Sunday Snippet, Insomnia by Bill Chance

“How to Commit the Perfect Murder” was an old game in heaven. I always chose the icicle: the weapon melts away.”

― Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

8 50 Caliber Machine Guns, Commemorative Air Force, Wings Over Dallas


I ride the trains at night. I can’t sleep and I have a monthly pass, so why not.

It was almost three in the morning and I was sitting on the Darkwater platform on one of those little seats that fold down.

There was a maintenance worker, a tired looking old man, washing the platform with a faded green hose. He pretended not to notice me and I pretended not to notice him.

The thief came from nowhere, pulled a gun on the maintenance man, and demanded in a loud and obscene voice that he hand over his cell phone.

He did hand it over, without hesitation. I was thinking how big of a loss this was to him, how many platforms he would have to hose down to buy a new phone when the thief shot him, twice, and he went down in a quickly expanding pool of blood.

The thief turned and ran down the stairs. I followed, not slowly but not running either. At street level I saw the thief disappear down an alley between two dilapidated brick industrial buildings. I followed.

The thief was waiting for me. He was yelling something at me – but I couldn’t make out the words. His gun was big – I recognized it as a Glock 21 forty-five caliber. It was a real hand cannon and it was pointed at me.

My Walther PPK 9mm dropped from the holster in my sleeve into my hand. It is a lot smaller than his Glock. But I am practiced, very fast, and I never miss.


“Every balcony is a poem, a chant — a muscle! But whoever lives with that extra blueprint luxury of a balcony lives on the wrong side of a cross-section, on the busy, narrative-addled side of something like an ant-farm window, a brazen architectural arrangement selling cheap peeks into the naked sideshows of the quotidian — even the grisly. Step right up! Behold! A ten story wall of solid twitching muscle!”

—-Director Guy Maddin in Paste Magazine on his short film Accidence

Manor House Balcony, downtown Dallas, Texas

After watching and enjoying The Forbidden Room I was working through the selection of Guy Maddin films streaming on The Criterion Channel. And I now have a new favorite movie.

It’s a nine minute short called Accidence. It is an obvious homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The entire film is a continuous take (zoomed in and out with a bit of panning) of the side of an apartment block – thirty units in all. There is a view of the balconies, some windows into the apartment interiors, and a glimpse of things moving up and down the stairs.

Ok, so it’s only nine minutes long… but you can’t watch it only once. On first viewing it is a confused ant-like cacophony of people on and off of their balconies. But as you watch it again and again, patterns emerge and a story is created. It is a story of doppelgangers, violence, families, boredom and drama. And a fuzzy white dog.

Who is the murderer? Who is the victim? Are they the same person?

I have watched it maybe forty times and will watch it many more. I still see new things. Watch the balloon for example. There is a red ghost that appears against the brick a couple of times – I think I figured out who that is.

Weird, wild stuff.

La Bête humaine

“Don’t go looking at me like that because you’ll wear your eyes out.”
― Emile Zola, La Bête humaine

Three generations. The smoking diesel pulling the steam Big Boy, while the electric DART train zooms by overhead.

It’s been awhile… since September, 2018, to be exact. For two and a half years I have been working my way through the 20 novels of Émile Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart series. So far:

  • La Fortune des Rougon (1871) (The Fortune of the Rougons)
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876) (His Excellency Eugene Rougon/ His Excellency)
  • La Curée (1871-2) (The Kill)
  • L’Argent (1891) (Money)
  • Le Rêve (1888) (The Dream)
  • La Conquête de Plassans (1874) (The Conquest of Plassans/A Priest in the House)
  • Pot-Bouille (1882) (Pot Luck/Restless House/Piping Hot)
  • Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) (The Ladies’ Paradise/Shop Girls of Paris/Ladies’ Delight)
  • La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret (1875) (The Sin of Father Mouret/Abbe Mouret’s Transgression)
  • Une Page d’amour (1878) (A Lesson in Love/A Love Episode/A Page of Love/A Love Affair)
  • Le Ventre de Paris (1873) (The Belly of Paris/The Fat and the Thin/Savage Paris/The Markets of Paris)
  • La Joie de Vivre (1884) (The Joys of Living/Joy of Life/How Jolly Life Is/Zest for Life)
  • L’Assommoir (1877) (The Dram Shop/The Gin Palace/Drink/Drunkard) and the movie Gervaise
  • L’Œuvre (1886) (The Masterpiece/A Masterpiece/His Masterpiece)
  • La Bête Humaine (1890) (The Beast in the Man/The Human Beast/The Monomaniac)
  • Germinal (1885)
  • Nana (1880)
  • La Terre (1887) (The Earth/The Soil)
  • La Débâcle (1892) (The Downfall/The Smash-up/The Debacle)
  • Le Docteur Pascal (1893) (Doctor Pascal)

Looking at this list, I realize I read L’Œuvre (1886) (The Masterpiece) this summer and never wrote a blog entry about it. Sorry. It was good, not the best of the series, but an interesting take on the artistic life and the madness behind it. I’ll write it up in the next few days, once I think about it and take a look at the text again.

