Short Story Of the Day, The Call by Bill Chance

“As useless as always. There are so many jerks out there. I had a shoot last night and the photographer made a pass at me. Of course that happens, but this guy was awful. And disgusting.”

—-Bill Chance, The Call

Telephone Pole, Deep Ellum, 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 (#7). 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 Call

Jim was not a morning person and suffered from bad hangovers. He had learned to drink a glass of water and take aspirin before he fell dead asleep drunk – he knew hangovers were partially caused by dehydration – but had forgotten. Again.

The ringing phone felt like needles poking him through thick cotton. The phone was tangled in the same mass of sheets and blankets he was. The only way to find it was to trace the cord from the wall through the disorganized confusion until he found the instrument. His last apartment had one of the new style phone system with square jacks in the wall where you could move your phone from one place to another but this one hadn’t been updated and the phone was hard-wired. At least there were two, one in the living room and one by his bed. That was a modern luxury.

Finally, he had the earsplitting thing in his hands. It felt huge and heavy. At least it had buttons. He never missed the rotary phones that had mostly disappeared over the last few years. He would always hesitate, stumble and get wrong numbers with those things. He stared at the phone and considered not answering. He could not think of anyone he wanted to talk to right then. But he knew the phone could keep ringing for a long time so he lifted the receiver, mostly to shut it up.

“Hello?” he said.

“Hello,” said the voice on the other end of the line. Jim tried to figure out who it was. It was female and sounded young – about his age. The voice sounded a little familiar and he felt embarrassed that he couldn’t figure out who it was. He decided to go with it and try and figure out who it was by context.

“How are you?” Jim asked.

“Oh, good, good. I just wanted to check in and see how you were doing.”

“I’m fine, same as always. What’s up?”

“Nothing really. I just wanted to check in and talk.” Her tone was cheerful but flat. No clues. “Did I wake you up?” she asked.

“Oh no, I’ve been up for a while,” Jim lied. “I’ve just been puttering around, making breakfast, that sort of thing. Went for a short run.”

“You run in the mornings?”

“I try to.” Another lie. “You know it gets so hot later in the day.”

“No kidding.”

There was a pause and Jim realized he was no closer to figuring out who the hell this was. He decided to kick it up a notch.

“How’s your family?”

“Great, great, really. My sister is graduating high school later this year and everybody is excited about that. The last one to leave the house.”

“Has she made college plans?”

“Well, she’s never really been college material, as you know, but she is thinking about State. Giving it a shot, I’m proud of her.”

Jim scraped his mind for someone with a little sister that wasn’t too smart. And “State” didn’t help him at all. What State? Which State? He was going to have to dig deeper.

“How’s your love life?” he asked. There was a pause.

“As useless as always. There are so many jerks out there. I had a shoot last night and the photographer made a pass at me. Of course that happens, but this guy was awful. And disgusting.”

So she was a model. Jeez, did he know any models? His poisoned brain cells were not working very well, he couldn’t think of any women he knew that did that. Who was this? Nothing to do but keep on asking questions.

“That’s awful. The world is full of jerks. What was the shoot for?”

“Nothing, really. My portfolio mostly. That makes it worse. I should have known.”

And the conversation went on. Jim really enjoyed talking to this woman. She was funny, thoughtful, and did a lot of interesting things. She was the kind of person he had been looking for his whole life. And he couldn’t figure out who she was. He cursed his foggy mind. He cursed the damn telephone.

They talked for over an hour. They talked about movies they has seen, television shows they watched, and music they liked. They talked about the weather and the politics and even traded the best jokes they had heard lately. Jim’s hangover had disappeared and he was beginning to feel like this was going to be a good day, maybe the best of days.

But suddenly there was a pause on the other end of the line. She was not responding to what he said. He could hear her breathing.

“Are you okay OK?” Jim asked.

Another long pause, then the question, “Frank?”

“Uhhhh,” was all Jim could say. Then a click and a dial tone. “Wait!” he shouted even though he knew it was too late.

Jim had been a wrong number all along.

Suddenly feeling sick, he hung up and stared at the phone. He stared at it for a long time, trying to will it into ringing again. It never did.

He wished that there was some way to find out what number had called. He wished he could call back. Maybe someday, but that would be too late.

Short Story Of the Day, Neiman’s (part 2) by Bill Chance

“No, I’m fine… I’ll catch the next train.” As she said this she became aware that drops of blood were running down from her shoulder and dripping off her elbow.

—-Bill Chance, Neiman’s

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

Thanks for reading.

Read Part 1 Here


Neiman’s (part 2)

“Never mind my name, and that package seems very heavy for a cabbage.”

