Tag Archives: Flash fiction

The Chattanooga Chalupa (“pardon me, boy”)…

This one was inadvertently deleted, so I’m reposting. BB

The Chattanooga Chalupa (Pardon me, boy…)

The Chattanooga Chalupa is remembered for his gambling skills and his quiet viciousness with his drawn Schofields. But I know for a fact that he was, more than anything, a lover of women.

Some say he come out of San Antonio. Some say he was the bastard child of a whore in Nuevo Laredo who abandoned him to be raised in a culvert by armadillos. There were stories of his winning Montezuma’s Gold in Mexico City the same night a Caribbean princess dropped to her knees in front of him and begged him to kill her father and usurp the throne.

I don’t rightly know where he hailed from, originally. But I met him, godammit. No one in this shit-hole town believes me, ‘cause I been drunk for about sixty-seven years now. But I was there in Dodge City the night The Chattanooga Chalupa won big at Mrs. Bridewell’s Saloon and put a bullet between the eyes of Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan.

I was eleven years old. You see, in Dodge City at that time, Miss Bridewell run the most fantastic and profitable saloon in all the Kansas Territory. Card players of fame from all over come there to try their hand at beating Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan, who was at once the owner of Mrs. Bridewell’s Saloon, the best and most famous card player at said establishment, and none other than the husband of the same Mrs. Bridewell that run the upstairs whorehouse.

Now, you might be wondering why he was called Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan. Well, that was on account of the way he got to snorting and snuffling in the presence of tobacco smoke. You could say it was an unfortunate ailment for a man who spent his entire life in the confines of a saloon. No sooner would some cowpoke or gunslinger or gambler light up a hand-rolled tobacco stick, than old Jimmy’d start leaking at the nose and eyes. He carried a filthy snot rag with him that always seemed stuffed in his face. To this day, my memory will not give me a clear picture of Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan. I can only remember those red, watery eyes.

And of course, the big hole in his forehead put there by The Chalupa.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

See, in those days, it weren’t nothing for a man to travel from town to town and try to establish himself as the cock of the walk. For gunslingers, you traveled around and shot folks. And you kept on shooting folks until you were shot dead yourself. Or until no one would come out to face you anymore, which, for a gunslinger, amounts to about the same thing. For card players, you’d hear of high-stakes games or unbeatable players and you’d set off on the road to wherever all that excitement was happening and try your hand.

Well, sometimes, a man could think himself the best in several areas. The Chattanooga Chalupa was one of those guys. He was said to be able to bluff and call five poker aces, pleasure a bored Mexican whore, and place a bullet between the eyes of a challenger who’d looked at him cross-eyed at fifty feet – all at the same time, without breaking a sweat or breathing heavy.

Now, I know that’s a lot of set-up for this here story, but I want you to understand just how the world was back then. There weren’t no radios and such. So, gentleman like Wyatt Earp or The Chalupa were legends – like King Arthur or, I don’t know, Marco Polo. Stories about ‘em were carried from town to town on the stages and, later, the trains.

Anyways, the night I met him, I was helping my Mama get into her corset. She was a whore for Mrs., Bridewell and, because of our relation, I was able to work in the whorehouse, doing things like sweeping the saloon and swapping out sheets from the short-time rooms, which I have to tell you was disgusting.

Well, downstairs Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan was fleecing the customers, as usual. My Mama told me never to trust Jimmy and come to her first if ever Jimmy came up with a plan for me. After I got Mama’s corset tightened the way she liked it, she sent me downstairs to get out of her business. Mama needed some separation, she always said.  I think it had something to do with the fact that neither of us knew who my Daddy was, and that was more a source of discomfort for her than me.

I went down and started sweeping the saloon ‘cause each day I had to show Jimmy that I was worth keepin’ around. Mrs. Bridewell, she took pity on me and every now and then fed me a small cupcake and drink. But Jimmy, he wasn’t one to cotton to no son of a whore.

