Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”

― George Bernard Shaw

Running of the Bulls, New Orleans

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday July 27, 1997 – Exactly twenty four years ago.

Pissing in the Street

My house is a set of two rectangular blocks. One for the main residence and another, set at right angles, for the garage. Simple, cheap, boring. The only break in the monotony is one corner of the house is missing; a space carved away for the front door. This space also is a cube; a square negative room. We put a little bench there, I’m growing English Ivy up the brick wall side and around the edges on the ground. Crape Myrtles line the west side, bushes line the front. I have been letting the plants grow, trimming them when necessary but mostly letting them find their own way; painting in with green. The Crape Myrtles are now big enough to develop the smooth, curvy bark that is so attractive. I am trying to create a little restful garden spot here; a connection with the outside world.

Late Saturday night I sat out there on the bench to do some writing. I had put in an outlet for Christmas lights, it powered up my laptop so I didn’t have to worry about batteries. It was after midnight and surprisingly warm and muggy. I was sweating through my T-shirt but it was still nice to get out into some more or less fresh air. I expected some peace and quiet out there.

The entire neighborhood is a fractal expansion of my rectangular house. Rectangular lot; rectangular block; rectangular subdivision. It is set on a bias. Parallel to the closest Interstate. All laid out for the maximum profit for the long-bankrupt developer; subject to the sacred call of the auto. The suburb was literally thrown together, get ’em built, get out. Now it is a boring, sleepy village within a city. Full of families (who would live here if they didn’t have kids?). Lawns mowed, identically edged, trees, shrubs, cars, trucks, boats, RV’s.

I expected silence out there. The walls of the house are a powerful barrier; more mental than physical. Within the cocoon, the illusion of suburban life is complete; kitchen (fridge and microwave), couch, TV, (computer) the stops on the limited journey of an illusion of life. The background A/C hum supplies the white noise that destroys any vibrations leaking in from the real world. Simply walking through the door and sitting outside the walls is subversive, against the tenets of American Suburb Family Law.

I expected silence out there. There was a rumble in the distance. The isosceles triangle of Interstate Highways that mark out the area where we live provide a clamor of rubber on concrete, creaking steel, squealing tires, booming horns, the hiss of eighteen wheel compressed air leaving brake cylinders. The call of a race of steel giants racing along; my presence unknown and unimportant; life itself rushing along the asphalt, going to God knows where.

Against this rhythm in the distance the symphony of my neighborhood was completed by the melody and accompaniment of local sounds. Someone was having a hell of a fight. I couldn’t tell where it came from; it sounded like the house directly across, but that house was dark; sound does travel on a calm, warm night. The sounds of battle might be coming from a long way off. Male voices, female voices, maybe six or so in all. Screaming, cussing (I couldn’t pick out individual words, but somehow the shouted obscenities could be identified for what they were), the sound of tinkling glass. This went on for ten or fifteen minutes; then the sound of squealing tires and it ended.

I expected silence out there. A house across my street has some teenage daughters, there are always guys in cars hanging out there at night; like alley cats or dogs in heat. A pickup truck roared down the road and screeched to a halt in front of their house. As the truck rumbled the horn honked on and on. Then it sped off, returning in a couple minutes with another car. The honking resumed. I couldn’t see much, I was screened by the bushes, but I could tell by the sounds that a bunch of people were out milling around. Nobody paid any attention to me as I typed; I’m not sure if they saw me or not but I’m sure that if they looked I was visible, my face lit by the screen on the laptop.

I expected silence out there. I heard a noise, liquid, running. Someone was pissing in the street. It was a lot; I know that kind of a piss, beer piss. Looking out through the leaves all I could see was a bare stomach and chest; young, slim, bejeaned; illuminated bright red from the filtered brakelights of the still idling pickup. The cacophany didn’t lessen with the urinating. I couldn’t tell how many voices were mingled in a melange of obscenities, lies, boasts, teasings, the usual testosterone late night drunken summernight pickup revelry.

