Somewhere between here and nowhere (part 2)

I looked down as my precious phone shattered into a few pieces, battery flying into the street and screen cracked like a bad car windshield after a nasty wreck. I only paused a moment before looking up at the man emerging from the shadows. Brown well-worn cowboy boots began at the pavement and tight-fitting jeans rose on long firm legs, also well-worn and nicely faded from the looks of it. I dragged my gaze ever upward. He stepped into the light and I could see a face as shocked as mine staring at me.

“Jesus H Christ missy, whatcha yelling about?  I’m just heading out from work, that’s all. Hush up before you wake the dead. I promise not to mug ya or worse so just shush please” and a smile slowly crept up on what I saw was a quite attractive face, in a young hollywood heart-throb  sort of way, dimples that must have gone straight to the back of his head. I closed my mouth then, slightly embarrassed at my display but hell, there’s a hand in the garbage can. It had to have come from somewhere. He took a step forward and I took a slight one backwards, feeling the earth crashing into my back as I fell off the curb and onto my backside. Matthew McConaughey wanna-be came running over and reached for my hand and at that point I allowed him to help me up from this graceful display of myself.

“There’s a hand in the garbage can” was all I could muster at that point. His eyes opened wide and he turned to look behind him at the old metal can.

“Oh God, not again” he muttered as he pulled me upright and then he strode over to the can. Lifting the lid and grasping his nose as the smell hit him. “Come on, we gotta get inside, quick-like please” and he shoved me forward towards the alley, grabbing my bag off the bench as we moved. “What about my cell phone? It’s got all my numbers and photos in there, I’ve gotta find a way to get it fixed,” I turned back to go get it. “No, you stay here, it’s not safe out here and I know my way around, I’ll get it. Wait here, okay?” and he strode back down the alley. I listened but heard only the wind moving the leaves and some remnants of trash nearby, staring up to see darkened windows on this two-story building and the stars above through the crevice. “Come on, let’s go in before they see us, if they haven’t already” and he brushed by me and obediently like a silly dog I followed.

He turned to the left where the building ended and pulled out a wad of keys. The metal clanging seeming to fill the air suddenly with sound, the loud click and turn of the tumbler reverberating in my ears. With a slight shove he opened the door and walked in. “Follow me, just be careful. It’s pretty late and as I can see how much of a ballerina you are on your feet and don’t want you to trip and trash the kitchen or to wake anyone up.” He must have been smiling as he said it because it was light-hearted and obviously not meant in a mean sort of way. Up ahead I could see a faint light. The smell of grease and cleaning solution was strong where we stood and he must have reached over and turned on a switch. A bare bulb above our head lit the small room and I could see a three tub sink and a stack of stainless steel pans and bowls set up on edge drying. SOS pads from a tipped box lay on a shelf and a big Yellow bottle of Joy, reminding me suddenly of my grandmother’s house when I was a kid. I hadn’t seen Joy in years, soap or otherwise.

We walked through a hallway and came out another door into the restaurant itself. He didn’t turn any lights on in here and walked to the front windows and peered out. He stood there for a minute and then turned back to me. I just stood there wondering what the heck I was doing here, with a stranger in a restaurant out of the 60’s and why on Gods green earth was there a severed hand in the garbage can out front. I cleared my throat but no words would come out. I opened my mouth, then closed it once more.

You’re out there screaming a few minutes ago and now you’re speechless. What’s up with that Miss? he said with a chuckle and moved towards me. His hand reached out and that killer smile was once again plastered on his face.  Chad, my name is Chad and this here restaurant is my Grandma’s. Her names Alice, but she doesn’t work here anymore, and he started singing the song and laughing quietly. Okay, she died last year, that’s why she doesn’t work here anymore, nor is she here anymore technically but I know she is in every pore of this old joint. I’m trying to hang onto it and keep it in the family. I spent my fair share of time here as a kid and this place is the closest thing I know to home, I refuse to give up and let her go now. Come too far and seen too much. Besides, have to keep it as Alice ’cause Chad’s restaurant just doesn’t have the same vibe. He laughed then and waited for my response. Suddenly I didn’t know what the heck to say in response. It was too strange and I knew he’d laugh or get all weird about it, I mean what were the odds, right?

My name is Allison, most just call me Allie. I didn’t dare tell him that my Grandmother and mother had always called me Alice, especially if I was in trouble for something, which was quite often from what I could recall. I could see how he felt about his Grandma and I didn’t want him to think I was mocking him.

Well, nice to meet you Allie, I don’t like the circumstances of this here meeting, that’s all. But that in itself is a long story and I’m a bit tired and it’d take too long to tell. How ’bout we just hunker down here tonight if that’s okay with you and when morning shows her pretty face, we’ll call the cops and go from there. Don’t like doing things in the dark and I don’t trust the cops 100% so we will take care of it then. It’s not like it’s going anywhere, right?

He went in the corner of the room to a closet, pulled out a blanket and tossed it to me. We’ll just push the table out and you can stretch out in the booth, it should fit you and I just had ’em redone so they should be comfortable. I’ll sleep over here. I promise not to do anything or get funny with you, besides, I’ve heard your screaming and the tenants upstairs would call the cops in a second. Then again, I’m surprised they hadn’t earlier.

I set my bag and the cell phone pieces on the table, the sheen of the plastic tablecloth shining from the back room light and I pulled the blanket over me. I knew I wouldn’t be dreaming of french fries or greasy burgers, hell, I’d be surprised if I even slept but it did feel good to get prone. I looked over at Chad but he had turned the other way and I could hear him breathing slow and deep. How the heck could he just do that? There’s a hand outside belonging to God knows who and he sleeps as if it was nothing in the world. I closed my eyes and fell into a fitful sleep, Alice’s Restaurant playing in my mind.

To be continued….

