Vetrix – Chapter 1

Flipper was a normal twelve-year-old kid, or so he thought. Little did he know that a war several million light years away between the Gudes and the Snaders was about to change his destiny. Then again, the Gudes and Snaders didn’t realize Flipper was about to change theirs either.

***

“It’s Friday and Halloween.” Allison, who was dressed up as Athena, lamented. She wore a long flowing toga and a crown on her head. She loved reading about the Greek gods, and her favorite author was Rick Riordan. Allison had even named her dog Anna, after Annabeth in the Percy Jackson books. She continued, “I don’t think teachers should be allowed to assign major projects when they know everyone’s going to be squirrelly. I mean, the school encouraged us to dress up and they still expect us to be able to concentrate in class?”

Flipper sat next to Allison in Social Studies thumbing through his notecards before the bell rang. He was dressed as a Nerd. His short-sleeve, button-up shirt was partially untucked and he had a pocket protector and pens in the front pocket. His jeans were pulled up way too high. Flipper wondered how anyone actually wore them like that all the time. He had tape around the middle of his glasses and his normally straight, blond hair was black, greasy, and combed with a center parting. He had come to school with a sign on his back that said Kick Me, but a teacher made him take it off when everyone kept doing just that.
“Allison, you’re in sixth grade now. It’s time to grow up. Try to be more like your older, more mature cousin.” Flipper patted his chest as if Allison didn’t know who he was talking about. “Calm, cool and collected.”

She rolled her eyes. “Good grief! You’re eleven months older than me.”

“Yes, but a person matures a lot in eleven months. You’ll see.”

Allison chuckled. Flipper could always make her laugh, even when she was stressing at school. She changed the subject. “Do you have your presentation ready?”

“Yes, but I can hardly think about it. I’m too excited about going to Carlsbad Caverns tomorrow.”

They lived in Roswell, New Mexico, only an hour and a half away from Carlsbad, yet Flipper had never been there. He recently did a report on bats for school so his parents had promised they would take him to see the caverns. People sat outside the caves every evening to watch as the bats flew out, just over their heads. Flipper couldn’t think of anything that sounded more exciting.

“Too excited?” Allison asked sarcastically. “What happened to calm, cool and collected?”

Flipper gave an uneasy smile.

“Hey, guys!” Josh said, coming into the classroom. Josh loved to dress up which made Halloween his favorite time of year. He was wearing an alien costume that had over-sized feet. His seat was right in front of Allison. Josh was tall for a sixth grader and his bulky costume made it difficult for him to slide into his seat, which was connected to the desk.
Allison and Flipper both giggled. They knew Josh didn’t mind them laughing at him. He liked to be silly and make people laugh. Josh was thirteen but still in the sixth grade. His dad was in the military and when he was in the first grade they moved three times. He had to repeat first grade, which meant he was older than most of the students. He was also bigger, which gave him an advantage when playing sports.

“Okay, class,” Mrs. Smith said, standing up from her desk. “It’s time for our presentations. Josh, you’re up first.”

Getting up turned out to be harder than sitting down. Everyone in the class laughed at Josh’s struggle to stand. Flipper was sure Josh was smiling, though no one could see it underneath the papier mâché alien head he wore.

Eventually, Josh made it to the front of the class and gave his report in a muffled voice. “My report is on the Roswell Incident. On the evening of July second, nineteen forty-seven, several people said they saw a disc-shaped object flying through the air. This was during a thunderstorm. The next day a local rancher outside of Roswell, New Mexico, claimed to have found a piece of what he said looked like an exploded aircraft. On July eighth, the Roswell Daily Record reported that the Air Force base in Roswell had captured a flying saucer. Although the Air Force claims that the flying saucer was simply an experimental weather balloon for a top secret project, many people today believe the United States military found a UFO spacecraft, captured the aliens, and covered up the truth.

“Now, every year, Roswell celebrates a UFO Festival during the first week in July. People from all over the world come to visit the museums, talk about aliens, and tour the crash site. My parents told me about the festival in nineteen ninety-seven, which was the fiftieth anniversary of the crash. Hotel rooms were sold out as far away as Albuquerque and Lubbock, Texas. Several celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, were here. The theater at the mall had a pre-release showing of Men In Black and Will Smith was there signing autographs.

“I don’t believe the crash was a UFO with aliens. That doesn’t make any sense to me. It was storming and people wouldn’t have been able to tell what they really saw. Besides, there is no real evidence to prove it was aliens. But, I think the city of Roswell is smart to promote the festival and for businesses like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart to put aliens on their buildings. It helps them make a lot of money. The end.”

Some of the kids clapped quietly.

“Thank you, Josh,” Mrs. Smith said.

“Good job!” Allison and Flipper both told Josh, patting him on the shoulder as he sat down.

***

As Allison walked between Flipper and Josh after school, her waist-length bright red hair bouncing behind her, she looked at Josh, who was still wearing his alien head. “You know, Josh, I believe the crash in nineteen forty-seven really was an alien spaceship.”

Although it was still a couple of hours away from sun set, the dark clouds gave the afternoon a dusk sort of feeling.

“Really?” Josh said with surprise.

“Yeah. There is so much we don’t know, both in outer space and here on earth. My parents told me the government keeps a lot of secrets from us. Who knows, maybe there are aliens living here in Roswell.” She shrugged her shoulders.

“I think Principal Hermann is an alien,” Flipper’s serious tone made it hard to tell when he was joking. “Have you seen the way she walks around all hunched-back? And she never smiles. If I was an alien from another planet, I wouldn’t ever smile.”

Josh shook his head. “My dad’s been all over with the Air Force. He told me there was no way the military could be hiding aliens without him knowing.”

“Maybe some people are good at keeping secrets,” Allison said, dismissing Josh’s argument. “What do you think, Flipper?”