I have been neglecting Zola lately, mostly because I’ve been participating in a Zoom group that is reading Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov (which I have been enjoying immensely). We took a bit of a break over the holidays and I used the time to devour La Bête humaine.

I had read a paperback copy of La Bête humaine years and years ago – but I remembered very little about it other than it had trains and murders.

WOW. This is one hell of a book. One surprising thing about the 20 books in the Rougon-Marquart universe is how wildly diverse they are. They range from frilly romance to gritty poverty to hopeless alcoholism to rampant greed. And now, we have this.

La Bête humaine is a book of murder(s). By the end of the story pretty much every major character is a killer, a victim, or both. All these murders sans one stem from the same cause – jealous rage. The one other example is a chilling description of a compulsive killer, consumed by powerful, mysterious violent urges of madness, insanity, and desire. The wheels of justice don’t help much – they turn slowly, then grind to a stop. The only innocent character is eventually blamed and convicted.

It is a novel of the railroad. Specifically, the nineteenth century steam engines that ran between Paris and the coast at Le Havre. Zola’s prodigious powers of description are used to paint portraits of the stations, the line, and especially the powerful engine “La Lison” which becomes practically a living character imbued with almost sexual powers.

Finally, it is a novel of arresting and amazing set pieces. The entire chapter where a wagon containing two huge hunks of rock is pushed into the path of “La Lison” is one of the most sensational and electrifying chunks of text I have ever read. There are horrifying killings, terrifying betrayals, and moments of sexual tension surprising for a classic novel. The final scene, especially, is chilling and horrific, even though it ends before the inevitable apocalypse.

There are free public domain versions of the novel available (from Project Gutenberg and other places) but I am glad I bought the excellent Roger Pearson translation from Oxford World Classics. It is written in a modern style, which fits this story very well.

So this was an enjoyable, if horrific, read. And now, on to Germinal, arguably the best in the series. I’ve already bought a good translation and am ready to go. However, I will wait until the end of January, have to finish The Brothers Karamazov first.

So little time, so many books.

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

“The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, ‘You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”
― George Carlin

An old picture I took out my car window while waiting in a drive thru ATM.

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 (#95) 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.


Aaron Goodpaster stared at the paperwork on his desk – the power bill for the company headquarters building. It was astronomical. Something was wrong. Someone down in the Innovation Laboratory had used enough power to light up a medium sized city. That someone had to be Sammy VonSmults.

Goodpaster’s phone buzzed. It was his assistant.

“Mister VonSmults is here to see you,” the voice said.

“Good, I was thinking about him right now. Please, buzz him in.”

The door immediately burst open and Sammy VonSmults tumbled into Goodpaster’s office.

“Dammit Sam! Look at this!” Goodpaster shook the power bill in the air.

“Hey! That’s no way to greet an old friend. Especially one that has invented and built something that will make us all rich beyond our wildest dreams.”

“I’ve heard that before. Besides, my dreams are pretty wild.”

“But you’ve never even dreamed anything like this before… I know you haven’t.”

Sammy moved around Goodpaster’s desk. He was waving something in the air. It looked like a simple picture frame, about a foot and a half square. He held it up in front of Goodpaster so he could get a good look at it. It was a simple metal frame, made of some copper-gold colored material. As VonSmults moved it around, the colors shifted in a sort of rainbow effect… blue, green, purple, the iridescence seemed to race around the frame.

“Look, look through the frame,” VonSmults said.

“I don’t see anything… I mean I see right through it, there’s nothing there.”

“Exactly, there’s nothing there. Here, now, hold it in front of your face and keep looking through.”

Goodpaster held the frame, it was strangely heavy and it seemed to throb internally in some strange way. VonSmults suddenly thrust his hand through the frame and grabbed Goodpaster’s nose.

“Hey! Cut that out!”

