A continuation of an untitled story…A short story…

The curtain lowered, and Joey’s question continued to resound through my mind. “Why wouldn’t she love me?” Anna bit her lip and sighed. “Poor Joey, he never understood, did he?”

I glanced about my dream for somewhere to sit down. A plush chair appeared from out of the ether. I sat in it and pondered what happened next. Of course, I knew what occurred-no scene could ever show the emotions I experienced next. 

Out of the ether the next scene emerged. A chair had appeared for Anna also, she pushed it next to mine. “Let’s see what happened next, shall we?” On the screen Joey had pushed by me.

The sun had begun to sink.  Joey raced down my driveway to escape from his best friend turned traitor. I could barely see him in the evening dusk. In the distance brakes squealed and there was a loud crash. 

A tear rolled down my cheeks as I remembered that evening. Anna patted me on the head, much like you do your pet, but I didn’t mind.

“What happened, Timothy?”

“Um, a drunk driver drove through our wooden plank fence and hit Joey. He died. I never had the opportunity to make it right with him. He died, and he hated me for loving Angie.”

“Of course, he hated you. You received what he wanted.”

“He died, Anna.”

Joey’s funeral was held on a stormy Sunday morning. Lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, and the heaviest rain I ever saw crashed to the earth. I had forgotten my umbrella, so Angie and I shared one.

“Father God, we give this young soul back to you,” the preacher began. I couldn’t look at Joey. Fear rotted in my heart. “He would’ve never forgiven you for taking Angie for yourself.”The preacher continued with his prayer as the storm raged around us. “We’ve asked that you send comfort to Joey’s family. Let them find peace in your strong arms of love. Amen.” I muttered, ‘Amen’ under my breath. The storm raged on as I took one last look around. Then I walked home alone.

This scene, like all the others so far, had vanished under the veil. My heart ached at the remembrance of Joey. “I never wanted Joey to die. What I desired was that we would all live happily ever after.”

Anna patted my hand solemnly. “Things never were the same again, were they?”

“No.”

“What happened to Angie?”

“I don’t know. I never saw her again after the funeral. Some said her family moved away. Others said she changed schools. I never found out.”

“Ah, young love. I’m often amazed by it. Love changed you though, didn’t it?”

“What do you mean, Anna? I’ve always believed in love.”

“Yes, but you’ve never believed you deserved to be loved.”

As a dense silence fell over me and my imaginary friend, the next scene began to play. Years had passed. I was grown in this scene. A kaleidoscope of memories played with no background noise. 

“Look! You were in college there. Didn’t you have a girlfriend during college?”

“No. I focused on my degree.”

“You were working at a call center in this memory. How many ladies were on your arm during this period of time?”

“None. There were no women in my life after Angie. She was the one, you know? No one compared to her.”

Anna giggled. She had worn down my last nerve and was using it as a trampoline. I squirmed as my memories were relived. “Why can’t I wake up?”

“You’re such a sap.”

“Yeah. I could never move past Angie.”

“You were 48 in this memory. Look how sad you were. It’s like life had beaten you senseless. Why did you carry on with your continued existence?”

“I don’t know.”

Anna punched me on the shoulder. Her bluish-grey eyes twinkled with delight. “Well, you’re no longer burdened with any of this.”

I didn’t know what she meant by this, but I nodded anyway. I walked to the precipice of my dream and gazed out at the myriad of colors. 

“You could stay here forever, Timothy. You and I could traverse the stars and have new adventures.”

“Why can’t I wake up, Anna?”

My figment of imagination had a tear in her eye as she sat down. “You were involved in an accident. A drunk driver plowed into you. You were checking your mail, when he hit you.”

“Um, okay. Why am I stuck in my dream?”

“You’re in a coma at Memorial Hospital. Your scenes of your life are being played because your brain is still working.”

I sat on my plush chair and shook my head. Of course, it all made a sick kind of sense. Joey died from the actions of a drunk driver. I was in a coma because of one. The only thing removed from this wacky equation was Angie. 

Anna floated over to where I stood. I struggled to make sense of what I’ve been told. I remembered checking my mail, but I never saw, or heard, the car that plowed into me. 

Now, I’m stuck somewhere between living and dying. I’m stuck with a figment of imagination that can’t be shut up.

An untitled work in progress…a short story…

Beams of moonlight filtered into my bedroom like snow drifting from the heavens. On the heaven-sent beams of moon dust, I saw a life-my life, and what it could be. If I had the courage to go all-in. I don’t have the required courage. I’ve risked it all before and came home empty handed.