Sweeping around Jimmy’s table I accidentally knocked a shot glass over with the broom handle and Jimmy, he reached out, grabbed my hair and punched me right in the face. I knew my lip was split and Jimmy, he just mumbled something angry and kicked at me to get away and Mrs. Bridewell give me a drink.

So there I was drinking a moxie when everything in the saloon went suddenly silent. Then I heard someone say, real quiet-like, “Chalupa.” I looked at the door. There, in the middle of the opening, was a man wearing a greasy serape and a black sombrero. A silver buckle held the bandolero across his chest with an enormous CC worked into the metal. Two Schofields peeked out from under that dirty serape.

He walked slowly to Jimmy’s table and all the men seated there rose and backed off. The Chalupa sat down and lifted his unshaved chin at Jimmy. Not a word was spoken. Jimmy gathered the cards. He shuffled, cut and dealt them. I could see his hands was shakin’.

For a kid who’d grown up in a whorehouse saloon, I knew precious little about gambling. All I know is the cards kept getting dealt and Jimmy Ryan kept getting angrier and angrier. After a while, I seen my Mama come down the stairs. I assumed she wanted to see why everything had gotten so quiet.

Well, the first thing that happened was The Chalupa looked up with his big, sad brown eyes. He gazed upon Mama and a tiny smile grew across his lips. Mama just stared at him. Next thing I knew, Jimmy snarled at The Chalupa, who had let his concentration on the game lag while he was smiling at Mama.

‘Course Jimmy was on the verge of beating Chalupa for the first time that evening. But The Chalupa just drops his cards and rises from his seat. Still staring at Mama. “Evangeline,” he said. Jimmy Ryan looked around the room and said, “What the fuck is this? Are we gambling here or are you going to play stinkfinger with the help?”

“Where is he?” The Chalupa asked her. Mama glanced at me. Before I know it, the entire saloon was looking at me. Including The Chalupa.

He walked slowly across the room until he was standing directly in front of Mama. The Chalupa put his arm around her and beckoned me over. I stumbled to them and smelled the desert all over his serape. The Chattanooga Chalupa looked down at me and asked, “Do you know who I am?” I stammered, “Th-The Ch-Chatt. The Chattanooga Chalupa.” He nodded his head slowly.

It was hard to see his face under that huge sombrero that he refused to take off. “I am also your- “

“What the fuck is this?” Jimmy bellowed. “Miranda? Get that bitch back upstairs! I’m fifty-two grand into The Chalupa and he’s not going anywhere.”

Mrs. Bridewell came out from the office behind the bar.  “Eve, get on upstairs. Take the boy with you,” she said.

The Chalupa stepped forward and said, “Ma’am, they’re going nowhere.” And turning to Jimmy, he said, “Our game is over, friend. Take the money. I don’t want it.”

Well, I could see Jimmy getting red in the face. He stood up and said, “Chalupa, I don’t want your goddamn charity. I want to win this money and I won’t have you distracted by no whore!” Just like that, Jimmy pulled a gun and – the memory still breaks my heart – shot my Mama right in the head.

Before Jimmy finished a breath, The Chalupa put a bullet right in his forehead. Jimmy’s eyes crossed and down he went.

“Mama!” I screamed. I ran over to her but it was no use. I could see she was dead. And The Chalupa was down on the floor, holding her, cradling her. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and I got to wondering, even while I was feeling so broken up myself, why this legend was cryin’ over a dead whore.

Of course, I know you’re probably thinkin’ The Chalupa came out and told me he was my father and had traveled to that wretched saloon to save me and Mama from a life of misery. That all his traveling and adventurin’ was nothin’ more than his quest to find us, his family.

But that wasn’t how it happened.

The Chalupa, he give all the money on the table to Mrs. Bridewell and said, “See Evangeline is buried properly. And this money is for the boy.  I don’t want to come back here and find it was stolen from him.” Mrs. Bridewell looked over at me with her huge doe eyes, all tearing up. Nods her head.

And with that, The Chalupa walked out and I never saw him again.