“Okay,” VonSmults pulled his hand back, “Now watch this. Don’t let go”

He ran his finger along the top and then the bottom of the frame, flicking a hidden tiny latch each time. Half of the frame came away and VonSmults backed up with the second half of the frame in front of his face. Goodpaster suddenly felt dizzy. As he looked through his frame he saw VonSmults’ face right in front of him, even though the rest of him was quickly backing clear across the room. Suddenly, VonSmults again thrust his hand through the frame and it emerged from the other half frame clear across the room and again tweaked Goodpaster’s nose.

“Shit!” Screamed Goodpaster, throwing the frame away. VonSmults quickly pulled his hand out before the frame clattered to the floor.

“Hey, be careful. That could have hurt. Whatever happens once my hand goes through the frame happens to me.”

“What the crap is that!”

“I have developed a way to take a standing quantum meson wave, confine it to a simple plane suspended between the two frames, and then clone it. The two halves of the frame become the same place in space and time. What goes in one side, comes out the other, even when the two are separated. Light, sound, even physical objects. In one, out the other. Same both ways.”

“You have got to be kidding.”

“Obviously not. It isn’t perfected yet. The two halves must be within a few hundred yards of each other or the field fails. It regenerates once they come back within range, though. That’s as big of a frame as I can do so far. I think I can go bigger and with more range, but the power requirements to create and stabilize the planar wave are astronomical.”

“Now, That I know.” Goodpaster waved the power bill again.

“Jesus! Aaron, you’re worried about a power bill? This is the most important invention in the history of science. That is chump change. Think of the implications for communications, for travel, for espionage.”

Goodpaster had calmed down enough to start to understand what VonSmults was talking about. He thought quickly and deeply while watching VonSmults pick up both halves of the frame and snap them together.

“Now, I think I’m beginning to understand. First, who have you told about this?”

“The only one that knows about it is my research assistant, Sheri Gompers. And that skinny runt won’t know what to do about it.”

“What have you done with the process itself?”

VonSmults tapped his head. “In here. Only in here. I know you too well, Aaron. I’ve known you way too long. I promise you, I will not write anything down until we have everything all settled. I don’t want you walking away with this like you have everything else. This mine and I’m not going to let you get your grubby paws on any of it without a guarantee of my fair share.”

Goodpaster let himself smile a bit. “I promise, I don’t want to cheat you out of anything that is properly yours. First, I want to remind you that you are an employee of Yoyodyne, your work is property of Yoyodyne, and I am Yoyodyne.”

“You see, that’s why I keep the process up here and not on paper. You’d dump me faster than last week’s garbage. We are in this together. There will be enough to go around.”

“You’re going to have to let me think about this,” Goodpaster said. “And in the meantime…” he gestured at the frame in VonSmults’ hands.

“We split this,” he said and unfastened the two halves. “You keep one half and I’ll keep one. And I don’t want you to know where.” He slipped each half into a padded Manila envelope and handed one over.

As soon as VonSmults had left Goodpaster walked to the wall and swung a Klee print away and spun the dial of the safe behind. He slid the envelope in and turned back to his desk to sit and think. He tore two yellow legal pages from a pad and wrote on the top of one, “Legitimate Uses,” and on the other, “Criminal Uses.” He started making the lists.

The “Legitimate” page was only half full and he had started the third page of the other when the light on his phone started to blink. It was VonSmults. He hit the voice button. A startled voice screamed out, “Aaron!” when there was a loud crashing boom and the phone went dead. He jumped up from his desk but before rushing out, he stared at the wall safe and decided he had better take the frame with him. He picked up a sturdy leather briefcase and slid the envelope inside.

The building was in a turmoil. As he neared the Innovation Lab he could hear the screams and see the shocked ashen faces on the other workers. He looked in to see Sammy VonSmults spread across the floor, a giant hole blown in his midsection. There was blood everywhere. He quickly looked around for the other half of the frame but could find nothing. He figured that if the killer had the frame, he would be coming for his half next and Goodpaster didn’t want to be around when he was found out. It was easy to move through the confusion and get to the front door of the building.

The summer heat on the sidewalk hit him like a blast furnace. The sidewalk was crowded and down the street some local street kids had opened a fire hydrant and a giant gush of water shot out and formed a river along the gutter, sloshing up around the tires of the parked cars. Kids were jumping, screaming, and splashing, trying to fight the heat. Goodpaster began to move along the sidewalk as quickly as he could. He knew he had to get away, someplace random, someplace away from the other half of the frame before the killer caught up with him. Then he could settle down and plan his next move properly.

Suddenly, his briefcase exploded. Something, blew outward, shattering a hole in the side of the case and spraying metal against the side of the building, shattering the thick reflective glass. Goodpaster realized that it must have been a shotgun blast fired through the frame. He thought of VonSmults and realized the same person must have blasted him at point-blank range while he was trying to make his call. The remains of the briefcase opened up on its shattered hinges and the tattered envelope fell, discharging the metal frame onto the sidewalk. Goodpaster bent over, thankful that it had fallen face down. The killer with the other half of the frame would be looking at a bare concrete sidewalk. He thought quickly, fighting back panic and looking around. Where was the shooter? He could be anywhere. Suddenly, Goodpaster had an idea.

As quickly as he could, he snatched up the frame, holding it by the edges. He leaped sideways toward the fire hydrant, shouldering a kid out of the way, and thrust the frame down and into the powerful stream of water. The torrent suddenly disappeared – swallowed up completely by the frame.

At the same instant, a car ten yards or so down the street exploded. The windshield flew outward, followed by a foaming torrent of water. A nasty looking double barreled sawed off shotgun was borne on this fountain, flying out and clattering onto the sidewalk. The door then burst open and a wave of water surged out, carrying a drenched and pitiful looking skinny woman in a lab coat.

“Sheri!” yelled Goodpaster. “You killed him!”

“You bastard,” was all she could muster. Goodpaster knew she was angry, but she sounded more soggy than threatening. With surprising pluck she raised herself up and began running down the sidewalk, away from Goodpaster. He noticed she was running with the metal frame held in both hands in front of her. He looked into his half and saw that she was holding it pointing towards herself. A mistake.

He braced himself and thrust a fist through his frame, connecting with Sheri’s stomach a half block down the sidewalk. She collapsed to the sidewalk and it was surprisingly easy for Goodpaster to get a firm grip on her narrow throat and clamp down. He had never killed anyone before and imagined that it would be tough to strangle somebody – but it was actually pretty easy. Especially someone that had killed his only friend and true rival. Especially someone that had tried to blast him with a shotgun through a standing quantum meson wave.

It was surprisingly easy to strangle someone with your bare hands when they are almost a half-block away from where you are standing.

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 – The Death of Samuel Flood (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Italy, 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 (#62) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.



The Death of Samuel Flood


On his last day, old Sam Flood hitched up his mule and pulled his still from its hiding place in the thick weeds beside the barn down to the open patch right next to his gate. Everyone else had their stills high up in the mountain hollows, pulling water from the clear limestone streams in dark dells where nobody was likely to go looking. Sam’s still was clean – a polished copper, curled up compact on a single pallet, with rails, which was how he was able to pull it down there, where everybody could see it, with his single mule. Nobody else gave a damn what their stills looked like, made of galvanized iron where they could, dented and dirty, utilitarian. But over the years he had spent more work getting his to look good than he did getting it to work good.

The gravel road that ran past his place was always busy, it being the straightest way from town into the most rugged parts of the hills. He had a heavy but simple welded iron gate, held with a loop of barbed wire around a wooden post worn thin and mirror smooth from the use. Under the gate was a cattle guard made from old water pipe, which was needed because of the many cows his neighbors would march past to get up into the high, sweet, meadow grass.

Sam went back up with his mule and brought back a tub of mash and a quarter cord of aged oak firewood, about three quarters hand split by Flood with an old rusty maul with the rest used barrel staves. He tipped the tub into into the pot and then build a rick in the fire box. He ran an old cracked green garden hose down from the tank in the goat pen and, sucking on the downside end, started a siphon. He used the screwdriver blade on his folding pocketknife to hook the hose to the condenser with a worm clamp. He took a new, clean bucket and put it under the end of the condenser, waiting hungrily for the first drops.

He stood back, looked at his work, and saw that it was good. He dragged his favorite rocking chair down from the front porch. He sat down next to the still, which was starting to bang and burp, and started to rock in a happy, relaxed way. There was a denim bag hanging from one arm of the rocker, and Sam pulled two thick needles, a skein of homespun, and a growing scarf. He whistled while he knit.

It wasn’t long before young Elisa Markham came strolling up the road, with her milk cow ambling behind. She wasn’t paying much attention to where she walked, instead staring intently at the small slab of a phone she carried in one hand, stabbing at it with quick, dexterous, and delicate fingers. She knew the cellular coverage was about to run out as she approached the hills and wanted to get her weekend plans nailed down.

