Categories
Short Story

The Maker

Sweat dripped onto the sidewalk placed on the model’s cardboard. With precision, William’s nimble fingers crafted a tree no bigger than a quarter in the dark basement of a house in downtown Milwaukee. It was meant to fit in perfectly with the rest of his creations. A train track carved out its place in the green turf that made up the grass and over the Menomonee River. Even the smallest buildings were meticulously organized, painted, proportioned. They fit into the invisible blueprints that were mapped out in his mind, a replica of his hometown.

Building things calmed him. But then, the phone rang. His eyes flicked up for a moment and returned to his work. Silence and then again, the phone rang. Sighing and placing the deciduous tree carefully down he stood, his knees cracking. He wiped his gluey hands on his pants.

“Hello.”

“Is William Yaohua there?”

“Speaking.” He reached with a dirty finger into his mouth and swabbed out some spaghetti noodle hiding behind his molars. He grimaced as the familiar taste of paste lingered on his tongue.

“My name is Doctor Virginia Mary. I’m calling to tell you that your sister, Rebecca has been admitted to Columbia Saint Mary’s”

“The Hospital? Is she alright?” William’s mouth went dry and he glanced at the clock. 8:25 pm.

“She is in the hospital. She’s been hit by a car on Prospect Avenue and suffered blunt trauma to the face and chest. She is currently in the ICU undergoing surgery. You were her emergency contact.”

“Alright, I’ll be there soon.” He slammed the landline onto the receiver. The thunderous sound of his footsteps echoed his heartbeat. Barely registering the crack of the car door and the revving of the engine was the last thing that he heard on his property, besides the buzzing in his head.

Will sat in the waiting room for what seemed like hours. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from every movement of the short hand of the clock. It was as if his eyes were tied to it with rope. His hope was the only thing strong enough to be pulling his attention away every time the doors of surgery swung open, but every time his eyes met a different very busy nurse.

“Yaohua?” He stood up, the magazine he had been holding went sprawling onto the ground. The pages showed the best way to trim belly fat to the ceiling. The doctor gripped his shoulder.

“The good news is that she is stable and you can see her now. However, she’s in a comatose state and has sustained extreme injuries. There’s no other way to put this. She may never be the same again.” Will’s eyes clouded over.

“Hey, sis.” He sat down next to Rebecca and gripped her hand tightly. Her face was completely covered with bandages. “I love you.” His voice cracked, and the Electrocardiogram beeped steadily in response. “I’m sorry that this happened to you. But I’m here for you. I’ll be here if you need anything. I know you probably can’t hear me, but do you remember when mom got sick that first time? Injuries are no match for us. We always pull through.”

The only answer was the soft beeping of the machine and the squeak of sneakers out in the hall. The clock ticked on the bedside table.

Rebecca died two hours after she had left the surgery table. Her funeral was scheduled for the day after next.

Rain-engorged clouds filled the sky. Everyone was wearing black and shivering in the autumn bluster. The casket was a deep brown color. Rebecca’s friends and families surrounded the priest, listening quietly.

“…For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands but with faith in God’s love, eternal in heaven. The word of the Lord.” The Priest closed the bible had read from and caught the eyes of William. An empathy filled them which made the corners of William’s mouth stretch toward his ears and his heart ache.

“The word of the Lord,” The crowd echoed back.

William stood at the back of the crowd. He remembered the days of sunshine of their youth and how much hope and intelligence she always carried with her. He dried his tears and forced a smile as hand after hand pat him on the shoulder.

After the funeral, the boxes of Rebecca’s things flooded into his house. He was the only surviving member of their family since neither he or Rebecca had ever married. He sifted through clothes, keeping photographs, old papers written by his sister, and an antique pocket watch then donating the rest.

He often turned the antique pocket watch over and over in his hands. Tracing his fingers over the smooth metal and glass, it was solid in his hands. Where had Rebecca gotten this watch? It wasn’t like her to keep old things around. She had always shown off the latest and greatest technology, making sure to always have the newest thing.

But now, he was late for his routine doctor’s appointment.

He drove his car carefully on the icy roads. The snow plummeted from the sky and the windshield wipers squawked against the glass. He stopped at a railroad crossing as the lights were signaling a train. Handling the timepiece in his jacket pocket he pressed the button, making the gears click and shift. It hadn’t worked before. He must’ve finally loosened the screws or something.

He stared at the graffiti on the sides of the train as it blew past. One car, two cars, three, dark caps of coal topped each car. As his car idled the hot air circulated, blowing straight into his red cheeks. Sighing, he fidgeted for a couple more minutes before he turned on the radio.

