Bad intentions…A short story…

Is there an easy way?

Often you hear people say you can do it the easy way or the hard way. Retrospectively, I look back at some of my choices, and I only see the hard way.Maybe something is missing in the translation or perhaps, I am pre-programmed to only choose the hard way.

As I write a post for my blog, a vehicle tears down my driveway. Mirthlessly, I smile. “They’ll need a front end alignment when they bottom out at the base of the hill.” I listen for the bang of the vehicle slamming into the ground. It doesn’t take long. 

BANG!

“Someone’s unhappy now.” The driver slams on the brakes and the car slides to a stop. SLAM! Heavy footsteps rush across my porch, and I slide my sidearm out of the drawer. My front door is assaulted with heavy blows. 

“Yeah?”

“Mr. Freeman? My name is Denise, I am with the Sheriff’s Department. I need to speak with you concerning a recent post you shared on your social media site.”

“Sure. I’ll be right out. Have a seat on the front porch.”

“This won’t take long, sir. Could you open the door?”

“Sure.”

Quietly, I sneak out my backdoor and slip around the side of my house. Four deputies are in breach position, and all are armed. I pull my sidearm out and step into view. 

“Good morning.”

They all turn and I bring my sidearm up. 

“You guys planning on tearing up my house?”

Denise puts her hands up and the other three keep their rifles trained on me.

“We don’t want no trouble….”

“Says the lady with three shooters. Exactly what post do you and your overlords have a problem with?”

“We don’t want to kill you.”

“Well, that’s comforting news.”

Denise gestures to the black clad figures at her side and they lower their weapons. I lower mine in response to their willingness to compromise. 

“May we speak to you, Mr. Freeman?”

“Sure. You stay there, and I’ll stand here. Whatcha got?”

“You have shared numerous posts accusing the government of traitorous behavior. None of which has been proven. It is suspected that you may have terrorist ties. Are you a member of any such organization?”

“Lady, I live in the woods for a reason. I write a little, and rarely go into town. The woods provides me with what I need to live off of. I don’t do meetings or people very well.”

“I see, but there is still the posts that you’ve shared…”

“I mean no disrespect toward you or your team, Denise. However, if a few posts concerning the overreach of the government warrants a four man team to breach my cabin, then maybe the posts are accurate.”

“I could detain you and bring you in.”

“Yes, you could. I would suggest that we talk like civilized people and you say your piece.”

“Okay. Your government asks that you stop posting unverified accusations concerning their intentions.”

“Too easy.”

“Failure to comply will result in detention.”

I smile but all I see is red. Denise motions to her team members and they amble off my porch.

“Tell me something, Denise. Do you end all conversations with an implied threat?”

“Generally, we don’t have a conversation.”

“Okay. Well, y’all have a nice day.”

Denise forces a smile and I watch as the black SUV drives down my driveway. I wait to see if they return, but after a moment the roar of their modified exhaust dies out in the distance. 

“All that for speaking my mind? Bad intentions indeed.”

High Heat…A short story…

“Mississippi in the summer time is unbearable.”

Mary Jane Richter sits on the back porch and muses about the humidity which threatens to siphon the oxygen out of her system. A life-long native of the aforementioned state, she is acclimated to the bi-level threat of suffocating heat and smothering humidity. “I sure am thankful for the heat though, it keeps people from noticing my tears.” Mary Jane uses an old hanky to wipe the sweat and tears from her face.

“What’s the point in showering, when you just gonna be soaked after five minutes on the porch?”

Her hazel eyes watch as a worn out Chevy Cheyenne pulls up in her driveway. Jimmy Wayne Richter, Mary Jane’s twin brother, steps out and staggers toward the porch.

“It sure is a hot one lil bit. It’s hotter than Satan’s rump out here.” Mary Jane nods her head. “Yep. Whatcha doing here, Jimmy?” Jimmy Wayne, or JW, as he is known to those who might feel some tinge of regret at his passing, shrugs.

“Can’t I come see my baby sister?” JW’s black teeth glint in a mirthful smile. Mary Jane forces a smile back. “Sure, but weren’t you just in Parchment for a triple homicide? Or did I dream that whole nightmare about my brother being given three consecutive life sentences?”

“I got out early for good behavior,” Jimmy Wayne chuckles. “I can’t stay long, sister. Places to be an all that.” Mary Jayne runs her fingers through her black hair. Her hair is now streaked with gray, soon it would all be gray.

“Yeah, I understand. What do you want, JW?”

“Dad’s ole shotty still shoot?”

“Yes.”

“I need it and as many shotgun shells as you got.”

“It’s hanging on the rack over Ma and Pa’s bed.” JW walks into the house and the screen door slams shut. From the back porch Mary Jane can hear JW rummaging through the drawers looking for shotgun shells. Heavy footsteps announce JW’s presence at the screen door. “Eight shells? Is that it, MJ?”

