Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – The Start of a Beautiful Friendship by Bill Chance

“Of All The Gin Joints In All The Towns In All The World, She Walks Into Mine.”
― Rick, Casablanca

 

The Bartender and a Regular, Molly’s, Decatur Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

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 (#90) Almost 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.


The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

Russell never thought, never in a million years, that he could be thrown in jail for pissing on the side of a building. At home, you can pee wherever you want – it is a God-given right. He was no more than a block down the street from the bar when he realized he had forgotten to use the bathroom before he left. There was an unlit alley and he ducked in. He was admiring the patterns of oblique shadow the streetlights made on the rough brick when he noticed the blue and red flashing lights mixed in with the yellowish streetlight.

Just when he broke out into a grin at the interplay of colors and shapes he felt a rough hand on his shoulder.

Russell jumped a bit at the voice yelling in his ear, “Well, now, look who’s going to jail tonight.”

His arms were pulled back and he felt the cold steel click around his wrists.

“Shit, son, you ain’t even zipped up,” the unseen voice said. “Now, don’t you piss on me or I’ll crack your damn head.”

He felt his hands released and as soon as he brought them forward and fixed his pants he was shoved forward. His hand came up to catch himself from falling, his palms against the uneven wall. Boots pushed his feet apart.

Strong hands moved down his sides and between his legs, and finally slid his wallet out of his back pocket.

——————–

The concrete pallet had no mattress and the jailhouse orange coveralls were thin so Russell wasn’t really asleep when the noise outside the cell snapped his eyes open. Two huge deputies were dragging a man down the corridor towards the cell. He was wearing a once-whitish suit, covered in thin blue lines – now stained with blood and at least one other substance. The man looked exhausted and one eye was swollen almost shut but he still heaved and wiggled against the thick arms that restrained him.

The two deputies tossed him against a wall where he gathered himself erect and began the useless task of trying to smooth the countless deep wrinkles out of his suit. One deputy turned and began to work the lock on the cell door while the other kept facing the man in the suit.

“Gentlemen, “ the man in the suit began to talk in a surprisingly clear, steady, and controlled voice. “I do not stand to be treated like this. You should know that, not only am I an attorney, I am a member of the New York bar.”

The guard facing the man did not say a thing but gave a sharp shrug of his shoulder and a heavy telescoping rod shot down from his hand about the length of his forearm. At the end of the rod was a small but mean looking black sphere.

The man in the suit said, “Ahhhh,” but before a complete word could form the guard raised the extended truncheon and began wailing away at the man in the suit. His arm moved like a piston while the rod whistled through the air landing on the man with a sickening wet thud. Russell noticed the man had the presence of mind to cover his good eye with both hands and to turn and curl to present the smallest target. Russell had the feeling that this wasn’t the first time he had been beaten.

Russell guessed that swinging a heavy club like that was hard work and within a minute the guard stopped, bent over with his hands on his knees and breathing hard. He caught his breath and asked his partner, “Do you want a go at him, Hubert?”

“Naw, I got my licks in when we picked him up. I got a bottle in my locker, lets drop him here and grab a quick snort.”

They grabbed the man and attempted to throw him into the cell but somehow, he resisted enough to stand and walk through the cell door on his own volition. It shut with a metal clang and the two guards left without a backwards glance.

“They didn’t put you in a jail jumpsuit,” Russell said.

“No they did not,” the man said with a bit of pride in his voice, “That, my friend, is the source of the disagreement I had with those two apes back there. As you see, I’m still wearing my seersucker, and that I won that argument.”

Russell thought that was a definition of the word, “won,” that he had not ever heard before.

“How did you get here from New York?”

“Oh, I’m not really from New York. I was born and raised less than three miles from this very hoosegow. I only said I was from New York to impress those dimwitted thugs back there.”

“Now,” Russell said, “I’m just a country kid, but if I sat up all night thinking of saying something that would guarantee I got a bad beating in here, I don’t think I could do any better than telling them I was a New York lawyer.”

The man went on as if Russell hadn’t said a thing. “Now friend, I am an attorney… or at least I was. The state bar did not take too kindly… and over-reacted to – a trivial incident involving a real estate loan and the District Attorney’s niece. My present plans, however, do include, when they come to fruition, the reinstatement of my lawyerly license.”

“I don’t see how getting beat up in jail is going to help you get your license back,” Russell said. “Oh, and I’m Russell and I guess I’m pleased to meet you.”

The man seemed to think for a minute before giving up his name. “Jameson P. Samuel, at your service, but you can call me Jim.”

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Blue Rooster by Bill Chance

“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.”
P.G. Wodehouse, The Adventures of Sally

 

This woman, a bartender at the NYLO Southside, asked Candy, “Is your husband a professional photographer?”
Candy answered, “He thinks he is.”

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 (#89) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Blue Rooster

Phoenix Cody liked Slade, the bartender at the Blue Rooster Bar, even though he knew Slade, who was also the owner, hated him. For too many years the Blue Rooster was on Phoenix’s route – when he was working muscle for the Rockfist Triad – and nobody liked being shaken down like that. Still, it was a nice, dark bar where pretty much anything could go down on a given night – and Phoenix was feeling nostalgic.

