Short Story Of the Day (Flash Fiction), The Wave of Omega Grunion by Bill Chance

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Wankelfish

Wankelfish

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#39). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


The Wave of Omega Grunion

It was completely dark and Polonius Bunting gazed out over the vast masses of swirling stars. The perfectly flat ground of the Mirror Plain stretched out in all directions. The perfect reflection of the glass made the horizon impossible to see. The reflected stars looked identical to the real ones.

The meteors were streaking the sky – a thousand a minute. How many were space rocks and how many were chunks of metal from the war? He had heard that before the war falling stars were rare. He could see the streaks in the sky and reflected on the ground – watch the falling stars reflected right down to his feet.

Polonius saw the glow in the east. He still had a few minutes and as the glow grew and crowded out the stars he checked the Racer one last time.

He pulled a small gauge from the front of his coveralls and made sure the huge tires were inflated to the correct pressure. He ran his hands over the stiff rubber surface, felt the deep channels of the tread. If all the Racer had to do was speed over the vast glass of the Mirror Plain Polonius knew he would use smooth tires, but the channels were needed when… after….

From the rear of the racer, he looked at the twin titanium V-12 engines and their nests of wires and tubing. They had been cast from the melted remains of the last bomber and there were no others like them in the world. The Racer was idling, keeping warm until the start, and every now and then would give a little shake, a slight pop, and vibrate the motor mounts.

Polonius checked the front scoop and the side diverters, huge heavy steel plates bristling with carefully arranged razor sharp cutting edges – frightening little hungry-looking blades – they would feed soon enough.

Polonius knew it was almost time. He climbed into the cramped cockpit and made sure the hatch and diverters were locked securely behind him. He looked out the front port and watched the patch of sky directly ahead. It was growing light and glancing through the cross-hairs he confirmed that the Racer was pointed due East.

He pumped the accelerator, listening to the huge engines. It would be only seconds more. He pressed the clutch and engaged the transmission, revving up the engines to their red-line rpm.

Suddenly there was a glint of red-orange peeking over the horizon and Polonius popped the clutch. The Racer hurled itself forward, tires screeching and smoking, directly into the orb of the rising sun. Polonius worked the gears furiously, building as much speed as possible, keeping the sun centered in the cross-hairs of the forward viewport.

The Racer was shuddering at its top rated speed, still running straight and true, when the horizon became irregular. It was the First Wave, which was water.

The First Wave came incredibly fast – Polonius barely had time to see the swirling wall of foam covering the solid vertical mass of liquid streaked in green, white and deep blue before the Racer hit and with a giant roar of straining steel, plunged right on through.

The water behind the First Wave was shallow and the Racer was able to regain the speed it had lost in the collision. Soon the Second Wave, the Wave of Omega Grunion, appeared, roaring over the horizon, in a long, smooth silver roll.

The Racer plunged in. The Omega Grunion are small fish, maybe six inches long, gathered by the billions into the massive living wave. The individual creatures are indistinguishable from the total mass when they are piled up like that, but each and every Omega Grunion had a mouthful of diamond teeth and could chew through the Racer in seconds if given the chance.

But Polonius and the Racer had the speed. The plow and diverter plates split the wave, the blades slicing the fish into tiny pieces and throwing them aside in a bloody mass of scales and fish guts.

On and on the Racer ran, the screaming sound of a million fish torn to pieces penetrating the armor and filling the cockpit. Polonius had never heard a sound like it – there is no sound like it.

“The Canterbury Cats will eat well tonight,” Polonius laughed and checked the gauges as the Racer forced its way through, tearing through the wave of fish. The silver wave was cleaved, a scarlet wake thrown high by the power of the impact.

Soon, though, the bodies and gore began to pile up in front of the scoop, the Racer was moving too fast for everything to be thrown to the side. Polonius did not make the necessary adjustments fast enough and before he could react, the Racer began to slide on the ramp of fish offal and he lost steering control. It fishtailed left, then right, then with a groan of stressed steel it flipped on its side, wheels spinning uselessly in the air.

The violence of the high-speed crash threw Polonius around in the cockpit and stunned him against a bulkhead. When he cleared his head he saw the right port was cracked and his face was being splashed with a fountain of salty red water. All around him he heard the horrible chattering of thousands of diamond fish teeth chewing through the steel armor of the Racer. He pressed the big red button in the center of the dash which sent a powerful electric charge through the outer plates. This slowed the fish for a minute or two, but did not stop them.

Nothing would stop them.

Short Story Of the Day (Flash Fiction), ‘Speriment by Bill Chance

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
― Paulo Coelho, Brida

20 Elements
Joel Shapiro
Northpark Center
Dallas, Texas

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#38). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


‘Speriment

Who and What are easy.. How and Why aren’t. Faith and Science. I have very little of one and none of the other. At six, though… Faith and Science can be conjured up from thin air.

I walked past the hall bathroom and something caught my eye. It was, not surprisingly, Little Sammy, hanging his tummy on the edge of the counter stretched out so he could reach the sink. He was filling a cup with water. The liquid was brown and foamy, it looked like it had Coke in it, and something else, something dark. I figured out the “something else” when I noticed the chocolate syrup spattered on the counter and smeared on his face.

“Sammy, what are you up to?” I asked, cleaning up some with a rag.

He calmly plopped a soft well-worm sliver of soap into the mixture which he still held in his hand. The soap floated, it must be Ivory.

“It’s my ‘speriment.”

“Sammy, What kind of experiment?”

“I have a book, it has the recipe. If I get the mixture just right, it’ll work. It’s a formula.”

This was technically a lie, but six year old boys live in a world where reality and fantasy are strangely mixed. As a parent this is the kind of statement you are better off letting pass.

