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Members' Choice Nothing like peer recognition! Nominate and vote on the work of fellow members.


Members' Choice Voting thread, June 16th to September 15th

View Poll Results: Please vote for your favourite piece!
The Lie-In by Redlorry 4 36.36%
Lone Tree Blues by Bicyclingfish 0 0%
The Forgotten by Ethan Blake 3 27.27%
A Bakery Piece by WilliamS 0 0%
Arrested Development by Nadja 0 0%
Harry's Helpful Five by Phoenix Lazarus 2 18.18%
The Ferriers by bmj851 0 0%
Asragi by JP Inkswell 0 0%
Dead Parrot Society by Tor 1 9.09%
Didn't I Kill You? by Boy Howdy 5 45.45%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 11. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 09-16-2012, 01:43 PM
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Default Members' Choice Voting thread, June 16th to September 15th


For your convenience all the nominated pieces are in this thread as well as the other one. Have fun reading them again and don't forget to vote for your favourite piece! Remember you have two votes, use them in one poll or divide them between both.

Thanks all nominees for making this possible and thank you members for nominating these fine works.
Good luck to all who have been nominated.

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Last edited by Devon; 09-16-2012 at 05:21 PM..
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:49 PM
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Default The Lie-In by Redlorry

A Saturday morning lie-in with Dan was a rare treat. His job demanded his presence five Saturdays out of six, which meant our weekends were cut in half and a late night, for him at least, was a no-no on a Friday.

It also meant that his mother, who had recently moved closer to us, felt her presence was required in our home every Saturday to make sure I was capable of caring for her precious grandchildren by myself… Well, okay that wasn’t the real reason, but it felt like it sometimes.

In the few short months since Dan’s mother had moved to town, Saturday had gone from being my favourite day of the week to the one I looked forward to the least. Although she came when Dan was at work, she invariably stayed all day. It was like living in a goldfish bowl and Dan was on edge the minute he came through the door. We hissed like angry geese when we had a disagreement, just so she wouldn’t hear. We daren’t discuss money around her or tell the children off and even worse, we had to find food to feed her, lunch and dinner, every Saturday.

“I’ve told your mum as you’re off this weekend we’ll be taking the kids out somewhere,” I explained from beneath the shower’s hot rain as I watched through the curtain, while Dan took a pee. I’d long since given up on any privacy, anywhere in the house, including the bathroom. Removing the lock on the door to make sure our little darlings didn’t become trapped had given an open invitation to anyone and everyone, no matter who was already occupying the facility or what they were doing. I couldn’t wait for the youngest to get less young so we could replace the lock, maybe with a good sturdy bolt, and possibly a security chain.

“What are we doing tomorrow?” Dan asked.
I waited for the noise of the flush to subside. “Nothing. Well, we’re over at Ben and Sherry’s late tomorrow afternoon for their tenth anniversary, but apart from that, nothing. Claire might come over in the morning for a couple of hours just for a coffee and a chat, is that all right with you?” Claire was the mum of our eldest’s daughter, Izzy’s, best friend. We’d struck up a friendship through the girls and I now counted her among my closest confidantes. If the weather was nice tomorrow we were going to take her two and my two, to the park and have a good old fashioned gossip while they played. Since my mum passed away talking to friends had become a real lifeline for me.
“Don’t you see her enough at school, like just this morning?”
“We get five minutes to chat, if that,” I replied. “School drop-off is a rush, there’s no time to talk, not proper talk.”
“You mean gossip,” Dan replied. I could hear the smugness in his tone.
“Whatever.” The shower curtain wafted and I heard the snick of closer as he left me in peace to rinse the conditioner out of my hair.

I’d planned our Friday night to perfection. The kids were in bed by seven thirty, allowed to read for an hour, they were asleep by nine. I left Dan flicking through the sports channels while I finished up the laundry and wrote a shopping list for Monday. A six-pack and a bottle of rose were chilling in the fridge and a bag of Kettle Chips at the ready in a large bowl. I’d even checked the TV listings and found a movie neither of us had seen before, all to be followed by an enjoyable, drunken fumble beneath the sheets. I thought bitterly how nice it would be if Dan’s mum would offer to babysit for us once in a while so we could have a real date, but neither of us wanted to ask, it would be admitting we needed her.

The movie had been good, entertaining us both for different reasons. I liked the police commissioner’s dark brooding eyes and rich voice and Dan liked the young attorney’s long legs and shapely rear. The plot wasn’t bad either. It was just so nice to relax together. The empty wine bottle and four spent beers adorned the coffee table. I lay with my head in Dan’s lap and he gently stroked my breast beneath my blouse while my hand snaked up the leg of his shorts. On screen the credits rolled; it was almost midnight.

Dan got up to clear the table, taking our empties out to the kitchen. I rearranged my clothes and the sofa cushions and surfed a few channels. When he came back he stood looking at the travel show that I’d flicked on. Thinking he was waiting to go to bed, I passed him the remote, but he left the TV on and put the buttons on the table. I grinned to myself

Pulling him to me, his belt took a few seconds to undo, it’d been a while. But I unzipped him with no trouble and took him out like pro. Giving a blow job is like riding a bike, you never forget how. But I guess it had been longer than I remembered. Working Dan with my lips and tongue, my hands got busy with his ass and balls. He groaned, bucked his hips a couple of times and then staggered backward, falling onto the sofa so he could sit and spill on himself. I never have been one to swallow.

Upstairs, lying naked in bed, I waited for Dan to finish in the bathroom, hoping he would return the favour. The landing light went off and I felt his body flop heavily onto the mattress.
“I’m knackered,” he slurred. It was less then two minutes before his breathing became a light, breathy sigh. Alone in the dark, naked and frustrated, I cursed my eagerness downstairs. I had needs too.

Reaching to the back of the bedside cabinet my fingers closed around Bob, my battery operated boyfriend. In my twenty year relationship with Bobs of various sizes, shapes and speeds I had never been rejected by him. Nor had I been left drunkenly frustrated as I was now. No matter what time, day or night, whether I had shaved my legs or not and regardless of whether my underwear matched, Bob never failed to see to my needs, even with his batteries dying he could get me off quicker than Dan. Sliding out of bed, Bob in hand, I tip toed to the bathroom.

Saturday morning came all too quickly--it’s amazing how well I sleep after a date with Bob--announced by a grizzle and the creak a pine cabin bed as Jess, our youngest came padding into out room. Why is it that even though Dan’s side of the bed is nearest the door, the kids always come to me first?

“Mum, I had an accident.” My four year old stood before me snivelling and holding up the hem of her sodden nightdress. Sitting up way too quickly, last night’s wine reminded me why I needed a lie-in. The clock said seven am. “Ugh,”
“What?” asked Jess. I shook my head dismissing her question and instantly regretted it. Stripping her off I sent her to the bathroom to empty her bladder again and when she came back, tossed her into my bed, beside her still snoring father, thinking how it’d serve him right if she had another accident in our bed, while he was in it. Bob obviously hadn’t managed to banish my resentment. But then I reminded myself she was sleeping on my side, and I have a thing against sleeping in puddles. Besides, I thought, softening, how many Saturdays did Dan get to lay in bed? I could have my lie-in tomorrow.

I pulled the wet bed clothes of Jess’s bed and remade it. Heading downstairs quietly to put the load in the machine I decided I’d catch up with my sleep on the sofa and was just snuggling under the soft throw when Izzy came down, looking for breakfast. My hangover would need to be cured by coffee rather than sleep.

Two and a half hours and several cups of coffee later, having watched the Muppet Movie and half the Wizard of Oz, Dan came down looking fresh and relaxed. I resembled the creature from the deep. My red eyes were focusing in opposite directions and my matted hair itchy and flat with the need of a wash. Had it not been for Claire coming over I would have slunk back to bed and claimed the sleep that was rightfully mine.

“Glad you’re up, we’ve been keeping quiet while you had your lie-in; I need to sweep, hoover and take a shower, oh and the washing needs putting on the line.” I could have done the latter in my PJs, but couldn’t risk accidentally bumping into a neighbour over the garden fence.
“Later,” Dan complained, “I need breakfast.”
“Can’t that wait? Claire’s coming over in an hour; I’d like the house to be tidy.”
“Well I didn’t invite her. Why’s she coming over on my Saturday off anyway, didn’t you tell my mum not to come over because it’s my day off?”

I blinked, having a genuine ‘do my ears deceive me’ moment. “I asked you last night if you minded.”
“Yeah, and I said can’t you talk to her at school. This is my Saturday off.”
My face began to burn, my voice climbing with every word. “You never said she couldn’t come, you just mentioned school and I told you we don’t get the time to talk there.” He shrugged and walked past me into the kitchen, his lack of argument meant he knew he was in the wrong. “Fine!” I yelled grabbing my phone. “You need to learn how to properly communicate, you know that!” If the kids hadn’t been there I’d have turned the air a deep shade of blue. It didn’t even occur to him that his Saturday mornings off work were also my Saturday mornings off from his mother. Or didn’t I get a Saturday off?

Upstairs I phoned Claire and got her voicemail. “Hiya Mate, really sorry to do this at such short notice but we’ve, um,” I stumbled for a partly truthful white lie that didn’t implicate my husband as a complete tosspot, “…not had a good morning with Jess waking up early and wot-not. If you get this before you come over can we cancel? But if you don’t get this until you get here, well never mind; we’re all up and dressed anyway. Sorry. So, so sorry.” I hung up after bumbling my way through a several more apologetic phrases and began to cry.

Grabbing outfits for both girls I summoned them upstairs and ordered Izzy to get dressed and help her sister to do the same. Angry tears poured down my face and I was shouting, they knew better than to argue. Down stairs I heard Dan get the Dyson out. Yeah, he knew he was wrong.

I was so angry that even a hot shower didn’t calm me down. It was five minutes to Claire’s designated arrival time when I got out and checked my phone. With relief I saw her text. “Hey m8, R U OK? Got ur messge. No worries. xx”

I replied straight away. “No, not OK. But nothing a divorce couldn’t solve. So, so sorry to cancel on you. Xx”

Storming on to the landing I screamed, “It’s all right, she’s not coming. You can enjoy your sacred Saturday morning however you like!”
Slamming the bedroom door behind me, still in bathrobe and turban head towel I climbed back into bed.

Downstairs I could hear the girls running riot, fighting and trying to play indoor rounders. Dan was yelling at them to be quiet. If he hadn’t been such a world class wanker the girls and I would have been at the park about now and he could have had been enjoying the papers in peace and quiet. With a self-satisfied smile firmly in place I drifted off to sleep to the cacophony of chaos below me.
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  #3  
Old 09-16-2012, 01:49 PM
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Default Lone Tree Blues by Bicyclingfish

Hacking, thrashing through
crunchy, hard reed-covered banks
I stand alone at the river's edge
Currents whip past

My roots dig deep
into the loess underfoot
Waving to barges, speedboats
Days go past

Loose, long limbs
hold homes for fat fireflies
A lazy raccoon holds court
throwing fish bones all around

Settlers aim for me
considering whether to chop me down
They all wondered
if they could chop me down

Still I stand
150 years later not defeated
Tent caterpillars, pioneer axes, tornadoes
Be damned

I'm the Lone Tree
Standing taller than all
Friends long gone, family carried away
downstream

This life is mine.
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:50 PM
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Default The Forgotten by Ethan Blake

The broken teeth of slate and stone stand phalanx in the shroud
of still dank air that eerily, hovers o’er forgotten ground
the markers long surrendered, their legends worn by time
the life and loss recorded here, no longer come to mind

faded flowers and jaded stones, broken glass and urns
armless wingless angels, for conscience won’t atone
weathered names and epitaphs,their truth no longer sure
unread unknown unspoken, their history obscure

Hundreds thousands millions, condemned eternally
to lie forgotten in the mists, of cold obscurity
The what’s, the whys, the wherefores, slowly sinking in the fog
a convenient amnesia, like a shipwrecked captains log

Yet somewhere in the other world, their heirs still live and walk
Somewhere in that bequeathed state a conscience surely balks
A moment in a busy life, an hour of simple thought,
A day of quiet reflection, for the life these lives have bought
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  #5  
Old 09-16-2012, 01:51 PM
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Default A Bakery Piece by WilliamS

A bakery piece.

"She's ready to be bred, and he's a breeder,
So spread her with butter, and see him eat her."

"See, man, I don't GO for conventions! I wasn't bred to make bread; I'm a poet."

He brushed the dust off the mussed up sleeve, and turned to leave. It was all so poetic.

As he walked the zig zagging course across the tree lined grass patch, toward a pebbled arching footpath, I remarked upon the carefully disheveled black pea coat and unkempt hair and gray faded blue jeans. He was poetic for sure, a black stick figure on a green field, passing over a white rocky walkway.

You couldn't watch his manic mad hands motion without the notion taking you-that's some way out poet, on some kinda mission from his pen, his typer, his God.

He spat out droplets drooling with a spit soaked tongue, words spilled out too, they positively oozed out. Now wasn't that poetry....

He'd rest upon his elbows until they were inflamed and retained fluid, he drank, his looks left him, he started writing about being tough as he weakened, he started writing about his job every weekend, he started being able to look at situations abstractly as soon as he was well removed from them.

He stopped enjoying food, it became a chore to cook. His output slowed down.


"He claimed he wanted everyone to burn his work when he died.
If he'd known they'd actually do it he wouldn't have lied."


Don't worry, friends-
His poetry wasn't good anyway; he always felt it was a good time

to rhyme.


Lime
Thyme
Mime
Crime
Prime
Chime
Dime
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  #6  
Old 09-16-2012, 01:52 PM
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Default Arrested Development by Nadja

They're out playing again. They always like to play. Never take anything seriously, that seems to be their motto. Lucky them.

They like to play games with me. Tig, most often. I go chasing and chasing, all to no avail. Hide and seek is even more popular with them though. It wears me out yet I can't stop playing.

Sometimes, of course, I try to ignore them and get down to business. Like today. I've turned my back firmly on them. They can call and call if they want but I don't want a piece of them. They can rot away, they can go to hell. Just as long as they leave me alone.

But that's just it. They never do. They'll go into hiding and then suddenly rush out and almost trip me up. Or at other times, like today, they'll scurry out and sit round me in a ring, looking up eagerly, expectantly, un-ignorably.

Dammit, dreams just won't grow up.
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:53 PM
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Default Harry's Helpful Five by Phoenix Lazarus

HELPFUL HARRY’S FIVE
PART ONE

‘WOMAN OF 94, RAPED, MURDERED IN HOME’ screamed the newspaper billboard for the Duxton Express. A slightly chubby man in his early fifties, wearing a grey shirt and shabby jeans paused, as he read the board, next to a newsagent’s doorway-then sighed, and shook his head. His own mother would have been nearly that age, were she still alive. How could people do something like that, to a frail old woman, at the very end of her days? He passed forward, and into the shop.

‘Only me, again,’ said the man, with a smile, as he approached the young Asian man, at the counter.

‘Ah yes,’ said the shopkeeper. ‘You came in last week, didn’t you? You’re the one who’s just moved to Duxton?’

‘That’s me,’ said the man. ‘Harry-Helpful Harry, as I’ve always been known. I like to be helpful, if and when I can, you see. Yep, I’ve inherited me mum’s house, now she’s passed away. Nice easy passing it was, thank the Lord. No illness-just drifted off peacefully in her sleep-an end which some evil person denied to this lady!’ He pointed to the photo of the murdered woman, on front of the Duxton Express. As he did so, he ran his fingers across his perspiring brow, then wiping the sweat of that warm July through his awry grey-brown hair.

‘Ah yes,’ said the shopkeeper. ‘Terrible business! Only three miles away, too. Near enough to scare old people in this town!’

‘Of course,’ said Harry. ‘Let’s just hope they get whoever did it- and soon!’

‘Amen to that,’ said the shopkeeper. ‘There’s a lot of it about, just now. As I said to you last week, my dad had his shed broke into last week. Stole his toolbox, with all his tools.’

‘Ah yes. He lives by the Methodists church, doesn’t he?’ said Harry, remembering.

‘That’s him,’ said the shopkeeper. ‘Of course, that hardly compares with the old woman, but there’s more and more crime about, it seems. I once heard of a case where someone had been burgled, but, a few days later, the stolen items were returned, with a note from the thief, saying he was giving the things back because he was guilty. I wish something like that would happen with Dad. Bet it won’t, though!’

‘Well, let’s hope they catch your father’s thief as well,’ said Harry. ‘Anyway, I’ll have a copy of the Express, again please. I like to keep up with local affairs.’ He took out a coin and handing it over. The shopkeeper gave his change, they took leave, and Harry exited, with his paper. As he exited the newsagents, he saw a tall figure in the corner of his eye. His route lay rightward, in the opposite direction to the approaching man, whom Harry consequently turned from, without a look, not registering how the man pause or stared, as he saw him.

The approaching man was a very tall man, well over six feet in height, and a slender but powerful build. He wore a pair of smart, pale grey trousers, and a crisp white shirt, that seemed to shine brightly in the glaring sunlight. In contrast to the brightness of his garb, the man’s long, lean, furrowed face was a ruddy red-brown, displaying the effects of the warm summer, as did the muscular forearms, bared by his rolled-up sleeves, and with a thick coating of hair as raven-black as his long broad moustache and bushy head hair, on which was just a streak of silver here and there. As the figure stood and watched, the retreating figure of Harry grew smaller in the silvery mirrored lenses of his sunglasses.

The man turned, and looked at the headline on the billboard. Very slowly, he took out a packet of cigarettes, and put a paper-covered cylinder to his mouth. With the same casual deliberation, he pocketed the box, then took out a lighter, and ignited the stick of tobacco. He puffed, slowly, thoughtfully. As he did so, one hand absent-mindedly strayed to the side of his head, the index finger probing beneath the thick hair to the frayed upper edge of his ear. As this happened, the man had a sudden flashblack: a blade piercing his ear; a cry of mingled pain and anger. From by association, his mind flitted to the sound of someone else crying-a female voice, now, high and intense. As quickly as the images began to build, he clamped the lid on them, mentally. He had learnt long ago how to cut off emotions and emotional memories. He had had to, in the life he had lived.

Meanwhile, walking home along the suburb of modest but well-kept houses. Harry whistled cheerfully. While the story of the elderly woman’s violent death had depressed him momentarily, he was an optimist, and did not remain unhappy for long over things he could not help. Presently, he turned onto a street full of houses. Passing down the street, he arrived at a house set close to the path, behind a low fence, behind which was a small grass lawn. To the right of the fence was a wooden gate, behind which a thin woman of about seventy, was using shears to trim a hedge that ran between her front path and next doors, with shears. A large black cat sat on the path nearby, enjoying the warmth of the stone, in the summer sun.

‘Oh, hello there, Harry!’ she said, with a smile of recognition.

‘Hi, Dora,’ said Harry. ‘Just been for me paper.’ He held up the reading matter he had just purchased. At that moment, the curtains of the house opposite, which had been closed, parted a little, and a chubby woman, about Dora’s age, stared out.

‘Ah, the Express,’ said Dora. ‘I get mine delivered. Terrible story on the front this morning.’

‘Yes, I’ve seen,’ said Harry, nodding sympathetically.

The woman opposite frowned. That was that man who had just moved next door to Dora Bates. He looked a bit of a scruff, she thought to herself, disapprovingly.

‘She was a friend of my mum’s, the woman that died,’ said Dora.

‘Oh really!?’ exclaimed Harry.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Jenny Riley. Met her a few times, when I was young. She and Mum were at school, together. Hadn’t seen her in years, though. I feel terrible about what’s happened.’

‘I bet you do,’ said Harry, nodding sympathetically. He glanced to his right, at the approach of a tall man in mirror glasses-and stepped forward to allow the man to pass.

‘Makes me feel unsafe, living on my own,’ continued Dora. ‘I’ve been on my own for three years, since my Ted died, but I’ve never felt unsafe-‘til now. I reckon I should invest in a burglar alarm and a chain for my front door.’ The tall man was passing by Harry, at this moment, and, for a moment, seemed to pause and half-look back. Removing the cigarette from his mouth, he quickly ground it underfoot, before continuing on his way.

‘I think that would be a very good idea,’ said Harry. ‘Always remember, though, I’m just next door. If you need help, of any sort, you just shout out. I’ll be there like a shot. They don’t call me Helpful Harry for nothing!’ Dora laughed.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Your mum always told about that nickname, when it was her living next door. Helpful Harry! She says they called you that since you were a kid!’

‘That’s right,’ said Harry, with a grin. ‘I’ve always loved helpin’ people, however I can. I did it in the scouts, did chores for the neighbours, sorted things out for me friends. Of course, now I’ve retired from full-time work, I’ve even more time to do it. Remember, I’m an ex-handyman and all round DIY expert. Anything you need doin’, just give me a call!’

‘Well, you’re already doing one of them, this afternoon,’ said Dora, cheerfully. ‘It’s so nice of you to agree to house-sit for Tom,’ she indicated the black cat, sitting nearby, ‘ while I go and visit my brother, this weekend. Of course, my daughter will be able to take over tomorrow. But it’s her turn to work Saturdays, so she’s got work until late tonight-her factory are real slave drivers, you know. So it’s very helpful, what you’re going to do.’

‘Well, as you know, that’s what they call me-Helpful Harry!’ he said, with a smile and little wink.

‘Oh dear!’ said Dora. ‘We’re being spied on!’ She nodded towards the house opposite. Harry turned, just in time to see the curtains closing.

‘That’s Barbara Keene,’ said Dora. ‘She’s a right nosy parker, and a malicious gossip, too. Beware of her!’

‘Okay!’ said Harry, with a little laugh. ‘See you a bit later!’ He moved onto the next house-his own. He was about to pass through his own gate, when he gave a quick glance to his left. The very tall man who had just passed could be seen, at the far end of the street, chatting to another elderly woman, wearing glasses, over a violet gate. As he watched, he saw the woman beckon the man through a gate, and then lead the way out of sight, down their front path. Thinking no more of it, Harry headed down his own drive.

‘Isn’t it a hot day!?’ the old woman with spectacles was saying, as the tall man accompanied her into her kitchen.

‘It certainly is,’ said the tall man, in a very deep resonant voice.

‘I’d just boiled the kettle for a coffee, so I thought I might as well make a drink for you as well,’ she said, switching on the recently-heated electric kettle, as she found another mug, and added a teaspoon of coffee, then milk, from a carton. Nearby, another steaming mug stood, already filled.

‘You don’t have sugar, do you?’ said the woman. ‘No, I remember, you don’t-do you.’ As the kettle quickly boiled once more, the woman filled the other cup, and gave it to the man, the diamond ring on her finger sparkling, as she did so. The man followed her into her front room, taking a seat beside her, on the settee, and stretching one arm out casually, along the arm rest

‘No luck with your search, yet?’ asked the lady.

‘Not yet,’ said the man, sipping his coffee.

‘Not too warm, is it?’ asked the bespectacled woman. The man shook his head, as his eyes rested for a moment on the antique Georgian clock, on the mantelpiece. Beside it, sat a birthday card, open to reveal, ‘To great-aunt Philomena’ written above the printed HAPPY BIRTHDAY inscription. Below this, was written, simply, ‘Sally.’ Philomena followed the man’s gaze, and looked at the card.

‘Oh, silly me!’ she exclaimed. ‘Still haven’t tidied that away! Nearly a week since my birthday, too! I’m getting very forgetful, in my old age. I reckon my family will be putting me away in a home, and taking my money, next!’

‘I doubt they’ll do that,’ said the man, quietly. ‘I doubt they’ll have the chance.’

‘I’m sure you’d never permit that, I mean,’ he added, with a thin smile, as Philomena looked at him.

‘Over my dead body!’ said Philomena, with an answering smile. ‘Dear Sally,’ Philomena continued. ‘Doesn’t seem five minutes since she was born. Can’t believe she’s twenty-four, now. She got me this, for my birthday, you know,’ Philomena fingered the pearl necklace around her neck, below which a small gem-encrusted broach could be seen, hung round her neck.

‘Yet another thing for my jewellery box,’ said Philomena, indicating the small wooden box that sat at the edge of the mantelpiece.

‘So, how was your aunt, then?’ she asked.

‘Ah, very well, thank you,’ said the man.

‘She so lucky to have a nephew like you, to look out for her, in her old age. You say no one else in the family bothers with her?’

‘Sadly not,’ said the man, sipping his coffee.

‘Sad indeed,’ said Philomena, thoughtfully.

‘The curse of the Blacks,’ said the man. ‘She says that’s what it is. She and I are the only ones of the family left in the strand surnamed ‘Black,’ now. She says nothing but darkness can come of such a surname.’ Philomena laughed.

‘Oh, I think it has a lot of character, the surname “Black”-better than Smith. You couldn’t have a more ordinary name than that! If my late husband hadn’t been such an exceptional man in other ways, I could never have married someone who sounded so ordinary as John Smith. When did you get back from Aunt Black’s?’

‘Yesterday morning,’ said Mr Black.

‘Of course, while you were gone, the news broke about this terrible murder, in the next town.’ She held up the Duxley Express.

‘There saying they think it may have been someone she knew, since there was no sign of forced entry,’ said Philomena. ‘Makes you wonder just who you can trust, nowadays.’

‘Indeed,’ said Mr Black, staring thoughtfully at the expensive looking new large flat-screen television nearby. So preoccupied did he seem, he did not register the figure of Harry, walking past their window, holding a bulging leather bag.

Trust me to forget I was out of milk, thought Harry, as he turned down a narrow alley, that led off the bottom of the street. He could have got some while getting the paper just now. Never mind, he’d get some, on the way to where he was off now.

Passing down the alley, he emerged, at the other end, into the recreation ground. The shops were just a walk away, past the far end of the grounds. As he walked down the footpath, he paid little heed to the group of three children, standing around the bottom of a large tree. As he drew level, though, he suddenly heard the sound of a cat meowing.

‘Ahh, look, it’s frightened!’ said the tallest of the three children, a girl of about eleven, with long blond hair.

‘What’s going on?’ said Harry, stopping by the children.

‘That cat’s stuck up the tree!’ said another of the trio, a smaller girl with shorter blond hair, aged about nine, pointing above. Looking up, Harry made out, through the leaves, a small tortoiseshell cat, that looked down at him, and mewed, from one of the branches.

‘Yeah,’ said the smallest of them, a blond boy of about seven. ‘I wish someone would get it down.’

Harry looked around. Nearby, along the edge of the footpath, was a public seat. Beside it, was a metal waste bin mounted on a square base.

‘I’ve got an idea,’ said Harry. As the children watched, he headed over to the waste bin. Inside, a black bin liner was full nearly to the brim, with a couple of wasps hovering menacingly about. Ignoring the buzzing insects, Harry put down the leather bag he was carrying, then seized the edges of the bin liner, and, with a little effort, managed to draw the bag out of the bin. Knotting the top of the bag, so the contents did not spill out, Harry put the bin bag down on the seat, then dragged the empty bin, stone base and all, towards the base of the tree, where he laid it on its side. As the children watched in fascination, he stood on the side of the bin. Below the branches above, were two branches without leafs, about level along the bough, at about forty-five degrees to one another. Standing on the bin, Harry was just able to grab hold of one of the branches.

‘Grab the bottom of my legs-one of you get each leg!’ he called, to the children below. The two girls obeyed, while the small boy stood watching, with interest.

‘Now pull me back, as far as you can go!’ said Harry. ‘Make sure you keep tight hold of my legs!’ The two obeyed, lifting Harry’s feet off the bin, and pulling him as far back as they could, while he clung onto the branch.

‘Is that as far back as you can manage?’ called Harry. The two girls gave cries of assent.

‘Alright, you-the boy-push the bin out of the way!’ called Harry. The small boy stepped forward, and managed to push the bin a little to an angle.

‘Right then, you-the two girls-let go of my feet!’ cried Harry. The two girls did as they were told-and Harry swung forward, still clinging onto the branch, and kicking his feet forward, to create momentum . His toes just missed the branch just opposite, and his body swung back and up. As he came forward again, he kicked out once more. This time his legs rose enough for him to wrap his feet around the branch nearby. Breathing heavily, he hung in that position a moment, and turned his face upward-then reached towards the edge of a thicker branch a little further up, with his right hand. From where he was, he was just able to get his hand around the top of this branch above. Yanking on the branch, he was able to gain leverage to pull his upper body upward, while he let go of the first branch he had held, with his left hand. Pulling himself upwards, he groped with his left hand, towards another branch still further up-and finally managed to get hold of it, before transferring his right hand there, as well.

As the three children below watched, Harry pulled himself steadily upward, and, in another few moments, was sitting on the branch that he had grasped while standing on the bin. He pulled one of his legs up, until his foot was actually resting on the branch, then used it to push his body upward, dragging his other foot behind him. The next moment, he was standing on the branch with both feet. By now, his head was nearly opposite the trapped cat, on a branch nearby. Releasing the branches he was holding, he trusted wholly to his balance, while he reached out towards the cat, which came towards him, meowing again. He gave the cat a quick little stroke, to try and calm it-then suddenly, nearly wobbled and lost his footing, on the branch! Regaining his balance, and composure, he stroked the cat again-then seized it in both hands, and quickly dropped it, head first, down the side of the trunk, and watched, as it landed, feet first, on the ground below, to cheers from the three children.

The freed cat sped quickly away, across the grounds, and, as it did so, Harry struggled back down, until he was again sitting on the branch he had grasped while standing on the bin, near where the branch intersected the bough. Once in this position, he leaned over to one side, and grabbed the thinner edge of the branch.

‘Push the bin beneath the branch again!’ he called. The three children obeyed, and, once he saw the bin was in place, Harry rolled a little-then let himself fall over the side of the branch, still clinging near the end with both hands. His feet waved in the air, for a moment. Then, stretching his toes down, he managed to get them in place, on the side of the bin. Letting go of the branch, he dropped down onto the metal bin, and wobbled precariously for a moment, before jumping off, stumbling forward and almost overbalancing.

‘Whew!’ he said. ‘Job done! Now where’s that cat gone!?’

‘It ran off,’ said the younger girl.

‘Thanks for helping it!’ said the taller girl.

‘No problem, at all!’ said Harry. ‘I’m not called Helpful Harry for nothing!’ The children smiled, and Henry dragged the bin back into place, by the chair, then replaced the bin bag inside it, unknotting the top once more. Then, picking up his leather bag, he continued on his way once more, down the path, soon reaching the metal fence of the recreation ground, through which he passed, via a gate.

Passing down the street, he soon found himself by a terrace of shops. One of them was a DIY, tool and hardware store. That must be the shop where that nice man he had chatted to at church last Sunday worked. However, it was not that shop he wanted now. Harry’s eyes moved to the left, past a small space, beside the hardware shop, where an old Volkswagen van was parked. To the left of this was the small supermarket which Harry now sought. Heading to the shop, Harry went in, got a basket and got the milk he was looking for.

‘Ah, Helpful Harry, isn’t it!?’ said the woman on the counter, recalling Harry from his last visit, when they had chatted. ‘You look happy!’

‘Do I?’ said Harry, unaware that he had been smiling to himself. ‘Well, I suppose that’s just because I’ve done my first of five!’

‘First of five?’

‘Yes,’ said Harry. ‘You see, I’ve moved about quite a bit, in my life, and, you know, I never truly feel like I’ve settled down somewhere new, until I’ve managed to do five acts of kindness or assistance for people, where I am. I’ve been in town two weeks, and just managed to do my first helpful act, just now.’ He described the incident involving the cat, and then the conversation turned to Denby town, some way away, in the county, where the woman on the counter had family, and where Harry had lived, previously.

‘Yes,’ Harry was saying, at last. ‘I spent five years in Denby, before Mum died, and I inherited her place. Prior to that I spent five years in Allesby. Before that, I was in Barr Crotchford.’

‘Allesby’s a nice place. Barr Crotchford isn’t somewhere I’ve actually visited.’ said the shop assistant. ‘Of course, it’s notorious, though, for what’s there.’

‘Of course,’ said Harry. ‘Well, anyway, I must be running along. I have a little errand to perform this afternoon.’ Having paid for his goods, he took his leave of the shop assistant, and left the shop. At a bus stop nearby, a bus was standing, as the driver took money from a passenger.

‘Number eleven,’ said Harry, reading the bus’s number. ‘Just the one I need!’ Running over to the bus, Harry mounted the steps.

‘Smith Street, please,’ said Harry, offering some money. Taking his change and ticket, Harry sat down, with the bulging leather bag. The bus set off, and, a moment later, passed by the far end of Harry’s own street. As it did so, Harry took in, for a moment, a bright violet gate, in front of a house. A few moments after the bus had passed, a very tall figure, with mirrored glasses, strode slowly down the path behind the gate, and opened it, before striding casually out and turning towards the road Harry’s bus had just passed down. A minute later, an elderly man came down the path of the of the neighbouring house, opening his gate, then letting himself into the violet gate, before striding up the path, to rang the doorbell of the front door.

The old man stood, humming casually. Philomena was in, he knew, for he had heard her speaking to someone as she entered the house not long ago, and had seen the gentleman concerned leaving the front gate alone, just now. Presently, the tune the old man was humming faded, and he shifted footing a little impatiently, before ringing the bell again, and waiting.

There was no answer-and no sound from the house inside.
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  #8  
Old 09-16-2012, 01:54 PM
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Default The Ferriers by bmj851

Chapter 1
The waves are tall and choppy as the wind whips them into a frothy frenzy. A storm is brewing, the black clouds racing across the sky, an ominous sign of the fury wanting release.
“Well, so much for sunny skies today.....stupid weatherman never getting anything right. I swear they’d do better just sticking their heads out the window instead of all those techno thingies they use.” Grumbling, Charlie closed the ferry booth. There would be no ferrying passengers to mainland today, which meant another day without pay.
“Excuse me! Excuse me, miss! I’m so sorry, but I desperately need to get to the mainland. Will you please take me over?”
“I’m sorry lady, but I’m closing up for the day. See those big ugly clouds? That means everybody off the water.”
“Please! I have to get to my daughter. She’s just a child and she’s about to give birth! I left her early this morning to come get her a few things and I NEED to get back to her! She’s only 15! She can’t do it alone!”
“I’m sorry. Really. But the water is just too rough and is getting worse. My little ferry boat would be drowned before we made it halfway across.”
“I’ll pay you! I’ll pay whatever you ask, just please get me across!” Her look of discomfort showed Charlie that this lady was not used to asking, and definitely not accustomed to begging. She didn’t know if it was the lady’s Dior handbag, the flowery perfume, or the Chanel dress, but Charlie decided the money was worth the risk. At least with this I’ll be able to get dinner and maybe a pint for a few nights. Better than starving to death. “Ok, but we have to hurry.” She reached in the door and grabbed the boat keys before turning her back resolutely to the sky and ignoring the foreboding boiling through her.
The little boat and its two passengers were waterlogged before they reached the half way mark, and completely drenched by the time they reached the far shore. Teeth chattering louder than the thunder above, the lady threw a wad of cash in Charlie’s hand and hurried to the cab waiting by the dock. Charlie followed the back of the lady’s cab until it disappeared around the corner before slowly counting out the money. Five thousand dollars lay nestled in her rough, callused hand. She debated on whether she could make it home before the storm hit and decided that getting dinner would be a better idea. She quickly ducked into the nearest pub for a bite and a drink as the ricocheting thunder blasted her ears and the rain began pelting her.
An hour later, the thunder died off and Charlie staggered out of the pub, reeking of cheap ale and heavy, fatty meat. Well, it wasn’t dinner at a palace, but it was filling and cheap. “Charlie, old girl, I think maybe you had a pint too many. Ah well, time to get the boat and my stupid self home!” She glanced at the sky, but it was too dark to tell if the clouds had rolled on or if it was just a moonless night, Judging from the lack of thunder, she assumed it was the latter.
Twenty minutes later, cursing her own stupidity, Charlie clamped her hands tight on the wheel, fighting to keep her tiny boat steady as she bounced around like a cork. Wave after wave slammed the vessel, rain lashing her skin, sharp as ice. The eye of the storm had passed, and with it the momentary peace that had convinced her to try the crossing in the dark.
The pitch of night surrounded her as she fought the wheel, trying to save herself and her vessel from being consumed by the sea. “Just a bit further, girl. I swear I can see the other dock!” Teeth chattering as much from fear as the cold, this repetition helped steady her nerves and hold the all-consuming dread at bay. Suddenly, a massive wave crashed into the boat, cracking planks of solid wood like toothpicks.

She awoke some time later, confused and dazed. “Christ Almighty!” She tried to think of other blistering words but the pain in her head prevented anything more than her heaving her guts out onto the sanded floor.
“Well it’s a good thing I threw down fresh sand today or that would be a right royal mess ta clean up. I’ll sweep it out while yer at dinner. I bet your head feels like you fell into a vat of poitin and couldn’t crawl out. Here’s some feverfew and skullcap tea. It’ll help the head and even the stomach seein’ as I threw in some ginger for flavor. Better drink it all, though, or the pain is only goin’ ta get worse.” Looking up towards the voice, Charlie was hit with a strange sensation of déjà vu coupled with a sort of double vision. The old man’s face looked….well, just wrong. It was like lumpy clay someone molded into a face, smashed it, and tried to make another, stopping halfway through. “Quit staring and drink! Then we’ll talk.”
The warm tea made its way down to Charlie’s stomach, filling her body with heat. As it worked its magic, soft snores crowded the little room as the old man smiled and quietly stepped out the door.

The windowless room didn’t give any hint on the time, nor did Charlie know how long she’d been sleeping. Inching herself off the bed, she stumbled to the door. “Hey! Can someone tell me where the bathroom is? I gotta go!” No answer. Well, either I stand here and piss on the floor, or I check every door until I find the damn thing.
By the third door, she began wondering where in creation she was. None of the rooms had windows, or any sort of openings other than the main entryway. She dubiously eyed the staircase, wondering if she’d make it down before going all over the floor. Wait! There was a chamber pot in my room! Cursing her own stupidity, she shuffled back. She had barely finished her business when there was a knock. In walked the old man, his face even lumpier than before, yet still warm and open. A blue eye sparkled with humor at her disgruntled face. “Well lassie, looks like you’re feeling a bit better! Though still less on the friendly side, judging by your face. Now, would you like clothes and food or explanations first?” The rumble of Charlie’s stomach was all the answer the old man needed. Laughing, he laid a pair of jeans and a rough spun shirt on the bed. “Dress and come downstairs. There’s plenty of food and we’ll talk over dinner.”

Wandering down the large wood stairs, she marveled at how rough-hewn the steps and banisters were. It looked as if people had just chopped down the trees and fashioned them into a vague resemblance of a staircase. Thinking about odd anachronisms, she wondered at the chamber pot and sand/rushes on the floors. Didn’t these people know about brooms and vacuums? What about carpet and tile? She was all for wooden floors, but this was getting a little ridiculous and too rustic. She was poor, but this just took the cake.
“Ah, Charlie my dear! Come, eat! You’re gonna need your strength.” Torn out of her musings, she glanced up to see a table full of people, several dressed like her and looking just as confused, while the old man took the seat of honor at the head.
A man on his right stood, his silk suit well fitted over his muscular physique. Dark eyes were surrounded by sandy lashes, his voice rang out. “Now, my children…” “Excuse me sir, but we are not your children. We don’t even know what we’re doing here! The last thing I remember was a MAC truck heading straight for me and then I woke up here.” The man who spoke had blazing red-gold hair, a mini sun in its own right. His dark green eyes were shadowed with fear, uncertainty, and confusion. The rest of the gathering nodded in agreement, having similar situations.
“Well, if you would give me a moment, I’d answer your questions. If you don’t mind, I’d like to finish now.” He looked patiently around the room. Everyone stared, waiting for him to get to the point. Many looked as if they’d walk out if they could figure out where they were and where to go.
“Now, all of you have died.” The table erupted, each person taking the news in their own way. Some shouted, some cried, some just looked floored, and some as if they wanted to sink through the floorboards or wake up from a very bad dream. “At the time of your death, your soul cried out and I made a deal with you. In return for a new life, you will become my couriers, in a manner of speaking. When a person passes, you are to take their souls to the afterlife, whichever afterlife it may be. This, of course, varies on religion and basic beliefs. The world has gotten larger, and I have need of more ferrymen. If you refuse, being in possession of your full faculties and no longer a distressed soul, you can pass on to your afterlife, or in the case of you younger souls, the Hall of Souls, to be reborn. Some of you will become the ferrymen for the Hall, a most prestigious position in our world. After you eat we’ll discuss your assignments, if you choose to accept them.” Unbelievably, everyone started eating. The sudden urge to pick up her fork flowed over Charlie, who looked at the hand clutching the offending utensil like it was possessed. She pushed back from the table so hard her heavy chair boomed as it landed on the floor. The only one who bothered to notice was the old man, who just smiled lopsidedly. She ran up to the room she woke in and slammed the door, sitting heavily on the bed. Holding her head in her hands, she wondered absently what strangeness she had fallen into.
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:55 PM
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Default Asragi by JP Inkswell (from the AC)

ASRAGI
THE LION, THE TIGER, AND THE BEAR



Koot was tired, he’d been walking since sunup. In fact, he’d been walking since sunup for the past seventeen days. His knees and feet ached, and the bundle of stone arrow and axe heads on his back weighed like the mountain he’d carved them from.

Koot was twenty nine years old. Most men his age, those that survived to his age, didn’t go on long cross country trips, especially alone. Koot had had little choice. Four years ago a great fire had swept through the valley where his clan lived. Only about half his people had survived the fire, and the move to their new home. On the rare occasion when his people spoke if it, the path from their old home to their new was referred to as the trail of the dead. Among those dead were his wife and oldest son.

His people had survived, but it was a grim life they led. When Koot spoke of the wonders he had seen and experienced as a young trader travelling to the summer meeting by the sea, his words fell on deaf ears. His people knew little but struggle and want. They no longer painted the walls of their caves and none of them had seen any value in a long distance trading expedition. Koot understood how they felt, sometimes he felt that way too. Sometimes he did not. The spirit of the cave lion, given to him as a boy would not let him simply starve to death in the cold of winter. If he must die then he would do it with a purpose in front of him, In Asragi he had been made, and in that exalted state he would fight for his life so long as breath remained in his body. Step by step southward he trudged, to the great trader’s camp by the sea, a foolish old man perhaps, but one that…

Suddenly he froze in his tracks. His hunter’s senses whispering that there was something up ahead, off to the left, behind an outcropping of rock. Gratefully he noted the carefully weighted hunting spear that his right hand had automatically plucked from his back. At least his instincts were still good.

He was certain from the sound of it that it was a cave bear. They had encountered one some years ago near this very spot. The memory was exhilarating, if not a bit frightening. Koot was no longer a young man, and he doubted very much that he could repeat his past performance, even with the Asragi upon him. He remained motionless for what seemed an eternity. The noonday sun beat down on his head and sweat trickled slowly down into uncomfortable places. The wind, fortunately, was in his favor and eventually the noises faded off to the east. Suddenly, with a mighty exhale, Koot began to breath and walk again.

Another hour’s walking brought him to the top of a familiar pass. Here he could see below to the plateau of the meeting place and the great sea beyond. Smoke from dozens of campfires smudged the blue afternoon sky, and the people appeared as ants in the distance. Koot felt the old excitement building in his bones. Memories of the things he had seen came rushing back, strange food and clothing, people who spoke differently. Why he had even seen people from across the great sea whose skin was as black as mud! This he had envied, imagining what an advantage it would be for hunting. And the women, well one girl in particular anyway, that he would never forget. Perhaps it was merely gravity that speed him down the mountain, but the fear and fatigue of his journey seemed to slip away with each step he took.

As he approached the meeting ground he walked slower. Every person there was a potential trading partner. It was important to greet each one with a smile and a compliment. Admire their fine furs or shells, and tell them they looked well. Not everyone spoke the same words of course, but gestures and body language were usually good enough. He had just finished what must have been his twentieth greeting when he sensed a presence behind him. He turned and was enveloped in a crushing bear hug. The man’s scent was familiar, and when he broke free he saw that it was his old friend Tula.

Tula was a giant of a man, taller even than Koot and with the same yellow streaks in his now graying hair that Koot remembered. They had spent many summers at this place, exploring the beach, chasing girls, and later, under the watchful eyes of their elders, making trades. Then Koot didn’t come one year, or the next, or the next, and Tula had heard of the great fire in the north, and believed his friend dead. Of course when Tula learned that Koot had come alone, nothing else would do but that he must join Tula’s camp and they spent a pleasant evening meeting Tula’s family and reminiscing around the campfire.

The next morning they breakfasted on hot soup and fresh fish. With a camp to call home, his old friend at his side, and a bellyful of good food, Koot felt like a new man.

“Look at him Shaya,” Tula called to his wife. “Soon he will not be sleeping alone eh?”

Shaya brushed back a wisp or grayish brown hair and gave one of her shy little smiles,

“Koot is a fine man, no doubt many women would want him.”
Koot blushed at the compliment.

“Your wife is kind”, he said to Tula, “I will see if I can find some little treasure to repay her.”

“She is fond of the colors of the sky and sea, my friend. Oh and don’t forget to meet us on the beach this afternoon, the children require an audience for their games.”

Koot spent most of the morning walking and gawking. There was so much to see. The mud people were there, they had come in boats across the sea and they had brought some of the strangest animals Koot had ever seen. Their language was quite different and somewhat difficult to grasp, but he had succeeded in trading three of his medium grade arrowheads for the pelt of a creature he could only imagine. It felt like the cave lion skin he usually wore but it was a golden color with black spots all over it. He slung it round his shoulder and tied it at his waist, combined with his above average height, long black hair, blue eyes, and grey flecked beard he was not a bad looking fellow, ( for a cave man ).

He had traded another arrowhead for the roast leg of a small deer and had climbed onto the surrounding rocks to enjoy his meal when he spotted a woman in the distance. As a boy Koot had seen the skin of an Arctic tiger exhibited by a travelling trader. This woman’s garment was similar, though instead of the ghostly white and grey it was the color of fire, or the setting sun, with black streaks through it. Fascinated he continued to stare while chewing. As she came closer he could see that she was taller than average with a nicely curved figure and long golden hair.

Quickly he finished gnawing his meal, tossed the bone, rubbed the grease on his hands into his hair, and began to descend the rocks. Surely he thought, there could be no harm in a polite trader’s introduction.

As he approached he noticed two things. One was the four young well armed men who followed her closely. The other was her eyes; green and slanted like a great cat. She was easily the most exotic woman Koot had ever seen. He summoned his warmest most engaging smile.

“Greetings friend, I am Koot, tool maker and trader.”

Those great green eyes held many things thought Koot as he gazed into them, but her mouth simply said,
“I am G’heera, daughter of a chief and also a trader.”

Ahhhh, thought Koot, daughter of a chief, well that explained the four escorts if not the dress.

“I could not help but notice your dress. Did you hunt this beast yourself?”

“G’heera laughed,

“Do I look like a hunter of mighty beasts?”

“Well a woman may certainly hunt if she chooses, though few do so where I come from.”

“Oh aren’t you the smooth talking trader, No this pelt was a gift to my father from a travelling trader. The beast is said to live many moon cycles travel to the east.”

A gift? You traded nothing for it?”

“Well initially the trader suggested that a night with me might be an appropriate exchange for it. My father counter offered him his life, which in a moment of clarity, he accepted.”

It was Koot’s turn to laugh.

“I see your father knows the value of what he has.”

G’heera blushed a little and changed the subject.

“So what have you to trade toolmaker Koot?”
“Points and edges, all weights and sizes, the finest quality of course.”

Koot palmed a sample of his finest arrowheads and held them out for her inspection. She held them up to the sun, tested their weight and balance, and ran her finger lightly along their keen scalloped edges.

“These are well made.” My camp is there”, she said, pointing west. “Under the Uwan trees, come to me this evening. We will eat, and I will trade with you toolmaker Koot.”

“I will come G’heera, daughter of a chief. Cave bears could not keep me away.”

G’heera smiled, and Koot smiled back, suddenly feeling like a young boy.

“I must go,” she said. “Do you mind?”

“Oh sorry” he replied, taking a step back.

He stood watching her go for a long time. His feelings were like a river, slow and deep one moment, the next roaring and glittering like a waterfall in the sun. Eventually a small voice in his head spoke. You must be very careful this evening Koot, that woman could sweet talk you out of everything you own.

“Tula”, he muttered under his breath. “I must find Tula, he will help me.”

Koot found Tula seated on a log on the beach. Fragrant smoke from a long horn pipe wreathed his friend’s placid face. Koot sat and without a word Tula handed him the pipe. After a couple of lungfuls he felt relaxation coming on, and began to tell Tula about his day, especially about G’heera and his fear of being out traded.

Shaya who was working nearby preparing snacks for the kids, came over and sat in front of them. Tula nodded to her and she spoke.

“It seems obvious that you must not take all your stock with you this evening. Take only samples and leave the rest safe with us. In the morning, if you feel you have traded poorly, you can try to renegotiate.”

Koot was dumbstruck, such as obvious idea should have occurred to him some time ago. Tula took the pipe from his mouth and spoke.

This G’heera must be quite a woman my friend. Only once before have I seen you this way and that was many years ago. Do you remember?”

Koot looked at his friend with both eyebrows raised.

“As if I could forget,” He replied. As if I could forget.”

G’heera took more care than usual with the dinner preparations. Choice cuts of meat were selected, The best skins and furs were laid out for seating around the fire. For herself she wore a necklace of polished stones that gleamed in the firelight. G’heera did not usually trade in the evenings, but trade was perhaps not the only thing on her mind.

Koot arrived an hour before sunset and was pleasantly surprised by the delicious smells from the cookfires. G’heera greeted him warm smile. She seemed genuinely glade to see him, and they were soon examining the goods she had for trade.

Skins, furs, clothing, and shoes, jewelry, dried meat and berries for travelling, Koot chose a wonderfully soft doeskin outfit for himself, but was otherwise limited by the weight he could carry home. Then a small carved and brightly painted figure of a bear caught his eye.

“That is an Odie.” G’heera replied in answer to his question. “We only have a few, but if you like I could have more made.”

“You make them here?”

“Yes, we carry only the paints and use whatever wood we find locally.”

Koot looked thoughtful, his people loved to paint. It was what kept them sane during the long winters in the caves. A hunter might paint a scene from the big hunt, and then the story must be told. Then another would paint, and the story would grow and change. Every man woman and child could paint and tell their stories. Since the move however, paint had been in short supply. If he could bring some back…

“Would you be willing to trade paints?”

G’heera hesitated. Their supply was limited, and she did not know of any local sources for their ingrediants. She had the impression though, that it would mean a lot to Koot to have them.

“For you I would,” She replied.

Terms were quickly negotiated, including the small Odie, and it was arranged that the exchange would take place tomorrow morning at Tula’s camp.

The sun was setting as she took him lightly by the hand. “Come, let us eat and celebrate.”

Koot could not have resisted the invitation, even if he had wanted to.

Hours later, they had eaten their fill. Koot had been introduced to everyone, and they had drunk a considerable amount of a beverage called Awk. He had forgotten what she said it was made from, but like Tula’s smoke, it had a wonderfully warming and relaxing effect. The moon rode bright and high overhead with a great herd of stars all around. The others had all drifted away, and G’heera had coaxed from him the story of the cave bear encounter many years ago.

At it’s conclusion she clapped her hands in delight and exclaimed, “Oh how clever you were.”

She then rose and came to him and sat in his lap snuggling in as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She was warm and firm and smelled delightful. Koot felt his manhood stiffen and throb against the small of her perfectly curved back. He wrapped his long muscled arms around her and leaning forward growled softly in her ear. G’heera giggled and snuggled deeper in. They watched the fire in silence. Koot felt his eyes grow heavy. G’heera rose and pushed him gently back onto a fur. She grabbed another and rolled it over the both of them. Effortlessly their bodies and lips came together. Koot closed his eyes as they kissed, thinking to open them again in a moment.

When he did it was morning. G’heera and he were twined together arm and leg and hip and thigh like lovers. They were however still clothed. That and his painful erection and bloated balls told him that nothing other than sleep had occurred. Still, to awake with her in his arms brought a feeling of contentment that warmed him in a way he had almost forgotten. He tried to wriggle free without waking her, but she opened her eyes and kissed him slowly as if there were nothing else to do for the whole day. Their bodies began to move, sliding and grinding together, but then G’heera rolled away and springing to her feet, stood breathing sharply like a lithe singed goddess who had gotten too close to the morning sun.

Later that morning, about an hour after Koot had returned, G’heera arrived at Tula’s camp. She brought only two bodyguards one of whom acted as bearer. She was polite and a bit formal, so Koot decided to play it the same way. Introductions were made, and goods were exchanged. Then Tula and Shaya took the opportunity to do some business with G’heera as well. The girls in particular seemed to hit it off and spent a good deal of time talking just out of earshot. One one occasion Koot saw them both looking at him, but he could only guess why.

Tula, guessing his friends state of mind, fired up his pipe and offered it to Koot.

“She is a beautiful woman, did you…?”

Koot shook his head, “I drank too much, like an old fool.”

Tula took another puff, exhaling slowly.

“The storm is not over until the sun returns.”

Koot just stared at his friend, he was not sure whether to hit him or laugh out loud. Tula was right though. Life, what was left of it, would go on, with or without G’heera.

Apparently the ladies had concluded their business. They approached laden with bundles. G’heera gave hers to her men and instructed them to return to camp without her. They were resistant to the idea and she became sharp with them saying…

“I am safe here. I have traded with these people and they are friends. Go now, as I command you.”

Reluctantly they went.

She approached and Koot prepared to say the words of ritual trader parting.

“Trader Koot, I weary of this place and the crowd. Perhaps you will take me away from it for the rest of the day to someplace quiet.”

Koot’s mouth opened, but no words came out. Tula jabbed him in the ribs.

“Yes, yes I’d be delighted. I know a place, we must climb the ridge and follow it east along the shore.

“You’ll need this,” said Shaya. She handed him his knapsack stuffed with food and a sleeping skin.

The climb was more difficult than Koot remembered. As the sun approached its zenith he removed his shirt and was sweating freely. He hoped G’heera was not turned off by his huffing and puffing. Apparently she was not. At one point near the top he pulled her up to a small space between the rocks and they kissed slowly, hungrily, until apology was driven out and need flowed pure between them.

When they reached trail at the top, the view was stunning. The ocean on the right stretched to the horizon and the deserted white beach ran like an arrow to infinity. Whales and dolphins could be seen playing offshore. On their left was a verdant valley with more mountains on the other side. The sun was brilliant in the clear blue sky, Hawks and Eagles rode the currents of the steady breezes that blew in off the ocean. It was a remarkable day to be alive, a fit one thought Koot, even to die.

Another hour of walking brought them to the place Koot remembered. A wisp of a trail led off to the right. Behind a rock it dropped steeply toward the beach. About halfway down it opened suddenly into a natural bowl. A mountain stream filled a basin maybe thirty strides long and half that wide. Cave openings were at the back and a fine sand beach lined the open end where the water ran over the edge to the beach below.

Koot removed his pack, took out the sleeping fur and laid it on sand near the top of the falls. He was digging for some food when G’heera jumped up saying she would get some wood for a fire.

Koot had turned and was watching the ocean below to distract himself from the gnawing in his belly. Life was good he thought, in this perfect place, on this perfect day, he felt…

A mighty roar of animal rage blasted all thought from his head. He whirled, and saw a giant cave bear attacking G’heera. She clung desperately to the rock wall just out of it’s reach. It was a monster, at least twice Koots height, and for reasons unknown it was in a terrible rage.

Fear made his heart race. He had left his trio of short hunting spears back at camp, and had only a small knife in his belt. He also had very little time, if he did not act quickly the bear would kill them both. It came to him in a flash, what he done before those many years ago. He was not sure it would work this time, but his choices were very limited. Just maybe, he could save G’heera’s life.

Quickly he picked up three fist sized stones, and with a mighty heave threw the first one at the bear while screaming at the top of his lungs…

“HEEEYAAAAAHHH!”

The rock hit the bear on the shoulder, which made it pause and turn to look. Koot threw again, this time with better results as the rock bounced solidly off the bears skull. Damn, he thought, as the bear snarled at him, That critter has a lot of really sharp teeth.
But then he saw G’heera on the wall, and suddenly the whole world was only he and the bear. Sounds and other distractions faded away, he became acutely conscious of his own breathing, and everything seemed to move in slow motion. The Asragi was upon him and he knew that live or die, he would stop this bear.

Once more he threw and this time his aim was true. The rock hit the beast squarely in the snout. With a great roar it charged covering the distance with incredible speed. Koot backed up to the edge and waited a few more seconds. Then he feinted to the left, but he wasn’t quite fast enough and a great stinking roaring wall of fur hit him like angry mountain.

They were over the edge and falling, Koot could see sky, rock, and ocean spinning all around him. When they hit the bear was on the bottom and Koot was on top. He felt the spine of the great beast snap like a twig. He felt the rage of the great beast evaporate like smoke in the wind, and finally he felt it’s very life slip away. The great bear was dead,.Koot was alive. He closed his eyes and knew no more.

When he awoke, he was still on the bear. Someone was calling his name over and over. It was G’heera. She was there. She had come down the cliff and was bruised and scraped, and her tiger dress was torn. She was holding his head and saying his name softly, as tears ran down her face.

“Koot…Koot…Koot…”

When she saw he was awake, she ripped off her dress, and climbed up on the bear. Koots manhood was large and stiff and she straddeled him sliding all the way down on his shaft. Her hips moved urgently and she continued to say his name. A giant smile came to his face. The Asragi was upon them both. It was G’heera, it was life, it was victory.
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  #10  
Old 09-16-2012, 01:56 PM
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Default Dead Parrot Society by Tor

The Dead Parrot Society
 
Dead Parrot? - Yes, indeed! As you may recall back sometime ago there was a comedy group called Monty Python who did quirky "off the wall" improvisational sketches. One of their most well known sketches involved the sale of a dead parrot. Bear with me, there is a point to all this.


In the sketch a man comes back into a pet shop to complaining he was just sold a dead parrot. The salesman tells him that the bird which was clearly dead was in fact not dead - just resting. The customer points out that the bird is nailed to his perch in the cage. The salesman counters that the parrot is nailed to the perch so that he will not fly away. Well, to shorten it up, the customer continues pointing out all of the evidence that the bird is dead and the salesman continues to deny the evidence no matter how compelling the argument to the contrary. As this goes on the customer becomes more and more frustrated and agitated and finally begins to bang the bird on the counter while yelling "the Bird is Dead!…Dead!!…Dead!!!…..". At this point, the salesman calmly looks at the customer and says, "Well, yes, now".


My first response was a short burst of laughter. It then occurred to me that I had been to that pet shop - many times. Indeed my whole life people have been trying to sell me dead birds. "This spanking is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." - Hmmmm. "These carrots taste like candy" - I still hate carrots. "After the surgery you can have all the ice cream you want." - Who wants ice cream after surgery?


Not only from childhood have I been sold dead parrots but also I have been taught to sell them to others. Often this takes the form of the "White Lie". Telling people how smart, thin, attractive or whatever even when no reasonable person would agree that any of those things were the case. It seems polite society is populated by accomplished liars and in fact, that polite society could not exist without them.


We were taught not to say Aunt Blanch smells funny. But instead of saying nothing we were taught to "kill the parrot" by saying something like - "Aunt Blanch what nice perfume you are wearing." - ("Evening in Parrot?" - or is that Paris, one forgets.)
And then there are the parrots that are self-serving - "I am so skilled that I can not help but win" (even though I know I have limited skills.) Or D.P.’s that serve our bosses - "You are so smart that I believe everything you tell me." (even when we don’t believe a word of it.) How about those birds served up by politicians - "I will increase all your governmental benefits and none of it will cost a cent." - (Oh yea,- right). All of this gives new meaning to the phrase - giving someone the Bird.


The list of types of dead parrots is endless and more are added to it everyday. With more and more technology and less social skills to interfere with it, Dead parrots can be e-mailed and texted and any other number of ways be sent around the world instantaneously. No one anywhere is safe from the dead or dying birds.


So what! (you say). You believe that you know whether a parrot is alive or dead in all cases - Do you really? And if you don’t always know - Is that so bad? To quote from an old movie - Have you ever been stung by a dead bee?
I submit to you that not knowing the status of the parrots presented to you can be horrendous and that the longer you don’t know the worse it gets. If you don’t suffer the tooth being filled, eventually they all will need to be pulled. E.D.P.D. (Early Dead Parrot Detection) is essential to successful living. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be required to "feed" some dead bird (more on that subject to come) but it is important to know which are dead while you are doing it.


But who can you depend on to stand up and point them out to you? Who can you turn to in times of confusion? There are few in this world that possess the perceptiveness and fortitude needed to identify the status of the parrots in our lives. There exists an organization that is committed to the identification and communication of this bird data - "The Dead Parrot Society". This semi-secret society has existed since the dawn of "sometime" but as "knowing" is not always labeled as a "good thing" it has remained in the shifting shadows until now.


Given the current situation of the world it may be the time has come for full disclosure. We shall see…… more to come….

D. Parrot Speaks
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:57 PM
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Default Didn't I Kill You? by Boy Howdy

Didn’t I Kill You?
 
A biting breeze whispered through the trees as I stepped away from the grave. I tightened my coat around me, and wondered why I had bothered to come here.

“Excuse me.”

The whistle of the wind nearly drowned the soft voice behind me. Unsure whether I’d actually heard someone speak or not, I paused and turned halfway around.

“I think I know you.” The voice belonged to a woman. Shivering, she stood with arms folded across her chest and hands sucked back inside the sleeves of her coat like frightened turtles.

“I don’t think so,” I said, irritated by the intrusion.

“I’m sure of it.” With a severe hitch in her step, she inched closer. “Your name’s Ian, right?”

I nodded. I longed for the warmth of my car, but the fact that she knew my name intrigued me. I studied her through repeated clouds of my breath. Dark hair poured over her shoulders and provided a stunning contrast to her ice-blue eyes. Something about her reached a secret, suppressed place deep within me.

“I knew it!” she blurted. “My God, this is incredible!”

Her smile suddenly seemed familiar. When I noticed the small scar that divided her left eyebrow, my hands jumped out of my pockets and I jerked backwards. Leaving a shiver in its wake, the frigid breeze that gave voice to the trees seemed to pass suddenly through my flesh.

“Kaylynn?”

“You probably think you’re seeing ghost, huh?” she asked.

“I . . . s-s-saw you f-fall,” I said, as the cold and a sudden onset of nerves played havoc with my tongue.

“I’m so sorry . . . This must be so unsettling for you,” she said as she peered into my eyes.

“Look,” I said, as I took a step backward, “I don’t know who you are, but this . . . This isn’t funny, okay, so . . .” With a shudder, I turned away.

Her soft words, “I didn’t die,” halted me. “It didn’t kill me . . . Well, obviously.” She tried to laugh, but seemed unsure of the appropriateness. I remained still. “Please, you’re all I remember,” she added.

I trembled as I slowly turned back. Could it really be her? I hadn’t seen her in . . . what? . . . fourteen years? Fourteen years, but it all started coming back. Her voice, her smile, her eyes, all so familiar. But how? How could she be standing here? I had killed her.

Well, I might as well have.

“All you remember,” I asked, involuntarily; I hadn’t wanted to speak; I wanted to run.

She nodded. “Almost everything before that day is gone, but your face has always remained vivid in my mind. That’s why I thought you looked so familiar, and when I saw the last name on the stone you were looking at . . . Well, I just couldn’t believe it.”

“How . . . ?” My voice faltered.

“It didn’t kill me. I was just –”

“You were in a coma,” I said. “The doctors said that you’d never wake up, and if you did, you’d be . . . You know, brain-damaged . . . or whatever.”

“I didn’t wake up . . . Not for five years. Almost right on my twenty-first birthday.” She apparently could see the questions swirling behind my narrowed eyes, and instantly continued. “These last nine years since I woke have been hard; not having a childhood to remember, having to relearn so many things. The doctors said it was a miracle that I could talk, that I knew language and the names of everyday things, that I knew my parents. But there was a lot that I didn’t understand.”

The more she spoke, the longer her voice filled the space between us, the more my shuddering softened.

“Well, that’s not completely true,” she continued. “I said I can’t remember my childhood, but I remember us . . . you and me.”

I did, too.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. In a lot of ways, it was for me,” she added.

“I’m sorry, I’m still having a little trouble . . . Is it really you?” I asked. My voice suddenly reminded me of the sixteen-year-old that used to feel so nervous around her.

She flashed a hesitant smile. “Yeah, it’s me . . . Remember this?” she asked and ran her finger over the scar in her eyebrow.

Not immediately aware of my own grin, I said, “The only tree on the entire street, and you flew right into it.”

She giggled. “If only bicycle handlebars had seatbelts.”

God, it’s true; she really has risen.

I knew this feeling, the same calm that used to fill me when we hung out together, when every hour felt like a lifetime of its own. I never thought that I could recapture that contented, blind-to-the-world state of mind. But, with every word she spoke, I could feel that ease returning, could feel the warmth of that August day.

The day she fell.

I wanted to ask just how much she recalled of that day, but fear of her answer weakened my tongue.

Her giggling faded, but our gazes held through the steam of our breath.

“That day –” I began.

“That day sure threw a wrench in my life,” she said. “I hope it didn’t ruin yours.”

“Things couldn‘t have gotten much worse for me than they already were.” I shoved my hands into my pockets and hugged myself through my coat.

“What d‘ya mean?”

“You don’t remember how messed up things were for me? My dad?” I asked, sniffling from the cold.

“I just remember talking about our crushes, teasing each other. We had a lot of fun.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“I remember being in love with . . .” Her voice faded. Though not a single muscle in her face moved, pain emanated from her features.

In love? With Cameron?

I hated Cameron.

“Well, you were the best thing in my life back then.” As I spoke, I tried to wipe my nose without looking gross. With nowhere to wipe my fingers, I stuffed them back into my pocket. “But you had a lot of friends. Do you remember them?”

“No . . . Just you, really,” she said.

“Cameron? What about Cameron?”

Her face wrinkled with the effort of thought. “Cameron? . . . No . . .”

I remembered.

I remembered watching her and Cameron getting dressed.

“Cameron was there that day,” I said. I tried to bite back the anger as my stomach burned with the stir of old jealousies.

“You mean the day I . . .?”

I nodded. “You two were . . . You know . . . flirting.”

The hurt in her eyes deepened. “Right in front of you?”

“Yeah. Always.”

“I didn’t know,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I only remember you, honestly.”

“Do you remember how you fell?”

“No . . . My mom told me I was being silly. She said that was my usual way.” Her smile still seemed tentative.

“You were . . . Silly, I mean.” I offered my own smile. She accepted it, briefly. “That day, you were just being you. You were talking about Cameron.”

“And I fell?”

“You were looking up at the sky – You always did that when you were talking about, you know, girl stuff – and . . .” I thought that I could repeat the lie again. It used to roll off my tongue like song lyrics. But now, with her standing here after fourteen years, I couldn’t form the words.

With small steps, limping from side to side, she tried to warm herself as she peered up at me and waited for me to continue.

As I thought about the police interviews and the expression on my father’s face, I tried to avoid eye contact with Kaylynn. I could still hear her words from that day, the words she spoke as she stared skyward with her arms splayed like angel wings and her voice like a sigh. She barely held off a giggle as she repeated her feelings for Cameron.

Then she fell.

After the brick caromed off her head.

She landed with a thud and a crack of bones.

That crack had echoed in my head for fourteen years. So how could she stand in front of me now?

“You fell.” I forced those two words out, ending the debate of how to lie again. My fists clenched inside my pockets.

“I just tripped, huh? Looking up like that?”

I nodded and reached up to wipe my nose again. I jammed my hand back into my pocket and twisted the front of my coat in an angry grip.

She sniffled from the cold and emotion. “You must’ve been so scared.”

I didn’t remember fear, only a dog-in-the-manger kind of satisfaction as I looked down at her and smiled.

The smile lingered for a few days, until I became angry at myself for destroying the only good thing I had. Over the following years, failure to control that anger led me to do things that ended with bars sliding shut behind me. I always emerged from the weeklong stints angrier, spiteful. The thirty-day stints saw me leave the cell apologetic, vowing to change, promising God.

After all that . . .

How dare she stand here in front of me!

My jaw muscles rippled and my fists tightened further.

“I rushed down to you,” I said.

She wiped her eyes again, then took time to tend delicately to her own dripping nose. “I’m so sorry.”

Sorry?

That word drew one of my hands out of its coat-pocket sheath. It dangled at my side, like a gunslinger’s drawing hand. My eyes spotted a vase of flowers next to a nearby grave. I could see a lot of them around, but mostly plastic ones. This one consisted of some kind of glass or porcelain, something heavy.

Weapon-like.

“It wasn’t your fault,” I said. I had to force my jaws to work despite my anger and the cold. “It was an accident.”

“I know, but I’m sorry you had to go through that, to see that. I mean, I kind of had the easy part. I just had to relearn how to walk.” She patted her bad leg as she giggled softly. “I did wonder what happened to you, though. My mom tried to contact you, to tell you that I had woken up. But no one knew where you were. And your parents weren’t around anymore.” With this, her gaze traveled over to the headstone that she had seen me observing when she first approached me.

My eyes followed. “Just drank his dumb ass dead one night. Passing out in the back yard in a snow storm didn’t help,” I said. I remembered spying my father’s body through the kitchen window and feeling relief when the coroner made the pronouncement of death official.

“Your mom?” she asked.

“Livin’ in Vegas. We moved there after he died. Had relatives there.”

“Are you with anyone?” she asked.

My eyes flashed over to the vase. My free hand clenched and opened, then rose as I pretended to scratch an itch on my forehead. I opened my mouth to speak, but shook my head instead.

She frowned. “You haven’t spent all this time alone, have you?”

I nodded, eyes glancing at the vase.

“Oh, no. That’s not ’cause of me and . . . well . . . everything? Is it?”

I continued to scratch my forehead, mumbling an untruthful, “No.”

“Just never found the right one?” she asked.

An all-too-familiar memory flashed through my mind. The image, from the day she fell, of a pool of blood swelling from beneath her head into nearby shadows. For an instant, I imagined blood bathing the broken pieces of a porcelain vase.

I shook the thoughts and looked into her ice-blue eyes. “I found someone,” I said, “but they wanted someone else.”

She wiped her nose again and smiled. “Their loss.”

Their loss. I told myself that once.

But, I still threw the brick.

“My mom told me how you sat next to my hospital bed for hours every day in the early going.” she said as she moved a stiff-legged step closer. She seemed to want to hug me. “According to her, no one else came around much, none of my other friends.”

“What about Cameron?” I asked.

“Mom never mentioned anyone by that name.”

She should have known that. She should have known who really cared for her. She should never have made me raise that brick. She should never have fucked Cameron.

Why did she have to do that?

Why did she have to come back?

Why did she make me want just to forget it all and embrace her?

My dangling hand returned to my pocket.

Despite the cold, my cheeks pulled my lips into a grin. “I was the only one who came by?”

“Mom told me that you held my hand for hours.” Her smile held steady now and grew in accord with mine.

“That’s hard to believe. You had so many friends.”

She shrugged. “But only one true one.”

My smile faltered into a bashful flicker.

“Could I get a hug?” she asked. Her grin sparkled and tears gleamed in the corners of her eyes. I raised my arms to invite her. As my cheek pressed against the top of her head, the smell of her hair struck my attention. It seemed so familiar, so pleasing. I squeezed her firmly.

She laughed between sobs. I understood what she felt. My knees nearly went limp with the release of my own painful emotions.

She laughed into my chest. “Alex is never gonna believe me.”

“Alex?”

“Yeah . . . I talk about you all the time.”

“You’re married?”

“Sort of.” She pulled back to look up at me while still clutching my sides. “We met in the hospital when I was rehabbing my leg.”

“I’m glad you found someone . . . after everything. I guess he’s the lucky one, though,” I said.

“Uh, no . . . You don’t remember –”

“I need to get going,” I said as angry jealousy coursed through me again.

“Oh, I’m sorry to keep you.” She squeezed me to her one last time and limped back. “I sure hope we can stay in touch. Do you live around here now?”

“Just passing through. On my way to a new job in Salt Lake City.”

“So things are going good then?” she asked.

Not wanting to think about my failures, I restlessly scratched nonexistent itches on the back of my neck. “Yeah.”

“Do you have a number where I can reach you?” she asked. “I’d really like to talk more about old times.”

I fumbled for my cell in an inside pocket of my coat. Struggling with cold fingers and small buttons, we recited our numbers to each other and entered them into our phones.

“So, do you and Alex have any kids?” I asked as I put my phone away.

“Uh, no . . . You really don’t remember, do you?”

“Sorry?”

“You were the only one who understood back then. I think it’s what made us so close,” she said.

I scrunched my eyebrows.

She wiped her eyes, then her nose. “Alex and I aren’t married . . . It’s more of a civil union kind of thing.”

I cocked my head. “You mean . . . ?”

“Remember how confused I was?”

“That’s right; you were . . .” my voice caught in my throat.

Her smile hung somewhere between pride and embarrassment.

In the piercingly cold breeze that chapped my face and stung my ears, I felt hot as memories played in my head.

Most of the kids that climbed up to the top of the press box, which towered above the bleachers at the high school football field, did so to smoke pot while skipping class. But some found it a good place to make out, or more, during the summer break.

I’d found her and Cameron there.

I watched them as they dressed after their coupling.

Then, after Cameron left, I dazed her with the brick. She stumbled and bumped into the knee-high wall and tumbled over. As she dropped, her leg twisted around the hand railing on the steps that led to the interior of the press box.

“You were so understanding, so supportive. I felt more comfortable around you than with my own family,” she said, bringing me back to the present. I could barely hear her over the raging blood in my ears. “I was so confused and scared,” she continued. I remembered her fear that her religious parents would discover her secret. “I used to flirt with boys to see if I could change myself . . . I even slept with one,” she added.

“Really?” I asked, confused. I had thought that she didn’t remember Cameron.

“I don’t know who it was, but apparently it wasn’t long before I fell, because . . . Well, heh . . .” She turned and pointed. My eyes followed her finger to a headstone, one with a porcelain vase full of flowers in front of it. The inscription read: BABY IAN.

“Wait . . . That’s . . . ?” My mouth gaped. I couldn’t believe that I’d forgotten.

She nodded. “Died at birth . . . about nine months after I fell. Mom said she named him after you, ’cause you were so sweet for sitting with me so much.”

The sickening twist in my guts returned. It had taken fourteen years to unravel it, but now it tightened worse than it had that day, the day that the aim of the school’s least athletic, most uncoordinated kid proved true.

What makes a boy so angry? So jealous? What makes a boy capable of murder? So capable of throwing a brick at the only good thing in his life?

What makes a man want to do it again?

What can stop him?

I stared at the vase. Thoughts of how much damage it could do flashed through my mind. Then my gaze shifted to the name on the gravestone as I thought of the day I watched them lower the tiny casket.

“It was Cameron,” I mumbled.

“The one I slept with?”

I nodded. “The day you fell.”

Her hand clasped her mouth as she turned her head and stared at the headstone.

For several moments, only the swirling wind whispered between us.

Finally, I cleared my throat. “We really do need to talk some more, don’t we?”

We stared at each other for another quiet moment, noses on the verge of dripping. The incessant breeze wisped our steaming breath around the sides of our faces.

“I hope it hasn’t been too disturbing for you, running into me like this,” she said.

I shook my head, eyes darting all directions. “A little surreal, yes, but . . .” I laughed softly, drawing a giggle from her. “Really, as much as I try to forget so many things from back then, I do love thinking of the fun we had.”

“Oh, I do, too,” she blurted happily. “I miss it so much. It’s the only memory I have from my youth, but at least it’s a good one.”

“The best one from my life so far,” I said.

“We had a blast, talking about who we liked and . . . Who was it that you had such a crush on? You were so obsessed; you used to swear that you ‘ached!’ Who was that?” she asked, then giggled as the old carefree feelings of youth stirred beneath stifling maturity.

My smile wilted. My gaze locked on the ground between us. My hands hardened back into fists.

She giggled a bit louder. “You had it so bad. Who was it?”

“Cameron.”

My throat barely allowed the word to escape.

“Oh, Cameron. How funny . . . Wait, you mean the same Cameron that I . . .?”

My eyes pulled away from the ground and rose to meet hers. After holding her gaze for a few long seconds, I nodded.

She clutched her chest and covered her mouth. “I’m so sorry; I can’t believe I did that to you. You must’ve hated me.”

I swallowed and forced a smile through clenched jaws. “I was pretty jealous, but, heck . . . it’s not like he was ever gonna be into me.” I sniffled and wiped my nose. A porcelain vase lurked in my peripheral vision . . .


. . . The end?
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Old 09-17-2012, 04:13 PM
Rooster Smith (Offline)
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I left this on dead parrot society.

I'll get back to it tomorrow, probably vote then too. Good idea making these threads, Luck.
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Old 09-17-2012, 11:56 PM
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Sound decision, reading up first and then make your choice because you can only cast your votes once. If both your votes go into this poll, you'd have to cast them in one session.
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Old 09-18-2012, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by luckyme View Post
Sound decision, reading up first and then make your choice because you can only cast your votes once. If both your votes go into this poll, you'd have to cast them in one session.
I'm right to think that I have more than one vote? One here and one in the other thread?

Wait wait wait! Just read the other thread. I got it ...
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