A man from one of the other tables touched my should and asked, “Pardon me boy, but was that -?”

“It was my Daddy,” I said. And to this day, I’m not sure why I said it.

Mrs. Bridewell, she put the money in the bank for me and I had a little book that allowed me to take some out on occasion when I needed it. As I got older, the drinking demon got hold of me and a lot of the money went to that. But, that night in Dodge City, while tragic, also gave me some hope.

Maybe it was true. Maybe he was my Daddy.

That thought has kept me going these long years since. I like to think this world allows for great things to happen to men like me and The Chattanooga Chalupa.

The sons of whores.

________________________________________________

Well, here is my entry in Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge over at terribleminds. As I noted in an earlier post, the challenge was to choose a ‘Dirty Ass Sex Move’ as the title of a story. “The Chattanooga Chalupa” in my story of course bears no resemblance to the actual sex move (google it if you want to know what it is).  If you’re intrigued by some of Chuck’s challenges, head on over to terribleminds and check more of the submitted stories. Image by cdharrison

Advertisements

Midnight Cruisers

5027522189_4ba2653eb3

Anna lay next to her husband, watching with satisfaction the effect the nightmare was having on him. His face contorted, he thrust his legs out straight, kicking at something. Occasional whimpers slipped from his lips which pulled back from his teeth like leeches recoiling from a flame.

Anna could understand why he was so terrified. She knew that in his dream Kevin was staked out in a starlit desert with an enormous black snake taking meaty bites from his thighs, making its bloody, painful way to his crotch.

It was not a recurring nightmare that Anna’s husband was experiencing, something he had confided to her through their speedy courtship and single year of marriage. No, this was a completely new nightmare, and it was going to kill him. His heart rate was going to escalate. It was going to stop in his chest as the snake finally opened its jaws and ripped his dick out at its root.

Anna knew all this because she had sent the Cruisers to her husband’s sleepworld to do her bidding.

The next morning Anna took great pleasure in calling Kevin’s assistant, Casey (the slut), to report his death. Nothing but silence on the other end of line. Perfect.

And then Anna began making her plans for Casey’s bad dreams that evening.

The first time they had come as spiders, their hard, black legs pushing through the plasterboard in her closet. Twelve year old Anna heard them scratching and clawing at her clothes. The hangers rattled and fell to the floor. The door bulged and she saw the spiders tumble out onto her white carpet, hissing, the size of dinner plates, hundreds of them. And she had sent them down to her father’s sleepworld. She had often wondered how she had been able to call them (and what were they, really?). But since that time she had grown more adept at controlling them, and they had served her many times. Always hurting the hurters.

Anna got the impression they came from far away. She didn’t know how she knew that, but deep inside she felt that was right. She called them The Midnight Cruisers, because of her impression that they traveled far and wide and she was only one of many beings in the universe they visited. And they only came at night. Mostly, she simply thought the name was cool.

Through the years, the Cruisers had come as shiny slugs with vicious human faces (for the gym teacher) a lion with a dirty mane and bloody teeth (for her mother), a twisted bare tree that whispered terrible truths (to the Greek fucker at the dry cleaners who always leered at her).

When she had discovered that Kevin was screwing his secretary, she debated whether to do him first, or start with the slut. Anna felt the cruisers were keener for Kevin, so she sent them down to his sleepworld last night where they knew exactly what form to take to stop his heart. They were spectacular and, as the years had proven, reliable and loyal.

By the time the morticians had carted off Kevin’s carcass the sun was already sinking, sending shadow fingers up her lawn, reaching for her doorstep.

Anna downed a nice glass of merlot and savored the thought of Casey in the grip of the  nightmare the cruisers would manufacture, just for her. She thought of that first night, the night of the spiders, when she’d sent them down to her father’s sleep world. Never again would she have to lie awake, dreading the squeak of her bedroom door.

From that night on, whenever there was justice to be done, a hurter to be hurt, Anna could stare into the darkness and call the Midnight Cruisers to turn her enemy’s sleepworld to hell.

