Category Archives: Short Stories

The Parable of the Bonsai Man

Once there was a man who lived in the forest. He was a renown arborist who specialized in growing bonsai trees. He kept his little trees deep in the forest and, in the forest surroundings, he worked very hard to make sure his bonsai were absolutely perfect before he sold them.

One day, over his breakfast, he heard on the radio that the conditions were ripe for a severe fire. In fact, the red flag warning was so severe that residents were cautioned to leave the forest now before the forest burst into flames. The man paid no heed to the warning and instead began his walk to his bonsai orchard.

Later that morning, a haze fell upon the forest floor. There was a smokey, sooty fragrance in the air, but the man remained determined over his tree. He refused to be distracted. Very deliberately, he picked up his small shears and began slowly pruning.

The smoke became more and more dense. The man’s eyes watered and his throat was hoarse. He began coughing, yet he refused to leave his tree and he steadily and carefully continued his pruning. “It sure is hard to see and my coughing definitely makes it difficult to cut properly, but I must continue my work,” he thought.

The wind gusted and with it came the flashover of flame that engulfed the forest. Still, the man refused to leave his tree.

The firefighters came and the blaze was contained. As they trampled through the burnt, charcoal forest, they discovered the remains of the bonsai man, his shears still between his finger bones.

Never let the demands of your work prevent you from seeing the obvious.

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Some Things Get Better With Age

This is another piece that came from Midtown Writers Group prompts. The idea originally appeared on paper on 12/31/2017, but it took awhile for me to get back to it and complete the piece.

 

“Some things get better with age,” thought the internet tycoon as he stared at the unopened bottle of Ancient Roman wine. He stood backstage awaiting the curtain call of the great revelation. The bottle rested gently on a red satin display under a plastic cube. The spotlights were ready to be turned on and, on the other side of the red curtain, a cameraman was preparing to take footage of the event. To the side of the display, on a small mahogany table, atop a hand sewn silk doily, there was an ornate piece of stemware – a wine glass.

Dressed in an unblemished tuxedo, the tycoon stood and listened to his guests file in and make polite conversation in the grand ballroom of his mansion on the French Riviera. His mind began to wander. He reflected back to the discoveries, first of the sunken ship and then of the wine bottle in the Mediterranean Sea.

For the breadth of human history and pre-history, there has been a fascination with the sea. Mankind has fashioned his watercraft, sailed the sea, and sunk to the bottom of it for thousands of years. Much has been lost in these aquatic catastrophes – gold, gems, pottery and so on. The real prize to the true collector is the preserved perishable items. Finding clothing is rare, but to find an unbroken bottle is exceptional. To find an intact bottle of the famous Roman wine, the wine sung of by the bards and written of by the poets, is absolutely inconceivable and beyond belief.

One the hobbies of the super-rich is deep sea scavenging and salvage. They can afford the diving teams, the latest equipment and the finest toys. Many graduate students and doctors of antiquity are eager to find patronage with these private collectors. However, the internet tycoon employed no one. He was in business for himself as a sole proprietor and amateur treasure hunter.

 

Walking to the backstage window, the internet tycoon looked out to see his parking lot filled with luxury and exotic cars. Young women, with their furs and dapper dates, had made their way to his palace entrance, the last of which were entering now. The internet tycoon continued musing, his mouth watering in anticipation. He reminisced with pride as he thought of his fleet of submersible drones, casting a radar net over the ocean floor. He felt the giddiness again of the discovery of the radar blip in the channel between Corsica and Sardinia. There was the competitive rush of adrenaline when he realized that diving teams from the British Museum and Cambridge were nearing his discovery. He was there first!

He had sent a swarm of drone submarines to the radar blip and turned on the search lights. What a discovery! Such a well preserved Roman wreck! He had to keep them away. As the scuba divers neared the wreckage, the internet tycoon released additional swarms of miniature tactical submarine drones armed with electric shocks, similar to cattle prods. These undersea bees were relentless to the diving team. Helplessly, they tried to swat them away, but the friction of water makes everything happen in slow motion and salt water is a great conductor of electricity. Eventually, the drivers surfaced to lodge a complaint, which was promptly forwarded to the attorneys.