The little impromptu party continued. It sure didn’t sound like fun, or sexy, or youthful. It was almost tired, frustrated, even mean. There was some stupid shoving, the house door slammed twice, tinkling of broken glass on the sidewalk, and the vehicles roared away. They circled the block twice and were gone.

I finished my typing and found that Candy had woken up and discovered the front door unlocked. I rooted around in the ivy for a half hour until I found the hiding place for the extra key. I didn’t want to ring the bell, It would wake the kids and scare my wife.

Candy says that all kids hang out like those folks were, it’s harmless. She’s right, of course, twenty-odd years ago I spent more than one night hanging out near some cute-young-thing’s house, drinking beer and boasting. They must be out there a lot; it’s not unusual to find beer cans or brown broken glass in our yard, the Mazda has an extra dent where someone bounced a quart bottle off the hood, a couple times there’s been tire tracks in our yard.

Maybe I’m being an old fuddy-duddy but I’m not entirely at ease with those kids out there, only a few feet and some sheetrock and siding away from my sleeping sons. Or maybe I’m jealous, wishing my days of hanging out weren’t receding so far into the past, that my stomach doesn’t look like the one on the guy pissing in the street.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

from Cheap Pop

Matt Kendrick Homepage

Matt Kendrick Twitter

Sunday Snippet, Freight Elevator by Bill Chance

“When the elevator doors open there is only one other person inside it, a homeless man with electric blue sunglasses and six plastic grocery bags filled with rags. “Close the doors, dammit,” he yells as soon as we step inside. “Can’t you see I’m blind?”

…….

From the back, the homeless man shoves between us, his bounty rustling in his arms. “Stop yelling,” he shouts. though we stand in utter silence. “Can’t you tell that I’m deaf?”

― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

Dallas, Texas

Freight Elevator

“Well, are you ready to call it a night?”

“Not really.”

“Do you want to go to an after hours bar or something?”

“Not really.”

“I’ve never been to where you live. Can we go to your place?”

“I still live with my parents, you know that. Their apartment is tiny, I sleep on a futon in my mother’s sewing room. I’ve never been to where you live either. You live alone. We have to go there.”

“But my apartment is… really small.”

“Is it clean?”

“Of course. But…”

“It’s big enough then.”


I had always wanted to live in the center of the city… on the island itself. I was tired of feeling like an outsider, a tourist. But rents were so high and I never had and will never have any money. For a year I rode that interminable train ride, rocking elbow to elbow with the other strap-hangers. I would look through the rental listings, hoping, hoping. Finally….

Walking to meet my new prospective landlord past the block after block of tents filling the sidewalk, most a bilious purple-orange color. The government has spent untold millions on buying thousands of tents to “solve” the homeless problem and distributed them – surprised when they were snapped up and the population living on the streets blossomed even more. I looked at the rows of nylon and filth and wondered if I could do that. I have camped a lot over my life but never on a sidewalk beneath the glass canyons of downtown. A lot of valuable parking was taken up by bathroom trailers provided by the city that had necessities and showers, but still….

The address on the listing was a huge hulking brick building. It looked like an ancient factory, divided up into a filing cabinet of tiny living spaces. There were very few windows and only one door. I was repelled at first, but realized that a place at this affordable price was not going to be in a new shiny glass tower with a grid of balconies repeating up into the sky. This was my dream, but it was going to be modified by the real world.

“You are right,” the rental agent said, “this used to be a factory. I have no idea what they made here, but whatever it was, it was huge, as you will see.”

We walked through a maze of sheetrock walls, obviously thrown up to divide some massive assembly room into a warren of rented cubicles. We arrived at a wall that was taken up by a giant steel vertical door with a peeling number “1” stenciled onto it. Of to one side was a single simple round button with an upward facing arrow. The rental agent pushed this. There was a heavy shuddering and a low loud metallic groan. After a minute of this the door slowly raised up, revealing a shallow space delineated off by a translucent plastic divider. In the middle was an ordinary door, with a peephole. It was labeled 1-12 A.