I guess he came up with the idea of a “’speriment” after we dragged him to his big brother’s science fair – a horrific series of gaudy pasteboard displays of random information that had nothing at all to do with science. The middle school kids must have opened a musty encyclopedia in the back of the library at random and written up what fell out. Our oldest son Wally had a crude display on “Delirium Tremens” – which, after Uncle Percy’s performance last Thanksgiving… well Wally must have had some curiosity.

Usually Sammy’s public behavior is like a bomb going off. But at the Science Fair he strolled up and down the lines of kids with their crude, inane posters enraptured. He could not take his eyes off of the exhibitions of “The Fungus Among Us,” “Your Mighty Pancreas” or “That Will Leave a Stain.

Now, with Sammy, I didn’t ask what the “mixture” was supposed to do. He stirred it a little and then walked into the kitchen and began piling up chairs to reach the freezer above the refrigerator.

“Help me make room, Daddy,” he asked, “It has to be freezed all night.”

“Sammy, there’s more room in the big freezer in the garage.”

He pondered this for awhile and then relented, deciding that the garage deep freeze was indeed in the proper temperature range for his formula.

I thought to myself that sometime soon I was going to have to deal with a frozen chunk of diluted pop and chocolate, with some Ivory soap and God only knows what else added for a little extra kick. I think my wife would have made him throw it away right at the start – if she had been home. I let him mix it up, though, and he froze the whole concoction. I figured he’d forget about it and I’d throw it out the next day.

I went to sleep wishing I knew what the secret formula was supposed to do.

What happened to the muck in the freezer? I don’t know. The next morning the kids found that puppy on the front stoop. The kids had wanted a dog more than anything. My wife and I put them off – expense, hassle, the new carpets, that sort of thing. But a puppy on the stoop. You can’t say no to that, can you. So the ‘speriment was forgotten, by me at least, in a flurry of trips to the pet store, rearrangements of furniture, new sounds, new smells, and the excitement of a new member of the family. After a week I remembered, looked in the freezer, but it was gone. I don’t know why it was gone… maybe my wife found it – but she never said anything – and she would have said something.

It was the next morning after the ‘speriment, though, that we found the puppy… wasn’t it? A coincidence… I’m sure. Maybe. I wonder, sometimes, though, what a six year old knows that the rest of us have forgotten.

Short Story Of the Day (Flash Fiction), Kitten on the Highway by Bill Chance

What our children have to fear is not the cars on the highways of tomorrow but our own pleasure in calculating the most elegant parameters of their deaths.

—-J. G. Ballard

 

(click to enlarge)

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#37). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Kitten on the Highway

Kyle Tellman had two routes that he would drive to work. As he took his shower every morning Kyle would listen to the radio that sat on a shelf over the toilet. The traffic reports would run every ten minutes and would help him decide which way to take. One route was over ordinary streets, residential or arterial, stoplights, stop-and-go. The alternate route was over Interstate 635, which, like all freeways in Texas, was dedicated to and named after a famous local politician. This particular highway honored President Lyndon Baines Johnson and was usually referred to as LBJ freeway or simply LBJ.

LBJ was an endless circle that looped around the city of Dallas with a radius of about twelve miles, centered on the giant crystal towers of downtown. Along the stretch that Kyle inhabited it was eight lanes each way – sixteen in total – a wide, nasty, hot curve of killer concrete.

He made the wrong decision that morning. There was no mention of accidents on the radio so Kyle chose the freeway but traffic was jammed up, inching along, bumper to bumper. Once he was on, he was committed, so there was nothing to do except turn up the radio and resign himself to being late.

Off to the right, as he crept past, he could see an amateur monument, a white wooden cross planted along the ditch. He could see the bundles of flowers bleached by the sun and a few glass candles with pictures of the Saints silkscreened across the front. A loved one had died here, flipped over at speed or ground beneath the tires of an eighteen-wheeled truck..

To the left, Kyle could see the cause of the slowdown. Two motorcycle cops had a speed trap set up in the lanes going the other way. They were crouched down behind their big ‘cycles resting their radar guns on the seats to steady their aim at the onrushing vehicles whipping around the curve into their sights. White helmets and black leather.

That two cops on the eastbound side would stop traffic on the westbound lanes was insane, but they did. Once the onlookers… the rubberneckers, began getting their amusement from the misfortune of folks that were exactly like them, only going the other way, the whole system jammed up and nobody got anywhere. The wages of Schadenfreude.

There were more than fifty thousand vehicles on LBJ freeway during morning rush hour. Kyle’s eyes were constantly moving between the car right in front of him – watching especially for red brake lights, occasionally checking the two cars locked in on each side, and flicking every second or so up to the mirror to look at the truck behind.

The traffic, all the commuters were not moving very fast, but were still way too close together. Fifty thousand souls locked together in an anaconda of steel, biting its own tail, wriggling slowly in the red light of the rising sun, moving fitfully around the circle of unforgiving concrete.

At that one critical instant, Kyle was not actually looking at the little patch of moving concrete freeway between his hood and the rear bumper of the car leading him, but out of the corner of his eye he caught something… a mottled white blotch that, moving back from under the car in front, visible for a second, and then passing quickly between his own wheels. He reflexively looked up into the mirror to get a split-second glance as it came out behind him before it disappeared under the trailing truck that followed him.

It was a kitten, and it was alive.

Or was it? Everything had happened so fast, his brain had not had time to reliably process what his eyes had reported. It was only a vague shape from the corner of his eye. He was trying to figure out what he had seen based on a memory – a half-blurred and rapidly fading memory. Was it a kitten? Or was it a piece of windblown trash?

And if it was a kitten, what could he do? He was still stuck in traffic and it was a half-mile before the next exit. He was already running late for work and his boss had not been happy lately. Kyle could not afford to be waltzing in after everyone else – especially with the vague and insane excuse of seeing a live kitten on the freeway. Even if he went back, what good would it do? The best thing by far was to forget what he had seen and troop on, get to work as fast as he could.