“…’an’t believe this. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s the 28th of January and an oak tree is growing straight out of the concrete on the corner of 16th Street and Vernon next to the Menomonee river. Locals state that there was no sign of any plants before 5 pm yesterday. The patrons of the local Third Space Brewery…”

William blinked and looked at the street signs. It read 16th Street. He looked to his right, a crowd peppered with the flashes of cameras gathered outside of the brewery despite the chill. He pulled out his smartphone and looked up his location. He had just passed the 16th street bridge going north. The Menomonee river had chunks of ice drift past below him.

“Other changes have been noted by city officials as the very landscape changes beneath our feet causing extreme structural damage. There is no other way to describe it as other than a supernatural natural event,” The radio continued.

A rhythmic ticking reverberated in his hand. He looked at his sister’s pocket watch and flicked the stopwatch function off. He forgot that he had turned it on.

“The changes in the landscape have shifted as policemen answer calls regarding what witnesses describe as a freak earthquake and spontaneous arboreal germination…”

The train rumbled past, the last car finally leaving William’s vision.

He spotted the tree. Its roots muscled through the deep concrete, a dark brown in the endless gray of winter. In the distance its flat broad leaves waving at him in the freezing wind. The green was as vivid as emeralds in the vast whiteness of snowbanks stacked on the sides of the street.

He approached the tree, his turn slow and thoughtful. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from its branches. He squinted. There were clumps of acorns peeking from the green leaves. Squirrels would at least be happy. He drove carefully and stared at the tree which had not been there before the train had come. How could it be? He blinked his eyes, hard. It was still there. He shook his head. It was still there. He slapped his cheeks and blinked and shook his head. It was still there. But the clock on his car dashboard still said he would be late to his appointment.

On his way home. He made a point to drive past it again. When he got home, he went straight to his basement and worked on his model. The darkness of the basement was comforting. Here, there was nothing strange. All was familiar and his eyes grew heavy with contentment. The soft sound of Miles Davis echoed softly in the corner emanating from an antique record player. The small amount of light reflected off the flat black grooved vinyl disk.

He was measuring proportions for a model of the local news tower, K48. He referenced his blueprint and then visited his model. He stopped and stared. He had left the miniature oak tree in the center of an intersection. The small street signs that he had erected read, 16th and Vernon.

An idea came to him. He pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. Heshook his head. No, that was stupid. He walked away, opened up a la coix, took a deep sip and then put the can on the counter and went back to the model. He uprooted the K48 tower and then placed it directly in the center of the American Family Park, formerly known as Miller Park parking lot.

William sat on his chair. The remote slid a bit before he turned on the tv’s new channel. In his left hand, he held the stopwatch. He licked his lips.

He clicked the button and the watch ticked and then reset.

The news channel blurred. He knit his eyebrows together and flipped to the other channels, they were just fine. Clicking his watch again. He went to the news channel. It was still fuzzy. He flipped to the local news.

Footage of the K48 news tower played. He gasped. The tower grew like a flower out of the concrete of the parking lot in the center of Milwaukee. He stopped the watch. The tower stopped growing. He started it again. The tower resumed its rise from the bowels of the earth.

His chest grew tight. The remote slipped from his hand and clattered to the floor. He clapped his hand against his mouth. The button on the antique watch clicked as he stopped it. So too, did the growth of the K48 news tower. His eyes were wide and they flicked from the watch in his hand to the model of Milwaukee on the table to the TV, where a breathless newsperson tried to explain the unexplainable.

William looked at his model of Milwaukee and the antique watch in his hand. It was impossible… Was the model, the watch, and real-life connected?

Categories
Short Story

A Job from Hell

I was born with the name, Calvin. Although it was the name that my mother gave me when I was born, it wasn’t the name people at the office called me. They usually called me Cal.I never knew what name to call any of them. I had worked at the office for years, but I had not gotten the name of any of my co-workers or even my boss. 

Yellow United Company was an insurance company. It was the only place that I have ever worked. Whenever I told people that I worked there, a glaze would come over their eyes and they would say, “hmm, very interesting,” 

It didn’t seem like the people who worked there thought that the work was interesting either. They always seemed to be training someone new when I was finally around the office. So many different faces, all without names. It was alright for me. Once every couple weeks I would get on a plane and travel around the country. When I would often come back I would see new people in the office.

 I never recognized anyone. I preferred it that way. But it was after my 37th birthday party that I began to feel an uneasiness that never left as long as I was at Yellow United. The people I had worked with were always a bit strange. Never in any way that I could explain to people without them saying that I was being sensitive or that I was the strange one.