“Well this is it,” the rental agent said. She took out a key and unlocked the door.

“I don’t understand.”

“Like I said, the factory made huge, giant, heavy, something-or-others. They moved them up or down on this gigantic freight elevator. Other than the stairs, it’s the only way to reach the upper floors in this part of the building. Since it was now being used for pedestrians most of the elevator was wasted space. We built this partition and were able to rent out the area behind it. Come on in, take a look.”

“The walls are metal mesh?”

“The back and side walls, yes. But beyond them are only concrete. There is actually a kind of window in back between every two floors. It lets in a nice light as you go past.”

“It moves?”

“Of course it does. All the other residents us it to get up and down. But there is the partition and a locked door.”

“The partition doesn’t look all that opaque.”

“Oh, there’s enough for privacy. And you can make as much noise as you want. You can play music. Folks on an elevator don’t care about that.”

“I see the stove and ‘fridge. But no sink. And no bathroom.”

“On eleven you have access to an old janitor’s closet. A big sink, and we put in a shower and toilet. It’s yours. Your door key fits. Just go up to eleven, get off, down the hall, one left, then a right. I’ll show you.”

“I don’t know if I can live in a place like this. It goes up and down. People at the front all the time. It’s crazy.”

“It’s cheap.”

“It’s the only place I can afford.”

“I’ve heard that before.”


Well, it turns out she loved my apartment. She liked the feeling of going up and down so much that, late at night, when the other people were all home asleep she’d go out the front door and push all the buttons. That would keep my place moving for a while. She loved watching the concrete walls slowly shift up and down.

She crawled out of the hatch on top and put plants on the window sills so she could watch those go by. She bought a watering can with a long spout so she could drip water through the mesh into her plants as we moved past them.

The only problem is that she likes to make a lot of noise in bed when she think people are in the elevator up front. She rearranged the lamps so that we sometimes throw obscene shadows on the translucent wall. It bothers me a little but nobody’s complained yet.

As a matter of fact I think she likes this tiny apartment more than me. If we broke up, I’m afraid she would throw me out.

And I’ll never find another place I can afford.

Sunday Snippet, Morning Routine by Bill Chance

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

—-William Shakespeare

Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas

Morning Routine

Gregory had not always been an organized person. He lived most of his life in a haphazard desultory way, never sure of what came next. When his wife told him, “I can’t live like this any more,” left for California with the twins and moved in with the lawyer she had met online, he realized he had to get his shit together.

He went to seminars and read piles of books. He listened to podcasts and hired a personal organizer. He decluttered. He downsized and organized, planned and simplified. Most important of all, he made up routines.

By setting up routines he eliminated personal choice in what he did. It was a way to battle back against his natural tendency to chaos. If he could put reality into a series of carefully thought out and designed checklists he could keep disaster at bay. Gregory decided he wanted life to be smooth and planned – all risk and decision eliminated.

His personal organizer gave him a series of printed forms that fit into a binder which covered every possible aspect of every day. She helped him brainstorm, fill out the checklists, then edit and extend them until every hour of every day was planned out ahead of time and he didn’t have to decide what to do next – it was all in black and white. He discovered that once he had settled on a routine he didn’t have to look at the paper any more. It was seared into his memory and after a few days it ripened into an irreversible habit.

The alarm on Gregory’s phone beeped at six AM and after one and only one tapping of the snooze he hopped out of bed to begin his morning routine. He drank the ice water he had placed in an insulated steel tumbler on his nightstand the night before. He moved to the tatami mat next to his bed and did a short series of stretches with a foam roller. He checked the clothes that he had chosen before he went to bed and laid them out on the bed. Then it was into the bathroom. He pushed the electric shaver around on his face and then flossed. He started the water in the shower to allow it to warm up as he brushed his teeth. Then into the shower.