“Hit me again, Slade,” he said, clinking the ice in his glass. “How ’bout a clean glass this time.”

Slade glared at Phoenix, reached across the bar, and dribbled a thin stream of Darkhammer Scotch over the ice already in the glass. “Six bucks,” Slade said.

“Oh, now, Slade. How ’bout one on the house.”

“Nope. Do you think I don’t remember every time you came in here for payment? You pay, cash, full price, every drink.”

“Now, Slade, that was business, you know that. And it’s over now.” Phoenix decided to kick things up a notch. “But you know, I’d watch it if I were you. It’s over now, but it might start up.”

“Are you kidding me?” said Slade. “After the crap you pulled with the Rockfist boys? You are lucky you’re still breathing.”

“Luck had nothing to do with it. And if it isn’t the Rockfist… it might be somebody else.” Phoenix slapped some bills down on the bar and started to look around.

Phoenix was getting bored with Slade’s sad sack routine and decided to look around the place and see if he could find some action. That was when he spotted the towering, lanky dude in the classic tuxedo down at the end of the bar. His hair was oiled, slicked back, and he kept pacing from the bar over to a column where he would stare at the front door. Then he’d pull his jacket sleeve back and stare at a Rolex Submariner on his wrist. He’d let out a big sigh, shake his head, and then turn back to the bar.

This little routine would restart and go on again. Phoenix watched for a minute and it started to make him dizzy. The guy was waiting for somebody and that somebody was late. He wanted to meet this person in a bad way.

The narrow side street – not much more than a wide, brick alley – that the Blue Rooster sat on ran down into the bright broad expanse of Fifth. Sometimes the theater crowd would filter down that way, looking for a act more provocative than on the musical stages set up for tourists – so it wasn’t unusual to see a man in a tuxedo. But this tall drink of water stood out. He was alone, for one thing, and for another… he towered over the scruffy con men, drug dealers, and two-bit hustlers that were filling the Blue Rooster at that time of the night.

Phoenix decided to see what was up and began to move down the bar toward the dude. Before he was halfway the guy noticed his drink was empty, looked at his watch one more time, and then headed toward the door. He brushed Phoenix as he went by but ignored Phoenix’s hand grasping his shoulder and headed out. His head was somewhere else.

Disappointed, Phoenix grabbed an empty chair in the narrow space between the bar and the brick wall opposite. He turned and leaned back, lifting the front legs of his chair off the ground a few inches. This was a vulnerable way to sit in a place like the bar, but Phoenix liked what it showed about him – that he wasn’t afraid to let his guard down, that he could handle it, no matter what.

The tall tuxedo man was barely gone, only enough time for him to scurry down the street a few paces, when somebody else entered the bar – somebody that immediately caught Phoenix’s eye. She was tall too, with a mass of jet-back hair tied back off her shoulders. She was wearing an evening dress of the shiniest, sheerest, black fabric. The way it curved, hung, and moved… this stuff must be the pride of the German Chemical industry to make something like that – though the woman underneath had more to do with it.

She was looking around the bar, moving quickly, almost frantic. Phoenix immediately realized she was here looking for the tall guy. He watched her turn to look into the dark corner by the door and saw her dress was marked in the back with a large, dark crimson hourglass that stretched from her back down… down far enough. Her outfit was stunning and all eyes in the place were on her, all heads were turned to follow her frenetic search. The look was only spoiled by the oversize bag she had slung over her shoulder – she should have had a slim, jeweled pocketbook, not the massive leather purse she was lugging.

She worked her way back through the bar as Phoenix watched her and waited. He was the only person in the place by himself – and he wanted to see what happened when she reached his spot. Phoenix noticed her glance his way a couple times, and it didn’t take long for her to clear the nearest table and look down at him, sitting on his chair, leaned up against the rough brick wall. Phoenix pulled his face into his most relaxed, nonchalant expression – something he took pride in and had worked on for years.

“Excuse me, but I’m meeting someone here and I’ve never seen… are you Brett?”

“Why, yes… yes I am. Glad to meet you.” Phoenix had not even had time to think about the lie… it simply came out. And now… nothing to do except go with it. He put on his biggest, broadest smile and reached out his hand toward the woman.

Instead of taking it, she scooted back half a step and reached into that cavernous bag she carried.

Phoenix had enough time to think, “Oh, that’s why she has such a large purse,” but not much more, as the woman’s hand flashed out with a gigantic chrome plated revolver. She raised it and Phoenix’s brain noticed how it gleamed in the uneven light of the bar. He couldn’t do anything else, though. Leaning back in the chair like that, he was trapped, it would take at least two or three seconds to lean forward and leap one way or the other… but he had less than one.

The gun roared as the woman kept pulling the trigger and slug after slug pumped out and into Phoenix’s chest at point-blank range.


