Monday, December 31, 2012


Will watched from the doorway as the newly appointed overseas sales account manager, his new boss, played with his new cell phone like a five year old with a Christmas present. Jay was a good worker, and even better friend, so Will had been genuinely happy about Jay’s promotion last year. Since that time Will had always gotten the best assignments. Sure they often required longer stays and more arduous negotiations than some of the smaller accounts but that also meant more time for Will to travel the world. Unfortunately that also meant time away from his fiancée Heather. Luckily she was an assistant curator for the one local museum and was often traveling herself. He considered himself lucky he had a woman who could understand so readily.
He looked back up at Jay, smiled and shook his head while chuckling to himself. Now there was a man who knew a thing or two about long distance relationships. Jay had met his girlfriend Alyssa on the same European trip Will had met Heather. All four of them had wound up meeting at a conference in Amsterdam. Will and Jay had been their trying to negotiate a big contract with Philips while the ladies had been at some international museum convention, ICOM he thought it was called.
That had been almost three years ago and both couples were still going strong he supposed. He was engaged to Heather almost  a year now but Jay and Alyssa only saw each other about half a dozen times a year. And every time it was always him going cross country to see her. Then again Jay was also getting text messages from her at least a couple dozen times a day. He had shown a few to Will and raunchy was not even close to describing some of the things she said to him. And those were the messages without the “close-up” pictures. If only I could—
Will’s thoughts were cut off as someone bumped into him, dropping their cell phone on the floor.
“Scuse me! Guess I shouldn’t text and walk at the same time.” It was Mike from over in marketing. He looked away from Will and over to Jay as he picked up his phone. “Still not working by the way. I’m going out to grab a bite, try again and I’ll let you know when I get back. Want me to grab you something?” Jay had yet to look up and notice Will was there.
“Nah I’m ok, I just wanna get this figured out before—ARRR!” he yelled as he threw the phone on the desk and then finally looked up, saw Will was there as well and smiled. “Besides, now I got some company.”
“Well if you get it working and change your mind let me know. I’ll catch ya later then.” He made a “gun” with his hand, “shot” and winked at Jay, then turned and headed out.
“So what brings you here? Shouldn’t you be just getting to the airport? How am I supposed to take care of you if you’re not working?”
“My flight was delayed three hours so I decided to stop by and just double check everything one more time.” Will looked down at the phone on the desk and smirked. “What’s the matter? I thought you were eager to get a touch screen phone after messing around with mine. I finally have something you don’t want?”
“Ha! I’ll tell you what, that phone is so smart it’s gone all the way back around to stupid.”
Will started to laugh when he felt his pocket vibrate and then pulled out his phone. “I don’t think my phone appreciates the tone you taking.” He looked down to see it was a text message from Heather. She usually waited until after he touched down for him to call her. He hoped everything was ok.
I want you Billy. NOW! was all the message said. He smiled. She only called him Billy when she was feeling “frisky”.
“Important?” asked Jay.
“Yeah, just give me a sec here.”
But you can’t have me now, I’m talking to Jay. She could be a trip sometimes. Like how she insisted she had to workout in the afternoons by herself. When she wanted her way, there was no arguing. It really didnt’ matter to him though, he just changed his hours to a little later.
Very funny, I don’t care what you’re doin in the bathroom. Don’t you want first? *hehehe*
He was puzzled. Umm… he shot back at her.
Fine I’ll wait. Here’s a treat for you. Your fav! *hehehehe* Attached to the message was a self-shot her picture of her in red lingerie.
An awful feeling started to creep over him. What’s with the * hehehehe * ?
Will hadn’t noticed Jay was playing with his phone again. It almost made him jump when he started talking to Will.
“Damnit! I can’t get the names right!”
“Come again?”
“It keeps wanting to add Mike from accounting in with Mike from sales. That’s why he stopped by before. I’m trying to get this phone to work right.”
Will looked down at his own phone and at the reply.
I always smoke and get a little buzzed once he leaves and before you come over silly * hehehehe *
He stood there motionless, thoughts whirling, then hit “send.”
“Silly Billy—”
“Hold on, I think you want Jay, you should ask him about the problem with names and our new phones…”
Placing the phone on the desk he turned and walked away, slamming hard the door which now bore the name William H Mickers, Jr.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


“Hey, Ma.”
            “Yes, Joseph?” his mother replied.
            “Let’s go for a stroll,” Joseph said. “Like we used to do when I was a kid.”
            His mother looked at him, tilting her head forward so she could see over the top of her glasses.
            “What’s brought this on?” she asked.
            “Nothin’, it’s nothin’. . . Imma just feelin’ sorta nostalgic,” he replied.
            “Every time you say ‘it’s nothing’, it ALWAYS turns out to be SOMETHING. Who do you owe money to this time?” his mother asked as she lifted her head and folded her arms.
            “No one, nobody,” Joseph said. “ I don’t owe a dime to no one.”
            His mother just started tapping her foot as she pursed her lips, squinted, and tilted her head. She shot a quick glance at the rolling pin on the counter.
            “I’m serious!” he said in a half whine. “I was just watchin’ the guys put up the lights for the holidays. I was figurin’ we could take a stroll downtown and see all the decorations.”