But Kyle could not forget. The image of the kitten… of something… out there on the highway… he could not get it out of his mind. It burned. As the green exit arrow appeared to his right he realized he had no choice. It didn’t matter how much trouble he would get in at work. He exited the freeway.

There was a U turn lane at the cross street so he didn’t have to wait for a green light. He whipped around to the opposite side and took the ramp up into the speeding stream of vehicles. Traffic this way was lighter so he was able to open it up. He remembered the motorcycle cops and the speed trap so he was careful no to exceed the limits.

As Kyle approached the spot he thought he saw the kitten he moved to the left and desperately tried to look over into the other lanes, but there was a high concrete crash barrier so he couldn’t make out anything at street level. His heart sank, though; there were a lot of cars over there.

Finally he drove past where the cops were and saw they had given up and gone somewhere else. He exited again and this time, had to wait through two lights, making two left turns, to get on the frontage road and then the entrance ramp.

Rush hour was ending and the cars were now moving at speed. Kyle was looking for the kitten and hit his breaks, driving as slowly as he could. He looked closely at the pavement as he moved past the stretch where his memory told him the kitten had been. Kyle’s stomach turned with the fear of what he might see. He couldn’t imagine the kitten surviving and was petrified to come across a smashed spot. And what if the kitten was alive? He had slowed and all the other commuters were whipping around him at speed. He didn’t think he could stop and get out, chase a frightened kitten across the lanes without getting killed.

As these thoughts roiled his brain, he was past. It had gone all too fast. He had seen nothing.

So now what? He had checked. He could go on to work.

But as he passed that ramp he realized he had to look once more. What if the kitten had moved to another lane? He went around again, as fast as he could, and then drove slowly through the zone, as he was beginning to think about it. This time he used the lane closer to the median. Nothing.

Around again. This time the outside lane, nothing.

One time, really testing things, risking it, going very slow, he started opening his door at the critical spot and looked directly down onto the moving concrete. Kyle was surprised at how much stuff was scattered across the freeway: smashed cups, cigarette butts, chunks of dislodged concrete, torn hunks of paper, bits of shredded tire, little arc-shaped lead weights, a license plate, churned hunks of flattened steel from old accidents… but no kitten. His sight became eagle eyed as he scanned the surface on each trip, over and over.

Finally, he mustered all his willpower and grappling with the wheel with white knuckled fists he bypassed the exit ramp and went on. It was too late, though. He had spent too much time and had looked too hard.

He could not go on to work. As he passed the familiar exit that he took every day, year after year, he kept on going, straight under the rising sun.

The freeway is a loop – there are gas stations – I have a credit card,” Kyle thought to himself. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep driving or how long he would keep driving. The only thing he knew was that he wouldn’t be stopping soon.

Short Story Of the Day (poem?), Convenience Store Fined For Being Inconvenient by Bill Chance

“When we have to change an opinion about any one, we charge heavily to his account the inconvenience he thereby causes us.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Creepy scene through a shop window, Denton, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#36). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


A long time ago I went to a poetry reading at the Richardson Library. The poet passed out slips of paper with outrageous (but real) headlines on them and each of us were supposed to write a poem based on their headline.

Mine was 34. JAPAN BREEDING ARMY OF GODZILLAS!

You can read my poem at this blog entry.

I did some web searching and discovered the headlines he passed out were from the fine publication Weekly World News and they are a cornucopia of outrageousness and hilarity. When writer’s block strikes I pick a headline and write a poem.

Some of today’s gems:

BAT BOY NAILS COGNITIVE TEST!
August 7, 2020 by Frank Lake
PERSON, WOMAN, BAT, CAMERA, WINGS! President Trump challenged his competitors Joe Biden and Bat Boy …

56-YEAR-OLD MAN WINS ANIMAL CROSSING
August 7, 2020 by Rusty Botttoms
Game Over.  Millions Around the Globe DevastATed.  Nintendo Stock Price Declines 30% on the News. …

BRUTE TAMED BY PIXIES!
August 5, 2020 by Brick Rivers
“I WANTED TO CHANGE MY LIFE BUT…PIXIES? SERIOUSLY?” HE SAYS By all accounts, until recently, …

CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PEOPLE AND PUPPETS?
August 4, 2020 by Boyce Day
THE OTHER PANDEMIC Do you think Kermit is a real frog?  Do you think Lamb Chop is …

WOMAN MARRIES HER TEDDY BEAR!
July 31, 2020 by Brick Rivers
“UNLIKE MOST MEN, HE LISTENS WHEN I TALK.” After being kicked in the head by …

BARNEY GETS JACKED!
July 31, 2020 by Adam Peacock
DATING CARDI B? Barney, once popular chubby children’s show icon, fell out of favor and …

VAMPIRES LEAVING LOS ANGELES
July 29, 2020 by Brick Rivers
“THIS TOWN SUCKS,” SAYS LEAD VAMP. “NO PUN INTENDED.” For decades, the Los Angeles chapter…

DOLPHIN SIGHTED WEARING OLD CAMPAIGN GEAR
July 29, 2020 by Boyce Day
He Likes Ike! A trio of friends out fishing on the Atlantic Ocean recently spotted …

NY TIMES REPORTER EATEN ALIVE BY 80-FT. DINOSAUR!
July 27, 2020 by Frank Lake
“He was on assignment in Yunnan Province, China.” American scientists captured an 80-foot dinosaur in …

AMERICAN BEARS VOW NOT TO ATTACK CAMPERS WEARING MASKS!
July 27, 2020 by Brick Rivers
“WE HAVE TO PRESERVE OUR FOOD SOURCE!” DECLARES GRIZZLY “It really is an environmental first,” …

Today the headline I drew is Convenience Store Fined For Being Inconvenient.