“If that’s all you see, that’s all there is, JW. If I had known you would be breaking out of prison, I would have bought some.” JW nods and cradles the shotgun in the small of his arm.

“By God, I hate to ‘grab and run’ sister but the law will be this way in a minute.”

“Yep. Good luck, JW.”

“Love ya, MJ.”

“Love ya, too.”

JW crosses the yard and reaches for the driver door, when a shot rings out. The high caliber round slams into JW’s chest and punches him to the ground. Mary Jane pushes herself from the rocker and walks out to where her brother lies.

“Ugh-”

“Shh, Jimmy. Just listen. Did you really think after you got my children Denise an Lil’ Ricky involved in your scheming and dirty living, I would let it go? You killed my children, then you stop by here for help?”

“Ugh-”

“Stop trying to talk. I’ll spell it out for you. The Sheriff called me and told me you broke out. He asked if I would take care of you. You know, give the taxpayers a break an all that. I told him not to worry about it. So, you’re gonna die here, JW.”

“Ugh-”

Clamping a sweaty palm over her brother’s mouth, Mary Jane Richter smothers JW to death in the shade of a towering white oak. As JW convulses, MJ leans back against the tree. Her sweaty shirt sticks to her body and she watches as her youngest son walks out of the tree line with the 30-06 used to wound JW.

“Well, JW wasn’t wrong. It’s hotter than Satan’s rump out here.”

Tater Salad, Jesus and family…A short story…

“It’s a hundred today, Sue Anne if it’s ten. Even the cows are tired.”

Sandy-haired Sue Anne leaned on the cattle gate and gnawed on the blade of grass stuck between her teeth. Her blue eyes are shaded by her LSU hat. Sweat dribbles down her neck, and she swats at a mosquito who is trying to get a free meal.

“Yeah. Look at ‘em lazy cows, hiding out there in that shade. Maaaa, you lazy bums.”

Johnny Cruz, sat on his bike and spat on everything. Johnny’s hero is The Outlaw Josey Wales. Johnny is the product of Sue Anne’s aunt’s wild lifestyle. 

At one of the church’s ‘dinner on-the-grounds’ Sue Anne’s momma Beth, got into it with her sister Twila, concerning this unplanned addition to the family. 

“There ya go, Twila! Look at you all knocked up. You got no idea who the donor is do you?”

Twila balled her tiny hands into fists and her dark eyes showed the rage building in her heart. 

“We at the house of God. You gonna throw my mistakes in my face when the Lord will forgive me?”

“Getcha preggers stomach from over the tater salad you crazy broad.” Don’t nobody mess with the potato salad. Pregnant or not, we Mississippians will fight to the death over our comfort food. Of course, this is all water under the bridge. Sue Anne is 14, and Cousin Johnny is 13.

Sue Anne’s daddy has gone on to be with the Lord. He died at 38. He was a railroad worker. One hot day he passed out on the tracks and a train did him in.

After the company called Beth and gave her the news, she carried on something fierce. Wailing and thrashing, overturning tables, Sue Anne thought her momma was having a coronary. The old folks at church call it a conniption fit, but the preacher calls it a sin.

“Oooh Lord, you have put too much on me to bear!” Johnny and Twila sat on their porch and listened to Beth as she moaned for several minutes before Twila spoke.

“Well, she either got saved all over again, or somethin’ bad happened.” Twila slipped on her flip-flops and headed down the long, winding dirt driveway. Johnny pedaled his bike next to his mother.

They found Beth out in the yard, nary tear stained her cheeks. Instead, she clutched a stack of papers close to her chest. She waved them at Twila.

“That stupid redneck finally did something right. He took out a 400,000 dollar life insurance policy to provide for me and Sue Anne.” Sue Anne watched as her momma giddily pranced into the house. Looking at Twila and Johnny, Sue Anne shrugged. “Daddy always said momma’s religion only went so far. Her hypocrisy though went straight through to the bone.”

“You need anything,” asked Twila. She pulled off her flip-flop and swept the bottom of her foot off. Sue Anne shook her head no. 

“Nah. It’ll be alright. Momma may have a stroke or somethin’ if she gets more good news.”

“Well, y’all holler if you need anything.”

“Aunt Twila, do you think momma loved daddy?”

“Child, does it matter? You’re daddy is cold and in the ground.”

Sue Anne reaches down and plucks a blade of grass and began gnawing on it.

“Naw, I don’t reckon it matters anymore. Promise to shoot me if I act like momma, won’t ya?” Johnny punched his cousin on the shoulder.

“It’s the least I could do, after all, that’s the whole point of family.”

Friends…A short story…

Territory Days in Colorado Springs is a great time. Throngs of people take to the streets to participate in various events such as: live music, Native American dancing, craft vendors, beer gardens and Old West traditions to include learning to pan for gold. It’s my favorite event of the year. 