He pushed his glasses up. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem very likely. I mean, to keep a secret like that for this long. I think someone would have said something. But maybe, if…” Flipper stopped speaking as Allison stiffened and tightly grabbed his arm. Josh kept walking; with the alien head still on he didn’t notice they had stopped.

Allison was staring across the street. Flipper followed her gaze. She seemed to be looking at the empty lot. In the back corner stood an evergreen — the kind that looked like a large Christmas tree — looking a bit out of place in the barren field. He saw sparse patches of tall weeds, lots of dirt, and a tumbleweed blowing across in the light, steady wind. He didn’t see anything worth looking at, let alone to be frightened by.

He looked back at Allison. Her eyes were glued to the lot and the vein in her neck was bulging. He could tell she was scared but didn’t know why. He suddenly felt cold and uncomfortable.

“Are you okay, Allison?” His voice betrayed his nervousness.

Other than her quick breaths and heaving chest, she didn’t move or speak. Flipper’s arm was throbbing from Allison’s tight grip, but he did his best to ignore it. He felt desperate to help his cousin. “What is it? I don’t see anything.”

“I-I-I… I don’t know,” she finally stuttered. She blinked rapidly like she was coming out of a trance. Her eyes remained directed across the street and her speech was labored. “I didn’t see anything either, but I could feel something. It was like a strong presence, like someone was across the street watching us.”

Flipper looked again. “I still don’t see anything.”

Allison took a deep breath and relaxed. She let go of his arm, looking down as she did so. “I’m so sorry, Flipper!” He was bleeding where her nail-bitten, jagged fingernails had dug into his skin.

“Holy cow, Allison!” Josh walked back toward them. He removed one of his alien gloves and gave it to Flipper. “Here, use this to wipe the blood.”

“I don’t want to mess up your costume.” Flipper tried to hand the glove back to Josh.

Josh waved his hand in refusal and said enthusiastically, “Putting blood on it will make it that much cooler.”

Flipper hesitated, then held the glove over the cuts. “Thanks.”

“What was that all about?” Josh asked, concerned.

“Allison thought she saw something,” Flipper said with skepticism.

“Actually, I thought I kind of sensed something,” Allison tried to explain again. “I had a strong feeling that someone was watching us — the most intense feeling I’ve ever had.” She glanced back at the now obviously empty lot. “I don’t know. I guess it sounds crazy. Maybe it is crazy.”

“Maybe it was an alien,” Josh said, raising his hands and walking towards her — more like a zombie than an alien.

“Stop it,” she said, playfully pushing him away. Allison laughed as they began walking again. “But maybe it was an alien and only I can sense it because only I believe.”

“Sports teams send scouts to watch players they might want to recruit,” Josh said with rising enthusiasm. “Maybe you’re being recruited.”

Flipper laughed so hard he had to stop walking. “Does that mean she’s an alien?”

Josh laughed with Flipper while Allison stood with her hands on her hips, visibly irritated.

“Remember, if I’m an alien, you’re an alien. We’re related.”

Flipper stopped laughing. Josh laughed even harder.

***

“Flipper, is that you?”

Flipper, Josh and Allison had just come into the house after trick-or-treating later that evening. “Yes, Mom.”

Flipper’s mom hurried into the room. She was full of life and loved the holidays, but this was the first year she had let Flipper go trick-or-treating by himself. She had given them very specific instructions about where they could go, what they could do, and when they had to be back. They each carried a cell phone. But still, his mom worried. “How did it go?”

“It was okay,” Flipper said without enthusiasm.

“Yeah, I think we are outgrowing the whole trick-or-treating thing,” Allison said, slumping onto the couch.

“But not the candy,” Josh said, dumping his sack onto the floor, eager to go through it.

“I’m just glad you’re home safely,” Flipper’s mom said. “And not too much candy. I agreed that Josh and Allison could spend the night since they are going to Carlsbad Caverns with us tomorrow, but you promised you wouldn’t stay up late.”

“Yes, Mom.” Flipper and Allison dumped their sacks on the floor and began eating and trading candy.

Two hours later Flipper, Josh and Allison were in their sleeping bags on the living room floor. Although they were only a few feet apart they could barely see each other. The burnt out streetlight left only the dim moonlight shining through the large front window to see by.

Flipper was giddy about their trip the next day and talked about it non-stop until Josh fell asleep and began to mumble about playing basketball and being stuck in quicksand.

Flipper went quiet and then looked at Allison. “Do you really believe there might be people on other planets? Or were you only teasing Josh?”

“I don’t know. It’s hard to look up at the sky and not think there are more people out there somewhere.” Allison paused before deciding to continue. “But mostly I sense there are others out there. Sometimes I sense they are close — in Roswell. I haven’t really talked about it because it sounds crazy. I know we were joking about it earlier, but sometimes I do wonder if I’m not from another planet.”

Flipper laughed. “That would explain a lot.”

Allison laughed too. “Yeah, I pretty much walked into that one.”

Flipper smiled at her. “Good night, Allison.”

“Good night, Flipper.”

***

Allison’s dreams that night were intense, and she didn’t feel like she was dreaming. She felt like she had gone back in time — was reliving the previous day — but there was something quite different about this repeated experience, like a long déjà vu.

She was back in Social Studies class and Josh was giving his presentation on the Roswell Incident. Everything looked the same as it had that morning, but this time she was overwhelmed by the same strange sensation she had felt when walking home. She felt like she was in the presence of someone important; kind of like when she met the mayor at a dinner she went to with her parents. Except this felt like she was in the presence of someone much more important than a mayor.

Allison turned and looked behind her. In what had been an empty seat in the back row that morning sat someone she had never seen before. He was older than the students and had a slightly amused expression. His hair was rumpled and his skin was… She blinked, hoping her eyes would clear. His skin was… Allison gaped at him until he noticed her stare and looked her way. She jerked her head back to Josh, droning on about the Roswell Incident.

She felt the presence ease, so she looked back. The man was gone, but she couldn’t get his image out of her mind.