            His mother maintained her posture for several long moments, then slowly a smile crept across her face. She relaxed her arms and put them on her hips.
            “You really surprise me sometimes,” she said. “I’ll go get my coat and shoes.”
            “Sure thing, Ma.”
            His mother turned and quickly walked the living room. She waited until she was walking up the stairs to wipe the budding tears from her eyes.
            Back in the kitchen, Joseph was wiping the sweat that had formed on his brow.
            “So far, so good . . .,” he said to himself.
            A few minutes later they were walking down the block, arm in arm.
            “This reminds me of when your father was alive,” his mother said.
            “I know, Ma—” he started.
            “No, you don’t,” she cut in. “I’m talking about BEFORE you were born. Back when I was still dating your father. Our very first date was a stroll around the block to look at Christmas lights.”
            “No kiddin’?” Joseph asked surprised.
            “Yeah, it was a date,” she started with a chuckle, “but of course we couldn’t go unsupervised. Your grandfather followed about twenty steps behind us.”
            “Get outta here,” he said incredulously.
            “No, I’m serious,” she replied. “If it wasn’t for your grandmother walking next to him, he would’ve been closer than that.”
            They both broke out in full belly laughs. They walked on for a couple more blocks in silence, quietly looking at people’s various decorations.
            “I don’t owe any money,” Joseph said suddenly.
            “Why bring that up?” his mother asked.
            “Well, I just,” he started as his voice got quieter, “wanted to tell you . . .”
            His mother stopped and let go of his arm. She stared at him with the same look she gave in the kitchen.
            “Tell me what?” she demanded as she crossed her arms.
            “I don’t owe any money,” Joseph said.
            “But?” she pressed. “There’s something else, isn’t there?” 
            Joseph turned and looked down the block, back in the direction they had come. He never noticed his mother dropping her arms or changing her posture.
            “Well you know how you signed the Buick over to me—” he started, but never finished. A well place right finished it for him.
            The last thing he remembered, before losing consciousness, was a brief glimpse of his mother’s tear soaked face as she threw the most wicked punch he had ever received.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


“Pass me the next box,” Juan called out.
            Ajay didn’t hear him—he was lost in his own thoughts again.
            “Hey! Ajay!” Juan shouted louder. “I said pass me the next box.”
            “Sorry about that,” said Ajay. He reached down, picked up the last box, then carefully climbed onto the first rung of the ladder.
            “This is the last one,” he said, reaching up into the storage loft.
            Juan took it from him and disappeared from view. Moments later he returned, a satisfied grin across his face. He reached up, pulled the light chord, then climbed down the ladder.
            “Well, that was the last of the Christmas decorations,” Juan said as he lifted the door shut. “The headmaster said we could have the rest of the day to ourselves once we were finished. What do you want to do?”
            Ajay just stared at the floor.
            “Hello! Ajay! Hola! Namaste!” Juan shouted.
            “What? Sorry,” said Ajay. “I was just thinking again.”
            “Homesick still?” Juan asked. “Everyone will be back in a few weeks, then school will be back to normal.”
            “I know, I know. I just would have liked to gone home, that’s all,” Ajay said.
            “Well then you should have asked Santa for plane tickets home,” Juan said with a chuckle.
            Ajay blushed.
            “What’s wrong?” asked Juan.
            “Um . . .” started Ajay, “I actually did.”
            Juan laughed, then put his arm around Ajay.
            “That is what makes you so awesome, Ajay. You’re the most honest person I have ever met,” said Juan. “But you need to relax some.”
            With that Juan tightened his arm into a head lock. Before Ajay could react Juan gave him a quick yet fierce noogie.
            “Ow!” said Ajay as he pushed Juan away. “What was that for?”
            “Now all you can think about is your head hurting, right?” smiled Juan.
            Ajay stopped, then started laughing. He put his arm around Juan, still smiling, then went for his own headlock. Juan pushed him away and started laughing.
            “See? You feel better right?”
            Both boys started to circle each other, each looking for a chance to strike. Suddenly, the entire building shook with a loud explosion, almost knocking both boys over.
            Having regained their footing, the two boys stood there, staring at each other. Both of them were unsure of what to do next. After a few long minutes passed they heard the sounds of someone running up the stairs.
            It was the headmaster.
            “Oh thank heavens,” the headmaster sighed. “I was almost knocked out of my chair. You boys seem to be fine, are you not?”
            “Yes, headmaster,” they replied in near unison.
            “Good to hear,” replied the older man. “I have got some bad news.”
            The two boys exchanged quick glances, unsure of where this conversation was going.
            “There has been an accident, as I am sure you are aware,” started the headmaster. “A pipe ruptured on the main boiler. I am afraid the school will be without adequate heat for some time.”
            Once again the boys exchanged glances, each giving the other a look of surprise.
            “I know how much fun you were having being here between semesters,” started the headmaster. “However, unfortunate as it may be, you will both have to return home for the remainder of the holiday. My secretary is already notifying your parents. Also, the school will take care of all travel arrangements. Both of you will be out on the first available flights tonight.”
            Ajay dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands.
            The head master reached over and tentatively patted him twice on the head.
            “I know, lad. This is upsetting for me as well,” the headmaster said, then turned and looked at Juan. “Once he composes himself, you two will both pack your things and wait in the lobby. A car will be here within the hour to take you both to the airport.”