My name is Shame Williams. As a retired soldier I spend most of my days playing video games and reading Western stories. Most of the time, I sit in my recliner and play games though. However, when Territory Days roll around, I head down to Old Colorado City and spend the day participating in various events. My buddy, Barnacle Tim introduced me to this event. To add to the cool factor, Barnacle is a gold miner. He spends hours upon hours out in the wilderness searching for a vein of gold. Barnacle Tim, or BT as I call him, is 5’10, 175, and in his later 40s. He possesses the air of a man who spent his life in a library, his spectacles give him the appearance of a wise old timer, but his youthful smile makes him seem much younger. BT served in the Army, same as I , and we both grew up in the same geographical quadrant of the United States. 

Yawning, I stretch my arms overhead and reach for the sky. My phone buzzes on the uranium glass coffee table that my television sits on. I lean forward and cup my phone in my right hand. The digital clock reads 0700.

“Hello?” I look at the name written on the screen. It’s BT. “Why is he calling me so early this morning?”

“Hey bud, you know what today is, right?”

“Yeah. It’s Thursday, the weekend is almost upon us.”

“Yeah, but today is Territory Days. You want to run downtown and see what is going on?”

“Sure. What time do you want to leave?”

“Now. Or are you just waking up?”

“Actually, I have been asleep for maybe an hour. I got caught up in dungeon-running in Elder Scrolls Online last night. Went to bed about 0600. Give me a moment to get a shower and wake up. I will be by to pick you up.”

“Okay.”

My one bedroom apartment is small and the bathroom is even smaller. The toilet is next to the sink, and half of a step separates the toilet from the bathtub and shower combo. I shower quickly and throw on a Deadpool t-shirt and a pair of Levi’s. A pair of Under Armour half socks and black Addidas running shoes complete my outfit. “If it comes to comfort or class, I choose comfort.” Twenty-five minutes after BT’s phone call, I walk out to my teal green van and drive to his apartment on the corner of Murray and Platte. BT is waiting for me on the street corner. I pull up and he leaps into the passenger seat.

“Wow, you really must of jumped in and out of the shower. Are you good to drive?”

“Yeah. Where do you think we should park?”

“There should be plenty of parking down around the center of town. It won’t be too far of a walk to any of the events. Personally, I want to do the gold mining panning. It should be fun and educational.”

“Yeah. I’m probably going to hang out between the food vendors and Indian dancing…”

BT laughs and shakes his head. Throughout the time I’ve known him, he has often asked me to accompany him to various outings to search for gold. 

“You have no interest in mining do you, bud?” My lips pull back into a crooked grin. I look in the mirror. Laugh and worry lines stretch across my face, and I chuckle. “God, I am getting old.” I punch my buddy in the shoulder. 

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, bud. I think that climbing the mountains and walking creeks are a good time. I just never have caught ‘gold fever’ to the extent I want to look for an untapped vein.”

Old Colorado City is already teeming with crowds of people when we arrive. After driving through the pulsating throngs of people, we find a free parking space a couple of blocks past a Mexican restaurant, we often frequent when on this side of town. 

We walk back toward the town center. Tables of rocks, arrowheads, and turquoise jewelry are on display. I stop and look at the quartz and mica. Various rocks of different shapes and sizes glint in the bright sunlight. As a collector of arrowheads, I paw a few and finally select the ones I want to purchase. Barnacle taps me on the shoulder and nods at a beautiful Native woman who is dancing.

“Brother, look at her. Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Pretty as a picture, man.”

“Um, I’m going to walk over here and check this out.”

I chuckle and nod. BT falls into the same boat as I do when it comes to love. Both of us are divorced. Unlike myself, BT still believes in the power of love and long-term relationships. I believe love is a headache. 

A white-haired and bearded fellow takes my money and hands me my change back. His bluish-gray eyes show laughter as I pocket my change. 

“I take it your friend has never watched the Natives dance.” I smile and the old man smiles back. I shrug my shoulders and chuckle.

“He has lived in the Springs longer than I have, so I assume he isn’t virginal when it comes to the dances. Still, I can’t give you a straight answer because I don’t know for certain.”

“Her name is Tia Two-Eagles. She is my granddaughter.”

“Oh, neither me nor my friend meant any disrespect toward your family, sir.”

“It’s okay. She is used to being ogled by white men and Native men alike.”

“That’s not okay, sir. Why does she put up with people leering at her?”

He gestures around to the crowd of people pushing to get a closer look at the dancers. Then he motions to the table where I stand. I am the sole customer at his booth.

“Territory Days is one of the biggest events that my family works. Tia dances, my wife and I find arrowheads and make jewelry. Between the three of us, it takes all of us to make enough to cover our cost for the booths and gas to get us here. She puts up with it, because the more people drink, the more money they spend.”

“I understand-”

“How? How do you understand what I just said? Have you struggled to put food on the table? Do you spend your days trying to figure out how to maximize your funds, so that your child doesn’t do without the basic necessities?”

I look at the old man. His eyes are not unfriendly, instead, they show a tiredness which reaches deep in a man’s soul and forces him to resign to his fate. He extends his hand toward me and I grasp it in return. 

