nobody cared about Lisa. Her life couldn’t get any worse.

Suddenly she let out a yelp as she reflexively bent to slap at her calf. Gravity took over and the next thing Lisa knew, she was on the ground with an itchy mosquito bite. Her face grew hot as she struggled against tears. Summer is stupid!

Just then the screen door creaked and Lisa looked up to see her mom holding a plate of snickerdoodle cookies in one hand and in the other a pitcher of lemonade.

“Lisa!” She called. “Come in and wash up. I’ve made us a snack.”

Tears forgotten, they sat on the shady porch enjoying the treats and sharing stories about American Girl dolls.

“Let’s clean up these dishes and then I’ll push you on the swing.”

“You’re the best, mom!” Lisa was done feeling sorry for herself. How could she have thought nobody cared?

She guessed summer wasn’t so awful after all.

Author’s Note:

This little story was created for a flash fiction contest using the words tree, road, and bite. I immediately pictured a wooden swing under a big oak tree. The story developed from there. This is a new perspective for me, writing about a frustrated small child. I did default to a happily ever after ending, though. It’s hard not to when writing about kids.

Born for This

I. Am. A. WritingMACHINE!,” thought Clyde to himself as he sat in his cubicle tippity-tapping on his laptop.

The creativity was flowing through his fingers right onto the screen. He was in the ZONE! This was the best article he had ever written and he couldn’t wait for Sharon to see it. She had been reluctant, at first, to give him this assignment. She said she wasn’t sure he was ready for this project, based on his prior work. Fortunately, she came around because Little Miss Sharon was about to eat those words. This is what he was born to do and she was about to find out how lucky she was to have him on staff.

Almost done, just a quick spell check, refresh the word count, double space, and done! Others in the office popped their heads up and looked toward Clyde when he loudly exclaimed, “BAM!” as he clicked the print button.

Removing the papers from the printer with a flourish, he practically skipped down the aisle to Sharon’s office, beaming the whole way. He let himself in without knocking and misinterpreted the surprise on Sharon’s face, assuming it was due to his speedy writing.

“Knowing how important this is, I figured you wouldn’t want to wait. I just finished it. The paper’s probably still warm!” With that he plopped himself down in the guest chair. Still grinning, he offered her the pages.

Turning her attention to Clyde, Sharon took a breath to speak but then let out a big sigh instead. She picked up her red pen and began to read. Moments later, she set down the pen, collected her thoughts, then looked up.

“Clyde, I appreciate your efforts here, but it’s clear to me that your work is not right for this publication.”

Author’s Note:

This was such a fun story to write! I created it for a flash fiction contest and as soon as I saw the prompt (machine, red, writing) I knew what direction I was going to take with the story. That said, there are a few problems with it. Most glaring is that no one in the business would be using paper anymore. Nor would the editor need a pen. Clyde would simply hit the send button and Sharon would edit it electronically. That particular reality didn’t fit with the story, though, so let’s just pretend this happened a decade or so ago, shall we?

I’m particularly happy with how Clyde turned out. I feel like a whole lot of character was packed into this tiny story. Everyone knows someone like Clyde.

It’s a Sign

Like many Americans, hubs and I made the pilgrimage to the holy zone of solar eclipse totality, neatly bisecting our country on August 21st, 2017. Newscasters had assured us during the weeks leading up to this that traffic would be a snarled mess. Drive times were expected to triple. A week’s worth of provisions was highly recommended.

Hubs was really looking forward to the trip. I was along for the ride. Pups was just happy to be there.

We headed out on Saturday morning, intending to travel three quarters of the way to our chosen destination and crash at a friend’s place. We would tackle the last part of the journey, sans dog, in the wee hours of E-Day. Hubs had wisely decided not to share with me exactly which wee hour we would be departing. That information was classified as Need to Know only. We both understood it was for the best.

Less than an hour into our three hour journey, I saw a freeway sign declaring,

ECLIPSE AUG 21
TRAFFIC TO OR
EXPECT DELAYS

So far we had been spared any unusually heavy traffic, but I knew that our miles were numbered. So did hubs. I wanted to get a photo of this sign to put in my “Eclipse Album,” which would take up precious space on my Google drive and never be viewed again. I was too slow, though. The sign passed before I could even open the camera app. No worries. It was a long drive; I knew there would be more opportunities.