 

Convenience Store Fined For Being Inconvenient

 

The police came with blue helmets. The door was locked. They had to knock on a window to wake the man up.

“Your sign says ‘OPEN 24 HOURS.’”

“Not in a row!” the man replied.

“Your milk is all out of date,” they said.

“I thought that was more of a suggestion,” the man replied.

“Your bread is stale.”

“Carbs are bad for you.”

“Garlic toothpaste?”

“No accounting for taste.”

“Your lot has a ‘NO PARKING’ sign.”

“Keeps the riff-raff out.”

“Your batteries are all dead,” they said.

“But they are marked down and clearly labeled as such.”

“You have back pain medication on the high shelf.”

“There’s a grabber available.”

“What is that machine?”

“It’s soda shaker – very popular with the kids.”

“Your newspapers are all days old.”

“History is important.”

“Your microwave has no door.”

“So you can check your food and it won’t burn.”

“Your fire sprinklers are leaking.”

“Why wait until the last minute.”

“Why are you selling snow chains and ice scrapers in the desert?”

“You never know.”

“That sign, ‘NEW STOCK TOMORROW’ – has been here for a year.”

“It’s not untrue.”

“That sign says, ‘TEN CENTS EACH, TWO FOR A QUARTER,’ “

“Still a bargain,”

“Your pencils – there are only numbers 1 and 3.”

“A unique selection.”

“Your lottery tickets are already scratched off.”

“Nobody wins anyway.”

“Your gum machine only takes foreign coins.”

“A service for our immigrant population.”

“That sign says, ‘EXACT CHANGE ONLY.’”

“Keeps the checkout line moving.”

“That sign says, ‘NO CREDIT NOR DEBIT CARDS.’”

“That keeps the prices low.”

“That sign says, ‘NO COUPONS ACCEPTED – EVEN OURS.’”

“Especially ours. They are no good.”

“We are going to have to fine you. There have been complaints.”

“Complaints! How is that possible? I have no customers!”

“No customers? How can you have a store with no customers?”

“My goal is a very exclusive clientele.”

“Be that as it may, we will have to fine you.”

“How much is the fine?”

“It depends on how much business you do.”

“But I don’t do any business.”

“Well, then we will take you to jail.”

They handcuffed the man and put him in a squad car. They explained he was being charged with running an Inconvenience Store. He asked them to make sure the door was locked.

“I don’t want to be robbed,” he said.

“We’ll keep an eye on it,” the police replied.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), Brain Teaser by Bill Chance

“Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while you don’t have the strength to fight it.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Spring Snow,
Richardson, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#35). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Brain Teaser

 

John Berryman realized that his two seater MGB wasn’t a very practical car, but he didn’t give a damn. It was old and it was sharp and it was cool. But the convertible roof leaked and the heater didn’t work very well. The windshield was constantly fogged in the cold wet spitting rain.

The nighttime city was shattered into iridescent jewels of waterdrops around his view, red brakes, yellow beams and the multicolored neon advertisements like harbingers of an unknown outer world. The cramped car gave off the smell of old canvas and rust, released by the moist stream seeping through from outside. John’s teeth chattered against the cold – though he knew how much better off he was in the car, no matter how freezing, than the poor souls stuck out in the elements.

He thought of Chuck and how miserable he sounded on the phone. John squinted through the fog and rain, looking for the bus stop.

A decade ago Chuck had been there when John needed him. John was broke, homeless and without hope. Chuck took him in, cleaned him up and introduced him around. That was the start of the long climb to where he was now – where he could buy impractical old sports cars when he wanted to.

Chuck hadn’t been so lucky. Now John was ready to return the favor. He had been calling Chuck and offering help. Chuck had been too proud to accept, until now.

He had answered John’s call sounding near death. Chuck was taking public transit, waiting for the bus, when this awful wet windy blue norther cold front invaded. The transit system had collapsed with the weather, and Chuck had no idea when a bus would get to his stop and take him home.

So John gladly jumped in the car ready to speed to the rescue, but Chuck’s phone battery had died before the directions were clear. Now John was looking, for his friend freezing on a bus stop bench. He was stuck in a terrible part of town, miles from anyplace worth being.

And there, suddenly, he was. In the middle of a block, lit by a nearby streetlight, John spotted the familiar form of his friend, recognizable even under the hood of a shabby and very wet jacket. He drove by slowly, smiling at his buddy. There were two other people sitting on the bench beside Chuck, which was sheltered beneath a slanted corrugated roof. It wasn’t doing any good, though, the rain screaming in the wind – hitting them almost horizontally. He parked and headed into the storm.

“John, you found it,” said Chuck “I didn’t give you very good directions.”

“No problem dude, clear as crystal, drove right here,” John lied.

Chuck stood and grabbed his old friend, turning him slightly.

“Oh, let me introduce my fellow bus waiters,” he said. “First, this is Mabel.”

An emaciated, ancient hand emerged from what looked like a pile of rags on the bench next to where Chuck had been sitting. It was shaking and John felt a weak grip as he took it. Looking closely at the rags he saw a thin lined face. She said something so weak that John couldn’t make it out. Chuck turned John with a subtle but strong gesture so that they were away from the bench.

“Hey John,” Chuck said, “I know you drove a long way to get me and I appreciate it, but I’ll tell you, I think we need to give Mabel a ride. She’s freezing in this weather and I’m not sure she can survive if it takes the bus more than an hour to get here… and it probably will.”

“Forget it,” said John, “You are my oldest and best friend and I am going to take you out of here.”

“Well, then, take us both.”

“I can’t, you know the MGB only holds two.”