Apple realized how much effort she was putting into cradling the severed head in the crook of her arm, trying to cover up as much as she could with the remains of the shopping bag.

“Umm it’s very dense, a lot of flavor.”

“Why is it wrapped like that?”

“Valuable, Neiman’s… their Christmas catalog…”

“In Chinese newspapers?”

“It’s exotic, it’s imported.”

“Ma’am, I’m afraid you’re hurt.”

“No, I’m fine… I’ll catch the next train.” As she said this she became aware that drops of blood were running down from her shoulder and dripping off her elbow.

“You’ll have to come with us, come down and make a statement.”

Apple’s mind was drowning in a flood of panic when a sudden noise… a sharp crack echoing down the tunnel… caused all three to turn. With the corner of her eye she saw the homeless guy from the train slide something dark back into his loose-fitting trousers. She looked at him and he gave her a quick wink before he slid behind a tiled column and disappeared.

It was one of Gallo’s men, the homeless-looking guy. Apple didn’t know if she felt relief or horror.

The two cops were suddenly standing by the shopping bag thief and were yelling into their radios. The kid had slumped completely over and a large, dark stain was quickly spreading out from his now-lifeless body.

Apple smelt the ozone of a train pulling in behind her and felt the rush of cool air as the doors opened. She stared straight at the cops who weren’t looking at her at all as she stepped backward into the train, still holding the paper-covered head cradled in the crook of her arm. The door whisked shut and she was gone.

 


This bit of text is mostly from a glob of NaNoWriMo I did (I won that year) several years ago – I don’t think I have posted any of it before. I’m going to rewrite and rework some of it into something a little more self-contained. We’ll see.

Short Story Of the Day, Neiman’s (part 1) by Bill Chance

Which one?… The schoolgirl with her headphones? The businessman with his crossword?… The workman in his grimy t-shirt? Some filthy homeless looking guy was staring right at her.

—-Bill Chance, Neiman’s

DART train at the Plaza of the Americas (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 (#5). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Neiman’s

“A severed head in a shopping bag weighs a lot more than I thought it would,” Apple said to herself. She had lugged the Neiman Marcus bag from Gallo’s limousine to the train and the weight surprised her. She could feel rivulets of sweat pouring across every inch of her skin as the train moved out of the station and the standing riders lurched. Apple jerked as a stray foot bumped against the bag.

“They can’t see it – they don’t know – all I have to do is make the delivery and I’m done,” she repeated over and over – a mantra to calm her shattered nerves. As the train shuddered through each stop she scanned the faces of the other passengers, wondering which ones were members of Gallo’s crew making sure the package is delivered on time. Which one?… The schoolgirl with her headphones? The businessman with his crossword?… The workman in his grimy t-shirt? Some filthy homeless looking guy was staring right at her.

The train accelerated into a tunnel, rocking randomly back and forth, while dim lights flashed past the windows. Apple could still feel the oppressive weight of the horror in the bag against her ankle, and moved a fraction away from it. She was beginning to think she might survive – only three more stops – and the train pulled into the murky concrete cavern of an underground station. As the doors whipped open Abbey saw a kid with a burr haircut, nose ring, and some sort of open sore on the left side of his chin stand up and walk quickly down the aisle. As he passed Apple he dipped and in a quick and fluid motion grabbed the shopping bag and leaped out the door.

Apple didn’t even think as she shoved herself from her seat and grabbed the edge of the closing train doors, forcing them back open, and hurling herself out and down the platform toward the fleeing kid. The shopping bag was swinging wildly in his hand and it slowed him down. It wasn’t very far before Apple hit him like a linebacker – every inch of her muscles straining against the kid – wrapping him up as they tumbled hard to the concrete platform. She looked up to see the kid bent over, on his knees, making little “woof… woof” noises. Apple had skidded across the rough floor – one leg of her slacks was shredded up to her thigh and a patch of blood was soaking through her shirt at the shoulder. She ignored her pain in a panic, scanning around for the bag. It was only a few feet away, torn, with the round contents half rolled out – wrapped in newspaper with a grid pattern of reinforced strapping tape holding it together. She crawled to the package, gathered it in her arms and stood up, only to come face to face with two blue uniformed transit cops.

“Jeez lady… good tackle,” said one.

“It’s alright now, I have my package back,” she said, “I’ll just get going.”

“Just a minute, ma’am, what do you have in that package,” said the other one. He spoke in a serious businesslike monotone. Apple looked at his name tag which said, “Friday.” “Oh, great,” she mumbled to herself.

“Um, it’s a cabbage,” she said.

“You came out of that train and tackled a guy for a cabbage?” asked Friday.