Easy on the merlot, girl, she told herself: lots to do tonight.

She went to the couch and laid down. A few minutes of rest before calling them. It had been a fulfilling but long day.

When she rose from the couch, she went to her room and put on dark clothes. It was easy enough to get the slut’s address from Kevin’s computer. She felt it was now late enough. Casey would be sleeping and Anna didn’t want to miss the show. She could call the Cruisers from here, but then she would be deprived of watching Casey writhe in terror as they scared her slowly to death. What would they choose for the bitch? Anna could never know beforehand. Only when the nightmare was underway did the Cruisers allow her to dip into the sleepworld to see them at their work.

Parking under a linden tree, Anna sauntered to Casey’s house, a pale, yellow ranch set back behind a six foot hedge. The wind was cool on her back as it blew dead leaves across the street. She circled the small house, judging few people would pass by at this hour. Casey’s bedroom window lay at the back of the house. Moans came from the bed.

Anna walked quickly to the window to see what was happening, too excited now to be careful.

Casey writhed under the duvet, saying something Anna couldn’t quite make out, but she was sure  they were words of entreaty to whatever hideous aspect the Cruisers had presented to her.

A twig snapped directly behind her.

She spun around and screamed. Her father, worms and spiders spilling from his eye sockets, grasped her and pushed his green tongue into her ear.

And then Casey was speaking to her through the bedroom window screen. “I knew you were acquainted with the night things. After you called about Kevin, I was sure of it. I call them darklings, but I’m sure you have your own name for them. We all do. Of course, you realize you’re sleeping on your couch back at home right now?  Your dear father is simply the demon the darklings felt you should be sharing your sleepworld with tonight.”

Anna was getting sick from the stench of her dead father. “How?” she asked.

“The darklings feel you’ve been abusing your power. You’re the hurter now. They are not allowed to kill those they serve, so I was called in. I’m what you could call a cleaner. Enjoy your death.”

And then Anna was no longer in Casey’s back yard. She was back in her childhood bedroom, in the nightmare.

The hinges squeaked lightly.

A silhouette appeared in the doorway.

“It’s just the Cruisers, only the Cruisers,” she said to herself and closed her eyes.

Her heart was a dying slab in her chest. Pain shot down her arms.

Knowing what she’d see, she slowly opened her eyes anyway, and she screamed until her heart stopped.

And then the Cruisers were on her.

_________________________

I was browsing Flickr and found this arresting photo of a young girl lying in bed, thinking some deep thoughts. She got me wondering what in hell she was thinking and what type of adult she would become. I had Steely Dan’s “Midnight Cruiser” blaring into my headphones. The title of the song and the photo gave rise to this strange little story. Written on a gloriously sunny, post-blizzard Sunday morning with a cuppa good joe at my favorite market. The idea of cruisers to do one’s bidding is appealing, but who could ever control that level of righteousness?

Image by Alyssa L. Miller


All the Colors of This World…

The teacher’s day started like thousands of winter weekdays before it. She made up the twin bed, drank half a cup of instant coffee, fed the cats, put on her wool coat, and walked across the street to the school. She seated herself primly at her desk. The empty rows of desks reminded her of a barren, November garden. She awaited the imminent clamor of arriving children, children whom she would ignore today while she contemplated the dull grayness of the tenements outside her window and considered what must be done.

Today is the day, she thought. Let the nightmare end.

The teacher had left no note of her plan, but she had filled many notebooks describing her despair and her musings on the different methods one might employ to end one’s life. She would exit the world unheralded and unloved, just as she had entered it thirty-four years earlier. Why had kindness and warmth never bent in her direction? Her body had known no pleasure save for what little she, on those rare mornings, was able to provide herself.

A wasted life, best ended.

And then the new girl was presented to her, all large, sad slate eyes and dirty, coppery hair, and of course she had to be introduced to the class and found text books, and writing implements, and wasn’t this just the worst day to have this type of distraction?

