Short Story: An Eye Opening Affair

Trevor stepped into the upstairs hall and walked toward the bathroom. He heard whispers and muffled laughter from one of the bedrooms. Intrigued, he peered around the corner and the talking instantly stopped. All three of his daughters turned to look at him. Their faces vacant and unmoving. Their stares blank. The classic look of children caught in the act. Before them, laid out upon the floor, was a pile of lipstick and nail polish containers in a myriad of colours. “What are you guys doing?”

“Playing,” the eldest said.

“With nail polish?” He frowned. The girls just nodded. “Did you ask your mother?” The middle daughter nodded once, which appeared as if she had a violent spasm. He watched as his youngest put a hand on the middle daughter’s knee. They passed a glance between them and the middle one turned back to him.

“We asked.” She smiled.

Trevor noted something different about their faces: their eyes had long lashes. “Did you guys put on fake lashes?”

“No,” they replied in a unified, yet monotone-like fashion.

“What’s your favourite colour, daddy?” The youngest asked. Sweeping her palm out to draw his attention to the beauty products.

“The aqua-green of course,” Trevor replied, aware of the abrupt change of conversation. The youngest was prone to such tactics when talk verged on potential punishment.

“Do you want us to put it on your finger nails?” The youngest asked.

“No thank you. Just don’t spill any. That stuff is awfully hard to clean from the carpet. Remember?” They said nothing. “And for god’s sake open a window when you use the nail polish. It stinks.”

“Ok daddy,” the eldest said.

Trevor gave them a thumbs up. “Good chat, ladies.” As soon as he stepped further down the hall the laughter and whispering resumed as if he’d never interrupted them. He shrugged, that was a father’s plight, especially with daughters: to be outside the sibling clique of sisters with their secret knowledge and secret jokes.

That evening as they sat around the dinner table, regaling each other about their day he noticed each daughter wore glossy lipstick and matching nail polish. A veritable kaleidoscope of colour and sparkles.

Trevor shook his head after he noticed their eye lashes. They seemed longer than before, more luxurious. They fluttered when the girls blinked. He glanced at his wife and she giggled. He regarded the youngest for a brief time and turned to look at his plate. Movement. He shot a glance back at her face. He was certain her eyelashes moved apart from her blinking. He watched her with keen attention. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

As the evening wore on he wondered what else his daughters might be purchasing: concealer, eye-liner, and god forbid, perfume. What was happening to his daughters? Right before his very eyes they seemed to be changing. Growing. Maturing. But at what cost? Literally, at what damn cost? Trips to the local beauty store increased in frequency. The phrase, “I’m going on a beauty run,” echoed more and more throughout the halls. While he didn’t see the bottom line on the receipts he did note they were increasing in length and frequency.

His old standby line about saving money for Disney World had less and less impact. He walked to his shared bedroom and noticed one of the daughters’ bedroom lights was on. Of course no one was in the room. They had a habit of leaving lights on throughout the entire house. If they had to go from point A to point B every light in between would be turned, and left, on. “So much for Mickey Mouse.”

Trevor flipped the switch. In an instant he flipped it back on. In the middle of the floor was a single lipstick tube. It was open and covered with something. He bent down and realized the lipstick was covered with fake eyelashes. He sighed and shook his head. Standing up he wondered if he should clean it or just leave it. Movement made him dart a glance back at the lipstick. He was sure something moved. He rubbed his eyes. “It’s just the long hours at work.” Trevor turned the light off and left the room. He stepped down the stairs and found the three daughters standing still, watching him as he descended. “I think it’s time for bed.”

“Yes, father,” the daughters replied in unison.

“Father? Aren’t we formal,” he said. He watched them bound up the stairs without a single sound. How odd, he thought. Normally they stomped up the stairs like stampeding rhinos, shaking the ceiling lights as they went.

The next morning he awoke to find his daughters standing beside his bed. “What’s wrong?” Moments passed before the youngest answered.