“Come on Joe,” said the other cop, “Don’t give her such a hard time.”

“You’re name is Joe Friday?” asked Apple. “Besides, it’s a valuable cabbage… see,” she pointed to the torn shopping bag, “it’s from Neiman’s.”

 


This bit of text is mostly from a glob of NaNoWriMo I did (I won that year) several years ago – I don’t think I have posted any of it before. I’m going to rewrite and rework some of it into something a little more self-contained. We’ll see.

Short Story Of the Day, Yard Sale by Bill Chance

It was a bizarre and weird agglomeration of stuff. Right off the bat on a table of old, worn, and useless kitchen gadgets (none of which looked exactly clean) he spotted a single, ordinary spoon.

—-Bill Chance, Yard Sale

Graffiti in Deep Ellum. This warrior is nothing if not well-muscled… plus he is carrying off his prize of war.

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

Thanks for reading.

Yard Sale

Ever since his family had left him to move to California, Marcellus had been walking Margie farther and farther from the house. Margie was old, deaf, and blind but could still cover distance if they walked slow enough. They began to know their neighbors better than they ever had before.

On the outer edge of the territory was a house with a couple of ex-hippies in it. They must have always been at war with the neighborhood association because the trim was painted an odd purplish color. On certain evenings Marcellus heard loud rhythmic drumming from the backyard, floating over the privacy fence.

One Saturday morning, Marcellus and Margie were walking by and the couple had a big yard sale going. His curiosity was irresistible and he decided to take a good look at all the goods spread out on the various card tables or blankets on the ground.

It was a bizarre and weird agglomeration of stuff. Right off the bat on a table of old, worn, and useless kitchen gadgets (none of which looked exactly clean) he spotted a single, ordinary spoon.

“Who sells one spoon?” Marcellus said to Margie, “What horrible thing happened to that spoon to make them say ‘just sell it!’.” Margie couldn’t even hear him, let alone answer.

Marcellus needed a belt and had discovered that new ones cost more than he had thought they would so he decided to look for one at the sale. A box looked like some sort of belt-like strap and buckle jutted out of the top and he thought that would be worth a closer look. As he dug around he realized it wasn’t a belt but some odd harness. The box contained some rings and chains festooned with fur, some long curved objects and some smaller bullet shaped ones. Marcellus jumped back when he realized it was a box of sex toys.

He almost left right then – he didn’t judge – anybody could do what ever they wanted – he had what he thought was an open mind. But owning stuff like that is one thing, and selling it used was something else altogether. The prices seemed reasonable, though.

He was distracted by a woman with short, bobbed hair who began arguing with the couple at the main table.

“Hello, my name is Karen,” Karen said, “And I was wondering if you could sell me this for a dollar?”

“What’s it marked? Twenty? That’s a collector’s item, I really can’t come down on that – not to a dollar.”

“Well, I think people come here looking for bargains. I think you are asking too much.”

The argument went on, but Marcellus turned away and tugged Margie around looking at such things as:

A deer head, spray painted purple,

A planter made from a doll’s head with the top broken off, holding a dead fern,

Six ash trays, obviously made by children as art projects,

An abstract sculpture, four feet tall, made from glued toothpicks,

An old silver artificial Christmas tree used to display at least twenty bras, all obviously used,

A half bottle of salad dressing over a year out of date,

A small corked ceramic bottle labeled “Dead Flies,”

A bottle of shampoo (it was opaque and he couldn’t tell how much was in it),

A stack of large paintings:

-A naked man chained to a rock beside an eagle,

-Jesus and a dinosaur,

-A naked woman against a sunset, embraced by a man who’s lower legs were a building under construction,

And of course:

-Dogs playing poker,

-Elvis on black velvet,

-A well-muscled Aztec warrior carrying a woman off somewhere,

-Cats with big eyes….

He looked up from the paintings to see Karen glancing around furtively. She didn’t spot Marcellus and he plainly saw her pulling 25 cent tags off cheap kitchen items and swapping them onto items marked several dollars which she had in a box she was lugging around.

At that moment Marcellus found the stash of old clothes and fished through the belts which were hanging on an old high-backed chair. He pulled the longest one, a plain leather belt, down, stretched it around his middle, and was surprised to find it fit.

He walked up to the table where the couple were going through Karen’s box of stuff – adding everything up. He felt he had to say something.

“Excuse me, but I saw her….”

Karen turned, eyes wide, angry, “Shut up old man! It’s not your turn! Can’t you see I’m doing cash business here. And keep that damn dog away from me.”

“But, I saw you…”

“Nobody gives a damn,” Karen said, “ Leave us alone.”