But the teacher was one to fulfill her duty, no matter the inconvenience. She escorted the new girl to a desk where she immediately drew the stares and taunts of the class. The teacher, distracted, vaguely admonished the children to leave poor Agnes alone and get along with their lessons, please.

The tik-tik-tik of the freezing rain against the window mesmerized the teacher. The bells rang for recess but she merely sat, thinking of oblivion, until the children bolted of their own accord, casting worried glances in her direction. All except the new girl, who stood motionless in front of the teacher’s desk staring, holding a pink rose between her right thumb and forefinger.

And the teacher accepted the flower. She pushed its soft pink petals against her nostrils and inhaled deeply, so deeply her ribs ached. But the teacher did not release that breath. She closed her eyes, sat back in her chair, and held her breath, refusing to release the scent from her head. As if in a dream, she noticed that the sun had broken through a crack in the clouds and bore down on the large east windows. Shimmering light bathed her face, and from a place deep within welled up images of love directed at her, the teacher, the woman who never knew love, and then the teacher was startled awake when the new girl said, “Pink can heal.”

The teacher opened her eyes and wept and did not stop until well after the other children wandered back in from recess with fearful looks on their faces.

And so the teacher did not end her life that day. The teacher’s feelings blossomed as each day the new girl brought her another flower. And the new girl always seemed to know which flower was the right flower to present, as if the new girl could read her mind or her heart and apply the just right remedy. And the teacher learned.

She learned blue hydrangeas soothed. And orange nasturtiums thrilled. And white poppies intoxicated. And there was no end to her pleasure while she smelled the flowers, but in the evenings, she still could be counted upon to burn or cut her forearms until the kitchen table was slick with blood and tears.

One day the teacher asked the new girl why the feelings the flowers brought her were only temporary, and the new girl said, “Because you want to die, they will not take root. You are barren. I’m doing my best.”

And the teacher became angry at being called barren for the third time in her life, and she  shouted, “I don’t understand! Where do you get these flowers? I want to see where they come from, do you hear?” And she shook the girl back and forth and tried to reach into her pocket and pull out a flower to sniff, but the little girl threw the teacher off with unexpected strength.

Then it suddenly seemed to the teacher that it was sunset, although the children were at recess weren’t they?. The sky was dark, and a fiery red sun looked in on her and the new girl from just above the horizon, like some malevolent one-eyed god.

And the new girl was changing too. She grew taller, her head elongated and horns thrust themselves out of her forehead while her eyes migrated off to the sides.  She produced an enormous red rose from the pocket of her jacket and with a low, growl said, “Red means wrath.” And then the teacher was no more.

The teacher was never found, but everyone assumed the worst for in her desk were discovered several personal notebooks, written in her own hand, describing her black depression as well as her thoughts on ending her life. She also described a person she referred to as ‘the new girl’.

The bottom drawer of her desk was filled with dead flowers: azaleas, poppies, lilies, roses.

No one could make sense of the flowers.

And there had been no new girl in the teacher’s class this year.

_____________________________________________________________________________

This is one of those stories that was completely unplanned. I had not the faintest idea of what the ending of this story was going to be when I sat down to write it. Many times, one knows the ending and the writing is just a blazing of a trail to get there.

I hope people will continue to find the blog and read the stories. I’d like to think the stories provide some invitation to ponder or just a little entertainment on the train, the bus – some stories that don’t require a huge time commitment from the reader.  If you’re so inclined, please leave a comment thanks for stopping by. Hope you come back.

Image by studiobeerhost


The Lost Love of Little Bianca (a tiny tale of big revenge)…


One of the great aspects of writing flash fiction is seeing how much story you can pack into a tiny bit of text. This is 100 words to tell a story of revenge. Love, Sex, Betrayal, and Revenge….all in a tiny package.

 

Image by Steve Snodgrass

The Lost Love of Little Bianca (a tiny tale of big revenge)

 

The things you hear living in a carnival camp.