His skin had been purple. Brightly, unapologetically purple.

Instantly, she was with Flipper and Josh, walking home from school. She froze sensing the same overwhelming presence as earlier. But this time, when she looked across the street at the lot, she saw the purple man from the classroom standing, watching them.

This time, she locked eyes with him for several moments. The purple man tilted his head, looking at her, puzzled. The look of confusion on his face mirrored what Allison felt. She looked at Flipper and saw her hand clamped on his arm. She looked back across the street but the man was gone.

Allison tossed and turned as her dream intensified.

She began having flashbacks to their evening of trick-or-treating. Everywhere they went, the purple man was there, watching, following. The sense of his presence intensified with each sighting. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer and started running towards him. She didn’t know who he was or what he wanted, but she couldn’t stand the feeling any longer. She was scared and angry. She screamed, “Just leave me alone!”

Allison startled awake and sat straight up, sweating, breathing heavily. She was awake, but the intense presence she had felt in her dream was still with her. In fact, it was even stronger. She jumped to her feet and turned around. The purple man was standing in the room with them, holding Flipper in his arms. Flipper was still asleep.

“What are you doing?” Allison demanded.

“We are trying to protect you. Blake… Flipper… has been chosen to save us all.”

And with those words the man and Flipper vanished.

Purchase Vetrix on Amazon

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October, 2018 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

 

The Life of a Pumpkin

Three months ago I was a seed. For eighty-two days I’ve grown, but at a slower rate than the rest of the crop. As the summer heat migrated south, fall’s coolness brought excitement to the pumpkin patch. Rumors spread among the pumpkins that people would soon come to select their favorites to take home and decorate – to become part of the family. This was ‘the season of the pumpkin,’ it was said.

Of course the biggest pumpkins bragged about how they would be taken first. Lester was the largest among us, and why wouldn’t he go first? He was huge, with a spotless outer coat. I was only half his size, and I had spots. Who was going to want a scrawny, flawed pumpkin?

I knew the destiny of flawed and unwanted pumpkins. Once the weather turned from cool to cold, whatever pumpkins were left in the field would remain, rejected and alone, until they rotted away. This would surely be my lot.

Finally the day arrived. The first people showed and took two, large, beautiful specimens, neither of which was Lester. He went the next day and they had to use a wheel barrel to haul him off. Within a few days the crowds increased and soon pumpkins left by the dozens every day. Weeks passed and to my delight I continued to grow. I finally reached a size I was proud of. But my spots had also grown.

The story was that people only came for a short period of time. I had begun to accept I would never leave the pumpkin patch when the unthinkable happened.

A boy with a green-hooded sweatshirt picked me up. “Greg, over here! This one’s perfect!”

Greg wore a yellow, short-sleeved shirt, which was the only thing that distinguished him from the other boy. “He’s all spotted. It’s the ugliest pumpkin I’ve ever seen, Paul.”

Paul wasn’t deterred. “Think how spooky that’ll make him. We’ll decorate him and he’ll be the scariest pumpkin ever.”

Scariest? That sounded amazing! Take that Lester! He might be the biggest but I was going to be the scariest.

Greg and Paul took me home and for three days I sat by myself on the front porch. I wondered about their grand plan. I felt abandoned and my excitement waned. Did they forget about me?

I learned one thing useful during this time. Paul had a mole on his upper lip. That’s how I could tell them apart.

Finally, as the sun stood straight above, Greg hauled me inside to decorate me. I was so excited I thought pumpkin seeds sprouted inside me. I would soon be scary! This was gong to make all of those hot, agonizing days of growing to maturity worth it.

Paul began to draw. He lightly glided his gray stick across my ticklish shell. At first it felt good but soon turned into sheer torture. His slow, meticulous strokes seemed to never end.

Suddenly a sharp pain stabbed me at the top. Greg circled my stem then ripped it from my body. I had been wrong; the tickling was not the worst experience possible. They were just getting started.

Paul and Greg took turns ripping out my insides, a fistful at a time. There was no gentleness or love to their actions. They ripped like they didn’t care; oblivious to the pain they inflicted.

Once my insides were empty and my inner core smooth, Greg started in on me again with the knife. He cut jagged lines then holes, each excruciating stab and pull ripped away at my shell. I wanted to scream, and even though they had created a mouth for me I couldn’t protest.

It ended like it started – abruptly. They replaced my top and returned me to the front porch. Greg gave Paul a high-five – apparently I was as ugly and horrifying as they had planned.

I sat the rest of the day trying to take pride that I was part of a family and not alone in a field rotting away. In all of the excitement at the pumpkin patch, no one mentioned the grueling transformation process. I was relieved to have it behind me.

When darkness came Paul and Greg returned. They removed my top and placed a small, waxy candle inside. ‘I wonder what that’s for?’ I asked myself. Greg pressed a button on a red stick and a flame of fire jumped out. His lit the candle and replaced the lid.

It was a chilly evening and at first the fire inside me was warm and inviting. After a while the comfort of the fire turned to agonizing torment.

Later they brought out other decorations to put around me. Two skeletons, a fake black cat, a hand that sprang from a chest when someone got near, and a large, hairy spider that glowed an eerie red. Another high-five between the brothers brought me no satisfaction. I wanted relief from the fire.

Finally, Paul lifted my top and blew out the candle. The night brought cold and frost and at times I wished I had a fire inside to warm me. I remembered how painful it had been and was thankful the fire was out.

Every night for a week the two boys lit the candle and let me suffer for several hours. At last the big night came they kept talking about – Halloween. I wanted to be as excited about it as they were, but every other time I had gotten excited about something I ended up disappointed. Their eager anticipation created anxiety for me.

Halloween was like any other day and I was beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. The sun began to set and Paul and Greg came out to light my candle. That’s when I realized the seriousness of the Halloween celebration that people observed.

