Part 1 here Part 3 here
“Ania, my baby sister has died.” The professor’s voice pulled me back into the present. “I have to go home for a few weeks.”
“Of course,” I said. “Where’s home?”
“Krakow. I have booked a flight out for tonight. Tessa, I hate to ask this of you, but I have no one else I trust.”
“Anything, Professor.” I took a sip of coffee, looked up into Cass’s curious eyes. “Anything at all.”
“Can you drive me to the airport, then pick me up when I return?”
“And there is another thing…it’s about the spraying you have been doing for me.”
“Don’t give it a second thought. I’ll do it every evening like always.”
“There is more I need to tell you, Tessa…to keep you safe. There are things you do not know.”
I looked up. Cass had moved away, but was still within earshot. Whatever the professor had meant about keeping me safe, I didn’t want her to pick up on. My love was such a worrywart. “You can tell me on the way to the airport.” Continue reading
This is a really, really old story of mine I shared at the request of my good friend, Sarah, at Secret Art Expedition. This one’s for you..
Lucas Jackson eased the rust-splotched black Escort off the shoulder of the road and rolled into a pool of moon-shade beneath the drooping branches of an oak. He turned off the key and settled back onto the seat. And he waited, his fingers nervously tracing the outline of the snub-nosed .38 special in his coat pocket.
He had parked in the squat oak’s inky shadow every night for a week straight, sat there from ten pm until two in the morning. He had watched the sparse traffic crawl up Blessing Hills Drive, watched the Caddies and Mercedes and big obscene Hummers amble by, turn right and pass through the electronically controlled gates guarding Blessing Hills Estates. He had watched, invisible, as a black-and-white had climbed the hill every two hours or so and cruised through the gates that swung open in welcome. A quick circle and back out. Two hours later, another pass. Two hours. Plenty of time to get in, get the job done, and get out. Piece of cake. Continue reading
“There’re snakes under the house,” my sister said. “I heard them last night.”
“You heard them?” I asked. “Doing what? Crawling around on their bellies in the dirt?”
Mary Lou chopped a couple more weeds from around the corn stalks, then looked toward the back porch where Daddy sat in the shade, drinking beer and playing poker with Mr. Doolittle and Mr. Hunter. She stopped grubbing. Through the screen of long green leaves separating us, her blue eyes met mine. “Talking,” she said. “Whispering to me. Couldn’t understand them, though.”
“You’re crazy, Mary Lou.” I whacked a sticky weed on my side of the row. Dust puffed up around the blade, settled on my bare feet. “Snakes don’t talk.”
“Yeah, they do. You just gotta listen real hard ‘cause their voices are so little.”
Snakes. Mary Lou talked about them all the time. Ever since Mama’d got bitten by that copperhead, seemed like my sister couldn’t get them squiggly things out of her head. Me, I didn’t wanna talk about them. Didn’t wanna think about them either. Continue reading
Leroy knew he was dead, dead as a frickin’ sail-cat. Why, his busted up body lay right there with the whole top of his head caved in, blood and gray stuff smearing the trunk of a big old oak. No way a body could still be breathing after taking a hit like that.
But the peculiar thing was that he could see himself. And his black Thunderbird. She wasn’t the waxed and buffed beauty he’d slid in outside Dale’s Hideout; she now rested belly-up twixt him and the highway, as banged up as he was. His pride and joy. How long had it taken him and Betty to make her purr like a kitten and look as pretty as a shiny new dollar? Three years? Four?
If he’d had lips to do it with, Leroy would’ve smiled right then and there as he recalled the countless nights him and Betty had spent out in the old shed after they’d both gotten off work, him with his head under the hood and Betty handing him tools. Him telling her about the dumb shit the guys at work had done and laughing about it, and her smiling that funny little smile of hers. Continue reading
There had always been something about Ariel, something more than just her beauty, that drew men to her like possums to rotten meat. When she was just a baby, young men and old alike oohed and aahed above her crib; then in grade school, it was the bullies who gave her their lunch money; later still, other women’s husbands made fools of themselves around her. And in Ariel’s old age, cranky old men–who weren’t quite so cranky when she was near–drooled over her at Westlake Nursing Home.
Westlake Nursing Home . . . Ariel’s and my home these past seven years.
We’re old ladies now, my sister and I, but the men still crowd around her like pigs rooting in a trough, she takes from them what she needs, and the horror goes on.
I was almost six the night Ariel was born.
Just after sundown, Daddy came out of the bedroom where Mama had cried and yelled all day long, and shut the door behind him. “Look, Katherine.” He squatted down beside me and folded back a corner of the pink blanket, revealing a rosy-cheeked face framed by wispy, blonde hair. “This here is Ariel, your sister. Ain’t she just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” His eyes were all shiny bright, blue lights peeking out of a field of brown hair and whiskers.
She looked like a plain, ordinary baby to me, nothing to get excited about. But I said what Daddy wanted to hear. “Uh huh.”
The bedroom door opened, and Grandma Eula stuck her head out. Her dark eyes fastened on Daddy. “Thought you was going after the doctor.” Behind the solid, gray wall of grandma’s dress, I heard Mama moaning.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Is Mama all right?” Continue reading
Charlie Arbuckle woke up and was still alive; God hadn’t answered his prayers.
He raised a dirty hand, shading his sore eyeballs against the sickly rays that passed for sunlight, while his other hand scrabbled through the damp newspapers that made up his bed, searching for the cool, smooth feel of glass. Ah, there it was. He unscrewed the lid, thanking God–he could do that here: thank God–he’d put it back on before passing out the night before. Hadn’t lost a drop.
Charlie brought the quart jar to his chapped lips. The fiery liquid trickled into his mouth. He swished it around, killing the god-awful taste, and swallowed. Esophagus blistered, stomach scorched, his mind came fully awake.
He pushed up on his elbows, feeling the cans and bottles and garbage and Lord-knew-what-else shift beneath the padding of newspapers, and inched his way backward until he came in contact with the greasy side of the dumpster that had been his home for the past two weeks. A little more wallowing about and he was sitting up.
He took another small sip from the jar of homemade whiskey, then replaced the cap. Had to conserve it. Didn’t know where he’d get the money to pay John Graywolf to smuggle in another. Continue reading
Darrin McDermott had not wanted his wife to get pregnant. He’d told her up front bad genes roosted in his family tree, and he didn’t want to risk having a defective child. They had agreed before marrying five years earlier that this would be a childless union. But Linda had not stood by their agreement, yet he still loved and adored her–his golden angel.
Darrin now realized he should have used a condom–having a vasectomy had always been out of the question–but Linda had assured him she took her birth control pills faithfully. And she still swore by this, saying the pregnancy was an accident. But he had seen the longing in her eyes when they happened upon a mother and child, and had hurt for her. And perhaps, if he were to be honest, a little for himself.
No, he didn’t believed her, but had never told her so. He couldn’t bear the pain he knew would cloud her beautiful blue eyes if he called her out on it. Continue reading
Ecclesiastes was born into a world out of balance. He felt it even as an infant, the power in both his mother and father, strong, stubborn souls who would not back down, who would not let the other assume dominion. Neither willing to subjugate.
So there were the inevitable fights. His parents screamed at each other, and Ecclesiastes screamed in his crib. Then one day his father went away and only he and his mother remained, and for the first time in his short life, Ecclesiastes felt calmness in his world. His mother was big and strong, he was small and weak. Balance.
As he grew older, he saw and understood the balance in nature: cold, icy days and hot, steamy days; Continue reading