She’s Got a Pair of Spectacles a bit of flash fiction

A bit of flash fiction for Chuck Wendig‘s challenge Realism Bot . I chose “A woman finds a pair of spectacles which allow her to see every library on earth.” 1500 words. And we are back in Seaside Village.

“Gwen, Gwen, wait up.” He yells from the corner.

“Crap,” I say, and walk a little faster, it’s sprinkling and looks like a downpour any minute. I slide under the awning at the Deli. Sarah is over at Fanny’s with Paul. She waves. I wave back. She’s expecting me.

“Geese Gwen, didn’t you hear me?” He says, out of breath from jogging.

“Hey Quentin, sorry didn’t want to get wet.”

“Since when?” He says and wiggles his eyebrows like Magnum P.I. I don’t like this side of him. It’s like he forgets who he is talking to. I am not that big bottom bimbo.

“What’s up?” I say impatiently.

“Just haven’t seen you in a while. I leave messages. Is your answering machine broke again?”

“Been busy.”

“Want to get a burrito?” He says.

“I’m meeting Sarah.”

“Oh, how about later? Picnic?” He says.

“It’s going to rain all day.”

“Picnic at the cove.” He says, which doesn’t involve a picnic at all. He does a half eyebrow wiggle.

I frown. God knows what cooties live in that van now. I wouldn’t get in it if he turned it completely inside out and scrubbed it twenty separate times, with bleach. He takes my hand. I want to wrench it out and slap him, and I want to dance in the rain with him and kiss him under the pier. It’s that messed up.

“Some other time, gotta go.” I say. I pull my hand out quickly and cross the street without looking back. I see his reflection in the window at Fanny’s. Stunned disbelief. I don’t want to feel what he is feeling anymore. He used to be my safe space.

“Move back to town.” He says.

I yank the door open, the sleigh bells from Christmas clatter against the glass. It’s cozy inside, warm and inviting as I would imagine a Grandma’s kitchen to be. Paul gets up and holds the chair out for me.

“Hot chocolate?” He says. I nod. “Donut?” I nod again but I’m thinking, yeah about a dozen of them please.

“How’ve you been?” Sarah says.

“Fine,” I say. Like a train wreck, I don’t say it out loud but I know she can tell.

“How’s the little guy?” I say. I sound hollow. He’s tucked into his big Mama purse bag under a fuzzy blanket, I can barely see his nose. She is all smiles in love, with the puppy, with Paul, with life. I want to be in love with life.

“He’s a little stinker,” she says. “Leave him alone for a minute and he’s eating my shoes and ordering pizzas.” We chuckle politely.

“How are you really?” She says.

Tears well up, there’s no stopping them. I wipe them away with my sleeve. I can’t even say, words float around my head but none of them are adequate. Paul brings my hot chocolate and a platter of glazed donuts. I want to laugh that he read my mind, I nod thanks. He leaves so I can fumble with words.

Quentin is standing in the rain across the street watching me. She looks at him. She looks at me. She knows. It’s simple really, girl loves boy since kindergarten, boy likes girl as sidekick with benefits. Still I try with words, like exorcism, where can I buy an exorcism, or hire a surgeon to cut this raging desire and pain from my heart. I sound crazy, even to me, sound as crazy as Mom locked up right now for being so crazy. I’m not supposed to say crazy but there’s no other word that fits as tight.

“I found these yesterday at the beach,” I say. It’s the real reason I’m here. I lay the glasses on the table, small, round, antique gold rim glasses, the kind Santa might wear, or John Lennon, or the Time Traveling librarian I dreamed about last night.

“I don’t think they belong to anyone in town,” she says.

“Here’s the thing,” I say, leaning forward, “I looked through them.” I did. She is waiting.

“You can see into another world.” I say.

Yes, you can. Poker face. Crickets.

“There is a library inside of them.” I say.

I amuse myself with craziness to squash the heartache of jealousy of a fat butt girl and the boy I love, and the Mom who’s never been like a Mom anyone would want, not really a Mom at all. Is mental instability inherited? Nature? Nurture? A gift from Mommy dearest? We must both be thinking it.

“A big library.” I say.

She is patient, calm, looks for the Charles Manson glaze in my eyes that has Mom locked up. It isn’t there. I don’t think it is. She picks up the glasses, examines them, slips them on and looks out to the rain. Jaw drops. Mouth opens.