Paul wore an oblong, black hat with pointed ends, a patch over one eye, a white baggy shirt and baggy pants. His left hand was gone and in it’s place was a hook. Greg had a bandage wrapped around his head with blood oozing through. He wore a neck brace, a cast on his right arm and another on his left leg, which was propped straight out as he sat in a wheelchair.

I instantly felt ashamed at my anger toward them. Paul had cut off his hand and poked out his eye. Greg had broken his leg and arm and did something severe to his head – it was still bleeding. My suffering was minor compared to what they must have experienced. They were as committed to this holiday as they insisted I be. Suddenly I felt proud that I was such an integral part of their ritual.

Paul pushed Greg as they left to go forth and celebrate the holiday. For the next several hours all sorts of strange little people came by the house – most of them screaming in fright as the hand jumped from the chest. Many times I heard people say, “Oh, look how scary that pumpkin is!” I beamed with pride.

Many others were as committed to this holiday as Paul and Greg. I saw cuts, bruises, blood, extra appendages, transformed faces. Some had even turn into animals, monsters, and aliens. After seeing the way the children gave of their bodies to this holiday I wondered if any of these adult would sacrifice their children at the end of the night.

Hours later Greg and Paul returned with two large sacks. They were really excited about the candy, so I assumed they returned with more than their mom had given away.

The visitors slowed to a trickle then stopped altogether. It had been an exciting but exhausting night. I hoped I would get my candle extinguished soon, although I wasn’t going to complain after seeing how everyone else was willing to suffer for the occasion.

As surprising as everything about the evening had been, the biggest surprise came at the end. Paul exited the front door and picked me up. His patch was gone and his eye looked fine, so I concluded he hadn’t poked it out. Then I realized he had two hands. Where was the hook? Did he re-grow his hand? If so, maybe I could re-grow my insides. Hope sprouted where my insides had once resided.

Then another shock. Greg joined us without his wheelchair. How had his leg healed so quickly? And his arm! He carried a long stick with an arm that had been in a cast a few minutes ago. They had healed quickly. Maybe I would heal too!

Greg unwrapped the bandage from his head and other than a few small red spots it looked fine. I began to put the pieces together – they had only pretended to be hurt. But why? To mock my suffering? What a twisted sense of humor! Had all of the other children pretended too? My anger raged at this complex and cruel hoax.

When Paul blew out and removed the candle relief flooded me and I thought my days of suffering were behind me. Paul carried me to the street. Even after all of the suffering it felt good to be a part of the family, the tradition, the celebration.

Paul tossed me into the air and for the first time I felt free. Greg swung the bat and connected with full force. My shell caved and I soared through the air full of despair. My saviors from the pumpkin patch had finalized their abuse. They returned to the house, leaving me beaten and bruised in the street. Was this any worse than lying in the pumpkin field, alone, never to experience the joy of being selected? I doubted it. For months I had believed Halloween was the most exciting event, that I had been grown to be a part of the festivities. I wondered if all the other pumpkins had similar experiences as me. I supposed so.

I was disillusioned and even though I wished it all would end I didn’t give up hope. Was this really how I would go out – rotting in a street, alone?

A light came from a distance and slowly grew in size and intensity. Maybe this was someone coming to rescue me. Dare I hope? It was Halloween after all – a night of magic and fantasy! I wanted to believe. I tried to believe. My faith grew and by the time the light arrived I knew this was my chance to be renewed, reborn. What was the next step in the evening’s celebration?

Splat.

 

Please enjoy some more stories from my friends!

Why Should I?, by Gina Fabio
Reaper, by Juneta Key
Snow White Tabloid Style, by Fannie Suto
Starving Artist, by Samantha Bryant
The Halloween Dance, by Barbara Lund
The Ghost In My Yard, by Elizabeth McCleary
Her Majesty, by Katharina Gerlach
Chris Bridges Posting Storytime Blog Hop. Give her shout out and say Hello!
Black Moon, by Lauren M. Catherine
Poe’s Heart, by J. Q. Rose
Hanks A Lot, by Joe Bouchard
In The Gray Lake, by Karen Lynn
The Right Honorable Brotherhood of Spirits, Poltergeists and Ghosts, by Vanessa Wells

 

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Dear NFL

Dear NFL,

Ours has been a simple relationship that flourished in spite of any differences we may have had. I didn’t care about your political or religious views and you didn’t care about mine.

I’ve respected your consistency in avoiding controversial issues.

For example, you stopped the Dallas Cowboys from wearing decals in honor of five local police officers who had been murdered. You vowed to fine players who wanted to wear specially-designed cleats in honor of the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. You fined Robert Griffin III $10,000 twice for wearing Adidas apparel — once on the field during pregame and once during a post-game news conference. Those fines led the injured quarterback to turn his Know Jesus Know Peace t-shirt inside out for a news conference to avoid another fine.

I may not have agreed with every decision you made, but I respected your stance to remain neutral and avoid the appearance of choosing sides.

I don’t know what happened, but you’ve changed. Instead of restricting political protest, you allowed a player to kneel during the national anthem, even though your rules stated they should stand out of respect. Then you allowed whole teams to remain in their locker rooms and not participate in the national anthem.

Does this mean players are allowed personal expression during the national anthem but not during pre-game or post-game activities? And does it mean you would have allowed the Cowboys to kneel during the national anthem to recognize the murdered police officers? Or allowed players to kneel in order to bring attention to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Can players kneel to bring awareness to Jesus?

You decided a political issue was more important than the game, in spite of how it might make me feel. I don’t know how else to interpret your decision.

It is your choice. You have the right to make the decision. But you’re not the same NFL I loved. I don’t feel like I know you any more.

Why would you do this? Millions of Americans have a deep-seeded love for the flag, the national anthem, and the pre-game ceremony. Kneeling during that ceremony insulted them. You might as well have disrespected their moms, as deeply as they are hurt. Not a smart way to begin a conversation or develop sympathy for your cause. I thought you were smarter than that.