“Jeez, that’s right,” Chuck looked at the tiny car across the street. It looked like a toy. “No way can we squeeze three into that thing.”

“It’s all right, dear,” a strong voice piped up behind them. “I’ll stay with you until the bus comes. I’ll make sure you get home all right.”

It was a woman’s voice. To John it was a sudden shock to hear something so melodious in the middle of the rainstorm. The two men turned around.

“Oh, hey John, I forgot to introduce the third member of our miserable company. This is Nancy.”

John felt his stomach jump and his pulse race as he looked down at Nancy. She turned from Mabel and a shower of watery gems fell from her hair. Her hand was warm and strong as she shook his and stabbed him with her eyes.

All he could do was mumble a greeting. Caught completely off guard, John hadn’t felt like this since he was a teenager.

“So you’re going to drive Chuck?” Nancy asked. “Good, at least someone can have a warm evening.”

Chuck turned to John, “Now listen….” But John cut him off. He had made a quick decision.

John said, “Walk with me to my car,” and shook off Chuck’s objection.

The MGB had a tiny boot in the back. John unlocked it and opened the cargo door. Then he handed his keys to Chuck.

“Here, you take my keys,” he said. “Take my car.”

“What? Why?”

“I want you to drive Mabel home, make sure she’s all right and warmed up, get her something to eat, then you go home with my car. We’ll sort it out later.”

“But… what about…”

“I’ll wait here for the bus. In your place. The route goes by my condo…. Eventually…. I think.”

“I can’t…”

John cut him off again. “Of course you can. This is what I want. Trust me.”

He looked down into the boot of the car. He kept a warm wool stadium blanket down there, for emergencies. He pulled it out and nodded to Chuck, who seemed to suddenly understand. The two walked back across the road.

“Mabel, John’s giving me his car, I can take you home,” Chuck said.

The old woman could barely reply as the two men helped her up and across the street. She felt like she was made of paper as they folded her in the passenger seat. John felt suddenly warmer as he watched the tiny car move away.

He walked back to the bench with his stadium blanket and was very happy to see Nancy smiling at him as he approached.

“Well, it looks like it’s the two of us waiting now. Do you want to share my blanket? It’s warm and dry,” he said.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), Cheap Four Seamer by Bill Chance

“People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
― James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams

Nick crossing home plate at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. They let the kids run the bases after an afternoon game – we had to wait for hours for his turn. This would have been right after the Ballpark opened, probably 1995. It’s hard to believe he’s almost thirty years old now. The ballpark closed this year.

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#34). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Cheap Four Seamer

Tyrone Gibblet hated the little town. He and his mother were there staying with her sister, helping out while she had surgery. They wouldn’t even tell him what she was getting cut on – it was too private.

He was missing summer baseball camp and it was killing him. He was the ace pitcher on his school team. He knew college scouts would be watching. He needed every edge he could get and didn’t want to be set back while stuck in this backwater town.

“A rest will be good for you,” his mother had said, “I’ve cleared it with your coach, he even agrees with me.”

Thinking of that made his blood boil. He was seventeen years old and did not need his mother living his life. Coach would tease him.

Today he was aimlessly ambling down the sidewalk. Everyone there always nodded and said a quick “hello” as they passed each other, their noggins bouncing like bobble heads on a bumpy road. They all knew each other and everyone knew that he didn’t belong there. Their eyes would fall on him and their mouths would screw into odd shapes.

It was driving him crazy.

Then he saw Audrey up ahead on the sidewalk, and his heart skipped a beat. Tyrone had been introduced to her at the church youth picnic last Saturday. He had barely been able to mumble to her, his brain suddenly scrambled by the cataract of blond curls framing oversized sunglasses.

He was trying to decide what to do when she turned and went into a store. His chest was heaving and he felt dizzy. He walked past and turned around three times before he worked up the courage to enter the store.

The space was long, wide, and low, and took up the whole ground floor of a decrepit brick building along Main Street. The ugly painted steel and particleboard shelves held a wild variety of items, from dusty cookware to piles of out-of-style clothes – everything sporting hand-written price tags in bright colors. The long tubes of flickering florescent lights sucked the life out of everything.

A popcorn stand near the entrance filled the air with oily rancid fumes. He looked at the people marching up and down the aisles and couldn’t believe they could stand the awful smell. He guessed they were just used to it – or didn’t care – or didn’t have a choice.

Tyrone had reached the end of one aisle and as he turned the corner to walk back the other way he jumped back, hiding behind a rack of shelves when he saw Audrey. She was studying some towels with her mother. He was afraid to talk to her with her mom standing there – that was for sure.

Tyrone decided to move over into the sporting goods and keep a lookout for Audrey.

His eyes moved over a bin of baseballs. They were cheap imports – the kind his team bought by the bucket for batting practice. He picked one up and turned it over in his hand. Tyrone had his first baseball before he could walk. He had spent thousands of hours gripping one – it felt like it belonged there.

Holding the ball behind his back, like he was waiting for the next batter, turning the sphere in his hands, comforted him. He pulled air deep into his lungs. He closed his eyes and felt at home.

His reverie was cut short by a loud clattering, followed by a sharp scream. He moved over an aisle and saw Audrey collapsed on the floor and a man shaking her mother with one hand grabbing the front of her dress.

The man was screaming a constant roaring rush of obscenity. Aubrey’s mother had given up and was limply letting him shove her around, simply sobbing, “Dan, Dan, please just let us go”

He looked a week unshaven and longer unwashed, wearing a pair of grease-stained denim overalls above a torn undershirt. One strap had come loose and the front flap was flopping around as he jerked at Audrey’s mother.

Without thinking, Tyrone walked forward toward Audrey and she looked up from the dirty linoleum into his eyes. A horrible scream came from her mother and Audrey snapped her head around in panic.