“Oh my God,” She says. I’m probably dreaming this, but she takes them off, puts them back on. “Oh my God.” She says again. “How the..”

I pinch my arm. I feel the table, it is smooth and cold. I did that when I was little to make sure I wasn’t still in bed dreaming, but really in the bathroom. Pretty sure I’m not dreaming, been so damn close to hallucinating lately though. I haven’t slept in so long. That’s what happens to her. She doesn’t sleep. Can you go years without sleep?

“I don’t understand,” she says when she can find words. She folds the arms carefully, pushes them toward the donuts, cartoon like.

“But you see it, right?” I say. She nods, dumbfounded. “This is the crap I heard all my life. She lost her way home and got stuck here with us kids. Stuck.”

“I know.” She says sadly.

“No, I’m not sad for me, well yeah I am, but I’m sad for her. She must be some kind of time traveler and these glasses are her vehicle. I’m sure they’re hers and she lost them a long time ago, before she had us kids.” Boy I sound crazy as a loon, but this is true. I can feel it in my bones. I was meant to find them so she could go home. I am not that benevolent, not one bit. I want her to go, far away to other exciting worlds and never, ever, come back here.

“Gwen, come back into town. You can stay in my guest cottage.”

“Am I sounding crazy?” I whisper.

She shakes her head no, a real no, not a stalling until I come to my senses kind of a no, or I’m scaring the hell out of her kind of a no. There is no one else I would trust with this information.

“But what if this is it, the solution? What if she puts these on and poof she’s gone from here and back home where she belongs?” What if I could sleep without worrying that I might wake up being smothered by a pillow.

“Home to her seven sons?” She says.

I frown, it’s not that time of year, but it was last fall when she went too far. When she slipped up and put the knife to my neck in front of people. When she blew past caution and shocked the crap out of half the town at Oktoberfest. When Sarah talked her down and the Sherriff grabbed her from behind. When they took her away for observation and are still observing her. I shake that bad scene from my head and see Quentin right outside the window. I slap the glass with both hands, slap it hard, twice.

“Go home.” I yell, then turn my back to him. “Yes, to her goddamned seven sons if that’s what she wants. I’ve got to get these glasses to her.”

“They wouldn’t let you in to see her.”

“I know, I don’t want to see her,” like ever again. “I just want to return her glasses.”

“What if they aren’t hers?”
“Then she is out of confinement and off to the big libraries all across time. It’s nothing but a win-win.” Then I can sleep, and finally feel safe in my own home.

“Okay, if I get these glasses to her will you come into town, stay awhile in my guest house?”

“Yes,” I say without hesitation, surprising myself. Yes, I can leave that big monster of a house behind, the house that was supposed to be a refuge for me and never was.

“Stay tonight, and I’ll take you out there tomorrow morning to pack some things.” She says, “and I’ll get the glasses to her.”

“Today? Would you do it today?” I say. “Please?”

“Of course. Let’s grab some lunch, get you set up in the guest house, then I’ll run them out to Misty Glen. I have a friend who is a nurse there. She’ll take them in to her.”

“Thank you, Sarah.” Lightning cracks above us and thunder answers. The gods applaud, as Mom would say.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seaside Slasher a bit of flash fiction

A bit of flash fiction for Chuck Wendig‘s challenge. Slasher movie edition.

“Hey Gwen, want to go to the movies?” He yells from across the street, hops off his bike, walks it through the crosswalk. There is no traffic, it’s the Village off season.

“Hey Quentin,” I say and wave. He smiles that smile I’ve been in love with since kindergarten.

“You wanna?” He says.

“What’s playing?” I say.

“Forty Second Street Slash Mechanic II.”

“Doesn’t sound like a Lassie adventure to me.”

“Ha, you crack me up.” He says.

“No thanks.” I say.

“Come on, you haven’t gone with me in ages.”

“I don’t like those movies. The blood, the gore, the screaming.” I shudder.

“You saw the first one with me.” He says.

“You tricked me. I had my eyes closed most of the time and fingers in my ears but I still heard every one of those girls screaming and dying as gross and noisy as I could possibly imagine. Every, one, all nine of them. Nine.”