I should thank you, really. For many years I didn’t think I could live without you. When you were around nothing else mattered, and I thought about you often between our times together. We have lots of good memories.

But it’s over. Last year I followed closely the decisions you made and was gravely disappointed. So much so that I needed a break. That’s when I discovered something fascinating. I could live without you. In fact, now I’m thriving and happy without you. I’m sorry if that hurts, but it’s the truth.

So thank you. Thank you for showing me who you really are so I can move on with my life.

I’m not avoiding or boycotting or trying to punish you. I’ve just lost interest.

So this is goodbye. I’ll see you around. And don’t try to insult me by saying you’ve changed. Show me you’ve changed, don’t tell. Then, well, maybe we’ll see…

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My First Kill

I killed my first snake today.

I’ve seen a few snakes in my life but I’ve never been close enough for long enough to kill one.

But today was different. Today, that angry, vicious seed of Satan didn’t give me a choice.

I killed in self-defense.

I have no remorse, and I would gladly do it again, though I hope it never comes to that. I’ll see this one in my nightmares.

Look, even though snakes are the spawn of Satan (any good theologian will confirm it) I don’t go around wishing them ill will. That only happens when I see one.

This snake, which I’ll call Sneaky from now on, obviously had evil intentional as it DID NOT make its presence known until it arrive at the perfect kill distance.

I had been mowing for half an hour, so Sneaky had time to position himself for the perfect strike. Sneaky had calculated that with the element of surprise it could take me down. But Sneaky had not done its homework because it didn’t realize how quick I am. Nor had it planned against my powerful fear of snakes.

And don’t give me this garbage of how snakes are more afraid of me than I am of them. Sneaky was anything but fearful, as proven by its well-planned attack. But even if Sneaky felt fear, it could not have surpassed mine without falling into a self-induced coma.

It’s true, I may have been a bigger physical specimen than Sneaky, but at nearly eighteen inches long, this was no toy to be played with. Sneaky was easily the most frightening creature I have ever encountered.

While I performed my neighborly responsibility of beautifying my lawn, Sneaky darted in front of my mower like a blur. Fortunately, my instincts took control before my conscious mind had time to register the threat. Otherwise, I might not be around to finish raising my children.

I shoved the mower forward and caught just enough of Sneaky to stop it in its tracks. If I hadn’t used my amazing quickness to catch its tale with the mower blade, no telling what unfathomable evil move Sneaky would have performed next. Fortunately for my sake, and frankly the community of Halstead at large, I stopped Sneaky dead in its tracks. I was probably the first in its planned killing spree.

I’ve seen plenty of horror movies and I knew once I had put a stop to Sneaky that my job was not complete. I pushed the mower forward, while stepping back in case Sneaky revived to slide out the back of the mower and attack. I left the mower on top of Sneaky for at least thirty seconds. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. I left the mower on top of Sneaky for a good minute, to make sure it would never terrorize Halstead again.

I didn’t kill Sneaky for the fame, or for revenge. Sneaky forced my hand. That being said, I’m proud of my accomplishment, even though I may now be suffering from PTSD. In spite of the recurring nightmares and long-term disability I now face, I would do it all over again for my children and my community.

I expect the mayor will call any day to offer congratulations, and probably a medal and small ceremony. I suppose I’ll accept, if for no other reason than to send a warning to all other snakes in the area.

It’s the least I can do.

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July, 2018 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

 

Black and White

Jeremy neared his cousin Vinny’s house in an all-out sprint. Almost there!

He came to an abrupt stop when he saw a black and white ahead in the distance. He quickly turned and ran the other way, and turned right at his first opportunity. Glancing behind as he turned, he believed he had escaped detection.

Another black and white appeared and he immediately made a left. He had only been a few blocks from Vinny’s house but now was going in the wrong direction. The kicker was that he should have been safely inside fifteen minutes ago. He had gotten lost and by the time he found his way back on the right path the black and white had cut him off mere blocks from safety.

Originally, the plan had been to return to the house in ten minutes, maybe less. Now he approached half an hour of continuous running. Jeremy wasn’t in shape for this.

He ran for another block then stopped, exhausted. He couldn’t keep running in the wrong direction or he would never make it to safety. He glanced back and saw another black and white. He couldn’t tell if this was the same one he saw earlier or if this was a different one. It didn’t matter – he couldn’t afford to be spotted. He took off at full speed again.

If he had remembered to bring his cell phone he could have called his cousin for help. Stupid oversight! Surely Vinny had started to worry by now, but would he come looking for Jeremy? He couldn’t depend on it. He had to assume he was on his own.

Another black and white appeared up ahead, but this time when Jeremy turned he was running towards his cousin’s house. He ran clear for a few minutes and finally caught view of the safe house just two blocks ahead.

Adrenaline kicked in and he picked up speed. Al…most…there.

Yikes!  Jeremy suddenly stopped, narrowly avoiding a collision with the black and white that darted in front of him.

Should he remain frozen or take off the other direction? He cautiously turned, but before he could make a break for it another black and white sandwiched him in. His options were diminishing.

Jeremy took a step to the left; another black and white. He feared the worse.

He turned to dart to the right, but slipped and fell. Jeremy jumped to his feet but his clumsiness had cost him.

Before he could escape, the three black and whites raised their tails and squirted.

 

Summer Siren, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Birch Tree, by Juneta Key
The Zoning Zone, by Vanessa Wells
Secrets, by Elizabeth Winfield
Team Building Exercise, by Samantha Bryant
Another Time, by J. Q. Rose
Suds and Scales, by Eileen Mueller
Beginning Again, by Karen Lynn
Under The Bridge, by Katharina Gerlach

Posted in Blog Hop, Stories | 15 Comments

Old Friends / New Love

I graduated high school in a class of forty-four students from Yates Center High School. Each year during Memorial Day weekend, Yates Center hosts their version of Old Settlers. One of the things I enjoy most about Yates Center Days is meeting someone I haven’t seen in thirty years. Honestly, it happens every year.

