Short Story Sunday: Three True Tales of Terror (with teens, rats and possums) – with illustrations

Three True Tales of Terror (with teens, rats and possums) – with illustrationshorror banner011

Tale #1: High School Horror

This morning as I dropped sixteen year old Clara off at school I saw a girl walking across the parking lot. I know I shouldn’t have, since I am the parent, I said, “She has that geek walk. You know, very fast and deliberate.”

Then Clara looked at me in a cold chilling manner. “She is sooooo weird. Her finger nails are really long.” Clara made a hand motion showing four to five inch long nails. Yikes.

My child proceeded to recount a short list of weirdness. Then she said, “She never shaves her legs. Her skin is super dry. And then she scratches her legs during class. It sounds like this.”

And my daughter scraped her nails against the woven upholstery of the car seat – a loud, heavy, scraping noise. To imagine that was a human leg made me wince.

Then Clara scraped her nails along the pebbled plastic dash board of the car. “Just like this.”

Then she got out of the car with her hundred pound pack full of text books (no lockers for these kids) and headed off to her first class.

On the way home I thought of The Tell Tale Heart.

I know, I’m a parenting blogger. I should have said, “it is ok for a girl to have hairy legs if that is her choice.” But I didn’t. Deal with it.

Scrape. Scrape. Scrape.

Tale #2: The Rat

Once upon a time, back before the life I’m living now, for a short time I lived alone in a small shack of a house in the woods.

I was sleeping and awoke to the sound of crashing, and two sets of four feet running through the room.

My small long haired tabby cat Eureka was chasing a rat.

Eureka was named so because I found her. The name is on the seal of the great state of California. It means “I have found it.”

The rat and cat both ran into the storage room, and I closed the door.

There was more crashing and banging. Then it stopped.

Then mewing noises came from behind the door. I opened the door. The cat had the rat trapped between a wall and my sewing machine case.

Now what?

I kicked the sewing machine against the wall, once, twice, three times.

On the third kick the rat flew out and landed dead on the floor. This rat was huge – half the size of the cat.

Disgusted I went back to bed. I’d deal with the rat later.

About an hour later I was awakened by a sound.

“Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.”

Eureka the cat was by the side of my bed, eating her rat. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

I’d deal with it later. I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep.

When I woke up again there was no fur, no tail, no bones, no rat at all except one foot, something that looked like a kidney, and the head of the rat staring up at me with dark black beady eyes.

Tale #3: Not Dead Yet

juliette armadillo010

The last time my son was home from college he was going through some boxes in the attic looking for vintage vests and ties he could take back to school. He found something else, something I’d forgotten about. What a treat. It was almost like Christmas again.

I will never forget when he looked at me holding the box and asked, “Mom, what the hell?”

My parents traveled to California in 1849. It was the year the great California Gold Rush Started. Among their party were two young women, Martha and Leyna.

Unlike my father, and pregnant mother, Martha and Leyna were not Vampires. Martha had been a young slave who’d been purchased (at the age of thirteen) in 1848 by my mother, and immediately given her freedom. Martha was smart and sweet girl who liked baby blue ribbons and anything to do with roses. Leyna was a sturdy one eyed teen with a black eye patch, and a head full of long blonde curls and pale blue eyes. She was to marry a man in his 40’s but she’d have none of that. She ended up in the service of my mother who appreciated her common sense and sense of humor. The contrast between the small dark slender girl and the Amazon like pale girl was almost extreme, but the two became inseparable friends.

By 1866 my parents had produced five little Vampire children. My brother Andy’s Italian music master was falling in love with Martha. Leyna was happy to be her own woman and running the kitchen. Both were still working for my parents.

Yes, we had a kitchen, for Vampires do eat food from time to time, especially with growing children. Another reason (which has a lot to do with the whole point of this story) is that my parent’s entertained a lot. None of their fine Nineteenth Century friends had any idea that Jeremy and Samantha and their five darling children were Vampires. It was all about appearances.

So during the party season of 1866 strange things started to happen around town. Even the illustrious households like the Standfords and Crockers reported disturbances of the most disgusting manner.

Women reported they’d feel something pulling at their large skirts, only to hear running, and a hissing laugh, followed by a cloud of flies and fleas. Sometimes they’d smell horrible fart like gas, or feel the brush of soft fur against their legs.

From fine homes, to local bars, alcohol supplies started to run low. Someone or something was getting into the supply.

Even our house was not exempt from the strange bad smelling visitor. I could hear my mother talking to my father about it. She said she’d heard of such event near St. Louis.

All the while my brothers and I were watching for whatever being was causing the disturbance. There were rumors of a dwarf escaped from a circus, or Werewolves, or ghosts, or even trained devil dogs.

Then one day we saw them walking along the edge of our house. A large greasy possum, his fur slicked back, and wearing one of my father’s ties around his neck, crept along with his teeth showing, and his dark eyes darting around. He was followed by a small creature who staggered along like a drunk. It looked like a small armadillo. The possum was disgusting, like the drunken dandy Werewolves who thought they were God’s gift to women. The armadillo creature was small and sweet.

Soon all Hell broke loose. The possum was trying to “romance” our cats. Alright, he was trying to mount them. That led to a possum face full of bloody scratches. Our dogs barked but he just flipped him off. Next we chased him into the house where we lost him for a few hours. We found the armadillo creature in a corner curled up around a bottle of whiskey.

The sound of scratching claws could be heard against the hardwood floor. The rank smell, and trail of my mother’s lacy unmentionables, led us to the kitchen.

“Look what that demon spawn has stolen from Samantha’s room,” we heard Leyna yelling.

Martha ran down the hall telling us to help her pick up the mess.

Then my mother appeared in the doorway. She was not happy. “It is called Buster. Martha, Leyna, we must eliminate it. NOW.”

Of course my seven year old brother Val and I started to scream at them not to kill it. We wanted to put it in a cage and tame it. We wanted to have it as a pet. We’d wash it and train it. We’d teach it tricks. We’d be famous.

Mother said NO.

The creature put his head up and looked at my mother with his shining black eyes, then hissed out the words, “Want some tail between your legs beautiful?”

The was a collective gasp, even from the Vampires in the room.

Martha, in a whirl of blue ribbons and lace, grabbed a broom. Leyna grabbed a large cast iron frying pan.

The creature hissed again. “Love it when the bitches get all fired up.” Then a cloud of fleas, flies, and fur swirled around the room.

Martha, Leyna and the possum thing called Buster disappeared into the kitchen. My mother followed, slamming the door behind her.

We stood with our ears to the door listening to the carnage. It sounded like a bar brawl.  When the door opened my mother came out, her hair falling in messy curls down her back, her hands covered with scratches and blood. Martha and Leyna stood in shock.

A possum jaw was stuck in the back of the door, teeth sunk into the wood like nails. The rest of the animal was on the cutting board, a mash up of fur and a long rat like tail. Blood ran off of the surface onto the floor.

“Is it dead?” I asked.

My mother started to laugh. Then Martha and Leyna laughed too, until the three of them couldn’t stop.

“May I have the fur?” Asked my brother Val.

My mother smiled. “Whatever for my darling?”

“I’d like to make a doll out of it for Juliette.”

Val was a darling child.

Then Leyna spoke, “My sweetheart can do taxee-dermy. He’ll make you up a nice dolly for Juliette.”

Val and I jumped up and down clapping our cold little Vampire hands. We couldn’t have been more excited.

A week later Buster came back gutted and stuffed. His eyes had been replaced with shiny black buttons. His jaw and other loose parts had been sewn and wired back on. He was as good as new. And to make things even better Layna had made Buster a fine dress of green silk, with tiny yellow bows. Eventually my mother got tired of Buster’s stinking dressed up corpse and put him away.

As for the armadillo, he turned out to be a rare pigladillo. I would sit with him purring in my lap for hours. He lived to be almost forty years old. Such a sweet thing, even when he was drinking.

buster012

~ End

So what prompted me to write three such disgusting and random tales? It is part of the Evil Squirrel’s Third Annual Contest of Whatever.

Thanks Evil Squirrel.

I won the 2017 Fourth Annual Contest of Whatever. Woo Hoo. Click here for that entry.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: The Last Time

The Last Time

by Richard Turton  

I have no recollection of anything specific we spoke of that day. I’m sure the weather was involved because we always spoke of the weather in Georgia. He gave me words of advice, I’m sure, because that’s what he always did when he was going somewhere longer than overnight. His words soft, sweet, gentle.

More than once in the last few days, I’d seen him looking at the triangular walnut case on the mantle. There was a picture beside the flag, a man he’d never met; a picture of his father, my husband, in his Army dress uniform, strong, proud. A smaller picture, stuck in the corner of the frame, corners curling, fading. My husband, seated on a row of sandbags at some nameless firebase in Viet Nam.

Conversation quietly came to a comfortable close; neither of us wanting to talk of the actual matter.

He pushed his breakfast plate aside. Looking at it one last time, eyes smiling but sad, knowing, “I always liked those plates, Ma, with the barn and the cows and the bright yellow & green edges.

Reaching across, I found his hand and squeezed it. His hands were callused, course and rough and scratchy from too many summers in the fields. I tried to smile, but my tears spilled over, tracing my feelings down my cheeks. I turned away quickly and pulled the hanky from my sleeve as I tried to wipe away the sadness.

The sun was fully up now. He stood, pushing back his chair. Looking at me, smiling, he said, “I reckon I’d better be goin’; that bus’ll be along any minute. And you know ole’ Bob; he don’t wait for no one.”  He reached down and picked up his yellow and green cup and finished off his coffee. “I think I’m gonna’ miss this most Ma. You always make the best coffee.”

As I stood, I reached into the pocket of my apron and said, “It’s the chicory, Donny, takes the bite off. Here, I packed a little bag of it for you!” and gave him a little hand sewn bag stuffed with ground chicory.

As he took the bag, his hands held mine for just a moment longer. Then he looked down at his highly polished shoes and said quietly, “Thanks, Ma, thanks for everything. I love you.”

I stepped in closer and hugged him tight, “I love you too, Donny. Always remember that.” He reached around me engulfing me in those strong arms of his and hugged me back, this time just a little longer than usual.  Abruptly, he stepped back and reached for his Dress Green Jacket and put it on. He put on the soft dress cap the Army gave him, picked up his duffle bag and slung it over his shoulder.

As he reached the doorway, he rested his hand on the doorjamb. He looked at the old, weathered wood with all the pencil marks on it showing his progress in growing up to get to this day.  He turned and looked around again, gathering it all in like he was photographing the scene in his mind. Smiling a little once again, he gave a half wave, said, “G’bye, Ma”, walked out the door, and let the screen door slam once more.

That’s when we knew.

 

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

Richard Turton is a Viet Nam veteran living in Northern California. He has contributed two other pieces to this blog: The Eagle Cried and A Ghost Story.

I met Rick through his son who was my daughter’s 4th grade teacher. Rick is a member of the WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) and has contributed to the group’s themed anthologies.

I am truly honored to feature “The Last Time” today, on Mother’s Day. Thank you so much Rick. Your words are beautiful and timely.

Aside from writing such beautiful words, Rick is one of the funniest people I know.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Remains

Remains

By Soleil Daniel

The world was ending, so I don’t really blame everyone for leaving with the Space Squids when they came to Earth and offered a new planet to live on. They’ll probably just destroy that one too. It’s whatever, people fucking suck anyway. By what I could tell, the Space Squids weren’t so special either with their weird, soft bodies, tentacles, and strange pointy heads.

Yeah, I said tentacles. I don’t call ‘em Space Squids for fun. Besides the fact that they didn’t live in water, that’s pretty much what they were.

They did moisturize . . . a lot. Like all the time. It was kind of obscene, but that’s a story for a different day.