“My name is Hank Two-Eagles.”

“My name is Shame Williams, Hank. It’s my pleasure to meet you.” He smiles and nods his head. His bushy beard trembles with the motion.

“Likewise, Shame. “

“To answer your question, Hank, I do know what it is to worry that my daughters won’t have the necessary things in life. I get paid once a month, and I know what it is like to sacrifice my wants for needs. Our cultures are no different in that regard.”

BT walks over to where Hank and I are chatting. Silently, BT listens until a pause occurs in our conversation.

“You ready to walk on and check out other vendors, bud?”

“Sure. I just got caught up chatting with Hank here. You done watching the dancers?”

“Yeah. The pretty girl took a break. She will be back in a little bit.”

Hank smiles and I wave good-bye to my newest friend. BT and I walk on toward the next set of events together.

“Man, that woman sure is pretty. I wonder if she is single?”

“Her name is Tia Two-Eagles. Hank is her grandfather. They come here to help offset the cost of living here in Colorado. Hank and his wife hunt for arrowheads and make jewelry, Tia performs.”

“Oh. Are you interested in her, bud?” BT’s eyes darken and he looks away. “Surely, he doesn’t think I am trying to cut in between him and this dancing girl. He should know better.”

“No. I just got all that from her grandfather. I’m not searching for love. When that ship comes in, I’ll probably be at the airport.”

BT and I laugh and walk up to the gold panning event. BT moves close to the front, instantly entranced by the going-ons of the instructor. As I stand toward the back, a lithe shadow pulls up beside me. Too many years in the Army has made me wary of people being to close to me. I turn and recognize Tia from the dance. Dark hair, smoldering dark eyes, and luscious, full lips paint a picture of perfection in the shadows of Cheyenne mountain range. 

“Hello. You must be Shame. My grandfather spoke highly of you.”

My words catch in my throat, I shift from one foot to the other while I search for something witty to say in return. Finally, I smile and extend my hand.

“Yes, I’m Shame Williams. You must be Tia. Your grandfather is very proud of you it seems.”

She smiles, my God what a smile. Her white teeth glisten like snow on the mountains in January. Her laugh is musical, and I instantly wonder if maybe love has come calling.

She smiles and butterflies flutter in my heart. I feel like I am fifteen. We chat idly as the prospector goes over panning techniques. Tia touches my shoulder and playfully gestures toward the front row where BT had walked to.

My friend glares at me, and we lock eyes. I grin weakly at him and shrug. BT turns and walks away. Tia looks at me, a puzzled grin crosses her full lips.

“Is everything okay, Shame?”

I force a grin and nod. “Yeah. I think. My friend has a crush on you. He thinks you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.” She smiles, and I want to kiss her. “Down boy. Go find your friend.”

“Excuse me, Tia. I need to go find my friend and explain this misunderstanding to him.”

“Sure, I understand,” Tia smiles as she hands me her business card. “I think you and I could have a delightful conversation. Feel free to call me, or even better, look me up.” She winks at me and sashays away.

The sun has reached its apex as I wander through the throngs of people looking for BT. Unable to find him, I pull out my phone and text him. “I’m headed for the van. No need to rush, I am just tired of walking around.”

My phone chimes. “Fine. I’m already here.”

BT sits on a bench near the van. As I walk up, he crosses his arms and leans back against the bench. 

“You alright, brother?”

“Yeah.”

I stare at my friend of nearly a decade. We have hit the highs and the lows during our friendship. We have always found a way to get through the toughest times. Why does it seem like we may not make it through this one?

“Look man, I didn’t know Tia was going to show up at the prospector’s event. It took me completely by surprise.”

“Whatever.”

I stop and look at BT. Veins taut in his neck, his arms still crossed, he glares at me. Frustrated, I glare back. 

“You know man, if you want to talk to her, go talk to her. Don’t let me stand in the way of you finding true love.”

“Screw you, guy. I’m not a backstabber like you, ‘my friend.’ I don’t sneak attack people when they aren’t expecting it.”

My frustration morphs into anger. Balling my hand into a fist, I slam it into the grill of my van. My vision goes red. BT’s eyes widen as I step toward him. My friend puts his hands up to signal his desire to avoid being punched. 

“I didn’t mean it like that, bud-”

“Yeah, you did. Every word you let out of your bitter heart, you meant it. I think you should find another way home.”

“Come on, man. I overloaded my mouth, it happens to the best of us.”

“Yeah, you did.”

BT looks at me and shakes his head in frustration.

“Look, I’m sorry. She is a beautiful woman, I kinda lost my mind.”

“No doubt. I’ve never been accused of stealing someone’s woman. She approached me, not the other way around. When have I ever pursued a woman in all the time you’ve known me?”

“You haven’t. Again, I’m sorry. She seems to like you, so you should pursue her.”

“No. I’m done with women. I won’t deny that I felt a connection with her, but I have no desire to pursue anything in the romantic realm. I just want to die alone. Let’s go home.”