“We were just watching you sleep.” They backed out of the room and left. He looked at his wife to see if she was awake. He shook her. “Your daughters are acting creepy again.”

“What?” She said as she turned to face him. He startled. She had long eyelashes as well.

“Did you put fake eyelashes for bed?”

“No.” She frowned and rubbed her eyes. “Weird.” She looked at herself in the mirror. “Though they do look fantastic.”

With an abruptness that caught his wife off guard he jumped out of bed and raced to where the daughters were. “What are you guys playing at?”

“What do you mean?” The eldest asked.

“Did you put fake eye-lashes on your mother?”

“What?” The middle daughter asked. She shook her head, frowned and pursed her lips: all signs of some kind of cover-up.

“You heard me.”

The youngest stepped forward and revealed something in the palm of her hand. “These are for you.” In her little hand were two fake eyelashes. They were not still. They writhed and flipped and as she moved her hand closer to him they became frantic and unstable. “Put them on, father.”

“No,” Trevor said, backing away. The youngest moved closer and closer. The two older girls followed right behind her. He felt his heart pumping and fear made his eyes wide. “What are those?”

“They are for you,” the youngest said sweetly.

Trevor backed away and found his wife blocked his retreat. Now he was surrounded, ganged up on, and his daughters each had an ungodly vacant stare. “What are you doing?”

“You will see,” the youngest said. “They only want to help us.”

“They’re… You’re aliens!”

“Father they are symbiotic. They make us fabulous and we in turn feed them,” the eldest said.

“Feed them?” Trevor shrieked. “What? Our brains?”

The youngest pulled her head back and frowned. “No silly, nail polish and lipstick. What’s this brains stuff?”

“You watch too many zombie movies, daddy,” the middle daughter said.

“Now, close your eyes. This won’t hurt a bit.”

Photo by chic-desig from FreeImages

Short Story: His War Her War

His War

I killed another man today. Unlike the others this time I had to use a knife. Close. Dirty and bloody. In the name of King and Country. Bombs exploded over us. Mustard gas swirled around us. And in this desperate gasp for life I was barely victorious.

I stood firm in this little patch of crimson mud. Now I lay, exhausted and numb. My chest heaves and I suck air past a gas mask hastily worn. Through the goggles I look over at the body of the mighty Hun. The German. He will ever be a boy in my mind. He could be a cousin, a friend, in some other lifetime.

I slump onto my back. The sound of distant machine gun fire fills the air. The screams of the dying with their begging makes me clutch my ears. I hear, but don’t want to listen. I look, but don’t want to see. I would rather not care.

Where has my humanity gone? Is it hidden under the layers of grime? Under the guts that now adorn my uniform? Bathing will not wash away my memories. My actions. My torment.

Would anyone back home recognize me? Would my wife know me?

These questions plague my mind as another round of artillery fills my head. It’s so loud I can’t think. Finally, the shelling stops. There is a moment of near silence as the last blasts echo away, like souls leaving the bodies of the dead.

I no longer fear death. I do not look upon it with dread. A fatalism has taken the place of fevered adventure. I am merely a servant to my officers; indentured. They blow their whistles and we rise to die. Through no man’s land we walk, cut down in wave after wave. No stopping. No helping. Leave our comrades where they lie. I have been here a year and know the drill. Take that trench, climb that hill.

In the summer the flies swarm. In the heat the dead bloat. The living fight until our sanity is ripped and torn. In the fall the rain comes. Filling our trenches with water. Many of the dying could be saved, but they submerge under the wet earth to suffocate and disappear forever. The list of the missing grows ever longer. I ignore it. It is not something to ponder.

What have I become? Will my wife want me?

The winter brings a kind of solitude, though not kind at all. We huddle to keep warm. No longer can we smell the decay of our dead. But no longer can we feel our feet. Our hands. Our noses and ears. Gangrene is seen everywhere. And in between the battles there’s only preparing for the next dread. In the spring green life should reveal itself. But in the desolate hell of endless grey earth there is only red.