I was right, there were more opportunities, at least four, maybe five. Each time either I saw it too late, or I didn’t have my phone (which is my camera) at hand, or I couldn’t get the app to cooperate in time, or there was a truck between me and the sign at the crucial moment.

Eventually, the signs changed to:

ECLIPSE AUG 21
EXPECT
HEAVY TRAFFIC

Around the same time, I began to realize that this casual snapshot had turned into an obsession, not just for me. As we neared our exit, we approached a perfectly placed sign, directly over the center lane. As luck would have it, traffic began to thicken at the same time, creating the ideal situation to grab a perfect photo. I could have gotten it, too, if I hadn’t put away my phone. I just missed it.

I didn’t even have to ask. Hubs offered to get back on the freeway in the opposite direction and come around again so I could get a second chance at it. I accepted that offer. For the next several minutes, my phone never left my hand. The camera app was open and I snapped a random photo every few seconds to make sure it didn’t get bored and go to sleep on me.

We circled around and approached the sign, both of us on high alert. Traffic wasn’t thick enough yet for us to stop, but I had plenty of time to line up the shot as we rolled slowly under it. I snapped several just to be safe. Mission accomplished, we continued on to our destination, satisfied that we had finally captured that pesky sign.

That evening, I scrolled through the photos to choose the best one, but they were all about the same. Glaring orange fragments of letters were scattered across a black background. Some shots showed most of a word, with the rest scrambled. Others were just digital chaos.

I took it as a sign.

Golden Years

What am I going to do with all that zucchini? Hank asked himself as he pulled on his garden gloves. It would be hot later, but this morning the air was cool and dew rested on the plants.

At least the weeds weren’t too bad. He pulled them as he ruminated on his predicament. Last summer, before he retired, he had found himself in the same boat. Back then he just brought the extras to work.

Done weeding, he moved on to harvesting and thought, maybe I need a different hobby. Gardening isn’t much fun without someone to share the bounty with. 

Then he remembered he did have another hobby, the book club. Just two meetings so far, but he met Delores there and she was nice.

Maybe she’d like some zucchini! He would find her number on the book club roster and give her a call. Peeling off his gloves and tossing the dirty ball on top of his harvest, he picked up the basket and headed for the house.

The phone was ringing and he hurried to catch it. “Howdy,” he said, catching his breath.

“Hank? It’s Deloris. From the book club? My garden has been blessed with zucchini this year and I’ve done up a nice basket just for you. When would be a good time for me to bring it over?”

Hank was stunned. There went his plan for all those zucchinis. Then again, chatting with Deloris wasn’t so bad. He kinda liked it, actually. Plus, she thought of him. “Why that’s mighty thoughtful of you. I’m here right now. Hows about you head on over and I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”

“That sounds lovely,” said Deloris.

Hank found himself whistling as he hid his harvest in the garage and put on the coffee.

Author’s Note:

Attentive readers might recognize the bold words from last week’s story, Washed Up. These were both inspired by the same prompt. When I began this one, I was thinking of the recipe for zucchini boats but clearly that was not the story that wanted to be written.

This is the story I entered in the flash fiction contest and, although it didn’t win, I received several positive reviews on it.

Washed Up

Cool tendrils of water found their way inside Eddie’s borrowed wetsuit as he eased farther from the shore. He was surrounded by fit, athletic, people who had exercised everyday for the privilege of competing in this triathlon. Not Eddie. Eddie was here because he exercised his mouth.

He didn’t lie, exactly, but when he told his son Rob he had been on a swim team he somehow forgot to mention he was a child at the time. Eddie had not set foot in a pool for twenty years. He couldn’t remember ever swimming in a river like this one.

He had no idea little Rob had been talking him up until this past Friday. When Eddie picked him up at school, like usual, Rob waved him over to talk to his classmate and the kid’s dad. As Eddie approached, he heard Rob telling his audience, “Of course my dad can do it! I told you he was on a swim team.”

Eddie knew he was in trouble. When the kid’s dad explained that they needed a swimmer for their relay team, Eddie was put on the spot. He would sooner drown than embarrass Rob in front of his friend; there was no option but to swim.