Somewhere between here and nowhere

I made it as far as Topeka before my cash ran out. Jumping off the bus in the darkness of this place wasn’t my idea of a life lived free but for now it would do. I glanced at the map beneath a street light, tattered and greasy from use, suddenly feeling like Columbus on a flat world, the crease and drop off a bit farther from where I currently stood.

I found a bench in front of a window with one of those cheap closed signs hanging off kilter, no hours posted but the place was dark. The smell of grease seemed to ooze from somewhere within the dingy windows and assaulted my nostrils in the night cooled air. A breeze picked up, the sound of metal coming towards me as a crunched can tumbled down the street. I sat my bag down and stood up to retrieve the can, my good girl sense of not littering never far. Lifting it with two fingers, stale beer dripped onto the still warm pavement,  I lifted the lid to a nearby trash can to throw the offending article away. In the light I could see the white rice on the lid moving slowly, realizing they were maggots and were everywhere, unhinging my gag reflex as I slipped the can into the darkness of the plastic tub, the smell of death and decay slammed me full value in the nose and I felt my granola bar I had eaten on the bus, rise to the surface of my throat. “Good God, what the hell is in there?” I retched next to the can and as I stood up, saw a hand laying next to the beer can I had tossed in. I leaned over and threw up anything else that had been left in my stomach, wiping my face with my arm, reached for my cell phone. I dialed as my hand shook and finally took a breath when a pleasant voice greeted my ears. “Topeka emergency services, what can I help you with today” and as I looked back to the trash can, frantically trying to compose my thoughts, a shadow moved from the side of the diner and it was then I found my lost voice and screamed.

To be continued…….

Summer of Love-Gold #writephoto (Thursday photo prompt)

I remember nervously twirling the frail gold bracelet around in circles on my arm. I hadn’t worn it in quite some time, feeling awkward having moved on with my young life when he had left that hot summer day, but as I ran up the stairs with this latest letter, I put it back on once more with shaking hands. My arm would turn a bit green below it but I decided I owed him at least that much.

The last time I had seen Adam was months ago behind the skating rink. It had been a warm balmy summer evening and the sun was setting in the distant sky as I gazed over his shoulder. He was leaving for the Navy and wouldn’t be back for many months but my tears continued to fall. I knew when he left, it was going to be forever, I don’t know why, I just did. He held me with tears in his eyes, promising me he’d write often, or as often as he could between training and the unknown expectations, he had been so excited but now, not so much. I told him I’d wait, I was sixteen and thought he was my world but somewhere inside me I felt the familiar fear that often surfaced. He was eighteen and had just graduated in June, a beautiful blonde boy with the anchor tattoo he had gotten in anticipation for his upcoming enlistment, still looking a bit raw and red and bumpy, as I traced my finger over it lightly, I told him it would be ok, that I’d be here and that I wasn’t going anywhere so told him to just write when he could. He smiled then and just held me as the gold sun slipped down over the horizon.

The letter was dated seven weeks ago, was a bit ragged as if it had been lost somewhere in the bowels of a post office in a far away country, but I knew he had never made it to the gulf, to any war for that matter. Adam had died in a car accident three weeks ago on a weekend leave. His Mom Beth had called to let me know what had happened and his obituary had been in the paper for days, local boy gone, and my soul didn’t feel anything except for an emptiness, because I had always known he wasn’t coming back, had always known. Beth had told me softly through tears over the phone the details about what had happened. Adam died driving down a long narrow road in Virginia on his way to celebrate with Tiffany’s family, his cassette deck playing the mix tape that I had made for him for Christmas the year before, and that his car had swerved for some unknown reason as the sun shone down on the curve, blinding him. The car overturned on the soft sandy edge of the road, the song Gold Dust Woman blaring through his cars speakers when the police arrived. The local blonde beauty queen with the shiny new engagement ring who had sat beside him was thrown from the car and was pronounced dead on scene and Adam died on route to the hospital.

I read the letter, feeling calm as his words filled me. I realized he suddenly seemed so grown up, someone I no longer really knew. He apologized for falling in love with someone else but letting me go as tenderly as he could, he didn’t want me to be angry, that I should move on with my life, always Adam to the end. I undid the clasp on the bracelet and let it fall to my lap, folded the letter and tucked it back in the ripped envelope, leaned over and looked out the window at the cold snow falling beyond. Somewhere in my head a song started playing, Gold dust woman and I quietly sang along.

“Well did she make you cry
Make you break down
Shatter your illusions of love
And is it over now, do you know how
Pickup the pieces and go home.” Fleetwood Mac Gold Dust Woman

This is my piece for the Sue Vincent Thursday #writephoto challenge-Gold

Thursday photo prompt – Gold #writephoto

 

Trick or

I shut out the lights in the living room and stepped outside. It was ten o’clock and another balmy night in Venice. The rough newly cut St. Augustine grass prickled my bare feet as I took a few tentative steps into the front yard, turning around I stared at the front window, ignoring the smudge that was now reflecting back at me from the glow of the pumpkin lanterns, I smiled as I admired my latest handy-woman piece. I love Halloween. Ever since I was a child I loved everything about the season. Pumpkin pie flavor is everywhere, the nights get a bit cooler and the wind in the palms at night remind me of the crackling of the dying leaves back in New York. Satisfied with Mr. Creepy and his positioning, I retreated back into the comforts of the house, wiping my now slightly sanded feet on the mat I shut the screen door and locked it. I have been keeping the main door open, letting the cool night breeze blow through to air the house and was enjoying the quiet of the neighborhood. Tomorrow would be Halloween and I had the candy ready to go, still sitting unopened in the bags because I knew if I opened them, I would have to try some just to make sure and if I just eat one…well, you know that never happens, I would be stressed if I ran out of candy for the kids. Being alone I wouldn’t be able to leave and go get more and besides, Maya would be out with her friends and would freak out if she were to come back early to find me missing. I knew she’d be so excited about Mr. Creepy because she likes the yard decorations in the neighborhood and was disappointed that we hadn’t put anything up except on the inside. What good was it if no one see’s them she asked and I finally got the point so created the Mr.

