Short Fiction: Play Date

The last day stuck in his memory.

Josh had left the meeting and work for the day. He needed to think. 

Coffee and avocado toast. He’d found a seat by the window. Four hours of negotiations on the acquisition. 

His phone dinged quietly with a text from his sister Kitty. She’d started the seedlings for her summer garden. It was only March but it was time for her. Every year he’d go to her house and help her can salsa and a myriad of other wonderful magical things she’d fit into Mason jars. Then they’d go on her deck where they’d drink beer and eat chips and salsa, and talk about everything, and nothing at all. She’d always pin her hair up and wear dangling earrings.  Her laugh was infectious. He had needed that laugh after all of his meetings that morning. Jake would call her later.

Right now it was an exhausting and shitty day.  Nobody was happy. Nobody would listen. He’d had an intelligent well thought out plan. It was a cluster fuck of already made ignorant opinions. Nothing was backed up with facts or experience. 

On the way home a ladder had fallen from a utility truck, hit a car a few places ahead of him on the freeway.  The next thing Jake knew a woman was holding his arm and they were both covered with blood. 

His arm was broken, his face was bruised and cut, his entire body felt like he’d been beaten with a baseball bat then thrown off of a cliff.  His car was totaled.  Stitches went from his left ear down his jawline to his chin.  Three pins or screws or something was now holding his arms together. The headaches lasted weeks. 

The woman went to the hospital with him. She held his hand. Her name was Scarlet. The last thing he said to her was, “make sure someone feeds my cat.”

It was the last day before everything shut down. 

At home he didn’t need a car. He couldn’t have driven anyway for the next few weeks. Using a keyboard was almost impossible with two hands. If he had to go out he could take an Uber or Lyft. Food could be delivered. Cat food and litter could be delivered. No problem. 

Zoomie the gray tabby kitten was delighted to keep him company.  Unfortunately his girlfriend had moved back in with her ex the day he got out of the hospital.

By April a new car had been delivered and now had almost eighty miles on it. He wasn’t going anywhere. All work was at home. At least work was going well and keeping him busy. He’d hired three people he’d yet to meet in person.  A woman named Emerald had been cleaning his house since he’d come home with the broken arm.

By June the depression rolled in so he would put Zoomie in a backpack or in his harness and go for long walks.  By July his sister was canning without him. His brother and parents had driven down to see him a few times. It was always great to see them. They begged him to come up and stay with them but he was too busy with work. He’d bake cookies for Emerald to bring home to her husband and kids. 

At the end of July he could pull his hair back in a ponytail. He’d started working out again. Zoomie was getting huge.  

One morning on Facebook he saw where a friend of a friend posted something about a dog. My brother passed away. His dog Daisy needs a home. Daisy is a sweet five-year-old German Shepard/Lab mix. She is well trained. We don’t want to take her to a shelter.

Without thinking more than five minutes about it Josh called the number. A man answered. He said his neighbor would drop off the dog.

A few hours later he got at text. I’m outside in your front yard with Daisy.

Daisy stood wagging her tail and wiggling with happiness. A pretty brown haired woman wearing a sundress held Daisy’s leash. At least he thought she was pretty. Her eyes were pretty above the mask.

She introduced Daisy to Josh, then said, “How are you Josh? Do you remember me?”

He couldn’t quite place her.

“I was in that accident when you broke your arm. I was in one of the other cars. I’m Scarlet. Do you remember me?”

“Oh, wow. Scarlet. It’s good to see you.”

“Good to see you too. You look good. Thank you for the nice letter and the flowers,” then she laughed, “and the toilet paper.”

In September Josh cleaned out the texts in his phone and found Scarlet’s message. I’m outside in your front yard with Daisy. Right now Daisy was at his feet snoring with Zoomie curled up at her side.

Outside the smoke from the fires made it unhealthy to walk. Josh put on music and danced while playing with Zoomie and Daisy. Then he pulled his hair back and attended Zoom meetings, trying to look like he was normal.  He noticed how the scar on his face showed up, not so much ugly or disturbing but interesting. 

There were Zoom calls with work and friends. His family stopped by once a month. A few friends came by. Josh talked to his neighbors. The world was opening up. It wasn’t the world where he’d stop for coffee and avocado toast when he wanted to think. This was a world of protests, and weirdness, hate, and mean politics. But in his own bubble it was a world of people who’d reached out. It was a world where he treasured each phone call and guarded visitor. It was a world where Zoomie and Daisy were his own tiny family with their own habits and secrets.

One Saturday right before Halloween he received a text. Hi. Do you mind if I bring my dog Crystal over? She and Daisy used to be great friends. In fact, they’re sisters from the same litter.  I thought it would be fun to have a play date.

Josh thoughtI could use a play date too. 

Then he texted back,That would be awesome. Bring Crystal over anytime.

Opening and closing his hand Josh still felt a little bit of numbness and a little ache.  He’d be fine. It would be more than fine.

~ end

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Note: I’m just fooling around with some ideas for much larger and more detailed stories. As we all stay at home, worry about the election tomorrow, and think about the well being of those we care about we’re still side tracked by other challenges. Fortunately good things still happen. This might get worked into my 2020 NaNoWriMo project. You never know.

Have fun. Stay creative. Stay safe. Wear your mask. Vote. Check in on those who might need extra help both mentally and physically. Hug your kids. Kiss a Vampire. And keep checking back for more silly stuff.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Photo by Carlos Mossmann on Pexels.com

Short Story Sunday: Too Hot To Wear Black

Damn. At 107°F is was way too hot to wear black.

It felt like 250°F inside because the air conditioning had gone out the day before. It was Sunday and nobody could come out and fix it until Tuesday or maybe even Wednesday.

Elizabeth looked in the closet and grabbed a blue and yellow sundress. Screw wearing any kind of bra. It was too hot for that. She slipped on a pair of black flip flops and small diamond posts. It was even too hot for dangling earrings or hoops. Earrings in this weather tended to get hot and burn her neck.

She threw some extra clothes, her laptop, the book she was reading, and whatever else she’d need for the next few days in a backpack.

In the kitchen two dogs were laying on the tile, which was still cooler than anything else in the house. Sage, an extremely large black and tan German Shepard was snoring. Jack, an old yellow Lab mix with a black tail and white feet was wagging his tail as he hoped his cuteness would bring treats.

After packing up dog bowls, toys, treats and kibble she called the dogs out to the car.

When she opened the car door the blast of hit air was like a friggin furnace. The dogs jumped in the backseat. Elizabeth turned on the air conditioner and headed out.

Damn it was hot. The radio played some Fleetwood Mac song. Damn she hated Fleetwood Mac. How could anyone listen to that crap. She flipped through the stations and got an awful live version of Jimmy Buffet singing Boat Drinks in front of an obviously stoned crowd, then she got some whiny girl singing about her boyfriend. She’d had enough with annoying female vocalists. She turned on the classical station but someone had decided it was a good day to play brass band music. It reminded her of Monty Python. Finally she stopped at Oh My My by Blue October. Finally something that she could sing along to and wouldn’t make her want to scream every cuss word she knew.

At a stop light both of the dogs started baking at a car with three barking dogs. All tails were wagging. It was just a hey hey hey we’re all riding today.

The dogs had been fed before they left but Elizabeth’s stomach growled. It was so hot lately that food wasn’t a priority and frankly it was a hassle. She’d eaten the day before when she went to her friend Jax’s house. He’d cut her hair for her and she’d had lunch there. Nine inches off. She shook her head and let the new layered bob swing against her cheeks. She loved it. It had been a long time since she’d had sort hair. This was fun and sort of messy and perfect.

Passing the cemetary Elizabeth glanced over at the crypts under the trees. Even in the shade it would be over 120 inside those things. She could almost hear bones cracking and dried flesh splitting underneath suits and lace dresses. How could anyone think Vampires lived in crypts. Not only was it too hot in the summer but there wouldn’t be anyplace to put your books or clothes, or anything else. There’d be no guarantee of any Internet connections. It would be nasty and uncomfortable even in a large family size crypt. Where did people get the ideas about Vampires living in crypts. The ghosts alone would drive anyone mad.

Arriving at her boyfriend Austin’s house Elizabeth hearded the dogs through the front door. She looked into the large family room where two college aged girls were watching a movie. Since the pandemic Austin were letting them stay there. They’d been kicked out of their campus housing. He was a professor living alone in a rambling old Arts and Crafts style house so he had room for the girls and a male graduate student.

Austin was in the kitchen cutting up vegetables.

“It is soooooo hot,” she said, kissing him. She didn’t bother with social distancing. This was a safe spot.

“Oh wow,” said Austin. “I love your hair like that.” He ran his hands through it and kissed her again.

“Thanks. Damn it is hot today. My air conditioning is out. I’ll be here a few days if you don’t mind.”

She opened the freezer and pulled out an ice tray. Then she filled a tall glass with red frozen cubes and topped it with ginger ale and rum.

“That looks disgusting,” said Austin. He let her keep frozen human blood in his freezer. When a man is in love with a Vampire he’ll let her keep just about anything in his freezer.

“It is lovely. You should try it sometime,” she said.

The dogs danced all around Austin.

“Where’d the dogs come from?”

Elizabeth smiled. “Sage and Jack. Their owner died. They’re Covid Orphans. They would have gone to a shelter so I took them. What? Don’t look at me like that. I’ve had dogs before.”

“When was the last time you had a dog?”

“I don’t know. 1937. It was 1937. I had a beautiful sweet Afghan Hound named Bosco.”

Elizabeth filled a plastic bag with ice. “I’m going up to your room for a nap. I didn’t get any sleep last night. Do you think the girls will mind if the dogs hang out with them?” She didn’t wait for an answer. Austin had said something about waking her when dinner was ready but she hardly heard him. That would be in about three hours.

Austin’s bedroom was cool and dark. She dropped her dress to the floor lay on top of the comforter with the ice under her neck.

Oh my my. She closed her eyes and slept dreaming of a good foggy beach and a warm handsome man.

It was summer and way too hot to wear black.

~ end

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Not Going Anywhere

The conversation was always the same, no matter who I talked to.

I’m not going anywhere.

I wasn’t going anywhere either. For one thing it was too hot. 102°F. I’d done all of my gardening. My husband was up working on something in his office. Maybe he was looking up Air BNB sites but I don’t know. It isn’t like we could really go anywhere. Even in Lassen Volcanic National Park the place we usually rent was unavailable this year. Besides that there are warnings about otter attacks.

With the advent of the heat even the Neighborhood sites where people complain about the homeless camps by the parks, lost pets, and reports of gunfire and illegal fireworks were uncommonly quiet. There wasn’t much today except someone looking for a handyman, and someone else wanting to know if anyone could recommend a new pizza place.

I was sitting at my breakfast nook table reading when I smelled something vile. We’d had problems with skunks this summer. The dog had been sprayed twice after we’d taken her out in the yard to pee, resulting in late night washings in the side yard. But skunks usually don’t come out at three in the afternoon.

I looked out the window into my yard. There they were in the garden stealing my tomatoes. One was picking through the squash plants. Damn it. I’d yelled at them before to keep out of my yard.

After slipping on my sandals I went out back.

“Hey, if you want tomatoes you’re going to have to work for it. You’re going to have to grow your own fucking garden.” I was harsh and swore but there is no being nice with these guys. “You see those tools over there,” I said. “Pick out some shovels and start digging.”

They stood watching me with the eyes of the stoned. I know for a fact they go up to National Forest and State Park land and steal pot plants from illegal growers.

“I’ll be right back,” I said. “Start digging and earn your keep or I’ll call the local news station and maybe the police. I know you don’t want that kind of attention.”

They looked sad and picked up the shovels. I went went inside and came back out with a big Costco sized bottle of shampoo, a big bottle of conditioner, a couple bars of oatmeal soap, and some old brushes and combs I’d found under the sink in the bathroom.

“Before you do anything you need to clean up. I’m going to choke if I have to smell your years of stench. How can you live with yourselves?” I yelled at them.

They picked up the hose and started to clean up.

After about thirty minutes I went back outside. They were drying off and most of the smell was gone.

One of them grumbled something about the local food bank.

“You can’t go to the food bank,” I told them. “They’d have you locked up. Keep digging. I’ll make you some sandwiches and heat up some tamales for you.”

Back before Covid-19 I only had to deal with deer, or maybe wild turkeys. This year nobody was going anywhere, including the tribe of Big Foots who’d camped out in my back yard.

I knew things were going to be strange this summer, but hey it could be worse. You know, it could be worse.

~ end

 

 

Tangled Tales