Like I was saying, the Space Squids, yeah, assholes. That’s what they were. Just as bad as all the humans they took. Maybe they ate everyone . . . well, one could only hope, but considering the fact that they left the ‘trash’ humans behind and they wanted to only take productive, non-criminal folks, I assume they weren’t planning to eat them. Unless us ‘trash’ humans taste bad. I’ll just keep thinking they ate everyone and be happy with the fact that they didn’t want my kind to go.

I still don’t see how I fit in with the others they left behind—The Remains the Squiddies called us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they didn’t throw me into the volcanoes like they did the leaders and politicians of the world. Oh, they made sure that shit was broadcasted on live television. You ask me, some of those fuckers got out too easily and quickly for the things they got away with.

What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Those Squiddies left me behind, saying murderers weren’t welcome on their planet. Blah, blah. Yeah, I’ve killed, but I’m no murderer. I deal out justice. I take out the ‘trash’ that they accused me of being. I tried to clean up the world and rid it of the people who were making it a bad place to live. Taking out people who destroyed nature for the hell of it, who killed for the enjoyment of it, who took pleasure from the touch of a child, and those who deemed themselves better than others, making sure the lives of those they found to be lesser than them was full of hardship, grief, and sorrow.

I’m not sure how many I had the pleasure of disposing of, but I know I didn’t stop after everyone left. I didn’t even have to do as much research once they were gone, so really, they did mea favor. They made my job easier.

 

***

 

Thomas looked around at his captors. Their hair in mudded clumps. Their round cherubic faces, holding expressions of anything but innocence. No, all of the children that surrounded him looked upon him like a wolf eyeing a rabbit it wished to have for dinner.

“You tell your lies. You act as if you were doing this world a favor, killing people you decided weren’t good enough to live. Who were you to judge when you killed our parents?” one of the oldest males visible within the group said, surprising Thomas for he’d not expected such feral-looking children to be able to speak so well.

“Well, I . . . uh, shit. I didn’t know there were children still left here. At least none old enough to have been around for the Great Departure. I thought they all went with the Squiddies. Who in their right mind would’ve kept their children here?”

“People who didn’t want to be separated from their families. People who knew that once the majority left, the planet would begin to heal. People who didn’t trust the aliens, and so they didn’t go, even if they were accepted to go to the new world,” said another of the eldest as she stepped forward.

A girl and boy, who looked so similar there was no mistaking that they were brother and sister, came closer to Thomas. They appeared to be about seven, meaning they were born sometime around The Great Departure, Thomas noted.

“We were five when you killed our father,” the little girl said.

“He was all we had. Our mom didn’t make it through having us,” the boy continued where his sister left off.

“We saw you. We watched from the brush. We saw what you did.” The girl grabbed her brother’s hand and squeezed.

“We watched as you broke his legs, making escape impossible. We listened as you listed his supposed crimes. We choked back our sobs, our cries, as you drew your knife across our father’s throat.” The boy straightened his posture, standing as tall as he could.

“Then, you left him there to rot. You walked away from him like he was nothing. What you did was wasteful. You kill but for what reason? There’s no purpose in what you do.” The girl had begun to tremble, but not in fear or grief. The girl’s body shook with rage, if Thomas was correct in his thinking.

“I would’ve never killed him or any of your parents had I known they’d had children that had no one else to care for them. Know this to be the truth. Know this, as I only wish to end the suffering, hate, greed, and filthiness in this world. Know that I only wish to make things better. I never meant to cause harm. I only wished to deal out justice.” Thomas wiggled his arms, struggling against the ropes that bound him.

“Justice! Justice? There’s no need for justice in a lawless land, sir. You have no authority. You are far worse than any criminal you believe you’ve dealt your justiceto. For you think you are better than they were.” A girl, older than the rest, Thomas had not seen until that moment, walked over to him, clutching a knife in her dirt-covered hand.

“Now, just wait a second. What is it you’re planning on doing with that knife? How do you figure killing me makes you any better? It certainly won’t bring your folks back. Not that it appears you need them. The lot of you seemed to be doing just fine without them. Y’all have got to be some of the plumpest people I’ve seen in a while.”

“We do well with the gardens, and we have an excellent group of hunters. You met Ellie and Niro. They’re our absolute best. You’d agree, I’m certain, that they’d need to be top-notch to track and capture you. You who prides yourself on tracking and hunting people down. I assume as you’ve been up to these tricks since before the ‘Great Departure’, as you put it.” The teenage girl tapped him on the tip of his nose with her knife.

“Oh.” Thomas let his gaze focus more on the surrounding area. His eyes took a second to adjust to the darker places where they weren’t completely consumed by the shadows. Mounds of off-white caught his attention, and he stared at them until the bones, skulls, and other human remains became clear. “Oh! You little shits are cannibals!”

“Only when we have to be. We get more meat from a deer than we do most humans. So, unless we absolutely need the meat, we usually leave people alone, but when little Josiah and Penelope here saw you . . . when they recognized you for who you were, well, we couldn’t pass that up.”

Thomas struggled more with his bindings, not even bothering to hide his movements as he’d been doing. He squirmed. His shoulders jerked, and his body bucked, but he couldn’t get free. If anything, the ropes only became tighter on his wrists and around his waist.

“Now, Thomas—it is Thomas, right?” the elder girl with the knife said. When he didn’t answer, she continued, “What you don’t seem to get is, the more you fight your restraints, the more Little William back there will twist. And while we’ve yet to see it happen, you’d have a better chance getting loose after your hands pop off your wrists—well, like I said, we haven’t seen it yet, but I suppose it’s possible. That is, given you don’t pass out from the pressure on your abdomen first. So, by all means, keep trying to free yourself.”

A sinister smile spread across her face as several of the others worked to control fits of laughter.

“Quiet!” a male voice behind Thomas yelled. “Charlotte! Why must you play with your food? It doesn’t need to know why it’s dying. Just kill it and be done with your theatrics. I thought we were good for meat, anyway, so why the need to butcher more?”

“You’re probably right, Jonathan. We shouldn’t play with our food . . . but did you look to see who this is before you spoke?” the knife-wielding girl, Charlotte, said before turning away.

A tall man in his early twenties walked in front of Thomas. “Is this who I think it is?” He bent down, getting face to face with Thomas. “Why, yes. Yes, it is.”

“I assume I killed one of your parents too?” Thomas asked.

“Ah, but you killed both. My father before the aliens took everyone away, and then my mother two years after she’d decided to stay on this planet with the Remains. We were going to go, but when our group was called to board, she changed her mind because she had a bad feeling. I don’t know what happened to those who left, but I know what happened to my mom. And I remember what you told me when you dispatched her,” Jonathan said.

“But dear Thomas here just told us that he never would’ve killed someone had he knew they had kids to take care of. Didn’t you, friend?” Charlotte chortled, but Thomas was unable to see her past Jonathan’s tall frame.

“I wouldn’t have. I certainly wouldn’t have spoken to a child I was leaving an orphan,” he protested, knowing all too well the lies that left his mouth.

He remembered Jonathan. The boy was fifteen, maybe sixteen, when Thomas killed his mother. He’d followed her from a rundown pharmacy, where he’d seen her take dozens of prescription bottles. It was later that he’d found they were only antibiotics.

“Don’t follow in her footsteps, boy, or I’ll come back for you.” Jonathan’s words echoed the ones that ran through Thomas’ mind. The young man’s voice bringing him back to the present. “Yeah, I see it in your face. You remember. What you might not know is, the antibiotics that you killed my mom for taking, they were for my little sister. She was four. She’d gotten a cut on her foot, and it was infected. Without my mom, without those antibiotics . . . well, it got worse. Gangrene set in. By the time I found help, even the amputation of her leg didn’t save her. I had to watch her die, all because you thought my mom was a fucking junkie.”

“I didn’t know.” Thomas tried to look disgusted with himself, but somewhere along the way, he’d lost his morals, his reasoning, and he’d began killing people for the enjoyment of it. The one kid was right about it being a lawless land, and Thomas had taken advantage of that, but he’d felt far from guilty about it. He’d felt powerful . . . well, until a group of filthy, parentless kids captured him and tied him up. He met the eyes of the one named Jonathan and said, “If you feel inclined to kill me for my crimes, might I have a request granted?”

Jonathan smirked. “Well, that would depend on what it is? If it’s a request not to eat you, as much as I’d rather not, we don’t waste what can sustain us. Had we still had pigs, you’d go to them, but the entire drove became diseased a while back and died. So, that request will be denied, but you can ask, and I’ll consider anything else.”

“Jonathan!” Charlotte screeched.

“He shouldn’t be given the dignity of a request,” the young boy sibling said.

“He didn’t give our father or your mother or any of the others’ parents time to speak, let alone a request,” his sister sounded, barely letting her brother’s words end.

A mass of murmurs and angry words flew about the night air. Thomas stopped himself from smiling for the commotion he’d caused. The ropes twisted more, tightening further at his wrists and around his lower chest.

“Silence!” Jonathan bellowed. “I said the man could ask. Now, let’s let him say his, and we will decide if it will be granted. Thomas, what is it you want?”

Thomas cleared his throat, struggling to breathe with the tightened ropes around him. He wondered if Little William was trying to hurry the job along without the others knowing. “Would it be too much to ask for the ropes to be taken off? I know that most, if not all, of you feel I did your folks wrong, but I ask for just that bit of dignity and compassion.”

Jonathan took a second, giving a brief hmm. As he opened his mouth to say his answer, a mass scream sounded, and Thomas was overwhelmed by bodies hitting him from every direction.

“I’d say that’s a no, Thomas,” Jonathan shouted.

Thomas barely made out the words over the cries of the kids and the ripping sounds from his clothing being torn off him. They were scratching and clawing at his flesh, and it only dawned on him when he felt their teeth biting into his flesh and breaking the skin, they’d planned on starting their feast while his heart was still beating.

“Yep! Definitely a no!” Jonathan’s words sounded so far away. A moment later, his face hovered over Thomas’. “Come on guys, at least make sure it’s dead first. We’re not complete animals.”

Thomas got a brief glimpse of the hammer before it smashed into his face, ending the searing pain he felt as his flesh was ripped from his body.

~ end

Tangled Tales

Links & Bio

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SoleilDanielsAuthor

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Brokenlyfe

Amazon Author Page:  author.to/SoleilDanielsbooks

Blog:  https://soleildaniels.blogspot.com/

Soleil Daniels is an author from the Central Florida area. She tends to write more on the darker side—including, but not limited to, blood, depravity, and gore. You can also find some sweetness and steam within her works, as well. She’s written short stories ranging from sick and twisted to heartfelt and sweet, and has longer works available and in progress, which include vampires, people in lust, a boogeyman, and a rather large extinct cat. Her works have been featured in anthologies from WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) and OMP (One Million Project). All of Soleil Daniels’ works can be found on Amazon.

SoleiDaniels

Soleil Daniels

 

A note from Juliette:

Occasionally I come across an author and think it can’t get better than this. Yes, that is how I feel about Soleil Daniels. Her works always delight and amaze me. Her use of words… I have no words except to say I love her writing. I love the way she uses words. I love the way she creates stories that keep the reader RIGHT THERE. Thank you Soleil for sharing Remains with vampiremaman.com

Thank you!

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Tangled Tales

Stay safe. Social distance. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Be careful. Contact those who might need extra help or just need to know somebody cares.

Chernobyl Charlie

old dog

Chernobyl Charlie

Published in Dysfictional 3 by Mandy White

 

The old man placed another log on the campfire.

“You kids ready for a story?”

“Yes!” Kylie and Joel chorused together.

Every summer, his daughter-in-law Laura brought the grandchildren on weekends for a backyard campout. The kids got to sleep in a tent and enjoy fireside stories, just like they’d done with their father. Since loss of her husband, a Marine, Laura tried to maintain a connection with his side of the family. The old man appreciated the effort she made. The kids enjoyed his stories and he enjoyed telling them, and boy, he had a lot of stories.

“Get comfortable, ‘cause tonight I got a great story for ya. This one’s about Chernobyl Charlie.”

“Wait!” Kylie ran to the tent to grab her blanket. She returned and nestled in her lawn chair with the blanket wrapped around her shoulders. “Okay, I’m comfortable now.”

Her brother rolled his eyes. “Ok, are you ready now? I want to hear the story.”

The old man began,

“There once was a boy, we’ll call him Nathan. This boy only wanted one thing for his entire life: a dog. He didn’t want anything else, not ever.

Every year, his parents would ask him what he wanted for Christmas or his birthday, and his answer was always the same:

‘I want a dog!’ he’d say.

And every time, the answer would be the same: ‘No’.

It wasn’t that his parents were mean, or didn’t want him to have a dog. It was just that they lived in an apartment, and weren’t allowed pets in the building, other than fish or birds. Birds gave him the creeps and goldfish just weren’t the same. Fish were boring. They just sat in a bowl. You couldn’t take them for a walk or pet them or play ball with them.

But one year, the year he turned twelve, Nathan’s life changed forever.

His father had started a new job a year ago, and was making more money. Enough money that they could finally buy a house. A whole house! With its own yard and everything! Most importantly, there was a fenced area for a dog! This year, when Nathan’s parents asked what he wanted for his birthday, the answer was yes. He could have a dog.

His mother agreed to the dog on one condition: they would adopt, not shop. No pet stores or fancy breeds; they would find a shelter dog that needed a home. Nathan was fine with that. Any dog would be a great dog, and he would love it with all his heart.

They registered with the SPCA and a bunch of other rescue groups, looking for a dog that would be a good fit for their family. One day, Nathan’s mother called him to look at something.

She was sitting at the kitchen table with her laptop open to some website.

Nathan took a look over his Mom’s shoulder to see what she was looking at. The screen had a picture of a group of dogs on it.

‘What’s this?’ he asked.

‘There are puppies available for adoption, and you’ll never guess from where. Chernobyl!’ she told him.

‘Isn’t that place like, radioactive or something?’ he said.

His mother explained, ‘According to this, hundreds of dogs roam the woods in the exclusion zone near Chernobyl. They are the descendants of pets that were left behind in the evacuation. Some of the puppies are being brought to the U.S. for adoption. The adoptions will be done through the SPCA, and we’re already registered with them. We can ask to be put on a wait list for one of these puppies if you want.’

It sounded pretty cool, but Nathan had some concerns. He asked his mom, ‘Is that even safe? Like are they mutants or anything?’

‘No, not at all,’ she told him, ‘Many of the dogs are perfectly healthy. No radiation sickness, and they are carefully vetted before they are put up for adoption.’

Nathan was sold. ‘Cool! I want a radioactive puppy!’

‘And if we don’t get one, we will find another shelter pup that needs us, agreed?’ his mom said.

‘Okay!’ Nathan said.”

“What happened that they had to evacuate, Grandpa?” Kylie asked.

“It was a meltdown!” Joel said. “We learned about it in school. Some kind of power plant in Russia. It went nuclear. Like, psssh!” He made a sound that mimicked an explosion and motioned with his hands.

“Well, it didn’t actually blow up, but it was really bad. It happened back in the eighties. They used some pretty dangerous stuff to make electricity in the old days. The power plant at Chernobyl had a bad accident. All the land around it became poisoned from radiation, and the people had to evacuate. The place is still deserted today. You can see pictures on the internet of all the empty buildings. There’s even a deserted amusement park. And nobody can go there even now, because it’s still radioactive.”

“But what about all the animals?” Kylie asked.

“A lot of them got left behind to fend for themselves. Some died, and some just went wild. There was still a working power plant there, thirty years later. And the workers started feeding some of the wild dogs that were running around. And, as dogs do, some of them became friendly again. Eventually, some rescue organizations got wind of it and started to capture the dogs. The wilder ones got checked by vets, fixed so they couldn’t have any more puppies, and then set free again. And they started catching the puppies and finding homes for them.”

The old man took a sip of his coffee, which had gotten cold, and continued the story.

“June twenty-fifth was a date Nathan never forgot, because it was the happiest day of his life. School was out for the summer, but most importantly, the time had come to bring home the new puppy. Surprisingly, their application for a Chernobyl pup had been accepted and they were minutes away from meeting their new family member. Nathan and his mother paced the waiting room of the SPCA, too excited to sit down.

They didn’t know much about the puppy, other than it was a male, approximately four months old, and would grow to be a medium to large-sized dog. The breed was anyone’s guess, but it was said that some of the wild dogs had been running in wolf packs, so the puppy might even have had some wolf in it.

A woman came from the back room, holding a wriggling bundle of black-and-white fur in her arms. When the puppy saw the new people, he squirmed away from the woman. He ran to Nathan, slipping and sliding on the floor on huge, clumsy feet. The puppy whined and wagged his tail so hard his whole body wagged. He licked Nathan’s face, covering it with dog slobber, but Nathan didn’t mind.

‘I’m going to call you Charlie, and we’re going to be best friends!’ he told the dog.”

“Oh!” Kylie squealed. “Just like –”

“Will you shut up and stop interrupting!” her brother said.

“That’s ok. She’s just excited. Right sweetie?” The old man gave Kylie a knowing wink.

“Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. Charlie. He named the dog Charlie, and they were the best of friends from that day forward. They were inseparable.

To most people, Charlie seemed like an average puppy; he liked to chew, had boundless energy and loved Nathan more than life itself. As far as Nathan was concerned, Charlie was exceptional. He was bright and obedient, and easy to train.

Charlie loved to fetch, and his favorite toy was the Frisbee. After he had shredded several regular Frisbees, Nathan bought him a special chew-proof one designed for dogs. Every day they walked to the dog park, rain or shine, to play fetch. Charlie didn’t really need a leash, but Nathan put one on him to and from the dog park to keep the neighbors happy.

One particularly blustery autumn day, Nathan threw the Frisbee and a gust of wind caught it, sending it sailing over the fence and onto the busy street next to the park. Charlie was in hot pursuit. Without missing a beat, he leaped over the fence – a six-foot-high chain link fence it was – and dashed into the traffic. Nathan didn’t have time to wow over the amazing feat of fence-jumping he’d just witnessed – he had to get his dog.

He dashed through the gate, shouting, ‘Charlie! Stop!’ but Charlie was on a mission.

Nathan was too late. The driver of the truck couldn’t possibly have stopped in time, even if he had seen Charlie.

It happened in slow motion, to Nathan’s eyes. The big eighteen-wheeler mowed Charlie down and ran over him, first with the front wheel, and then both sets of wheels on the trailer. He watched in horror as Charlie was flung like a rag doll from one set of dual wheels into the path of the second set.”

“No!” Kylie cried. “You didn’t tell us he was going to die! I don’t like this story.” She looked like she was going to cry.

“Shh! Don’t interrupt!” Joel hissed.

“Don’t worry, it gets better,” the old man assured her.

“Anyhow, there Charlie was, lying in the road, just a limp bundle of black-and-white fur. Nathan’s knees felt weak. He wanted to collapse, but he willed himself to stay standing. He wasn’t going to leave Charlie out there in the traffic, even though he knew it was too late to save him. Tears streaming down his face, Nathan ran toward the scene of the worst horror imaginable.

He reached the edge of the road, and then the unthinkable happened.

Charlie stood up, shook himself off, and walked over to pick up the Frisbee from the street. He trotted happily over to Nathan, holding his head high in the air all proud-like. All he cared about was that he’d gotten the Frisbee. He knew he was a good boy.

Nathan checked him over, and he looked fine. Not a scratch on him, just black marks on the white part of his fur from the rubber tires. He rushed home to tell his parents, but they didn’t believe him. They thought he was exaggerating, but they brought Charlie to the vet just in case.

Dr. Michaels found nothing wrong with him. No injuries of any kind. She explained to Nathan in a condescending way that the wheels of the truck had missed Charlie when the truck passed over him.

‘But what about those black marks in his fur?’ Nathan said. ‘That’s rubber from the tires. I saw the tires run over him.’

“That’s probably grease from the underside of the truck,’ Dr Michaels said. ‘See? That reinforces what I was telling you. The truck straddled him. The tires missed him. He’s one lucky dog.’

Nathan didn’t argue further, but he knew what he’d seen. The most important thing was, his best friend was okay.

Fall turned into winter. Charlie loved the snow as much as he loved everything else. He found fun in everything he did. He learned to ride a toboggan and tried to fetch snowballs. He discovered hockey, which Nathan and his friends played on the frozen pond. Charlie was an excellent goalie.

One day in the middle of a game, they heard screams. Nathan and his friends rushed to help, with Charlie racing alongside.

A crowd of kids were gathered around, and it turned out a small child had fallen into an ice fishing hole. Usually they’ll put some kind of barrier or safety cones to let skaters know there’s a hole, you know. But this jerk, whoever the fisherman was, had just left an open hole there.

The little boy had been skating with his mother. She had already called 911, but time was running out. The poor woman was in hysterics.

Nobody could reach the kid; the hole was too small and the kid had sunk too deep. By the time someone got there with something to cut the hole bigger, it would be too late. That little boy was a goner.

Charlie pushed through the crowd and slithered into the hole like an eel. Nathan wouldn’t have believed the dog would fit, but he did. But how was he going to get out? Now they had lost Charlie as well. Nathan peered into the depths of the hole, trying to get a glimpse of Charlie or the little boy, but saw only blackness. Minute after agonizing minute passed.

They heard sirens in the distance, but Nathan knew help wouldn’t get there in time.

There was still no sign of Charlie. More than five minutes had passed since he dove through the hole in the ice. Nathan started to think that this time Charlie wouldn’t be so lucky.

And then, he saw a glow under the water. The light grew brighter, and then Charlie surfaced, holding the collar of the little boy’s jacket in his teeth. The boys pulled the child out of the water and passed him to his mother.

Nathan helped Charlie climb out of the hole. The dog shook the water from his fur nonchalantly, as though he had just taken a fun little swim.

Nathan hugged him tight and told him what a good boy he was.

The paramedics arrived and performed CPR on the little boy and wrapped him in blankets, then carried him to the ambulance.

The boy survived, thanks to Chernobyl Charlie.

And then there was the time when Nathan was sixteen, and he took a camping trip with a few of his friends. And Charlie, of course. Charlie was a great camping buddy because he was also a night light. You see, he glowed with a soft greenish light when he was happy. All it took was a belly rub or a scratch behind the ears to turn the light on. Or telling him he was a good boy; that worked too.

So, on this camping trip, the boys hiked a ways into the wilderness, to a spot beside a nice little lake. They planned stay a couple of days and do some fishing. The first day, they caught a nice bunch of trout. They cooked a few over the fire for dinner, and packed the rest in ice in the cooler.

Well, it turned out, a bear had caught the scent of their fish. Late at night after the campfire had died down, the bear came into the camp to steal the fish. It was a big bear, too. A Grizzly. The boys had hung all their food in a tree, the way you’re supposed to when you’re camping, but this bear was determined. Mr. Grizzly smelled that food and wasn’t leaving until he found it.”

Kylie shivered and pulled the blanket more tightly around her. “This is scary.” She glanced over at the tent, where she and her brother would be sleeping that night.

“Don’t be a fraidy-cat. There aren’t any Grizzlies around here. Right Grandpa?” Joel said.

“Right. Don’t worry, you’re perfectly safe. I promise there are no Grizzlies here. Remember, the boys were high in the mountains, out in the wilderness.”

“What happened next?” Kylie asked.

“Well, the boys woke to the sound of the bear rampaging through the camp. And I’m not gonna lie, they were plenty scared. They had hung up the food, but not all of it. They had snack foods in the tent with them. A bear’s nose is sensitive enough to detect even a small amount of food. They didn’t have anything to use as a weapon. All they had was an axe, and it was beside the fire.