As I stood on the brink of my dream, I considered my life. In vivid detail, much like my dream, I viewed my life from one fascinating scene to the next. The film began with my birth in the hospital. My poor mom struggled to give birth to me for an agonizing 28 hours. Above my mother’s bed was a list of potential traits I could’ve selected. Except I wasn’t born, and that nullified my choice. Instead, my traits were selected by the shaky hands of fate.

I shivered. All that I am boiled down to the selections of fate. It’s been said you can’t outrun your destiny. My parents hadn’t chosen for me to be an aggressive, anxiety-filled, rageaholic. My future was carved out by the unseen hand of what amounted to a non-playable character.

The next scene was of me when I started kindergarten. I was fascinated by the toys that littered the playground, and I couldn’t wait to try out the see-saw. After our morning exercises, my group copied our letters on sheets of paper, then we were released to play. I raced outside and sat on the see-saw. My classmates paired off and played on various items. I was alone. 

Days passed, and I made few friends. One friend, Joey was his name, disliked playing on the see-saw. He claimed he had a bad experience once, and besides, he liked to zip down the slide. So, I relinquished my dream of playing on the see-saw, and I began to follow Joey on the slide. 

Joey and I remained friends until elementary school. As we started the first grade, the scene changed. Mrs. Birdy Birdwatcher, BB to her colleagues, gazed at her new class, and smacked a wooden ruler in her open palm. I panicked a bit; my dad was one of her old students. BB had taught for over forty years, she wasn’t intimidated by students or her superiors. Over her horn-rimmed glasses her cold eyes bored holes into us.

“Timothy Wilson, front and center.”

I squirmed in my seat. She sounded like a drill sergeant, a rowdy soldier who was the most feared thing new soldiers faced upon entering the military. Of course, I’m six years old. I had no idea what a drill sergeant was, or how rowdy or feared they were. I had heard stories, but I had no proof to back up said stories.

“Here,” I squeaked weakly. My kiddy voice cracked loudly, and giggles were heard in the background.

“Are you stupid, Wilson? I said front and center.”

My legs trembled and almost buckled, but I rose to my feet and walked to the center of the room. She walked from behind her desk and stood in front of me.

“Give me your right hand,” she demanded. I extended my hand, and she gripped it firmly. Without hesitation she slammed the ruler against my palm. This happened numerous times. Tears came to my eyes, I couldn’t understand why she had treated me this way.

“Your father had that coming. He escaped without paying his due. Now, all is right in the world. Go sit down.”

I looked at the floor and walked to my desk. Inscribed upon the desk was the words: I hate Birdy. In my six-year-old mind, I totally agreed with the sentiment.

The scene had ended with a close-up of Birdy’s face. A veil, somewhat like a long theater curtain, dropped slowly over the scene, and Birdy disappeared into the ether of my memories. 

“What is going on?”

In the dusk of the closed scene, a small light shimmered in front of the veil. With a pop, much like a gunshot, a petite woman equipped with snow white wings landed softly in front of me. 

“Hey stranger. It’s been years since we visited.” I was paralyzed by what I had just witnessed. I tried to smile but it came out a grimace.

“Um, who’re you?”

“I must say how disappointed I am to hear you voice that question, Timothy.”

“Uh-“

“I’m Anna, you know, your imaginary friend? We met on the playground in kindergarten. Don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten me.”

I shook my head no, it wasn’t because I remembered Anna, but because she seemed to be the type of figment from my imagination that you didn’t want to anger.

“Of course not, Anna. You have always had a special place in my heart.” She smiled. This unreal figment of imagination smiled at me. 

“I am warmed by your remembrance.”

“Why are you here, Anna?”

“What do you mean, Timothy? Why have I visited you in your dream? Or why I disappeared after your incident with Joey in fifth grade?”

My head had begun to ache. I get the worst migraine headaches; the doctor has told me that it’s a symptom of my epilepsy. I tend to believe they’re caused by stress-such as having met your non-real friend in a dream, while you and her watched scenes of your life in high definition. 

“Either,” I answered. My voice rose, and she turned her head at my inflection. Her bluish-grey eyes showed a coldness I’d never seen before. “I’m sorry, Anna. My head has felt like it is being pummeled from the inside with sledgehammers.” She nodded, and her auburn colored curls bounced with the motion. She remained silent for the time being.

The next scene drifted from an unseen ceiling. On the screen Joey and I had entered the fifth grade. “Watch this scene carefully, Timothy.” Joey and I had remained friends throughout the years leading to the fifth grade. We had drifted off and found some friends outside of our friendship, but we always came back together.

We both had discovered Angie Walkman in the first grade. She was the prettiest girl in the class, and all the boys wanted to be her friend. I was no different, and neither was Joey. Angie’s family was the richest in the small town of Morriston. At our age riches didn’t mean a whole lot. We only cared that we could have fun together. 