“Oh yeah huh, you were sort of stuck in the middle with me and couldn’t make it out on your crutches. Well, your ankle isn’t broken this time.” He says, and winks. “You could make a run for it if you had to.” He’s giving me the ‘come away with me’ look.

“No thanks. Why don’t you go with Beth or Roger?”

“Can’t, they’re going steady.” He says.

If I close my eyes we’d be standing in the hallway at school having this conversation, Middle school, the first time Beth and Roger went steady. The first time he held my hand.

“Come on.” He says. “I don’t want to go alone, that’s creepy.”

“No thanks.”

“Hey, did you hear Summer Girl is pregnant?” He says.

“What?”

“You know, Louise’s granddaughter.” He says. “Mom’s neighbor.”

“What? She’s a little kid.”

“Not so little anymore.” He says. “Sixteen.”

“Sixteen?” Wow, when did that happen? Weren’t we just sixteen? She’s the little kid so happy to spend the summer here she kisses the ground when she gets off the train. “How do you find these things out? You are more gossipy than my mom.”

“From your mom.” He says and laughs. “Kidding. I stopped by Lily’s at the Beach this morning after surfing. Big Scrabble tournament.”

“Did you win?”

“Nah, I never win. Anyway, Lily and Louise are worried about her, and want her to come live with them.” He says.

“She should have never gone back to live with that woman.”

“Her Mom wants her to give up the baby.” He says.

“Of course. That must be a terrible inconvenience to her Mom and the new husband.”

“Summer is a terrible inconvenience to her Mom.” He says, “always has been.”

“Maybe this is her way of, you know, breaking free to go live with her Grandma.” I say. He shakes his head.

“Man, you girls have convoluted schemes.” He says.

“Hi Quentin,” Heather calls out from the door of Fanny’s place. She waves.

Mention convoluted and look who shows up, I’m thinking it but I know those thoughts show right up on my face. He doesn’t notice. He is watching her sashay across the street, with that gigantic ass that could be the model for Fanny’s big neon fanny.

“Gwen,” she says, more of an assault than a greeting.

“Heather,” I serve it right back, and look down so the Ninja stars my eyes are throwing at her will hit the ground instead of impaling her eye sockets.

“Quentin, did you see what’s playing at the Seaside theater? It’s the sequel to Slash Mechanic. I’d love to go with you.” She scoots in so close they look like conjoined twins in the afternoon shadows.

I feel that same sick, stab in the belly feeling that I did the first time she did this, and the second, and third, and on and on, which is also why I won’t go with him, not to the movies, not anywhere. He reaches for my hand. I would take it. I would go to the end of the earth with him, but she would be there waiting to pull him away again, and he would go. And then she does. I step back under the awning of the deli.

“I’ll call you.” He says. I nod and turn away. I don’t want to see them walk off together. It’s not about a movie that she wants to see and I don’t, it’s another ha-ha I win, and I know she is looking over her shoulder with that smirk. She doesn’t want him, she wants the game. My rage is so consuming it could split her head down the middle like a bad cantaloupe.

I walk quickly to the beach and become that crazy slash mechanic in my mind and she is each one of the screaming victims. I don’t want to terrorize her. I want to knock her head off in every way I can imagine, axes, baseball bats, guillotines. I step out of my shoes when I hit the sand and walk out into the water. Seaweed wraps around my ankles, my calves. I kick it off, screaming like a little kid throwing a tantrum in the market. No candy for you, Gwen. I get tangled and fall. The swirling tide dumps me back on shore. I pound the sand with my fists, pound until I’m exhausted. That’s what Dad used to say, go pound sand.  I lie there and laugh, seaweed flows around me like mermaid hair.

I spend five minutes with Quentin and get crazy all over again. I need to kill this desire for him, exorcise it, slash it from my heart. He is the one who goes off with her. If it wasn’t her would it be someone else? Probably. I crawl out to the dry sand, shivering, and watch the sun drop low on the horizon.

After a lifetime of watching for it, then believing it is something Mom made up to keep us quiet, there it is, the Goddamned green flash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remember to Have Fun

A bit of Flash Fiction for Chuck Wendig’s challenge. The inspiration this time was from INSPIROBOT . 1,000 words from the Inspirobot meme, mine is 997 words and we are back in Seaside Village.

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“Mornin’ Maggie,” I call out and wave. She waves, steps out into the street without looking, of course there’s rarely any downtown traffic. It’s off season, in a few months it will be brimming with visitors. Her Birkenstocks and striped wool socks peek out under the long ‘go to town skirt’ with each step. She’s carrying a five-pound Folgers can full of sweet peas, fresh picked this morning.

“How are you doing, dear?” She says. “I’ve missed you and Douglas stopping by. I’m so sorry, he was such a sweet, big old love-bug dog.”

“Thank you, Maggie.”

She pulls two large bundles of flowers from the can and gives me a good, long, one arm hug. I tear up thinking of Dougie. It’s only been a week. We’d stop at Maggie’s front yard flower stand every morning after our walk to the beach. The Sweet Peas are a dollar a bundle. It’s honor system, cash in an old cigar box. Most mornings she was out working the garden when we came by and she’d pull two bundles out while we visited, wrap them in newspaper like babies in swaddling and hand them to me. Douglas and I came back by on our moonlight walk and slip dollar bills into the cigar box for her. I’m thinking I’ll plant some along the back fence for him.

“Are these the last of the season?” I say. She nods.

“There are a few stragglers, enough for a couple more mornings. I’m trying something new this year,” she looks up and down the street as if someone might overhear. There is no one. “Fireworks,” she whispers, then giggles.

“Fireworks?” She’s never even attended the big Fourth of July display by the town council off the end of the pier.

“My niece came up this weekend, we lost my sister a few months ago,” she says.

“I remember, I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you, Sarah. My sister left them for me, just boxes and boxes of them, filled the whole minivan. She wrote ‘Don’t Forget to have fun’ on each box, isn’t that something.”

“You’re putting them in the flower stand?”

“Only sparklers and small items, rest assured I will be there and not sell any to the kids. I must away, stop by and visit. I miss you.” Another hug, she crosses the street and goes into Dean’s Deli.

“Morning Sarah,” Paul says as I leave the street chill behind. The sleigh bells jingle. Fanny’s is warm and fragrant with gingerbread from the coffee beans he roasted and flavored this morning. He pours two coffees and brings them to my table in the corner. There are bud vases of sweet peas on all five tables. The Mayor is making good use of my usual table under the neon Friendly Fanny sign, with the Seaside Village Weekly News spread about.

“Sarah, so good to see you. My condolences on the loss of your fine dog. I always enjoyed his antics.” He says.  “What’s that Magpie up to now?” He nods to Maggie across the street.

“Fireworks,” Paul says balancing two plates of glazed donuts in one hand and a creamer full of half and half in the other. He sits, puts my sweet peas in a glass of water and hands me the Weekly News.

“I put up with the wacky tobacky she’s got planted in with her tomatoes, but, hmm, fireworks…no.” The Mayor shakes his head, gathers up the newspaper and heads out to rain on Maggie’s fireworks parade.

“Are Fran and Phil still in Florida?” I say, he nods. “Honeymoon?”

“Oh, good Lord I hope not.” He says and laughs. “I have something for you, be right back.”

He comes back with a large bag and a pink cake box with a pink bow on top, and sets it on the table. “I know all the books say it’s probably not a good idea, but.”

The lid pops up. A fuzzy white puppy face greets me with a big grin and a little yap. I’m stunned. He looks like a teeny, baby version of Dougie. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s too soon. I want to close the lid and wish myself back home at the start of this day, and stay in bed like all last week, lost in that black hole of grief. Yap, says the puppy as he leaps from the box, grabs my donut and jumps right into my heart. Some things can’t be stopped once they’re started, charging bulls, fireworks and puppies sent from heaven. He settles under my chin gooing glazed donut down my neck.

“Oh, Paul,” I say and cry, and laugh.

“So, it was a good idea?”

“Yes,” I nod, “yes.” He hugs me and kisses my forehead, then wipes the donut off my neck.

“It just kills me to see you so sad, Sarah. You said one time the next dog will be pocket book size and we’ll dress alike, so,” he pulls a bright pink Fanny’s sweatshirt out of the bag, and a matching tiny one fashioned into doggy wear. I laugh. Then came a big purse-like doggy carrier. “There’s puppy food and stuff inside.” He says.

“Oh Paul, thank you.” I am overwhelmed by his kindness. The puppy licks the tears from my cheek, then bites at my earring, wagging the entire time.

The sleigh bells bang against the door, Maggie bounds inside.

“Wonderful, you’re both here. There’s been a change in plans. Big cookout at the beach tonight and the Mayor himself is going to set off all my fireworks! Not all at once, of course, well maybe for the grand finale. Oh, I am so pleased. Do come, dress warm, bring a pie.” She says and is gone.

“Pick you up?” He says and I nod. “It’s a date then. Bringing the little guy?”

“Jack, yeah we’ll wear matching sweatshirts.”

“Jack, huh, I like it.” He says, and kisses me. “Remember to have fun, Sarah.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Friendly Fanny’s Pies and Such

A bit of flash fiction for Chuck Wendig‘s challenge: There is no exit. 1,000 words. Mine is 983 words.

 

 

“Oh, what in the hell!” A scream then follows from the back room.

“Aunt Fran just saw the new sign.” He says, lowering my peach pie into the bright pink box.

“Did Phil do it?” I say and he nods, chuckling.

“Of course.” He says.

“What was it supposed to say this time?”

“Not an Exit. Folks keep wandering through the side door here,” he points with his chin, “looking for a bathroom. She didn’t want to sound rude, we don’t have a public bathroom. She figures this will work.” The swinging doors behind him burst open with a kick.

“Look at this shit,” she says, slamming a beautifully carved oak sign on the glass counter. I read it upside down. THERE IS NO EXIT it says. “This is a friendly bakery establishment, not goddamned Hotel California.” We both work at not laughing.

“Call him. Tell him the sign I ordered better be in my hands by this afternoon. Oh, hi hon,” she says to me, “Let me get you a coffee.” She gets two of the heavy, white vintage mugs from the shelf, fills each with decaf and slides one across the counter to me. “Today, tell him it better be here today, Paul. Sarah, nice seeing you.” I smile and nod as she kicks the doors to the back open.

Paul dials up Phil on the wall phone I hear it ringing, stretches the cord to the end of its curl, dumps the decaf, pours the coffee of the day, a French roast and slides it across the counter to me. He puts a glazed donut that he made this morning on a matching vintage plate, and slides it next to the coffee. The phone is still ringing. I’m sure Phil is waiting for this call, probably with his feet up on the desk and sipping an Irish coffee watching the phone ring. I take my coffee, balance the donut plate on the pie box and have a seat by the window under the neon Friendly Fanny sign. Days like this it’s the best entertainment in this little seaside village.

Friendly Fanny’s Pies and Such started out with a normal name, simply Fran’s Bakery and Coffee Roaster. Paul roasts all the coffee himself each morning. A week before the opening Fran and Phil broke up, again. Phil, the only sign man in town was in the middle of making her sign. He installed it early opening day, a modest painted sign in a pretty font, Fanny’s Pies. She pitched a fit, he took it down. It came back just as it is now Friendly Fanny’s Pies and Such in motion neon with a cartoon Fran in a cheesecake pose, wearing pink Daisy May short shorts and a big behind that wiggles back and forth. She wanted to hate it, but there you go, it’s still here wiggling today for the whole world to enjoy. Even the town council considers it a landmark now, and I laugh to think of it. Paul said, ‘I think they had wild hmm-hmm that night’ and remembering that makes me laugh too. I open my notebook.

“Hey Phil, you old coot.” Paul says, then holds the phone out for me to hear him laughing. “Good one. She wants her real sign by this afternoon and you can pick this one up.” More laughing, “See you this afternoon Phil.” He rolls his eyes and hangs up.

The door bells jingle, Emma Jean pushes a doggy stroller through. Her dog, Alice has that built in smile that all Pugs do. They are wearing the same polka dot dress. Paul slides the new sign under the counter, meets my eyes and we work at not giggling.

“Morning Sarah, how are you coming on that novel, dear? Can’t wait to read it.” She drags a chair to the corner table, then adds two more. “Morning Paul, the book club will be along shortly.”

He is already on his way with a coffee carafe and a tray of donuts.  They are here for the show. They usually meet at the diner across the street. On slow mornings, Paul and I have coffee together. ‘Here come the biddies,’ he’d say as they strolled up the street in their fancy book club meeting dresses, and here they come.