            “Yes sir,” Juan said. “We’ll manage . . . somehow.”
            Ajay just sat on the floor, head in his hands, concealing his grinning face.

Friday, December 28, 2012


There was a knock at the door, and then it opened.
            “Donnie, you’re on in three minutes. Al’s on his last bit now,” said the bespectacled man in headphones.
            “Thanks Mitch,” said Donnie as his took a drink from his cocktail. “I’ll be right there.”
            “Just take it easy on the highballs,” said Mitch. “Eddie wasn’t to happy about the other—”
            “Sorry,” Donnie interjected, then drank again. “It was an anniversary . . .”
            “Well . . .” Mitch started, “Look. Here’s how it is. Eddie’s talking about trimming some fat. Now I know you’ve been doin’ this for him for a long time.”
            “Since you were in grade school, kid,” Donnie replied, taking yet another swig.
            “Right. But you and I both know—” Mitch started.
            “Well, save it,” Said Donnie flatly. “Three minutes. Got it.”
            “Two minutes,” said Mitch as he shut the door.
            Donnie finished off his highball and held the glass up, swirling the single large ice cube slowly. He thought it reminded him of himself—just going around in circles and not really getting anywhere.
            He remembered back to when he first started doing this lounge gig. He thought it’d be temporary. He thought someday he’d make it big, perform at the casinos, maybe even record a record or two. He was ‘gonna do something’, he had thought.
            To Donnie, that seemed like a lifetime ago. It was almost like it was someone else’s story he was remembering.
            He looked around the room. There were all sorts of artifacts from the past. Pictures with various celebrities—he was always surprised at who was there after the lights came up. A fake chrysanthemum from that girl he had dated a few years back—her old man had been pissed when he found out about her and Donnie. There was a very old rosary, from that time him and Al had a really bad fight with Eddie and went on a three-day bender to Tijuana—Donnie still couldn’t remember most of it.
            Then he started to laugh.
            Maybe going around and around wasn’t so bad after all. Tires did it. Records did it. Hell, even the water in the toilet did it.
            Donnie chuckled again at his own joke.
            He had never wanted anything like kids. Or a wife. Or even a house. He wasn’t even really sad or upset.
            He sat up straight, then smacked himself hard across each cheek.
            He had come out here to do something, and that, he most certainly had done. Tonight, whether it was two people or a full house, he would show them something else.
            Donnie was laughing again at his own wit as he closed the dressing room door and headed for the stage.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


            With a satisfied belly, Lucas stepped out onto the front porch of his grandmother’s colonial home. Having been in the family for generations, many of his aunts and uncles, cousins and even his own mother had been born in this very residence. He supposed the recipe for the roast his grandmother had made also likely went back just as far. Probably the sweet potato pie and cornbread recipes too.
             Sitting on an antique hand-crafted maple chair, Lucas drew a small pouch from his pocket. Deftly he plucked a single small white square from a pack of many. He portioned out a small amount of fragrant, fresh tobacco with one hand. With years of practice behind him he was able to easily finish rolling the cigarette with one hand while closing and returning the pouch to the bib pocket of his overalls. From the same said pocket he drew a single blue tipped match, struck it on the heel of his boot, and inhaled deeply as the small flame lit the freshly made stogie. Like the house, the tobacco fields surrounding it had also been in his family for generations. As he sat looking out over the fields a feeling of contentness enveloped him.
            Just as he was about to slip off into dreamland a faint, shrill whistle caught his attention. Lucas stood up, unable to tell where exactly it was coming from. Stepping off of the veranda, he quickly turned around.
            At first he thought it was coming from the house, or maybe behind it. As the sound started to grow louder he quickly realized it was coming from high above him. Taking several steps back away form the house he was finally able to see a faintly glowing orb, steadily growing in size. Before Lucas was to react further the sound quickly grew until it became an ear piercing shriek of a noise. The orb too also grew, appearing as a miniature orange-reddish sun. An instant later it flew low over head with a cacophonous noise like the rocket ship he had seen as a kid in Cape Canaveral. It had been low enough to shake the house and sway the branches of large poplar in the front yard.
            Before Lucas was able to get up from the ground a deafening explosion came from behind him, from where the meteorite had gone. If it was a meteorite. He did turn around in time to see distant flames down by McPherson creek, way at the far end of the property.
            Suddenly he thought of his wife, and his grandmother, and everyone else in the house. He quickly got up, the cigarette still inbetween his lips, and ran for the house. Bursting through the door, he quickly realized the room was empty. He ran around to the dining room, and then the living room. Before he realized it his feet had brought him downstairs. He hit the switch on the stairway down, a set of lonesome light bulbs in unadorned ceramic fixtures lit up the room. With all the jars of canned food stuffs and other dry goods most of the basement was basically one giant pantry. Walking around the various shelves, Lucas quickly realized no one else was down there.
            Briefly he thought of checking the upstairs bedrooms, but quickly decided against it. In times of crisis, such as hurricanes or the rare tornado, the family always gathered in the basement. It suddenly occurred to him that maybe they went to see the fire for themselves. Taking the steps three at a time, Lucas was back up into the kitchen and out the door. Looking around, he quickly realized his grandmother’s truck was missing.