Meanwhile, beneath the sea, the drones carefully searched the Roman wreck. In the cargo hold, its stopper and glassware intact, sat the prize. With extraordinary care, he sent in his extractor subs. The subs carefully removed the bottle and placed it in a pressurized container to eventually return to the surface and be carefully depressurized. After another pass of the wreckage, he took the gold, jewelry and gems. He even took the remainder of an old Roman sword with him, since he had some extra room in one of the containers. He left the remainder of the pottery and junk to the divers that would come back. He even knocked over one of the pots, not of clumsiness, but out of spite, as he recalled his drone submarines.

 

As the red curtain opened, the internet tycoon felt a surge of pride and accomplishment as the display lights came alive to reveal the ancient bottle and its liquid contents. This was his bottle. He owned it. Critics would demand that he hand it over to a museum, let scientists and researchers study it, but it was HIS. What he would do with this wine from antiquity would be the most blasphemous, heinous crime in their eyes and they were powerless to stop him. For this was his bottle, found and salvaged, and he owned it.

The internet tycoon gave his presentation to a packed house. He was broadcasting live across the internet, where the self-righteous trolls spat upon his decadent ways. After an hour of self-aggrandizement, the moment came. He lifted the plastic cube and held the bottle in his hands, displaying it for all to see. Next, he removed the stopper from the millennia-old bottle. He did this with the aid of one of his modern contraptions so as to neither damage the stopper nor the bottle. Finally, he poured.

Thick, black syrup oozed out of the bottle and into the fine crystal stemware. He put the glass to his lips and tasted. As the internet tycoon swished the Roman wine syrup in his mouth and swallowed, he allowed himself to reverie on a life well spent. He closed his eyes, breathed in and held it.

What the audience saw was his collapse on the red felt carpet. Paramedics were called, but he was dead. The cause of death was poisoning. When medical science got ahold of the remainder of the wine, they discovered that it contained an ancient, lethal and forgotten foodborne illness that had also been preserved in the bottle. Centuries of dormancy beneath the sea only heightened its lethal potency. The internet tycoon had been cursed by his own ancient wine.

midtownwritersgroup

“Some things get better with age,” thought the internet tycoon as he stared at the unopened bottle of Ancient Roman wine. He stood backstage awaiting the curtain call of the great revelation. The bottle rested gently on a red satin display under a plastic cube. The spotlights were ready to be turned on and, on the other side of the red curtain, a cameraman was preparing to take footage of the event. To the side of the display, on a small mahogany table, atop a hand sewn silk doily, there was an ornate piece of stemware – a wine glass.

Dressed in an unblemished tuxedo, the tycoon stood and listened to his guests file in and make polite conversation in the grand ballroom of his mansion on the French Riviera. His mind began to wander. He reflected back to the discoveries, first of the sunken ship and then of the…

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Fogy Lovers

This was a story that I wrote from today’s writing prompts in the Midtown Writer’s Group. I like how it turned out.

midtownwritersgroup

Author’s Note: This story is a bit of a stretch assignment for me. I rarely venture into erotic fiction, but today’s characters and writing prompts led me in that direction. I’ve italicized the writing prompts so you can follow the glide path of the story. Please judge kindly – Thanks.

You would think that investing your life in a neighborhood or community for 27 years would get you somewhere, but with the recent string of drug arrests made, Vidalia’s home value plummeted. It was time to sell the house and move to a condo, but to even get a reasonable price, the house needed repairs.

Out of the fog, there emerged a balding man with a tool belt and a toolbox. He wasn’t much to look at, so he went largely unnoticed. He performed maintenance at the low income high rise, but with so many tenants returning to prison…

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I Was Lost

This story is based upon several writing prompts from the Midtown Writer’s Group that came together to form the story. The prompts are in italics.

 

I thought I was on the correct floor, but I was lost. The car park was identical for as far as my mind could grasp. I was a child who lost his mommy and it didn’t help that my car was a rental. If I searched my mind hard, I might remember what my car looked like.

I hit the panic button on my key fob as I walked the corridors of P3. I got no response from my car, but at another car there was a knock on the door. It was the tail of a dog beating against the glass. The cocker spaniel didn’t bark. Instead it just smiled, panted and wagged its tail. I walked on: P3? Or was it P4?

 

My phone vibrated due to a text message. “Well, why don’t you come on home?” the message said. I texted back, “But I’m lost – lost in the parking ramp. I’ve been here for hours. No lie.”

Maybe my car was stolen? But how would I know that? I know! The rental company has GPS in all the cars. I could call customer service and they could find my car.