Still, Angie became a source of frustration for me, but that’s a story for later. We would go out at playtime and sit on the see-saw. She was the only person who would ride the toy with me. It made me feel good having her play with me. Joey would watch from his slide, and at lunch we all sat together.

By the time we made it to the fifth grade, Joey and I had pieced together our limited knowledge of girls from JCPenney catalogs, some nudie magazines that a boy named Claude had stolen from his dad’s truck, and our imaginations.  We thought we were ready to enter the dating pool.

“Do you remember how your first kiss went, Timothy?” Anna snickered at my memory, but my first kiss still made me smile. 

Angie, myself and Joey walked into the homeroom and waited for roll call. Mr. Decker stood before the blackboard and called off names. “Here,” I answered when called upon. Angie and I had English for our first class, so we walked together to Room # 6. Joey watched us until we entered the room. Angie touched my hand, and I gazed into her hazel eyes. “She’s so classy,” I whispered to myself. On a loose piece of paper, I wrote, “will you be my girlfriend?” Ms. Amber Frazier was writing out words on the blackboard, so I pushed the letter to Angie. She covered it with her hand and peeped at it when everyone’s attention was diverted by Ms. Frazier. 

I looked at Angie and when her eyes met mine, she smiled. She pointed at the piece of paper and nodded yes. My heart raced at her acceptance. I was thrilled. In the middle of class, she leaned toward me and our lips touched. Anna, my uninvited dream terrorist, sighed heavily and batted her eyes. 

“Isn’t that so romantic? You asked her to be yours on a piece of paper.”

“I was ten years old.”

“And that matters, why? You should’ve manned up and asked her to be yours without a freaking note.”

“Jesus…”

The scene froze on our ‘kiss.’ I remembered it fondly. My body quaked from the passion I felt that day. It was a day of days. 

“Have you forgotten how Joey took the news?”

My smile disappeared. I hadn’t forgotten, I wished I could forget, but I couldn’t. Anna gazed at me and waited for my response. 

“No, I haven’t forgotten his response.”

After English, Angie and I walked down the hallway holding hands. Am I the only one who thought the hallways in elementary school were massive? Joey watched as we approached. 

“What’s all this then?” Angie smiled as I told my best friend that we were now together. Joey nodded and walked away. I was torn between spending time with Angie before next period and chasing after my best friend. I spent the time practicing kissing with Angie. 

At the end of the day, Angie and I waited for Joey at our usual spot next to the bus stop. We sat on the bench and talked and kissed. After a particularly amazing kiss, I opened my eyes and saw Joey cross the street to avoid walking home with us.

“He’s mad at us, Angie.”

“He’ll be okay. I rejected his note.”

“He asked you to be his girlfriend?”

“Yes, he’s asked every year since the first grade.”

I stopped in my tracks, my mouth agape at the news that my best friend wanted Angie for his own. “You’re kidding,” I stuttered. 

“No, I wouldn’t lie to you. Why are you so upset?”

“He’s my friend, Angie. He probably felt like I betrayed him.” She kissed me lightly on the lips and giggled. 

“It’s so sweet that you’re worried about him. He was never concerned that you would be heartbroken if I accepted him.”

“Why was he rejected?”

She turned and looked at me. Angie placed one hand on her hip, and her other hand swept her brown hair out of her face. 

“Why does it matter, Timothy?”

“It doesn’t, but I would like to know.”

“Joey, I’ve discovered, is very jealous. When angered he loses all control. That’s not what I wanted. I desired to be with you, but you made me wait until now to get it.”

The rest of our walk flew by. Before I knew it, we stood before her massive home. She kissed me and said goodbye. I watched until she disappeared from view. 

I felt as light as a feather as I raced home. “I’ve got a girlfriend….I’ve got a girlfriend…” I blasted up the stairs and into the house. On the couch sat Joey.

His eyes were red from crying. He clenched and unclenched his fists and watched me for a long moment. 

“Oh boy, I’m about to get the business.” Joey never punched me. The scene closed with the question Joey asked me that day.

“Why wouldn’t she love me?”

Vacations, conscription and the future…A look back and forward…

In early 2008, I visited Rhodes, Greece. My wife had planned our trip to coincide with my return from Iraq. She found a travel package via the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center on post. We packed our bags and flew to this lovely island. Our resort stood on a hilltop overlooking the ocean. Istanbul was 12 nautical miles from our position, as the crow flies. The resort was huge. They built bungalows around many swimming pools, ice cream stands seemed to be on every corner, and small cafes and restaurants filled in the openings. Our bungalow was in the back, nestled safely away from the rest. The beach laid 150 yards from our cottage.