The gun went off and the swimmers churned the water. Eddie gasped for breath, searching between windmilling arms for the nearest safety boat. Too far away! He turned toward the bank and saw it drifting slowly by. Eddie realized that he was still alive and floating downstream. He saw little Rob cheering from the bank. Eddie decided the least he could do was try. He kicked and paddled as best he could, reaching the swim exit exhausted. He tagged his teammate, then collapsed.

“How was it, dad?”

Eddie smiled wide,“I had a ball!”

Author’s Note:

This was written for a Flash Fiction contest. We had twenty four hours to write up to three hundred words in a story using the words: Ball, Boat, Cool. I actually wrote two stories for the same prompt and I submitted the other one. Stay tuned, I’ll share that one next week. They’re so different you won’t even recognize that they had the same prompt!

Cash & Carry

Shannon reached across the sprawl of groceries on the conveyor belt and picked up the checkout divider. She hated shopping. She began absentmindedly unloading the items from her cart as she silently judged the purchases of the person ahead of her in line. The conveyor stopped, momentarily catching her attention. Great. Price check. Why did she pick this line? She shoved the rest of her groceries into the space available, balancing the paper towels on top of it all.

The cashier (HELLO! My Name Is:  DEBBIE) handed back the receipt and coupons to the customer ahead just as the bagger dropped a sack of oranges, splitting the mesh. Oranges rolled everywhere. Shannon watched as cashier, customer, and bagger scrambled to collect them, everyone apologizing to everyone. The comedy show was mercifully short. Debbie turned back to her register, quickly replacing her fake smile before greeting Shannon. Meanwhile, the prior customer headed toward the produce section with the bagger to select some new oranges.

Shannon stepped forward, placing her purse on the little shelf next to the keypad. It was a fashionably over-sized purse and it barely covered up the receipt and coupons left behind. And the cash. She couldn’t count it right now, not without drawing attention to herself, but she could see there were at least three bills. That’s sixty dollars, a nice reward for putting up with the checkout drama. Her day was looking brighter. It wasn’t technically hers, of course. She should probably just hand it back to the cashier. Who knew what Debbie would do with it, though. She might just keep it herself to cover up her mistake. Nope. This was a case of finders keepers.

Debbie had an endless supply of inane observations to make about the weather, traffic, Shannon’s choice of yogurt, and everything else. Shannon wasn’t interested in conversation. She was thinking about how to get the cash from under her purse to inside it without being obvious. All she needed was a moment when Debbie was turned away, then she could slide it out and tuck it inside. So far that hadn’t happened. Debbie just kept babbling as she scanned and bagged. The original bagger had apparently gotten lost in the produce section, never to return.

Only a few items remained on the conveyor belt and Shannon felt a little anxious. Her eyes nervously darted from the conveyor belt to the candy rack, then over to the service desk, and the front door. The open front door. It was open because the previous customer had just passed through it and she was striding briskly back to this register. Shannon was out of time. She would need to make her move or lose out.

Fortunately for Shannon, Debbie turned to follow her gaze toward the agitated woman approaching. Finally, she was facing the other direction! With one hand resting innocently on top of her purse, the other slid beneath and extracted the bills and paperwork. She would sort through it later. For now, she swiftly slid it up the side of her purse toward the opening, the money shielded on one side by her large purse and on the other side by her body.

She wasn’t quite swift enough, though. The previous customer had arrived and everyone was facing Shannon again. The customer complained that she didn’t get her cash back, Debbie assured her that she had given it to her, and neither had a receipt to prove that it even existed. What a cluster. Shannon realized that this was going to work out for her after all.

Suddenly a clear, young voice silenced the argument. It came from Shannon’s right, just behind the handle of her shopping cart. Sweet, innocent, and helpful, Shannon’s daughter pointed straight at the prize as she gleefully announced, “Mommy found your money!”

Author’s Note:

This was written for a contest with the following prompt:

“The battle between good and evil is endlessly fascinating because we are participants every day.” – Stephen King

I decided on my approach shortly after reading the prompt, but did not start writing it until late in the day. Then I was invited out to dinner and I chose that over submitting the story. The next morning I finished the story anyway because it was fun. Then I double checked the contest rules, did the time zone conversion, and realized I still had an hour left to submit it!

A few hours later I collected my first writing contest win!