Monday, October 31, 2016

A short-short story for Halloween

The Ghost of Camp Halloween Adventure

“There are thirteen of you tonight. Tomorrow, when you wake up, one will be gone.” I paused and panned the open-eyed faces of the boys sitting around the campfire cross-legged, Indian style. “Thanks to Camp Halloween Adventure’s resident ghost.”

“Sure,” the chubbiest one said. “Like there’s such a thing as ghosts.” He snorted in disdain.

“It’s true,” another one said. “My friend told me about it. He was here last year.”

“So I guess you didn’t believe him. . .since you’re here,” chubby said.

I know I’m not supposed to use words like chubby, but if I didn’t one would assume I like kids. I don’t. I like their parents’ money.

“It’s my mother who doesn’t believe in ghosts,” the boy said, wiping sweaty palms on his jeans.

“Well,” I interjected. “We’ll all find out in the morning—won’t we?” They looked at each other, most unsure what to think. “It’s too bad, too, since tomorrow is the day you get to go rafting and zip lining, and maybe rock-wall climbing, if you’re not too tired.”

“But it’ll be cold.” Guess who. “And we’re not strong enough or old enough to go rafting.” Chubby looked at the others. “We’re only ten.” He paused again to survey his fellow campers’ faces. “And we could drown,” he said, looking at me.

The others nodded and made various sounds of agreement.

I held up my hand, as if taking an oath. “We’ve been running this camp for years.” I smiled reassuringly. At least, it was meant to be reassuring. “We know what we’re doing.” The boys glanced at each other, their necks on ball bearing swivels.

“Anyway, you have to worry about our ghost first. He’s in one of you right now.” They gasped in unison. “That’s right. He always inhabits one camper’s body.” I looked at Chubby. “Usually the one who complains the most.”

Chubby peered at me across the campfire, his eyes two slits, the rising heat augmenting their meaning. “You’re full of sh—.”

“Ah, ah.” I wagged a finger. “Remember, only nice words at Camp Halloween Adventure. You read the rules with your parents like instructed, didn’t you?

Chubby closed his mouth.

“Anyway, our ghost reads the inhabited camper’s mind to find out which one of the others he likes the least.” I scanned the group, pausing to look each one in the eyes. “That’s the one who turns up missing in the morning.”

Chubby said, “You’re so full of it.” He pushed himself off the ground and walked away.

“I guess we’ll just have to wait until morning to find out.” I stood. “Of course, the ghost can only take one of you away if you’re all asleep.”

The remaining campers huddled together, whispering to each other, while I went to get rid of Chubby. Little did he know he’d picked himself to be sent home early. No harm would come to him. He’d simply stop being a pain in my ass.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to Stop a Thief

First published at CommuterLit.com.

“I don’t want to scare you, sir,” Frank said as he continued to clip his customer’s hair, “but we’re about to be robbed.”

“Say what?” The man leaned forward and put his feet on the floor.

“Wait. It’s okay,” Frank said putting a hand on the man’s shoulder and nudging him back into the chair. “Nothing’s going happen to you.” Frank continued with the haircut. “It’s just Billy Jacobsen. He’s got a little circuit of small businesses he robs once every two to three months, sometimes more often around Christmas.”

“Why don’t you turn him into the police?”

“Oh, he’s harmless. Not quite all there, if you know what I mean.” Frank picked up the clippers and began cleaning up the back of the man’s neck. “We all know his schedule, so we make sure we have some extra money on hand. That way, he and his dog don’t starve.”

“What about his parents?” the customer asked.

“They passed in a car accident. Another stupid drunk driver.”

“Ouch.” The man flinched, wondering if the clipper had drawn blood.

“Sorry about that,” Frank said. “I get kind of riled up on that topic.”

“Yeah, well let’s not talk about it anymore.”

“Hey, let’s have some fun with Billy,” Frank said, winking into the mirror. “I’ll be right back.”

***

Billy lowered the ski mask over his face and patted his pants pocket. Satisfied the knife was still there, he opened the door, stood tall, and said, “This is a stick…Jesus, man, what are you doin’?”

“What are you talking about?” Frank said.

“You ain’t got no pants on,” Billy said.

“Oh, that,” Frank replied, “It’s No Pants Day.”

“It’s what?” Billy said.

“No Pants Day.” Frank stepped away from the chair and turned to give Billy a full frontal view. “People go to work without pants.”

“But. . .I mean…you ain’t wearin’ no underwear.” Billy reached back for the door. This guy was obviously crazy. He hadn’t noticed that the previous times he’d been in.

“Hey, no pants means no pants. I don’t make the rules.”

“I think you’re still supposed to wear underwear,” the customer said under his breath.

Frank gently cuffed the man in the back of the head.

“What he said,” Billy replied, pointing at the customer.

“All right. I’ll put them back on. Boy, you guys sure are party poopers.” Frank took a step forward, and Billy retreated closer to the door.

“Hey, what’re you doin’?” Billy said.

“My pants are on the chair behind you.”

Billy glanced to his right and saw a pair of khakis draped over the back of the chair. “You wait ‘til I’m outta here. You hear me? Then you can get your pants.” Billy backed out the door. “Crazy old coot,” he muttered.

“Wait,” Frank said. He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled two twenties out. “Don’t you want your money?”

Billy paused. Thought about what to do. Finally, stepped onto the sidewalk. “No way man. I don’t know where that money’s been. You keep it.” He let go of the door and jogged down the street.