It was paradise after a wasted year fighting in a war that no one seemed to care if we won or not.

As evening drew near, my family and I visited a restaurant in the center of the resort. An elderly man escorted us to a nearby table. He was a gentle soul. His mannerism was polite, his appearance was pristine. As old men are known to do, he made small talk with us while we perused the menu.

“Are you Americans?”

I smiled and nodded my head. His eyes were a pale blue, his hair white as fresh snow, and he had a trimmed mustache.

“Yes, sir. We are Americans.”

“We are happy you’re here with us. What can I start you off with this evening?”

My family and I ordered our drinks, and a platter of fresh tomatoes and slices of cheese. He eased away and placed our orders. After he checked on his other customers, he found his way back to our table. Then we placed our dinner orders, and he hastened away.

After dinner, he came and chatted with us for a few moments. He kept his eyes upon me, and I felt a mite edgy. Finally, he summoned his courage and asked me:

“Sir, are you a soldier?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why do you fight, sir?”

His query took me by surprise. I balked for a moment and stared into his eyes. He bore me no ill will from what I could discern from his steady gaze. I motioned to my family.

“I fight for them, and because I love my country.”

From his expression, I realized he understood my answer. He nodded his head and tears formed in his eyes.

“I too served in my country’s armed forces. They conscripted me when I finished high school. Greece has moved to strike conscription from our society.”

“I see. What are your thoughts on the matter?”

“I fear for the future of my country. Those who’ve refused to fight are now in control of our government. They’ve gathered no understanding of what true sacrifice means. This decision will bring the ruination of my country, when many died to defend it. The generations that followed us will gladly trade their freedom for safety and the empty promises from politicians.”

My wife looked at me, and I looked at this gentle soul who struggled to hide his tears. I wanted to hug him, to console him, and to let him know that everything would be okay. I sat there and waited for him to compose himself.

“Sir, madam, will there be anything else for you this evening?”

“No, sir.”

“Thank you for visiting our restaurant. We hope to see you again.”

We paid our check, and I took my family for a moonlit walk down the beach. The war seemed removed from my mind as we walked. My thoughts swirled around the conversation we had. I couldn’t understand his point at that time. Twelve years later, I am thousands of miles from Greece. My heart has ached with pain. As did the heart of this man, I met in Greece.

The future of my country is undecided. What vileness have they concocted in secrecy? Mayhem, chaos, and hatred are tools in the government’s toolbox. I fear we’ve ran our course as a nation.

May God keep us in the days ahead.

Scalawags, Outlaws, and Big Fish…A childhood remembrance…

I’m standing on the second strand of a bar wire fence trying to perfect my spitting technique. My brother comes meandering up behind me, and watches me try to hit a bullfrog sitting on a green lily pad in the creek bordering our property. He walks up and stands beside me.

“You’re doing it wrong, Possum.” He licks his lips and unleashes a stream of narrow spit at the frog. His aim is spot on. It reminds me of the Clint Eastwood classic, The Outlaw Josey Wales.

“That’s how you do it.” I try again, and again, but never match my brother’s finesse with aiming my spit accurately . My brother, Mule is his name, watches my many failures and never says a word. He looks at me and asks, “Wanna go fishing?”

“Might as well, I ain’t never gonna get the hang of this spitting crap.” Mule throws his arm around my shoulders and laughs.

“It’s alright, Possum. We can work on whistling later.” We stroll down the clay road with a couple of Zebco fishing rods and a five-gallon bucket.

“Let’s go hit Old Man Showes pond. We always catch a lot of fish there.” I nod my blond head in agreement.

Old Man Showes has a great pond layout, and its chock full of fish, but you gotta sneak in if you plan to fish it. My pawpaw is sitting on the front porch working on a broken lawnmower. The South Mississippi heat has him sweating something awful. He looks up as my brother and I cross into the woods in front of his house. 

“We gotta be careful so Old man Showes don’t see us. What if he’s down here,” I ask my brother.

“We’ll tell him we got lost.” I look at my brother and want to choke him. 

“You’re gonna tell him you got lost in the woods we were born in? Are you stupid?” My brother’s brown hair is wet with sweat, and he wipes at his face. “You think of something then. I’m here to fish.”

As we draw close to the pond, we kneel under the shade of a large white oak tree. My brother elbows me in the ribs. “We’re outlaws, Possum. I don’t see that scalawag.” I look around the pond and nod. “Me neither. Let’s go catch dinner.”

We ease down to the pond, Mule on one side, me on the other. In the noon day sun our tans grow even darker. On the other side of the lake my brother is bringing in fish after fish, but on my side, I haven’t caught nothing.

“Lord,” I pray, “just once, I would like to beat my brother in anything. Fishing, hunting, spitting, whatever, please let me catch something.”

I was fishing with a top water lure. I cast this lure out by a stump in the pond. After reeling in the lure, I cast it out again. It lands about six inches from the stump. I get so caught up in praying, I forget to check the lure. 

“Hey,” I yell at my brother, “how long has my lure been under?” He shrugs his thin shoulders and goes back to fishing. I pick up my rod and set the hook, when the water explodes.

My brother and I have read the stories in Mississippi Game and Fish magazine. I know right away that the fish is a bass. In photos, sometimes you can see them walk on water by its tail. This one did the same thing.

“I got one!,” I shout. I watch as my brother reels in his line and grabs the bucket. He races around the pond to where I am. He dips the bucket into the pond while I fight with the bass. For someone who crept into our neighbor’s pond, I am making all kinds of racket. My brother punches me in the shoulder.

“Will you shut up? Old man Showes will kill us if hears you.” I reel the fish in, and it’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught. I remove the hook from the fish’s mouth and throw it in the bucket. We cut out from the pond and don’t stop until we reach my grandfather’s house. 

“Whatcha got there boys,” my pawpaw asks. His red skin glistens in the southern heat his trifocal glasses foggy from the humidity. He waits for us to answer him, while he wipes his glasses off on his dirty white t-shirt.

“A bass,” I shout. He beams with pride at my catch, and for once I feel good about myself.

“You better get that home, before that old rascal gets back from work.” We nod and head out to the house.  I carry the bucket home, and Mule slips his arm around my shoulder as we make our way back to our home in the woods.

I may not spit a stream of slobber accurately at bullfrogs, nor whistle loudly at pretty ladies, but there is this one time that I beat my brother in fishing, and that’s good enough for me.

Fears and Jeers (Part III)…A short story…unedited…

I remove the letter from the door to the storage shed, and unlock said door. The brisk fall air has made the dark shed chilly. I walk in and sit at the pre-fab desk in the far corner. A tall floor lamp stands a lonely vigil over the desk. My job is a lonely one. 

It’s a good thing today is the last day of my life. 

My mind wanders to my gruesome fate as I sit in the dark. I finally click on the lamp and pull out a soft taco. “If I’m gonna die tonight, I’m gonna have a full stomach. There might be a line to get into heaven,” I think to myself. 

After downing a couple of tacos, I walk into the high school and begin to sweep the hallways. At times when I sweep, I remember the feeling of walking through these same halls. The sounds of laughter and chatter between classes cause me to smile. Tonight is no different. 

In the muddle of my mind, I remember the most beautiful girl in my senior class. Her name was Amy Appleton. She was something to behold. Amy had golden locks that hung below her waist, her hairstyle was the big poof that was popular in the 1980s. In typical 80s fashion, she wore leg warmers. Amy knew she was the most beautiful girl in school and she let us all know it.

My smile at the memory of Amy Appleton changes into a grimace. “Yeah, she was beautiful. I somehow thought I was good enough to ask her to prom. That was a tragic mistake.”

I continue to sweep the dirt to the end of the hallway. The joy of reminiscing is gone. “She set the entire tone of my love life. With one condescending look and sarcastic dribble, my entire future was unmade.”

The day I went to ask Amy to the prom, she was sitting at a small table by the large bay window in the library. Per usual, her entourage was sitting at the table with her. “Summon your courage and go ask her to the prom, “ I chide myself. As I walk to where she is sitting, my palms begin to sweat. I wipe them on my Bugle Boy jeans. 

“Hi, Amy.”

Her entourage begins to giggle, and my face goes red. I make eye contact with her. She forces a smile. 

“Hi.” I take a deep breath and go for it. 

“I would like to ask you to prom, Amy. It would be my honor if you would go with me. Heck, I would even learn to dance, so not to embarrass you.”

Her entourage nearly fall out of their seats from laughter. The look on Amy’s face could have been the reason the Roman Empire fell into disarray. 

“If you were the last man on earth, I wouldn’t go with you. On no planet would you be lucky enough to bask in my presence. I will not lower myself into the sewer to be with you. Get out of my sight, peasant.”

From that fateful day to present, I haven’t been able to summon the courage to approach another woman. Every time I try, I see Amy’s face and hear the condescending tone of her words. 

It’s a good thing I have an appointment with the Grim Reaper today.

I finish sweeping the hallways. I pull out a mop bucket and pour cleaner into the bottom of the bucket, and fill it with hot water. I glide the mop from left to right as I walk backwards. I mop back and forth and build up some rhythm. “I didn’t go to prom. Instead, I went to see a military recruiter. My lone desire was to leave this town and never come back. Yet, here I am. In the town that nearly broke me, a few short hours from my last call on this planet.”