I went back to my desk. Brushing off the dust I sat, and reorganized my desk. I looked to my left. There was a strange scent wafting from the cubicle there.

“What is that? Tuna?” I asked, trying to make conversation.

“Hey Cal, happy to see you. Welcome back to the office. It’s not tuna.”

“Yeah nice to see you again… remind your name? I’m sorry,” I said putting my hand behind my head and giving a grin.

“My name is Joseph.” He said. I stared at him. 

“Okay,” I looked to my left just in time to see my other co-worker clipping her toenails at her desk. 

“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked as a shard of toenail flew into my mouth. I turned green and spat out the offending projectile. Slamming my hands against the table, I stood. “Would you stop that? Do you have to do this now?”

“Oh, Cal. I didn’t see you there. Do you want to borrow my toe clippers after me?” She asked. My stomach turned over and my face twisted in revulsion. Her toes were yellowed and thick. I could see the fungus overgrowing and flaking off of her foot onto her desk.

“No thanks, uh what was your name?”

“Dorothy,” She said, even her smile was yellow.

“Right,” I said and nodded. It wasn’t long before 5 o’clock blissfully came around. 

“Goodbye,” I said. 

“Goodbye Cal,” The whole office said in unison. I shivered. 

The next morning I had to sit in my car for a few minutes before going in. 

“Hey Cal,” There was a young blonde sitting across from me.

“Oh, hello, do I know you?” I asked. I pushed back my receding hairline. The young blonde laughed as if I had told a hilarious joke. My laugh was hollow as I joined her. 

“What department do you work in,”

“I work in HR,”

“Oh, I thought Joseph did,” I said, earning myself a blank stare. Something squirmed underneath my feet. I looked down. The whole floor below me was covered in slugs. Brown slugs, with their mucus trailing behind them, staining the carpet with black streaks. Shining in the fluorescent lights like precious stones. Gasping, I stood on my chair. I looked around. The slugs were coming from the cubicle to my right. Where Joseph had been.

But, instead of the well-groomed if a bit fish-smelling man from yesterday, there was a boy, who couldn’t be older than 20 sitting there. 

“Do you have any salt?” He asked me. I shook my head. 

“No, I don’t”

“Pity, it’s the only way to get rid of slugs, is to throw salt on them,” He reached for his briefcase and opened it. It was filled to the brim with slugs. My stomach turned over again, looking around. Was anyone seeing this? This had to be against the rules.

“Oh, I see. Yup, slugs, got you,” I said, wiping sweat from my forehead. 

“Is something wrong Cal?” He asked. I shook my head and didn’t answer. I rushed to the men’s bathroom. But a sound stopped me just as I began to push on the door. 

There was a soft chanting noise coming from the woman’s bathroom. It took a bloodcurdling scream for me to rush in. 

“Is everyone okay?” I said, bursting through the door. I looked to see a roomful of strangers holding a chicken without a head. It’s blood splattered across the walls and a pentagram was drawn on the ground. 

“I see that you are all busy, and I’ll leave you to it,” I said, turning white. “Goodbye,” I said and I ran out of the women’s bathroom. I loosened my necktie, took everything of value from my desk and shoved it into a white box. 

“Cal, where are you going? It’s not even lunch yet,” A stout woman blocked my way through the door.

“I’m leaving, I’m quitting, I have no idea who you are and I would appreciate it if you would step aside,”

“Oh that’s too bad, we’ve had a change of management recently and I would really like to introduce you to your new president,”

“No thanks, really I have to go,” I said. I pushed her aside with force and ripped off my nametag, throwing it into the garbage. I kicked open the door and went to my car. Driving away I looked behind me to see that the ground surrounding the Yellow United Company building was cracking and descending into hell. Literal hell. I laughed incredulously and wondered what I would say when I had to tell people why I had left my last job.

Categories
Short Story

The Treasure Notebook

It was dark inside the trash compactor. Hippocrates’s Green Bay packer Jersey hung off of him. Small bits of slime shone in the green light. He gritted his teeth as the light blinked. It blinked again. He cursed his late grandfather for ever leaving him that small black moleskin notebook and its dumb map leading it to his Grandfather’s fortune. 20-thousand-dollar treasure be damned. Why did his Grandfather have to be so damn cryptic all the time. Hippocrates’s screwed up his face, his eye blinking from the sweat dripping into and stinging his eyes.

                “We’ll let you go if you give us the notebook,” a voice blared from speakers just outside the small sliver of light from the outside. Hippocrates retched at the vile smell around him and he raised his hands defensively.

                “Brandon, I cannot give you the notebook on account that I do not have it on my person at the moment,” Hippocrates said. He noticed a smudge on his wristwatch and rubbed the smudge, only making it spread more. The light turned red. The walls wailed as they moved closer together, leaving less room for Hippocrates

“Is that so? It’s not like you haven’t come up short before in our business dealings. Even in high school, you always were a gram or two short of weed when I picked up. Always trying to screw other people over for a quick buck. Now that the stakes are higher, your idiocy is finally being paid back,” Brandon said. Hippocrates winced and cursed himself for not cutting the weed with other drugs so that Brandon wouldn’t have had noticed his past deceptions.

“Wait, wait. I have a counter offer. My grandmother, she knows about the notebook. She knows about the money and the map, so why don’t we take a break from the trash compactor and the crushing and I can lead you to her. No one gets hurt and you get your money. 20,000 dollars, and it’s all yours, all my debts, paid in full,” Hippocrates said. The walls stopped moving and the light turned back to green. Hippocrates breathed out.

                “I’m listening,” The speaker said. Hippocrates bared his teeth, lifting himself on the tip of his toes. Stench filled his nostrils. His eyes widened.

                “My grandmother. She’s the only one who knows what it is. She’s still at the football game at Lambeau, she’ll lead us to the little black notebook,” Hippocrates says.

                “How do I know you won’t just go to the cops?”

“Because I just told you where my grandmother is,”

“I don’t know Hipp,”

“How long have we known each other? You know I’m good for it, I’ll get you your money, no harm, no foul. Grandma and I will retire to Florida and ride out the rest of her retirement money. You get to keep the notebook and the 20 thousand, and you never hear from me again,” Hippocrates said.

“Alright, lead us to your grandma and out of respect for the time that we have known each other, I won’t kill you,” Brandon said.

“Thank you, Brandon, thank you,” Hippocrates said as the walls began to open. The floor beneath him began angling down and Hippocrates was dumped unceremoniously onto a pile of trash below. The wind blew across the dump as Hippocrates stretched his legs and shivered in the fall air.

“Let’s go,” A tall muscled man lifted Hippocrates to his feet.

“Oh hello!” Hippocrates said and removed himself from his grasp. “Brandon, who is this handsome man?” Hippocrates asked as he wiped his hands on his clothes, not much good that it did. The tall man frowned at him pushed Hippocrates towards Brandon, as diminutive as always even compared to Hippocrates’s modest 5’7.

“I’m glad you decided to help us Hipp, it really makes finding your grandfather’s black moleskin all the easier. Your grandfather was a tough guy and smart too. He’s hidden his money well, but as soon as I found out about the map in that black book, I knew I had to have it. It’s too bad you didn’t get any brains from him or any of his Irish mafia buddies. Now are you ready to go to the playoffs?” Brandon asked, his neck dripping with herringbone gold jewelry.

Hippocrates ran his fingers through his hair in the car’s reverse mirrors, trying to restore some ounce of tidiness. He smoothed down his eyebrows and fixed his collar.

“Yeah, I’m ready, you don’t happen to have any deodorant or cologne, do you?” Hippocrates said and cleared his throat. He adjusted his jersey and pants. The car rumbled and he shifted uncomfortably in his own stench. Brandon nodded to the tall man who sat in the passenger seat. The tall man threw the deodorant at him.

“Thanks,” Hippocrates said. They rounded a hill and over the horizon was Lambeau field. Hippocrates smiled.

“That isn’t the first time he’s heard that,” Brandon said. They pulled up to the parking lot and navigated the tailgaters and stray cans of Miller High Life that populated the lot. Brandon pulled to the entrance. The Tall man got out of the car and slammed the door shut.

“Keep an eye on this one and bring grandma back in one piece,” Brandon said to the tall man. The Tall man nodded.

“I understand. Let’s go,” The tall man said.

“Is that your catchphrase or something? It’s always ‘let’s go,’ but never how are you,” Hippocrates said. The tall man bared his teeth and the hardness of his expression made Hippocrates quiet. The tall man opened the door for Hippocrates and jerked his chin. Hippocrates got out of the car, his head down.

“Be back in an hour and a half, there’s a sale on at the grocery store and I need to pick up asparagus before its over,” Brandon said. The tall man nodded and pushed Hippocrates forward.

“Don’t think of trying anything,” The tall man lifted his shirt and reveal a very shiny black revolver.

“They aren’t going to let you in with that,” Hippocrates said. The tall man glowered and took out the gun and gave it to Brandon.

“Don’t think I can’t crush your skull even without a gun,” The tall man said.

“Understood,” Hippocrates said. He flashed a smile, “Let’s go,’ Brandon took the gun and rolled his eyes.

“See you in an hour and a half, and don’t be late. If anything goes wrong, well, I think I remember where you live, and grandma has got to come home sometime. Hippocrates swallowed back his retort and nodded.

Lambeau was packed. Every seat was filled and the sun shone. As the two made their way to the ticket booth, a group of women wrinkled their noses at Hippocrates’s stench. Hippocrates grinned, his face going red and winked at the ladies. One of them gasped and averted her eyes. He caught his reflection in the mirror and ran his hands through his hair again, wiping off some of the more obvious slime patches and with a couple of disgusted looks the cashiers waved them through.

“Is it something I said?” Hippocrates said smiling to the tall man. The tall man grunted and pushed him forward.

“Where is she?” The tall man asked. Hippocrates rifled around in his pockets drawing out his stained ticket stub again

“She’s… she’s in section 1A5. Pretty good seats I have to admit. Grandpa may have led a life of crime but he had good taste,” Hippocrates said.

“Whatever,” The tall man said, dragging Hippocrates behind him. They walked down the steep flights of stairs as they saw the football players in green and gold warming up on the field below them.

“There she is, my grandma. Isn’t she beautiful?” Hippocrates said and pointed as he caught sight of an old woman decked out in cheesehead gear. He quickened his step and the tall man checked his watch.

“Grandma!” Hippocrates shouted. The old woman turned and smiled but her face froze as she saw the state that Hippocrates was in.

“Hipp, my goodness what happened to you? Did you slip in dog poop again?” Grandma asked.

“Grandma, don’t embarrass me in front of my friend,” Hippocrates whined and hugged his grandma.

“What’s wrong dear?” Grandma asked the tall man, “Here,” Grandma drew out a small plastic wrapped pouch of tissues and handed them to Hippocrates.

“Listen I’ve gotten into a bit of trouble and now I need to get that black notebook that Grandpa gave me right before he died,” Hippocrates said.

“Have you been gambling again?” Grandma asked. “Your grandfather wasn’t a perfect person but I hate to see you making the same mistakes that he did,”

“I’m sorry Grandma, but my friend here really needs the notebook. Well I need the notebook too, We’ve got to go now,”

“What do you mean, the game hasn’t even started yet and you’ve been looking forward,” Grandma said and the tall man, after glancing at his watch again took Grandma under the arm and helped her up. “Get your hands off me young man, I’m talking to my grandson. Have a little respect for your elders,”

“Grandma, please just listen to him,”

“No, your grandfather gave you that money Hippocrates, I am not giving you the black notebook now,”

“Well, I’ve already sort of lost it,” Hippocrates said.

“Lost it?”

“I had a couple bad hands at the Dragon Turtle,”

“What are you doing spending time at that dingy place? Alright, since it seems like you really need it, I’ll come with you and miss the game,” Grandma took out the black notebook from her bag and handed it to Hippocrates. Hippocrates cradled the key to 20 thousand dollars to his chest. He flipped through the notebook and saw the map.

“Really Grandma?” Hippocrates said, putting the notebook behind his back.

“Really,” Grandma said and stood, Hippocrates helped her gather her things and they slowly made their way to the exit. Just as they were about to pass the ticket booths.

“I’ve got to visit the bathroom before I go, you know these old bones and age. Emergencies become very dire,” Grandma said and squeezed Hippocrates’s arm with a knowing look. Hippocrates knitted his brow together.

“Oh course Grandma,”

She leaned in, “I’m going to call some of your grandfather’s friends. They are here in Lambeau right now, I knew something was up this morning and so I made some preparations. This isn’t the first time someone has tried to put a squeeze on your grandmother, trust grandma, I know what to do,” Grandma said and they walked her to the front of the ladies’ room. The tall man crossed his arms and surveyed the area.

“Women and their bladders amirite?” Hippocrates joked, smiling. The tall man frowned at him and ignored him. After about twenty minutes the tall man checked his watch again.

“What’s taking her so long? Go in and check,”

                “But, it’s the ladies’ room, do I look like a lady to you,”

                “you don’t want me to answer that,”

                “Right, right, I’ll be right back,” But before Hippocrates could so much as take a step forward Grandma tottered out. In her liver spotted and wrinkled hands shone a menacing revolver. She pressed it against the tall man’s back. A stream of people passed unaware of the danger that they had just been placed in.

                “Don’t you move young man, now. You are going to leave Lambeau and tell your boss that he should give up any ideas he might have to harming either my Hippy or me. I’ve got the whole irish mafia waiting at my house. If there are any questions, he’s going to get his answer in bullets you understand me?” Grandma said. The tall man paled.