Everything was happening too fast.

He was twenty feet away when the smell washed over him. Old alcohol, mixed with stale sweat and evil filth – an acrid cloud that woke old memories, bad baggage he was always trying to forget.

Then the man’s right arm came up high and, to his horror, Tyrone saw that he had a huge ugly knife. It was a machete, heavy, with a big brush hook – evil and deadly. The man was waving it in the air, shaking, and holding Audrey’s mother tight with his other arm. Audrey saw the weapon and let out a long, horrible whimper.

Tyrone became calm and clear. He spun the baseball with his fingers and brought his feet together, sideways to the terrible scene. He rotated the ball until he could feel the long horseshoe bend of the seam under the tips of his first two fingers and the other curve nestled against the side of his thumb.

A four-seam fastball. That was his money pitch. He could throw it at over ninety miles per hour to any spot he wanted. It would shoot past those poor freckle-faced high school kids before they even had a good look at it. He would sneer as it pounded the catcher’s mitt – with a bang and a puff of dust – long before their bats could even move off their shoulders.

“Hey!” Tyrone shouted, his voice loud and cold. “Hey!”

As the man with the machete turned his head Tyrone began to raise his front leg, throwing from the stretch like there was a fast runner on first. By the time the man’s eyes focused on Tyrone his knee was already lifted up to eye level.

He felt his foot grip the grimy floor and knew he could drive it hard. His entire world was reduced to a tiny rectangle between the man’s eyes. He could see the ragged hairs and rough pores.

Like he had a hundred thousand times before Tyrone let his leg fall down, tilting his body forward. His arm contorted at an inhuman angle, bent like a steel spring, curving like a whip – and as his back leg pushed with all his strength he let the ball fly using every practiced muscle.

In a baseball game, the mound is sixty feet and six inches from home plate. It takes about a half second for a fastball to travel that distance. Only the fastest well-trained eyes can even see that.

The man was only twenty feet away. The ball took less than a quarter of a second to cover that distance. Even though it was hurtling directly toward his face he never saw it coming.

The ball struck him with a terrifically loud and sickening thud. A spray of blood, brain, and bone shot out in a horrific fountain. The ball thumped to the floor, followed by the machete clattering on the linoleum. For a second, the man stood stock still, his head bent back at a sickening angle – then he began to fold.

The man fell in a limp heap. His hand released Audrey’s mother, who tumbled away in a screech.

As his thoughts cleared, Tyrone realized that he had entered into a new chapter of his life, one he had never expected. Everything that had, until now, seemed so important began to fade in his memory. From now on, as long as he lived, he would be a man who had killed someone. He realized that this was an exclusive club, one that nobody really sets out to join.

He had killed a stranger at close range, with only his hands and a baseball. It wasn’t like he had been firing a gun across a war-torn patch or pushed a bomb release. He had been looking this man right in the eye and had been close enough to smell his fetid sweat.

The weapon that he used was the one thing that he was most familiar with, a toy from a child’s game. A toy that in skilled hands became something else. It became life and death.

His hand began to itch, suddenly. He realized that he didn’t have a baseball any more. Tyrone knew then that he would never feel whole again, unless he was turning that ball around behind his back, feeling for the four-seam.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), Life at the Baker by Bill Chance

“He thinks money spent on a home is money wasted. He’s lived too much in hotels. Never the best hotels, of course. Second-rate hotels. He doesn’t understand a home. He doesn’t feel at home in it. And yet, he wants a home. He’s even proud of having this shabby place. He loves it here.”
― Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#33 – One third of the way there!). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


A handful of miles west of the DFW Metroplex is a smallish town of 15,000 called Mineral Wells, Texas. The town has a surprisingly interesting and colorful past. I especially like that one claim was that the well water could help “crazy” people. Modern analysis reportedly shows a significant amount of lithium in it.

One remnant from history is the Baker Hotel. It’s a huge fourteen story rambling luxurious ruin completely out of place in that sleepy Texas town. Closed for generations and tumbling into decay. There have been several attempts bring it back to glory. Let’s hope the latest one is successful.

I go to Mineral Wells every now and then to go camping at the State Park or ride my mountain bike. Whenever I do I go by the Baker, look it over, and think about what it once was and what it is now. If they do manage to renovate it (and I wonder about how likely this is – from the article: “make sense of a $65 million redo of a building that’s projected to be worth only $40 million once the renovation is complete”) we need to go some weekend and have a big party.

At any rate – the hotel inspired me to write this dystopian story.

 


Life at the Baker

The Generators woke Benny as they passed on their way to work through the corridor outside his room. Young, boisterous, and pumped up, they were always loud before they spent the night pedaling the generators in the Baker Hotel’s gym, providing what feeble electric light they could.

Benny crawled from bed and raised the one untaped corner of the thick aluminum reflective paper that covered his window, peering out to make sure the last sliver of the burning sun had dipped below the horizon. The night was going to be hot but the day was unbearable. It was still two days from his allotted bath – he dipped the corner of a towel in the stagnating basin of water and rubbed his face as best he could. There was a rustle as Benny’s TODO list slid under the door. Picking it up, he sighed as he saw the length of it. He lifted the heavy canvas bag of tools to his shoulder and shuffled out to go to work.

At the end of the long corridor, Benny pulled the string that rang the bell for the elevator. Soon after he heard the wheezing of the Operator as he worked the crank that raised the wire cage up to Benny’s floor.

“Evening, Operator,” Benny said. “Hot one today.”

“Hot one every day, Fixer,” the Operator replied in the standard greeting at the Baker.

At the bottom, Benny left, carrying his bag off into the maze of pipes that crisscrossed the subbasement.

Grumbling as he looked down the list, he thought about which task to tackle first.