“He’s right, you know,” the customer said. “You are crazy.”

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A High School Reunion

First published at Pound of Flash.

It was her first time posing for our class. Other females had sat naked before us. This time was different. I knew the model.

Her name was Melanie, and I’d asked her out on a date our sophomore year in high school. She’d looked away and said she was busy. I never got up the nerve to ask her out again.

The kids in school thought she was anorexic. She was still skinny, her arms not much bigger around than the fat end of a baseball bat. Green eyes, pug nose, and thin lips created a distraction for me. She’d worn her hair longer in school. I liked the new pixie look. At least, new to me.

The instructor called time. Melanie stood and put on a robe.

I finished adding charcoal touches to the assignment, leaned back for one last look, and felt a presence near me. I looked over my shoulder to see Melanie, her head tilted to one side, perusing my effort.

“Not bad,” she said, laying a hand on my shoulder. Before I could thank her, she said, “Would you like to ask me out again?”

My mouth became as immobile as the naked female on my easel, until, taking a deep breath, I managed to squeak out a yes.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Other Casualties of War

First published at FewerThan500.

Ten-year-old Jason frowned at the rainbow wondering why there couldn’t be a pot of gold at one end. Just because nobody had ever found one didn’t mean it wasn’t there. Right? He picked up a rock and threw it as high as he could, hoping to cause a ripple in the colored bands. When the projectile fell to earth with the rainbow unfazed, Jason laughed, fell backwards onto the carpeted patio, and rolled up into a ball.

“Are you okay?” his father yelled from the kitchen.

“Yes,” Jason replied. Everything’s going to be okay. Even though Mom’s gone away forever.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Some Things Are Hard to Talk About

First published at Commuter Lit (May 2016).

Someone pounded Josh’s head against the wall. He yelled for the person to stop, wondered why he hadn’t passed out. Finally, the knocking on the door awoke him.

“Just a sec,” he yelled. Alexa lay next to him in the bed.

“Huh?” she said, a naked breast exposed.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you. There’s someone at the door.”

“What time is it?”

“7:42. Way too early to get up on a Saturday morning, especially after the night we had.” He kissed her on the shoulder, pulled up the sheet, and tucked her in.

He put on a pair of sweatpants, grabbed a robe, and padded to the front door.

“Mom? What are you doing here this early?”

“It’s not early,” she said storming through the door. “Your father and I get up every morning at 5:30.” She strode to the kitchen and grabbed a K-cup. “I tried to talk your father into getting one of these fancy coffee thingies, even bought him one for Christmas. He took it back. Said it was a waste of money. Heaven forbid we waste money.” She looked to the ceiling and crossed herself. “Certainly not like that table saw he bought after he retired that’s gathering dust in the garage.” She grabbed a mug and filled it.

Josh rolled his eyes. Before he could speak, Alexa came out of the bedroom wearing a sundress, her hair combed, her perfect white teeth on display.

“Oh,” his mom said, in a gentler voice than Josh remembered. “Who’s this?”

“Mom,” Josh said, taking Alexa’s hand in his. “This is Alexa.”

“Nice to meet you, Alexa,” his mother said, taking a sip of coffee. “She’s cute, Josh. How come I haven’t met her before?”

Josh blushed.

“We’ve only been dating for a few months,” he said.

When Josh looked away, his mother gave Alexa an exaggerated wink. Alexa returned a thumbs up, as if some secret communication had taken place.

“A few months?” Mon said. “And I haven’t heard anything about her? Is she any good in bed?”

Alexa blushed and put a hand over her mouth to hold in the laugh attempting to escape.

“Mom!” Josh said. His mother retained her straight-forward Brooklyn attitude, even though the family had moved to Miami twenty years ago after Josh’s dad said he was sick of snow.

“Well, it’s been a few months. Certainly you’ve—

“M-o-o-m!” Josh plopped into a kitchen chair with a moan.

“Oh all right.” She winked Alexa’s way again. Alexa winked back. “You know your father and I did it like bunnies before he finally proposed. I guess he wanted to make sure I wasn’t so oversexed I would kill him.”

“Well, I haven’t killed him yet,” Alexa said with a laugh, “but I’ve tried.”

“Alexa!” Josh yelled.

“I like her, Joshie. She sounds like a keeper.”

“Joshie?” Alexa sat on his lap. “You didn’t tell me your mom had a pet name for you.”

Josh didn’t know how his face could get any warmer, but it did.

“Do you have a pet name for him, Alexa?”

“No, but I’ll have to give it some thought.”

“Yeah, maybe something like Thumper, or Humper,” Mom said.

“Oh, God.” Josh put an elbow on the table and rested his forehead in the palm. He knew better than to respond further.

“I’m not sure I have enough data to know if either of those names works,” Alexa said.

“So, Mom,” Josh said changing the subject. “Why are you here?”

“For some good coffee,” she said, raising her cup.

“Come on, Mom. I know you better than that. You wouldn’t show up this early on a Saturday unless something was wrong.”

“Oh crap,” his mother said, looking at her watch. “I’m going to be late meeting Margie at the mall.” She put her mug on the kitchen counter and hurried to the front door. “Damn it. Margie will be grumpy all morning.”

She opened the door, paused, stared up, as if waiting for a traffic light to change, said, “I’m divorcing your father.” She turned her back to them. “And I don’t want to talk about it.”

Josh stepped toward the closing door. Alexa grabbed his arm.

“Give her time, Josh. It’s new for her, too.”