                “I understand,”

                “Now go and let me enjoy this wonderful fall day with my grandson,”

                “Okay,” The tall man, visibly shaking beelined it for the exit.

                “Wow, now that was bad ass,” Hippocrates said.

                “Language, Hipp and don’t you go getting yourself into trouble again. Let’s go watch the game. Seems like we’ll be able to enjoy our money from grandpa for a little longer,” Grandma said.

                “Thanks grandma!” Hippocrates said and they gathered up their green and gold gear and went back to their seats to enjoy the game.

Categories
Short Story

Roller-Coaster in Space

Mark only looked up from his game console when the docking space coaster rumbled through his tipped chair. The blast of air blew his dock Jockey ID into his face. Lights flashed on the spaceship as Mark sighed and took his feet off of the display toggle dash. He heaved himself out of his seat. Pulling out a crinkling bag of snacks from his pocket he popped one into his mouth and let the salt melt on his tongue as he jockeyed the docking mechanism.

“Alright, let’s see if you work this time,” he said to himself, his mouth full. He pulled on the lever to the right of the screen and with a hiss and a reverberation that made his chair tremble loudly, it’s straight tooth legs scraping against the metal ground. He heard a snap. Mark winced. The lights turned red. His bag of snacks fell to the ground and blew away.

“Mark!” A voice boomed out over the intercom. “Goddamn it Mark, what in the sam hell do you think are you doing?”

“Listen boss, I’m sorry! It won’t happen again.”

“No more excuses! You! you son of a bitch! you’re fired! This is the third time this week you’ve broken the docking jockey”

“Boss, please listen to me. I need this job,” Mark pleaded as the tourists on the spacecoaster stared from the inside of the space coaster. “I can do better I know it.”

“No way. You are outta here. Turn in your badge and if i ever see you around space hold again-”

“I’ll do anything!” The boss’s speakerphone was quiet for a moment.

“Meet me in my office,” The speakerphone blared out. Mark winced again.  Walking out of the large bay and into the suffocating hallways of the office section; he was acutely aware of the tourists still trapped in the coastership, staring at him and hearing everything. Mark’s cheek worked and his heart pumped as he opened the 

“This is your last chance. Listen, the only reason I’m asking you is that you’re the only one who knows how to spacewalk.”

“Spacewalk?” Mark asked, the color drained from his face.

“Yes, you got a problem with that?”

“N-no sir,” 

“Do you have your certification on you?” Mark nodded and handed his boss the laminated paper that had dated it’s expiration back two years. The boss looked it over, his brow furrowed.

“Looks good to me Mark,” he said gruffly. Mark nodded, his mouth suddenly dry and without feeling took back his expired certification and tucked it into his pocket. “Now get prepped, time is money and profits are flying faster out the window than your job will be if you don’t make up for it.

Mark put on his space gear and sealed it up. The formerly familiar components blinked as Mark traced his fingers across the smooth material. He sat down for a moment, letting his body get used to the highly oxygenated environment of spacewalk suits. 

The edges of his handheld stuck into his hip, as he contemplated the next level of the game that he had yet to beat. He took a deep breath, knowing that this would be the last job that he would be able to be eligible for. It took him months just to book this gig. 

All sound disappeared as he walked out into space. The space coaster tracks jutted out from the body of the main ship which he called home. He went out into empty space and used the grips along the hull of the ship to make the repairs on the faded advertisement saying SPACE FUN CENTER. The paint dripped down his forearms in brilliant streaks of yellow and red and he applied the pigment. After finishing, he packed up his paints and pressed the enter button.

“Congratulations. You get to keep your job,” The boss’s words greeted the panting Mark as he unsealed his suit.

“Thank you sir, I’ll do better sir.” It was the last time that Mark would play video games on the job.

Categories
Essays Short Story

Accepting Madness

We are all submersed! The dueting one-liners peering down at us with a clown-like grin. Assuring us of our unity of the new empire of. (pause) people (look out at the crowd.) where many a memory will be made. A tower of dust in the storm of the interwebs That is we. The legion. Internet, constant connectivity, almost everyone’s engaged. The single most important invention of our age. 

They call some of us zoomers, and we, (ahem) the millennials. We have learned more about the world in a shorter time span Than every person before. Progress has never come without a cost. People are winding up, this tension is breaking like twigs and I just want to be on the right side when the storm hits. Us, All of us, all we have ever wanted was to be good. Paint ourselves in gold stars please put away the stormy clouds, dear. Don’t let yourself drown in fear. We fear fear fear fear for no reason. Just brush off the sinking feelings of fatigue. Acid seems to be wasting away, dripping out of my cochlea and pooling beneath my ear. Maintaining coherent thoughts is difficult when there is so much to process. Saggy mattress blues makes it hard to really get comfortable.

It’s a real trainwreck let me tell you. Makes me feel sleepy but I’m too sleepy to care that I’m not comfortable. I have motivation for nothing but poetry. And I only write poetry when I am sad and that thought makes me depressed.

Categories
Short Story

Urban Cliffhanger

I hung with my hands against the wall, mere inches of myself keeping me hanging of the side of the building. The window edges were poking from the flat expanse of wall. The earth was a ghastly 200 miles from the ground. The asphalt was simmering in the hot sun. The people mill about with their hands in the pockets, or sides swinging like great mills that are lacking the wind to propel themselves forward. The feet of many a suffering man (and by man I mean all humanity) shuffling along sidewalks. Wearing down the concrete slabs until nubs remained from the fingers of earth.

My body hung like wet laundry from the silver sheet of glass. The gravity pulls strongly on my shoes, weighing down the black bricks, the asphalt calling them down in order to give them a maternal kiss. My fingers, white with the tension, bone hooking onto the red surface.  I inched to the side, slipping just a little bit lower every raise of my hand. My heart fails to send more blood to my hands, the blood slipped down into and around my neck, each beat brought new heat surging. Cold hands, dangling limbs, throbbing heart, burning lungs. All slipped across the building.

The sun plastered the light on to only half of the building. The building; half-eaten and still, was predominating out of the earth, jagged teeth against the smoky dark. The fingers of the right hand slipping down below the sill, tilting my body violently to the side, I swung back, a pendulum against the flat surface. I managed to wedge my foot onto a close-by metal ledge. I stepped to relieve my sweaty cold fingers from the crumbly earth for a moment. But my legs, failing me, I slumped down again. I took a deep breath and re-administered the pressure; I managed to straighten myself that way, pulling with more effort this time from my arms. I took the next step bringing myself about 3 feet from freedom. My arms and lungs were burning with the exertion. I managed to haul my body to the gray dented fire escape, reaching relief.

My head bursting with blood now, I rolled myself over the handrail and landed with a shivering thump on the cool surface. I lay there and breathed for thirty seconds, laughing out my relief, and my head felt clear again I sat up slowly, my body aching and shaking  I hoisted myself to my feet using the handrail as my support. I tittered down the stairs slowly and with effort down towards the dark empty street, my arms swinging like great mills that were lacking the wind.

Categories
Essays Short Story

Follow the Rabbit

It’s across the street. The roots of an old oak sprout like hair which are holding my purse and my shoes aloft. Somehow, I knew without a doubt without ever really knowing the details that they- They had stolen them from me as I walked FROM my school past the adult entertainment center and finally PAST the broken-down bubblers on Wisconsin Ave and mind your own fucking business boulevard. My phone- my portal into a different planet – starts to leak corn juice and VPN sauce. OH my GOD – The sun is burning down, and so I crack a raw egg over my face.

3 minutes on one side

Flip-

easy over does it

2 minutes on the other so that the

Whites are set.

The broken yellow yolk dries in my eyebrows – which raise as – A small rabbit with cowboy boots runs across my field of vision. I can hear his whistling the same tune that my mother used to hum to me when I was only 6 pounds old.

“Inquiring”

I mused to myself mumbling a list of justifications that would permit me the higher legal and moral ground so as to proceed. Whereas the rabbit, nearly mindless in its animal intent continues the travel its journey in a way that placed it in shady overgrown crops on the city street. There are taller taller grasses and there are smaller smaller rabbits. The leaves of the long grasses whip and bring unwelcome caresses and my hands get cut when I try to pull them out from the roots and I strain my albeit- underworked – biceps and place all of my stress on my lower back. I feel a twinge. I curse the ground and the dust for making me tired and making me do all of these things on such a HOT day.

But that okay that’s something that can be fixed with pseudo-science-based rejuvenating facials and masks and creams and gels that will make a person’s problems disappear just like their body’s pores. Whittling themselves so they can fit behind a single sheet of computer paper or a lamppost or something like that. – but the bulletproof monk once said and I’m paraphrasing- a fish cannot survive in water that is completely pure.

Categories
Short Story

Apocalypse at the Bus Stop

Marissa wakes on the volcanic concrete. The sun was high in the center of the sky. The day had been hot, despite the fact that it had rained last night.

Little dried worms and the dampness of her clothes are Marissa’s only company besides the dismembered limbs that are scattered about her. A rotting smell hangs in the air. A large crow caws at her from the other side of the parking lot.

Marissa groans as she sits up. Fumbling through her fanny pack she takes out a small wet wipe and dabs at her forehead. What a strange day. Having freshened up a little, she stands and steps over a piece of human leg. The evidence of the war aka development aka liberation from the former democratically elected oppressors.

Marissa hiccups and leans against the wall of the abandoned corner store. She had a half-finished bottle of rum tight in her grip. A freshly burned photograph that had pictured two small girls lie in a pile of ash at her feet. Shuffling away from her mess, Marissa sits at the bus stop. Marissa hiccups and drinks. Her eyes tried focusing on the horizon where it seemed to her that a black figure was approaching. Marissa hiccups again. A small percussive sound reverberated in her skull as she slouched against the dirty pole of the bus stop. No, two black figures.

By the time she had stopped hiccupping, the two figures had materialized into full-blown people. One, a small woman with wire-rimmed glasses and delicate wrists checks her watch. The second was an old man with chess pieces on his tie. The young woman rifles in her purse and sighs exasperatedly. Marissa starts to tap her feet on the ground. Another crow joins the other larger crow and they all seemed to be too many that she could reasonably talk to. So, she turns her attention to the two people in front of her.

            “Did anyone find anything useful?” The old man rubs his knees after sitting down carefully.

            Marissa just shakes her head.

            “When is this bus going to come?” The young woman exclaims.

            “You tell me” The old man lights a cigarette.

            “I’m not the one who has the radio.”

            “Shut up”

The sound of the wind grew louder. Marissa pulled her dirty clothes tighter around her torso.

            “Eugene, do you have another?” Marissa squawks at the man. He squints at her, spits on the ground and clears his throat ending in a finale of spit that he lugs at the ground.

            “Uck” Marissa’s face contorts.

            “Fuck yourself little B-I-T-C-H” She crosses her arms and settles back into staring into the neck of her bottle.

            “When is this bus gunna get here?” The young woman adjusts her scarf to block the smells coming from the body parts around the bus stop. Only the wind answered her repeated question.

            On the wings of the east wind you could hear them before you saw them. A great rumbling as if shaking the ground. Marissa groans in discomfort.

            “Fucking Harleys. Can’t they just keep their cacophony to themselves for just a split second?”

            “Big words for such a sad sack. Who’re you tryin to impress?” The old man’s chessboard tie fluttered in the wind. Marissa shot him a look that could kill and stood up, turning to the young woman.

            “Maria?” The delicate woman glanced back and looked forward. “Maria?”

            “What.”

            “I think- maybe this time…”

            “What?”

            “Maybe this time you could talk to them? We got your back you know and they’ll stop, you know that they always-“

            “I know that they always stop” Maria cut her off. Maria checked her watch again. “I would’ve thought that – with everything going on that I wouldn’t have to deal with this”

            “I know Maria” The old man interjected. “It’s just that I talked to them the last two times and the last time Marissa talked to them.”

            There was a flash of black leather a studs turning the corner. The old man placed a small bottle of asprin in her hand. Maria gripped it lightly but didn’t move her other hand from her face.

            “WHOA NELLIE!” A big voice exploded from a small man on an even bigger Harley Davidson. “WHAT DOYOU SEE HERE” Maria said nothing. “I SAID- I SAID WHAT DO YOU SEE HERE?” Maria’s lips moved but nothing came out. “SHY??”

            Maria was visibly pale and trembling as she held out the bottle of asprin. The biker looked at it and took it from her, inspecting the bottle thoroughly. Looking through every pill by dumping the lot into his palm and putting on his bifocals. He nodded appreciatively.

            “THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATION.” He laughed hugely and carefully put every pill back into its bottle. “DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU CAN SPARE?”

            Maria shook her head.

            “WHAT ABOUT YOU TWO?”

            “What about us?” the old man protested the attention.

            “WHAT ABOUT YOU TWO?”

            “We don’t have anything else.”

            “WHAT ARE YOU GUYS STANDIN HERE FOR?”

            Maria piped up- “We’re- we’re waiting for the bus.”

            “THE BUS TO WHERE?” The Harley was the only sound in response. Marissa started laughing and took another swig of her bottle. “THAT BOTTLE LOOKS YUMMY” Marissa stopped laughing and put it behind her back. The biker laughed again and flashed a gun at his hip. She capped the bottle and offered it to Maria. Maria edged back, not letting her back face the biker and handed the small amount of liquor left to the biker. The biker uncapped the warm alcohol and downed all of it. The stream of clear drink making his beard shinier than it already was. He smashed the bottle near Maria’s feet and laughed again at her jump and rode away.

            Maria looked at her wrist again. “When is the bus going to come?”