I smile and finish the mopping. 

The best part of knowing today is the last day of my life is the knowledge that Amy Appleton and her entourage will not be where I am going. My heart begins to pound at the thought of the unknown. It’s exciting. I work well into the night. I go from classroom to classroom sweeping, mopping and emptying out trash cans. I am a machine. One task pops up, and I knock it down with machine like efficiency.

As daybreak splits the Eastern horizon, I walk into the locker rooms. From the shadowy corner of the male locker room, I hear a squeak.

I flip the light switch on, and the shadows disappear. A fat, gray rat is caught in a rat trap. “Serves you right, idiot.” My dream is nowhere to be found in my foggy mind. I just want to be done so I can go home. I sweep and mop the red tile floor. The buffing is the last part of it, so I plug the buffer in and begin to buff the floor. 

My mind drifts back to Amy and my final days in high school. I had put my name on a contract to serve in the Army. With my ASVAB scores in hand, I chose to serve as a scout in a reconnaissance platoon. I also chose to go to Airborne and Air Assault school, in addition to Ranger school. 

I had few friends at school, but when folks found out I had chosen to go into the military, everyone sought my friendship. Except Amy. Her response to my decision was simply: Peasants die for their lords and ladies.

As I finish buffing the floors, the icy fingers of death grips my heart and squeezes. I fall into the darkness. 

Fears and Jeers (Part II)…A short story…unedited…

There are days when I wonder why don’t I end this life of mine. Before someone decides to intervene and call for assistance, I am fine. Sometimes, if I look close enough, I can see the scars of the past in their most primitive glory. Survival isn’t pretty. 

In the quiet of my mind I can hear the abyss calling out to me. ‘Do it. Simplify your life. End it and be at peace.’ The problem is that I believe in Heaven and Hell. Choices we make determine where we will end up. Eternal torment loses to streets of gold and peace forevermore.

It would be so easy to end it. One press of the trigger, or one plunge of the blade and it’s over. However, the downside is my children, family and friends I’d leave behind.

Besides, today is the last day of my life. There is no need to end it, when the Grim Reaper will harvest my pathetic mortal coil sometime in the next 24 hours. One might tend to think they might spend their last day righting wrongs, or enjoying a day of frivolous living. 

I am sitting at home wondering what I’ve done to see the gruesomeness of my death. My life has been nothing special. My career as a high school janitor hasn’t made me rich or even been remotely fulfilling. It keeps the creditors off my back, but that is about it.

My vehicle isn’t new, my house is in need of repair, and my search for true love has been a certifiable disaster. Still, why do I get to see my death? Is the Grim Reaper giving me an opportunity to avoid it?

From what I saw in my dreams, my end will be as mediocre as my life. I won’t be a hero to some small child. I won’t make a difference in a hostage situation. Instead, I will be buffing the locker room floor and die of a heart attack. No one will find me for days, and the rats will gnaw on my warm body.

Of all the things I dislike, rats and flies are at the top of the list. You can add spiders, snakes, and condescending people to that list as well. It’s a gruesome end. Maybe I shouldn’t go to work today. My house is rat free. I can have a heart attack at home and then avoid the gnawing. Plus, I would not end up with rabies. 

It sounds like a win-win situation to me. Still, I look at my watch. I have time to grab a quick shower and get ready for work. If I leave in the next fifteen minutes, I will have time to stop by Taco Bell and grab a 12-pack of soft tacos for my shift.

Man, I am living it up on my final day of life. 

Part of me wants to go to work to see if I die. “I might as well die at work. I’ve always been the dependable one. I go to work regardless of illness or health. I wonder how long I will be gone before they replace me,” I think aloud. A mediocre life and ending, who could ask for more?

All these years at work and I have nothing to show for it. I haven’t made a single ripple in the ocean of life. My biggest regret is that when I had the opportunity to take a risk, I always made the choice to play it safe. With my impending appointment with the Grim Reaper looming on the horizon, I pause. 

I should have taken a chance on life and love. There, I said it. However, in my genetic makeup, I am not a risk taker. No wonder my life is a waste. Anything worth having has never been worth the additional work. These thoughts roll over in my head as I drive to Taco Bell in my nondescript vehicle. My clothes are not name brand, my shoes are second hand. 

Jeez man, I am the walking embodiment of Joe Average. I’m going to die alone and be rat food. 

The school parking lot is empty on this brisk Saturday morning. I get out of my vehicle and climb into my coveralls. I grab my keys and 12-pack of soft tacos and head to the storage shed. 

A note hangs from the door, held on by a bright yellow tack. It’s message is in black ink and reads: Dear valuable team members, please do not forget to wax and buff the locker room floors this evening. Your contribution to our success is vital. Thanks for all you do!”

Some high school prankster has written ‘you suck’ in the corner of the note in purple crayon. A cold shiver eases down my spine, as if Death has put his hand upon my shoulder.

I should have taken more chances in life, and I really should have taken a sick day today.

The End…or the first beginning…A Walk in Darkness…A short story…

Depression. It’s bad for your digestion. I make no jest concerning this silent killer. Pardon me, my thoughts are insidious at the moment. In the quiet moments, when the darkness in my heart overwhelms me, nothing frightens me more than myself.

For you see, I’m a trained killer. A soldier. As with many of my fellow veterans, I struggle with what I have seen and done. The silence in the motorpool is killed by shouting. It figures. Shouting would adequately describe the state of my life.

The door swings open and sunlight bursts into the dark room. Shielding my eyes, I struggle to refrain from shouting. Perhaps, I forgot to mention that I suffer from migraine and tension headaches. The sudden breach of sunlight hits my eyes, and I feel like my skull is cracking open like fissures in the earth.

My soldiers enter the building and the door swings shut behind them. They file in and take seats around where I am sitting. They chatter about life and crack jokes at each others expense. While they make small talk, I self-medicate.

“Alright, what did I say the afternoon class would be?”

“Combat medicine, Sergeant.”

“Right. When do we apply a tourniquet?”

My soldiers lean on each others knowledge and answer the question. Normally, I would be proud of my warriors, but recently I found out I wouldn’t be deploying with them. It would be my third deployment, and due to the stress in my life, said stress triggered seizures. Thus, my days in the Army are limited.

“What are the two types of fractures?”

Again, my soldiers perform flawlessly. War-fighting soldiers have an edge. With each day of training, repetition and rehearsal, I watch as my soldiers edge sharpens. I’m so proud of them, I could burst.

“I wish you were going with us, Sergeant.”

“Me too, troop.”

I have done the best I can, when it comes to training my guys concerning the rigors of combat. The rest of my life lies in ruins, but at least my soldiers have a fighting chance.

Of course, my pride has led to the ruination of my personal life. All too often, my obligations to my family were given second place. My career took precedence, and now I am reaping the fruit of my choices.

“They won’t let you join us late if the doc can control your epilepsy with medication?”

“No. My career is over. Remember, all you have over there is each other. The bonds that bind us are stronger than blood.”

We walk out of the motorpool and head to the company headquarters for formation. It has been the greatest honor of my life to be a soldier. I watch as my soldiers slap each other on the back and crack jokes about the upcoming deployment. There is no small part of me that doesn’t wish I was going with them. Instead, I will be home hoping the darkness doesn’t smother what is left of my sanity.

God help us all.  

A fleeting romance…A flash of fiction….

Dear Alice,

There is so much I want to tell you but unfortunately I am out of time. Literally. I suppose I should be thankful to have found someone I care about as deeply as I care for you. Love in my time has fallen into a meaningless trope. I love you is a popular joke on the earth I am from.

I wish I could stay and see where we would end up, but the acolytes of Pandi are on my trail. They are, from what I’ve discovered, killers of the highest order. Leave it to me to cross a guild of legendary assassins. 

If I survive Pandi and his tribe of killers, I would like to come back and see if our connection is as deep as I think it is. If I don’t survive, know that you were the sun in my personal galaxy and I cherished every moment I had with you.

I hope to see you again.

Viktor Terrascrapper

P.S. In my rush to leave, I left my battle equipment by my bed. So…

Dark Thoughts…AWID

The quiet in my house is the opposite of my mind. I can’t shut off my brain. “You hardly use your brain, it should be a simple thing to shut it off.”

It isn’t.

Ever since my return home, I feel alone. The ghosts from war torn lands sometimes seem to be my only friends. That’s pathetic. I sound like a loser when I allow these thoughts to run through my mind.

It’s after five in the evening, and I am sitting in the recliner. I turn the lights off, except for my corner lamp. The A/C hums and Rambo: Last Blood plays on my television.

The longer I am home, the more I wonder about my return from the sand pits of Iraq. I’m home, I should be grateful to be alive and whole in body. I am. Many of my friends never returned, I sure do miss them.

My struggles with my thoughts and the chaos within seem to play throughout the latest Rambo movie. However, it barely scratches the surface of the pain that plagues so many veterans. 

It is of small comfort that I am not alone in this struggle.

This pandemic has drained me. We all are shut-in. Sometimes, it feels as if I am being smothered by the memories of a life I left long ago. As if someone is holding a pillow over my mouth and nose. 