“Uhh.” Before he said anything else the woman running the sale caught his eye and gave him a slight nod and a bit of a smile. Marcellus decided to shut up and stood there, feeling stupid. The woman received her change and without a word glared at everybody one last time and marched down to her Mercedes where her husband was waiting behind the wheel. Marcellus walked up to hand the woman the belt he had picked out.

“You know, she was switching prices. She was ripping you off.”

“Oh, yes,” the woman said, “I know, of course. It just isn’t worth it. We don’t really make any money off all this junk. We just want it to find somewhere useful, someone that wants it more than us. If she wants to rip us off, it’s her problem. Karma, you know.”

The woman and the man smiled at Marcellus as he paid for the belt. He had the exact change.

“It’s a hot day,” the man said, “Let me get some water for your dog.”

“Oh, that’s all right…” but the man had already gone into the kitchen through the garage. Marcellus saw a pyramid of various drums stacked up on one wall.

“We see you walking your dog around here every now and then,” the woman said, “She’s a good girl.”

“Yes, she is. Her name’s Margie.”

The woman bent over to rub Margie’s head as her husband came out with a plastic bowl. Marcellus noticed it had a couple of ice cubes in it. Margie began lapping greedily.

“You know, every Saturday night we have a drumming group, a drum circle,” the man said, gesturing at the garage wall, “it’s a lot of fun, you should come.”

“I don’t know… I don’t have any musical…”

“That doesn’t matter, you could just watch if you want, and bring Margie.”

“Well, she goes to bed early… and, umm, I usually go to be early.”

“Oh come over tonight,” the woman said, “About eight. The sunset’s nice.”

Marcellus nodded, said goodby and then turned to walk home.

“You’ll be alright alone for a few hours won’t you Margie?” he said as he walked. “I think I’ll come over. And wear my new belt.”

Short Story, Flash Fiction, Of the Day, Spaceliner by Bill Chance

This was twenty years before there would be a bicycle shop on every corner, and forty before you could have one delivered the next day from the internet – the only place his father knew of was Sears and Roebuck. They drove to the massive featureless brick rectangle at the edge of an endless parking lot.

—-Bill Chance, Spaceliner

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

Thanks for reading.

Spaceliner

It took the boy a month of courage collecting and the prodding of his mother to get the nerve to ask his father to buy him a bike. He expected the usual answer, “Christmas will come in only a few months, we will see about it then.”

When his father snuffed out his cigarette, stood up and said, “OK, let’s go,” the boy almost fainted.

This was twenty years before there would be a bicycle shop on every corner, and a half-century before you could have one delivered the next day from the internet – the only place his father knew of was Sears and Roebuck. They drove to the massive featureless brick rectangle at the edge of an endless parking lot.

The boy was jealous of his friends because they all had bicycles they called Spiders. These had huge curved banana seats – with purple plastic metallic sparkling covers. The handlebars rose straight up with a curve on the end – hopelessly unstable, but it looked cool. One friend had a bike with an actual round car-type steering wheel. He was the coolest of all.

But his father marched straight to the Sears Spaceliner model. Chrome and red, gigantic, heavy as a steel boulder – these had streamline art deco style curved tubes and a thick red console behind the handlebars that contained a light, horn and silver plastic control knobs. This was a careful design of an impractical transportation device that looked to a father from the fifties like something a boy from the sixties (on the other side of the vast cultural divide) would like.

“Let’s get one plenty big,” his father said, “So you won’t outgrow it too soon. I don’t want to be back down here in a year buying another one.”

The sales clerk had one already put together and he let the boy try it out in the back parking lot.

He had to push it along until it gained enough speed to roll upright on its own and then climb on to it as if it was a boat without a ladder. The thing was so large – so too big for him – that at the bottom of each stroke the pedal would disappear past his foot. He could not reach them at that point. He’d have to fish around with his foot as the pedal rose to get back on it.

Near the front door of the cavernous Sears was a little stand selling hot nuts. The vendor heated them on a little stove and sold them in paper bags. The odor of roasting peanuts, walnuts, and cashews filled the entrance and spilled out into the parking lot.

“Can we buy some cashews?” the boy asked. He was shocked when his father bought a bag. His father wasn’t one for impulse purchases. But this was a special day.

To this day, the boy, now an old man, loves cashews and splurges on a can every time he goes to the grocery. Sometimes he gets out an old cast-iron skillet out and heats them up before he gobbles them down.

 


This story is, of course, mostly true. It is a little simplified from reality – I didn’t get to test the bike out in the store. It turned out to be very frustrating – it was so big It took me a month to learn to ride it. In the meantime, my brother, who was three years younger than me got a small bike (what we would call a BMX style today) and immediately began scooting around the neighborhood. I thought it was my own incompetence, instead of the size of the machine.