The year to me feels like an eternity. Long bouts of boredom. Our chief task to keep the rats off our faces while we sleep. A year? Have I really been here that long? I hate my mask. I hate the poison. The sky darkens as I lay. The coming dusk brings a lull in the fighting. How long have I been here? Time is slow, my thoughts fast. How many feet did we win? How many lives for a few acres? A great multitude, on all sides, have been sent to their maker.

I laugh. It is all so pointless. There is no end of trenches. There’s always the next trench. The next bunker. We shed blood for blood shed. I try to move, but my legs won’t work. I tug and pull. They are stuck fast to the trench bed.

Will my wife wait for me?

Shouts of all clear sound and I yank off my mask. My face free to the air. For a moment I feel human; feel the cool air on my cheeks. I almost weep. My eyes wander to the sky as the stars appear and for a moment, a brief time, I forget why I’m here. I’m so tired. I only need but a little sleep.

Her War

The birds wake me with their peaceful song. For a meagre moment I think all is well. Reality hits, the country is still at war. I rise from a half empty bed. It’s been this way for so long.

Anxious fear again grips me as I start my day. A silent tempest. The children will awake soon and clamour for breakfast. They’re young and have long since stopped asking why daddy went away. The days blend into each other. It’s hard to keep track. Yet each day the children now ask when will daddy be back?

I can’t answer their question, especially when there’s no end in sight. Each day telegrams arrive in town with the worst news. This spreads more fear and sadness, like a human blight. The yellow messages drench our country in the bluest of hues.

Mrs. Campbell lost three sons. Each, like all the other men, thought they’d be home by Christmas. They all died early in the war. Each notice came by mail. I hate the mailman. Hate that he is here and my husband not. I pray the man never comes to my front door.

I cannot stand here and think of what may happen for there’s too much work to be done. The local branch of the Canadian Patriotic Fund needs volunteers to collect donations. More money means more bullets and more fighting. Between looking after the chores, the children, and volunteering I’m always on the run.

I never thought I’d see my daughter sewing bandages for the medical corps. Or my sons, as young as they are, looking after the cattle. They are kept busy, and I’m glad of it. I do not let them see the newspapers which carry word of every battle.

I try to protect them from the reality of a world gone mad. But, they are smart and notice the sacrifices we make. Like repairing old clothes long gone out of fad.

I look at them and wonder will they know their father? Will he know them? I thank god we are here and not across the Atlantic. My husband always wanted to visit France, but not like this. It’s all too frantic.

Mr. Rodgers has returned, missing an arm. But, something else is missing in him, too. His wife says he drinks and yells as he works on the farm. Mr. Carrington wears a mask over half his face. Whispers of his maiming follow him everywhere. Yet he speaks not and walks with a quiet grace.

There is not one soul untouched, unblemished by the fighting. We’re all in this together we’re told. Be bold. But, the propaganda is thick. And many of us women, wives to those fighting, think it some trick. So many of us have lost someone. When will this war be done?

I wonder if my husband will recognize the town when he does return. Will he have the same feelings for me? Will he still yearn? It is an endless circle of thought, which gets me nowhere with nothing new to learn.

At last, late at night, I crawl back into bed. Another day done. The tears come. Though not as many as the day my husband left. For I am bone tired. I am weary. My strength is gone. I feel bereft.

I do not let the children see how numb I’ve become. As I drift off to sleep I recall word that there is another big battle. Some place called the Somme.

Photo by Chris Eyles from FreeImages

Wallis and Willard 4: Realty Gone Awry

Lemieux drove down Main St., admiring the vibrant downtown of Parford. She proceeded to her home on the outskirts of town. It was a small bungalow with a crawl space underneath rather than a basement. Her face turned into a snarl as she saw a for sale sign plunged into her front rock garden. She pulled into the driveway and stepped out, clenching her fists. She heard voices coming from the backyard. She silently cursed and strode around the building. “Not again.”

