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 (short story intro)

“The North witch is gone, it’s time to come home Emily” were the only words on the pale blue note she held in her trembling hand. Her Aunt’s shaky writing lit fires in her mind, it had been over ten years but she still recognized the strong loops and eloquent penmanship of her Aunt Emma. She sat the letter down on the side table and gazed out at the sea that lay beyond the ancient glass. Bringing the glass of Cabernet to her lips and inhaling the scent she hoped it would shore her up a bit. “Courage, yes that’s what I need most of all now”, she said out loud and Jinx the cat opened her wise Siamese eyes and glanced at her the way all cats seem to, stretched out her paw to make contact with the paper and then pulled back abruptly, as if sensing nothing good. Jinx jumped off the table and stalked off without a backward glance.

It was news Emily had already known from the call she had received that morning from her mother’s lawyer, but seeing it in Emma’s writing,  it finally hit home with a resounding smack. She hadn’t spoken to Elizabeth, “the North witch” in over ten years. The witch, a teenaged nickname concocted between Elizabeth and her twin sister Emma, affectionately known in tighter circles as the South witch.  Emma had moved down South to go to college and had only returned back North when Elizabeth fell ill, now Elizabeth was gone and Emily knew the time had come to head back home, was basically told she must by the lawyer Mr. Johnson esq. Sounds like a snob she thought to herself, “esquire” she said aloud and laughed, only her mother could find someone with such an uptight name. The arrangements had to be finalized with the lawyer, although Elizabeth being who she was, persnickety and polished and strict on every detail of her life, and for a while, that of Emily’s too until her departure ten years ago, would have covered everything with the lawyer years ago. Every detail would have been set in stone, that’s just how Elizabeth worked. No one would have any say in what she wanted, never had for that matter, and Emily knew no one would have any say now. “Just along for the final ride” she said to the silence in the room. There was no sadness, that bridge had been burned too many years ago, two souls that were just too far apart to ever come together again, but Mr Johnson esq. had insisted that Emily needed to be there for the reading of the will and it was decreed in the will that she attend the service also. She lifted the remains of the glass and swallowed it with a tight gulp and grabbed the half empty bottle to pour another. It will be nice to see the South witch again she thought as she sat the glass down, yes, she and Emma had always gotten along and it had been too long since she’d seen her. If she had to look forward to anything, it would be that.

Her plane landed with a painful thud and Emily removed her earplugs and raised the sliding window beside her to see the grey drizzle that fell on the runway. It’s always gloomy here, why did I think today would be any different? Well mother, that’s one thing you can’t control now, can you? , receiving a raised eyebrow from the woman sitting beside her, she realized she had spoken out loud. She smiled at the elderly woman and gently said “I’m home to bury my mother” and seeing the understanding look from the woman turned to gaze back out the window. “I’m home mama, for the last time” she said as she leaned her head back on the rest while the plane taxied to the gate.

To be continued……

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.