BT and I load in the van, and I slowly make my way back to my friend’s apartment. The butterflies I felt in the presence of Tia Two-Eagles is now gone. After dropping BT off at his apartment, I drive home. As I make my way up to my third floor apartment, I have an epiphany. “My game console will never come between me and my friend. Love is far too complicated for a simple guy. I’ll stick with the games, they’re safer.”

Flying donkeys…A Walk in Darkness…A short story…

Torrential rain has poured 4-6” of rain on Mississippi in the last 24 hours. Thunder rumbles, lightning flashes, and sheets of rain crash to the earth. The screams of the dying drops of water explode open in silence. It reminds me of exploding donkeys in Iraq. Have you ever been nearly killed by a donkey?

Imagine….

You’re driving along in a convoy, when you spot a dead donkey lying on the side of the road. Everything appears to be normal, when you notice a wire running out of its rectum. Too late.

BOOM…

Dead donkey, shrapnel, and burnt flesh slam against the ballistic windshield. The most god-awful smell fills the cab of your vehicle. The smell makes you want to puke. Nausea floods your body but you must continue mission. You turn on your wipers, and blood smears the windshield. 

Okay, that is enough of putting y’all in my shoes. It’s a smelly job, but someone has to do it. Why am I writing about this? I guess the rain reminds me of flying donkeys. Still, it would have been embarrassing to die in this fashion.

“Hi. We’re sorry to inform you that Pvt. Jambalaya died today in combat action. He was killed via an explosion which sent a donkey’s hindquarter through the windshield.”

Yeah, bad news. Of course, I’ve heard of people dying from a stall wall falling on a guy while he was on the toilet. One of the funniest things I ever witnessed was a guy running to the port-a-john during a mortar attack. He didn’t die, but man, he smelt like he did.

Death strikes when we least expect it. I have always been told, “you never hear the bullet that kills you.” All too often, death comes as a surprise. Especially, in a combat zone. One moment you’re there, the next moment you’re not.

Yes, this may seem to be me making light of death, but it’s just my way of dealing with the pain of loss. Humor is the means with which I cover my tears. Life becomes an unbearable mess sometimes, but there is a silver lining if we look hard enough to find it.

Humor is often the silver lining. So, spend your time enjoying the small moments, because death may be right around the corner.

Be careful of the exploding donkeys though, but if you must clean it off your windshield, use a putty knife first to remove the burnt flesh, and then wash the windshield. 

Inclusive Idiocy…A short story…

Thunder booms as the torrential rain hammers at the tin roof on Billy Two-Winds cabin. Lightning flashes a warning, as the constant yammering of the political talking heads screech over the airwaves concerning the rising cases of the newest pandemic. “In other news, the militant group No Fascists Ever or NFE has stormed the state capitol and disrupted the hearing concerning the removal of the last remaining monument- a horse named Cherokee.”

The rain has begun to lessen, the thunder rumbles in the distance, far from Billy’s cabin. Occasional drops of heavy rain bangs against the tin, a reminder that while the deluge may have slowed, the storm has not yet passed. The radio squawks with static. “Our next guest, Professor Denise Abraham Wilkerson has a few thoughts on the removal of Cherokee. Take it away Professor!”

“Hi! Thank you for having me on your show Tom and Tom. I would just like to say that if a monument or whatever, like it keeps us from having a supportive and inclusive enviro-thingy, we should get rid of all them.”

“Well said, Professor!”

“Uh-huh, thank you.”

Billy Two-Winds turns and looks at the radio in disbelief. “Enviro-thingy? What is this lunatic in charge of teaching? Dear God, I hope its not English, although that would explain quiet a few things in our society today.”

“Alright listeners, the phone lines are now open. Call and share your opinion on the removal of that dastardly monument, Cherokee, whose only sin was that it was ridden into the Battle of Bull Hockey. Professor Wilkerson will be here to answer any and all questions pertaining to whatever floatest thy boatest.”

Billy Two-Winds grabs his cellphone and walks out on the porch. The rain is back, hammering out its song upon the tin roof once again. Veins in his neck slowly disappear and his breathing becomes shallow. Calmly, he punches the number in and waits for his call to be answered.

“Hello, caller. What is your name and who do you wish to address?”

“Hi. My name is Billy, and I would like to address my question to Professor Wilkerson.”

“Hi, Billy. How do you feel about this icky statue being removed from the town center? Are you down with the destruction?”

“No. I don’t particularly care for the group NFE or their hysterics.”

“Oh. Well, you have a question for the professor?”

“Yeah. Professor Wilkerson, you are screeching about being inclusive. How do you explain the lack of inclusiveness when it comes to the military?”

“Um,” Professor Wilkerson pauses her gum smacking and Billy can smell the gears in her brains frying from the overload.”I don’t like understand that question.”

“The military rejects people all the time. If you have flat feet, you can’t join. If you have a mental condition, you can’t join. If you are colorblind, you can’t join. The military is not inclusive. You must meet the prerequisites before you are welcomed in. Why should everything be open to everyone?” 

“Because it makes people, like, feel really bad when they’re not allowed in. It’s racist.”

“I’m a Caucasian male. So, I should be allowed to reap the benefits of being Indian? Or black? Or Hispanic? Or Asian? How does that make us all equal and less racist?”

“No, you are racist by your very nature. You’re not allowed to do anything but pay for the sins of your forefathers.”

“Isn’t that racist?”

“No, it’s a fact. White people are racist.”

“Okay. Why should lawyers be allowed to join a doctors association? They have no knowledge of human anatomy. What is the point of allowing them to join that group, when they don’t meet the criteria?”

“Because, like the lawyers may want to hang out with the doctors and play games and stuff.”

“You’re an idiot. What do you instruct students on? What is your area of focus?”

“Like that is so mean. You’re a big meanie. I am a professor of humanities and basket-weaving.”

“That figures.”

“You’re also, like racist for not agreeing with me or NFE for, like um, not wanting that racist horse torn down.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Why don’t you want the statue removed?”

“Um, like, because it’s history. You don’t necessarily have to agree with it, but to many folks it is a reminder of how far we have come. Or a reminder of some tragic part of our heritage. No one would say that we should have fought in the Battle of Bull Hockey, but we did. Tearing down history only ensures that we will repeat it.”

“You’re racist and you should be put in jail.”

“Um, like, you’re an idiot and you should not be educating the minds of future generations.”

“Thank you Billy for calling in. That’s all the time we have today. Join us tomorrow for “Get your honky butts on the bus, you racist garbage.” Until then, we remain Tom & Tom. Good day.”

Billy presses end call and walks back in the house. A solitary tear runs down his cheek as he places his phone on the desk. “It’s the beginning of the end. We won’t stop until everything is racist, until every piece of history is destroyed, and all life is dumbed down. It’s the movie Idiocracy made reality.”

God help us all.

The illusion of life…A short story…

Early this morning, I decide to go for a walk. Leisurely, I stroll through the pasture, the green grass and scattered dandelions keep me company. “What a  great day to die,” I think to myself. The chirp of multiple birds lull me into peaceful bliss, the chattering of the squirrels bring a forlorn grin to my face. “Yes, I’m ready to go home. This world is vile and corrupt, death would be a welcome boon.” 

As I stride through the grass, I come upon a black-clad gentleman tying his tie in a mirror. His eyes are vacant orbs, not unpleasant to look upon, just devoid of any emotion. 

“Good morning, sir. You’re early.”

 I smile, good humor written upon my face. 

“How do you do, sir? How does the day grab you?”

“Oh, business is booming. I just arrived here from Chicago. How is your day going?” 

He smiles, and it’s not an unwelcome sight. I smile back. “I’m just out for a stroll, it’s a beautiful day to go home.” 

He nods and turns to me. Wordlessly, he points to the tie. 

“Do you need help, sir?”

“Please, I suppose today is Monday and I’m all thumbs today.”

“Actually, it’s Thursday and I’m thumbs everyday.” 

I take the tie in hand and lay the tie over. A couple of quick motions and the tie is tied. 

“Thank you, my good sir. I so dislike looking like a rumpled ruffian.”

“Yes, I agree. Looking like you did a combat roll from a dryer is the worst feeling in the world.” 

He nods. His gray hair moves with the motion of his head. 

“Would you mind terribly if I walked with you? This pasture is such a beautiful bastion of hopes and dreams.”

“Not at all. You’re company would be most welcome.”

We stride through the grass, and speak of flowers. Birds soar overhead, the squirrels leap from branch to branch, tree to tree. 

“What a wonderful world this is. I apologize for my rudeness, sir. I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“My apologies, sir. You may call me by my first name, Grim.”

I pull my contact book from my shirt pocket, and write his name down in the section marked “G.” 

“Is that one “M or two?” He smiles a little smile. His presence is kind, and his lack of emotions do him a certain justice. 

“Just one “M.” 

We stop by the stream and watch the water flow by in a burst of rushes. 

“You say you just arrived from Chicago, sir?”

“Yes, it was a business trip.”

“Do you like the rush of traffic and throngs of people?”

“I don’t mind it so much.”

“Well, that’s good. What brings you to this pasture?”

“You did.”

I smile a little smile. He smiles back.

“Shall we continue our journey through the pasture?” 

He nods, his hair follows the motion of his head.

“Life is an illusion, isn’t t it, sir?”

“Would you like to know a secret, sir?”

“Sure.”

“The illusion of life is that everything is important. The truth of life is only certain things are.”

“Interesting. So, why have you come for me?”

“Don’t you want to go home? Are you not tired of this vile and corrupt world?”

I stop in my tracks. His words send a shiver down my spine.

“Don’t worry my good sir, you will not suffer. I came to visit, to see why you dislike the life you have been given.”

“I don’t dislike my life, sir.”

“Then why do you want to go home before it is your time?”

“Because of the corruption of our government. Brother rising up against brother, families destroyed, innocent lives killed in the name of convenience. It’s all so…”

“Disheartening. I understand.”

We walk toward a huge white oak and sit under the shade.

“If I may give you a piece of unwanted advice?”

Wordlessly, I nod. He smiles.

“Don’t be so eager for the end of your journey. Focus on the things which bring you happiness. You’ll live longer.”

He stands to his feet, with a flourish he turns and bows at the waist. 

“Until I see you again.” 

Like an illusion of magic, he vanishes in front of me. I sit under the oak and consider what I’ve just experienced. Whatever thoughts of dismay I had earlier, I shove them out of my mind. “Today, is the first day of the rest of my life. Let the games begin.” As I walk home, the sky is streaked with orange which reminds me of the mercy of God, and a tinge of black to remind me that life is a precious commodity that should not be wasted.

The tree…A short story…

I sit under an old oak tree, waiting for my nephew to come for his weekly chat. We’ve always been close. I watch as he approaches the tree. This tree has been on my family’s property for generations. I climbed it as a young adolescent. I got married under it, and when I returned home from the war, this tree was a reminder to stand, when I had done all to stand. My nephew sits down next to me. 

“Hiya, unc. How goes it?”

“All good, nephew. How are you?”

“Do you ever have doubts, unc? I am full of doubts.”

I stare at him. Barely in his twenties, I wonder why he is having doubts and what causes him to doubt himself.

“Doubts? About what?”

“About life. Don’t you have any regrets?”

“I have things I would change if I could, but no I don’t regret the choices I’ve made or the path I’ve taken.”

“So, you would have still gotten married? Still joined the military?”

“Yep. I made my choices and now I live with them. Life is too short to have regrets. Make peace with what is done and then move on.”

“You make it sound so easy-”

“Nope. It’s not easy, but you learn to focus on the next thing.”

“And how do you focus on the next thing, when the past keeps popping up?”

I look at my nephew, his frustration is evident upon his face. I smile at him and slap him on the shoulder.

“I train myself to live in the present. The past is behind me, the future ahead, but now is the time for me to be the best version of myself that I can be.”

“So, you’re saying…”

“Time ages us, experience teaches us, and hope lights the way. We all start out as something else, but we don’t stay as we are. We ebb and flow like the tides. Some days are high, and others low, but we are constantly evolving into the best person we can be.”

As we sat under the tree, I wondered if my father had sat under this tree and chatted with his father like this. In our hearts we hope the best is to come, but we also recognize this may be as good as it gets. Both of us stand and walk toward the cabin. It’s our lives, and we must choose who we will be. After all, who wants to live a life full of regret?

Extinction…A short story…

Timothy Michael Wormspore sits at his desk, looking out upon the chaos building in the streets below. An American flag hangs above his desk in a shadow box given to him by his unit prior to his retirement in 2012. A lone picture of Wormspore and his best friend sits on the far right corner of his cedar desk. 

“The world was troubled then but nothing like it is now. We are no better than the animals that attack and ravage without cause.” 

Two deployments to the Middle East and one to Afghanistan changed his world view forever. Eight years later, his utilizes his writings to protest the changes he disagrees with. Fingers poised on the keyboard, Wormspore tries to gather his thoughts. Fires burn, sirens scream and chaos runs rampant through the city.

“Look how far we’ve come. Buildings so tall they block the sun, technology so advanced we have mapped the entirety of the known universe. Yet, we’ve not been able to overcome our basest instincts.”

Ignoring the chaos, Wormspore pores over the manuscript he has written. His newest novel is titled, “The Extinction Files.” In the first week it was released, it sold 300,000 copies. His hard work earned him flattery and more than one critic. Given the nature of the book, and the dark foretelling of America’s future- many cried that the book was racist. They also called Wormspore a bigot, a xenophobe, and a fear-monger. 

The Extinction Files continued to sell. One reviewer called it a “pre-apocalyptic guide” to the end of the world. “All I wanted was to write a book. It was never meant to be associated with the end of the world.”

Still sitting at his desk, his attention is drawn to a racket outside of his door. Turning to his left, his right hand grips the .357 Magnum. Footsteps walk past his door and he releases his grip on the pistol.

Wormspore puts the gun away. After shutting the drawer, his phone rings. Wormspore glances at the caller ID, its his agent.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Tim. It’s Nicole. I thought you might want to know that the police have called. One of the death threats against you seems to be legitimate. Are you safe?”

“Of course, all good here.”

“Okay, we are going to need armed security at your book signings. I will contact you with the details.”

“What a world we live in. Alright. Thanks for letting me know.”

“Talk soon.”