It happened several times this year. Two of the people I saw, Tim and Suzy, have a fascinating story.

They were both in my graduating class of 1985. Suzy and I sat next to each other in French class our sophomore year. Tim and I played football together and both ran track in junior high.

Suzy moved to the Kansas City area after our sophomore year. Tim moved to California after our junior year. Neither graduated from Yates Center High School.

I hadn’t seen either one since they left high school. That is, until Yates Center Days, 2018.

They each got married, had children, and then subsequently divorced. Three years ago they reconnected on Facebook. Tim had been around the world, but lived in California. Suzy was still in Kansas City.

After some time of correspondence, Suzy had to make a trip for work to Texas. Tim traveled a lot with his job and happened to be in Oklahoma at the time, so they met in person for the first time in nearly thirty years. Afterwards, they decided to meet again, at Yates Center Days, 2015, for our thirty-year reunion.

They met, didn’t recognize anyone else in the class, so they skipped the float in the parade and the reunion that afternoon.

Tim and Suzy started dating, Tim moved to Kansas City to work for his brother, and a year ago they got married.

As I visited with them over Memorial Day weekend, they joked that they were slow, that it took them thirty years to get it right. Those two are as smitten with each other as any two lovebirds I’ve known.

It would have been fun to see either one of them, but to see them together and happy was a real treat.

They almost, almost, gave me hope that true love can be found at any stage in life.

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The Teacher Who Impacted Me Most

This morning as I sat on the track, stretching after a rough session of sprints, thoughts of yesterday’s graduation ceremony came to mind. Specifically, I thought about the verbal tribute paid to the teachers by both the administration and the students.

Many teachers touched my life, and most of them in ways I’ll never realized. I grew up in a town where teachers weren’t only teachers, but also neighbors, fellow worshipers, and friends. And my mom taught English and Special Ed. I knew teachers.

But as I sat on the track and wondered which teacher changed my life the most, the choice became obvious. It had to be the one responsible for my being at the track early on a Sunday morning.

Mr. Herndon taught Government and coached football in Yates Center for one year, my senior year of high school. I think that year, 1984-85, was his first as a teacher. I don’t believe he remained in teaching for long. He didn’t win teacher of the year and I didn’t like him. In fact, I don’t know any student that did. At the end of the year the Board elected not to renew his contract.

I can look back thirty years later and understand what he tried to do, even though it didn’t work. He and I butted heads many, many times.

So how does such a candidate rank at the top of my list?

I was a fast runner as a kid, and did well in track through junior high. I didn’t enjoy running, so after one year of track in high school I decided golf sounded more appealing.

As part of our conditioning, Mr. Herndon made our football team run laps around the practice field until we could complete a mile without stopping. It was unorthodox training for a football team, and one few of us appreciated. But I recognized the benefits.

I attended Neosho County Community College on a baseball scholarship, and as part of my training I decided to run daily before classes. I only ran a mile or two at a time, but something strange occurred. I began to like it.

After two years at NCCC I transferred to Tabor College. My runs increased to three to five miles. And, when it was too cold outside I would run stairs in the administration building. For fun.

There are few things I enjoy doing more than running. I’ve prayed, brainstormed dozens of story ideas, and written poetry, all while running. I never listen to music. I like to think or let my mind wander.

Running is the greatest therapy I know. It has helped me survive some dark periods. During one of the darkest of my life, I trained and ran my first half marathon. At the end of the race I returned to my car and wept.

Completing a half marathon gave me the confidence and focus to pass the CPA exam. A few years later, both accomplishments gave me the ability to write my first novel. I now have five books published. These accumulated successes have given me the drive (and I hope, strength) to turn writing into a career.

My son is also a runner, and a good one. In fact, he’s much better than I’ve ever been, and he’s just getting started. Would he be a runner if I wasn’t? I don’t know.

It may be a stretch, or it may not, but I trace it all back to Mr. Herndon. I’ve tried to find him on Facebook. I would love the opportunity to tell him my story, but I don’t know his first name, so this will probably be the closest I get to thanking him.

Oh behalf of Mr. Herndon, thank you to every teacher reading this. You may never know how you’ve changed a student’s life.

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April Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

 

The Ghost Fight

Harold arrived at his new home—a small fixer-upper on ten acres. After a disastrous marriage he yearned for the peace and quiet this abandoned house promised.

It had sat empty for several years so he spent the first day removing dead animals, sweeping broken glass, and tearing out moldy sheetrock. He showered then collapsed on his bed. The open windows allowed a light breeze to cool the house after a day of baking in the early summer heat.

Harold smiled, satisfied from a hard day’s work. He was content and happy.

Until he heard a voice.

“Look,” the ghost started, “I knew it was too good to be true when I had this place all to myself. But if I’m going to share it, the least you could do is keep it down during the day.”

Harold bolted upright. “Who’s there?”

“My name’s Hew. You may be able to see a faint glow in the doorway.”

Harold squinted. He saw what looked like a round blob floating in the air.

“Who are you?”

“I just told you, my name’s Hew. I’ve lived here for seventy-two years. Now that you know me, how about that request to be quiet during the day?”

“Why?” Harold asked, confused.

“That’s when I sleep.” Hew answered.

Harold was shocked. “I didn’t know ghosts slept.”

“Many don’t. I don’t need sleep, but there isn’t much for a ghost to do during the day. It’s too painful to be in the light so I have to hide in the walls. I’ve become fond of my naps, so if we are going to get along you need to stay quiet during the days.”

“I don’t care what you want,” Harold retorted. “I have a lot of work to do so you’re going to have to adjust.”

The next few days they established a routine. Harold worked on the house all day and disturbed Hew and Hew kept Harold awake all night by singing horribly out of key.

Harold was soon exhausted. “Okay, I’ll wait until tonight to work if you’ll let me get some sleep today.”

“Deal!” Hew agreed excitedly then disappeared through the wall.

After several hours of undisturbed, blissful sleep, Harold woke and ate. It was well after dark so he went to work.

Harold had only been working a few minutes when Hew appeared. “It’s too bright in here. I can’t roam around the house.”

“Why not?” Harold asked without looking up.

“It’s the light. It burns.” Hew explained. “I need darkness, that’s why I stay in the walls during the day.”

“Well, I can’t work in the dark so you’re going to have to deal with it.”

“It’s obvious this isn’t working out,” Hew said. “Why don’t you just leave?”

“Now you sound like my ex-wife,” Harold quipped. “I’m not gong to be the one to leave this time. I own this house now. You leave.”

“I can’t,” Hew said.

“Why not?”

“I cannot go outside of the walls.” Hew explained.

“I thought ghosts could go through anything?” Harold asked.

“We can go through anything, but we can’t go outside.”

“Why not?” Harold asked.

“I don’t know!” Hew shouted. “Believe me, I’ve tried—every day since you’ve been here. I can’t leave the house. Besides, I’ve been here longer.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

The fight was on. The first night Hew hid under the bed and sung to Harold. The next day Harold hauled the bed away. The next day he hauled off all the furniture.

Harold worked during the day and left all the lights on at night. Hew made constant racket at night and Harold quickly became sleep deprived. When Hew sang all night from inside the walls, Harold ripped out the sheet rock and insulation.

The more sleep deprived Harold became the more drastic he got. He ripped out all of the walls, then he removed the ceiling. Soon the house was an empty shell. Harold tore holes on walls that didn’t have a window so every corner of the house was reached by sunlight.

One day Harold showed up with a truck load of panels. He replaced the roof with the panels and began attaching them to the inside walls.

“What are those?” Hew asked.

“These are solar sheets,” Harold said with a grin. “They will absorb the sunlight during the day and give off light when it’s dark. I want to make sure you have twenty-four hours of light after I’m gone.”

“You can’t do this!” Hew spat.

Harold ignored him and kept working.

A few days later he had solar sheets installed that helped keep the house lit up all day and all night.

As Harold packed his tools Hew said, “You no good rotten jerk! I hope for this you burn in…”

“I think the only one who will be burning will be you.” Harold couldn’t help but beam. He was heading to the nearest hotel to catch up on the sleep he’d missed the last two weeks.

Suddenly he felt a tightness in his chest and he collapsed. When he rose from the floor he couldn’t tell how much time had passed. His chest felt fine. In fact, he felt great, except for the heat. He had done a good job with the panels. It felt liked the house was on fire.

“Well, well, well,” Hew smirked. “I guess Karma can be a bitch, can’t it?”

“What are you talking about?” Harold asked. “I’m out of here.”

“I don’t think so,” Hew mocked.

Harold ignored him and reached down to pick up his tool chest, but when he grabbed the handle the chest didn’t move. That’s when he noticed the body lying on the floor. His body.

Harold had suffered a heart attack. He was now a ghost, trapped with Hew in a hell of his own making.

 

Hare, by Elizabeth McCleary
The Widow, by Vanessa Wells
A Snow White Morning, by Katharina Gerlach
The Letter, by Juneta Key
Trick or Treacle, by Angela Wooldridge
Sugar in the Raw, by Karen Lynn
Inferno, by Fanni Soto
Tae, by Barbara Lund
Interstellar Student Exchange, by Raven O’Fiernan

Posted in Blog Hop, Stories | 10 Comments

Maybe I Should Have Hit the Delete Key

On April 18, 2013, the Harvey County Independent ran a column that Bill Bush wrote about his daughter and son’s toy poodle, Anna. Maybe I Should Have Hit the Delete Key contains Bill’s first one hundred columns published in the Independent. Covering a variety of topics, Bill:

  • Shares his passion for running, small towns, his children, daylight savings time, and peanut butter
  • Documents the excitement and obstacles of trying to start a writing career
  • Addresses the NFL controversies of Ray Rice and players kneeling for the National Anthem
  • Tackles tough issues like terrorism, target’s bathroom policy, minimum wage, Westboro Baptist Church, Donald Trump, and freedom and socialism
  • Provides solutions for the societal problems of gay marriage and the IRS
  • Opens up about his fears of publishing a novel, dating, not being happy, and watching his aunt die
  • Writes flash fiction stories about skunks, aliens, friendship, and parenthood, and shares excerpts from longer fi ctional work

Some humorous, some serious, all thought provoking.

Bill’s column, So Many Thoughts So Little Time, can be read regularly in the Harvey County Independent, located in Halstead, Kansas.

 

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January Blog Hop

Storytime Blog Hop January 31, 2018

Welcome to the January edition of Storytime Blog Hop. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

 

Note about my story below:  As I finished Growth Spurt something felt off. I think maybe it’s because the story needs to be longer, much longer. Don’t be surprised if Growth Spurt returns one day, after its own Growth Spurt. :).  See what I did there?

Growth Spurt

“Wait! Wait!” Adam stretched out his arm in front of Cheryl. He took the duffle bag from her and set it behind, then gently handed her Tommy.

Tommy – Seven pounds, nine ounces, eighteen inches tall, baby blue eyes, tiny feet and hands, lungs of an opera singer, and in perfect health.

“I want to record Tommy entering the house for the first time.”

Cheryl patiently smiled at her husband. “But I must look like a mess.”

Adam gave her a kiss. “You’ve never looked more radiant.”

It was true. Giving birth to her firstborn was the happiest day for Cheryl. Her wedding was a close second, though she would never admit it.

Adam opened the door of their second story apartment, traded the key for his phone in his front jeans pocket, and positioned himself inside for the best possible angle. “Okay, I’m recording.

Cheryl felt her cheeks burn so she ignored Adam and focused on Tommy as she entered the apartment.

“Isn’t he just perfect?” she commented as Adam retrieved the duffle bag and closed the door.

“Yes. And he has his mother’s eyes.”