In the old days, he would luxuriate under the hot water, leaning against the tile as the warmth poured over him, enjoying the feel of the droplets against his skin. Thoughts of the day before, the day coming up, and strange random memories from far in his past would joust in his mind for a few split seconds of attention. His wife would get angry because he would waste so much time in the shower and use up all the hot water. Not any more. He washed himself quickly and efficiently, using a minimum of time and cleaning products.

Stepping out, he dried himself with a clean towel hung on a hook. Then he used a small hand towel kept by the mirror to clear a spot in the fogged glass so he could groom his hair with the comb kept in the holder right at hand. A stick of deodorant came out of a handy drawer – it was the only item in there – and he was done in the bathroom

He stepped naked back into his bedroom and sat in a chair he had placed next to the spot where he had laid out his outfit for the day. He had only one task left before he could get dressed and head out for the day.

Next to the chair was a small, sturdy table with a lacquered wooden box and a kitchen timer. The box had a combination lock built in and he moved the numbers to the proper setting. He twisted the timer to seven minutes and opened the heavy lid of the wooden box. Gregory lifted a Glock 19 9mm pistol out of the box, slid a full magazine into the gun, then pulled back on the slide – charging a shell into the firing chamber. He thumbed the safety so that the gun was ready to fire.

Gregory reversed the gun, stuck his thumb into the trigger guard, and then slid the barrel into his mouth. He closed his eyes and sat there, still, listening to the ticking of the kitchen timer. He felt the steel of the barrel between his teeth and ran his tongue around the opening at the end. He tasted the oily residue on the Glock and smelled the slight smoky odor left over from the last time he took the gun to the range. He breathed in through his nose and out through his wedged-open mouth, feeling his breath pass between his lips and the body of the gun.

His mind went to the decision he had to make, the one he made each day. Hamlet had said it best, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Two columns appeared in his mind – the endless stream of checklists to navigate or the dark splotch of blood against his bedroom wall. The “strings and arrows,” or “that sleep of death.” Sitting there, clean and naked, with the Glock in his mouth, he could think clearly and dispassionately as he summed up the columns in his mind. Some days the decision was a close one.

But today, the timer gave off its little “ding,” and Gregory removed the Glock from his mouth. He turned the safety, removed the magazine, cleared the round and pushed it back into the cartridge. It wasn’t Saturday, so he didn’t clean the gun but simply wiped the saliva off with a cloth and replaced the gun, magazine, and cloth back in the wooden case, closed the lid, and randomized the numbers. Gregory put on the clothes that he had set out and walked through the door into another day.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Wave Goodbye by Fanni Sütő

“The very instant I saw you, did
My heart fly to your service; there resides
To make me slave to it.


― William Shakespeare

Shakespeare Sculpture, Dallas Arboretum

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, July 17, 2001 (exactly twenty years ago):

Stuff dreams are made on

I had a long couple days at work so I thought I’d reward myself with an evening of free Shakespeare. Candy was able to make arrangements to help her get all the kids to all the places they needed to go. So I was free to take off.

I stopped by the grocery store and bought a salad from the salad bar (make it yourself, 2.99 a pound, little black plastic bowl with clear lid, plastic silverware that I slipped into my pocket instead of the bowl – to save weight) some yogurt, a Mistic Zotics (Mozambique Marula Fruit), and finally – a bottle of Sobe (pink Lizard Fuel – Strawberry and Banana).

The preplay festivities had the clown-players embarrassing as many folks in the crowd as possible. The high point was when three of them were juggling and a member of the audience walked up, pulled three hackysacks from his pockets and joined in.

Tonight is the Tempest and it starts in a half hour or so. I’m full of food and drowsy now so I think I’ll stretch out on my Barney Blanket and nod off for awhile.

The play begins.

This production has the most important features for a successful Tempest – nasty-lookin’ babes and skimpy outfits.

I like how they do the storm – the chorus whips a green parachute into violent waves while the actors stand up in holes through the fabric.