“Room 713 has no water,” he said to himself, “and the toilet in 456 is stopped up… forget that one, haha!… Oh, and the kitchen needs more steam.”

Benny could get steam going to the kitchen without climbing from the subbasement, so he decided on that. He pulled a big wrench from the bag, then walked over to his locker and opened it up. The shelves were sagging from the weight of hundreds of manuals, stuffed in tight.

Soon after arriving at the Baker, Benny had found the manuals in a forgotten closet deep under what used to be the boiler room. He had been squatting there, hungry, and avoiding being found when he stumbled across the manuals, which he realized could help him repair almost everything the Baker.

That gave him a job and a legitimate place in the Baker’s society. He was the Fixer. The job was life. Without it he would be back in the Wilderness and nobody survived long there. He thumbed through the manuals until he found a diagram of the steam system.

In the dim flickering light coming from the Generators pedaling away high above he began to climb through the labyrinth of pipes until he found what he believed was the steam pipe that fed the kitchen. All the hot water and steam came from a wood-powered boiler set up outside on what used to be Baker’s tennis court. Benny knew the Scavengers were having trouble finding fuel because certain areas of the hotel were rapidly losing their wooden furniture.

Still, though, it was working at least a little, gauging from the wisps of vapor that left the rusting pipes at the loose joints. Benny used his wrench to twist the steam valves that fed the rest of the hotel, squeezing off their supply – just a little – and opening fully the one that fed the kitchen. That should help – and nobody else would notice, hopefully – the steam pressure had been failing for a long time and a little less wouldn’t raise a concern. Nobody needed heat anyway though a few other things did still run on steam.

He decided to walk up to the kitchen and see if Cook would give him anything for his work… plus he could check out what the Scavengers had brought in after their daylight expedition. He didn’t understand how they could stand being outside all day – but he knew their survival depended on it.

He found the Cook and asked about the steam.

“Hey! I think I fixed the steam, how is it?”

The Cook laconically turned a tap, and watched a small cloud of vapor sneak out. Benny thought that was wasteful, but he didn’t dare say anything. If the Cook didn’t like you, you went hungry.

“Well,” the Cook said after a long pause, “It looks like it’s a bit stronger now.”

“Good!” Benny said. “I fixed it didn’t I… Did the scavengers bring anything in?” He raised his voice in anticipation and excitement.

The Cook grumbled and started rummaging around in a bag he had stashed under the counter.

“I suppose you did, Fixer. I guess this is yours then,” the Cook said in a resigned tone. He rolled something cylindrical across the metal counter and Benny caught it as it fell off on his side. He raised it up to get a good look.

The label on the can was torn, only about half of it was left – but Benny was able to make out the large black letters “GHETT” and under that a bit of a photo of round pasty circles floating in faded sauce.

“Spaghetti O’s, Thanks, Cook! I remember these from when I was a little kid. My mom used to make ‘em up – she’d dump them in a bowl and heat them in the microwave. Beep! Beep! Hot food! Every day! Jeez, those were the days.”

The Cook stared at Benny with sad and bored eyes. Benny thought he had better get out of there before The Cook changed his mind, so with a wave of the precious can, he skipped out through the hinged double doors into the dining room.

When he saw that there were hungry folks huddled in small groups in the big room he quickly shoved the can into a pocket. No reason to make people jealous.

 

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), Trilobite by Bill Chance

“Language is fossil poetry”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trilobites

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#32). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


Trilobite

One day, decades ago, little Charlie Cook found a fossil shark’s tooth along a rocky road on a family vacation trip. He was mesmerized. He started to collect every book on fossils he could get his hands on – starting with the “Golden Nature Guide” that had 481 Illustrations in color. He devoured these books because that was how he was.

One day he was looking out the window while his parents drove into the country for an antique sale. His eyes grew wide as the car moved through a high road cut. Charlie recognized layers of limestone and shale… and what they would have to contain. He could almost feel the millennia piled up right there.

“Mom? Dad?” he said, “If I can get Reggie and Sherwood to come with me would you drive us out to this road cut and pick us up at the end of the day?”

“Why?”

“To look for fossils.”

“Are you sure that’s safe?”

“We’ll be careful.”

Charlie’s friends did not care about fossils but they were up to any kind of adventure. He misled his parents about what they would be doing; assuring that they would only be looking along the road. Once the car was gone, they started climbing all over the cliff – nimbly picking their way up and over the layers. Charlie had a real rock hammer his uncle gave him for Christmas and he was elated to be using it in the field.

It was one of the best days of Charlie’s life. They climbed, dug, and whacked at the stone with the pick end of the hammer. Their moms had even packed lunches: bologna, mayonnaise, and sheets of fake cheese on white bread with bags of chips and juice boxes.

And they found fossils. Mostly the corrugated cylinders or individual disks of crinoids. These were cool and all over the place. They even found a couple wedge shaped brachiopods. Nothing rare or amazing – but a good haul for a kid. Charlie scrubbed the rocks and lined them up on a shelf in his room – prized possessions.

Over the years, as he grew, Charlie would go looking for fossils. He found a few, more than most, but there was one prey he never caught – a trilobite. He always wanted one – but never found one. It was no big deal. There are remote places where you can go – a flight, a four-wheel-drive-rental, long lonely drive, isolated camping – and you can pay to dig for trilobites. But it never worked out – he never went.

Finally, he broke down in a rock shop and bought a little trilobite in a plastic box. He had one. But he hadn’t found it himself and it never went onto the prized shelf.

Now, twenty years on, Chas Cook was a geologist who, like every other geologist at that time, worked for a hydrocarbon exploration company. He was stuck in a low walled cubicle high in the air among the mirrored glass crystal canyons downtown. Instead of traipsing around in the wild, digging up and looking at the remnants of animals that lived millions of years ago, he was stuck at a desk reviewing reports that the lucky bastards out in the field sent in.