Sure enough, the last bar faded away as she reached Sam’s place. She sighed as she switched it off to save the battery and shoved it down into the back pocket of her cutoff jeans. Only then did she look around and Sam Flood sitting there, rocking, knitting, next to the smoking still.

“Is that your still?” she asked.

“Sure is,” replied Sam, “A new batch of mash, wanted to get it ‘stilled before it went all bad.”

Elisa nodded, though she knew enough, as did everybody in that slice of country, to know that mash didn’t go bad once it had its alcohol. It would keep for years, if need be. That was the point.

“Sure sad to hear ‘bout the missus’” Elisa said. “It’s a mournful business.”

Sam nodded, “Thank ‘e.”

“I’m sure gonna miss her goat cheese. Used to buy a basket full every few weeks in season.”

“I’m sellin’ the goats,” Sam said. “Up to the Franklin’s. I don’t have the time to go milkin’ ‘em like the missus’ did. Maybe the Franklin’s will have some cheese for you.”

“Doubt it, they’re not cheese folks. Figure your goats’ll be for breedin’ and meat mostly.”

Sam nodded. Inside his head he felt a fury stirring. To keep the tempest down he concentrated on his knitting, “Knit one, purl two,” he said out loud.

“You making a scarf there?”

“Yup, nothing fancy. Just something to past the time, I guess.”

Elisa nodded. “Well, good to talk to ya. I’d better be getting on. The cow here is getting restless. That’s what’s nice about your goats, they’ll eat pretty much anything. I’ve got to get her to that sweet grass or her milk will come out sour.”

Sam set his knitting down in his lap and watched Elisa walk off, wandering back and forth across the gravel, depending on where the cow felt like going. She was sure getting to be a pretty thing. He didn’t realize she was growing up so much. Time flies.

Elisa and the cow disappeared over the next rise and Sam went back to his knitting, waiting for the morning to trail away. The still hiccuped and spit out a bit of sour cloudy first-cut condensate. Sam rose and shook this out into the weeds, then replaced the bucket to catch the good stuff which would be coming out next.

The mailman came by in his little three-wheeled vehicle and stuck some junk into Sam’s box. He had white headphone wires running into his ears from the front pocket on his crisp uniform. He was a city man and nobody even knew his name. He never glanced at the still, even though it was sitting right there. Sam doubted the mailman would know a still if it bit him on the ass. The rumor up in the hills was that the mailman had fooled around with the daughter of a boss of some kind and had been demoted, sent out to the backwoods as punishment. Sam didn’t know if it was true, but it was believable enough and a good story to boot.

Sam walked over to the box and pulled his mail out. There wasn’t much. He didn’t even look at it, just walked over and added the paper to the burning rick of oak. Then he sat down, started the rocker and went back to his knitting.


Somebody during the day sent an email to the Sheriff, complaining that Sam Flood was running his still right out in the open, in front of God and everything. It might have been a neighbor with an axe to grind, or maybe that mailman knew more about what was what than he let on.

At any rate, the Sheriff decided what to do about it.

“Absolutely nothing,” he said to his eager deputy.

“But, he can’t just sit there, it’s not right.”

“Now, let’s not get so riled up about it. After that business with Mabel, I think we can cut him a little room. If he wants to run that still for a day or so, we’ll just look the other way for a bit. If he turns it into a regular business, then we’ll take some action, but I’m in no hurry right now.”

The deputy was disappointed but still impressed with the Sheriff’s wisdom and cool judgment. For not the first time, the deputy made a note to himself to be more like that.


They found Sam Flood dead in his rocker the next morning. He had been shot once, right in the center of his chest. The bullet had gone in but not out, and it wasn’t until the autopsy that they realized it was a round lead muzzle load shot. It was hand-cast, not one of the commercial balls that the turkey hunters used.

His scarf was at his feet, finished before he was shot. The women at the ladies auxiliary didn’t know what to do with the scarf. Even though it was a bilious color and the knitting uneven and full of mistakes, it was the last thing that Sam ever did, except for the still, and they didn’t want to throw it away, but nobody wanted it. It had too much death associated with it. They took it to the city and put it in a donation box – hoping some poor inner city kid could get some warmth out of it.

Nobody was ever arrested for the murder. There was no evidence. Since he had been killed with that muzzle loader everybody knew it was an old argument an ancient unpaid debt. Sam Flood must have known it was coming… that was why he set up his still like that and sat there knitting, out in the open. With Mabel gone, he knew someone was coming for him and decided to make it as easy as he could.

At the funeral, there was a lot of staring back and forth over the coffin. The guilty party was almost certainly there, looking as solemn and quiet as the rest.

Franklin came and got the goats, claiming he had already paid for them. First,though, he took the still away in the bed of his pickup truck, before the city lawmen came to investigate the shooting. It ended up at the end of Slaughter Hollow and is still working away, though Franklin doesn’t keep it clean and never shines it. It wouldn’t ever gleam in that thick shade anyway.

When they found him shot, the still was cold but the bucket was full of shine. The folks around there weren’t big on wasting anything so they jugged it up and drank it at the wake. Most figured that Sam Flood had done that batch so they would have something to drink in his honor. They said they thought it was the best Sam Flood had ever made.

Short Story Of the Day – Pickled Herring Snacks (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“We are decent,” Queenie says suddenly, her lower lip pushing, getting sore now that she remembers her place, a place from which the crowd that runs the A & P must look pretty crummy. Fancy Herring Snacks flashed in her very blue eyes.
—–John Updike, A&P

Photo for Writing Prompt

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 (#57) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


This is from a photo writing prompt – see above.

What is on this guy’s mind?

Is he a spy watching his subject?

a detective shadowing a tail?

a hitman waiting on a victim?

Expecting an illicit lover?

These would all be good – but I wanted something a little different – something mundane that I could then kick up a notch. I think he is simply some guy sneaking in a smoke.


Pickled Herring Snacks



The first thing Walter Neff did when he was  down the dark steps along the old stone wall and invisible from the house was to yank the loose rock out. He pulled his cigarettes and matches from the space he had hollowed out behind. He felt for the glass jar he knew was in there too, but left it for now. He pulled his Fedora down over his forehead and lifted the collar of his coat to hold back the wind and spitting drizzle. Only after a quick look around did he allow himself a contented sigh and lit the bright match. He loved watching the flame course around the end of the cigarette, knowing that the first satisfying puff would not be very far behind.

Walter had met his wife, Phyllis, when she had called him to inquire about a life insurance policy on her husband. They had hit it off immediately, and Walter sold her a hefty policy to boot. There was a nasty bit of business, a thorough inquiry, when her husband had died – fallen off the rear observation platform of a train – the insurance paid off on the double indemnity clause because it was an accident – but they were able to ride it out and were married once it all blew over.

But now, Walter was having second thoughts. And thirds. Phyllis turned out o be a real piece of work. And she absolutely forbade him to smoke, which he had enjoyed since he was ten.

Finally, the familiar nicotine-soaked cloud was coursing into his lungs and he relaxed.

The misery that his wife could inflict almost made it not worth the trouble to sneak off for a smoke.


The biggest joy in Walter’s life was in manipulating his wife so that he could get to his cigarettes without her knowledge. Tonight was a double pleasure in that he was not only getting a smoke break, but he was escaping one of her dreadful dinner parties.

He had no idea where she met these people, but was shocked at how many criminal low-life useless dolts she could conjure up on short notice. Tonight was especially bad in that he disliked the two couples that came over. Ralph and Harriet Brisbane were repugnant. Not only were Cecil Ramirez and his incumbent stripper girlfriend What’s-Her-Name repulsive – but he was scary. At the last get-together, after a dozen too many cocktails, Cecil Ramirez blubbered out to Walter that he thought Ralph Brisbane was running around with the stripper, Cecil’s stripper, behind his back.

“Ah swear there Walter,” Ramirez said, “If I catch that scumbucket Brisbane even givin’ her a look crossways I’ll pop a cap in his ass so fast it’ll make yure head spin.”

Walter thought about Brisbane’s sports car, the luxurious boat he kept down at the marina, and the antique pewter snuffbox full of cocaine that was always at hand. Walter knew that these were all things no stripper could resist. He had warned Phyllis about the danger in having both couples over for dinner and drinks, but she has simply flashed her bright-eyed look that always meant trouble and told him he was full of shit.

“Don’t be such a scaredy-cat. You don’t ever want me to have any fun,” She said.

He didn’t understand how a fight between dangerous men in your own house could be considered “fun” – but he was going to lose that argument.

So now his cigarette was about halfway done and he took a particularly deep inhalation before reaching back into the secret opening and pulling out a jar of Nathan’s brand of Pickled Herring Snacks. He turned the glass over in his hand and watched the streetlight bounce off the silver fish scales contained within.

Earlier, that afternoon, Phyllis had given him a detailed list of items to pick up at the grocery and on the way back, Walter had stopped at this spot for a smoke, selected the Pickled Herring Snacks from the bag and hidden them in the hole behind the rock.

Tonight, after a couple rounds of cocktails and an increasing level of tension, Phyllis had gone into the kitchen to put together the appetizer tray.

“Walter, you bastard! Get your ass in here!”

The other two men looked on sympathetically, but Walter smiled a little. His plan was working.

“You forgot the jar of Goddammed Nathan’s Picked Herring Snacks.”

“I’m sorry dear; it must have slipped my mind.”

“That’s why I write it down for you. Now get your ass out that door and get me those Herrings! Right now!”

“But dear… our guests?”

“Don’t ‘but dear’ me you worthless pile of sheep shit. You get me what I want and pronto!”

“All right dear.”

And it was all right. Since the jar was hidden only a few steps from the house, he had the free time it would have taken him to walk to the corner market and back. About the time of a leisurely cigarette.

Suddenly, he glanced up. There was a sharp sound out of the darkness in the direction of his house. He climbed a few steps so that he could get a glimpse. There was the glint of broken glass in the front yard and the curtains looked surreal as the cold wind blew them out of the shattered opening, fluttering in the hissing rain.

With the window busted out, he could hear yelling. Two voices, one low and guttural and the other high pitched and desperate. Then a loud, shrill woman’s scream and a series of popping gunshots complete with muzzle flashes reflecting out across his front yard. Then silence.

For a second, Walter had a desire to rush back, run up the stone stairs and across his yard – to see what horror had occurred during Phyllis’s dinner party. But he stood still. There were three, maybe four good puffs left on his cigarette. So he stepped back down, leaned against the stone wall, and looked at the can of Pickled Herring Snacks as he inhaled another deep languid breath of precious smoke.

He slid what remained of his pack back into the hole and replaced the stone that hid the opening.

There would be plenty of time to find out.



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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Cheap Four Seamer

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

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

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

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

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

It was driving him crazy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything was happening too fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Short Story Of the Day, A Thousand Unnatural Shocks by Bill Chance

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”
Cormac McCarthy,
No Country for Old Men

Nasher Sculpture Center
Dallas, Texas

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

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

Here’s another one for today (#28). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


A Thousand Unnatural Shocks

Buford knew it was going to be a bad day but he didn’t think it would be this bad.

He woke up to the daylight streaming through his window. It was cloudy and he couldn’t tell what time it was. His wife was nowhere to be found and the alarm clock was flashing twelves. By the time he dressed, the thunderstorm that had cut the power while he slept kicked in again and he ran through the rain to find his front left tire flat. Buford had to stretch out in the dirty cold water in the gutter to slip the jack underneath and was soaked by the time he had the tire changed.

At work, his badge didn’t operate the rotary door and he had to stand in the cold drizzle while the security guard called human resources. He knew something especially awful was happening when the HR woman had the guard escort him to an obscure conference room after letting him in. On the table was a cardboard box with all the personal stuff from his cubicle.

Apparently, they had found the irregularities in his petty cash account.

On the way home, someone turned left in front of him and made him swerve. He hit a light pole with his right fender. Buford was able to back out and continue on, but a cop gave him a ticket a block farther for his broken headlight and expired inspection sticker.

Back home, he discovered that the dog had pulled over the trash can and spread garbage throughout the house. The dog also fished out and ate last night’s leftovers and vomited them up on the couch. After cleaning the mess as best he could he put his dirty, wet clothes into the washing machine. On the rinse cycle, the hot water hose burst, flooding the utility room and kitchen and scalding Buford as he had to use a wrench to shut off the balky valve.

Deciding he had better not try and do anything else for the rest of the day, Buford turned on the television and settled in his easy chair to watch. He was admiring the vase of fresh flowers his wife had placed above the set when the dog chased the cat into the living room. The cat leaped on top of the television, knocking the vase over. The water spilled and trickled into the circuitry of the television. With a sharp spark and a bang, it went dark. A column of rancid smoke rose from the back, a breaker tripped and the room went dark.

Buford did not dare budge; he sat there in the gloom, motionless, until Camille, his wife, came home.


He heard the keys jangling merrily in the lock.

“Why is it so dark in here?” Camille asked as she walked briskly through the room.

“Blown breaker.”

“Well, I’ll reset it then.” Buford cringed when he heard the click and the lights came on, expecting a fire or explosion. But it was his wife, after all, that threw the switch, so nothing bad happened.

“How was your day, dear?” she asked. “Not too horrible, I hope?”