That night, Cheryl rocked Tommy while Adam sat at the computer on the other side of their bedroom.

As Tommy suckled, she asked, “What are you doing, honey?”

“I’m downloading the video footage from my phone so I can delete it and start over tomorrow.”

“I hope you have enough memory on your hard drive for all the recordings,” Cheryl joked.

Adam smiled. “It’s in the cloud. We have unlimited storage.”

After feeding and burping Tommy, Cheryl reluctantly laid her beautiful boy in the bassinet next to her bed, then fell into bed and went immediately to sleep.

***

The next morning Cheryl opened her eyes to a wonderful sight – Adam swaying at the end of the bed with Tommy, who was starting to fuss. She smiled, then yawned and stretched.

“I tried to keep Tommy entertained as long as I could so you could sleep, but he’s hungry.”

She scooted into a sitting position and took Tommy, who began to eat. Adam brought Cheryl her favorite breakfast drink accompanied by a straw, and served her sips whenever she wanted.

And so began a most perfect day – just her and Adam and Tommy. Adam spoiled her, changed all the dirty diapers, cooked her favorite meal, and allowed her to sleep as much as she wanted (and after the recent twenty hours of labor, she wanted). In fact, the only thing she had to do all day was feed Tommy.

But the highlight was rocking her newborn to sleep with her husband fifteen feet away, downloading the day’s recordings of Tommy onto the computer, then snuggling with her husband as Tommy slept in his basinet next to the bed.

***

“Tommy!”

Cheryl bolted out of bed. The clock said seven-nineteen, the sun peeked through the curtains, and Tommy stirred in the basinet. She let out a sigh of relief.

Adam had jumped out of bed and hurried to her side when Cheryl yelled. “What’s wrong?”

She was almost in tears. “I’m sorry. I thought something was wrong with Tommy. He slept all night.”

“That’s not possible.” Adam gasped.

She settled into the rocker and began to feed her baby. She didn’t relax until Tommy had eaten well, burped, and dirtied his diaper.

Adam was a dream all day, helping her shower during one of Tommy’s naps, preparing meals for the two of them, and cleaning up after the meals.

When Cheryl laid Tommy in the basinet that night, Adam stood from the computer and put his arms around her.

“I’m so thankful you were able to stay home today,” she whispered.

Adam kissed her softly on the lips. “Me too.”

***

“Adam. Adam.” Cheryl insistently called.

Adam rolled groggily over and attempted to open his eyes.

“Adam.” She said more forcefully. The eyes popped wide open.

“Look!” She pointed down to Tommy.

Adam rolled out of bed to peer at his son. He shrugged. “What about him?”

Cheryl stretched the soft measuring tape the length of her son.

Adam whistled. “They sure do grow up quickly.”

“Almost three inches in one night?”

Cheryl was so concerned that Adam called the doctor, who agreed to see her and Tommy early for their follow-up exam.

Dr. Hall smiled down at Tommy before handing him back to Cheryl. “Well, you aren’t going crazy. Tommy has indeed grown two and a half inches since his birth.”

Cheryl’s eyes watered up. What was wrong with her boy?

The doctor continued. “While it’s extremely unusual, it’s not unprecedented for a person to grow significantly overnight.” She patted Cheryl on the shoulder. “You can relax. All the tests we ran show Tommy is in great health.”

As Cheryl rocked Tommy to sleep that night she said an extra prayer of thanks for his health.

“Did you watch the video after you downloaded it?” Cheryl asked as she crawled into bed with Adam.

“No, I was too tired. We can watch it tomorrow.”

“It’s a date,” she managed before she drifted off to sleep.

***

“Adam!”

Cheryl’s blood-curling scream certainly reached the neighbors, but she didn’t care. Tommy was missing. Where the basinet stood the night before lay a note in its place. Her legs gave out and she collapsed back onto the bed. Adam picked up the note and began reading to himself.

“What does it say?” She demanded.

He rushed to the computer and turned it on.

“It says we have to watch a video on the computer.”

“Does it say who it’s from?”

“Yeah, me.”

“You? What?” Cheryl crawled across the bed and sat on the opposite side. Adam turned the monitor and sat beside her.

Over the next several minutes Cheryl and Adam sat in stunned silence as they watched snippets of video of their Tommy, ranging from the day they brought him home from the hospital to his fourth birthday. Cheryl didn’t recognize any of it. The last thing she remembered was putting Tommy to bed on his first night at home from the hospital.

The video turned from Cheryl tucking into bed a four-year-old Tommy, to Adam. “This is Tommy’s first night in his own bed.”

The video panned to Tommy once more, then back to Adam, who spoke as he walked to his bedroom. “Every day Tommy wakes up a day older, but for us, his parents, every day is still January 31, 2018, the day after we brought him home from the hospital. It’s also January 31, 2018 for the rest of the world. I don’t know what has happened to cause this, but it’s true, as you can see by the video.

Cheryl tried to swallow the lump in her throat, to no avail. Her baby was four? Tears ran down her face. She had no memory of her son as a child.

“Mommy?” Cheryl stood and spun around. Tommy stood in the doorway.

“Oh, Tommy!” She held out her arms he ran into them.

“Mommy, are you okay?”

She wiped her tears the best she could. “I am now, honey.”

Adam hugged them both. “What do we do now?”

Cheryl thought of the horror of waking and finding Tommy gone. “We find a better way to tell ourselves tomorrow morning that our son is four years old.”

 

Please visit my friends and enjoy their stories!

Mystical Manatee Park by J. Q. Rose
Phased Out by Kami Bataya
Snow White (17) MURDERED by K. M. Flint
A Character Profile by Juneta Key
Monstrous Monday by Fanni Soto
Grandma’s Legacy by Elizabeth McCleary
Dragonslayer by Barbara Lund
Megan’s Virus by Karen Lynn
Studenting by Chris Makowski
I – The Magician by Raven O’Fiernan

 


							
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