The day was getting long and boring when Chas noticed a commotion along the windows next to the maze of cubicles. There was a buzz with everyone pointing at the street. He walked over to see a huge fountain streaming high in the roadway below. A water main had burst deep under the pavement. Of course, the whole office rushed to the elevators and outside to see the show.

Not long after they clustered together on the sidewalk, the city began turning the pressure off and the giant geyser began to dissipate. All that remained was a decent flow that gurgled up from deep below but never made it into the air.

Everyone else let out a sigh of disappointment and headed back up to the office but Chas noticed that the water was pulling a lot of coarse gravel through the broken asphalt from deep below and spreading it out across the street.

“Urban geology!” he shouted. “I’ll bet there are fossils in there.”

Chas waded out into the water, bent over and began picking through the gravel. It was a cornucopia of ancient critters – Chas supposed that the street was over an ancient rocky beach and the water from the leak was lifting all that good stuff up and delivering it to him.

There were (at least pieces of):

Ammonites

Brachiopods

Bones

Snails

Crinoids

Gastropods

Echnoids

… Then, there it was… right on the street perched and cushioned on a little bed of sand, a small but complete and perfectly preserved Trilobite.

Chas snatched it up and held it high and proud. He looked around at the massive buildings, the traffic, the commuter train going by, the crowds of onlookers, the colossal city itself perched above the  unknown remains of millions of years. He breathed in the exhaust, fumes and smoke and listened to the dense urban cacophony of horns, rumblings and shouts. What an unexpected place for an ancient extinct Trilobite to end up. But it had.

And he had found it.

 

 

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), It by Bill Chance

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

Nambe Lake, New Mexico

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#31). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


It

 

He had paid in full for the trip before it happened. The trip was not cheap and he had saved up for several years. Nothing, of course, was refundable. After it happened, he didn’t want to go.

But at the funeral everyone said, “You need to go, it will be good for you.”

This was inevitably followed by, “It is what they would have wanted you to do.”

So he went.

The first day he had planned on a hike to a high isolated mountain lake perched in a rocky cirque below three sides of vast cliff faces. It was listed in all the guidebooks as a top ten dayhike in the entire state.

He parked his rented car, slung his tiny daypack and set out. The first section of trail was fairly level through a thick forest. He felt as if his boots were floating above the ground as he moved, the forest was filled with an invisible fog, and his mind was somewhere far away.

Then the trail turned into the wide canyon that led up to the lake and he began to climb. It was very steep and rocky. His legs quickly began to tire and his breath came in difficult gulps. The pain galvanized him and he welcomed it. The ache reminded him he was alive and helped to get his physical self – his muscles, bones, and lungs in line with how he felt in his head.

The trail twisted up and around beside the tumbling stream coming down from the lake above. The cold mountain meltwater had a subtle unique ozone-like odor, bracing and pleasant. He noted this, along with the tinkling splash of the falling water and the cold air pouring down from above, hitting him in the face, refreshing while the sun rose burning overhead. He sensed all this, but his heart was hard and it didn’t reach him like he hoped it would.

On he climbed, getting tired and thirsty as his water bottle ran out. The canyon kept turning in a rising spiral. He expected to find his destination after every curve, but was only presented with more steep rock.

“Where is that damn lake?” he cursed under his breath.

And then, around a last bend, there it was. A smooth oval of that almost milky turquoise mountain water, tinted with fine glacial rock dust. It was high up, almost to treeline and the evergreens surrounding the lake were twisted – stunted with the winter struggles against snow and wind, but dark green and thick, holding the water in a cup between their trunks. All around rose vertical walls of rock, a vast enveloping escarpment of mixed grays, punctuated with patches of brilliant snow trailing strings of melt water falls. High above, like looking up from the bottom of a wide well, was the sky – a deep purple from the altitude and spattered with thin, high clouds.

The beauty of the scene assaulted him with power and grace. But he was still immune. The lifeless numbness that enveloped him since it happened shielded him from the gorgeous allure of the lake no matter how hard he had worked to enjoy it.

After a few minutes he turned around and started back.

“It will be easier now, going back down,” he said to himself and he was right.

“Well,” he thought, “that was one wasted hike.”

But he knew that sometime in the future there would be another one that wasn’t wasted. At any rate, there were nine more in his guidebook. And more states after that.

Time was what he needed. It was all he needed.

 

____________________________________

This is another sketch using a writing prompt from the book by Brian Kiteley, The 3 A.M. Epiphany. It… and its companion, The 4 A.M. Breakthrough, are unusually useful collections of  writing exercises (rather than simple prompts). I thumbed around until I found a prompt I liked… it was the second one I looked at.

Writing Prompt #110

Sweet and Sour

Describe briefly a lake or a backcountry mountain trail (in other words, a beautiful natural setting) as seen by a person who has just lost a parent in a sudden, unexpected death. The last time this narrator saw the parent, they argued violently. In your narrative do not mention the death, the parent, or the argument. Do not tell a story. Simply show us what the lake or forest or street looks like to someone under these circumstances. 500 words

 

 

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), Scars by Bill Chance

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please

—-MASH Theme Song

 

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#30). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


Scars

 

He saw the scars on her arms.

“Those cuts aren’t very deep,” he said.

“I know. This wasn’t a suicide attempt – I don’t want to die.”

“Yeah, a lot of suicide attempts are just to gain attention.”

“Nope, that wasn’t it. Once you get to know me better you’ll learn I don’t give a rat’s ass about stuff like that.”

“Really?”

“Really. I don’t care what other people think. I don’t care what you think.”

“Then why?”

“For one thing… for the pain. But most of all… I just wanted the scars.”