It took a lot of effort, but slowly, Phoenix Cody was able to concentrate his vision on the ceiling of the room. It was a grid of tiles, each one with hundreds of little black holes in it… big holes, little holes, all in a random pattern. Phoenix wanted to get his mental abilities back, so he started to count the holes… one… two… three…. And that was about it. All he could do at that point was to close his eyes, try to get some sleep, and wait for whatever drugs they had him pumped full of to wear off.

Involuntarily, he moved his head a fraction and the pain shot through his chest like an electric bolt. They obviously had him on something strong, so that little movement must have really hurt.

Phoenix thought of all the detective shows he had seen on television growing up. The hero would be wearing a bullet proof vest and the bad guy would get off a couple shots. The hero would go on like nothing had happened – catch the crook – get the girl… all was right in the world.

It didn’t work like that. A vest, especially a good one, like what Phoenix wore, might stop a bullet from a handgun without much trouble, but the kinetic impact was only spread out over a small area. At close range, with a large caliber handgun, it felt like being hit in the chest with a sledge hammer.

Phoenix never blacked out during the shooting itself. He felt all five sledge hammer blows. The woman was so close he had powder burns, but he had kept his eyes open. He couldn’t stop staring at the woman’s face in the split seconds between the flare of the shot leaping out of the pistol. The expression on her face was amazing.

He didn’t think he had ever seen anyone that pissed off before.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – The Graduate At Home by Bill Chance

Benjamin Braddock: Mrs. Robinson, I can’t do this anymore.
Mrs. Robinson: You what?
Benjamin Braddock: This is all terribly wrong.
Mrs. Robinson: Do you find me undesirable?
Benjamin Braddock: Oh no, Mrs. Robinson. I think you’re the most attractive of all my parents’ friends. I mean that.
—-The Graduate

 

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.

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 (#88) Getting closer! 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 Graduate At Home

 

“Another postcard from Da and Mum.”

It always shocked me a bit to hear my father refer to his parents as “Da and Mum.” He was too successful, too proper, too correct, too comitted to precision and accuracy, and, especially, too old to refer to anyone, let alone his parents, with a juvenile, pedestrian term of endearment like “Da and Mum.”

“Where are they now, Dear?” asked my mother.

“Some island. Santorini. They say it’s beautiful. The postcard sure is, take a look.”

“Yes, Bishop dear, it sure looks special.”

“Brenda, they always make postcards look nice, it’s probably dusty and dirty.”

“Santorini is an island in the Aegean,” I said. I had read about the place on Wikipedia only a week ago. I had seen some movie full of stunning sunsets and nude beaches on cable and had looked up the filming location. My parents swiveled their heads to look at me, but their expressions didn’t change. “It’s the remains of an ancient volcano, the partial rim of a crater, that’s all that’s left. There used to be a civilization there. It was destroyed in a massive explosion during the Minoan age. A lot of people think that was the source of the legend of Atlantis.”

“That’s nice, dear. You certainly are full of information,” my mother said.

“He’s full of something all right,” I heard my father mutter under his breath as he stood up with his cup of coffee and headed for the front door.

“Do you have to go to the office today dear? it’s Saturday and a beautiful day,” asked my Mom.

“Somebody has to pay for all this,” Dad said with an expansive eye roll. If his hands weren’t full with coffee and his briefcase he would have made a rainbow-shaped gesture, indicating exactly what he meant by “all this.” He said that all of the time and I was never really sure what he was talking about.

“Could you please get Sammy to work on his papers,” he said to my Mom as he balanced the coffee cup and pulled the door shut. “Graduate school won’t wait forever.”

“Dear,” my mom said.

“I know!” was the only reply I could choke out.

“Sammy. Please give it a stab. I’m off too, there’s a meeting for the spring charity ball down at the club. I’d love to see something finished when I get back.”

“Mom?”

“Yes, Sammy.”

“Why don’t we ever talk about your parents, I haven’t met them since I was ten. We always talk about Da and Mum.”

“Well, Sammy. I guess it’s better to have one good set of Grandparents that two sets of crummy ones. Now, go up to your desk, please, I’m off.”

Before she stood up to go she stared at me with a sadness in her eyes, the saddest I have ever seen.


The desk in my room was covered in beautiful carefully coordinated mahogany and leather office accesories, purchased by my mother from the Levenger store at the Galleria. It was all fastidiously and artfully arranged. I had never even touched any of it.

Three piles of various forms were stacked in a neat row across the front of my desk. Each one corresponded to a university that my parents, the graduate school advisor, and a professional educational consultant had chosen as my best matches. I have to admit, they did a good job – somehow, they had chosen the three I would have picked if I had gone it alone. Most of the spaces in the forms had been already filled out – I only had to complete a few paragraphs of opinions “In my own words.” The spaces for my responses were marked with little blue stick-on arrows and the places where my signature went were signified by red ones.