I called customer service. I was on hold for 10 minutes before they told me they needed me to put the key in the ignition to activate the GPS. That doesn’t help me. There have been better days.

I continued pacing around P3 and returned to the dog, still knocking the door window with his tail. I could tell we both wanted out. I opened the car door to let out the dog. When I did that, I set off the car alarm. Like most car alarms, nobody cared. The cocker spaniel took off across the car park, darting under and around cars, blissfully barking with joy.

The din sounded like an urban choir, between the barking and the car alarm. I just stood there with the door open. It was the smell that got my attention. The dog must’ve eaten cheese, because the car reeked. I shut the door and continued searching for my car, this time on a different level. I had already caused enough trouble on P3. Now to try P2.

 

It was almost time for dinner and I still had not found my car. After hours of desperate search, and a dead key fob battery, I had not found my rental car. In the great maze of concrete and motor vehicles, the cocker spaniel found me and chased after me, jumping and barking all the way. The dog stopped, panting. Then it raised its leg and began to pee on the lot sign. I was in Orange Lot East. Didn’t I park in Purple Lot West? Shit. Which way was west?

I started walking towards the daylight that I saw in the distant concrete horizon. As I walked, I heard sobs echo off the concrete pillars. I couldn’t quite make out the cries in the distance, but it sounded like a woman. I went down the ramp to P1, hoping to find level, natural, earth-based ground, instead of this disorienting concrete prison. Sometimes the echoes faded and got louder. I didn’t care. I was almost free and so was the dog.

Finally I heard the screech of the owner, “Pebbles! PEH-bbles!” spoken with a heaving sob, followed by a, “Here boy! Oh Pebbles, where are you?”

It was all a game to this dog. He let out one low and quiet bark, and charged off towards more parked cars.

I got another text. It read, “I’m coming to pick you up. Where are you?” I texted back, “Haven’t you been listening? I. Don’t. Know!”

The dog owner pulled alongside me just as I was putting away my phone. Her make up was running all down her face and her red hair was as frantic and frizzy as she was. “Excuse me, sir? Have you seen my dog? He’s a little cocker spaniel.”

I looked up, past the woman, past her car. In the distance of my 1,000 yard stare, I saw the curly hair of the puckish pet curled up in his hiding spot behind a tire many aisles away. I looked at the woman. I looked at the dog. Did I want to get involved? If I helped her, and she offered to help me, did I really want to sit in the rotten, foul-smelling car of spaniel butt-cheese? Wouldn’t it be better to just walk to Purple Lot West? But where is that?

The crying woman drove away, “Why can’t anyone help me?! PEH-bbles!”

 

I finally reached the edge of the car park, but a biting wind rose up and hit me in the face. To my right was an enclosed land bridge connecting the neighboring lot, an elevator bank, and a map. I went in from the cold and looked at the map. I sent a text, “I found a map. I’m in between Orange Lot East and Red Lot North.”

“I’m sorry. Something’s come up. I can’t help you. Call a cab,” was the responding text message.

I crossed over to Red Lot North when there arose a familiar knock at the glass door. The dog was lying down right at the crease of the door, wagging his tail. I remembered from the map that similar skyways connected all of the parking ramps. I called the elevator and went up to P3 and got out.

When I got out, I saw a security officer riding in his security cart with the yellow light flashing. I stepped out to wave him down, but he drove right past me and drove down the ramp to P2. Why can’t anyone help me?

Walking, walking, walking. Walking vaguely westward, I think. Why are these parking ramps always so large? Am I lost again? They say that humans travel in large circles if they get lost. Gee, that car looks familiar. Why do so many cars look alike? Is that my car? No, the key doesn’t work. Great, I’ve set off another car alarm. I bet a person could go crazy in a situation like this.

After an eternity, I finally reached the other end of Red Lot North. Echoing in the wind, I could hear red-headed lady’s voice, “You let him get away! How could you let him get away?”

“I’m sorry ma’am. I’ve called for backup. Please remain calm.” The security officer’s deep voice was calming and provided a baseline of sanity to the treble of craziness I was responsible for and currently involved with.

I crossed the bridge to Purple Lot West, but for some reason, P3 crossed over to P2. Whoever designed this had no sympathy for people who get lost. I stopped in the shelter, closed my eyes, and tried to use my imagination to remember what my car looked like and where it could be. It was so long ago since I went in to the mall to return those clothes, that I think the value of the money in my pocket is worth less due to inflation.