Little Bianca, the dwarf whore who could swallow razor blades, and Antoine The Cuke, so named due to his enormous member, were inseparable. Each night, we’d cover our ears as Little Bianca moaned in pleasure. Bianca beamed, even during performances as she ate razor blades.

Then The Cuke broke her heart when she caught him with The Yak Woman.

So one night Little Bianca dragged him behind the Tilt-A-Whirl, got on her knees and gave him the blowjob of his life – fresh from her razor-swallowing performance.

Oh, the screams we heard!


Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind…

Well, it’s just been too damned long since I posted a story. The crazy summer of travel is over, so it’s time to start spinning tales. This is my entry for this week’s flash fiction challenge at terribleminds. Famous people doing fictional things.   As a musician as well as a fiction writer, I’ve always been a huge Dylan fan.  Read on to see what kind of trouble he gets into with Mother Teresa. I had enormous fun seeing how many Dylan lyrics or song titles I could cram into a story with a 1,000-word limit.  All you Dylan fans, see if you can identify them all! Welcome back everyone!

Nice Dylan painting by greencolander.

Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind

“Like Dylan Thomas?” Mother Teresa asked.

Bob Dylan lay down his weary guitar.

And rolling thunder rumbled in the west.

“Yeah. Meant it to be like Marshall Dillon, ya know, on ‘Gunsmoke’? But I got confused, somethin’ happened, and I didn’t know what it was.”

The heat sent plumes of garbage-scented steam up off the streets of Calcutta. Bob Dylan looked down the road and saw children fighting with dogs for scraps.

“Do you have a speech impediment, young man? As you can see, I’m very busy. So please tell me again, what is it specifically you want me to do?”

“Mama, you been on my mind. See, a hard rain’s gonna fall. Ya know when there’s a crash on the levee, water gonna overflow and we’re gonna go down in the flood.”

Mother Teresa squinted at the unkempt man, noticed the long, dirty fingernails, the unruly mop of greasy hair, the smoldering cigarette in his nicotine-yellowed right hand. A pack of Kools rested on the table between them.

“I’m not sure I understand you, Mr. Dylan.”

“I saw this all in a dream, my one-hundred-and-fifteenth dream, dig? A dream of Johanna, who had the ghost of electricity howling in the bones of her face. And that dream blew to me on the wind. I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children, blood on the tracks.” His eyes, as blue as robin’s eggs, turned white hot, as he stared at this woman who seemed to him the embodiment of the stained world’s salvation..

“Why have you come to me? I’m just an ugly, old woman with bunions and too many mouths to feed. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I have no power, despite what you may’ve heard on the news. Perhaps you could sing your songs at the UN?”

“Songs! They laugh at the songs! I’ve got so much mixed up confusion, it’s a-killin’ me, mama. They give me awards and I’m so frightened for the world, all I can do is mumble into the microphone. The masters of war are all talking World War III blues and some folks want me to be the voice, you know, but it ain’t me, babe, it’s you. You’re the real deal. I’m a jokerman.”

Mother Teresa reached out and laid a hand on his. His dirtiness and obvious mental illness failed to repulse her: it was just another day in Calcutta.

“But, Bob – may I call you Bob? – these troubles you note, they are nothing but the beautiful workings of the living Christ here, immanent on this very Earth. Ever has it been in this world. It remains only for us to find Christ in ourselves and spread compassion in the face of misery and suffering.”

Dylan looked off into the darkening distance, sighed smoke out into a dying world. “You see, I’m not so sure ‘bout that Christ thing. Tried it. Didn’t work out. Not for long, anyhow.”

Mother Teresa leaned forward and slapped him across the face.

“Perhaps your experience with that Christ thing was limited by your lack of faith. I’m sorry, are you OK? I didn’t mean to hit you so hard.”

Dylan ran a hand over his stubbly jaw. “Don’t think twice, it’s alright.”

The tiny nun rose from her seat – just a wooden box – and said, “Come with me. I want to show you something.”

Outside it had begun to rain, a soft mist falling on the just and the unjust alike. They walked side by side, Mother Teresa gripping Dylan’s leather-clad forearm.