“Worse than ever,” he replied. “For one thing, I lost my job.”

“No worries.” Camille answered. “I bought a lottery ticket on the way out this morning. Ten grand scratch-off winner.” She tossed a thick envelope on the coffee table.

“So your day was good?” asked Buford.

“Of course it was; you know the drill.”

Camille reached into her pocket and removed a small object. It was a crude statue, made from some mottled mudstone, of a small distorted human-like figure of extreme ugliness. The troll-like character was leering into space and holding a tiny, crimson, transparent jewel – clutching it in both arms. Camille carefully placed the sculpture onto a sturdy wooden stand on the mantelpiece. Though diminutive and unattractive, it had a quality about it that commanded attention. Both Buford and Camille, husband and wife, stood for a minute or two, as they did most days when the charm was put back in its place, and thought about the day they had acquired it.


They were on the Mayan Coast of Mexico, on a bargain package vacation Camille had won at a company bingo game. Their cut-rate guide had been drinking and became lost; then his rattle-trap jeep had broken down in an unknown village. Buford and Camille had been sniping and griping, each blaming the other for the disastrous vacation.

The village was strangely devoid of the beggars and con-men that had been haunting them all trip and the pair was walking the street in search of some establishment that looked like it had clean ice so they could get something cold to drink when a strange old man approached them and spoke in almost perfect English.

“Ah, we don’t get so many tourists in our little town.”

“Well, you’re a long way off the beaten track.”

“That’s true, not so many are as lucky as you.”

“I wouldn’t say we were lucky. Not at all.”

The old man stared at them for a minute, and then continued.

“Well, I have something here for you, and I guarantee you’re luck is going to change.”

Now that he thought about it, Buford realized that the old man didn’t say their luck would change for the better, only that it would change. And he had not been lying.

The old man offered up the little statue, the strange charm. Buford wanted to walk away, but Camille took the charm in her hand and stared into its jewel. From that point, they had no choice, she had to have it. The price was high, but not too high and Buford peeled a thick layer of bills off the roll he kept hidden in a pocket sewn into his waistband.

But the old man wasn’t finished. He talked about the charm and how it would bring good luck to whoever carried it.

“But, there’s a catch,” he said.

“Isn’t there always,” replied Buford. He was doubtful, but there was something about that ugly little statue that commanded interest. “This isn’t some sort of Monkey’s Paw, is it?”

“No not at all.” Buford was surprised the old man knew the reference. “It works, but you have to remember that the amount of luck in the world is finite. The charm gives out good luck, but it takes it from other places, usually nearby.”

And that is how it worked. It didn’t take long to figure out that whichever one of them would carry the charm would have fantastic things happen to them. But it would always be at the expense of the other. You could manipulate things a little, for example, by not taking any extra risks if you didn’t have the charm, but things still seemed to work out. The better that one did, the worse the other.

They tried switching every day, but that was too ragged… the bad luck would overtake the good. They had settled on three days. Camille would get it for three days, placing it in the stand on the mantle every night (they were afraid what the charm might do while they slept) and then Buford would get it for the same length of time.

It worked out for a while, but now everything seemed to be spinning out of control. The charm was working better and better, but the downsides were getting worse and worse.


“Why do you get the charm tomorrow?” asked Buford. “It isn’t fair. It was horrible today.”

“You need to do what I do, dear. When you have the charm, I stay in bed all day. Not too much bad can happen that way.”

“You know I can’t do that. I can’t stay still all day; I have to do something… anything. I’ll go crazy otherwise… and that’s when it gets so bad. I think I should have it…. I really need it tomorrow.”

“Now, you know that’s not what we agreed on.”

“But it’s not fair!”

“Come on dear, “ Camille said, ending the discussion, “It’s time for bed. Don’t be so upset, tomorrow’s another day.”


At three in the morning, after hours of tossing and turning and being awakened from a restless half-sleep by Camille’s incessant snoring, Buford gave up, climbed out of bed and walked into the living room. There he looked at the charm on the mantelpiece and how it seemed to glow with a faint green aura in the moonlight.

“There is no way I can get through another day like today,” Buford said to himself. And he decided to act.

He knew he needed all the advantages he could get so he took the charm down and slipped it into his pocket. Then he opened the small metal safe at the bottom of the hall closet and carefully loaded the handgun. Holding it out in front, he returned to the bedroom and the uneven drone of Camille’s snores.

“I’m sorry dear, but this is not going to be your lucky day,” he said to his wife’s sleeping form as he raised the weapon.


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.