I finally learned by lugging the thing to the top of a long, steep hill, standing on one pedal while the thing picked up speed rolling downhill. Then I would climb on. As you can imagine, this process resulted in a lot of crashes, skinned knees, and thumped heads (no bike helmets then).

If you know me, you might think that this is the origin of my love for cycling. That would be wrong. A few years later, back on a base, I went down to the Post Exchange and spotted a ten speed racing bicycle, what we called at that time an “English Racer.” It was the first time I ever saw a bike with dropped bars. I was addicted to Popular Science Magazine and had read about the new invention “derailleur gears” and amazed to see them in real life.  I was entranced.

Again, I was shocked when my father bought the bike. This one was perfect. I rode that bike everywhere and learned how to work on it (the early derailleur system was crude and needed constant adjusting). That has continued to the present day – 55 years later.

Not too long ago, I saw a Sears Spaceliner for sale at a vintage bicycle show. It was in mint condition – it cost seven hundred dollars. I didn’t buy it.

Short Story, Flash Fiction, Of the Day, Coaster by Bill Chance

No, No. The worst is the long, slow chugging upward, gaining potential energy, riding the chain to the top. The anticipation of terror. That’s the worst, and it’s over. You have survived it. You weren’t sure you would.

—-Bill Chance, Coaster

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing Sunday’s 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.

Let’s see… here’s one for today. What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Coaster

Ok, now, that first drop is the worst and it’s over. You survived.

Wait, no. The first drop isn’t the worst – it’s going over the top, the sudden acceleration into that drop… that‘s the worst. The first cars are bad because the ones behind hold it up and it hesitates suspended over the void – you can see the drop for a split second before the plunge. The rear car is bad because the front cars pull it fast up and over – it clanks and jumps. The middle cars – they’re bad too, the worst, because they do both. It’s the worst.  And it’s over. You survived.

No, No. The worst is the long, slow chugging upward, gaining potential energy, riding the chain to the top. The anticipation of terror. That’s the worst, and it’s over. You have survived it. You weren’t sure you  would.

That might not be the worst. The worst is going back and forth in that serpentine line, waiting an hour in the queue for a few seconds of fear. Then at the end there is the chicken’s exit – an arched door that you can duck out through If you don’t think you can take it. Walking past that is the worst, the absolute worst. You wanted to go out through that door so bad, so bad, so bad. But Carmen was standing there beside you and she had been waiting for an hour too. No way could you  chicken out.

An hour earlier she had said, “Let’s go for a ride on The Ripper!”

“No, the line is too long. It says it’s an hour wait.”

“What’s the matter? Are you chicken? I didn’t think so, I didn’t think you  had the guts to ride The Ripper.”

At that point you had no choice. It was going to be The Ripper. The darkness of the world was closing in around you. You stood in line for an hour shuffling along with Carmen at your side and you never said a word.

All you could think about was a memory from your childhood. You had gone to the State Fair and there you were in the children’s ride area. Everything smelled of ozone and popcorn. A calliope was whistling and tooting away, the merry-go-round was spinning with its mirrors and horses. And there was the children’s roller coaster. Now, you realize how small it was, but to your child’s eyes it was big and fast and looked like an electric steel dragon. You were excited and eager and couldn’t wait. You wanted the speed.

But it wasn’t like what you thought it would be. The sick feeling of nausea in the pit of your stomach wasn’t expected and scared you to death. You had never felt this before. A small child’s panic is a strong and evil thing. Your parents were so angry when the ride operators had to pry your hands off from around the bars – holding up the ride – making everyone wait while you were extracted, frozen, from the little seat.

“You embarrassed us!” your parents yelled, “You wanted to do it. Why did you freak out like that?”

And now, decades later, here you are. Again. Carmen is screaming like a banshee beside you but you are silent, frozen, hands tight on the bar with a death grip.

You feel your eyes grow into saucers as you stare at the rolling hills, the twists and turns, the slopes and banks ahead of you. You are hurtling into these at an incredible speed.

As you shoot into this maelstrom you realize you have learned something in the decades since the State Fair. Instinctively, your body decides to go with it. It’s like being in a fighter plane, rolling and rising, dipping and diving. This isn’t so bad. This is kind of fun. Your hands relax, your body moves along with the accelerations and velocity. At one particularly tight, fast turn you let out an ecstatic cry.

And then, so  soon, it is over. The bar clanks forward and you and Carmen step out and descend the little wooden stairs.

You turn to her. Her flushed face, wide eyes, and tousled hair make your heartbeats skip. You lean in and say, “Let’s do that again.”

 

 

Short Story, Flash Fiction, Of the Day, BN249 by Bill Chance

Walter woke up in an ambulance. From the swaying he knew they were going very fast. His arms were strapped to the side of the gurney – a tangle of tubes and wires streamed away from him to beeping machines lining the vehicle. His pain was almost gone, but he felt the skin of his neck taught like it was swelling badly. Two EMTs were bent over him, looking very worried.

—-Bill Chance, BN249

Wasps at the Trinity River Audubon Center

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing yesterday’s 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.

Let’s see… here’s one for today. What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

BN249

Walter was jogging around the outfield of the softball fields that filled this part of the green buffer park between the town and the base. The lights were on and teams were playing on all the fields. He liked listening to the cheers and the clank of the aluminum bats and watching the white parabola of the balls hit through the air. At his usual spot, he turned and started to run home.

As he passed near the woods around the creek he was distracted by a loud, odd, buzzing/whirring noise. It sounded half mechanical and half biological. Turning to see what it was, he saw a dark blur moving through the air from the direction of the woods. It came on fast and before he could do anything it struck him in the neck.

The pain was immediate and incapacitating. It shot from his neck down his spine and had a strange electrical quality; his muscles all contracting as he tumbled to the grass. Bright lights flashed in his eyes as he writhed on the ground. For a few seconds his vision cleared and through the fog of pain he saw it on the ground beside him.

It looked something like a large, glossy, jet-black wasp. Even its wings were black and opaque. It was crawling along on preternaturally long, flexible legs that seemed jointed in the wrong places. Its abdomen was very long and curved and ended in a hook-like point that could have been a stinger. Walter knew it was impossible, but the thing seemed to be looking at him as it struggled to extend its wings. The odd noise began again, loud and close, and it was gone.

The pain increased and the world went away.

Walter woke up in an ambulance. From the swaying he knew they were going very fast. His arms were strapped to the side of the gurney – a tangle of tubes and wires streamed away from him to beeping machines lining the vehicle. His pain was almost gone, but he felt the skin of his neck taught like it was swelling badly. Two EMTs were bent over him, looking very worried.

“Hey, what happened?” was what Walter tried to ask, but he could not get the words out. He felt as if his mind was not connected to his body. Then the siren of the ambulance was drowned out by other, louder wailings and he felt the vehicle slow and then the crunch of gravel under the wheels. He felt the door open behind him and suddenly the two EMTs disappeared.

Someone in a dark uniform appeared and roughly pulled the tubes and wires off and out of him and them he felt the gurney slide out the back. He was rolled through a dark night lit by blue and red rotating and flashing lights until he was lifted into another vehicle. To Walter’s surprise it wasn’t another ambulance but some sort of military flatbed truck with a cover over it. He couldn’t move but his senses seemed to have returned, and he could clearly smell the familiar fungal scent of olive drab military canvas. He had lived next to the base his whole life and knew that smell well. Still, it surprised him that he was aware enough to pick it out.

Someone did something to his arm and he felt a warmness spreading… and everything went dark.

He woke up in a hospital room. He was on his back could not move. He looked down and saw that his arms were tied to the heavy bedstead with thick black straps. His feet were immobile and he assumed they were strapped down too. There were no beeping machines or wires hooked up to him. He saw there was a single IV tube running from his left arm. He surprised to see it running to a large dark red bag that was mounted lower than he expected. They weren’t adding drugs, they were taking blood out.

Looking around he saw two soldiers in full gear standing on either side of the door of the windowless room. They were holding M4 carbines slung across their chests and had sidearms on their waists. The odd thing is that they were wearing black full-face helmets, like riot troops or motorcycle riders.

“Hey, what the hell! Get me out of here! Get somebody!” Walter yelled at the two. His mouth felt like it had marbles in it, but at least he could talk. The soldiers looked at each other, then one left the room, returning in less than a minute with a white-coated doctor.

“Ahh,” the doctor said, “You are awake. Good.”

“What in the hell! What happened to me?”

“Well, I’m not really supposed to talk about that.” The doctor examined the bag of blood. “Ah it’s full. Let’s get another one going.”

A nurse appeared at the door and swapped the blood-filled bag with a fresh one. As she turned and left she was replaced with a large man wearing an officer’s uniform. The guards saluted as he entered the room. He walked to the bed and Walter saw that a piece of opaque white tape covered the man’s name tag.

“Ah, colonel, I’m glad you are here,” the doctor said. “As you see he’s awake and he has some questions, maybe you can answer.”

“You are dammed right I have some questions! What the hell happened to me?”

The colonel paused for a few seconds and then said, “BN249.”

“What?”

“The BN249 project escaped. Before we could track and recapture it the thing had left the base and, unfortunately, ran into you.”

“The project? You mean the wasp-thing that stung me? What does it do.”

“I’m afraid that is classified.”

“Classified my ass! It stung me. It’s inside me.”

“Yes, it is classified. And luckily we have you. We should be able to get what we need.” The colonel gestured to the slowly swelling bag of blood.

“Wait, what about my wife? My car is still at the fields. Let me out of here!”

“I’m afraid your car is gone. Last night it drove off the high river bridge. That bridge has cameras. The river is up, the water is fast and deep. The authorities are dragging the river now. Your wife has been notified. The car will be found. Your body won’t. At least not for a while.” The colonel looked at the bag of blood again.

Walter began to yell and strain against the restraints until, at an indication from the colonel, the doctor moved to the bed and gave Walter another injection. Like earlier he felt the warmth spreading until it all went dark.

But this time he had dreams. Strange, vivid, violent dreams. Dreams of lightening and giant flying monsters and rivers of glowing blood. After what seemed like hours of these frightening and disturbing visions Walter woke up. He was standing. Looking around him he saw the heavy black nylon straps torn into tatters on the floor. The stout steel of the bed rails was bent like a pretzel.

The door to the room was wide open. The bodies of the two guards were sprawled on the floor. It looked like their helmets had been crushed and dark blood was spreading out in a quickly growing pool. He took it in, his preternatural eyes noticing little details like the serial numbers on the guards’ guns or the code on the bag of blood hanging beside him. He noticed the now-familiar smells of gore, fear, and death. He could hear screaming and running down the halls of the military hospital and could somehow separate all the sounds from one another and know what he was up against.

Walter stepped forward, striding over the bodies with strong, confident, long steps. He felt good, better than he had in his whole life.

 

Sunday Snippet, Archipelago by Bill Chance

They liked to ski in that area because of the hundreds of small islands that cut the wind and waves and made for the smooth glass-like surface that was so fun to ski on. But the area was like a maze, as much land as water, and a confusing labyrinth of passages, gaps, and islets. It was tough to know exactly where your were at any time.

—-Bill Chance, Archipelago

 

Trees reflected in a pond, inverted, with Chihuly, Red Reeds

Archipelago

Sam leaned back and pulled on the rope while cutting his ski into the water. He shot sideways, outward, and felt the wave of the wake as it shoved him into midair. Bracing, he cut back as he landed on the smooth, green surface outside the wake and turned to grin at Jim on the other side. Sam relaxed and enjoyed the smooth skimming across the mirror smooth water.

He realized that in the year since his family moved to Central America his skiing had improved so much. The fact he could ski every day, all year round, made such a difference. There was never that long layoff of the winter months where he would get soft and uncoordinated – have to relearn everything in the spring.

He glanced up at the boat where Jim’s father and little brother were driving them around the water in the vast archipelago of little jungle-covered islands. Something was wrong and he could see Arnold’s red hair disappearing below the rear gunwale as he looked for something in the bowels of the boat. Jim’s father was turned around too, looking, pointing and barking orders, although Sam couldn’t understand what he was saying.

“What’s up?” Sam shouted across at Jim, “Something wrong in the boat.”

“Hell if I know,” Jim shouted back.

“Make that jump, Jim. See if you can get as high as I did.”

Jim nodded, pulled and made a sharp turn outward like Sam had a few seconds before. He did fly high as he hit the wake wave, maybe a little higher than Sam had. But he over rotated and waved his hands desperately as the nose of the long slalom ski caught the water first and at a bad angle. Jim cartwheeled over twice bouncing off the water and then sinking in.

Sam laughed as he let go of his rope, slowly coasted to a stop, and sank down to his life jacket. The two good friends had been working hard on their skiing and fell hundred of times. He knew Jim was fine and saw him smile as his face poked back up above the water.

They both turned to the boat expecting to watch it circle around so the both of them could grab their tow handles and keep skiing. It was a routine they had done many, many times before – three times that very day.

But Arnold was still rooting around and his father was still looking at him. Before either of the two boys could yell from the water the boat had moved around the nearest island and disappeared.

“Shit!” Sam said. “They didn’t see us fall.”

“Don’t worry, they’ll notice soon enough and come back to find us.”

They liked to ski in that area because of the hundreds of small islands that cut the wind and waves and made for the smooth glass-like surface that was so fun to ski on. But the area was like a maze, as much land as water, and a confusing labyrinth of passages, gaps, and islets. It was tough to know exactly where your were at any time.

As the two boys bobbed in the water, floating on their foam jackets, and holding on to their skis, they could hear the whine of the outboard motor moving around between the islands, going back and forth, but couldn’t see anything. This went on for a long time.

“They can’t find us,” said Sam.

“Don’t worry, eventually they will, the water’s warm, we can wait.”

But then the sound of the motor died away.

“Now what?” asked Sam.

“They probably are low on gas and went back to fill up.”

By that time it was getting to be late afternoon and it was the rainy season. Inevitably, the small clouds overhead began to quickly coalesce into large angry-looking black overcast blankets. And then the rain began to fall. It was warm rain, almost like a hot shower. But it was think and heavy – coming down in a deluge of giant globs of water. The boys were used to that, but they were very exposed.

“What do we do know,” Sam yelled over the din of splashing water.

“Let’s swim to the nearest island and wait it out there.”

They weren’t very far from the dark green hillock and were strong swimmers. It was an easy task, especially with their life jackets, to paddle and cover the space between them and the nearest land, even pulling their skis along.

The problem was the jungle grew in a thick, inhospitable blanket right down into the water. They had to swim along the shore until they came to a spot where a tree had died and fallen into the lake, leaving a gap in the jungle foliage. They were able to swim among the dead branches and find a little bit of spongy ground to sit on.

As they moved up they were startled by a gigantic toad, camouflaged invisible into the thick layer of forest detritus along the shore. The toad, bigger than either of the boys had ever seen, grunted and leaped past them into the water with a gigantic splash. Both boys cried out in a moment of fear and then laughed together when they realized the gigantic monster was merely a harmless toad.

There wasn’t much open space left in the spot the amphibian and abandoned and the two boys had to crowd together sitting on the wet ground, still holding their skis. The thick vegetation overhead provided only a little shelter from the rain – the drops of water falling on their heads came a little less often, but were much larger after they tumbled through the leaves.

“They will never be able to see us here,” said Sam.

“In this rain they couldn’t see us or hear us anywhere anyway. It’ll have to stop sometime. They’ll come looking then.”

And the rain did stop. But by then the sun was falling behind the tall trees of the next island to the west.

The suns sets quickly in the tropics – its path is straight down and there aren’t very many minutes of twilight. As it disappeared in the post-rain humidity it became surprisingly cold and the boys shivered in the misty miasma of decomposing life that flowed out from the darkness behind them into the lake.

The two boys sat silent, their thoughts to themselves, as the dark night descended and devoured the whole world. The loud sounds of the nocturnal jungle dwellers began to rise in a wild cacophony of shrieks, cries, and growls.

The boys could only listen and wonder where the whine of an outboard was.

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Memory by H.P. Lovecraft

In the valley of Nis the accursed waning moon shines thinly, tearing a path for its light with feeble horns through the lethal foliage of a great upas-tree. And within the depths of the valley, where the light reaches not, move forms not meant to be beheld.

—- H. P. Lovecraft, Memory

H.P. Lovecraft

If I was looking for something to read, and stumbled across the opening lines reprinted above… and didn’t know who wrote them – I would have skipped on. Life is too short. It has all the hallmarks of bad writing – present tense, overwritten, trite adjectives, silly names. But this is Lovecraft after all, and it is crackerjack.

When I first read Lovecraft, in college almost a half-century ago, I didn’t, at first, understand why he was so famous. The writing didn’t seem to have aged well. But then I tried to go to sleep and found my dreams haunted by the monsters from the page. Lovecraft understands what we are afraid of more than we do ourselves.

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn—

Read it here:

Memory by H.P. Lovecraft

from Flash Fiction Online

H.P. Lovecraft

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Six Dreams About the Train by Maria Haskins

Then you wake up and look at me and you smile and I know who I am again, that I am real, that you are real, that this is the world as it is supposed to be.

—-Maria Haskins, Six Dreams About the Train

 

There is something primal about a train. I read the story and I think of six trains from my life: the DART commuter trains sliding between the crystal towers of the downtown skyscrapers wet with rain, a steam powered narrow gauge from the past chugging upwards from a hundred degree day to a lunch in the snow, a classic diesel-electric taking a small child alone across the Kansas Prairie, the burning of a derailed chemical train in the lowlands of rural Louisiana, a high school band crossing the forty five miles from Atlantic to Pacific (ironically going west to east) for a football game, a child’s ride around the periphery of a rundown theme park… the memories (even the recent ones) take on the misty confusion of a dream. Everything is starting to do that.

Read it here:

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Six Dreams About the Train by Maria Haskins

 

From Flash Fiction Online

Maria Haskins Twitter

Maria Haskins – Writer and Translator