Phil’s ’49 Ford truck pulls up, tips his faded baseball cap to the ladies, I’m a Fanny man, it says. They giggle. He holds the door for them, the new sign is under his arm wrapped in brown paper.

“Here you go, Paul.” He says handing him the package. “I’ll have two coffees to go, and heck give me a bag of your best glazed.” The ladies in the corner giggle and fan themselves with menus.

Paul fills his order, places the coffee and bag of donuts in a cardboard tray, picks up the bill on the counter.

“Keep the change,” Phil says as he turns, nods to the ladies in the corner and winks at me.

Paul takes the package to the backroom, comes out, wipes down the counter and I swear I hear the Jeopardy jingle. And now we wait.

“What in the hell!” Fran plunges through the swinging doors, sees the old truck out front and slams through the glass door, one of the bells flies off and rolls down the sidewalk. She flings herself at the passenger window, slapping her hands against the glass. “God damn you Phil,” she screams. He leans over opens the door, she gets in and one long stream of curse words follow them down the street.

Paul already has the step ladder in the doorway of the side room, tacks up the sign and steps back to make sure it’s straight.

THERE IS NO EXIT, Y’ALL, it says. Silence in the bakery, a nervous giggle and then we all laugh. I want to clap. Good one, Phil.

 

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Once There Was Far Music

A bit of flash fiction for Chuck Wendig’s Challenge: Pick a Five word title, write 1500 words. Mine is 1499, with one word in change.

“All the hookers on the pipeline wore patchouli,” she says, plopping down on the long bench seat next to me.  “That’s when I stopped wearing it.”

I scooch my backpack closer. She wrinkles her nose. I am wearing patchouli. The bus driver smirks at this before pulling off the gravel back onto the road. I see him in the rearview mirror.

Dad talked endlessly about the pipeline when he called on Sundays after way too may beers. A welder since before I was born, he said the pipeline was created just for him to make a fortune. He drove his jeep all the way up there with a couple of pals. They went back home to Omaha, but he stayed. Each week I heard how he roller skated on empty roads, got in bar fights, made his own beer, panned for gold on the weekends, bought a ranch then lost it in a crap game, danced naked under the Northern lights and fell in love with Northern women. He was already an old man then living out his last great adventure.

Every call ended with, “I don’t know why she left me and took you girls away. Come see me.”

“Maybe in the fall Dad.” I’d say.

“Okay,” he’d say and I’d hear his breathing fade into the far away music from the honky tonk tavern below his apartment until it became the dial tone.

“It’s because you beat her every Friday night, you old son of a bitch.” I’d say to the phone. Whoever thought I’d miss those calls.

“What you got in there?” Pipeline gal says nodding to my backpack. “It smells.”

I look out the window. The bus is too full to get away from her. I wonder what she was doing on the pipeline. A kid toward the back has his Walkman on so loud even the bus hum and chattering of the four ladies still in their blue smocks from the assembly plant by the tracks doesn’t drown it out. It’s so loud I want to sing along like I do when I’m sweeping the floor, Jeramiah was a, then I realize I am singing it and hum the rest. I tap my toes in the air to the music.

It is a pleasant sunset ride to the beach. The shadows are long already. It will be dark by the time I walk out to the end of the jetty. I brought my flashlight. We pass the strip mall where I got my glasses last year. Most shops are empty now except the liquor store and some fast food joints. KFC wafts somehow through the windows lulling folks to sleep. Pipeline gal’s head nods forward.

There’s a bus stop out here in the middle of nowhere. We slow down. A young Mom with a baby stroller and grocery bags waits in the last golden light of the day. She is smiling. Then two guys slide out from the deep shadows of an oleander bush behind her, my heart pounds and everything goes into slow motion. Does she know them? Did she know they were there? Her smile seems sly to me now, suspicious even. The second guy is holding something next to his leg, a cane, a riffle? No, it can’t be, it must be a baseball bat, but they are in street clothes. They didn’t just play baseball. Did they? No one seems to notice. No one is paying attention. I glance around. Everything tells me this isn’t right, the hair on the back of my neck, on my arms say run, run now. I’m ready to jump up and run right out of here. Everyone moves gently together, swaying as we brake.

“Don’t stop.” I hear myself say. No one hears. Did I say it out loud? I’m going to sound crazy. “Don’t stop,” I say again louder, shrill, “he’s got a bat.” We slow to a stop. I look around in jerky motions. “Don’t open the door. The guy in the back has a baseball bat! Can’t you see it?” I say it to the driver, but he only sees her pretty smile. The doors open. I rise slowly, they will think I’m offering my seat to her. Then I jump into the aisle and run to the back door screaming, tapping shoulders, “Wake up, get out, save yourselves, he’s got a gun.”

I jump out and don’t look back. Then I run, run like I haven’t ran since the fifty-yard dash in sixth grade. I run and run. The strip mall and the telephone booth outside the liquor store is still so impossibly far away. Where did those people come from? There’s no grocery store nearby. There aren’t even any houses here, only chaparral and ravens.  I hear screaming and gunshots. Did I hear gunshots? Are they screaming on the bus? “Oh my God,” I cry out “help me get to the phone.”

I run faster and the hard box in my pack slams against the small of my back. Cars have their headlights on now and whoosh KFC and honeysuckle as they pass. Then, as in all those movies where the girl running in high heels trips and falls I hit the gravel like I’m sliding in to home base with both elbows, arms and knees, barely saving my nose. I jump back up because I am the only person in the world who can save those people on the bus. I can feel gravel in my knees, my pants are ripped. My arms are wet, I’m sure it’s blood but there’s the phone.

I tear the door open. The light comes on and I dig for a dime in my pocket. I am shaking so hard it flips out of my fingers, lands somewhere on the floor and I can’t find it. It’s okay I can dial 0 for the operator without a dime. There is no dial tone. I dial again, nothing. This is supposed to work. There is a tap at the door and a silhouette of a tall man. I scream.

“You all right, hon?” He says. Now, I’m hysterical. “The phone’s out of order, why don’t you come inside?”

I open the door slowly, still crying. It sticks halfway and he pushes it open.

“What happened? You’re all banged up.” He says.

“The bus,” I point up the road but I can’t catch my breath now.

“Did the bus hit you?” He says.

“No, a man.”

“A man did this?”

I shake my head, crying. “I fell. A man got on the bus with a rifle, no, I mean a baseball bat. I saw him. I tried to warn them. No one listened. I ran. I heard screaming and shots, I think I heard shots.” He looks up the road. Nods his head.

“Is that what that was? Hmm. Let’s get you inside.” He says, taking my arm. “My wife will clean up your cuts.”

“Call the police.”

“We’ll do that.” He says.  “The county Sherriff will be out this way in a couple of hours. Come on in now.”

I step out frantically, and look over my shoulder to the bus. Nothing is there. It’s gone. Are they safe then? Did I imagine all of this? No, I couldn’t have. Three big sleigh bells are tied to the door handle, they jingle as we enter. He nods to his wife.

“Oh my,” she says stepping out from the counter. “Come on in the back dear. I have some peroxide and Band-Aids, we’ll get you fixed up.” Her husband takes her place behind the counter, picks up the phone. There is a kitchenette in the back. I sit at the table. She wets a washcloth.

“Did you hear all of that commotion out there a bit ago?” She says. I nod. “Sounded like a surprise party.” I’m not sure how to respond to that, so I don’t. She carefully cleans my scrapes and cuts, then tapes a chorus line of blue Band-Aids on both arms. I stand and thank her.

“Whatever you was doing, you can do it some other time. Go home now.” She says. I nod. They trade places behind the counter again. He holds the door for me.

“Talked to one of my buddies down the line, got a little burger stand, says the bus pulled out of his place a couple minutes ago. They all seemed fine. Another bus will be along in a few minutes, both directions. You okay?”

“Thanks, yeah. Good to know.” I nod, swing my pack on and head out across the street. He waves. I see the bus approaching, lights on in the twilight coming from the coast to take me back home. What the hell was all that about?

“Well Dad, maybe we’ll try this again in the fall. You don’t mind hanging out on the mantel until then do you?” Yeah, I didn’t think so.

 

 

 

 

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Happy Equinox fellow babies

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Thanks Giving YoDa Say

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YoDa Say Thank You For Warm Breezy Days.

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Thanks Giving YoDa Say Thank You

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YoDa Say Thank You For Birds That Don’t Fly.

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Thanks Giving YoDa Say Thank You

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YoDa Say Thank You for the Big Blue Sky.

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Memorial Day

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