Wormspore shakes his head. “What a cluster.” He makes his way to the kitchen. Since his success, he has bought weapons and stored them around his house. His bedroom holds his AR-15, and two sidearms. In the kitchen a Remington 870 combat shotgun is hidden in cabinets under the sink. A Beretta 92F hides in the silverware drawer. Many would call him paranoid. His perspective is simply to be prepared. After all, one book has caused his life to be threatened daily.

Tired of the chaos which reigns in modern society, he turns on the television. Before he can change the channel, Ms. Jennifer Burgoyne appears on the screen. The 61-year old doesn’t appear to be over 40. She has joined with the protesters against police brutality and the publishing of The Extinction Files. Ms. Burgoyne is popular with many liberal causes. A staunch abortion advocate, and atheist, she is not one to hold her tongue on her beliefs.  She is the head of the Utopian Party of Anti-Fascism. Controversy swirls about the media darling. No one is sure of what her staunchest beliefs are. Some have accused her in the past of wanting to purge America of lesser races. No evidence has been discovered concerning these theories, but the rumors persist. The bodies of those who cross this political party pile up, but no evidence can be linked to any part of the political juggernaut. Reporters gather around her and she pauses to answer the questions they may have.

“Ms. Burgoyne, what is your take on the newest novel to foretell the end of America if the chaos continues?”

Jennifer smiles that mega-watt smile and waves her hand as if dismissing some unimportant thing.

“Sweetheart, the world is not going to end anytime soon. This book is fear-mongering at its finest. The author should be ashamed of himself for writing such garbage.” After answering a few other questions, Jennifer Burgoyne enters the armored Lincoln and is taken back to her high-rise apartment. Shrugging off the heavy coat, she pours herself a cup of coffee and walks into her study.

Her bodyguard, Jody “War Chief” Williamson follows her into the room and shuts the door. 

“I want that stupid author dead. Do you understand me, Jody? I don’t want him beaten. I don’t want him to survive this ordeal.”

“Yes ma’am. So, you want it to appear to be a suicide?” 

Anger flashes in her eyes. The pale blue eyes appear to be white with fury. Rage causes her voice to quieten.

“No. I want him to be murdered. I want it so bloody people will know we did it and they understand not to cross me. This fool has set back our plans with his ‘novel’. When you’re done, take his head and put it on a spike.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Williamson departs the study and takes the elevator to the armory. The only way to access the armory is to punch in the key code which is only known by a handful of people. Jody Williamson is your atypical wannabe gangster. He got his start knocking off 7-11’s and robbing old ladies. However, Ms. Burgoyne recognized his talent for greater things. 

Now, he has been selected to kill Ms. Burgoyne’s greatest enemy. 

Selecting a silenced 9mm and extra magazines, Jody is ready to be the righteous vengeance of The Utopian Party of Anti-Fascism.

The cold night air enveloped Jody as he made his way to the Ford van parked at the corner. “Death is coming, writer. You have sealed your doom.” Driving past the burning husks of buildings gutted by looters, Jody smiles. Excitement builds in his chest, it’s not an unusual sensation. He gets it every time he is tasked to kill someone. 

Burning buildings gutted by looters pave his way to Wormspore’s home.

The long night passes by slowly. Every light in Wormspore’s apartment is off, when Jody pulls into the parking lot. “This should be easy. He is already asleep, this time it will be for good.” 

Climbing from the van, Jody shoves the pistol into his shoulder rig. Slowly, the human embodiment of Death makes his way up to Wormspore’s apartment.

Wormspore takes a quick shower. After perusing the manuscript, he climbs into bed. Scared of the dark, Wormspore sleeps with a lamp on. As he dozes off, he hears the door creak open. Pretending to be asleep, he waits. 

Jody takes a knee in the doorway. The creak is sure to have awakened Wormspore, and Jody waits for him to investigate the sound. Nothing happens. After what seems like eternity, Jody creeps into the house.

From the living room, Jody sneaks into the kitchen and then down the hallway to the bedroom. As he enters the doorway, he stops. The Remington 870 is aimed at his face. 

“Drop the weapon.” Jody chuckles as he places the weapon on the ground.

“You gonna kill me, writer?”

Wormspore smiles a bone chilling smile. 

“First, a question. Do you work for Jennifer Burgoyne?”

“No.”

“So, why are you here?”

“I’m just a concerned citizen. Figured, I would kill you to make the world a better place.”

“Uh-huh.”

Wormspore aims at Jody’s legs and pulls the trigger. The bird shot tears into Jody’s lower extremities.

Jody lies on the floor, his flesh ripped open. Sobbing, he puts his hands up to shield his face.

“Please, Ms. Burgoyne sent me to kill you. She considers you and that stupid book to be a threat to her power. If I don’t kill you, someone else will.”

“Thank you for telling me the truth.”

The shotgun roars twice and Jody is no more. Sirens fill the air, and Wormspore sits on the bed.

“What did I do to get on this woman’s bad side?”

Wormspore changes into jeans, t-shirt, and running shoes. “All I ever wanted was to write the next, great American novel, but now I am an ordinary murderer. What a load of crap.”

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…