            A cherished legacy of his Paw’s, he had insisted that she learn to drive it should anything ever happen to him. Three years after that an incident with a wheat threshing machine had made her a widow much sooner than any of them had expected. Still recollecting the past, Lucas quickly realized his feet had moved him on their own again, this time brining him in front of the large white equipment barn next to the house. Next to the classic, tarp-covered Thunderbird was another tarp covered object. Pulling back the cover he smiled to himself. His old Kawasaki dirt bike still looked as pretty as the day he first rode it. And luckily enough, the key was still in it.
            Straddling the small white and yellow bike, he gave the kickstart a good shove. Instantly the motor responded with a high pitched roar. Unconcerned with safety gear, rocks and pebbles flew as Lucas whizzed past the house.
            The full moon almost removed the need for a headlight, but Lucas turned it on anyway. Not that it was much good with all the ruts and bumps of the field road. A few minutes later he could see the faint glow of small fires eerily lighting up the pale birch trees around the stream. As he got closer, Lucas cut the motor, leaving the bike propped up on its kickstand.
            Leaving the bike behind, he slowly made his way towards the freshly made clearing. In the center of the crash site there appeared to be a large crater, with the glowing object at in the middle. It had pushed up enough dirt that his view of it was far from clear. Cautiously, Lucas circled around the clearing. Many small fires were still smoldering here and there, but the center was different, all matter had been completely blown away.
            Unsure of what to do, Lucas paused. Building up courage, he took a deep breath, then stopped.
            Why had he rushed out here again? And what about everyone else? He had assumed they had left the house to come see what had crashed, but he seemed to be all alone. Suddenly a panic gripped him.
            What if he was alone?
            Shaking his head violently, he quickly composed himself. It was just a large meteorite. He was sure of it. His Paw had told him how his Paw, Lucas’ great-great grandfather, had found a meteorite in one of the fields over a century ago. At first they had thought it a stray round from civil war-era artillery. When they were later told that the nearest military units were over a days march away, it was then concluded that the object that had damaged a large portion of the then freshly tilled fields must have been of heavenly origin. When the old farmer had shared the story at church, the minister had told him that perhaps it was a sign form God to not plant tobacco anymore.
            Unwilling to completely accept or dismiss it, Lucas’ great-great grandfather had instead decided to let that single field go fallow, eventually allowing it to become grazing land for a small herd of cattle. It turned out to be a most fortuitous decision. Shortly afterwards, in the second season that calves were born, a blight wiped out most of the tobacco crop in the entire region. The sale of the cattle and milk allowed the family to be one of the first to recover and eventually buy up some of the neighbor’s lands.
            A loud crackle of nearby brush brought Lucas away from the memory and back to the present.
            Or so he thought.
            A sound came from the far side of the clearing. Straining to listen, Lucas thought he heard voices. They weren’t talking though, it was more of a low moan. It reminded him of himself after having one sip too many of Paw’s ‘corn’. A thought suddenly dawned on him. He was running across the clearing, again his feet seeming to move of their own volition. Someone may have been around when the crash happened, his gut told him that might be the case.
            Less than halfway across he froze. From where he now stood, at the edge of the crater, the glowing object that had created the carnage was plainly and clearly visible. Slightly smaller than a football, it was purplish with several pock marks all around it. It glowed with the same kind of orange as his grandmother’s sweet potato pie. If he hadn’t seen it fall himself he would have sworn it was a giant sweet potato. Creeping slowly towards it a fresh sound froze him in his tracks.
            There were several voices now. Being closer now allowed Lucas to tell that while they were definitely moaning something was not quite right. As the head of the lead voice came up and into view he came to several horrible realizations at once. While difficult to make out in the dark, this area was the place where his family had their burial plots.
            The sunken in grey skin. The sparse white hairs. The rotted off nose. The empty orbital sockets. As a life long fan of midnight double features at the drive in, Lucas knew the shambling undead when he saw them. Despite being his ancestors, his close relatives, they were no longer so. They were zombies.
            The shock made his jaw go slack. The cigarette he had rolled earlier clung to his lower lip for a brief instant, then fell. It barely spun, falling cherry down like a bunker buster to its target. Enjoying the rush of oxygen as it fell, it crashed into the back of Lucas’ hand with the silence of a grave, leaving its red-hot payload as the rest of it tumbled away like booster rockets after a shuttle launch.           
            Lucas yelped in pain, nearly falling out of the chair. His now unlit cigarette rolled along the porch for another foot, then stopped.
            His wife had rushed to see what was wrong, only to find her husband sucking on the back of his hand while bending over to pick up the errant smoke.
            “Fell asleep again?” she asked wryly.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


            “Do you come here often?” said the man in the dark blue suit.
            “Why yes, yes I do. I try to come here as often as possible,” replied the man in the grey tweed coat.
            “Is that right?” said the man in the dark blue suit. “I didn’t catch your name there Mr. . .”
            “Richard. Never Rich. Or Rick. Or Ricky. Or Dick. And for the love of all that is holy never, ever Dicky. Just Richard, Richard Wrighton,” proclaimed the man in the grey tweed coat.
            “Well then, Richard—,” started the man in the dark blue suit.
            “It’s what my mother used to call me. But she’s gone now. So long, long gone . . .” Richard said.
            “Well I’m sorry to hear—,” the man in the dark blue suit tried again.
            “She deserved it though,” said Richard flatly.
            “Well, um, I suppose so.”
            “Oh yes, she most certainly did,” Richard said. “You can’t do that sort of thing to a nun and not expect there to be repercussions, now can you?”
            “No, I don’t suppose you can,” said the man in the dark blue suit.
            “She’ll be over seventy before she’s up for her first appeal. Probably won’t get it though,” Richard said with a gleam in his eye.
            “Are you done?” said the man in the dark blue suit.
            “Excuse me?” said Richard defensively.
            “I mean are you done with your ‘business’,” said the man in the dark blue suit, waving a baton towards Richard’s crotch as he did so.
            Richard looked down to see that his fly was open and his bits were hanging out.
            “Sorry about that,” Richard said half-apologetically as he fixed himself. “You got me side tracked while in the middle of relieving myself.”
            “I could see that,” said the man in the dark blue suit. “And so could everyone else. That’s why they called me.”
            Through blurry eyes Richard tried to focus on the man, but he was having a hard time of it. He couldn’t quite place his finger on it, but the word ‘baton’ seemed to be swirling in his head for some reason.
            “I’m sorry,” started Richard. “I didn’t catch your name.”
            “It’s Eugene Statham,” said the man in the dark blue suit. “But you can call me ‘Officer Statham’. There was a complaint about some drunken fool relieving himself in the park fountain. In case you weren’t aware, that would be you.”
            Richard looked down, an look of honest surprise that he was standing in over a foot of water.
            “Now the Dicky, my boy—,” started officer Statham as he started guiding Richard by the elbow.
            “IT’S RICHARD!!” screamed Richard.
            “Oh right, right. I meant ‘Richard’,” Statham said with a devilish grin. “Let’s just the two of us, you and me, take a stroll on down to the hoosegow.”
            “The hoosegow?” questioned Richard. “I don’t think I’ve ever been there. DO they serve drinks.”
            “Only the finest—I think you’ll fit right in,” said officer Statham.
            “Then by all means, lead the way, lead the way,” said Richard, blissfully oblivious the predicament he was in.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


The light rain started to slow as it fell, slowly transitioning over to snow as the temperature dropped with the setting sun. Nathalie could feel her ambitions becoming equally cold. She was on her way home after yet another failed audition.
            How many had it been now?
            It could be over fifty at this point—she had stopped keeping track far too long ago. How many more was she supposed to endure?
            Nathalie had realized long ago that rejections do happen, but in her case, it was to an extreme. She had gotten nothing, not even offered lesser parts. She couldn’t even remember the last time when she had even gotten a callback. Going back to school and getting her teaching certificate was seeming more like the plan as opposed to the alternative.
            Nathalie’s mind was lost in her own thoughts, so she failed to notice the uplifted sidewalk. Too late she caught herself, already plunging face first towards a nearby street lamp. At the last second, she managed to catch herself, her nose stopped inches from the pole. As she pushed away from the pole, she noticed a flyer plastered to it.
            It was a number offering psychic readings, guaranteed to be accurate.
            Nathalie laughed at the thought of it, then paused.
            “Why not?” she said to herself as she pulled out her phone.
            She quickly dialed, then placed the phone to her ear and waited.
            Moments later, an elevator rendition of some traditional gypsy-esque melody came through the phone. As Nathalie started to chuckle, a pre-recorded voice message quickly silenced her.
            “Greetings, oh wise customer,” came an elderly voice not recognizable as either male or female. The kitsch of it all was almost too much.
            “We already know of your fate, oh despondent traveler who seeks such fortunes,” the voice continued. “Know that your future, your desired destiny, is already watching you. Proceed with thy emotions and instincts, and it WILL find you.”
            There was a loud shaking of a tambourine, and then Nathalie was disconnected.
            “That’s it?” she said to herself.
            “What a joke,” she continued on, tears starting to form in her eyes. “I just paid two dollars for that trite crap, and I get hung up on?” Nathalie was growing visibly frustrated and angry.
            “WHYYYYY!?!?” she suddenly screamed at the sky. She then fell to her knees, half collapsed in exhaustion. As she was sobbing, face in her hands, she suddenly heard an odd sound.
            She heard clapping.
            “That was awesome! That’s what I’m talking about,” came a mans voice.
            Nathalie looked up, away from the road. She had failed to notice that she had been in front of a café this entire time. Apparently, one of the patrons had noticed her.             The man in the trench coat, who had been clapping, was now walking up to her, right hand extended.
            “Young lady, that was a brilliant, raw piece of performance there,” the man said.
            “Thank . . . you,” she half stuttered out. She grabbed his hand as he helped her up.
            “No, thank you,” he said as he reached into his coat. He pulled out a business card and handed it to her.
            “The name’s Miles Silverman. I’m a casting director. You wouldn’t happen to be an actress, would you?”
            “Well, I’ve tried—” she started to say, but was cutoff.
            “I knew it!” he exclaimed. “Listen, call that number, make an appointment with my assistant. Tell her I said you’re to try out for the lead in the cable series we were talking about over pizza at the café the other day—she’ll know what I mean. Anyhow, just tell her Miles said ‘she’s a go’, she’ll know you talked to me.”
            Nathalie simply stood there stunned, amazed that her destiny had indeed found her.

Monday, December 24, 2012


John Francis had had a very long day. As he sat in his chambers, enjoying a full three fingers of bourbon, he was starting to feel it all just melt away.
            He had sat on the bench a very long time now, almost three full decades. His vigor and lust for justice had long left him. Guilty or innocent did really matter to him anymore. John’s only real concern was how long until the daily docket was completed.
            He took another sip, then let out an annoyed sigh. That last case had taken so long that he had missed the last good tee time. After four meant that there would be high school and colleges kids on the links, as well as the off duty course employees. None of them were people he cared to associate with. If that damn case had wrapped up quicker.
            John thought back again to the people he had seen. The old lady standing beside the one idiot assistant DA, and that weasely looking guy that stood next to the public defender. From the moment both of them had walked into the court room, John Francis already decided that he hated them both.
            The elderly woman might have looked like a grandmotherly type to some. To John, she seemed to be nothing more than a feeble old idiot. The slimeball accused of trespassing on her property didn’t seem much better. In fact, he’d seen far too many guys like him being enabled by women like her. The more he looked between the two of them, the greater his contempt grew.
            The preliminary reading he did on the case made him wish that the public defender would ask for a dismissal of the charges. The case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence, but it still went too slow for his taste.
            John sighed again as he put the empty glass down. Well it was over with. Both of them were out of his courtroom and out of his life. Some little punk delinquent cutting through someone’s yard was not worth his time. She had claimed that there had been a break-in attempt but the police found no such evidence. Regardless, with the case dismissed that meant no deliberation and no sentencing, which meant Joohn was still done with his day sooner.
             As he left the courthouse and made his was across the lot to the far corner where he parked, John felt the warm late spring air envelope him. Maybe he would play a round after all, he started to think to himself. Then he stopped as he came to his car.
            Crouching there, next to the car, was the delinquent from this afternoon. Before John could react the youth grabbed the judge and brought him to the ground next to the car. The youth straddled the old man, quickly placing his hand over John’s mouth.
            John felt a sudden sharp pain in his chest, then he felt himself gasping for air and choking. The warmness was spreading and his vision was already starting to blur when he saw the attacker pull the bloody blade out and wipe it on John’s own coat. The last sensations he felt were his watch being removed and his pockets being rifled through.
            Afterwards, John never had to worry about another tee time ever again.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Katherine was exhausted to say the least. These last few weeks at the office had been brutal. Long hours and little time off had left her a corporate zombie. Work, go home, sleep, get up, work some more—the cycle just repeated ad nauseaum. Even though it was morning and she had slept a good full eight hours, she still felt drained.
            The highlights of her day was the forty minutes she spent on the train going to and from work. Thanks to her touch screen phone and a decent set of headphones, she got to escape to her own little world twice a day.
            Katherine had gotten the device for her birthday a few months ago and she had used it everyday since. Her brother had said that while it still had a ‘few bugs’ that it was still a cutting edge piece of equipment.
            A few weeks ago she had down loaded a new music app and she loved. It allowed her to make custom channels for herself and it’s accuracy for playing songs that she liked was flawless. She was glad for that too since around the same time things had started picking up more at work.
            Despite doing the same thing all day long, it was relentless and tiring. No matter how fast she worked things still seemed to take just as long to finish. It was getting to the point where entire days were just repeats of the ones before.
            Well at least she had her music. She put in her head phones and hit play.
            An odd sound came through but she never noticed it. This wasn’t a surprise since it had played every time but she had never noticed it once. As she sat in the train, eyes closed, head to one side, the sound subsided, but Katherine never fully fell asleep.
            A few more moments pass and a voice started speaking softly.
            “Hello, Katherine. Welcome to the network. Here is your daily assignment for today . . .”

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Park Jin-Ho and Hwangbo Hyun-Woo had been friends their entire lives. Many often mistook them for brothers. While different in many ways, they realized early on that the other could help them compensate for their own short comings.
            Hyun-Woo had thought Jin-Ho was the smartest person he knew. All throughout school Jin-Ho had always gotten top marks. One semester, Jin-Ho had a fever the weeks before and during the national exams. Hyun-Woo had visited his friend regularly to bring him the assignments from each day. He was more amazed than anyone when Jin-Ho placed first in the school and thirteenth in the nation.
            Conversely, Jin-Ho thought Hyun-Woo was the strongest, most athletic person he had ever met. Regardless of the sport or competition, Hyun-Woo always came in first place. He had made junior nationals level teams in not only soccer, but also swimming and track and field as well.
            Ironically, when they had both decided to take up Tae Kwon Do, they were equally matched in their own way. Jin-Ho became a master of technical combat, readily delivering precise strikes and devastating counters. Hyun-Woo had adapted a more direct approach, utilizing raw power and speed to overwhelm his opponents. They had both decided to drop all other extracurricular activities and focus on their martial art.
            To say that Jin-Ho was surprised when his friend was hospitalized with a rare illness was a gross exaggeration. To him, it seemed absurd that someone so healthy and hale would succumb to an illness.
            Days had turned into weeks, and soon it would be more reasonable to start measuring time in months. Many doctors, and then many traditional healers came and looked at Hyun-Woo. All left after they were defeated by the mysterious contagion. Eventually, one of the healers suggested looking for a traditional cure that involved travel to a remote shrine. He said that it was deep into the mountains, several kilometers up an old stone path built off an old dirt road.
            After hearing about a possible cure at the remote shrine, Jin-Ho agreed that he would make the journey.
            Packing lightly, he rode the earliest bus he could for a few hours, arriving at the bus stop indicated in the set of directions the healer had left. It was a little more that a bench and a sign next to a light poll. He followed the road on foot for a few kilometers until he came to the dirt road in the directions. The road was rough and deeply rutted as it wove its way into the mountains. A few more kilometers and he was at  hongsalmun gate he was told to look for. At this, Jin-Ho stopped in amazement.
            The gate looked bright and new, as if it had been constructed yesterday. The large gray stone that formed the pathway, however, appeared extremely weathered and aged. He assumed that the government must maintain such historical structures as cultural heritage sites. It was past noon and he could feel his stomach start to growl. He opted to eat his lunch sitting on an large boulder he found on the other side of the road. He finished quickly, repacking everything but his water. He took a large gulp of water as he crossed the road. He was screwing the cap back on when he stepped under the hongsalmun.
            Instantly he felt an odd sensation, as if stepping into a walk-in cooler, and almost dropped his bottle in the process. He paused and looked around. It was mid-afternoon and nothing noticeable seemed to have changed. Jin-Ho put the bottle away and continued on.
            After several kilometers of a twisting path along that followed along the ridge top, he came to another, larger hongsalmun. This one was red and black with pillar over two feet thick. It was larger and contained intricate carved patterns painted in gold. Beyond it was a massive set of stair that followed up the edge of the mountain. It left the trees behind and faded into the now misty hillside. After climbing up what seemed a countless number of stairs, Jin-Ho suddenly came upon a third, colossal gate at the tope of the stairs. It was identical to the second gate in design yet many, many time larger the size in every dimension. He estimated it might even be taller than his apartment building. As he looked it up and down he noticed a venerable looking old man sitting crossed legged under the gate. His eyes were closed, his hands resting palms up on his knees.
            Jin-Ho assumed this must be a priest of some sort and approached the man. When he was only a few steps away, the man opened his eyes and smiled. Before the youth could say a word the old man spoke first.
            “Young traveler Jin-Ho, I welcome you.”
            Taken aback, the youth stopped, unsure of what to say. Did the healer have a way to contact this man.
            “No, he did not,” the monk seemed to reply.
            Jin-Ho simply stared in disbelief.
            “Yes, this is the place you seek. Your can find your friends cure here,” came an unsought reply.
            At this news, Jin-Ho’s thoughts were cutoff. He smiled as tear involuntarily started to well up.
            “But it comes at a price,” the man said in a flat tone.
            Bewildered again, he wiped the wetness from his eyes.
            “There is a field beyond this gate, and beyond that is a small village,” said the priest. “Pluck a single flower in that field. Then you can continue onto the village. After that your friend will be cured.”
            Jin-Ho’s confusion deepened. Was the flower the cure? Did they need to do something in the village? What about some sort of actually payment?
            “The cure requires exactly what I have said,” came yet another unsolicited reply.
            After a pause, the priest yawned, and then added “we are talking about saving a life.”
            Jin-Ho looked down at his feet, thinking intensely about what the priest had said. Suddenly a chill went down his spine with the sudden, harsh realization of the words meaning.
            He looked back up at the old man. The priest just nodded slowly.
            Jin-Ho closed his eyes, slowing his breathing. Once he had centered himself, he opened them. He looked back at the priest and nodded slowly. He fixed his pack and walked under the gate. Halfway across the field, he paused briefly and picked one of the thousand tiny purple flowers that grew in the field. A few minutes more and he was at a fourth gate, this one identical to the third. Beyond lay the village.
            Jin-Ho took a deep breath, then started through the gate.
            Far away, at the same time, Hyun-Woo sat up in bed for the first time in weeks. Tears were streaming down his face.

Friday, December 21, 2012


The balding statesman sat in the waiting room, rubbing his hands together nervously. He hated press conferences. This one was looking to be especially gruesome.
            There was a knock at the door. Before he could answer, a young man in a cheap wool suit and horned-rim glasses let himself in.
            “Barry,” the young man started. “They’re ready for you.”
            “Thank you, Elwood. I’ll be right there” Barry replied.
            As he walked down the hallway to the press conference room, he could hear the din of reporters eager for a scoop. Elwood was about five steps ahead of him and keep pace. A half-dozen paces from the open doorway he turned to face Barry.
            “Just wait here until you hear your name—”
            “Look, kid. I appreciate the work you do for me, but this ain’t my first rodeo,” the elder statesman admonished.
            “I don’t mean to be rude sir, but they’re out for blood tonight,” Elwood warned.
            “They’re always that way, kid.” Barry said. “Well, let’s get on with this. Best not to drag it out anymore than we have to.”
            “Yes, sir,” Elwood replied. With that he turned and went into the room with the hoard of reporters.
            “Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I give you representative Barry Fitzwater.”
            As he finished, the bald-headed statesman was through the door, quickly taking the podium. In those brief seconds the murmur of voices became a cacophony of queries.
            “Representative Fitzwater!”
            “Barry, over here!”
            “Are you really anti-Semitic?”
            “What do you have against chritianity?”
            “What’s your view of Muslims in America?”
            “Are the Buddhists really to blame?”
            “Do you really know Dawkins’ mother?”
            “What is your issue with Hindus?”
            Barry raised his hands to silence the crowd and ‘accidentally’ knocked over a microphone. The voices were silenced by the painful feedback whine.
            “Now you may think I’m here to answer your questions. Just know this: I will and I won’t at the same time.” He wore a satisfied grin as the crowd began murmuring again.
            “What I mean to say is that I have a lot to say, so no question until I’m done.” He looked around as the murmur softened, then ceased altogether. Once the reporters were quiet, he began.
            “Many have taken some of the comments I have made about the upcoming holidays, as well as some of my comments about certain religious roles during those holidays, and have wound up completely misunderstanding my intention. I am here today to clear up this whole mess.”
            Instantly, the swarm of voices renewed their assault. The strain this was having on Barry was now visible. His face was flush, his head covered in sweat. He reached for a bottle of water on the podium. The shaking in his hands was so severe he could barely get the lid off. Desperately he gulped the liquid down, a small rivulet leaking out of his mouth.
            The voices seemed to be a jumble until a single questioned pierced through the noise like a bullet through glass.
            “Are you ready to admit wrong doing?” came the query.
            “Enough!” Barry shouted as he slammed the water bottle down, crushing it as he did so.
            Almost instantly he stiffened up, eyes rolling into the back of his head. The entire audience was stunned, unsure of what was transpiring.
            A moment later Barry Fitzwater collapsed, dead from cardiac arrest via electrocution. The paramedics were unable to resuscitate, pronouncing him dead on arrival.
            Apparently, when he slammed the water bottle down it had wet the microphones and made contact with his hands. Debate would continue on for years afterwards as to whether Barry Fitzwater had died by accident or the victim of divine justice.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Cliff stood up and wiped the sweat off his brow. The midday sun was high in the sky and beating down mercilessly. A slight, occasional breeze offered some comfort, but it was definitely weather more appealing to plants than humans.
            Not that this bothered Cliff at all. He had invested hours upon hours into his garden. Without the sun to foster growth, where was the return on his investment?
            He laughed at himself as these thoughts went through his head. All these years retired, and he still had that corporate mindset. That didn’t really matter anymore.
            What mattered to him now was the sandwich he looked forward to the most everyday, a grilled cheese with bacon. And a bowl of tomato soup. And a tall glass of fresh squeezed lemonade. Ever since Cliff was five years old, when his mother first taught him how to make one, it had been his favorite sandwich. Sometimes he did without the soup, and sometimes he had some potato chips. Other times he would brew some sweet tea or maybe even make an uptown. But he always had a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich whenever he could choose his lunch. Being retired meant that was pretty much everyday.
            A shrill cry shattered his daydreams of the impending feast.
“Clifford!” came a distant yell. His wife came running out of the house, tears running down her face.
            “Oh, Cliff! Oh, Cliff! It’s just horrible!” she started sobbing intensely.
            “Maggie, calm down. Tell me what’s happening.” After forty plus years of marriage he knew better than to automatically assume the worse. He always thought she could’ve had a great career as a soap opera star.
            “Oh they just announced it on the news.” She broke down sobbing again.
            “What, Margaret? What did they announce on the news?” It was beginning to seem like she might actually have a legitimate concern.
            “They’re all going to die.” She returned to bawling. This time she blew her nose. “Come inside, it’s on every channel.”
            Following her inside, Cliff was stunned by the announcement from the news caster.
            “Scientists now predict that the asteroid’s projected path will, in the next 72 hours, give it a 45% chance of impacting the Earth, with a 74% chance that the impact will be somewhere in the Pacific. This is up greatly from initial estimates made two years ago of a 32% chance of impacting the planet.”
            “And?” Cliff said incredulously. “This is exactly why we live on a ridge top in the Appalachians—no tsunamis, no tornados, no earthquakes, no floods, no volcanoes, no killer bees, no tropical diseases. Well, I am surprised, but not that much.”
            “What are you saying?” Maggie stammered in disbelief.
            “What? They’ve known about this asteroid for a few decades now. They’ve known it had a one-in-three chance of hitting the planet as recently as two years ago. And now people only have three days to evacuate? I hope they crucify all the politicians who blocked legislation that could have possibly prevented this.”
            “How can you say that, Cliff?”
            “Easy. If those kinds of percentages were batting averages, in a game mind you where no one is dying and is played for recreation and entertainment, they would easily drop several hundred million and think it was a ‘good investment’. Spend billions on the same kinds of odds to save tens, if not hundreds of millions of lives? They treat that like a waste of money.”
            Maggie stared at him silently, unsure of how to respond.
            “Well, whatever. If the world’s gonna end, I am definitely going to have myself a bacon and grilled cheese sandwich.” With that he walked away, leaving his wife to listen to the recycled news cast.