I wasn’t ready to sleep  yet so I went into the other room at the far end of the house where I wouldn’t disturb her sleep. Herbie the dachshund lay soundly on his dog bed and being used to my comings and goings through the house, didn’t even lift an eyelid to see where I was going. Typical dog, run all day and then nap the night away. He was a good dog, not much of a watchdog but when he wasn’t playing or barking, he could usually be found sleeping and commencing with his happy dog dreams, chasing things and mumbling like only a sleeping dog can. I shut the door with a gentle click and opened the window to let the breeze find me. I sat in the darkness for a few minutes, peering out the window at the neighborhood. This was my writing room and beyond the window lay a garden that had whispery little strands of grass with pinkish tops that swayed back and forth. I had always found the song of the grasses so soothing, almost like my own personal sand dune minus the water. I reached in front of me, clicking on the small light that sat on the desk and grabbed the laptop. Logging in I looked through a few pictures to find something inspiring to write about, finding a beautiful scene of woods in the fall, perhaps Colorado or out West somewhere. Perfect to stir the senses I thought and then I heard a growl. I perked up and listened closer, figuring Herbie must be having a doggie nightmare…chasing the bad guys again I said and chuckled a bit. Herbie would be the last dog on earth to chase anything short of a squirrel. The growling continued and I knew then that this was no dog dream, and the growl intensified and then the barking began. I shut off the light and looked out the window, seeing nothing going on outside I realized he must have been barking at Mr. Creepy. I mean come on, the dog watched me put him up and rearrange him so it’s not like it was his first time seeing him. I opened the door and went through the hallway, quietly telling Herb to shush ’cause he was gonna wake Maya up. I walked into the living room and Herbie stood on his dog bed with his hairs standing up on his back, but he was staring at the front door. I looked over to where the dog was staring and saw a form standing silently beyond the door. I knew the screen door was locked but it was a flimsy old thing and I knew if someone wanted to make their way in they easily could have, why hadn’t I closed the heavy front door I thought, chastising myself for not being more careful. Who’s there I said with a shaking voice. I hadn’t moved and I just watched as the figure stood there unmoving, still no sound had come from his lips and I think this freaked me out even worse. I asked once more and when still got no response, told him I had already called the police, hoping to see him leave the front porch and leave but he just stood there not moving. I saw Herbie was still growling and he began to move closer to me as if in protection mode. I told him to stay and ran to the door, feeling as if my legs were rubber and my heart racing, my breath coming in short gulps, slammed the door and turned the lock. The cops are coming I shouted and then I heard Maya from the doorway asking me what was going on. Go back to your room honey, I’ll be done here in a minute but she just stood there, half asleep staring at me. Go Back to bed NOW I shouted at her, now so afraid of who may be out there and realizing I don’t have a gun, no way to protect myself and my baby. She looked at me confused. I saw the form beyond the glass doors move slightly and I grabbed Maya and the landline off of the table and ran into her room. I looked up to see the curtains moving and just about came out of my skin, running over I slammed the window shut and locked it. Maya starting crying and shaking, staring at me with those big frightened eyes and I just held her as she broke down. Mommy, I’m scared she said between sobs and I just held her so tight and told her that everything was going to be okay. I dialed 911 and told the story to the dispatcher, a nice lady who told me they’d send someone over shortly but they had a lot going on in town, someone tried to carjack a woman and not succeeding, had taken off on foot, but that was going on across town so not to worry but someone would be coming. Just sit tight and lock yourselves in and wait. I rocked Maya back and forth as we sat on her bed and then I heard a tap on the window. Just a single tap. There are no trees out there so I knew it had to be someone. I shut out her light and waiting in the darkness, not seeing anything except the still curtain and then the knock happened again and then again. Steady and every ten seconds, another knock. I’m freaking out right now and feeling so helpless when I see a car move down the street, a bright light scanning the yards around us and then settling on ours. Oh thank God, finally they’re here, I told Maya to stay put and I’d be right back. As I opened her door I heard the steady knock at the front door. Two gentlemen stood there with a flashlight and I slowly opened the door and saw the officers standing there. They asked if everything was okay and I told them about the person who was at my door and then about the knocking on Mayas window. They told me to lock the door again and they’d go around the house and check things out. I did as asked and saw the lights moving about the yard, behind the hedges and then they moved into the neighbor’s yard. It was then that I heard the shouting. The neighbors back motion sensor clicked on and I watched as the two officers struggled with a large dark shape. One officer pulled out a long stick and swung it hard at the form but before my very eyes, the stick moved right through the form. The officer turned almost in a circle from the force of his swing which had made no connection and the other smaller officer pulled out his Taser. I could see the lines shoot through the air but again, they connected with nothing. It was then that the guns were pulled. Both of them took a few steps back and held them up in a firing stance and the form just stood there, seemingly growing larger right in front of them. The rounds blew orange glowing lines as the guns fired one after another and the form just slowly dissipated into nothing. I think I must have been seeing things, because they had been fighting with something and then suddenly, nothing was there. The officers stood there for a few minutes talking and the flashlights moved around again and I heard the sound of sirens in the distance. Backup reinforcements I thought. I went back into the living room hearing the cops knocking on the door again, I opened it and they told me that they were still looking into it and that someone would come and stay with us if it would help. I told him that it would be a great idea because at this point, I was a rattled mess. More officers showed up and a nice lady cop who came to keep us company while they did their thing out in the yard, bright lights were brought in and I could see them in the neighbors yard measuring things and taking pictures. I tucked Maya into my own bed and told her I’d be in shortly but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight and most likely would pull Maya from school tomorrow to let her sleep in longer. I asked the lady, whose name was Jill if she wanted some coffee and she politely said that it would be a welcome treat. I went into the kitchen and brewed her up a K-cup and grabbed a bottle of water for myself, walking back into the living room I handed her the cup, enjoying the scent of the pumpkin chai as it found my nose. Halloween, yes, tomorrow is Halloween and I now am not sure I’m ready for it. Having enough tricks with not enough treats, I walked over and grabbed the bag of candy off of the counter, slipped a Reese’s out of its wrapper and enjoyed the sweet taste of chocolate as it mellowed on my tongue. I sat down on the couch and finally took a large breath. I looked up and Mr. Creepy was gone, the window empty.

Found

The winds finally died down to where I could venture out beyond the shades which protected the doors. Lacey needed to go out and do her business and we were both too tired from being cooped up indoors for the day and a half it took the storm to ride out. I didn’t know what to expect, 90 mile an hour winds had tormented my sleep and I was stressed and tired and just wanted to breathe some fresh air. The power had gone out almost as soon as the storm started so I knew one of the branches on the old oaks must have knocked it loose. I unbolted the shades and Lacey rushed past me, nearly knocking me over with her 125 pounds of muscle. I hope the fence held, but Lacey was pretty good at coming when called and staying in bounds. The clouds let a little sun through and I held my face up to the welcoming light. The house gets dark when the shutters are up and we hadn’t gotten evacuated, being too far from any water bodies that would have risen, I was thankful for that. Ken was still out of town which suited me just fine, with no power I didn’t have to listen to his constant bitching and moaning, and I could just try to remain composed hanging out with Lacey. Ken isn’t my husband, just a boyfriend I’ve had for too many years. He can be mean and loving at the same time but since our child disappeared 9 years ago, I hadn’t the energy or the heart to start fresh again. So I enjoy his work because it keeps him on the road for a week at a time. We knew the storm was coming but he had to get his load up to New York and I told him I’d be fine, had the neighbors around if I needed help and he agreed that he would stay up there while I faced the onslaught of Mother Nature.

Lacey was barking at something and I looked around to see part of the fence blown down, or should I say crushed by half of the oak tree in the corner. The roots were upended and the power line lay up in the branches. I rushed over to see what Lacey was barking at and worried at the same time if any of the lines were reaching the ground. If anything happened to Lacey, I’d die…she’s my only baby and I’ve had her since she was a pup. A gift Ken brought home from the road for baby Grace, saying all kids need a dog to grow up with. Grace was one year old and it was hard enough taking care of a baby and then to throw a dog that needed training too was rough, I told him so but he said he couldn’t take it back and I didn’t have the heart to find a new home for it. In a way I’m glad I didn’t because when Grace was stolen, Lacey was the one who kept me sane. I try not to think about those days, the open window to her nursery and the years that passed with no leads just crushes me. I turned the corner to the house where Lacey had her head in the roots of the tree and she looked up at me with a baseball in her mouth. I laughed out loud because leave it to Lacey to find a toy. She tends to eat them so we never leave them laying around and here she wags her tail at me with that goofy look, like come on Mom, let’s play. I told her to put it down  because I still had to survey the rest of the damage. “Come here Lace,” I called to her and she took one last look at the ball and followed me. The rest of the yard had little damage which was good all things considering, and only a few shingles had come off the roof. “Lets go Lace and get these shutters down, you and me, okay?” I said to her but she turned and ran back to the tree, wagging her tail again and picked up the ball. “Okay, just one throw, then we have work to do here” and I reached down and took the old weathered ball. It had an odd feel to it and I turned it slowly in my hands, scraping some of the sand and mud off of it only to realize it was not a ball but a skull. I dropped it as I screamed and grabbed Lacey before she could pick it up again. “Come on, let’s go in girl” I said and pulled her by the collar towards the house. I felt Lacey pull hard against my hand and she slipped out of her collar and began running back to the tree, I could only follow. “I need to call the police, Lace, come on, let’s go already” but she began to dig and dig some more. I caught up to her and pushed her out of the way while peering into the hole at what looked like sticks but with their shape, I knew they were more bones. “Come on dammit” I said to her and as she looked up at me, I saw it. A dirty silver locket dangled from her mud filled mouth and I screamed as the tears fell from my eyes, my hands shook as I took it from her and could just see that beautiful name that I had given her, Grace.

The joke (short story)

Come here and give me a hand a minute, will ya? Michael yelled to Sheldon who sat comfortably in the lazy boy reading his book. Sheldon dog-eared the page and threw it down on the seat. Sure, anything to get out of reading that crap he said with a smile. What are you making anyway? Michael held some skeletal arms and string in his hand at the top of the stairs, stretching precariously to reach a hook that was about a foot too far away from his reach. It’s a joke, stupid, and then jumped up a few inches but still not quite reaching the destination. Sheldon grabbed the string from his hands, stood up on tiptoe and hung it effortlessly. It’s gotta suck being so vertically challenged he said with a laugh and Michael just gave him the finger as he handed him the next string. Different gene pool, different results…good thing I got the personality, you got nothing. Now shut up and help me, get this one up there too you ass, chuckling to himself and then grabbed the excess string and walked around the corner and began to hammer into the plasterboard.What kind of joke is this anyway? Seems a bit fake looking if you ask me. Michael peered around the corner and laughed out loud. Yeah, it may look that way but when Morgan gets home from work tonight, hits the light for the upstairs hall that I might add, is no longer in service thanks to the lightbulb that is no longer there thanks to yours truly, it’s gonna look downright freaky scary. Sheldon looked at the get-up again and shook his head, I don’t think this is such a good idea, man. Someone might get hurt or something. Michael turned and walked away flipping him off again. Nah, she’s a lot stronger than you think, she’ll think it’s funny, besides, I’ll just tell her you did it. After all, you’re the one who hung it up, right? Michael slipped around the corner again and slammed his bedroom door with a resounding thump. Stupid ass, Sheldon thought and went back downstairs to finish the last few chapters of A Separate Peace.

Morgan usually got off her job at the 7-11 most nights by 12am and unfortunately she thought to herself as she glanced at the policeman in front of her, tonight wasn’t gonna be typical. The whole night sucked. A drunk came in and she refused to sell him any beer, bad enough he was parked almost sideways in the lot, kind of the same way he walked in as he sneered at her as he staggered back to the beer cooler. She heard a six-pack smash as it hit the floor, beer spraying all over the chips and candy, and then he grabbed another, barely able to hang onto it and she reached for the phone and dialed 911. She whispered to the voice on the other line what was happening and they said don’t worry, don’t confront him and the police would be right there. They took their sweet time getting there of course and she tried to keep the guy there as long as possible. He just wanted the beer honey, he kept muttering over and over again. Gotta get some to take home or Helen will have his nuts on a platter. She didn’t know who Helen was, assumed girlfriend or wife and really didn’t care. His bloodshot eyes stared at her like wet glass, his lips slurring the words and his aggressive nature raising her hackles. Just gimme the beer you stupid bitch, I gotta get home before she does, he spewed and she just stood there looking at him, he threw a twenty at her which blew back off the counter and onto the floor. She leaned down to get it and as she rose, saw him leaving through the door. He got into the car through the passenger side for god knows what reason, shimmied over to the driver seat and put the car in gear. The car lurched forward and smashed through the front glass, sending shards and two liters and chips flying everywhere and she screamed and ducked behind the counter. She told the cops what happened, as she stood there still shaking and waited for the manager to show up so she could get the hell out of there. An hour later she finally made her way to her car in the back lot and just sat there shaking. Asshole could have killed me, she thought and slipped out of the parking lot as a news crew came through the entrance. Not tonight she laughed, not tonight. Don’t need my 15 minutes of fame, just wanna go home thank you. She looked both ways and pulled out.

The local liquor store was open till 2 and she pulled in. Her hands still shook on the steering wheel but she figured she deserved a little treat tonight, walked in and bought a bottle of fruity Sangria from the cooler, paid for it and headed home. Yeah, gonna be a tough night to sleep she said as she tapped on the paper bag, but you’re gonna help me. I’m sure I won’t have to work tomorrow…good, a day off would suit me perfectly she said.  She unlocked the front door and walked in quietly. Michael and Sheldon might be out, a Friday night and all she said to the silence as she grabbed the bottle, twisted off the cap and poured herself a tall glass of red fruity wine on ice. Nice night to sit outside she thought and walked out onto the back porch and settled in to watch the stars. Yeah, just what I need, peace and quiet, and she took another sip.

Michael walked in the front door and rubbed his eyes sleepily, glanced at the clock and saw the bottle of wine on the counter. He sniffed the contents, wrinkled his nose and sat it back down, pouring himself a glass of sweet tea instead, he drank it in almost a single gulp turned off the lights and then started to walk through the living room to head for bed. The pot Frankie scored for them at the party had been pretty damn good, he could still feel the effects and laughed in the dark. Yep, gonna sleep like a baby tonight he said as he began to walk up the stairs. He knew his way in the dark and walked carefully up each step, knowing where they creaked and avoided those particular spots. He was out longer than what he was allowed and didn’t want to get caught breaking curfew, there was another party tomorrow and he was gonna be there come hell or high water. He made it to the last step before the ghostly form in white came hurtling through the darkness at him, his mouth open in a terrifying scream as he fell backwards, his back twisted in a sinister way as he landed wedged in the wood where the stairs turned. His eyes wide open, but no longer seeing. The joke took its victim like planned. Sheldon sat above in the shadows, quietly turned and walked away smiling. Yep, somebody may be hurt, maybe this isn’t a good idea and he closed the door and slipped into bed.

 

 

Yesterday once more (part 3)

Emily opened the drapes to let some light into the room, grabbed a cold water from the refrigerator and sat in the surprisingly comfortable leather chair at the desk. Let’s see what you want to share my friend, she said as she turned to the second page.

November 10th, 1940

The girls are kicking again Samuel, I do so wish you could be here to feel what I feel. The weather here has been pretty good considering, for this time of year. You know you never can tell as the sun comes up what to expect but the girls always seem more restless on nice days. I know, we don’t know they’re going to be girls and you’re hoping for a boy but if there has to be two, I’d like them to be a matching set, kind of like salt and pepper shakers. The doctor said Friday that everything is progressing nicely, the heartbeats sound strong, etc…you know how doctors are, even if something were awry they would never let on. He talked to mother while I was getting dressed and afterwards she seemed a bit off. She said that everything was good but I have a feeling, you know me and my feelings, they’re always spot on. I think there’s something she’s not telling me. You never know which one is which till you turn it over. It’s been hard with you gone but I know it’s necessary so that we can get a place of our own. Mom has been especially kind and work is getting harder as I get larger. The girls don’t make it easy but Mr Johnson said he understands if I cannot clean the offices anymore and to not push myself. He is a kind man and I do believe he is a good-hearted person, even for a lawyer. He will be going on vacation next month so I would have some time off then but at the rate my stomach is growing and the way the girls are fighting in there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them come out a bit early. I hope the weather is treating you ok on the ship. It must be tough cooking for the guys with the rocking of the waves, but perhaps because the ships so big you don’t feel it as much, you’ve never said so and I can only guess. I received your letter and the money last week but know not to write as you never know where you will be at a given point so I use this as my Samuel correspondence instead. I put the money in the bank and it, like the girls is growing nicely.

I am enjoying writing in this book, perhaps I have found my passion after all, besides you of course, but I have to do something besides wait, you know how I like to keep busy. Mother made me a cake for my birthday and sang for me. She put two candles on the cake as she thought it would be too hard for me to blow out all 21 at this stage and I’m glad she did. It’s hard to believe that in another month you’ll be back and the girls will make their grand entrance. She made my day so very special, and also made my favorite cheesy potato casserole with ham and it was all so divine. It would have been better with you here but we have our lives ahead of us and we will be a family all together before you know it. I miss you my love, so desperately. Oops, there goes little E kicking again. I’ve given them nick-names until we can decide together. E is for Extra hard….she is the absolute worst, where as M is mild, she is going to be a gentle one, unless of course E is kicking M in which case it’s ME that gets no joy. But seriously, for names I like Elizabeth and Emma if they’re girls and if there is a boy and a girl, I like Samuel, for you of course my dear. I’ll stop here as I am getting a bit tired and am going to lay down, will write more later. Take care and I’ll stand beneath our moon tonight and send love letters through the sky to find you on your ship. Five more days till it’s a full moon, so I hope it’s clear out so that I can watch it through my sleep as I dream of our tomorrows. Don’t work too hard, but I know you will. Love you, Emily and the girls?

November 11, 1940

Good morning Samuel, I’m hoping the day is finding you happy and that the weather is cooperating. It is 55 degrees here and it’s going to be a nice day I hear. I had a horrid night sleeping. I can say this here as I know you won’t read it until you get back but it was truly bad. Both girls were kicking and I don’t feel like I got any sleep. I had a nightmare last night. Something bad happened and you had disappeared and I called for you, almost like I was searching in a thick cloud and the babies were coming and I needed you but all I kept hearing was the echo of my voice calling you. It was horrible, I woke up sweating and had to open the window to let in the breeze. I am unsettled and I am afraid the girls may be trying to break free before their time. I’m not ready. Here all this time I thought I was but talking to them in there as opposed to out in the world, moving and crying, well I think I’m just scared. I know you can’t be here right now and that’s ok. I am not going in to work today, Mom said I looked ashen and tired and she called Mr Johnson to beg me off for the day. I think he took it well, I was too tired to ask, just grateful for the time to try to catch up on some sleep. Thank God for Mom. I don’t know what I would do without her here to take care of me. Here I think I’m married and all grown up, two babes on the way and a beautiful man on the wide blue lakes and yet I feel like a child. Be well my love, will write again soon…there goes the girls again, ouch that smarts. Sigh…..

November 12, 1940

My beautiful Samuel, I slept the day through and woke early evening to find Mother asleep in her chair. She had set out dinner for me and another piece of birthday cake that she had frozen. I forgot to tell you, it was chocolate with chocolate butter frosting, not your favorite I know, but I let Mom sleep and I ate quietly, enjoying the peace and flavors of my supper. The girls have been on and off with their antics and I’m tired of being tired. I also found your latest letter next to the place setting and a flower that mother must have cut from the garden. It is a beautiful white rose. She never parts with her roses except for special occasions. She is trying so hard to make it easier for me and I am blessed to have her. Your letter was dated three weeks ago. I’m sure not much changes from week to week but it’s funny as the other letter with the money was from two weeks ago. The postal service on the water is a funny thing indeed. It’s like going back and forth in time. There was talk there was a horrible storm on Lake Michigan yesterday and I hope you are holed up somewhere safe. The SS William B Davock (Big Willie as you so affectionately call it) is so big, I don’t worry of anything drastic happening as seems so safe. Unlike smaller craft, my mind is at ease that all is well. Hope you dressed warm and are staying dry and thinking of me, I know, you always think of me as I always think of you. Will talk soon love. I am going to read for a while and digest my dinner, it isn’t settling well and the girls are boxing again.

Mother just left and I don’t know what to say. They say your ship went down in the storm yesterday. I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe it. I would know if something happened to you, I would feel it to my core if I were to lose you. I cannot let you go, the girls haven’t had a chance to meet you and I’ll be damned if I’m just going to give up and believe this lie. Samuel, say it isn’t true, send me a sign….please, I beg of you, Don’t leave me. I can’t live without you, without you there is no me…Oh God, please I pray, let it be a lie, let Samuel be alive. I can’t bear this, the girls need you. I need you. Please…….

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_William_B._Davock

to read part one and two:

Yesterday once more (short story intro)

Yesterday once more (continued)

 

Yesterday once more (continued)

The March rain continued to paint the airport windows in sheets of waterfalls. Emily walked down the ramp to the exit to retrieve her rental car and looked at the deluge beyond with disdain. “I didn’t even think about an umbrella” she muttered to herself and made a U-turn to go back to a kiosk that had them for sale, “most likely marked up to the hilt” she thought as she grabbed a pretty paisley one and searched for the price tag. Twenty one dollars for an umbrella, but a necessary evil, besides, I can use it again back home perhaps, she thought as she dived into her bag to produce the money and handing it over to the sales lady, gave a short nod and walked away. The line was non-existent at the rental car booth and she signed where asked, took the keys and walked towards the exit. The rain outside had lessened a bit but she opened the umbrella and stepped off the curb towards where the car would be found. She skirted the puddles that she could but still ended up ankle-deep with one foot in a pothole that was hidden below the shimmering water. A quick growl erupted in her throat as she shook off what she could and continued stalking to where the white Chevy Malibu sat forlornly at the end of the lot. “Of course you’d have to be at the end, stupid car” she said as she unlocked it with the fob, throwing the wet umbrella in the hatch and dug through her bag for her running shoes. She peeled off her dripping stockings in the car and dried her foot off on the car mat, put on her sneakers and fired the car up. She hadn’t been back to Buffalo in years, had always hated it but tomorrow was the funeral and then the reading of the will, which she hoped wouldn’t take long. She wasn’t due to fly out for a few more days, figuring she’d take in a little sight-seeing downtown. There had been a lot of development since she’d been there last and she was surprised to find herself almost eager to see the new waterfront. After all, nothing good ever happened there, but the papers that she’d look at every now and then was heralding it as the “new Buffalo”. “Lets see if it lives up to the hype”, she thought as she reached the border of West Seneca. She didn’t even remember getting on the thruway but before she even knew it, the hotel parking lot was just ahead of her. I’ve really got to pay more attention and get my head out of the clouds before I kill myself or someone else, she thought as a horn sounded behind her, startling her back into the here and now.  She turned into the lot as the impatient driver behind her careened off and moved from her view. “Welcome home Emily” she said to the eyes that greeted her in the rearview mirror. She was surprised to see the dark bags beneath her normally bright sparkling eyes. Perhaps a nap before dinner was in order and she grabbed her wet shoes off of the mat, got the umbrella and her bag out of the hatch and headed into the foyer of the hotel.