They walked down by the old canal, redolent with the commingled scents of jasmine and shit. The western sky threatened the approach of the monsoon. Rumbling clouds of black and blue billowed then swirled around one another, spitting pebble-sized raindrops.

“Do you see the storm, Bob?”

Dylan mumbled,“Don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…”

“That is correct, you don’t. The monsoon will come whether we like it or not. It will flood the Ganges, push human shit and dead bodies all over town. But it washes at the same time, picking up waste that has been allowed to sit and fester since the last storm. Do you understand?”

Dylan rolled a joint, fired it up, offered it to the nun with raised eyebrows.

She took it and swallowed a long, slow hit.

She said, “Before we get too far down that joint, I want you to try to look at the world with a longer view. One that has room for redemption. By the way, you’ve got blood on your tongue.”

“It’s alright, ma, I’m only bleeding. So, like, you’re whole approach is to get past the anger and have faith that God’s gonna make it all better?”

“No! Are all musicians this thick? WE are going to make it all better. You can sing your songs, but don’t forget to love someone. Show some kindness to a child.”

They arrived at the banks of the Ganges. People of all ages bathed in the river, surrounded by a kind of orange glow that Dylan could only assume was the Matanuska Thunderfuck they were smoking working its magic.

“The world will end, but not tomorrow, Mr. Dylan.”

“Well,” Dylan said, “tomorrow is a long time, as they say.” He walked to the very edge of the water. He looked at the old men and women bathing, smiling. Children chased one another and giggled along the shimmering water’s edge.

He continued out to a small outcropping of sand. There he sat down, put the pinched roach in his pocket, and gazed intently at the approaching storm.

“Will you come inside out of the weather?” she asked.

“Nah. Maybe the times are a-changin’ and I should too.”

The old woman embraced him before she left. “The storm can be frightening. Sure you don’t want shelter?”

“Nah. Just gonna sit on this bank of sand, you know?” he said. “Watch the river flow.”


An Unexpected Guest…

An Unexpected Guest

A person lacking Margo’s training would surely have slept through – or completely disregarded – the muffled thump from the first floor.

The digital clock on the bed table read 3:13 AM.

She widened her eyes and quickly did the math: in bed for six hours and twenty-three minutes, plenty of time to have entered N3 sleep and therefore she could be 60-80% sure that the thump she’d heard was the initial stimulus.

Her two-year-old daughter, Ursula, was warm and still at her side. Margo put a hand on the child’s shoulder, which rose and fell with comforting regularity.

No one else was in the bed.

Margo snapped her head around.

There it was again: a soft impact tremor emanating from below, but closer this time.

Someone was definitely coming up the stairs.

Margo emerged from under the blanket and swung her feet soundlessly down to the carpet, being careful not to awaken the child.

Adrenaline tingled up and down her torso, front and back. She closed her eyes, tried to remember her training: shallow, silent breaths; a posture she could hold without lactic acid accumulation; and most importantly, a vantage point that kept her concealed while allowing the maximum flexibility for aggressive response.

Margo’s mind flashed through questions and answers:

Q: Does Abrams have another job to push on me?

A: I haven’t heard from him since entering the program.

Q: Someone I crossed while I was active?

A: I left most of them dead or maimed. Can’t recall anyone with this kind of stealth ability or the contacts to track me down here in the program.

Q: Did Abrams finally decide I know too much to be running free in suburbia?

A: Unlikely, given the fact that he’s aware my attorney is in possession of a detailed affidavit in a sealed envelope with instructions it be made public in the event of my ‘accidental death.’

Q: A random B-and-E? Maybe a rapist?

A: I can only hope it’s that straightforward.

A breeze blew in the open window. Margo heard the rustling of the linden tree’s leaves and wished the window were closed so she could focus more clearly on the approaching danger.

She stepped quickly to the walk in closet and removed all the hanging clothes from one of the wooden rods. She eased the rod out of its brackets, and moved to the side of the master bedroom door. Margo assumed a batter’s stance and, like a slugger with three balls and no strikes, prepared to swing away.

Creak.

Directly outside the door now.

Suddenly Ursula started to whimper.

Margo raced back to the bed like a panther. She lifted the little girl with one arm and cradled her against her chest.

She bounced by slightly flexing her knees, trying her best to keep the child asleep and quiet.

Night terrors. At times, the girl would begin screaming for no apparent reason. As a single parent, it fell to Margo to manage each of these incidents, cooing, cradling the child until the terror passed, and she was able to drift off again.

Of course, Margo blamed herself for these episodes. Felt they were in some way related to the incident with her first daughter, also named Ursula. Many years ago.

She often wondered if it could be possible that the horror of her first daughter’s death could have been passed on to this Ursula. Could the horror held deep in a mother’s heart be passed to a child during pregnancy? Margo’s guilt compelled her to think it could be so.

The doorknob turned.

Margo placed Ursula in a laundry basket in the closet and, as quietly as possible, slid the door closed.

She then resumed her position next to the bedroom door.

The door fell ajar, letting ambient light from the hallway spill into the bedroom.

A large man entered. A hulking but silent shadow.

Although just a silhouette, Margo could tell he walked with a slight left-sided limp. She immediately decided to pulverize that leg once she’d incapacitated him with a head shot.

Margo took no chances.

The man was holding something in his right hand, but she couldn’t make out what it was.

He was completely in the room now.

Margo swung hard, hitting him directly at the base of the skull. She didn’t swing to kill. She needed information.

The man fell forward onto the carpet.

Margo strode forward to attack the left leg as she’d planned, but the man whirled around and clutched her ankle, pulling her down on top of him.

“You are so dead,” she said, gritting her teeth.

“Margo, stop,” the man said.

She stood and drilled his left knee with the end of the rod.

The man held his leg with both hands and moaned. The thing from his right hand lay on the floor next to him.

Margo ran to the light switch by the bedroom door. “Now, let’s have a look at your sorry ass before I take another pot shot at your leg.”

When the overhead light came on, Margo nearly passed out.

How could he be here?

“Dan?”

“I’m sure that knee will need replacing.” He dragged himself up to a sitting position.

“Dan?”

On the floor next to him were a doll and a toy pistol.

He noticed what she was looking at. “I didn’t know what to bring. Did we have a boy or a girl?”

Tears filled her eyes. “Dan?”

And Margo slammed him again with the rod.

___________________________________________________________

Chuck Wendig is at again with another flash fiction challenge. This time out, the story needed to center on the concept of an unexpected guest’.  Well, I simply couldn’t resist another Margo story. If you’re new to this blog,  you should read earlier Margo installments (“Margo in Rome” and “Hermosa Beach Heartache”) just for some context. As I’ve noted previously, I’m serializing Margo’s bizarre story in this blog. It’s great fun (and a great challenge) to approach each installment as a stand-alone flash piece as well as another addition to an ongoing story. Hope everyone enjoys the story!

Image by Nathan Eckinrode


Black Kedo (A Nagasaki Memory)…

Black Kedo – A Nagasaki Memory

When the black rain hit us, we thought we would die.

But we were wrong.

My wife looked up at me as we struggled to breathe.

“Where is Kedo?” she said.

I shrugged, not feeling myself at all.

After the brightness, all the air was sucked out of us.

A piece of cedar from the doorframe was sticking out of my wife’s neck.

I tugged at it, absentmindedly, but she slapped my hand away.

Kedo.

We looked all around the house but couldn’t find our daughter.

Then, finally, we noticed it: a perfect charcoal outline on the south wall of her room.

A shadow burnt into the wood.

We called her Black Kedo.

That was many years ago.

She would be fifty-seven today.

With bent back, I shuffle to the south wall and light some incense.

Happy Birthday, Black Kedo.

___________________________________________________

Image by kedoink kedondeng


%d bloggers like this: