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Water Line

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It began as a tickle a month ago, an irritating dryness in Janine’s throat. Today, the coughing wracked her chest, forcing her to set down the armload of debris she’d exhumed from the bay—a picture frame, a child’s sand pail, a trophy—until she could draw a breath. A seagull pecked at the trophy, then flew away, disinterested.

Around front, Daniel pounded the For Rent sign into sea grass yellowed from the saltwater assault. The sun ricocheted off the rock driveway. She would miss the satisfying crunch of car tires on it.

Janine shielded her eyes. “Isn’t it too soon?”

“You’ve been coughing for weeks. Go see the doctor.”

“I meant renting this place. So soon after the storm.”

“It’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” Daniel slammed the hammer into the signpost.

He’d left her no choice.

[Read more…]

Crochet

She must have done all those crocheted tablecloths with those. Bridget examined all the worn, handmade crochet hooks. The old lady was dead, no children. It was her job to take care of the leftovers. She had known the woman, vaguely. They met once every other month since it was her job. She had been treated with coffee and cookies, and after a polite chat the hostess had brought her a crocheted tablecloth as a gift. Bridget had close to twenty of them back home; gifts from the old lady who must have had few others with whom she could share her passion.

Bridget did not care for crocheted table cloths. As a matter of fact, she got angry when she felt that someone spent time on something so useless. This annoyance she kept to herself in the old lady’s presence. She was there for business and had no intention or reason to hurt the elderly woman’s feelings. And so she had walked home with yet another tablecloth after every meeting.

[Read more…]

Turning Point

Sitting at the marble table, Luca gazed at the open book before him. The dull, grey light of late afternoon illuminated fading ink. The air smelt of ancient leather and brittle paper. Tall bookcases loomed on either side with dark bound tomes resting on dusty shelves.

The brown writing flickered before Luca’s eyes. He blinked rapidly to bring his vision into focus. His eyes felt gritty and he frowned, remembering the disturbed night—voices speaking out of the darkness. Unease crept across his skin as he recalled their suggestions. He had always heard voices, but in this place of books they were clearer, more insistent.

[Read more…]

Larry’s Game

“You know what this is, old man?” asked Larry, hefting a bowling ball.

“What?” grunted Seymour, not bothering to glance up from the newspaper that he had spread over his small table beside the lanes.

“This is World War I.”  And as he spoke, he threw it, knocking all the pins down in a single strike.

Seymour looked at him sharply.  “Is that so?”

Larry’s smile wavered a little under the owner’s glare.  “Yeah,” he said, but he didn’t mention it again that night.

The next day, however, he came in smiling, flexing his fingers.  “Hey, old man,” he said.  “You know what I am today?”

“What?”

“I’m Bismarck.  Blood and iron, old man.  Blood and filthy iron.  Franco-Prussian War?  Check!”  And he threw the ball with energy, making havoc of the pins.

“Don’t say such things, Larry,” said Seymour, quietly.

[Read more…]

First

Eyes narrowed to slits and lips curled into a sneer, his contorted face oozed rage. His hand whipped out, encircling her slender wrist in a vice-like grip.

“How could you?” he rasped…

* * *

New to her tony neighborhood, Janice wandered the aisles of her local supermarket stocking her kitchen with the necessities for upscale living—wine, gourmet cheeses, artisan breads, and of course, organic fruit. She reached for a pineapple but pulled her hand back when a young man got there first. It went into his shopping cart, and he moved on. Tall, well dressed and near her age, he had simultaneously piqued her interest and annoyed her for not offered her the fruit. They met again at the meat counter. This time her hand reached the filets before his, and she decided to teach him a lesson in politeness.

Reaching out, she offered him the package. “There are more where these came from.”

“No. It was yours first, but thanks.” His resonant voice pleased her.

“First matters?”

He shook his head emphatically. “Yes. It does to me.”

[Read more…]

Glitter Glass

Emmy was like a sprite—hard to capture, impossible to forget. On her good days, I got a big smile and her tiny hand slipping into mine as we walked her class to the language room. On her difficult days, a very disobedient fervour permeated every cell and fibre of her thin being. She almost quivered with the effort of keeping all the energy trapped inside. Then there were her worst days. Days every week when her face folded into itself, all expressiveness wiped away as quickly as an Etch-a-Sketch. On such days, nothing got through to her; her only reaction a careless sort of disregard, an almost teenage air of rebellion for all her seven years. [Read more…]

Where Do We Carry the Ones We Love

I have carried my young one in my elbows—his diaper-cushioned rump resting in the hollow of the safe support of my L-shaped arm. I have tugged on him in crowds with sweaty fingers. I have stayed up on nights sullen with his seasonal illness. I have left the smell of my fingertips in his lunchbox; I have emptied his backpack several times a week, expecting something questionable. I have transported his smile in revolving pictures and pixelated his image on my screen saver [Read more…]

Miracles

Jill signed her name, gently closed the book and, for somewhere between the ten and twenty millionth time, thanked another happy reader. Book signings might be a necessary evil and she might need to put on a happy face, but she didn’t need to actually like it. Interacting with the milling masses of bored housewives, giggle infested teens, and wrinkled daydreamers too old to actually see themselves in her stories gave her nausea and only intensified the cramp in her hand and the ache in her ever smiling cheeks.

No, she viewed her work as a divine creation, a heavenly gift on par with a night spent eating two fork meals served in courses before having to putter back home in a 90’s Taurus littered with yellow wrappers and mustard stains.

Today she wished, not for the first time, that that instead of interacting with readers through book signings, she could instead be a fly on the wall of their minds. Sycophancy was flattering and to be expected, but she wanted to feel the honest weight and emotional response to the importance of her work.

[Read more…]

The Inventor

“Why do our names all end in a ‘guh’ sound”, Thag said, rubbing a sore on her chin.

“Would you please focus?” Grog replied.

“You know. ‘Guh’. I’m Thag, you’re Grog, Rog is Rog… Always that ‘guh’ sound. ‘Guh’. ‘Guh’.”

Grog shook his head and wiped long strands of greasy hair from his eyes. “Thag,” he said, “Thag. You’re the ideas person. I respect that. I understand that. But come on, we’re only as good as your last invention, you know? We need something practical.”

“Making rocks have pointy bits on the ends was my idea,” Thag said. She sat against the cold cave wall, playing with a couple of mouse skulls, the way she often did when she was thinking.

“Making sharp rocks was genius,” Grog said. “It should have been our key to victory over the Big River clan.”

He sighed. The pointy rocks had been a wonderful idea, Thag’s best. The only trouble was, the Big River people had thought of it at the same time. The planned final battle had ended turned into an embarrassing and indecisive brawl.

[Read more…]