Charlie started growling. Nathan tried to shush him, but he wanted out of that tent something awful. He started tearing at the door of the tent until he found an opening in the zipper and forced his way through. He charged at the bear, barking and snarling like he’d lost his mind.

He chased the bear away from camp, and in the distance the boys could hear the sounds of a horrible fight – snarls, roars, branches breaking. Once again, Nathan thought his dog was done for.

A while later, Charlie returned. He was covered in blood but otherwise just fine. The boys were pretty shook up. They cut their trip short, packed up the camp and left as soon as it got light. On the hike back, they came across a gruesome sight on the trail. The remains of a large Grizzly bear. The bear had been ripped to shreds. Like it had gone through a meat grinder or something. One of the boys commented how lucky they were that the marauding bear had killed another bear instead of them.

Nathan knew that the bear hadn’t been killed by another bear.

Chernobyl Charlie just panted and smiled. He knew he was a good boy.”

“Time for bed, kids! Say goodnight to Grandpa!” Laura had joined them sometime during the part about the bear.

“But Mom! He’s not done the story yet!”

“I’m done for tonight. We’ll tell more stories about Chernobyl Charlie tomorrow.”

“Give Grandpa a hug.”

Kylie and Joel hugged their grandfather.

“Goodnight, Grandpa. Thanks for the story,” Joel said.

“What happened to Charlie? Like, did he live with Nathan forever?” Kylie asked.

“Well, you know, sweetie, dogs don’t live as long as we do, but I’m sure he had a good long life. Charlie was pretty special.”

After the children were tucked into their sleeping bags, Laura returned and sat next to the fire.

“You know, Nate, I wish you wouldn’t tell them scary stories before bed. Grizzly bears? Can’t you make up something a little, I don’t know… nicer?”

“What’s nicer than a dog that saves the day? Besides, it’s all true.”

“I mean, I know you believe it’s true, but seriously. It’s pretty far-fetched.”

“I promise I’ll tell them a ‘nice’ story next time, ok?”

“OK. Thank you.” She stood and gave him a hug. “You’re a good grandfather. I appreciate all you do for them.” With that she went into the house.

“Don’t mind her, Charlie,” Nate said to the old black-and-white dog that lay at his feet. “I know how special you are.”

Charlie thumped his tail on the ground and a soft greenish glow emanated from his body. He knew he was a good boy.

 

Copyright © 2018 Mandy White

 

 

Mandy White photo

Mandy White

Mandy White is a Canadian writer from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

A recluse by nature and avid fan of the outdoors, Mandy can often be found lurking in the forest, daydreaming dark thoughts that inevitably come to life in print. Her work often features Canadian characters and locations; she delights in twisting her everyday surroundings into weird and disturbing tales.

Caution: if you happen to cross her path, you may find yourself in an upcoming story.

Author of several published books, Mandy is particularly fond of short stories. She is a founding member of WPaD (Writers, Poets and Deviants),a group of writers known for publishing multi-genre charity anthologies.

She has published a series of short story collections calledDysfictional(Dysfunctional Fiction)

You can read many of her short stories on her blog: Dysfictional (Dysfunctional Fiction)

To learn more about Mandy White’s books, visit her website: http://mandywrite.weebly.com/

 

Cat-Writing-1

A note from Juliette

I wouldn’t be blogging today if I hadn’t had the much needed support from Mandy White. Mandy is my writing cohort and friend. We’ve worked on many projects over the years with WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) and worked together supporting and mentoring fellow writers.

Over the years I’ve featured quite a few of her stories on this blog.

  1. Heart Shaped Box by Mandy White
  2. We’re Not So Different by Mandy White
  3. Beneath the Bed by Mandy White
  4. Just One Kiss by Mandy White

This is how I feel when Mandy White sends me a story to share:

giphy

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Goji and the Angel

Diana Author Photo

Diana Garcia

Goji and the Angel

By Diana Garcia

 

Angel Rodriguez did not like it one bit.  She was stuck.  She heard a click as she turned the key and pumped the gas pedal, but nothing happened. So, here she was in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the night.

She sure as hell was not going out there in the dark to look for help. Her cell phone was dead so she would not go out until morning to look for other hikers.

Just go to sleep,she thought.

The the cacophony of night noises made it hard. It was the usual desert sounds she heard late at night but in the comfort of her own bed. Out here, it was different. Packs of passing and yipping howling coyotes, things slithering in the dirt right outside the car, and black shadows flying low and shrieking past her car windows. The Arizona desert was teeming with active night denizens and the hot wind did not dissipate, nor give reprieve, with the setting of the sun. Even with the windows rolled halfway down Angel found it hard to breathe. Sweat dripped into her eyes every time she attempted to close them.

Angel fanned herself with a piece of cardboard as she lay low in the back seat of her car. She gazed out of the rear windshield. The obsidian panorama contributed to her fearful thoughts. Not even stars to calm her terror and anxiety. Where the hell were the stars?Where the fuck is the moon?Oh, there it was, a thin slivered sickle of grayish glow off in the distance peeked out as dark clouds moved on to be replaced by other dark clouds, like a broken neon sign with burnt out bulbs.

Speaking out loud to no one Angel said,

“Okay, that’s enough Angel. Close your eyes and think of good things, shhhhh.”

The calming mantra worked for about two minutes. Now she had to go pee.

“Oh fuck. Do I piss my pants or should I go outside?”

Angel opened the door and slid out of the car to urinate. There was no other choice. She was squatting while with one hand she held her jeans and panties out of the stream’s way, and with the other hand she firmly held onto the door handle. Touching the car gave her a sense of security.

The day before, Angel had been driving in the desolate desert searching for a hidden treasure mapped out on butcher paper given to her by an old injured prospector she and her fellow rescue workers were bringing down the Superstition Mountains. Yes, there were still people searching for the lost Dutchman’s gold in this day and age.  Angel was in the EMT truck setting up the IV for the dehydrated old man who moaned in pain with his eyes closed. He suddenly grabbed her arm and said,

“In my front pocket, dear”

“What did you say, sir?”

“In my front pocket. Get the map.” His tone was urgent but his ragged breathing made him hard to understand. He took long pauses between each word.

Angel reached into the man’s pocket and pulled out a bundle wrapped in faded blue checked cloth and said, “This? You want this, sir?”

The old man held a firm grip on her arm and whispered,

“The fucking gold is NOT in the Superstitions. I buried it about fifteen miles east of here. That’s the map,” he said as he looked at the bundle in Angel’s hand.

“But sir, I don’t want this. Why don’t I put it in your backpack for safe keeping, okay? For when you get out of the hospital.”

“No, dear. You don’t understand, I’m dying. I have lung cancer. I thought I was being followed so I backtracked after burying the gold and took the Peralta Trail back into the mountain to throw the buggers off. I was being followed. I know it.” Angel held the back of his head as he coughed blood into a handful of tissues she held to his mouth.

After he stopped coughing, Angel asked in order to appease the distressed man, “So you want me to use the map and get your gold and bring it to you?”

She was an Arizona native and stories about the Lost Dutchman Mine and treasure was the stuff of campfire storytelling lore, nothing more than that.

The man calmed down, released his hold on Angel’s arm, looked into her eyes and said, “No dear, I want you to get the gold and use it for you and your family. Do big things with it. You saved me from getting killed. I’d rather a good person have it than those buggers,” whispered the man as he closed his eyes.

“But sir, I can’t do that. This is your property. Please. You’ll be fine. You’re just dehydrated. We’ll get you taken care of and you’ll be fine.”

“No. Listen, I’ve been moving that gold around in different parts for sixty years. My grandpa and great grandpa did the same before me. We kept the legend alive. Do you hear me? I was a doctor back in my day. My wife and sons are now long dead. I’m dying. I just can’t keep this up anymore. Please don’t tell anyone. Just let the legend live.”

Angel looked at the man’s pale blue eyes and saw truth and loss there. She nodded and zipped the bundle in her work jacket and continued working on the man as they were driven away into town.

_______

Angel had hiked down a steep crevasse. An avid mountain climber and hiker, Angel was no stranger to the harsh and scorching landscape that was the Arizona desert. She had told her friends and family that she needed some time off and was going camping and hiking on her own. This was not unusual for Angel so her family and friends thought nothing of her little weekend escape and was told to be careful. Angel had decided that looking for the gold using the old man’s map would be something fun and was looking forward to her “escape” from work and the routine stuff that comes with living in the busy city of Phoenix. However, during her drive east of the Superstition Mountains she had been questioning if she was nuts.

The map was clear and concise and Angel figured the old man had been in the military and it was evidence that he was a seasoned hiker and map maker. It was a well-made topographical map with coordinates which illustrated elevation and contour lines of hills, various landforms, and crevasses. It was an expert depiction of the ground relief, terrain, and even the flow of creeks and animal or human trails. Angel was athletic enough that she did not foresee any problem with locating a hidden treasure. She contemplated about what she would do with the gold, if indeed there was any. She wondered what it would feel like to be out of debt, especially her college loans.

The old man had died the next morning at Banner Goldfield Medical Center. He refused to speak with anyone, except Angel. She held his hand as he took his last breath. She felt a deep sadness. She had never lost anyone close to her but had seen many people and children die in her work. Angel had been a rescue EMT for 8 years and had many rescue stories, some devastating and with only a few happy outcomes. She lectured at schools and community colleges regarding desert search and rescue, and how to recognize, treat and avoid heat exhaustion.

Angel hurt for the old guy because she never even asked his name. He had died without any identification. When the rescue team found him, they just called him the “old guy.”

Once back in civilization she would make sure the first thing to do would be to trade in her old car for a new off-road vehicle.

________________

Now it was midnight and she was peeing in the desert.

As Angel pulled up her pants, she heard a loud THUD. She felt the car jump with the weight of whatever landed on the car. She yelped and jumped away, but it was so dark and her eyes had adjusted about as good as they were going to adjust. Regardless, she was blinded by dark shadows.

She heard a WHOOSH and felt the pressure of a blast of air like giant bird wings flapping. She crouched low where she had been standing and yelled out into the darkness, “What the hell!”

The car’s rear tires bounced off the ground and then another THUD landed directly in front of her. It had kicked up dirt and rocks. Angel choked and coughed in panic.

“Calm down” said a deep voice, then again soothingly, “Calm down.”

Angel stood and reached out like a blind woman, “Who’s there? I can’t see.”

“Here drink some water and wash your face.  I got this water bottle out of your car” said the voice.

“Um-Okay.” she said as she felt the water bottle pressing into her hand and did as she was told.

“Can you see me now?” said the voice.

Angel looked hard and couldn’t believe the shadowy outline of what stood before her. She closed her eyes and opened them again.

“You’re a giant,” she whispered. “Oh my gawd.” She gazed upward at a being that appeared to be over eight feet tall.

“I won’t hurt you,” it said.

“Are those w-wings?”

The creature’s yellow eyes glowed like starshine and a visceral light emanated from them.

“What the fuck are you?”

“I am stuff of legends, dear.”

Huge clawed hands touched muscular thighs as the thing bent low so they could look at each other face to face.

“Listen, I won’t hurt you. I’m bending so you can see my face. Horrific, I know, but I’m good.”

Angel covered her mouth with both hands as she gazed at the creature before her. His look was penetrating and made her feel as if he could see into her soul. It was a hypnotic pull. She felt the urge to scream in terror and to run into the darkness.

She willed herself to stay calm and to speak.

“You resemble the gargoyles of Notre Dame.” Said Angel as she gulped for air. “I saw statues of you when I traveled abroad.”

A deep throated laughter emanated from the creature. It sent a chill up her spine. She felt every little hair on her arms and neck stand on end.

“I’m not from France. Don’t mean to scare you.”

“Then, who are you? What are you? You speak good English.”

“My name is Goji. Pleased to meet you. And you are?”

“Hi, I’m Angel,” she whispered as he straightened up to full height.

“Ahhhhh, a glorious angel stands before me.”

The gargoyle regally bowed his head and said,

“Why are you out here in the middle of the night where dangerous creatures abound?”

“Do you mind if I grab my camping chair from the back. I need to sit. I’m shaking so hard that I don’t think I can stand much longer.”

“Please do.”

Angel walked to the back of the SUV and lifted the hatch and pulled out two camping chairs.

She offered one of them to the gargoyle, he said,

“Oh no dear, I’ll break it. You sit. I will lean against your car, if you don’t mind?”

Angel sat in the cloth chair, glad to be off her feet. She was still shaking, but not from being cold. Even so, she was intrigued and wondered if she was dreaming.

“Am I dreaming?” She said out loud not expecting an answer.

“No, I saw you were stranded and wondered if you would seek help or if other humans would find you. I’ve been watching from afar.”

Angel was speechless, so he continued, “I flew down because earlier I smelled a mountain lion nearby and felt I needed to protect you.”

“After all, that is what we gargoyles do.” He made air quotes at his use of the word gargoyle. “We protect.”

Goji leaned against the SUV with one ankle crossing his other as he stood. His muscular arms and hands reached back as he nonchalantly leaned into the car.

There was an awkward silence. Angel stared at the monstrous thing before her. His face was apelike but his ears were long and the top point of each curved forward. Unlike an ape, there was no hair on his face or body. The legs were long and muscular. They looked like photos she’d seen in her ex-boyfriend’s bodybuilding magazines. Goji had high cheekbones and the enormous almond shaped yellow eyes gave his chiseled face an Asian look. His lips were full and out of his mouth jutted curved tusks, like a wild boar.

Angel asked, “Where are you from? Have you always been here in this desert?”

“I was born long ago in the sedge lands of Kemet, what you would call Egypt.”

Angel nodded, and said, “Was it an insult to call you a gargoyle?”

“No, I laughed because that word means ‘throat’ or ‘gullet’ relegating my kind as stone water spouts. It just makes me laugh.”

“I’m sorry. That is funny. I suppose the stone gargoyles served their purpose. Then, what are you?”

“We are ancients. As I said, my kind originated in the riverbanks of Kemet long before humankind appeared. You may just call me Goji.”

“How did you learn to speak English?”

“Long ago. I also speak Akkadian, Sumerian, Cappadocian, Arabic, French, actually, many languages. I’ve been around for millennia so I’ve picked up a few things, like languages.”

“Millenia? Wow. Why are you here, in the desert? Angel spread her arms out to signify the area.

“I’ve always loved the desert. This Arizona desert reminds me of home, far way, but it makes me reminiscent. Frankly, humanity tires me with their wars and pollution and the noise. Ugh. I hate all the noise you humans make.” He made his large pointy ears flap to accentuate that noise bothers him.

Angel laughed at his flapping ears. She felt more at ease.

The soft glow of a new dawn peeked gingerly from the far mountains and a warm breeze blew through the surrounding scrub and acacia trees. Angel walked to her open front passenger door and asked Goji if he wanted a bottle of water. He motioned his head no and watched her reach in for a new bottle from the open ice chest on the front seat.

She sat back down and asked, “So, what do your kind eat and drink?”

“Oh, I drink creek water and I like meat, lots of meat: rats, deer, and I occasionally like to scare up a mountain lion. That’s how I found you. I was keeping watch.”

Angel looked at his tusks in wonderment and felt chilled all over again.

“Do you often appear to humans?”

“Hardly ever. But I once had an enlightening conversation with the bishop of Rouen who spread lies about me and told his people that he killed me by holding his mighty crucifix at me. He was a pervert who manipulated the Merovingian stock, but I won’t get into that.”

Angel laughed and said, “You’re funny. Thanks for not tearing me to shreds with your tusks and those scary claws.”

Goji looked at his hands and smiled.

“So, what are you doing broken down in the middle of nowhere?”

Angel raised her eyebrows and said, “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

“Well, me and my crew, Um, I work for an emergency response team, S-A-R, Search and Rescue, and my crew was dispatched to rescue this old guy from the Superstition Mountains the other day and he gave me a map when I was treating him for dehydration.” Feeling a little embarrassed, she paused.

“Go on.”

“Well, long story short, we did the emergency search and rescue. I treated the very dehydrated old man. He gave me a map and told me it would show me where he hid a treasure. The gold from the Lost Dutchman Mine. He said he and his family have been moving it and hiding it for years, his father and great-grandfather, etc.” Angel looked at her hands, “He died the next day at the hospital.”

“So, Old Kellerman died.”

Surprised at Goji’s statement, Angel asked,

“You knew the old guy? I didn’t know his name. He said he was a doctor.”

“Yes, Dr. Kellerman. Poor man died. Sad.” Goji looked down and shook his head.

Angel whispered, “I’m sorry. He told me he was dying of lung cancer.”

“Kellerman was supposed to meet me at a designated spot three days ago but he never made it. Now I know why. Pardon me.”

Angel watched Goji walk a few feet away as he looked up towards the orange glow of the awakening sun. He turned and walked back towards her. His enormous wings stretched out then fanned in. Angel choked on her water when she saw the wingspan and pretended to cough.

She said, “I’m sorry I gave you the bad news. I felt really sorry for him. He had no I.D. on him when we brought him in. He wouldn’t talk with anyone except me.”

“Kellerman was my only friend. His father was also a friend. So was his grandfather and great-grandfather.”

“I’m so sorry Mr. Goji”

“Just Goji. Thanks.”

“I helped the family hide a vast treasure and have been helping them do this for a very long time. I am the guardian of that treasure.” When Angel did not respond he continued,

“The Kellerman’s were originally prospectors who found a huge vein here in the southwest. They later became mining magnates. Some of their offspring went on to be politicians, lawyers, and doctors. Good people. The Kellermans enjoyed the old stories that a German immigrant by the name of Jacob Waltz found the gold. Waltz was a boastful drunken braggart and the Kellermans never corrected the rumors.”

“So, everything the old man told me is true?”

“Yes. Do you have the map? Can I see it?”

Angel got the flashlight and map from her glovebox and handed both to Goji.

He unfolded the map on the hood of the car, then fumbled with the flashlight.

Angel grabbed it from him and pressed the button. She shined the light on Goji to get a better look at him.

“Wow,” she said, “You look fearsome but somehow I’m not afraid of you any longer.”

Goji grabbed the flashlight from her in embarrassment.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. That was rude.”

“That’s okay, I just don’t want to scare you with my beauty. No worries,” he said with a smile.

He pointed to the map with a clawed finger, “See that?”

Angel looked at the map where his clawed finger pointed at a drawing in the corner at the edge.

“I didn’t remember seeing that. It’s a winged creature. It’s a drawing of you on top of a mountain.”

“Kellerman was a good artist. He was always drawing pictures of me when he was a kid. Yes, this is Kellerman’s map.

Angel asked, “He said someone had been following him. Do you think someone knew about the map?”

“Yes, I found two guys lost around the area I was to meet Kellerman. While they were sleeping I found some guns and bottles of booze in their bags. I hid but followed them and heard them talking about killing some old guy. Apparently, they cozied up to Old Kellerman at a bar and while he was drunk he started talking about a lost treasure only he knew where it was hidden. Old Kellerman apparently told them he was to meet someone to help him move the gold. That’s why they were waiting to ambush him.”

Angel asked, “Why would he tell people about it?”

“I don’t think people really ever believed him when he spoke about it. He started drinking a lot after his family died off. I told him never to say anything, but I guess he was rambling and these guys started following him.”

“He seemed pretty scared when we found him. I wonder what happened to those men who had been following him?”

“I broke their necks while they slept at their campsite”

Dumbfounded, Angel just looked at Goji.

“I know. I wouldn’t have killed them but they were talking about killing Old Kellerman. I’ve been friends with the family for over a hundred and fifty years. I was not going to let anything happen to him.”

“I understand, but what did you do with the bodies?”

“I threw their clothes and things in a garbage dumpster in a Gold Canyon housing development and then flew back and laid their bodies in an area where I saw a vulture family nesting.”

“What the fuck?”

“Well, at least it was a humane thing to do. The vulture family had fledglings so the bodies did not go to waste.”

“Oh, okay, I feel better now,” said Angel with a sarcastic tone.

The giant gargoyle ripped the map to shreds.

Angel reached out with her hand but it was too late, “Why did you do that?”

He turned to her and said, “Why do you need the map? I just told you I’m the guardian of the treasure.”

“I, I liked it. I would have kept it as a keepsake.”

“Look Ms. Angel, I have dozens of old maps made by the Kellermans in my cave. I’ll give you the last one he made before this.”

Angel looked up at Goji as the sun rose high over the mountain. His presence among a desert landscape she had always known made her wonder what other things unknown hid among the boulders and rocks surrounding them.

“This is going to sound weird, but have you ever flown a human from one place to another?”

“Yes, once, Old Kellerman when he was a teen. He had asked many times when he was younger but I always refused. It had to be at night. I have always been very careful.” He looked away and closed his eyes for a moment. It was a painful memory of a time past.

“Okay, so, this is weird, no one will believe this, but can you fly me to the nearest gas station?”

“I’m sorry, no,” said the gargoyle.

“What? Why?”

“I mean to say no, not now. When It’s dark I will be happy to fly you near a gas station or closer to civilization.”

Angel muttered to herself, “One more day out here in this heat. My car is too hot. This is crazy.”

“I can, however, fly you nearby.”

Goji pointed to a far mountain spine which spanned the landscape. “I stay in a cave up there. It’s cool away from the sun. Actually, it gets cold. I have food and water if you like?”

Angel, looked up at him, then glanced at the sun which was soon to be high up and the heat would begin baking things like an earthly convection oven.

“Okay, let me get my backpack out of the car.”

She strapped the backpack in front of her body instead of her back as Goji instructed her. He bent and wrapped his huge arms around her small waist and began lifting her. His wings were not like those of a bird, but like those of a bat, a gigantic bat. The heat from his body seared her back and neck and she cried out as they flew away, his tight hold on her while they lifted off made her feel faint. She opened her eyes and looked down. Her car looked like a tiny speck among the landscape of saguaro and mesquite trees. The wavy heat blast of hot winds accompanied their flight as they passed ravens and hawks circling wide and out of their way. He gently lowered her as the beat of wings slowed and the dust settled.

They quietly stood on the steep cliffside looking out at the vibrant colors and hues of greens and browns and shadows that undulated across the panoramic view of the desert. It was breathtaking.

Angel sighed and looked around. “I don’t see a cave.”

“Of course not. It’s hidden.”

Goji effortlessly moved a giant boulder which to Angel had only appeared to be part of the mountain.

He stood before an opening and bowed, “After you.”

Angel wasn’t sure if she should enter the beckoning darkness of what looked like a huge cavern, much of which was the mountain itself. She gingerly entered the cave. They followed a downward path for what seemed like hours. Angel noticed the cooling temperature as they descended. After a time, she was able to see her surroundings as a strange glow appeared around a sharp bend in their path.

Long jagged and pointy russet-gold stalagmites jutted down from the top of the cavernous space high above her. The enormous razor spikes emitted an incandescent bioluminescent glow from bright mosses that hung in between them. It was truly a vision to behold. Angel was an avid hiker and spelunker and relished the idea of spending a lot of time exploring this mountain. With head turned upward she turned in circles and smiled gleefully.

“Wow!” Was all she felt compelled to say. A voice echoed back with another “Wow!” No other words could describe the awe she felt at that moment. A mythical gargoyle, this amazing cavern. What next?

“Watch your step, Ms. Angel,” Said Goji. He pointed down.

“This is bottomless. I would never find you if you fell.”

Angel fell to her knees and peered into a giant pit. With mouth open she turned to look up at Goji.

“Seriously? Bottomless?”

“As far as I have been able to determine. Please step away from there.” He grabbed her arm and helped her up. He steered Angel toward an archway that led into another cave.

“Please have a seat. We have much to discuss.”

The cave was smaller than the cavernous entry. A stream of water trickled nearby. She watched Goji round the large room lighting torches embedded into the rock walls. He grabbed a rope and gently lowered a medieval looking wrought iron round light fixture with hundreds of candles. The sound of the babbling brook echoed as Angel watched Goji patiently light the candles.

He said, “I haven’t lit these in over a century.”

“It’s very beautiful in here,” said Angel as she walked around looking at faded hanging tapestries that belonged in a castle. They looked hauntingly out of place among the jutting red rock walls. The fire’s illuminating glow revealed an ancient petroglyph on the farthest wall in the cave. It depicted a herd of pronghorn antelope that appeared to be running with the flickering shadows of the nearby torchlight, squiggly lines in a row to signify water, dragonflies, and hand imprints with the infinity circle inside the palm. Angel pressed her hand atop one of those hands and kept it there as she imagined who made these wonderous images. Angel had been lost in thought but then turned and found Goji staring at her.

He whispered, “The artwork of an ancient people.” His reverence bespoke that he was equally amazed as she.

Frayed and torn red and blue velvet chairs and couches from another century encircled a fire pit.

“Thank you for trusting me to bring you here,” he said as he sat on an immense block of basalt. “You are the first human I’ve ever brought in here.” He paused. Silence.

Angel suddenly felt nervous. The feeling of being on the precipice of new and unfathomable experiences and emotions did not elude her. She felt special and chosen for a big responsibility. She waited.

“So, I have one request before I bestow my new young,” He paused, took a deep intake of breath, and continued, “and very beautiful new friend with riches beyond belief.”

His yellow eyes bored into Angel. They burned into her soul and she felt shaken but could only stare back at him in fear.

“Are you sure you told no one of the map or what Old Kellerman said to you? I need to be sure.”

“No. I did not mention it to anyone. I felt no one would believe me anyway. My coworkers are jokesters when we’re not working, and since I’m the only female crew member they like to rib me and poke fun, but it’s all in good sport. We get together, but I felt they would make fun of me or make fun of the old guy. I felt really sorry for him. He was so intense.”

“Well then, Ms. Angel, I have a proposition for you. Hear me out.” Goji leaned closer to her and took hold of her hand. It looked small and fragile in his. She noticed his claws were razor sharp, yet, at that moment, her fear dissipated with his warm touch.

“Ms. Angel?”

“Yes?”

“Will you do me the honor of being my friend?”

The pleading intensity with which his almond shaped fiery eyes looked into hers was hopeful, a raw innocence, childlike. It was a simple request, yet it was a plea, a deep longing for a friend. Angel knew this friendship would be the greatest treasure of all. This lonely giant soul needed a friend.

Tears pooled and flowed down her cheeks at the sadness and loneliness this plea exuded. She could not fathom a loneliness that extended centuries.

Angel wiped the tears away and with a smile said,

“I would be truly honored Goji.”

__________

Years passed.

Angel went to medical school and became a respected trauma surgeon. People grew tired of wondering where she would disappear for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. She was so mysterious that they eventually stopped wondering, or worrying, about her disappearances.

Goji and Angel became the best of friends. He relished their discussions about religion, politics, and life in general. He wanted details and the minutia of all the experiences she recounted of her daily life. He was fascinated with technology and the human advancements in science and space travel. Discussions of alien worlds, UFOs, quantum physics, and multiverses, and nanotechnology were his favorite topics of discussion. She brought books, newspapers, and magazines to his cave. His thirst for any and all information was voracious.

The day Angel gave Goji a smartphone they both laughed because she was his only listed contact. She rolled on the floor, laughing uncontrollably, in her office the day she received a selfie from him.

In time, Angel created the GOJI Charitable Foundation which helped the poor and sick around the world.  Hospitals and research facilities in the Kellerman name were founded. This was the dream of both Goji and Angel. They worked together on all of these projects. Angel sought Goji’s advice on everything. It was a marriage of sorts.

Their fondness for each other was unspoken and unrequited, yet clearly evident in the amount of time they spent together, in that cavern, or on those long and moonlit night flights they so loved to take together.

Throughout the years, Goji and Angel, planned and arranged meeting at mapped out destinations around the world. They walked among Egyptian and Aztec pyramids on moonless nights. The South American jungles held no fear for Angel as long as she walked with Goji. Angel charted planes to private islands, and there she would wait for Goji to alight on the midnight beaches where they would walk and talk until daylight. A winged preternatural being landing in a foggy landscape was a sight to behold, and it never ceased to fill Angel with heart-pounding awe.

__________

One evening, Angel died in Goji’s arms. It was where she wanted to be. For over sixty-five years they had been dear friends, comrades, and confidants. Later, in a private ceremony, seen only by bats and quiet slithering things, Goji threw a handful of orange and yellow cactus blooms and wildflowers. He watched them float downward, into the bottomless pit, now a sacred sepulcher. A soft echo of a whisper floated upward, then silence. He stood motionless at the edge for hours, like a stone statue on the high parapet of an ancient cathedral.

Not long after that, Goji, an ancient from Kemet, moved the boulder into place to hide the cavern forever and he flew off into an obsidian Arizona night.

 

~ end

 

Gargoyle

 

Diana Garcia is an Arizona native currently residing in Prescott, Arizona. She has a journalism degree from Arizona State University, Walter Cronkrite School; and is a researcher, photojournalist, performance poet and storyteller. Short stories of varying genres are her favorite story telling medium, which have been published, along with her poetry, in a few anthologies. Her writing strongly reflects her strong cultural ties to her indigenous Mexica and Xicano heritage. She is currently researching and writing a historical novel, as well as an anthology of her poetry and short stories.

Note from Juliette:

I love this story so much. Thank you Diana for writing it and letting me share it with my readers. All of her stories are from the heart and will transport you to another time and place.

For more information about Diana and her other works please see the FaceBook link below. Or click here for more information.

“Goji and the Angel” was featured in the WPaD Anthology “Weirder Tales.

Diana is a founding member of WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) and I am proud and honored to say she is my friend. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Weird Tales_Diana_11x17 (3)

 

Last Call by R James Turley

Today I’m honored to share a story from my friend, and one of my favorite WordPress bloggers R James Turley.

 

Last Call

by R James Turley 

 

When Suzy Night was introduced on stage, Ron’s mouth dropped open.  She had a walk made for a run-way, and a body that just wouldn’t quit.  Ron knew Kathy was going to hire a new singer, but didn’t know who.  He did now.  Those legs, that long dark hair stretched down her back.  Ron stared at her, wondering what it’d be like to kiss those lushes lips.

“What do you think of our new singer?”  Kathy sat down beside him at the table, two rows from the stage.

“She’s gorgeous,” he poured wine in both of their glasses.  “Where did you find her?”

“She came in on open MIC night, and just started singing,” Kathy lifted her glass toward the stage.

Why couldn’t Ron be here that night?  Then he would’ve met her.  Maybe it’s a good thing he wasn’t.  He might have just made a fool out of himself trying to impress her.

Suzy’s voice was as stunning as she was; soft and smoky.  It carried throughout the room in perfect pitch.  Ron just had to get to know her.  He almost couldn’t stand not being able to touch her now.

He poured another glass of wine for Kathy, “Is she from around here?  How old is she?  Does she have a boyfriend?”

“Easy there, lover boy.  I got the impression she’s seeing somebody,” Kathy sipped her wine.  “Besides, she’s half your age.”

Ron didn’t care at the moment.  He was enjoying fantasizing about him and Suzy.  He wished he could rise up out of that wheelchair, and go on stage to sing with her.  What he wouldn’t give for that.

“You are going to introduce me, aren’t you?”  Ron looked at Kathy with a cryptic smile.

“After she’s done, but get rid of your google eyes.”

“Yes mother,” he laughed.

“Funny,” she said, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.  “You should write comedy.”

In a lot of ways, Ron did think of her as a mother figure.  Kathy was always there for him when he needed her.  She’d helped his mother take care of him when Ron’s father was out of town on business.  And, she helped him get through that rough time when Ron’s parents died three months apart.  Kathy meant a lot to Ron, and he didn’t know what he would do without her.

The scattered Sunday night crowed stood up and applauded after Suzy finished her two songs.  Ron leaned over to tell Kathy something, but she was already headed toward the backstage door.

“She’ll be out in a minute,” Kathy said, sitting back down at the table.  “You want some scotch”

“Please,” Ron nodded.  “Neat.”

“Ah, what is it with you and no ice?”  Kathy waved over the waitress.

“I don’t know,” Ron shrugged his shoulders.  “Never that fond of ice, I guess, plus it waters it down.”

“Hi Kath, how you doing?”  The chipper waitress asked.

“Irene, did you meet Ron?”  She cocked her head toward him.

“Not yet,” she stuck her hand out to shake.  “How you doin?

Taking her hand, “Nice to meet you.”

“Can I have some Ice-water, and Ron would like some Scotch without ice.”

“Scotch neat,” Irene said.  “That’s the way my pappy used to drink it.”

Ron noticed the backstage door open.  Suzy was walking toward the table.  She was wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt, with her hair pulled up in two pig tails. If Ron was standing, he would have fallen over her beauty.  She stopped at the table next to his, and hugged the guy sitting there.  Ron felt a spark of jealousy,  then he felt guilty for it.  Why should he be jealous?  He didn’t even know her.

Suzy walked over to the table, with her friend right behind her.  “Hi miss Oden,” she kissed Kathy on the cheek.  “How’d I do?”

“I told you Suzy, call me Kathy,” she got up and hugged Suzy.  “You were fabulous.  Suzy, this is Ron, he’s my business partner.”

“Hi,” she smiled at Ron.  “This is…”

“Danny Alm,” Ron said in amazement.  “You were rookie of the year with Portland.”

“I guess you do know who he is,” Suzy giggled.

Ron shook Danny’s hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“You a basketball fan?”  Danny asked, looking at the wheelchair.

“A huge one.”  Ron tapped his hand on the arm of his wheelchair, “Play too.”

“Sit down,” Kathy said, pulling out a chair.

As the crowd got smaller, and it got closer to closing time, the four of them just sat and talked, and got more acquainted with one another.  Ron was even more impressed with Suzy, how intelligent and well-spoken she was.

At three-AM Suzy finally said, “We have to go.  I have to take Danny to the airport.”

“You’re flying now?”  Kathy asked, in a voice two octaves higher than she normally sounds.

“I’ve got to be back in Portland tomorrow night.  We had today off, so I just came in to see Suzy,” Danny said, getting out of the chair.  “It was nice meeting you guys,” he through a twenty-dollar bill on the table.

“I’ll see you on TV,” Ron said with a chuckle.

Ron waited for Kathy while she helped Irene clean up, and then walked her to her car. He watched her drive off, wheeled around the corner to his two-story apartment building where he lived on the first floor.

Ron didn’t do much of anything, and tried to conserve his energy, on game days. Even though he was reduced to playing about twelve minutes a game, he wanted to be able to leave it all on the court when called on.  The players respected, and looked up to Ron for what he has done for wheelchair basketball. Both on the court and off, Ron has been an ambassador for the game.  He traveled across the country with the U.S.A. Paralympic team showing off his skills, and talking about the game.

Normally Ron’s focus would be totally on the up-coming game, but he couldn’t keep Suzy from his thoughts.  He turned on the news channel to get his mind off Suzy.

A gentle knock at the door caught his attention.  He wheeled over and looked out the peep hole.  He had to look a second time to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. He opened the door to see Suzy, and all her loveliness, standing there.

“I hope you don’t mind.  Kathy told me where you lived.”

“Not at all,” he said in delight, trying to control his emotions.  “Come on in,” inside, Ron was jumping for joy.  “Would you like something to drink?”

“Soda, if you have it,” she smiled.

Ron nodded, offered Suzy a seat and wheeled into the kitchen.  When he came back Suzy was in the recliner that was facing the TV in the living room, her tote bag on the floor beside her.  Ron couldn’t believe Suzy Night was in his apartment. He felt like a school kid.

Suzy watched him wheel toward her with a can of Coke and a glass in his lap, and a bottle of fruit juice nestled between his leg and the side of the chair.  He opened the can, and poured it in the glass for her.

“Thank you,” she said, accepting the glass.  She took a sip and said, “I have something for you.”

“You do,” his voice rose with surprise and excitement.  He opened the bottle of fruit juice, hoping he wasn’t blushing.

She pulled out a manila envelope from her bag, “Danny wanted you to have this.”

“He did?”  He opened the envelope, “Wow!” pulling out an autograph picture of Danny dunking a basketball.  “This is great.  Tell him thank you.”

“He was impressed when you said you played,” she poured the rest of the soda into the glass.  “How long have you played?”

“Since I was a kid, my mom got me into it.  I guess she wanted me to have something to do,” he chuckled and took a drink of juice. He realized that the anniversary of her death is quickly approaching.  Could it be sixteen years?  “I also got a chance to play with the US Paralympic team.”

“Really!” her eyes grew bigger as she gazed into his.  “You played in other countries?”

“A few,” he tossed his empty bottle into the recycle bin.

“How often do you play now?”

“A couple times a week.  I have a game tonight, actually,” he pointed to his game jersey hanging on the bedroom door knob.

Finishing her drink, “I’d like to come and watch sometime.”

He was glad to hear that.  “Come with Kathy sometime, she comes to a lot.”

Looking at her watch, “Thanks for the Coke,” she stood up, “but I got to go.  I have some running around to do before I meet my mother for her birthday.”

“Okay, let me get the door.”  Wheeling over and opening the door, “Thanks for the picture.  Hope you have fun with your mother.”

“Thanks, I will.”  She gave him a friendly hug.  “Good luck tonight.”

He looked into her brown eyes, “I’ll see you at the club,” and watched her walk away.

The team bus came to pick Ron up at five for their game in Tampa at eight.  Ron was one of the last ones to be picked up. His teammates were lost in thought or listening to music.  After Ron got his chair locked in, the coach looked back at him to tell Ron that he was starting tonight.

Ron hasn’t started a game since the last game of last season, and hadn’t been a full time starter for three years.  He had to fight to make the team this year.  He played the game smart, and the coach liked that.  Something must be wrong with Tim, the starting Point Guard.

Kathy and Suzy were in the stands when the team came out of the locker room.  Now Ron was nervous.  He didn’t expect to see Suzy at a game so soon.  Ron missed most of the practice shots he took before the game. He had to calm himself.

He drank some water, and took a deep breath before taking the court for the start of the game.  The tip-off came straight to him, and all his nervousness vanished.  He ran the first play flawlessly, and played like he had been starting all season.  It was Ron’s best game in almost four years with seven points, and twelve assists, in their nineteenth win of the season.

Ron took his gym bag to his room, switched chairs, and wheeled over to Last Call.  Kathy and Suzy were at the bar sharing a bottle of wine at the end of the bar when he came in.  He wheeled up to where the bar was low enough for his wheelchair.  Irene poured a scotch and set it in front of him.

“I heard about tonight, congratulations!”  She bumped her fist against his.  “You want something to eat?

“Just a salad, please,” he said, after sipping his drink.

Kathy picked up the bottle, and her and Suzy walked to the beat of the music toward Ron.  Kathy kissed him on the cheek, and Suzy, from behind him, put her arms around his shoulders. They sat down on either side of him. Ron didn’t know what he was more excited about, the game, or the fact the Suzy saw it.

“Great game Ron,” Kathy said, empting the wine bottle into her glass.  “Where’d that come from?”

Ron shrugged his shoulders, “Don’t know, must’ve been bottled up.”

Ron caught Suzy watching him eat.  He wanted to ask her out, but not in front of Kathy.  He didn’t want to hear her say that it was a bad idea.  Besides, it’s none of her business who he asked out.  She went to the office to check on the beer orders for tomorrow.  Now was his chance.

“Suzy,” he nervously said.  “Would you like to have dinner sometime?”  He took the last bite of his salad.

She grinned ear to ear, nodding her head, and said, “I’d love to.”

“I’m free tomorrow,” she said, looking into his eyes.

“Great! How about around seven?  I’ll cook,” he said, before finishing his drink.

“I’ll be there.”

Ron yelled into the office saying goodbye to Kathy, gave Suzy a hug and wheeled off. Excited about his date tomorrow, he couldn’t sleep.  He wondered what to serve.  Damn, I should’ve asked her.  He finally decided on Chicken Parmesan.   With that settled, he slowly drifted off to sleep.

Suzy arrived a little before seven dressed to kill.  Wearing a short royal blue cocktail dress hugging her body with spaghetti straps on the shoulder, and her hair was pulled up in the back with a white bow.  Ron’s jaw dropped open when he saw her.

“Come on in,” he said, waving her in.  “Make yourself at home.  You want some wine?”

“Yes,” she nodded, and smiled at him.  “Let me help you.”

He wasn’t going to say no, he followed her into the kitchen, enjoying the view.  She got the glasses from the cupboard while he opened the fridge.

“Is white alright?  That’s all I have.”

“Yes. Dinner smells good”

“Thanks. I hope you like chicken parmesan.”

“Yum, I love it,” she said, rubbing her belly.

The dinner started with a fresh garden salad, which Ron ate at least three times a week.  He might not be as fit as he once was, but he was in the habit of eating healthy.

After dinner, they shifted to the couch where the conversation was very nice. Ron talked mostly about his basketball career, and shared some pictures with Suzy.  They talked until almost midnight, and then Suzy got ready to leave.

“I had a nice time,” she said, staring into his eyes.  “I’m glad you asked me.”

Ron was happy to hear that.  “I had fun too,” he gazed back at her.

“Are you coming to the bar tomorrow night,” she opened the door.

“I’ll be over after my game.  We play at home tomorrow so it won’t be that late.”

She kissed him on his cheek, hugged him tightly, and walked out the door.  Ron watched her until she disappeared into to lobby of the building.  He was scolding himself for not taking a chance to kiss her the way he dreamed of doing since the first time he saw her.  It will happen in time, he thought.  I don’t want to push her away.

Ron got to Last Call in time to hear Suzy sing.  He had another good game after his second straight start.  Ron was starting to feel that Suzy was his good luck charm, and he was feeling like he used to on the basketball court.

Looking around the room that was half full, he noticed Kathy sitting with Danny Alm. Danny must have flown in to see Suzy. Ron wheeled over to the table.

“Hey Ron. How was the game?”  Kathy moved a chair out of the way.

“We won,” Ron said, proudly.  “I started again.”

“How’d you do?”  Kathy asked while waving over Irene.

“I had a few points, a couple assists.  I’m getting my game back,” Ron said, locking his chair into place.  He looked at Danny, “Thanks for the picture, I love it!  You fly in for the night?”

“Hi Ron,” Irene said.  “Some scotch?”

“Please,” he smiled at her.

“Coming right up,” Irene turned and headed toward the bar

“We play in Orlando tomorrow so I figured I’d drive down for a few hours,” Danny said, looking at Ron.

Ron saw Suzy come out the back stage door.  Right away he noticed something different, in her face, from last night. Danny stood up from the table, took Suzy in his arms, and kissed her passionately.  Ron felt sick, like someone punched him in the stomach.  He looked at Kathy, told her he’d be back, and wheeled toward the men’s room.

After he splashed some water on his face, he headed back toward the table.  Kathy was waiting for him at the bar.

“Are you alright?”  She handed his drink to him.  “I didn’t know you two had dinner last night.”

“Yes. We had a nice time.  I thought it could lead somewhere.”  Ron took a big gulp of his drink.  “What happened?”

“Danny happened.  They decided to be a couple again, I’m sorry.”

Kathy put her arms around his shoulders, kissed his forehead, and hugged him tightly. Ron asked Kathy to make up an excuse and he left, feeling rejected.  A jubilant night turned into a nightmare.

The next afternoon, still feeling depressed, Ron waited for Kathy to bring him lunch.  He was going to try to eat even though his appetite wasn’t there.  Kathy always knew what to say to make Ron feel better.  But there wasn’t a way to take the pain of a lonely heart away.

A knock at the door interrupted the constant image of Danny kissing Suzy.  He wheeled over and opened the door, not bothering to look through the peep hole.

“Can I come in?”  Suzy stood there with tears in her eyes.

“Sure,” he said, backing up to let her pass.

Even with bloodshot eyes and makeup trickling down her cheeks, she was the most beautiful woman Ron had ever seen.  He hated to see any woman cry, but he’d do anything to make Suzy stop. But, he also wanted answers.

“Why you here, Suzy?”  He mustered up the courage to ask.

“I had to,” she sobbed.

“Had to what?” rubbing his forehead.

“Say yes,” she took a deep breath, and held her left hand out.

Ron opened his eyes wide, “You’re getting married?”

She looked him in the eye, tears watering her cheeks, nose running, and nodded her head. “No one else knows,” she put her head down, staring at the floor, as if she were shameful.

“Suzy,” he said, coming from the kitchen with a can of Coke and a box of tissues. “Explain this to me.”

She blew her nose and took a sip of soda, “My mother said I had to or she would disown me,” Suzy whispered.

“I don’t get it Suz. Why would your mother say that?”

“I don’t know, but she always makes good on her threats.”  She looked at her watch, stood up, and said, “I have to go. We’re going to see Danny play tonight.”

He watched her walk out the door, and maybe, out of his life.  Over before it started.  Was she telling me everything?  He had a sneaky suspicion she wasn’t, but why?

A knock on the door startled him.  “It’s me,” Kathy said, letting herself in.  “I brought hoagies.”

“Set them on the table,” Ron said, sounding serious.

“What’s wrong?”  She looked at Ron with her eyes as big as saucers.

He couldn’t hide anything from her.  “Suzy was just here.”

“Why?”

“I’m not sure I got the whole story, but she told me her and Danny are getting married.”

Kathy looked up from the table with a shocked look on her face, “When did this happen?”

“I guess yesterday before she went to the bar,” he said, wheeling over to the table. “She said nobody knew, and that she had too.”

“Had too? Why?”

“Or her mother would disown her.  I don’t know?”  Ron cut his sandwich in half, “She didn’t seem real happy about it, crying the whole time she was here.”

Kathy swallowed the piece of hoagie, “Now that you mention it, Suzy did seem a little distracted last night.  And she kept rambling on about how happy she was.”

“Maybe she was trying to convince herself,” Ron wheeled into the kitchen for two bottled waters.  Coming out of the kitchen he added, “She went over to Orlando tonight to see Danny play.”

“I know,” Kathy took the water from his hand.  “Her and her mother are staying over, they’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.”

Ron didn’t feel like going to the bar that night, and stayed home, no matter how much Kathy tried to talk him into going.  Every time he would’ve looked on stage he’d be reminded that Suzy was in Orlando watching her future husband play basketball.  He couldn’t take the pain.  He spent the night reading a spy novel.  His new found hobby, temporary as it might be.

The next afternoon Ron got a phone call from Kathy asking him to come over to the bar to talk.  He figured it was going to be a business conversation.  Irene was already there setting up for that evening.  Kathy came out from the office and they sat at a table next to the bar.  Irene joined them.

“I think we may know why Suzy agreed to marry Danny,” Kathy said, looking at Ron. She looked at Irene and said, “Tell him what you told me.”

Irene stared into Ron’s eyes, “I heard them arguing a couple of days ago when he was here. They were outside the ladies room. It wasn’t busy yet, and I guess they thought no one would hear.  But I heard him say if she didn’t marry him, that he was going to hurt her mother.”

Ron felt a twinge of rage build up inside of him that if he stood up, he could walk. He looked at Kathy, “We have to talk to her mother.  See if she knows why they got engaged.”

Kathy’s gaze shifted between Ron and Irene.  “I think she’s coming to hear Suzy sing tonight.  I’ll make up an excuse to take to her in the office, see what I can find out.”

Ron went back to Last Call before it opened for the evening.  He wanted to be there when Kathy talked to Suzy’s mother, Grace.  He was at the bar talking with Irene when Suzy and Grace walked in.  Kathy quickly came out of the office to great them. Suzy went backstage right away, she was the first act that night.  Grace followed Kathy into the office.  Kathy put her hands in front of her so Ron could see them as to say stay there.

Ron made his way to an empty table closer to the stage.  Not close enough to where Suzy would be able to see him from the stage. Kathy and Grace joined him after about half-hour.

“This is my business partner, Ron,” Kathy said, as her and Grace sat down.

“So you’re Ron,” Grace shook his hand.  “Suzy went on and on about you the other day.”

Ron smiled at her, “It’s very nice to meet you.  Did you enjoy your birthday?”

“Thank you, yes.  We had a lovely lunch,” she gazed into his eyes.  “I hear you play basketball, and done some traveling.”

“He’s played all over Europe,” Kathy said, raising her eyebrows toward Ron.

“That’s wonderful,” Grace put her hand on top of his resting on the table.

“Did you have a good time at the game last night?”  He took a sip of Scotch.

She sat back in her chair, “I went more for Suzy.”  She folded her arms and added, “I don’t really care for that Danny. He may seem all nice and sweet, but he thinks he’s God’s gift to the world.”

Kathy sat up in her seat, “Why do you say that?”

“He thinks he’s entitled to everything.  He’s so sure he’s going to marry Suzy,” she leaned forward.  “She has told him they’re only friends so many times I lost count,” she waved her hand toward the floor and stood up. “Excuse me, where’s the ladies room?”

“Around the bar,” Kathy pointed towards the restrooms.  “You want a drink?”

“Screwdriver, please,” she said, before turning toward the restrooms.

Ron raised his eyebrows, “She doesn’t know.  What did you talk about in the office?”

“Nothing, just small talk,” she said, motioning at Irene to come over.  “Talked mostly about how Suzy always loved to sing.”

“If she doesn’t know then why the hell would Suzy say her mother would disown her?”  Ron angrily said, and gulped the rest of his Scotch.  “Should we tell her?”

“No,” Kathy shook her head.  “Let me talk to Suzy.  Find out what’s going on.”

Suzy came out of the back stage door and sat with Ron after the show.  She wasn’t her usual bubbly self after a performance. Ron had more drinks than he normally had, but was still in control.  Grace had been gone for over an hour, and Kathy was in the office doing paper work. Ron had enough Scotch in him to ask Suzy about her engagement.  He figured he better put some alcohol into her if he wanted some answers.

“Ron,” she said, on her third screwdriver loaded heavily with Vodka.  “Even though I haven’t know you long, I wish Danny was more like you.”

“How do you mean?”  He asked, resting his chin on his fist.

“Well,” she set her empty glass on the table.  “You’re so sweet, and don’t seem demanding like Danny is sometimes.”

“Demanding how?”  He set back and folded his arms.

“He just is.  He didn’t really ask me.  He just said let’s get married,” she took a deep breath.

Ron put his hand on top of hers and wrapped his fingers around hers.  “Why’d you agree?”

“Because,” she swallowed. “I didn’t want him to get my mother in trouble,” she said as clearly as she could.  “She has a little bit of a gambling problem.”

Ron noticed Kathy walking toward the table, “How’d Danny find out?”

Shrugging her shoulders, “I don’t know,” Suzy slurred.

“You don’t look like you can drive home,” Kathy rubbed Suzy’s back.  “Come on, I have an extra bed.”

“Okay,” Suzy nodded.  “I have to pee first.”

Kathy watched her walk out of sight, turned toward Ron, “What did you do?”

Ron put his arms out to the side, “What?  I got her to talk.”

“What’d she say?”

“That Danny threatened her mother,” he saw Suzy come around the corner and nodded toward her.  “I’ll fill you in later if she doesn’t.”

Lying in bed, that night, Ron got madder the more he thought about what Danny was doing. He was also relieved Suzy didn’t really want to marry him.  He needed to find out how Danny found out about Grace.  If possible, without Danny knowing.

The phone woke Ron just after noon.  He didn’t fall asleep until around six in the morning.  Thinking about how he could help Suzy wouldn’t let him sleep.  He opened his unfocused eyes and searched with his hand until he found the phone.

He hung up the receiver.  He almost forgot about the game tonight.  His coach called to tell him that Tim would be out the rest of the season, and Ron would be starting the rest of the year.  He was wavering all year about retiring from basketball after the season. Now he was having second thoughts, especially after the last two games.

After a quick shower and something to eat, he called Kathy to remind her about his game. He also wanted to find out if Suzy said anything more to her.

She had taken Suzy home and was at the club, and asked Ron to come over.

“What’s up?” he said, wheeling into Kathy’s office.

She looked up from reading the newspaper, “I know someone up in Holiday, his name is Bill, who owns a strip club.  He also runs a gambling ring.  How big, I don’t know.  I’ve got a message for him to call me back”

“A lot of sleazy clubs up there, I’m sure some have gambling ties.”

“I know,” she said, as she came around the desk.  “But you never know, he could be the one, or someone he knows.  You want some coffee?”

“Always can use coffee,” he flashed silly grin.

She chuckled as she walked out of the office.  “Where you play tonight?” she said walking back in.

“St Pete,” taking a mug from her.  “I’m starting the rest of the year.”

She looked at him like a proud mother would and clinked her mug against his, “That must feel good?”

He bashfully smiled, “Yeah.”

Ron got to the club a little before twelve, not long after Kathy.  Right before he was to be picked up she called to say she was going to the game.  Their third win in a row, and forth in the last five games.  Ron couldn’t remember the last time he felt so comfortable on the court.

“You looked good out there,” Kathy said, as Ron wheeled in.

He rolled up to the bar.  Irene poured him a Scotch and got him a salad.  Kathy walked up beside him, and he asked, “Did your friend call you back?”

She took a drink of her bottled water and said, “He did, and he doesn’t know her. But something interesting; he knows Tony, the guy who runs a strip joint called The Play Pen.  He handles bets for one Danny Alm.”

“That’s probably how he knows about Grace to,” he said, as he stabbed the last cucumber with his fork.  He bit it off his fork and added, “I’m betting Suzy doesn’t know about him.”

“That would be my guess,” she picked up a bite size pretzel out of the bowl on the bar, and popped it in her mouth.

Ron did some research, the next day, on Danny’s back ground.  He was reprimanded at Florida State for betting on college and NFL football games, but not to the point of being suspended.  Ron wondered if he also bet on basketball and it got covered up.

He started to dial Kathy’s number when he heard a knock and Kathy’s voice, “Ron, you there?”

“Yeah Kath, come on in.”

She walked in the door, gave him a peck on the lips, and said, “I think I found out that Danny bets on basketball.”

“How’d you do that?”

She sat at the table after getting a soda from the fridge, and said, “I went to see Bill to bet on Portland to win their game tonight.  Wouldn’t you know it, Tony was there.  I guess Tony took a shine to me, cause he tried to warn me how they were going lose to the Brooklynn.  Saying he’s got a source from the team saying they’re too tired.  I figured that source has to be Danny.”

Ron looked at her with a boyish grin, raised his eyebrows, “He also bet on football when he was in school.  Ask Suzy when he’s coming into town again.  I’ll confront him about it.”

“I don’t think that’s a real good idea, Ron,” she sat up and put her hands on her hips.”

“Why not?” he mocked her movement.

Resisting a smile, she said, “Cause you don’t know the kind of people he might know. It could be dangerous.”

“Yeah, I know. He put is arms on the table, “But we have to do something.”

“I know,” she got up and put her arms around him.  “I have to go.  I’ll think of something.  You coming later?  Suzy’s singing.”

“I’ll be there,” he held the door open watching her leave.

Ron waited about a half hour, and called Suzy.  Twenty minutes later she was knocking on his door.  He opened the door and his heart skipped a beat.

“Come in,” he said.  She bent down and hugged him.  It was only a day, but it seemed like years since he saw her.  Ron didn’t want to let go of the embrace.

“How you doing?” she said, smoothing his hair.

“I’m good. Come in, sit down,” he motioned toward the couch.  “You want something to drink?”

She shook her head, “I’m good,” and smiled at him.

“I have something to tell you.”  He swallowed hard, “I know how Danny knows about your mother’s problem.”

A confused look came over her face, “How?”

“Because your mom and Danny have the same bookie.  Kathy met him this morning,” he leaned forward in his chair.  “I don’t think he actually threated Grace.  Did you know that Danny Gambled?”

She shook her head, “I had no idea.  Do you know how long?”

“I was checking that earlier and found out he bet on football in college.  It didn’t say if he bet on basketball, but I wonder.”

“If he did, wouldn’t that be, like, cheating?”

“Yes.  We suspect he might be betting on basketball, or cheating now,” he said in a low whisper.

Suzy stood up, let out a deep breath, and walked to the bathroom.  She emerged five minutes later, her eyes glassy.  It was obvious she was crying.  He wanted so much to hold her, but wasn’t sure if he should. He was surprised when she hugged him tightly.

“Thank you for telling me,” she said, gazing into his eyes.  “Are you coming tonight?”

“Honey, wild horses couldn’t keep me away,” he smiled at her.  “What are you going to do?”

“When he calls later I’ll tell him we’re not getting married,” she playfully yanked on his hair.  “If he asks why, I’ll say I found someone else,” she slipped the ring off of her finger. “And if that doesn’t work, I’ll say I know about the gambling.”  She leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the lips.

Ron got to Last Call before that evenings show.  He wanted a chance to talk to Suzy before it began.  He stopped at the bar to say hi to Kathy and Irene before he continued to a table.  He saw Suzy peek out of the back stage door, and smiled at her.

“Hi,” she motioned with her mouth, walking to the table.

Ron was awe struck.  She was wearing a purple evening gown with just the right amount of glitter to make it shine, and wavy curls in her hair.  “Hi,” he said, studying her up and down.  “You look fantastic.”

She sat down, leaned over and kissed him, “Thank you.  You look wonderful too,” she whispered in his ear as she was hugging him.

“Did you talk to Danny?”

“Yes. We came to an understanding.”

“Which is?”

“He going to leave me alone, and I’m going to keep his little secret,” she smiled, and kissed him hard.

“What the hell did I miss?” Kathy said, standing over them.

“When did you show up,” Ron shockingly said.

“Just in time to see the kiss.”  Kathy put her hands on her hips, and tried to hide a smile, “What is going on?”

“She’s with me, I’m with her,” Ron pointed between him and Suzy, and cackling like a teenager.

Ron made a decision that night.  He was going to play his last five game of the year, and hang up his jersey, no matter how well he was playing, and was going to take more of an interest in Last Call.

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

R James Turley started writing poetry in his thirties. Soon after he wrote short stories with a head full of characters. His work has been published by Yahoo! Voices, and the WPaD anthology’s, Creepies 2: Thing that go Bump in the Closet, Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe, Escape from the Planet of the Deviants, Weirder Tales and Creepies 3.

R James writes from Florida where the sun sets into the Gulf of Mexico.

Bjturley.com

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Come back for more great fiction from other guest writers. I’ll be featuring a variety of short stories from many genres. Seriously folks, these are some of the best fiction writers currently producing work. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman