Poll

Which story gets your vote?

Arrivals and Departures in Dubai
3 (15.8%)
Planting Season
3 (15.8%)
Good Riddance
6 (31.6%)
Untitled  #1
4 (21.1%)
Trophies
2 (10.5%)
New Friend
1 (5.3%)

Total Members Voted: 17

Voting closed: February 12, 2016, 11:46:06 AM

Author Topic: Vote for Short Story Challenge #33  (Read 2170 times)

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Vote for Short Story Challenge #33
« on: February 01, 2016, 03:16:18 PM »
Arrivals and Departures in Dubai

I’d never met my granddaughter but the flight date circled on my calendar showed it coming soon. Life gets in the way sometimes. Booked for ages, a Christmas gift sent in September, allowed me to make plans. Forever accused of never being around my son’s the jetsetter living abroad, besides, these last few years haven’t been much fun with spells in hospital so globetrotting is more a memory than anticipation. But, come Spring, I’ll brandish my passport and ticket and I’ll be off – hand luggage only. He has everything I need at his end. Oh, Dubai, how exciting.

I avoided temptation to Google the city. This wonderful adventure wouldn’t be spoiled with preconceived notions. I realised the country was conservative and from photos Mark sent I guessed long summer dresses would be more appropriate than shorts. Shorts? At my age? Who was I kidding?

I looked at Emily smiling back from the picture, a gappy grin where an eye tooth was missing. Did tooth fairies still visit children or did some message appear on their phone with a free game? I realised I was out of touch with small people. She seemed a happy child but then who wouldn’t appear content in such luxurious surroundings. On the reverse, Emily had written a screed in neat tiny writing, ‘Bring lots of sun cream, Nana, make sure you always have plenty of water and you’ll be fine. We have air-conditioning so you won’t be too hot. I know it’s cold where you live but you’ll like it here. You and me and Meriem, my amma, can hang out on the beach. We just need to watch out for water snakes. XXXXX PS I can’t wait to meet you for real. Your granddaughter, Emily, nearly 10.’

I smirked. Emily seemed a precocious little thing. I couldn’t wait to meet her. Nearly ten. Where had time gone? She’d be a woman soon. As I set the photograph down I wondered about water snakes, glad she hadn’t mentioned any deadly insects, though I suspected mosquitoes probably plagued tourists. Anyway, I’m sure Emily would have every eventuality covered.

“Nana, Nana, Nana.” Emily ran, arms outstretched, while Mark and Alicia followed. She jumped up at me for a close hug. Soon all four of us tangled in an embrace with so many questions cut short by disbelieving grins, I was quite overwhelmed. “Daddy says you’re the best. Mummy thinks so too. You’re not going to die are you? ”

I looked askance at my son. “I’ve a while yet, I hope.” That broke up our little knot.

Separated now, Emily patted my hand. “Well, never mind, if you do this is a lovely place to do it. I can take care of you if you get sick, well, Meriem will help me. And Mummy and Daddy said you’re going to tell me about the birds and the bees.”

“Am I now?”

Mark winked. “Tradition.” He shrugged. “Facts of life – and death, I thought you could best explain.”


* * *


Planting Season


Jill felt the body of the sweet potato and pulled against the cold earth, still hardened from the winter. Her thumbnail, embedded in the tuber, gave way and sent a jolt of pain through her hand and up her arm. She hollered as she fell backwards, knocking over the pots of tomatoes.

“Goddam it,” she screamed, looking at the raw skin where the nail had been. She was comfortable to blasphemy on Easter Sunday because no one would hear, and besides, she wasn’t sure it mattered much.

The cottage had been her mother’s, purchased cheap after Daddy had died ten years ago, and sat on twenty acres of sandy land. Jill had tried to get Mama to move in with her, but the stubborn bat refused. I might be sixty, she’d say, but I ain’t helpless. That’d been before the cancer took hold.

Once she got the diagnosis, Stage four of a word that Jill couldn’t pronounce, she went downhill fast. Jill moved in that winter and didn’t mind at all. Alone herself after another divorce, her kids with their daddy because of her third DUI, she’d needed a reason to wake up. She’d cooked for Mama and cleaned the house, and before the end had bathed and cleaned Mama, too. She’d scream the entire time, yelling that Jill’d better take care of the garden before she took care of her.

That damned plot of dirt she called a garden was barren as could be. Jill told her to take the soil in to get tested but Mama thought that was just a bunch of garbage—ain’t no test gonna tell me how to grow my maters. She’d raised those tomatoes, Cherokee Purples, in a hot house left on the property. It wasn’t fancy, but it kept the heat and let the sunshine through. She’d kept cuttings growing through the winter, made from last year’s plants before they’d shriveled, and planted the small seedlings after Easter (‘cause everyone knows you don’t plant nothing before Easter Sunday). The rows would be full of wilted stems by six-week’s time.

Every Spring, for ten years, Mama had planted three rows of them plants, and every year she’d dig them up after a few weeks, cussing like Mama did when she’d thought no one could hear her.

Jill sat on her bottom and looked at the scraggly plants, no bigger than her palm, and knew that it was hopeless. She’d plant every one of those things, knock off the hornworms when it got warmer, and a month or two later she’d be right back out there, digging them up.

But Jill knew she’d plant them, and next year, and the year after because she had to. She needed to believe that at some point, if she tried he damndest, things would work out. Maybe this Spring would be different.

She dug a small hole, her blood mixing with the topsoil, and dropped in the first plant.


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« Last Edit: February 12, 2016, 12:44:24 PM by Alice, a Country Gal »
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Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Vote for Short Story Challenge #33
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2016, 03:24:19 PM »
Good Riddance

Poor thing, Melissa thought, as she stepped over it on her way to the mailbox. It was curled on her doormat - a casualty of a spring day that had started out sunny and warm then suddenly turned freezing.

Returning, she pulled her sweater close and pondered the little bee. She didn’t like bugs and normally tried to get them out of the house, not invite them in. Besides, for all she knew, it was already dead. But she used her mail and scooped it up.

She set it on the counter and bustled about making tea and fixing herself a scone with a little honey. She put the mail on her tray when she carried everything into the next room. Soon she was settled into her chair by the fire and lost in her book.

Absentmindedly bringing pieces of scone to her mouth, she was startled when one of them was ridden by the bee. Her first impulse was to fling it away, but something stayed her hand. She had never seen a bee this close. Suddenly the bee turned its head and its compound eyes stared straight into hers. It tilted its head, like a dog. It was cute, in a buggy sort of way. You saved my life. Melissa heard it clearly, as if the bee had spoken.
 
Eventually the little bee, who had been a queen all along, built a nest and populated the garden with more and more bees, all replicas of herself. After that, no matter where Melissa went, a little bee or two always accompanied her.

“Look at the size of that thing,” her neighbor yelled over the border hedge one day “you’d better call an exterminator, or I’m coming over there and get rid of them myself.”

Manny was a bully and she usually tried to avoid him but this time Melissa felt the courage to speak up. “You’ll leave my bees alone. Mind your own business.”

Manny grew red faced, scowled and balled his hands into fists. “You going to make me? I’ll come over there right now.” He parted the hedge, breaking branches as he squeezed his towering bulk into her garden. Pushing up his sleeves exposed beefy arms covered in tattoos as he came towards her. “You want to repeat that Missy? I’ll show you what’s what.”

Melissa backed away, cowering. He raised his fist to strike her, and the bees came. They streamed in from what seemed like everywhere all at once. The air around her and Manny grew dark and the buzzing drowned out every other sound. Manny screamed repeatedly and ran with arms flailing, crashing clumsily back through the hedge, leaving a large gap in his wake.

The bees stopped at the boundary of their two properties, buzzing angrily. Melissa, hands on hips, yelled after him. “And don’t come back or we’ll show you what’s what.”

The next day a very large For Sale sign sprouted on Manny’s lawn.


* * *

Untitled  #1


“I guess that’s deep enough,” he said.

   The girl nodded.

   “Here,” he said. “Give me that thing.” He held out his hand.

   He took the small shovel from her hand and, together with his own, threw them up and over the lip of the hole. He went down on one knee and held his hands out; palms upward, fingers laced. The girl planted a foot in the stirrup he’d made of his hand and let him boost her up and over the lip of the hole then she held out her own hands and helped him climb out after her.

   They sat on the edge, their feet over the lip.

   “Now,” the girl asked.

   The man shook his head. “Let’s wait a while.”

   The sun came out from behind a cloud. The girl turned her face toward it.

   “Good,” he asked.

   She nodded.

   The man scooped up a handful of earth and began to sift through it, picking out the smaller stones and tossing them into the hole.

    “Why do people have to die,” she asked.

   He considered the bundle they’d dragged down from the house that morning; wrapped in soiled sheets and bound up with clothesline.

   “I don’t know,” he said. “I guess everything has to, eventually.”

   “Will you die?”

   “Yes… but not for a long time.”

   “Promise?”

   He smiled at her and crossed his heart. “Promise.”

   The man fished a bag out of his pocket and took out a rough, thick sandwich. He tore it into two pieces then offered her her share.

   “I’m not hungry.”

   “You need to eat.”

   The girl turned toward him. “But why’d she have to die?”

   He shrugged. “People die.”

   “But she was getting better.”

   A breeze caught the girl’s hair. She tucked a stray lock behind her ear. “It’s warm” she said. “Spring’s coming.”

   A clump of snow slid off the barn roof. They watched it fall; it sighed as it went.

   “Seems to me,” the man said, “some things - some people - hold on all winter and then, come spring, they just give up and let go the world.”

   The sun dropped behind the horizon. The girl shivered and drew her jacket tighter. “Now,” she asked.

   A shadow stole across the ground and, when the darkness touched the thing they’d laid there in the morning sunlight, they heard its first groan, saw its first twitch.

   The man reached inside his jacket and took the pistol from his waistband. He checked the load then made to stand. The girl reached across to him and put her hand over his.

   “I want to do it” she said.

   He studied her face. “Okay.” He made to give her the gun then stayed his hand. “Be quick?”

   A fly buzzed at her face. She swatted it away. “Okay.”

   And, carrying the gun in both hands, she went over to the thing on the ground and took careful aim at where she imagined its head to be.

   “Goodbye, Mummy,” she said.

   She pulled the trigger.

* * *

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« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 03:30:13 PM by Alice, a Country Gal »
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I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Vote for Short Story Challenge #33
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2016, 03:29:10 PM »
Trophies

The killer made his intentions clear with the arrival of Spring, when emerging insects swarmed over rotting corpses to sate their built up hunger on secreted sugars and soft tissues of his victims. He wasn’t going to stop.

“Same M.O.?” Detective Allan Reece’s pen hovered over a scribbled page of his well creased notepad, waiting for Catherine’s answer.

“Yup. Their toes are missing,” his partner replied. She declined the coffee offered by a junior officer. “It’s the Toe Fairy all right.”

“Another dumping ground.”

“For now, yeah.” Cat brushed dirt off her knees as she stood.

A baker’s dozen had been discovered last summer near Dexter Lake, stacked like cords of firewood in the recess of a cave. Why, only the killer knew. Allan didn’t really care why, he just wanted the maniac stopped. “I see magpies are gathering.” His eyes went to the press brigade held behind yellow warning tape. Their cameras clicked feverishly as their zoom lenses swooped in.

“Part of the game.” Catherine smiled. “Why don’t you let me handle it this round.” Without waiting she moved off to be assaulted by their questions.

Later that evening while taking a shower, it came to Allan, his head rested in the warm artificial rain as he slammed his fist against the wall. “I’m so blind!”

Back then, right out of the gate Grade 9 at Prince Andrew High had been crazy. Six kids had run away leaving no hints to why, while a seventh was found hanging off of Barnaby Bridge. They brought in councillors for anyone needing support. Eventually things normalised, but what came to Allan quite suddenly and unexpectedly was a conversation with Timothy Barnett he had long forgotten; or perhaps his childish mind had pushed aside.

They were swimming not far from where Suzette had hung herself. Allan still saw the wear marks from her rope. But it was how fascinated Timmy was about his toes. Allan had even called him a fag because he went on and on. That uncomfortable feeling drove a wedge between their friendship.

Strange how it didn’t come back until twenty-odd years later.

Ripping his towel off the hook, Allan raced to the phone. Timothy Barnett lived on a farm left to him by his parents. It was located on Sheldon Road. After endless rings, Allan hung up on Catherine’s number and got dressed. Catherine lived in that area. It might be nothing, but maybe….

When he rounded the corner of the hill, flames could be seen licking the sky.

“Fuck!”

Had she struck a bone during her press talk? Allan sped up. When he arrived he rushed the door kicking it in with a well placed boot. Catherine was there, eyes open, naked, toes missing.

“Catherine!”

Pulling her out, Allan laid her gently on the ground and covered her with his jacket. Timothy lived just to the south, no backup was required, his pistol was full. Allan made his way through the woods.

Time to visit an old friend.

 
* * *

New Friend

Ben raised his hand to touch the flower but did not notice the thorn.
“Ouch!” he cried out.
“Careful. “ Charlie stopped and looked back.
“The flowers here have sharp thorns.”
“I see that now.” Said Ben sucking his thumb.
They continued their walk down the trail.
“This place is so full of them. What are they called?” Ben asked.
“I don’t know mate. But they bloom only in the spring. ” Replied Charlie.

They soon reached an abandoned log cabin in the middle of dense shrubs.
“Here we are. This is where I bury my treasure.” Commented Charlie.
Charlie unloaded the can from his bulging pocket and set it aside.
He then got down on his knees and started digging under the cabin with his bare hands.
Half a minute of frenetic activity revealed two boxes, red and blue in color.
Charlie handed over the red box to Ben.
“Go ahead. Open it.”
Ben opened the box and stared at the glistening marbles.
“Wow. These are lovely. How many do you have here?”
“More than 50. I have been collecting since 5th grade.”
“And what’s in the other box?” asked Ben.
Charlie opened the blue box and showed him. “These have Pokémon cards.”

“I always knew you were hiding something from me.” A voice boomed from behind.
A shocked Charlie whirled around to see who it was.
A short stocky boy was standing a few feet behind them.
“John. What are doing here? Were you following us?”
“Yes. I wanted to see why you come to the woods so often. Now I know.”
“Look John, these boxes are all the treasure I have now. Don’t you dare take it from me?”  Pleaded Charlie clutching the blue box.
“I will take those marbles first.” Said John ignoring the pleas. He turned towards Ben.

As John lunged towards him, Ben rolled out a handful of marbles at John’s feet.
John had no way of avoiding them. He tripped and fell head first into the shrubs.
“Ouch!” shrieked John.
Struggling, he pulled himself up and began to run. His head was swarmed by insects.
“Wasps! Get out of the way Ben” shouted Charlie as he grabbed the can and sprayed at the advancing bugs.

Away from the cabin and back on the trail, Ben and Charlie settled into a steady walk.
“So, who was that guy John?” asked Ben.
“He is our neighborhood bully. He tries to steal from everyone. Avoid him.” Replied Charlie.
“And here, you can keep this can of wasp spray. In case you decide to venture into the woods alone, it would be handy.”
« Last Edit: February 04, 2016, 11:44:43 AM by Alice, a Country Gal »
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The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

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I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Sticky: Vote for Short Story Challenge #33
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2016, 03:43:26 PM »
Ooh -- what a variety -- it's going to take some criteria to sort them out . . . hmm ::)

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Sticky: Vote for Short Story Challenge #33
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2016, 07:14:32 PM »
Ooh -- what a variety -- it's going to take some criteria to sort them out . . . hmm ::)

That's what I thought as they came in. There's several I like a lot, glad I don't have to choose between them since I set the challenge.  ;D
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline Clarius

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Re: Sticky: Vote for Short Story Challenge #33
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2016, 02:05:47 PM »
I like Good Riddance, Trophies a close second.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2016, 03:19:31 PM by Clarius »
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us

 - Robert Burns

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Sticky: Vote for Short Story Challenge #33
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2016, 11:47:49 AM »
Should anyone notice, I had to remove one submission because the (former) member who enter it is no longer a member.

But that one had not received any votes, so that didn't make any difference there.
MWC Charity Publications.
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The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Sticky: Vote for Short Story Challenge #33
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2016, 11:17:09 AM »
One Day left to vote and be counted for your favorite Short Story.  :o
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi