Wedding Cake

melted wedding cake

I took the piece of wedding cake out of the freezer. Then, I put it on a plate on the kitchen table.  I put it there so that I could watch it melt.

Again.

Because, my wife has left.

Again.

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Shave And A Haircut

Razor IMG 1145

Rufus Stevens was just a boy when the Men came to the farm.

It was the outlaw Duncan Chester’s men. They’d robbed a train, and the job had gone badly. The Pinkertons had set a trap for them, and several of the gang were killed when they tried to take the payroll on board. Those who weren’t shot outright bolted into the night. They rode hard through the rains, across the dark, wet fields of Missouri until they found the warm light of the Stevens homestead.

They were desparate men, intent on taking what they needed.  They took Rufus’ mother, and his sister. They shot his father and his younger brother. They took everything; food, lanterns, blankets, firewood.

But, Rufus they spared.

“Let him tell the story.” said Duncan Chester himself, looking down on a shame-faced, guilt-ridden Rufus. Chester was wounded. He’d used a shred of Rufus’ raped and murdered sister’s dress as a bandage across his cheek and under his ear, plugging the gaping wound that was the result of a Pinkerton’s bullet.

They left Rufus in the dark and broken house, the hoof beats of their horses echoing in the night, eventually leaving only a breath of wind as the rains stopped. The clouds parted to reveal a full moon, reflected in the twin pools of dark young eyes that stared upward from the floorboards of that lonely homestead.

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Burning Bright, Part II

Tiger

Clee approached the door of the school where the tiger was suspected to be using as her lair, remembering what Hodge had said, and how he’d said it. “The animal is not to be killed. If anything happens to it, you won’t get your bonus. And I’ll be very, very angry. You don’t want to see that. Get me that tiger alive and bring it to me. I’ve got plans for it.”

There was something ominous in his voice. Clee knew that there was something out of whack with the guy. He wasn’t like most of the Council members at Green City they’d said, which she supposed is why he’d left to set up a new town. But, she’d heard that same tone of voice, that same quality of intent in the voices of raiders that she’d dealt with and exchanged fire with when she was in the army. Her opinion of Hodge upon meeting him had been that he was a less than trustworthy person. But, in those few sentences, she knew her client was a breed apart, that he could be capable of anything. This was a bad job in a bad place.

She thought of her two little girls Cissy and Bea back in Green City, sleeping in borrowed beds at the Parent’s Network Centre. She wished they were all at home in their small apartment instead. She wished she’d never come to Hodgetown. Continue reading

Burning Bright, Part I

Road

Adapted from a photo by: Craig Deitrich

Clee Harris dropped off Cissy and Bea at the Parent’s Network in downtown Green City. Since the east coast fell, Green City was where it was at if you didn’t have the pull to get into one of the gated communities. You had to scrap it out on the outside. That’s what Clee had to do before she settled here.There was plenty of support in Green City, even though life there was hard in other ways.

Clee had got a call from the office. There was a job. It was one of the special jobs that she was good at. It was a big job out of town on the off hours. So, there’s be a big bonus, too. Freddie was gone, and kids needed to be fed, clothed, and needed a safe place to sleep, too. And there’d be no more husbands again to do it. Continue reading

The Inheritance

Usher

Image: Daniel Oines

In the years just before Bastion Rutherford Koch was born, the scientists had a name for it, and the politicians had another. But that was a long time ago and everyone just calls it The Vine now, of course, growing over everything and choking the life out of it once it takes hold. It took over the Eastern Seaboard completely in matter of weeks, they say; the buildings, the roads, the bridges, and all the food, and the drinkable water.  Everyone had to move, even those who had once ruled the world, like Bastion’s parents. They left the masses behind them.

They cut their losses.

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The Patron

1920s Farmhouse

Image: shuitt

When the burlap sack put over my head was finally taken off, I looked up into the eyes of Joey Bentz, the bankrobber. He looked a little older than the pictures on the wanted posters in Wichita, but I suppose he was only thirty or so. He had that same stare; black eyes, not brown, not hazel, but black. He had black hair to match that came to a widow’s peak on a wide, pale forehead. His looked like the face of death. Before any sense kicked in, I was sure he was going to kill me right there. But, when it did kick in, I figured if he wanted me dead, he wouldn’t have had his guy lift me off the street, bag me, and drive me out to the house where they were holed up.

And who was I to them anyway? I was just a scribbler, an artist who worked for a magazine in town. I was no Rockwell. But, I wasn’t too far off for a kid working for a local magazine. But, I guess I gained a reputation for realism around Wichita, and I’d got a job with the magazine there almost right out of high school because I had a good eye for detail, and a good drive to do good work. It was the summer of 1928. That was the thing at that time, not like now. You had to draw and paint as if you were capturing a real moment in time, just like a camera, and you had to do it fast by hand.

“What do you want?” I squeaked. I was pretty scared, and never a tough guy.

“You the painter?” said Bentz.

“Well, I’m one of them.” I said.

“Then you’re gonna paint me.”

I said “Sure.” Continue reading

The Data Model

night sky

When The Cornicopia left Io Station, they were all asleep in their regeneration chambers. The voyage would take a little over a century, far out of the solar system into deep space. They would settle on Foreman 12-01-70, a planet classified as being hospitable to human life. Even before they fell asleep, they felt no fear. It had been bred out of them in the gestation units, raised as children to adulthood by the guidance of The Algorithm.

To survive in the void of deep space, it was postulated that only their single-mindedness would serve them. The extraneous emotional range of traditional human psychology and makeup had been stripped away from them for their own protection, and to support their drive to achieve success in settling another planet light years away. They would leave the barren solar system and all of the irrationality and unpredictability of their former histories behind them. Those Proles remaining on Luna, Deimos, Phobos, and on Titan would take their insecurities, their feelings of inadequacy, their jealousies, their debilitating memories of lost love, and their broken dreams with them into oblivion.The occupants of the Cornicopia would wake in a new world. In it, there would be no place for such things. Continue reading

The Station

Church house

Adapted from a photo by: Bernt Rostad

After my grandfather passed away in the year 1854, my grandmother came to live with us in Baltimore. I was eleven. The move was against her will, having lived in Virginia for many years after immigrating from England with her husband, and arguing the point with my father with many sheets of parchment and veritable gallons of ink that comprised their correspondence.

But, my father insisted that she should leave the empty estate in Virginia and join us all in Maryland. He was a successful accountant for a textile firm, while Mother dedicated all of her waking hours rearing us. My grandmother was to join her in that role, with time for her quilting, and for her watercolors, while mother made social connections in town. Father was seeking to rise in the ranks, and Mother intended to help him through the wives. As for my Grandmother, it was the promise of the company of us children that convinced her to acquiesce to my father’s wishes, she told us later.

At age 65, my Grandmother retained the fiery spirit of someone much younger. According to my father, she’d always been outspoken, without any thought to the consequences of her words. She was impulsive. In my father’s world of carefully observed social discourse, it was something that we children greatly admired in her. To us she’d had always seemed to us to be an adventurer, even if the adventures she had pursued by the time she’d come to live with us were of a more subtle nature. There was something of the pixie about my Grandmother. It was as if she was not of her time, not because she belonged to the age previous as so many of her generation did, but more that she belonged to an age to come.
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Dolls

Dollhouse

Photo: Bellafaye

Dian turned off her cellphone, and slipped out of the hotel suite she’d called home since the conference began a week ago. She rode the elevator down, walked across the marble floor of the hotel lobby, and out onto the street. She borrowed the keys to the rental car from Jackie her personal assistant who reluctantly agreed to clear the afternoon’s schedule while Dian made her trip out of the city and back into the suburbs of her youth. It wouldn’t just be a trip through the streets, onto the highway, and then out into the land of manicured lawns and the smell of barbecue coals on the air. It would be a trip in time, too.

She didn’t expect to see anyone she knew. She moved from here when she was seventeen, just before the end of high school. Now she was forty-eight, although she looked thirty-eight. Everyone else she knew was probably gone, too. That’s what you did when you were from a place like this. You did your time when you were a kid, and then you left. In Dian’s case, it was a move into the city with Mom and Dad for the last few months of high school, then university, then a job right out of school, several promotions, a marriage to Mark, a partnership in the firm, and two beautiful daughters not soon after. It was like a logical progression for her. It never occurred to Dian that anyone would actually want to stay in the town they were born in. There were too many ghosts when you stayed in one place like that.

But, coming back here for the conference, with her hometown only forty-five minutes away down the highway had been like a sign to her, perhaps another logical progression. She knew she had to leave, and go back to the old neighbourhood. Because sometimes, ghosts didn’t stay in one place, either. Sometimes, despite all of your sucesses, they followed you. They reminded you who you really were.

So, maybe this trip back would help. Maybe it would finally help.
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My Ticket Out

Papaya

Photo: H. Zell

When the plane hit the water, I must have been unconscious. And how I got to shore is anyone’s guess. But, I got there alive. The sand was collecting in my underwear in the surf, pushed up there through my pant legs. Then, I guess I must have pulled myself further onto the bone-white beach. I don’t remember how I did that either. Maybe the tide went out, and I stayed where I was. I don’t know. All I could hear was the surf. And then, I fell asleep again, for I don’t know how long.

When I woke up again, it was just before dawn. And then suddenly, the hot sun was up sending down a cascade of morning light that under any other circumstances would have made it another glorious day in Paradise. I rolled over, and without much pain, except for a headache, which wasn’t unusual for me first thing in the morning. It was a miracle. There was no broken bones, no open wounds, no lost limbs. It was incredible. I was alive.

But, I didn’t know where I was. Continue reading