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In Costume

This post was written for the Fiction 500 website.  You can check it out at fiction500.blogspot.com

As I sat there with the candy bowl clutched in my lap, watching Halloween re-runs, I let my mind wander.

Princess. Cat. Pirate, ninja, scarecrow. I was all of them and more. This year, a witch. My hat wobbled on my head as I wished a happy Halloween to a cherubic fairy as she came to my door. I chuckled as she raced back to her dad (who, admittedly, looked bored by the whole affair), a full size candy-bar clutched in her hand.

I watched as more came up the path. Older kids now, as it was starting to get late outside. I looked down at my grandchildren’s jack-o-lanterns with pride – they were my only decoration this year. My arthritis had been flaring up, so I hadn’t been able to spread the gossamer-thin webbing on my porch as I had in years past.

A part of me mourned its absence.

I missed Earl, my husband. He was always by my side, and we so loved this time of year. We’d watch the leaves turn, and we’d sit in as the nights turned cold, leaning against each other for warmth.

He passed away last December.

A teenager came to my door. Black ski mask, black clothing. I puzzled as to what he had dressed up as – perhaps a video game character?

It was then that I noticed the gun clutched in his adolescent hands.

Black creeped in around the edges of my vision as he shouted and waved the black monstrosity at me. And then…and then I don’t remember.

I woke to sirens. The police were investigating – my home was a mess. My television was flipped over, its face shattered into a million shreds. My couch had been flipped as well – why had he done that? I wondered.

My purse was gone. My money, my credit cards. My jewelry. Material things.

My neighbors huddled outside in the cold. I could only imagine what they were saying. I wanted to invite them into my house, into the warmth, and then I remembered – I had just been robbed.

My house was not fit for company.

And then, just as suddenly as it had happened, it was over. Everyone was gone. A police officer – I think his name was Brad – left me with a card, and his assurance that the force was on it. They’d call if they had any details.

And so, as I looked around my house, destroyed though it was, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself…

What had he dressed up as?

A teenager? A robber? What was the costume – his robber façade, or the face he wore when he saw his parents every night?

Was I his cry for help?

Alma

Alma thought that where she was looked very surreal, almost as if she was stuck in some parody of the world. But she recognized the swing set at Linden Park, she could hear the laughter of children, and she could feel the breeze as it wafted slowly across her skin.
 

She wasn’t quite sure, but there was something very, very wrong. Something off-kilter, an intangible thing that weaved its way across her skin and elicited goose pimples down her forearms. Shuddering, she clutched her wrap closer.
 

Why was she there? She didn’t remember walking there, or arranging to have someone drive her. Shrugging off her confusion, she continued her journey through the park.
 

Children gallivanted around her, paying her no attention. Daffodils peeked up from the vibrant green grass, smiling at her as birds sung of the day’s praises overhead. As she crested a hill, Alma saw the funeral home across the street.
 

Someone had died.
 

Nosy as always – that was her late husband’s biggest complaint about her – Alma drifted closer. It appeared to be a modest turnout of respectable folk dressed in varying shades of black. The church bells chimed the seventh hour of the day as they filed into the cathedral, noisy and unrelenting and almost ominous in their cacophony.
 

Alma’s feet began to carry her closer of their own violation. As she slowly walked closer and closer, the color began to bleed out of her world. Shades of grey began to replace the vibrant greens and blues, and the sounds began to dull. The sun set, and as Alma walked she distinctly felt the cheerfulness of the day turn into a sense of foreboding.
 

She walked into the church, paying the mourners no mind.
 

Halfway crazed, heedless of who would get into her way, she walked towards the front of the church – towards the casket.
 

A stifled scream of disbelief welled in her throat and stuck. She felt paralyzed as she gazed down into the face of the dead woman.
 

Her own face gazed back at her; eyes closed in what was supposedly a peaceful expression. A purple suit-jacket enclosed her figure, and flowers laid on top of her casket. The flowers did nothing to quiet her scream.
 

Nobody noticed as she ran down the center aisle of the church, screaming her fury, her confusion, her terror. As she passed the mourners, she realized that she knew them.
 

Didn’t they see that she was alive? Didn’t they see that she wasn’t in that horrible box?
 

She tore her gaze from the mourning face of her cousin and realized that there was a sole figure at the back of the church. Steady broad shoulders and a confident stance. As she approached, she realized that she knew him as well.
 

Just as suddenly as it had engulfed her, terror eased its way out of her being. A calm sense of rightness flooded her, and she embraced the stranger.
 

Their matching wedding rings glinted in the sunlight.
 

Deployment

I watched him as I exhaled. He was boarding the plane that would take him away – either for a few months, or forever. Only God knew.
 
My heart felt like lead as I watched him climb up the roll away stairs towards the metal behemoth. He turned, smiled, and blew me a kiss. I could feel my eyes beginning to tear up as I reciprocated the gesture. I had so much to tell him, so much to reveal – but I had never found the right time to approach him with any of it. For weeks I had staved off a certain type of queasy apprehension about his departure. I knew that he might not return, and yet I refused to acknowledge it. I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I didn’t tell him then he would live. That maybe he wouldn’t die in some country far away in the South Pacific. That maybe somehow the bullets wouldn’t hit him, that he wouldn’t be captured.
 
That maybe he’d be okay.

 As I watched him – all rugged handsomeness and masculine beauty – climb up those stairs, I realized that I had to tell him. It wouldn’t be right if he died without knowing.

 I shouted – hell, I screamed. The wind stole my words – my breath, my life. The wind stole it all without even a hint of remorse. An official was telling me to move, that I couldn’t be on the tarmac. I fought like a wild-woman, desperate to impart my valuable information onto my husband, but it was all futile.

 Horrified, I watched the plane rise into the sky, going up…up…up….

 He was gone. And I hadn’t gotten to tell him.

 I wanted to tell him that we were going to need to re-paint the spare room after all.

 Maybe in baby blue.

Hello Moon

Hello Moon.

Does it bother you? Being a reflection of the sun, that is. Does it bother you that you don’t get to see children frolic in sprinklers during the hot summer days, that you only get to see them sleep in their beds, sometimes awakening from nightmares? That everything you see is bathed in your reflection; darkened by the absence of the sun’s life-giving rays as both children and adults alike take their respite?

Does it bother you that without the sun, you’d be nothing other than a satellite made up of rock?

It would bother me.

Guess it’s a good thing I’m not a moon.

A Dog for Charlie

“Look dog, you’re going to do things my way.”
 
The puppy looked up inquisitively.  A mangled shoe was pinned under his paws, and Charlie noticed that it was one of her Ferragamos.  He went back to chewing the heel off as she watched in horror.
 
She didn’t even want the stupid thing.  Her ex-boyfriend had just left it on her doorstep – prompting a wave of pain from deep within.  She had loved him desperately, and had thought that she’d build her life with him.  After they broke up, a deep dark hole of depression swallowed her, and despite her forced efforts to cheer the hell up she just couldn’t get out of it.
 
Everyday was the same – go to work, come home, heat up a microwave meal.  Sit down, watch TV.  Go to bed.  Wake up, repeat.  Things were simple that way.  Things were ordered.  Charlie liked order.

 
Until she came home from work one day to see a gigantic puppy tied up to her door-handle, its leash already halfway chewed to hell, and a note on her door.

 
            Charlie,

 

                        I can’t take care of him anymore.

 

                                    Sincerely,

                                    Robert J. Dungess, Jr.

 
That was all that had been on the note.

 Stupid dog.  From that moment on, he had single-handedly managed to ruin both her apartment and her routine.

 Big brown eyes watched her warily as he chewed.  Sand-colored and wiry, his fur was more a collection of cowlicks than a true coat, and it more often than not flopped right into his face.  His tail rose like a question-mark behind him, his body far too skinny for its frame, and his hunger was insatiable.  He hadn’t quite perfected the art of stopping yet, and the scuffs on her walls stood as a silent testament to that.

 Sighing, she reached for his latest victim – oh how lovely those shoes once were – and snatched her hand back as he growled.

 Great.  Not only was he a chewer, and a barker, and a pisser, but he apparently had an attitude problem as well.

 He had to go.

 Noticing that he was done mauling her footwear, Charlie grabbed the mutt’s leash, clipped it on him, and dragged the dog outside.  He whined pitifully as she locked her door, as if he knew where he was going.

 Charlie hardened her heart to his pleas.

 She decided to walk to the pound – it was only a few blocks away from her house, and besides that she didn’t want him to destroy her car.  She walked steadily, occasionally stopping to yank on the reluctant pup.  He would catch up with her, smile at her in his doggy way, and then trot ahead sniffing and scratching and marking.  After two blocks of this he stopped dead.

 Startled, Charlie glanced at the pup, and recoiled slightly.  His fur was raised, and his lips were curled back in a vicious snarl.  He gave a tug on the leash so suddenly that she had let go before she even realized what was happening.  She watched as he ran full-tilt down an alleyway, his heels flying out from under him.

 And then she heard a gunshot and a yelp.

 Heart pounding, Charlie yanked her cell phone out of her purse and dialed 9-1-1.  She gingerly made her way to the alleyway’s corner, and peeked around it.  Gasping, she took in the sight that lay before her.

 The puppy had a man’s throat in his mouth.  Blood oozed sluggishly from a wound in his shoulder – had the dog been hit by the bullet? – but he didn’t seem to care. 

 A young girl – she looked no more than fifteen or sixteen – huddled next to a trash can with her arms around her.  Vicious snarls and growls came from someplace deep within the dog, and the man muttered his pleas for help. 

 Sirens heralded the police’s arrival. 

 Attempted rape, sicko, thank God for the dog.  Charlie heard snatches of the conversation around her as she stared at the poor teenager – who, by this point in time, was dutifully wrapped in a blanket and was telling her story to yet another police officer.  The young girl’s eyes were haunted, and tears flowed freely from them as she hiccupped her hysteria.  And for a moment, just a moment, her eyes locked with Charlie’s and connected.
 
“Ma’am?”  Breaking the connection, Charlie turned around to look at the officer who now held the dog’s leash.  “Ma’am, is this your dog?”  She looked at the puppy – she could just deny he was hers, and she’d be free.  Someone would take the dog-hero in, she was sure, and she would be rid of the nuisance.  Charlie’s eyes flickered over to the bullet-wound on the pup’s shoulder, and she knew she couldn’t just leave him to some stranger.
 
“He’s mine.”  She looked at the dog, and he smiled up at her.

 He had saved that little girl.

 Maybe he could save her as well.

 

Inkspun

She wasn’t quite sure what she was doing.
 
One blog that was mediocre, another that totally tanked – no, she wasn’t sure at all what she was doing starting up another one.
 
But she needed to write, and have a place to put all her little stories.  She needed somewhere to post them so that they may be reviewed.  They weren’t long at all – most of them were merely short little snippits.  But, she had all these stories that were just laying around her computer, so she might as well post them, right?
 
Right.
 
Sighing to herself, she put her pen to paper and began to write, the words amalgamating into some sort of a coherent tale.
 
She lost herself as the ink of her pen flowed into the notebook.   She lost herself in her own little world full of her own characters.  She nurtured them, gave them depth and flaws and personality.  She also gave each character a little bit of herself, and it hurt her just a bit to finish each one’s tale, to know that their time had ended with her and that she must start anew again.
 
But that was the way of it.
 
Glancing at the clock, she noticed that it was time to leave for work.  She packed up her notebook and pen, and shuffled out the door.
 
More adventures called.