I’m not a bad person, I swear. I want to do good. I want to do the right thing. I stared at the piles of paper. An expensive, beautiful, large, gold and black Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen, an early graduation gift, sat across the center pile at a forty-five degree angle. I reached for the pen and was able to get my hand within an inch and a half, but no closer. Beads of sweat broke out on my face and my hands began to tremble. I felt my gut tumbling and a bitter bile of fear swelling up in my throat.

I wanted to be good. I wanted to fill out the forms. I really did. But I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to lift that pen and my fear of those simple forms had grown to such a size that I couldn’t breathe and look at them at the same time.

Swamped with disgust I flopped onto my bed, turned on the television. And for the rest of the day, stared and hit the next button on the remote control every thirty seconds.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – The New Gods by Bill Chance

“Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Ganesha,
Dallas Museum of Art
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 (#87) Getting closer! 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 New Gods

Baruka had been a priest in The Religion since he was a teenager. He had been a high priest for two decades.

The Religion was thousands of years old. One of the tenets is that no one can ever speak the true name of The Religion, and Baruka has never heard it. Nobody alive for many generations had ever heard it. Nonbelievers made fun of The Religion for that, and many other reasons, but that never bothered Baruka. Every religion looks ridiculous when viewed from the outside.

There were forty eight thousand Gods, Deities, and Demi-Gods recorded in The Religion. The Volumes of Faith are the record of this holy menagerie. A large cadre of Priests exist solely to keep the Volumes of Faith up-to-date, researched, and answer questions about the various gods of The Religion. Copies are made, and old volumes are destroyed after new versions are created.

Baruka had seen the Volumes of Faith. They were arranged like an Encyclopedia, with an article about each God, Deity, or Demi-God. The text was written in elaborate, ancient scripts with detailed information about each, including rich illustrations. Every God, Deity, and Demi-God had an area of responsibility, personality quirks, powers, and weaknesses, all carefully recorded.

The problem is that there had been no updating of the holy menagerie for several centuries. Many, if not most, of the characters where no longer relevant

For example, Huroda, the Demi-God dedicated to the Buggy Whip is never called upon. Obviously, at one time, the terrible God Variola – the God of Smallpox, was feared, worshiped, and sacrificed to. Now, she is forgotten.

And there is no God of Vaccines. And the people believe there should be.

So a council was called at The Religion’s largest monastery. Invited were all the high priests, the entire group of priests from the Volumes of Faith, and a large organization of clerks, calligraphers, artists, and bookbinders ready to produce new volumes containing the new gods. The coterie was so large that the monastery overflowed and filled a local Motel 6 and a La Quinta Motor Inn.

The first order was to decide on formats. There was no doubt that the tradition of having the Volumes of Faith in physical, book form would continue. But Baruka was happy that the council decided to also publish the material digitally. There would be an online database and the work that they did would be available to all. There would be a sort of Wikipedia of Gods from The Religion – complete with scanned illustrations.

There was much excitement and brotherhood and everyone fell into working groups and began to brainstorm the new gods.

Baruka was in a large group dedicated to the gods of digital technology. They had even hired a gaggle of local skateboarders to sit in and ensure capture of all the most cutting-edge deities.

They started with the two key digital gods – Ides, the God of Zero and Yrdon, the God of One.

After that, the deities started falling into line:

Uasis, God of Programming

Aanh, God of Voltage

Xiean, God of Semiconductors

Biion, God of Bloatware

EtdisBars, God of Cellular Phone Reception

Iisyn, God of Flatscreens

Oses, God of Instant Messaging

Phoktis, God of Swiping Right

And so on.

Baruka remembered as a child how delighted and complete he would feel when he thought of the forty eight thousand gods and how they were all looking after them.

Now he knew this was truly the best of all possible worlds and a hundred thousand or more new gods were on their way to make sure everything was going to be all right.

 

 

 

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – No Running by Bill Chance

“If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world. It’s impossible.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

The sculpture must be intended as a fountain… although it is dry now.

 

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 (#86) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


No Running

The little boy came up out of the water like a sprite from a fountain. He shook the droplets and watched the tiny rainbows as they flew from his body. He looked down at the dark footprints his wet soles left on the hot concrete – at the space between the toes and curved pads and as he gained speed there was only the toes and the ball, then finally nothing as his skin dried.

A sudden scream of air – a whistle – blown – designed to startle – stopped the boy in his tracks right at the foot of the ladder.

“No Running!” came the simple loud command from high.

The boy shook as he looked up at the voice from the chair – but the speaker was obscured by the bright haloing sun.

He walked carefully the rest of the day, little steps, glancing up at the chair.

That night he ate his dinner and cleaned his plate. Then he copied his lessons from the book onto his blue-lined three-holed paper using his number two lead pencil. He took his evening bath, and – remembering the instructions from his health textbook – combed his hair one hundred times. Finally, he crawled into bed, pulled his blanket up to his neck and quietly, almost silently, sobbed himself to sleep.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Like Regular Chickens by Bill Chance

Mr. X: Mary usually does the carving but tonight since you are our guest, you could do it, Henry. All right with you?

Henry Spencer: Of course. I’d be happy to. So I just, uh… I just cut them up like regular chickens?

Mr. X: Sure, just cut them up like regular chickens.

—-David Lynch, Eraserhead

Commemorative Air Force, Wings Over Dallas, 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 (#85) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Like Regular Chickens

I raised another basket of legs and thighs out of the fryer and hooked the wire to let them drain back into the sizzling oil. When the buzzer went off I dumped both baskets out onto the steel tray, shuffled everything around and slid them under the banks of heat lamps.

“Dark meat up,” I shouted.

Chuck had set this job up for me after they fired me down at the country club. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, though I hated the smell of greasy chicken, the uniform and especially the hat. The days went by fast and after my dad had cut off my allowance I needed the cash for walking around money. Actually, my father had offered me my allowance back. I don’t think he liked telling his friends that his son worked down at Chick’n Lick’n. I told him to go to hell.

With my paycheck the week before I had even been able to make the last payment on my car. It was a rolling piece of crap, the air conditioner had never worked, it make a strange growling noise whenever I made a left turn, and I had to put in two quarts of oil a week, but it was mine.

“Hey Sam, get over here, there’s something I want to tell you.”

“Elena, what is it?”

“Sam, what was your mother’s maiden name?”

“Decker. She was Brenda Decker. Why are you asking?”

“That’s what I thought. My dad has known her family for ages. Sam, there’s some guy out front. He’s been in for a couple days now. Says he’s from out of town. Says he’s looking for Brenda Decker.”

“That’s pretty weird… But maybe not. Brenda Decker, that’s a pretty common name.”

“Not that common, not around here.”

Elena and I walked out to the front. She pointed out an old, fat man, his head shaved. He was wearing overalls and sweating something awful, sitting in a booth off to the side, shoving fried chicken into his face.

“Elena, I’m taking my break, I’m going to go talk to him.”

I walked out around and up to the guy’s booth.

“Mister, I hear you’re lookin’ for Brenda Decker.”

“That’s right kid, ya know ‘er.”

“An old friend of the family.”

I’m not sure why, but I didn’t want this guy to know that Brenda Decker was my mother.

“I’m Sam,” I said.

“Brush, Brush Holland.”

He stuck out his hand. I gave a quick shake and sat down across from the guy. He still had bits of chicken in his mouth.

“I’m on break, I don’t have much time.”

“Well, where is she?”

“I’m not sure right now, but I can find out, maybe. First, how do I know that this is the right Brenda Decker. There’s a lot of ’em out there.”

“Sure, son. That’s her maiden name, her married name is Holland.”

“Well, then that can’t be her. The name is wrong.”

The Brush guy then described her. It was my mother, exactly. He had her age right, her height, weight, even the way she talked and walked. He said he hadn’t seen her in a long, long, time, that she’d be older, a lot older now. But he knew her, I was sure of that. It was my mother he was looking for.

“Well, I don’t think I know the Brenda you are looking for,” I said.

“Are you sure of that, boy.”

He stared close and hard. I don’t think he believed me.

“You hear anything, you give me a call, now, you hear. I know where you work.”

He handed me a slip of paper with a cell phone number and I told him I had to get back to work. It was hard to concentrate and I burned myself on a fry load of gizzards. The day went slow, I kept sneaking a look out front to make sure Brush Holland wasn’t back. He didn’t show.

—————

“Mom, I met someone down at work. He said he was looking for you. He called you ‘Brenda Holland.’”

My mother looked like someone had hit her in the back of the head with a baseball bat. Her mouth opened and her tongue came out a little, her eyes grew wide.

“I need to sit down,” she said. “Sammy, can you bring me a glass of water, some ice. Maybe put some vodka in it.”

I went to the kitchen and when I came back she was sitting on the couch, her shoes off, her face ashen. She took the drink wordlessly, raised it and drank the whole glass down.

“Do you need some more?” I asked.

“No, I’m fine,” she said, pulling a cube out of the glass and rubbing it across her forehead. She did not look “fine.” She did not open her eyes or raise her head but asked me in a strange, calm voice, “Was it Brush?”

“Yes, Brush Holland. Mom, why did he use his last name for you?”

She was silent for a long time, but began to shake, slightly at first, but her hands began to tremble more and more until she couldn’t even hold the sliver of ice that remained in her fingers, with a tinkle it fell and shattered on the hardwood floor. Then she said is a low voice, so quiet I could barely hear.

“Because he is my husband.”

When she said that she let out a long low moan. I had never heard a human being make a sound like that before, it was like something an animal makes, maybe a farm animal, maybe when it realizes what is in store, mabye when the slaughterhouse is in sight. She moaned and trembled and then wept.

I didn’t know what to do. I sat there, across from her and couldn’t stop staring at her there. She didn’t look like my mother any more. She looked so sad, but so beautiful, like she had been dropped there, crying, on that couch from some spaceship, dumped on this planet with her sadness and grief as her only baggage.

Slowly, the weeping slowed, then stopped. My mother sat motionless for a while, then she seemed to relax. Her head raised and her shoulders unhunched. The color returned to her face. Finally she opened her eyes and looked straight at me. He eyes grew wide and she looked surprised, like she was seeing me for the first time, like I was a strange boy that had showed up in her living room. Finally, her face relaxed and I even saw a little flash of a smile for a second. Then she sighed a little exhalation and began to talk.

“Oh, Sammy, I never thought this was going to happen. Or, actually, I knew it was going to happen. It’s just that, I guess I hoped it wouldn’t, though, deep down, really deep, I knew it would.

You see, Sammy it was so long ago, so long ago. I was only sixteen. Things at home were, oh, Sammy, you can’t imagine. I was so miserable; I was scared all the time. I had a boyfriend, it’s been so long, even his memory, Sammy, I can’t even remember exactly what he looked like.”

“Brush?”

“No, no, he was later. This was Dwayne, a boy from school, we ran away. He had a car, we barely had enough money for gas. We were going to Las Vegas, we were going to get married, he was going to work in construction and I was going to dance. We made it to Arkansas, and the car broke down. And then… Dwayne was drinking, he was being stupid, it was dark, the fog… the train, it was so fast. Well, see, he died. I had nowhere to go, I was alone, I could not go home.

So I did the best I could. I got a job in a chicken plant. It was awful. The chickens would come down and a machine would cut their heads off. I had to take the bodies and plop them down on a cone, so the rest of the machines could cut them up. Thousands of chickens, tens of thousands. The smell. It was cold, too, my hands would ache. At night, I couldn’t wash the chicken smell off.

And then. And then there was Brush.”

“What kind of a name is Brush?”

“It’s an Arkansas kind of name. He was the supervisor, the manager. He noticed me right off. You’ve met him?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Well, then you know. I guess he’s old now, he wasn’t all that young then. But I was. I was young, I was pretty. He had his eye on me. I was trapped. I had to get… had to get out of there. He had his eyes on me. I had no choice.”

“You married him, didn’t you.”

“Of course I did. I had no choice. No choice. You can’t imagine.”

“How long were you married?”

“Oh, almost two years. I thought the chicken factory was bad. It came to a point I couldn’t stand it, could take it no more. All I thought about was killing myself. Finally, again, I ran. I paid cash for a ticket and when Brush was out cold drunk I hitched a ride to the bus station and was gone. I switched buses at the next town, and switched again at the one after that. I knew he’d try to find me, but I figured if I ran far enough…. So I came here, started some junior college. Then I met your father.”

“When was that?” She saw me starting to count on my fingertips and actually let out a clear chuckle. I realized it was the first time I had heard her laugh in years.

“Sammy, don’t worry, Brush isn’t your father.”

“So you left and you divorced him. That’s not so….”

“Well you see, that’s the problem.”

“What?”

“I never divorced him. I just ran. I just ran.”

And then she looked sad again. She looked so so tired.

“Mom, you look awful. You need to get some sleep.”

“Sleep? How can I?”

“Go upstairs and forget about it. Forget for now. I have an idea. Let me try something.”

My mother looked hollow. I took her by the hand and led her up the stairs to her room. She drifted through the door and I pulled it shut. She looked so worn out, I knew she’d be able to get some sleep. I didn’t want to think about what dreams she would conjure up.

I didn’t have time to think, I had things to do.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Shopping Carts by Bill Chance

“Vandals listen only when others are stronger.
If vandals are equal or stronger
Their word is the last word.”
― Dejan Stojanovic, Circling: 1978-1987

The ponds at the end of my block, 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 (#84) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Shopping Carts

Sometimes, when the weather was warm, he liked to sit beside this little pond in a park near his house. The bank all around the pond was steep but there was a spot where a tree had died and left a flat area ringed by a rock wall that was a particularly comfortable place to sit.

He was sitting there looking across the pond where a sidewalk ran when he spotted a couple of teenagers pushing a shopping cart. There was a grocery store a block away and he could see a single shopping bag in the center of the cart. When they reached the middle of the part of the sidewalk that ran along the pond, one kid reached into the cart and pulled out the bag. The other simply turned the metal cart and pushed it down the steep bank where it hit the water and with a soft hiss, quickly sank beneath the surface. Once it was gone the two kids kept walking, now carrying the bag in their hands. It didn’t look very big.

He was upset at this. He knew the grocery store was losing money and would soon close. The neighborhood would be hurt by the lack of shopping and the image of the big empty box on the corner, the vacant parking lot. The carts were expensive and those kids were one reason nothing good ever lasted any more.

He thought about yelling something, but they were too far away. He couldn’t even chase them. By the time he rounded the pond they would be long gone. They were too far away for him to even know who they were – if he saw them again, he wouldn’t even know it.