And today’s flash fiction:

Wave Goodbye by Fanni Sütő

from Selcouth Station

Fanni Sütő

Fanni Sütő homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Stay by Sarah Freligh

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

When you pick a mudbug up – he’ll spread his claws out and try to look as big and as mean as he can. He still looks delicious – no matter how hard he tries.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, September 9, 2002:

Woman in the Dunes

When I was a kid I was fascinated by ant lions. Those are the little bugs that dig pits in the fine, loose sand around the forgotten spots… maybe behind the garage or under the old tree.

They did these perfect conical traps, like a negative volcano, and wait hidden in the bottom ready to snap out with huge pincer jaws and gobble down their unfortunate meal. Dried husks sometimes litter the edges of their lair.

I’d watch an ant or gnat stumble down the slope, slide on the angle of repose, until the ant lion would attack, throwing bits of sand first to confuse and stun, then to grab and eat. I would take a piece of paper or index card and scoop up the sand, the entire area, and blow away the dust until I found the ant lion itself. It was a marvel of tiny death, all jaws and squat, powerful, flicking body.

I would always replace the insect unhurt and watch him begin to construct a new trap, digging the pit by bending and snapping his body – flicking bits of sand away.

I stopped by the video store and rented a Japanese film, Woman in the Dunes. I read the book (by Kobo Abe) decades ago. Actually, I rented the movie once before too, surprised to find in an otherwise pedestrian rental shop. It was a bad copy, though, so bad I could barely make out what was happening.

This time, it has been re-mastered and re-released, clear as a bell. The photography is stunning, incredible black, white, and gray images of sand and human bodies.

It tells the story of a lonely man, wandering the dunes of a forgotten province, looking for insects for his collection. Or maybe, his main purpose is to simply escape the bureaucracy, avoid the avalanche of paperwork, forms, and official stamps that flow across the movie’s credits.

At any rate, he bites off more than he can chew – ends up trapped with a widowed woman in a ramshackle house at the bottom of a wall of sand, trapped, forced to shovel to survive. There is sensuality in the sand, desperation, and resignation.

Do you live to shovel, or shovel to live.”

And today’s flash fiction:

Stay by Sarah Freligh

from Flash Frog

Sarah Freligh homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, The Amber Night by Jack Barker-Clark

“But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window–maybe rearrange all the furniture.”

― Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, July 4, 1997:

The Fourth and Fireworks

We left the party early, just as the bar-b-que was being trundled out because we had tickets to the Ranger game. It was a great evening; cool weather, a record sellout crowd, and a good game (the home team won seven to six). The only problem was that Lee was a champion wiggleworm; I missed a lot of the game walking him around. He kept trying to kiss some teenage boys in the row in front of us.

After the game was a fireworks display. I knew from years past that the Rangers always put on a good fireworks show, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was a long, loud, impressive display, with the explosions timed to go along with the music played in the ballpark. We watched from the upper level promenade, an open area around the top of the stadium. It was a perfect vantage point.

Nick and Lee had never stuck it out through a fireworks display before. We’d taken them to a couple, but they cried at the noise and we’d had to leave. Now they are bigger, they were nervous before it started, holding their hands over their ears, but once it got going they really thought it was great.

After the game, the fireworks, and the massive traffic jam leaving the ballpark, it was after one when we finally reached home. That is very late for this particular family unit. Yardwork, pool party, baseball, fireworks – about as traditional a holiday as you’ll see. Not very cool , not very punk , not very postmodern . And I don’t care.

And today’s flash fiction:

The Amber Night by Jack Barker-Clark

from No Contact

Jack Barker-Clark Twitter

Jack Barker-Clark homepage

Sunday Snippet, Swallowed by Nostalgia by Bill Chance

“being alone never felt right. sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.”

― Charles Bukowski, Women

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

Swallowed by Nostalgia

Craig was never very outgoing, never comfortable around lots of other people. He was surprised when he found himself married with two twin children. Then, all of a sudden, he was alone again, his ex-wife and kids out on the West coast, with a new husband and father.

Still, he had his friends. Not a lot of them, but the ones he had were close. He had his activities, his clubs, his scheduled events. Craig never felt like the center of the crowd, but he was there. He didn’t initiate a lot, but people would contact him, offer up events and activities, and he would go along.

As he grew older, he slowed down a bit, still not outgoing, but not a hermit by any means.

And then the pandemic hit… and it all went to shit.

One day, Craig realized he had not been out of his apartment in almost three weeks. His food was delivered, either cooked or groceries. Every day he’d collect his Amazon boxes – everything he needed and more. It was a reflex to search and click “buy now.” Craig felt like a cave man hunting woolly mammoths with a mouse, keyboard and credit card. After a while he turned the camera off on his work Zoom meetings and would usually nap during the long ones. Nobody seemed to notice.

He ordered blackout curtains for his windows and the highest rated noise-cancelling headphones. Sometimes he’d wear the phones without music, even though his place was quiet – simply to kill off any potential interruptions.

This went on, month after month and Craig began to go mad.

The present became more and more gray and blurred, but the past became crystal and colorful. Events from decades before floated up through his memory and wedged themselves into his consciousness. Especially things he regretted – not stuff that he did, but things that he didn’t do. These errors of omission, vacuums of courage, kept flashing in his mind.

The time a girl at a club gave him her number and he didn’t call… the job offer he turned down… the friends that went to an exotic location and he decided not to go with them…. All these and countless more kept coming back to him. In his mind, though, he went ahead and took the plunge. In his imagination he called the girl, took the job, went along. And reaped the reward.

But then, later, he would realize what had really happened, where he was, and who he had become. Sleep became something he feared, not because of nightmares but because of these triumphant dreams where he corrected the mistakes he had made. And this made the morning even more gray, even more useless.

His health provider kept sending him messages about the vaccine, but he ignored them. Why get the shot? He never left his apartment, was at no risk to himself or anyone else. He didn’t care anyway – if it killed him, it killed him.

Then one morning, after a long vivid dream of driving across the country in a sports car that he had decided not to buy once he woke up and scheduled his shot. It might stop the dreams. He left his place for the first time in months and was surprised at how easy it was to negotiate the paperwork and get the jab in the arm. He actually looked forward to the second, couldn’t wait until the three weeks were up.

It was a beautiful day when he got his second shot – the air with a bit of a chilly breeze but the sun out and hot – cutting through the cold. On a whim, he stopped in a park on the way back.

It was full of people, very few wearing masks. They were in groups, grilling, playing volleyball, kids running around, old folks walking, even a keg of beer next to a boom box (he guessed that the park rules were being bent after such a long time away).

He parked and walked the sidewalk on the circular drive looking at all the people. Live people. Noise. The chatter and music rose up. The smell of charcoal lighter and barbecue sauce. The feel of the cool breeze and hot sun.

It was back. He was back.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Halloween Spell by pocketmappoetry

Poetry is indispensable-if I only knew what for.

—-Jean Cocteau

Music cases and used books… and a bass.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, July 7, 2001 (exactly 20 years ago):

Half Price Poetry

In keeping with my post-mountain-vacation theme of trying to do some fun big-city stuff I sneaked out last night to go to the monthly First Friday poetry reading at the big main Half-Price book store on Northwest Highway. The crowd was a bit smaller than they were the last time I went, maybe because now it’s summer. I was actually able to get a place to sit.

The poetry, as always, was pretty variable in quality. A lot of it is too traditional, too Moon-June for my tastes. I want to hear something wild, emotional, and witty. Still, though, I enjoy going to the readings.

As a matter of fact – I realize that I can’t even hear most of the poetry. I like to sit there and watch the reader and the crowd – the shuffling of papers, the popping of the microphone, the smell of old books, and the taste of coffee.

One thing I did enjoy was when someone came up and read the from the theme song from “Petticoat Junction.”

Come ride that little train that is rolling down the tracks to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Forget about your cares, it is time to relax at the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Lots of curves, you bet, even more when you get to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

….

Well, we’ll soon be leavin’ town
There’s old Charley oilin’ round
Can she make it up the hill
At least to Hooterville
The pressure’s on the rise
Floyd is burning railroad ties
Everybody get inside
Doesn’t cost a cent to ride
Come one and come all and we’ll take that Cannonball to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

And today’s flash fiction (poetry):

Halloween Spell by pocketmappoetry

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Lepidoptera by Clio Velentza

“One grave in every graveyard belongs to the ghouls. Wander any graveyard long enough and you will find it – water stained and bulging, with cracked or broken stone, scraggly grass or rank weeds about it, and a feeling, when you reach it, of abandonment. It may be colder than the other gravestones, too, and the name on the stone is all too often impossible to read. If there is a statue on the grave it will be headless or so scabbed with fungus and lichens as to look like fungus itself. If one grave in a graveyard looks like a target for petty vandals, that is the ghoul-gate. If the grave wants to make you be somewhere else, that is the ghoul-gate.”

― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Parking Day Main Street Dallas, Texas

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, August 14, 2000

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Triple digits
deadly coughing air
The full moon is a bloated orange
colored by windblown dust
I haven’t had a decent breath in weeks

The heat cracks the dried clay
cracks the calluses on the bottom of my feet
’til they are bleeding and burn in the morning shower

My gardening – if I did it
would consist of gluing brown desiccated leaves
back onto stickly branches
I finally watered my lawn
it smelled of wet hay

I sweat at work so much
I’ll change lab coats
when it soaks through my shirt and coat
the other day I went through four
When I drove home
I can lick my arm
and taste the layer of salt
I taste like a giant potato chip

And today’s flash fiction:

Lepidoptera by Clio Velentza

from Claw & Blossom

Clio Velentza Twitter

Sunday Snippet, Aliens Abduct Cheerleaders by Bill Chance

““You’re the hunter, the warrior. You’re stronger than anyone else here, that’s your tragedy.”

― Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

Sunset High School Cheerleaders

Aliens Abduct Cheerleaders

There are a few people in this world that everyone would consider to be a BADASS. Navy jet fighter pilots, gangsters, hitmen, boxers, bullies, Seal Team Six, high voltage repairmen… that sort of thing. Within that world of people that are badass there are a few that are REALLY BADASS. Think of a bell curve representing the amount of badass someone has – that right hand bit of tail and you have the badass people. Spread that out and you get another curve – to the right of it, the second derivative – and these are the most badass of the badass.

If you meet one of these people (and you better hope you never do) you probably would not even recognize their badassness – at least not right away. There is a saying among the super-badass, “They that do the mostest, talk the leastest.” They will never, never, ever talk about how badass they are. No tales of derring-do, no boastful bluster, no bombastic braggadocio. They are comfortable in their skin, confident in their abilities.

This is a small group, but among them are a handful of the most badass of the badass of the badass. These are the people that keep the badass of the badass up at night, send shivers down their spine. I’m not sure I know about all these people but I know six of them and I doubt there are very many more.

Who is more badass than these six? There is only one. He is not only the most badass person on the planet, he is an order of magnitude beyond; he is so badass that the word almost ceases to have meaning; he is made of pure badass.

He is Spencer Bowman.

Bowman carries an old fashioned pager. It only beeps – doesn’t even display the number calling. He may be the only person in a first-world country that still carries a pager like that.

One day, it beeped. Bowman stomped on the pager, shattering its plastic case, then dropped its remains off the first overwater bridge he came to. He drove his perfectly nondescript and average car to a working class suburb outside of DC and parked in front of a Speedometer Repair Shop in a run-down strip mall. He nodded at the middle aged receptionist and pressed a hidden button. A section of wall opened up and a stainless steel elevator appeared. The walls of the car had slits and Bowman nodded at them, knowing that an unseen man with a machine gun was behind each one.

At the bottom, deep underground, Bowman walked down a bare concrete corridor and pushed open a heavy steel blast door. Beyond was an ordinary drab government-issue office, with a bespectacled man at a desk. Not even Bowman knew what government agency ran this operation. It was so secret and dark it didn’t even have an acronym. Bowman suspected that not even the man behind the desk knew for sure who he worked for.