Emily saw the pretty blonde behind the desk who greeted her with a wide smile. She thought she looked familiar and with a start, realized it was the little girl who had lived next door to where she had grown up. Her name tag said Cynthia, but Emily remembered her as Cindy. Her pigtails had been replaced by highlights and waves but the smile was the same perky one she had known. “Oh my goodness, I saw an Emily Williams listed as an incoming customer and Oh my, I am so sorry about your mother, I should have put two and two together when I saw that, but Oh my, it’s so good to see you. What’s it been, around five years now?” Cindy said with a cross between embarrassment and joy tinged with a bit of remorse and Emily returning the smile replied “More like ten years now, and thank you. Yes I’m here for the funeral and will be in town for a few days before I fly back out. Look how much you’ve grown up, my friend.”

“We should get together when my shift ends and have a drink, I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to all this time” she said with a wide infectious smile.

“I need to lay down for a bit and take a nap, what time do you get off?”

“Five o’clock, three hours from now. But if you’re too tired, I understand completely. It must be hard being back here again and I know your mother wasn’t the easiest person to get along with but in the last year, she kind of mellowed out a bit, if that’s even a possibility. You know Liz, she was a cantankerous old coot, up until the end but it’s still sad to know I won’t be able to look at her window and see those mean old raised eyebrows glaring at me through the shades when I get home late. You’d think she thought I was out carousing like a slut or something the way she looked at me, but you know me. That was never my style. Still, she had her ways. I know you know all about that. But if you’re up to it, would love to chat for a bit when I’m done” Emily nodded at her tirade, Cindy hadn’t changed, always talking eighty miles an hour but she was a sweet soul, still was after all these years and she was kind of eager to hear the news of her old hometown and friend.

“I’ll meet you down here at five, yeah, that sounds good to me. It’ll give me a chance to freshen up and catch a quick nap. I look forward to it, Cin,” she said, and she took the plastic key and headed towards the elevator.

“Hey Emily, wait a moment” Cindy said as she bent down below the desk and seemed to be rummaging around before her head popped back up and she held out a brown paper package. “This was left back here for you from some dude in a suit, I almost forgot about it” and Emily walked back to take the small box. She shook it but it made no sound, she turned it around and saw it was marked with her name on it and Esquires in the top corner. It felt like a book or something and she tossed it into her bag, gave a wave to Cindy and walked into the open elevator. “See you at five” she said as the doors closed.

The little door light turned green and she turned the knob to room 313 that led into her home for the next few nights. She hit the light switch and was pleasantly surprised to see a nice setup. A modern and clean hotel, she thought, what a novel concept and she tossed her bag onto the second bed, kicked off her shoes and stretched out with a yawn. Grabbing the remote she flicked it to the local news channel and wasn’t surprised to see yet another drive by shooting. She turned the tv off and grabbed her bag for the package. It was wrapped in what looked like a paper bag but lifting the corners, the contents slid out easily. It was a photograph, a note card and a small leather-bound book. She looked at the image but wasn’t quite sure who it was, seeing similarities between her mother and Aunt but set it aside as she opened the note card.

Emily, as part of the will, this package was to be delivered to you prior to the service. The instructions were for you to read this, that more things will make sense after you do this. I hope you get in early enough that you can complete this. I will see you tomorrow at the service. Looking forward to meeting you. Sincerely, Robert F. Johnson Esq.

She sat the note card down with the photo. The woman eyes stared at her with an almost sultry and knowing look and reminded her more of Emma than Elizabeth. Perhaps a relation to the family, she thought and opened the strange leather volume up to the yellowed first page. To be read only upon my death were the only words on the faded page and it was signed Emily Williams Knoll.

to be continued…..

 

The Portal

She could hear their voices raised from where she sat in the den. Her mother and aunt fighting once more, typical she thought, as she walked over to the shelf next to the window. Her aunt was known for her immense appetite for reading and she had often grabbed a bright colored volume when the adults left her to herself, leafing through the grown up words, slowly mouthing them out, never knowing if she was on the right track or not. Her aunt would sometimes let her take one home to finish, but not the old ones. The old ones were special according to Aunt Lizzie and they stayed right where they were, where they belonged, and were not, under any circumstances to be touched. Emma thought her aunt had eyes in the back of her head because once a year back, she had tried to reach for one of the “ancients” as she called them, only to hear a voice from the kitchen telling her to not even think about it. Emma always did as she was told, but this time, for some reason, a volume up in the top corner caught her eye and she found herself almost being pulled in the direction of it, as if it were overcoming her senses, whispering sweetly, “come my child, pick me up, I’m special” and she hesitated for only a moment, listening for the voice of her aunt to yell and in hearing only the same voices raised in irritation and adult drama, slowly pulled the old dusty book forward to rest in her hands.

The book smelled of mildew and an almost floral scent, which to her seemed a bit strange as old books usually just smelled like something from  your grandparents basement, and she slowly opened it to see if perhaps there was an old pressed flower held somewhere within. The book cover was a bit tattered and the writing was barely present, but it looked on the spine as if it said The Portal. The book felt warm and welcoming in her hands and she glanced up to see if anyone was watching her act of defiance but the hall was empty and she looked back down as she opened the cover slowly. Within covers of the book was an opening. The pages were make-believe and it was like a secret hiding space, with a tunnel. A small glow, like a light down from somewhere within the book corridor began to glow and the book began to get warmer, Emma looked up one last time for her mother or aunt and then she slowly began to fade into a ghostly image, there one minute and gone the next. The book fell with a quiet thump to the floor and footsteps could be heard coming down the hall. The den stood empty and on the antique carpet sat the book that had been in Emma’s hands. Her mother called out for her and the Aunt just stared at the book slack-jawed. Lizzie picked up the book in her hand and opened it up and flipping through pages, watched as a faded rose fell from between the pages. Emma was nowhere to be found and never seen again.

The locket (a short story)

Ellie sat waiting in traffic as the sun streamed in, blinding her as it rose in to the position of becoming an annoyance. She was heading to the farmers market on the main street in town, they was an antique sale going on that weekend and she loved vintage postcards and anything old that could be bought for peanuts. She reached over and grabbed her sunglasses, fumbling around in her overstuffed bag and finding them, settled them to rest on her nose. The morning radio news spewed their normal routines, canned laughter that made her roll her eyes and she looked over to the car that sat tied up alongside of her, only to see a very irate man shouting into his phone. She had sat there, not moving for what seemed like eternity and was getting irritated. Must be an accident up there she thought to herself, and when the car ahead of her nudged forward a little, she decided the market could wait and eased her Toyota into the oncoming lane to pull a U-turn. I’ll go later, she thought as she gently pulled out and around heading back home. She made it about a quarter-mile when a small sign ahead grabbed her attention. “Estate Sale” it said and she looked down at the dash clock and realized it was just starting. “I will be the early bird that gets the worm” she said with a chuckle and turned down Bard Street, a road she had never been on. The large elms spread themselves creating a canopy of shade which after sitting in the sun with her car whose air conditioning only spread light cool, it was a welcome relief. There were a few cars parked along on the side of the road ahead and so she joined the line of parked cars and got out to head to the small white stucco house with the sign in the yard. Three people waited at the door and by the time she got there, they had already gone in to peruse the offerings. She walked through the stately glass doors and felt the hair on her arms begin to rise. The front of the house opened to a beautiful foyer and in the middle stood a table with a Chinese vase filled with orchids. She looked at the ornately carved legs and knew she had seen this before somewhere. Another woman came in behind her so she left the table and continued on to where voices could be heard in the room to her right. The large lit room was a library of sorts. Tall shelves went from floor to ceiling and the musty smell of old worn books dusty with tired bindings filled her nose, the furniture was in immaculate shape but she wasn’t here for furniture. At the far end of the room was a stone fireplace. The mantel was hand carved and had some small glass knickknacks sitting on it, but what drew her eyes was the portrait that hung above it in a stunning gold filigree frame. Two young girls gazed into her eyes and she stood in shock as her purse hit the floor with a loud thunk. Eyes turned to look at her but she stood there transfixed on the image before her.

A gentleman in a worn grey suit walked up to her and placed his hand on her arm, drawing her attention from the image to his warm green eyes. “Is everything okay Miss?” he said and bent down to pick up her bag. Ellie took a small breath and watched as he pushed a book and a tube of lipstick back into her bag  and then he rose and held out the bag to her. “My name is Michael and I work with the firm handling the estate of Elouise and Jadis” he said, holding out a small business card that he tucked into her shaking hand. “I see you’ve seen the girls in their portrait, it is rather beautiful is it not” he said as he looked over at the image. “And you are?” his empty hand held out waiting to be politely shaken, and Ellie, slowly catching her breath tentatively took his hand and introduced herself. “Ellie” she said quietly. He shook her hand softly and withdrew it with a nod, “Let me know if I can be of service, if you’re interested in purchasing anything I’ll be happy to help you”. He walked away with a smile and Ellie returned her gaze to the photograph. The young girl on the right wore a small locket and Ellie reached up and lightly touched the same matching one around her own neck. It felt warm to the touch. She took a few steps towards Michael who stood over by the bookshelf watching her. “Excuse me, could you tell me a little bit about Elouise and Jadis? If you don’t mind that is” and Michael cleared his throat and began.

“Elouise was the oldest sister and Jadis was born one hour after Elouise. Elouise passed away ten weeks ago on her birthday, she lived to a grand old age of 97 and Jadis passed away an hour later. It was quite strange the way that all transpired, they were twins at birth and died the same way. Neither of them ever married, no children either. It was told that Elouise ruled the home and unless a young man passed muster, no one was to be with her sister. they died old maids. They both did a lot in the community and were kind and loving souls. I’m surprised you hadn’t heard of them. They were both actresses in the local theater and devoured books like ravenous crows, the two of them.” Ellie just absorbed every word that Michael spoke, tales of their plays, their good deeds, they were a piece of history that had now come to an end. “How much for the portrait?” Ellie asked, knowing the price would be far above her price range. “One hundred dollars, but you could make an offer and it may be received” he answered with a smile. Ellie reached into her bag for her wallet and still not believing what she was seeing, counted out exactly one hundred dollars. Her budget for groceries now severely constrained but worth it. “Don’t you want to even make an offer lower than that” Michael said. He watched her with curiosity, as anyone in their right mind would try to low bid it, but she shook her head no and handed the money over to him. Michael pulled out a receipt book and asked her some information, tore off her copy and handed it to her with a 20$ back. She looked confused but he just smiled. “You seem like a nice young woman and no one is going to want a lot of this stuff, it’ll just go to auction and I’d like to see you get it, as it seems to have moved you in some fashion and I know you will treat it like the treasure it it.” He walked over to the fireplace and carefully removed the image. Ellie held out her hands to take it, watching as her hands shook, she took the faded image carefully and thanked Michael and turned to leave.
“I hope to see you around some time” he said to her retreating back and Ellie turned and gave him a soft smile. “I hope so too” she said and walked out the door. She set the framed piece carefully in her car, smiling to herself that a traffic jam led to such a find. Her car moved through the dark canopied trees and light beams fell softly in her windows landing on the locket around Elouise’s neck in the image. She reached out a hand and touched the sun spot then touched the locket around her own thin neck. I can’t wait to show Jadis what I found, she thought to herself and went home to see her younger twin. Better late than never she thought, a ten week old late birthday gift for our wall.