So he sat there for a little longer and then walked home. He never went back to the pond again, preferring to stay home and watch television.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Men With a Bow Saw by Bill Chance

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune

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 (#83) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Men With a Bow Saw

Lucas spent a lot of time running on the Crosstown Trail. It was isolated and ran through some sketchy neighborhoods and that scared Lucas sometimes. One day it was cold and drizzly, with a thick fog rolling in, when he was out there by himself and he came around that bend, you know where it is, where it runs through all that thick brush. It’s like a green tunnel and even though it’s in the middle of the city, it is so quiet and dark it feels like you are out in the middle of nowhere. That’s why he liked it so much. But that day…

There were these two guys walking along. They were young and fit, muscular, and menacing. Lucas immediately saw them, before they saw him. They were walking off the trail and when he came across them they were looking into the woods and gesturing. They were looking intently, like they were seeking something or someone. But what really caught his eye is that one of them was carrying a bow saw – a big, heavy one. It looked like an odd but effective weapon and Lucas realized they were going after something they had spotted in the brush.

His heart skiped and a knot leaped into his belly and Lucas immediately jumped off of the trail and slid down into this little ditch where they could not see him. He had left his phone to charge and didn’t have it with him so he was on his own. He hugged the damp, cold earth on the side of the ditch, hoping the two men didn’t see him.

He could hear them talking excitedly, but the fog damped the sound and he couldn’t understand what they were saying. Then, Lucas heard the sawing. It was loud and hollow sounding and his heart kept beating faster and faster. He didn’t hear any screams, so their victim must be dead already. His mind raced with horror as the awful sound kept going. There would be a pause every now and then, and he could hear the men babbling, then it would start back up.

Lucas was about to go crazy with panic when the sawing finally stopped. But then, to his horror, he could hear the footsteps of the men as they walked off and he realized they were going down the trail right towards his hiding spot. When they reached his location, they could look down into the ditch right at him.

As they approached Lucas gathered his feet underneath and tried to brace his crouch. His only hope of escape if they saw him was to spring up onto the trail and bolt away as fast as he could. Lucas was a strong runner and hopefully, with the element of surprise, he could escape.

The second he completed his preparations, they were upon him. Now that they were closer, he could understand what they were saying and as he tensed, Lucas heard.

“Oh, these are just perfect.”

“Yes, we can coat them with urethane, not the glossy stuff, it’ll look cheap.”

“And they’ll support the shelves and will have just the look we want.”

He looked up at the two men. One still had his saw and the other was carrying a load of bamboo under his arms. Lucas remembered, there was a grove of bamboo around the corner… they were cutting bamboo for bookshelves.

There was a loud clatter as the bamboo hit the concrete trail. They had seen him. Lucas was covered with mud and loose leaves from his slide down and it must had scared the two men to death to find him crouched in the ditch like that.

There was nothing for Lucas to do but to go on with his plan. He sprung out, stumbled a bit, then picked up speed. He could hear one man screaming as he ran as fast as he could. He looked over his shoulder and saw the other one sprinting to the blue-lighted emergency phone a few feet back down the trail. Lucas realized he should have thought about that.

Lucas doubled his speed. Now, instead of racing the two men with the saw, he was trying to get out of there before the cops arrived. He didn’t want to have to explain about all that.

He did make a mental note to come back with a saw of his own. That bamboo was a great idea for bookshelves.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Racing With the Wind 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

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 (#82) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Racing With the Wind

Roger and Annette had to rush to the van from the basketball court. Annette ran with her oldest daughter’s hand in her own while Roger brought their young son, no more than a toddler, carried in his arms. A huge black angry cloud was building rapidly to the west and the boiling thunderstorm was beginning to kick up a cold fast wind.

As they piled into the van the humid heat of the Texas summer was shoved aside by a blast of cold storm outflow air. The second they settled in, locking the toddler into his car seat and making sure the girl had her belt fastened the wind rose to a howling gale. Dust and leaves rose in a shooting cloud and the van rocked from the power of the wind.

To watch their daughter’s game they had had to park across the street in the lot of a small shopping center. It was anchored by a big hardware store and the wind suddenly began grabbing the hundred shopping carts piled out front and sent them shooting across the lot like rockets, right toward Roger and Annette’s van.

They flew in a wheeled phalanx, upright and racing, some swerving a bit due to a wonky wheel, but most moving straight with amazing speed. Roger and Annette could do nothing but watch them come. Most were driving in a rumbling mass to the south of the van, where they watched them pass, hit the curb, and then tumble out into the street.

A few veered to the left and came close to the van, but due to a lucky act of providence, not actually hit them, although some only missed by inches. Roger, Annette, and their daughter sat there helpless, and felt a great relief and the sudden windstorm died down and was replaced by fat, pelting rain. They felt very lucky they had not been hit, though it would have been a nasty dent at worse.

The toddler, of course, thought the whole thing was a blast and laughed as hard as he could as he watched the shopping carts fly by.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Clambake by Bill Chance

“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
― Anais Nin

Lee walking in the surf at Crystal Beach. I checked my old blog entries – this was December 29, 2002. Fifteen years ago, almost to the day.

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 (#81) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Clambake

Andrew was a senior in high school. He had a brother, Sam, who was a freshman. Andrew didn’t really like going places with his family, but he loved hanging out at the sea. So when he parents insisted that he go to the beach with the three of them and Sam’s friend Wilbur he hemmed and hawed and complained but agreed to go. Actually, he was looking forward to it, but knew he couldn’t appear too eager or it would betray his brand.

“Sam is bringing Wilbur for the day, don’t you have a girlfriend you could invite?” asked his mother. Andrew flashed his best combination face of exasperation, embarrassment, and fury before he turned, huffed, and stomped off. “If I had a girlfriend I wouldn’t have to go to the beach with my family,” he said to himself once he reached the privacy of his room.

The drive was two hours and getting all those people into the MiniVan and on the road was like herding cats. Andrew crammed himself into the back seat with his eyes closed hoping he could stand it until they were there and all this noise stopped. A split second before it became too much to bear they pulled into the parking lot and the whole crew piled out and ran for the sand.

It was a warm day and the ocean was like bathwater. Andrew swam a little and body surfed the waves a bit. His favorite thing was simply to walk the beach in the shallow water between the surf and the dry sand. He was of a curious nature and loved to look at the water, sand, and the creatures that lived in the tidal zone. Every time he came, he wondered at the smell of the sea – salt with a note of rotting fish. The strong breeze from offshore threw his hair around and the sun dried the wet sand on his ankles as he walked. Above all, he loved the rumble and crash of the surf – though it was partially ruined by the constant yelling and screeching of his little brother and Wilbur as they scampered around, causing as much trouble as they could.

The sun was beginning to settle towards the horizon when Sam ran up to Andrew and aroused him from his reverie. Sam was clutching a plastic bucket and toy shovel. Wilbur was grinning a few feet behind.

“Andrew! Look!” his brother said, holding out the bucket.

Andrew peered in and saw a single smooth brown clam.

“So?”

Sam handed the bucket to Wilbur.

“Wilbur and I dug it up! We’ve figured out how to find where the clams are buried.”

“No. That’s crazy.”

“Here, I’ll show you.”

His little brother began walking Andrew along the sand, looking carefully at the strip where the waves ebbed and flowed and the water was a fraction of an inch deep.

“Look down carefully. You just look for a place where these little bubbles are coming up…. There! Right there!”

“I don’t see anything.”

“No, right there. Dig.”

Sam handed Andrew the plastic shovel and he poked at the wet sand. Immediately another clam popped up, only an inch below the surface.

“Wow, another clam!” said Andrew.

“I told you,” Sam said. “Wilbur come here.” Sam flipped the clam into the bucket with the one they had found earlier. “Let’s find some more.”

They continued to walk along the beach and after a bit Sam would point and Andrew would dig up another clam. They would hand them to Wilbur who would drop them into the bucket. Andrew was confused because he could not figure out how Sam was finding the clams.

“What are you seeing that I can’t?”

“It hard to explain, it’s more like a feeling.”

Andrew couldn’t argue though, because every time he’d dig, he’d find a clam. He began to get more and more excited. Visions of filling the bucket and having a clambake began to grow and fill his imagination. He didn’t notice the sky going golden as the sun crept down.

“Hey, guys. Finish up, it’s time to go,” said his father. Andrew hadn’t noticed his parents hanging around next to them.

“No! Dad! We can’t go! Look at all the clams!” Andrew gestured toward the bucket in Wilbur’s hand. “We’re going to have a clambake!” He could barely contain his excitement.

“Just a couple more minutes, then we have to go,” said his father.

Andrew was confused at his father’s lake of enthusiasm for the clambake. He chalked it up to age and continued to walk along with Sam, stopping every few feet to dig up another clam. Wilbur kept putting them in the bucket.

“Ok, that’s it, time to go,” said his father. He was right; it would be dark soon.

“Wow, I hope we have enough to cook up,” said Andrew. “Hey Wilbur, let me look at the bucket. It must be full now.”

Wilbur started to twist away but Andrew was excited and quick and grabbed the bucket. Barely able to contain his excitement he pulled it close and looked down to see the pile of clams they had collected.

“What the hell!”

Andrew was shocked to see in the bucket only one clam rattling around alone in the bottom.

Confused, he looked up to see his parents, impatient and aggravated and his brother and Wilbur down in the sand rolling around laughing so hard they looked like they were going to get sick.

Andrew suddenly realized what had been going on. There was only one clam. Sam must have simply stumbled across it somewhere. Wilbur was walking ahead of them while they were looking down and he was re-burying the thing, over and over. Sam would point to the spot Wilbur had buried it and they would dig the same clam up, again and again.

It took the younger kids a long time to stop laughing and then they all walked back to the MiniVan. Andrew, of course, said nothing and heard nothing. It was especially humiliating to realize his parents could see the whole thing, hear his excitement, and let it go on.

The drive home was the longest trip in Andrew’s life. He was so ashamed and also disappointed – he had been really looking forward to a clambake.

The only thing that made him feel a little better is the thought that at least he didn’t have a girlfriend. If she had been along… and seen what happened. He wasn’t sure he could go on living.