“Bowman, glad to see you again, have a seat,” said the man at the desk.

“What do you need me for?” was all Bowman said.

“You don’t waste much time, do you,” the man replied.

Bowman said nothing, not even a nod. It wasn’t really a question anyway.

“Well,” the man said, “aliens are stealing cheerleaders.”

“Really?”

“Really. Not just here, all over the world, though, of course the United States leads the world in Cheerleaders and most of the kidnappings are here. The total number isn’t huge, but it’s enough to worry… well, worry the people that know you.”

“And you want me to?”

“Find out why.”

“Maybe it is for breeding stock. There was a movie about that.”

“Probably not. They have mostly been taking female cheerleaders. But there have been a few male ones too. Actually, the ratio is pretty much the same as the total cheerleader population.”

“So, find out why. Anything else?”

“Well, it would be nice if you could get some back. If you can.”

The man handed Bowman a tiny, encrypted USB drive. Bowman already knew the password. And that was it.

There was a surprising amount of information on the drive. Enough for Bowman to figure out a couple of starting points. The government had a lot more data on the recent plague of UFO sightings than the public had been allowed to see. After a month of work, a series of educated guesses, and using some of his more exotic contacts, Bowman was able to figure out where the Alien’s base of operations was – an abandoned water pumping station in Dallas, Texas. The Aliens had a complex, subtle, and deep series of security measures protecting their base which Bowman was able to methodically and completely penetrate.

The Aliens resembled human beings in general, and their advance agents had established an odd cult of bizarre plastic surgery that made them able to… if not fit in, at least pass with their origins unguessed. Bowman reached the leader of the Alien mission with a maximum of stealth and a minimum of violence. They faced each other across an odd seven legged table lit by the unsettling greenish light of the Alien’s home planet.

“Spencer Bowman,” said the Alien mission leader.

“You know me,” said Bowman. Again, it was not a question.

“Of course, our knowledge of your society is more extensive than your own.”

“But why cheerleaders?”

“We need warriors.”

“Cheerleaders? Why not trained military? Or ninjas? Or snipers? Or at least gang bangers?”

“We are so very far advanced technologically that your crude killing methods are no longer relevant. Our weapons need a very specific and subtle mix of physical and mental capabilities and proclivities to operate efficiently. The Earth Cheerleading corps possess these qualities in greater accuracy than any other group we have found in any of the major galaxies.”

“But you can’t just kidnap people.”

“Kidnap? Oh you don’t understand. We present our proposal and they come along if they want.”

“But what if they refuse?”

“What if? Nothing. They return to their life.”

“What if they talk?”

“What if? Would any one believe them? Nope, they would end up a joke in the tabloids. And that’s the thing.”

“What?”

“Nobody has refused. No one. The call of destiny is strong. This is their purpose, they are perfect intergalactic warriors and when this is pointed out – the call is irresistible.”

Bowman knew he had the information he needed and it was time to escape. He turned away from the alien leader and fled out the door, taking every element of the situation in and avoiding the obvious traps. He was confident in his ability to get out of the alien headquarters unscathed and deliver his message to the government.

But Bowman was not prepared for what waited for him in the corridor beyond. There was Amber from the San Luis Obispo Wildcats in her red and blue uniform. She carried a Light Antimatter Laser Cannon and a Neutrino Shield. Next to her was Jeff from the Iowa City High School tumbling squad with a Quantum Saber glowing in his palms. Behind them stood their commander Crystal from The University of Virginia with a Superstring Grenade… just in case.

The fight didn’t last long. Withing a few seconds Bowman was reduced to a series of grotesque smears along a few feet of corridor. The Alien cleaning robot immediately emerged from a hidden closet and began scrubbing at the gore.

Spencer Bowman was without peer in the ranks of earth’s BADASS. But he was completely outclassed by Amber, Jeff, and Crystal, Intergalactic Warriors.