Now, there is more trouble. Racist cops kill an unarmed black man. Or should I say, one racist cop killed him? Either way, a man lies dead because of the hatred in another man’s heart.

As I watch the world implode around me, I have to wonder what my friends would think if they’d survived. Would they be happy with the way things turned out? Would they wonder if their sacrifice was in vain? 

I survived and I would rather have my friends back.

There are many reasons why people are protesting the murder of an innocent man. I can understand their anger, their frustration with the justice system is not wrong or invalid.

Burning down communities, destroying the life’s work of people who had nothing to do with the murder is wrong. Yes, I can separate the two. Many innocent people have been hurt by their rage. Yes, their rage is justified. No one, regardless of race, should ever be murdered because of their skin pigmentation.

We are all God’s children. 

My brothers, those who never returned, would not approve of the actions of this police officer. They would not agree with the wholesale destruction by the rioters and looters. It is possible to stand against injustice without robbing, looting, and being a public nuisance.

My friends would stand in the trenches and fight injustice, at home and abroad. All I can do is fight to keep their memories alive and hope for a better tomorrow.

Metamorphosis…..A short story.

“I like to think my loneliness hasn’t metamorphosized into bitterness, but I may be lying to myself.” As I sit in my truck in the back of Ole man Johnston’s corn field, I considered the plight of my life. At 47, I’ve aged past my prime, Heck, I can’t do anything with the fervency I once did.

My bed hears me grunt to get up and groan when I lie down at night. My bones crack so much it could be mistaken for gunfire. I am here today to help Mr. Johnston pull corn. As I look out over the ten rows of corn, I just want to drive home and put on my PJ’s.

Such is the life of a retired man who hasn’t hit 50 yet.

Ah, but you didn’t read all this way to hear about corn pulling, did you? More than likely, you wanted to find out if my loneliness has escalated to a point where I am just a bitter old man. Between the Monster energy drink and Tylenol PM, I’ll tell you the truth.

I don’t know.

So much for being a paragon of truth. My nothing-burger answer is perhaps the closest thing I have to honesty. In retrospect, I would be hard pressed to say I am not bitter. Life has dealt harshly with me in the past, but it deals crappy cards to everyone. Facebook wisdom would have me believe that I can choose how to respond to bad situations. I suppose it would be dependent upon the victim’s perspective.

Perhaps, I haven’t matured to the point where I can say wholeheartedly that I’m not bitter about my failure to launch into the thin atmosphere of love. I had a successful enough career in the military. Most days, I am satisfied with my life and my ability to adapt to the various situations which arise.

Mr. Johnston waves his hand to get my attention, I guess it’s time for me to get this corn pulled. Gingerly, I step out of my truck.

“Yes sir?”

“I ain’t feeling it, son. I will give you a call sometime next week to get the corn pulled. Is that alright with you?”

“Yes sir, sounds good to me. You let me know, and I’ll come back and help you.”

“Alright, son. You have a good weekend.”

I barely conceal my happiness. With a tossed hand in the air, Mr. Johnston walks back toward his cabin. I sit in my truck and watch the old man trudge slowly to his porch. I notice his stooped posture, and I imagine me at his age. Time has wrinkled his face, turned his remaining hair white, and dimmed his eyesight. Still, he loves to farm.

Mr. Johnston and I became neighbors after I moved home from Colorado. He had walked over to my new home and introduced himself. In time, we became friends. I was there when his wife Gladys passed away. He was there when my dog died. Time made us friends, but loneliness made us brothers.

After his wife passed, Mr. Johnston was lost. I would find him crying in his barn, talking to his cows. “Oh, Gladys would dote on your calf. She loved ‘em blonde.” About a year after Gladys had changed her address to Heaven, George met him a nice woman who helped him shake conversating with the livestock. Now, he whistles while we work and has invested in a cellphone so his new lady can reach him anytime.

I’ve been a bachelor for almost a decade. Time has packed weight onto my semi-muscular frame, it’s thinned my hair, and brought new ailments to keep me on my toes. What it hasn’t brought me is someone who wants to go on adventures together. Perhaps, I am destined to be alone. Just me, the cows, my dog, and the rocking chair watching the years drift by.

Am I bitter about how my life turned out? It sure sounds like it.

As I drove home, I considered my options. There aren’t many for a person who is, according to his doctors, morbidly obese. Or bald. Or broken. However, I thought I might try to improve some of my less -than -genteel qualities. I could smile more. Maybe I could read a few books and become a master conversationalist.

It sounds an awful lot like work.

The Lord knows my plate is packed to the limit with projects, that I need to get done before winter sets in. My barn needs patching, the roof needs to be replaced on my house, and the fence needs mending.

If I never find love, I’ll at least have work.