I used my imagination to travel further back into time, back to when I first parked. Was I happy because I got a good parking spot or was I angry or sad because I had to park far away? No, I was neither. There were no feelings for the parking spot, only the annoyance of returning the clothes. I opened my eyes and started walking.

Once again lost in the concrete labyrinth, I heard a bark. “Oh no,” I thought. There was another bark followed by a heaving echo. The dog was throwing up. I turned the corner of a row of cars and there he sat, wagging his tale in front of pile of vomit several cars away. I approached the dog and he jumped up and down. I glanced over and Pebbles had puked right next to my rental car. I was in shock. My jaw dropped. I looked at the car and I looked at the dog. “Good dog,” I said, “Good boy, Pebbles.”

I instinctively tried the key fob, but the battery was dead, so I turned the key in the door and, like magic, the car alarm did not go off. I opened the door and the dog jumped into my car ahead of me. I got in, shut the door and pet the dog as it sat on the passenger side seat. For a brief moment, I thought of taking Pebbles home with me, but then he let out a big cheesy fart that destroyed the new car smell.

I pulled out of my parking spot and followed the exit signs out of the lot. After exiting Purple Lot West, I pulled alongside 3 security carts and the woman’s car. I rolled down my window and yelled, “Ma’am! Is this your dog?” pointing to the cocker spaniel in my seat.

“YES!!” she screamed, “Where was he? How did you catch him?”

I was tired and didn’t want to get into it. “It’s okay,” I said, “He’s happy to see you. Come on over and take him.” Pebbles went back to her owner and I went home. The lady even gave me her number, but I’m not sure what I would do with it. Maybe I have a friend who would like her?

As Fast As You Can

It’s election time in Fairyland. Normally everyone would gleefully cast their ballot for the incumbent, President Grandfather, but President Grandfather wanted to return to civilian life to live happily ever after. This left a race open to any of the magical residents of Fairyland.

I know you’re asking, “How important is the race in Fairyland?” and I agree that it is a fair question. Fairyland is not generally known for its representative government, generally being a place of make believe and a land of many tales. However, there is a fair amount of mischief that goes on here and someone has to help maintain the happily-ever-afters. The candy cane lanes sometimes need replacement candy canes, graham cracker roads get potholes and need marshmallow/chocolate filling until the roads are replaced. All of the basic services magical creatures need to live a happy existence need to be supplied. The office of the President has been instrumental to Fairyland, both home and abroad. Fairyland’s President is also a figurehead that encapsulates the ideals of the magical creatures. As you can see, the Presidency is very important.

Fairyland had a very robust primary season. There were crows and tortoises, hares and pigs. Surprisingly, not many children were interested in running for President. They preferred to run around and play. Voting in the primary was too much like homework for them.

The Fairyland candidates gave speeches and canvassed the local neighborhoods to garner votes. There were even a series of debates. After several weeks, a leader began to emerge – the Fox. The Fox was handsome, sauve, and very intelligent. The Fox was also very charismatic. Unlike the other candidates, such as the policy wonk tortoise or the impatient and hyper hare, the Fox was able to tap the emotions of the crowd and build consensus. By the end of the primary season, the Fox reached the point that all the creatures generally agreed that the Fox was probably right most of the time.

 

 

Meanwhile, First Lady Grandmother, spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking the best successor to President Grandfather. After years of practice, Grandmother had perfected her Gingerbread Man. Out of the hot oven came a very handsome Gingerbread Man. Grandmother added thick, black frosting for hair, a frosting tuxedo with spice drop buttons and a strawberry glaze tie. The Gingerbread Man stood up from his cookie sheet, adjusted his glaze tie, and full of confidence, shook Grandma’s hand. She fell instantly in love with him. Certainly, all the magical creatures would elect the Gingerbread Man!

The Gingerbread Man attended one Fox’s rallies and was dismayed by what he heard. The Fox was a savvy politician, but he was also corrupt, exchanging promises with chocolate gold coins and gum drops. Not only that, the Fox’s ideas were old fashioned and out of date. Residents of Fairyland needed a more progressive vision. At the end of the Fox’s rally, the Gingerbread Man shook the hands of the magical creatures and invited them back to the peppermint bandstand the next day.

