Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Looker, Not a Doer

I trust everyone had a good week. Thursdays are kind of strange days, aren’t they? One of the anticipatory days. The day before the work week ends. Two days before the weekend begins. Don’t know why I picked a Thursday to do my blog posts, but that’s the way it worked out. Let’s try another short-short story this week.
     Jimmy Worley was a looker, not a doer. A geek. A dork. Worse, a doofus, although he wasn’t sure what the difference was. Like he was already a high school senior and still called Jimmy. Worse, Jimmy Boy by his mother. What it would take to become Jim? Would he ever reach James? In his obituary maybe.
     But he was more or less content to sit in the back or off to the side and just watch. Now, from the rear of the classroom, he imagined being BFF with jock Dave Brill and chillin’ with prom queen Susan Smith. Never happen, of course. Except in his head.
     He particularly liked watching girls. Nice and soft and … well, squeezable. Or so he imagined. Even from a distance, he could tell a lot about them. He knew which ones wore falsies and which ones didn’t. Doris was wearing a pad this morning, and it wasn’t her bitchy attitude that clued him. Zelda was limping. Probably a blister from the tennis court yesterday. Miriam’s honeysuckle aroma drifted two rows back to tickle his nose.
     A recent transfer gave him someone new to case. Great, because he’d figured out all the other girls. Her name was Beatrice, shortened to Bea. She was kind of a loner, too, but you couldn’t call her nerdy. Somewhere between bobby-soxer and egghead. Did the guys still say bobby-soxer, or was that just his mom’s word? Bea was fly. A short freckled nose, but still definitely fly. He like her ears. The way they lay close against her head. Short hair. Blonde…but not quite blonde. Ash, maybe. Nice eyes. Blue? He dreamed about chirpin’ with her like a regular guy. Like a dude with his girlfriend. A shiver ran down his back.
     One day, as he sat alone at a table in the far corner of the cafeteria, the new girl walked in. He watched Bea fill her tray and turn to look around uncertainly. His belly fluttered as her eyes lighted on him. And then … and then she started walking in his direction. He thought for sure she’d swerve. Take a seat somewhere else. But no. She walked past two empty tables to stand in front of him.
     “Hi, can I join you?” Nice voice.
     “Uh, sure. If you’re sure you want to.”
     She slipped sideways into the chair without pulling it out. Kinda graceful. “My name’s, Bea.” She held out a small hand. He wiped his on a pant leg before taking it.
     "Jimm—” He swallowed. “Uh, Jim.”
     “Hello Jim. I hear you’re into photography.”
     “Uh, yeah, sure. I dig the camera. How’d you know that?” He blinked at her lipstick. Orange. Well, not exactly orange, but he’d have chosen something different for her.
     “I heard it around. What kind of camera do you use?”
     “My granddad’s old Leica. He brought it back from Germany…you know, after the war.” Maybe her nose was a bit too short.
     “How interesting. It still works?”
     “Better’n most they make today. The Germans were great at lenses.” Jeez, was one of her boobs bigger than the other? “Uh, what kind do you use?”
     “Oh, I don’t know anything about taking pictures. Maybe you could show me one day.”
     “S…sure. Maybe.” Violets. Her scent was violets. Violets made him sneeze. His nose started to itch.
     “How about Saturday? I’m free Saturday afternoon.”
     “I…uh. Sorry, but I gotta bounce. Catch you later.”
     Sweat flooded his armpits as he scrambled to his feet and swept up the luncheon tray, almost dumping dirty dishes on the floor. He turned and fled.
     Jimmy Worley was a looker, not a doer.
This remind you of anyone you knew back in high school? Hope you enjoyed it.


Next week: We’ll see.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How about a little more short fiction?

Thanks to everyone  who sent messages of empathy over last week’s post. With your help, it gets easier each year.

Let’s try some more short fiction this week. Can’t rightly call it flash fiction because it exceeds 1,000 words, and that appears to be the upper limit for that genre. Anyway, here it comes.
The big wolf slipping through the trees a hundred feet to my right unsettled me. I wasn’t worried about the beast, but he spooked my horse. A wolf’s howl – real or dreamt – punctuating the same dream three nights in a row had started me on this trip. I considered shooting the thing, but Ma’am’s got Ojibway blood, and she looked on wolves as medicine animals.
My sir had wanted me to wait until after planting before taking off for Waususa ten miles to the west. And I’d agreed, until those vague, formless dreams about Tillie, each punctuated by the call of a wolf, riled me up.
Matilda Thorgensen was my best friend until her widowed pa pulled up stakes for Waususa. The day she left a year ago this coming April had been magical. We’d snuck off to say goodbye, and until casting eyes on her exposed bosom, I hadn’t known I lusted after her. I entered that pine grove an eighteen-year-old boy and left it a man. Then, after that magnificent awakening, she was gone.
Other than claiming I was mopey and likely needed a tonic, Sir was blind to my discovery. Ma’am saw right through me. She might even suspect I’d had a taste of the carnal.
So I set off for Waususa before a proper spring arrived. Heavy, dark clouds pressed the sky down on me. The air smelled like rain. Trees struggling to bud dripped water. Mushy ground made the going slow. Old Red, our riding horse, splashed through springs and brooks – all running high from snow melt – without any trouble, but Beaver Creek looked more like a river. With my heart down in my boots, I stared at the tumbling water. I’d have to turn back.
Suddenly, Red jumped sideways, almost dumping me. I got him under control and saw the timber wolf had snuck up on us. I made threatening noises, but he kept coming. So I let the horse retreat down the bank.
The lobo halted in his tracks when I came to a spot where the creek fractured into three shallow branches the horse could wade without dumping us both. Fifty yards on down the trail, I saw the wolf was still with me.
I started looking for Tillie as soon as I reached Waususa late that afternoon. People mostly avoided me, but someone finally steered me to a burned down house. Neighbors turned shy, so I ended up on Main Street in front of the Silver Spur. The saloon was too wild and noisy, but that’s where the people were, except for God-fearing folk home having supper. I went to every table in the honky-tonk asking about Tillie and her pa without learning nothing.
Just as I gave up, I came up on a woman like I’d never seen before but heard about all my life. Little bitty skirt. Bare legs showing through black stockings made like a fishnet. I’d never seen a woman’s legs before, except for Tillie’s that one time. Naked shoulders. Bad women, my ma’am called them without explaining. But I knew. They drank whiskey with men and did other things with them, too. Remembering I’d done that same act with Tillie last spring put a blush on my face.
She rested a small hand with fingernails painted bright red on a sprung hip. “Hello, handsome. Buy a lady a drink?”
“Excuse me, ma’am, but I don’t have any money.”
“I hear you asking after Tillie Thorgensen?”
It felt like I turned redder. “Yes, ‘um.”
“Your name ain’t Luke, is it?”
I glanced up. Her eyes were blue. Like Tillie’s. “Yes, ‘um. Luke Streller.”
“Tell you what, Luke. You mosey on out the door over there and meet me round back.”
“Ummm, I don’t have any money—”
I’d heard about bawdy laughs but didn’t know what they were. I figured I was hearing one right now.
“Honey, I might take a cutie like you on for free, but that ain’t it. Go on now.”
My face musta face matched her fingernails as I scooted for the door. But as I walked the shadows between the saloon and the building next door, I went squirrely. What if she set one of the big bouncers on me? The alley at the rear of the saloon was even darker. I paused and wrestled with my doubts.
I made her out beneath a stairway leading up to the second floor. A lace shawl covered her shoulders. That red dress splashed with shiny spangles looked black in the night. The alleyway smelled like cat piss as I approached her.
“Tillie talked about you. That’s how I knew it was you,” she said.
“Where is she? Her house is all burned down. What happened?”
“They think Old Man Thurgensen fell asleep while he was smoking one of his cigars. He’d been drinking a lot ever since the baby came.”
I thought she’d hit me in the head with a club. I got swoony. “Baby? What baby?”
“Your baby.”
“My baby?” my mouth asked without any help from me. Hell, we’d only done it once. A fellow couldn’t make a baby on the first try, could he?
“A little boy. She named him Lucas, after you.”
“Where are they?” My voice sounded like I was at the bottom of a well.
“Oh, honey, Tillie and her daddy died in the fire.”
She might as well have slugged me in the belly. My legs went wobbly. I think I woulda fallen over if she hadn’t reached out and grabbed my arm. Some sort of God-awful sound came outta me.
“Why wouldn’t anybody tell me?” I managed to ask.
“The whole town treated them awful. You know, her without no husband, and allBut the baby’s alive. Tillie threw him out a little window at the back, but she couldn’t get through it herself.”
“Where … where is he?”
She led me down the dark, rank alley to the back door of a small house. She knocked once and entered with me right behind her. A fleshy black woman with short, graying hair rose from a chair with a small bundle in her arms.
“Mazie, this here’s Luke. Big Luke.”
“Yes’um, Miss Lupe. Pleased to meet you, sir.”
“Is that ….”
“That’s Little Luke. Your son,” Lupe said.
I don’t remember reaching for him, but somehow he was in my arms staring up at me through Tillie’s eyes. He was littler than I thought a human could ever be. When I pulled him up for a closer look, his tiny fist grabbed my lower lip … and yanked my heart right out of my chest.
As I set out for home with Little Luke in my arms, I was a believer. Wolves were medicine animals … at least this one was. And I had to let him see I’d got his message.
Hope you enjoyed it. Check out the rest of the site while you're here.


Next week: Time will tell!

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Indulge me a personal moment, please.

February, March, and April are particularly difficult months for me. February 12 is the day my wife died, March 13 is her birthday, and April 8 is our wedding anniversary. So I tend toward the morbid until those dates pass. Each year (it’s been five now since she died), becomes a bit easier, and something happened a few days ago that lightened my mood. It takes a bit of explanation. (Big surprise, right?)

My older son is single and has some physical and emotional issues. He and his mother had a rocky … no, that’s not being honest … a difficult relationship. He is something of a loner, and a score of years ago, we were pleased when he got a German Shepard/Husky cross, which he named Lieba. She was a lively pup of about seven months at the time. She became his friend, his companion, and at times, his connection with reality. He tended her needs, including walking for exercise, but she gave back more than she received.

Lieba was truly a wonderful dog. Gentle. Patient. Protective. Loving. She grew to be quite sizeable, and in her later years, a little overweight. She was my son’s constant companion, and often his only companion. When she was around eighteen, she developed cancer, and her decline was difficult to watch. She tried her best to continue to be his shadow, but when she began hiding in the closet, we knew the inevitable was near. The day he took her to the vet to end her pain, Betty and I were unhappy that she was disappearing from our lives, but mostly we were apprehensive over how our son would handle the loss of what sometimes appeared to be his only friend.

Shortly after Lieba’s death, our son picked up and moved to Texas, heightening our fear for him. However, he coped and built a life for himself there. When his mother died, I don’t believe my son actually dealt with the fact. Over time, his attitude toward her has mellowed, and when we spoke on the phone the other day, he planted a great picture in my mind.

“Dad, I’ve been thinking about Mom a lot lately, and do you know what I see? I see Lieba at her side, taking care of her.”

I don’t know what he could have said that would be more uplifting.

Thanks for indulging me in something so personal.


Next week: Another Flash Fiction Story

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

More from The City of Rocks

Although BJ has visited the Lazy M Ranch several times, his first visit to the City of Rocks on the vast property doesn’t come until Chapter 17. He and his companion, Paul, borrow horses for a ride to the rock pile. Paul calls him Vince rather than BJ like the rest of the world. While on this visit, they have unwelcome visitors.
The horses set an easy pace. Paul kept a snug rein on Streak, who broke into a gallop at every opportunity. On the other hand, the farther Lucy got from the stable, the slower her gait became. After another hour, Paul pointed ahead of us.
“Is that it?”
“Yep. The Lazy M’s own City of Rocks.”
“Man that looks weird out there all by itself. Even weirder than the big one up at the state park.”
“New Mexico’s full of weird. You think you’re standing on the moon at the Bisti Badlands. And then there’s Carlsbad Caverns, Tent Rocks, White Sands, and those eerie lava beds in the Malpais.”
“I gotta get out of Bernalillo County more often,” he said.
We went silent, falling increasingly under the spell of ghostly monoliths as we approached the City. The horses plodded between the first two hunks of mute rock on the north-northwest side. The “street” that opened up before us was a broad avenue strangely devoid of plant growth. I saw no human footprints, but wind whistling through the alleyways raised weak, wispy dust devils. Footprints in the sand would not last long out here. Our mounts’ hooves no longer clopped; now they made a huffing sound. It was as if we had passed through a portal separating two worlds.
“That big boulder in front of us looks like a hotel. An old western hotel.”
I stared at the hulking mass. “Why? It’s just a big rock.”
“Come on, where’s your imagination? It’s a couple of stories high. It’s kinda square. It looks like those pictures of a frontier hotel minus the balcony that runs around the second story. And that’s Muldren City’s saloon over there.” He pointed to the right.
I fell into the spirit of the thing. “Okay, then that’s the bank. And the telegraph office.”
He laughed, obviously delighted I was playing along.” “Let’s go see if we can find the freight office. Then the town’s complete.”
“Oh no. Not without the jail, it isn’t.”
“Right. I forgot the sheriff’s office and the jailhouse.” He twisted in the saddle and pointed. “There it is, right across the square from the hotel.” Paul dismounted and looked for a place to tether Streak. “They forgot the hitching rail. No western town’s complete without a hitching post.”
He tied his reins to the only bit of green in sight, a small mesquite bush. “Hope that holds. I’d hate to walk back to the ranch house.”
I joined him on the ground and dubiously tethered Lucy to the same puny plant. While he scrambled up the side of the “hotel,” I searched for evidence of human habitation.
“Watch out for snakes,” he yelled, already out of sight atop the boulder.
In a natural alleyway at the side of the jailhouse, I found impressions like miniature buffalo wallows. The small lane was sheltered from the worst of the wind. People had rested here, smoothing out the dust and dirt to make a bed, probably for an overnight stay. A pile of debris and tumbleweeds lay against the end of the small passage where the rock walls met again. I nudged the garbage with my boot. It was all food related: greasy sandwich or tortilla wraps and crumpled Styrofoam containers for coffee or posole.
The human coyotes had probably hidden illegal immigrants here while they stocked up on water from the windmill in the distance. Then, before the morning light came, they would have spirited their charges across the desert onto the highway where someone waited to pick them up. It was a natural—and obvious—spot. I was willing to bet the smugglers had not remained with their human cargo during that long, anxious wait. They had probably camped somewhere in the near vicinity, realizing the Border Patrol would be aware of the City’s potential for hiding illegal aliens and other contraband.
A muffled shout from Paul drew me out of the mental drama playing out in my head. I walked back to the plaza, but found no sign of him.
“Vince,” he said from above me. I looked up to find him squatting atop the hotel. “There are people out there.”
Walking across the hardpan. I think they’re headed here.”
“Keep out of sight. I’m coming up.”
Things liven up after that. 
Thanks hope you enjoyed the read.


Next week: Maybe I’ll haven an Oopsie worth writing about by then.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.



Next week: A big mystery.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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