That night, the Gingerbread Man thought long and hard about his message, “Run, run, as fast as you can.” In the dark corners of his mind he continued, “You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.” The Gingerbread Man pondered late into the night until his message struck him like a bolt out of the blue.

The next day, with many of the Fairyland creatures attending, he unveiled his political platform – Fairyland had to modernize! Fairyland was still relying on cobblers for shoes and spinsters for thread and clothes. Fairyland needed factories. Fairyland needed jobs. Good, solid, well-paying middle-class factory jobs.

The Gingerbread Man began his speech, “Mr. Rabbit, aren’t you tired of waiting 3 weeks for a new pair of shoes? And Ms. Muffet, how old is your tuffet? Why I’m sure after we build a factory, you could enjoy fresh milk instead of that stale old curds and whey!

“Happily ever after shouldn’t mean waiting forever! We deserve our products ‘as fast as you can.’ When do we want it?”

“As fast as you can!” the crowd responded.

 

 

Meanwhile, the Fox was disturbed by this young (and delicious looking) upstart that was taking away his votes and endorsements. All of the faster animals, the rabbit, the sparrow and the cheetah all endorsed the Gingerbread Man. The crafty Fox wanted to settle this campaign behind closed doors, but the Gingerbread Man refused to meet him in private. They would have to duke it out in public on the campaign stump.

This was proving to be a very stressful and divisive election for the magical creatures of Fairyland. Both candidates made whistle-stop tours on the buttercup railroad. The Gingerbread Man’s sparrows would drop leaflets all around Fairyland while the Fox’s woodpeckers would knock on all the doors. After all of this effort, it was decided that the Gingerbread Man and the Fox should have a debate to settle their differences.

The debate was scheduled on a hot day. The Gingerbread Man spent his time in the comforts of Grandmother’s refrigerator whereas the Fox was busy running around on all fours, trying to gather more votes. When the debate took place that night, the Gingerbread Man was cool, collected, and as charismatic as ever. Whereas the poor Fox was sweating from a hard day’s work and appeared nervous.

Many of the magical creatures in the audience wore t-shirts and hats with the slogan, “As Fast As You Can” as an example of what a factory could deliver to Fairyland. The Fox said, “I see my opponent has given you a lot of hats and t-shirts, but what he isn’t telling you is that these are from foreign lands, like China and Vietnam, where they use children to make the clothes!”

The Gingerbread Man scoffed, “Please. My opponent is desperate to scare you into voting for him. I mean, just look at him, sweating and panting. And think! What if we could make our own goods instead of relying on foreign lands? We deserve good, solid, well-paying middle class jobs. When do we want them?”

“As fast as you can!” the crowd replied.

 

Things were looking grim for the Fox after that debate. The Gingerbread Man’s slogan was too powerful. Furthermore, more bad news arrived for the Fox in the form of an “October Surprise.” In one the Fox’s speeches, he made the mistake of making a campaign promise to “bring the pork back to Fairyland.” This upset the 3 Little Pigs, who went on a popular talk show and shared a traumatic experience between themselves and an abusive wolf who regularly blew down their house.

Wasting no time, the Gingerbread Man spread pictures of the wolf across Fairyland, drawing a connection between the Fox and the Wolf. Little Red Riding Hood also came forward to reveal that another wolf had eaten her grandmother and threatened to do the same to her. The Gingerbread Man promised that, if elected, he would appoint a special prosecutor to look into the Fox and the Wolf and to bring them to justice.

 

The campaign dragged on and on, revealing the worst of the Fairyland creatures. Alas, it was the weekend before election day and both the Fox and the Gingerbread Man were running neck and neck. Both candidates had to cross the Caramel River to campaign in Bayou Swamp, whose 3 electoral votes could mean the difference between a President Fox or a President Gingerbread Man. Unfortunately, the boat and ferry men were on strike and picketing for higher wages, riled up by the Gingerbread Man’s message of “As Fast As You Can.”

The Gingerbread Man dipped a toe in the river and some of his breadcrumbs fell off and floated away. “Ouch!” he said. Meanwhile, the Fox took a few steps into the Caramel River and was about to wade across when the desperate Gingerbread Man said, “Stop!”

The Fox turned around and asked, “Why? Bayou Swamp’s electoral votes are mine.”

“I’ll make a deal,” the Gingerbread Man said, “just let me ride on your back and I’ll make you an Ambassador.”

The Fox thought it over and agreed. “Climb on,” he said.

They began to cross, but the river water started getting higher and higher. A few splashes lapped perilously close to the Gingerbread Man. One such splash knocked off one of his spice drop buttons. “Let me climb up on your head, Fox. Please! The water will wash me away.”

“Of course,” the Fox said with a sardonic smile.

As they approached the shore, the fox began to feel the ground, but faked swimming like he was still up to his neck in water. And then, right on the shoreline of Bayou Swamp, the Fox leapt in the air and ate the Gingerbread Man in one big gulp. The Gingerbread Man was a little stale, but still tasty.

Now, completely free of any political opponents, the Fox swam back across the river and held a press conference. Tragedy had befallen the beloved Gingerbread Man in the Caramel River. It was with a heavy heart that he had to report the loss. He had done everything in his power to save his opponent, but the current was too strong.

 

On election day, the Fox won in a historic landslide in Fairyland. He even gloated about the “mandate” he had received from the magical creatures and that he had “tremendous political capital which he intended to spend.” Fairland continues to heal from this divisive election one day at a time. The candy cane lanes are still getting replacement candy canes, and the graham cracker road potholes are still getting marshmallow/chocolate filling.  Gradually, everyone is returning to live happily ever after.

I can’t say what will happen in the next four years, or if Fairyland will ever have an election quite as contentious as this, but I can say that Former President Grandfather is enjoying a happy retirement and that his wife, Former First Lady Grandmother, continues her baking every day. She even bakes a Gingerbread Man from time to time.

A Composite of the Best Speeches in Toastmasters

Tonight, I witnessed 10 of the best speakers in Minnesota deliver their best speeches. Only one speaker would represent Minnesota in Washington DC at the International Speech Contest. Something I have noticed in my time in Toastmasters is that the speakers who get really deep into the International Speech Contest get there as a result of telling some face sopping, tear-jerker story which the audience finds so moving, that they declare the speech “inspirational.” I have too much of my father, and my father is too good a speaker, to follow the path towards face-wetting my way to the top. Not to shit on everyone’s story, but after listening to 10 speeches, I just need to flush and get a new roll of toilet paper.

The Rules (Self-Imposed)

 The following is a composite story encompassing the cores of all 10 speeches delivered in order. The composite title will draw one word from each of the individual speech titles. My goal is not to exceed 3-5 paragraphs (ideally keep to 3 paragraphs) and to dwell on a speech for no more than 2 sentences. Prepare to be “inspired” –

What Leap of Fallen Words? Speak Failure Worth Unstuck Power (The Speech Story)

 Mister Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters and Honored Guests –

In Japan, I once new an elderly businessman who was a war veteran from World War II. While travelling at 60 mph, he was hit head on by a drunk driver. This resulted in permanent brain damage. His final three words were, “You still should,” as he sang to his mother her favorite song while she was coming out of a coma.

Undaunted by my sexual molesters and suicide attempts, I sought to eradicate the word “fine” from my vocabulary in order to lead an honest life. As a United States Veteran, I know 22 veterans die a day in suicide and that fear, apathy and cynicism are the true problems in America: Syrian refugees, immigrants and driving through protesters, dragging them 50 feet behind a vehicle notwithstanding.

“Faith is taking the first step,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said as I emerged victorious in volleyball, earning me a scholarship to North Dakota University, which made me cry all the way to the airport as I left my native Jamaica.

“That horse was owned by Pat Delaney!” I screamed as I watched the horse dying helplessly in the freezing cold mud. The veterinarian had driven an hour to the scene, just to shake his head and leave. It made me want to play the violin like Davy Crockett at the Alamo. This made all the inmates in the prison cry.

I failed, but failure is not unique and failure does not define my success, as I learned in 4th grade. Listen, when my mother was in the cab with me to the airport, I regretted not paying attention because I got a call 3 weeks later telling me that she died.

Dining Over Travis

Feb Spring

Perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen something quite so personal for a writing prompt. I stare at the photograph and several ideas come to mind, no single one emerging to supremacy. When I took the photograph, I thought of the melting snow. I saw the abandoned patio set, framed for a summer social event set at the wrong time. This was followed by the dichotomy of the shed and the rowboat on the right against the beaver-like woodpile on the left. Finally, I thought of my rear neighbor, who has similar summertime hopes with the grill waiting expectantly for use.

But the real eye-catcher is the brown spot upon which sits the frame of one of my patio chairs. The story that captures my imagination here was of a man and his girlfriend, sitting outside on the first nearly warm day of spring and enjoying a hot beverage at the patio table. Her boyfriend sits over the spot while his girlfriend sits across, yammering away about her own life. This is where I eavesdrop into their story –

“If Melony thinks she can just say that behind my back, she’s got another thing coming!”

Collon takes a sip of his scalding tea. It burns his lips and his tongue. He sets down his mug in pain, feeling the metalic taste of his burning tongue and feeling the salty scrape of his palate. He keeps thinking of a way to go back inside. He says, “You shouldn’t have to take that from her.”

“Damn right I shouldn’t!” Myrtle replies. She wears soft, puffy, white fingerless gloves that look as if she reached into the carcass of a dead white rabbit in each hand for warmth. She craddles her mug, the heat of the mug matching the heat of her temper. “And let me tell you, if I see Melony hangin’ around with Chelsea, you better believe there’ll be hell to pay! Chelsea is my friend. We’ve been besties since second grade.”

Collon just sits there, wanting to go back inside to play more Call of Duty. Explosive carnage, getting dismembered by grenades, hell, anything is better than listening to his girlfriend when she gets in a mood. This is Saturday for Christsakes. Can’t school be left back at school?

Suddenly Myrtle stops talking and stares at Collon. “Oh shit,” Collon thinks, “What was going on?” A white furry palm reaches across the table and holds Collon’s hand. Myrtle’s eyes soften and she says, “I love you, Collon. You’re such a good listener.” She stands up and give him a peck on the forehead.

“Thanks bae,” Collon says.

As Myrtle walks back, Collon feels something under his chair. It is as if the ground is moving. He says, “Uh, bae -”

“But that’s just it, Collon. I know you don’t think this is a big deal to you, but its a big deal to me.”

Collon feels his chair begin to sink into the brown spot he is sitting on. “Uh, bae -” he voices slightly more concern as the ground begins to ripple around him.

“But honestly, how can Melony say that she invented wearing winter hats with yarn balls. I did that all the way back in junior high! She just can’t take credit for something she found in the closet and decided to wear to school one day. I had it first! I just, you know, had other things to wear. BETTER things to wear.”

A hand reached out of the dirt and grabbed Collon’s chair. It was using it as leverage to pull the… the… the rest of itself out. “BABE!!” Collon screamed.

“Collon! I just said you were a good listener. Now wait your turn!”

Suddenly, there was a dirt explosion as the creature exhumed himself from his grave. Dirt caked itself to Myrtle’s white winter outfit as she screamed in horror, not at zombie ascending from the grave, but because her pretty outfit was now permanently stained. The zombie grabbed Collon by the yarn ball of his cap and dragged him into the grave. A muffled yell was buried under 6 feet of dirt and the zombie, a dirty man dressed in a tuxedo with a bowtie and ruffle shirt, stood up and adjusted his tie. Myrtle stared in shock.

“Hello, Love. My name is Travis. I’ve been down there for a ghastly length of time. I say, is that tea?” the zombie asked.

“Meep,” Myrtle said.

“Oh delightful. Nice and warm, oh what. I dare say, I was listening to your horrid situation with Melony and I quite agree. Something needs to be done to that strumpet, forthwith!”

“Bu… But Collon?”

“Oh don’t worry your pretty head over him. He is just fine and dandy down there. For you see, this is a stasis grave, by Jove! Oh yes. The idea was that someone should stay as guardian in case nuclear war should come. Yes, quite. Alas, I see my assignment time is up and I should report in. Home office should have something to say about this, don’t you agree?”

“I don’t understand.”

“I just need to make a phone call, Love. Is there a phone indoors?”

“No,” Myrtle said, still in shock, “but you can use mine. Let me just unlock it for you.”

She pulled out her touchscreen phone, unlocked it, and handed it to the dirty gentleman. With a confused look upon his face, the Travis said, “Now, I’m afraid I don’t understand how does that contraption work?”

“You mean you’ve never seen a phone before? Wow. Let me get some help,” Myrtle said as she stood up.

“No, don’t bother. I’ll muddle through,” he said, taking the phone.

Now that she was standing, Myrtle begin moving towards the gate. Travis began asking her a series of questions, but she didn’t feel like answering them. It was too strange to go on.