“Oh, Robert. This is perfect,” a woman said. She clutched at her husband’s arm as if at any moment he’d flee to Mexico under an assumed name, live with a Mexican woman who’d feed him until he got fat, never to be seen or heard from again. Robert said nothing, but moved as if being trapped by years of marriage inertia made walking difficult. “Oh, and you wouldn’t have to mow the lawn. It’s all a rock garden.”

“Excuse me,” Lemieux said as she came up to the couple. They were older, in their late sixties. “What are you doing here?”

“We’ve come to make a bid on this home, aren’t we Robert?” Robert said nothing. “Say, you’re the realtor.”

“No, I’m the owner and this home is not for sale,” Lemieux answered.

“But we saw the ad on social medias. Everything on the social medias is true, I read that on the social medias. Anyway, the ad had your face and said you’d be willing to bend over to take a good deal,” the woman said. “Didn’t it Robert?” Robert made no movement to suggest he even heard her. “Robert remembers, too,” she continued.

“You’ve been duped, as I’m sure has happened many times before. Now leave,” Lemieux suggested, her tone becoming more stern.

“No,” the woman said and wagged a finger. “I called you and spoke with you on the phone,” the woman said. “I put you on speaker so Robert could hear you as well. You said you were ready and willing to get… What was the word Robert?” Robert said nothing, just stared vacantly at the wall. “Oh yes; pounded. Pounded for a good deal.”

“I am going to give you two minutes to waddle your knee braced legs off my property before I call the police,” Lemieux said.

“But…”

“Now!”

The couple slowly left the property, took five minutes to get into their Buick with the woman glaring at Lemieux the whole time. It was a passive aggressive onslaught of stern-lipped wonderment. “We drove here all day!”

“You can drive away all day then.” Lemieux shook her head as they pulled away. She stepped up to her front door. It was open a crack. Her shoulders slumped. Lemieux stepped inside and heard more voices.

“Darling this is perfect.”

“Sweet fuck, what the hell are you doing in my home?” Lemieux said as she accosted another couple. “How did you get into my home? You’ve broken into my home!”

“We called and your salesperson said to come, get the key in the flower pot on the right side of the porch and saunter around, try the toilet and cook a meal. All to make sure we like the home. So Harry and I did,” the woman said.

“Yeah, I like the way you can look out the window while you go to the bathroom,” Harry added. He turned sheepish. “I’m afraid I couldn’t find your plunger.”

“He likes his pickled herring,” the wife said.

“I don’t care what you like,” Lemieux yelled, suddenly aware of an odour wafting from the bathroom. “This house is not for sale. Get the hell out!”

“It’s not like we had sex on your counter,” the woman said. “Like your ad directed us to.”

“Yeah,” Harry chimed in. “I mean, we tried, but she couldn’t climb onto the counter, and even if she could there was no step ladder I could use being as I’m short.” Harry scrunched his reddening face at his poor phrasing and quickly added. “I mean not very tall. Your counter is too high. I was referring to my height… Only my height.”

“Oh darling you’re not short,” the wife said in a kind-hearted motherly way, which made Lemieux so uncomfortable she gagged. The woman whispered again, “you’re not short.” The wife playfully nudged her husband with her hips. A crack from one of her joints sounded and she laughed. “Anyway, after all that struggle we just had a nap in your bed. I like your comforter by the way. Does it come with the house?”

“Get. The. Hell. Out!” Lemieux yelled. The couple almost jumped in fright. They stared at her. “Do I have to get my shotgun filled with rock salt to prove to you that you need to leave now?” They left, but not without muttering how disappointed they were with the showing.

Enraged, Lemieux went to her computer and searched for home sales in Parford. It didn’t take her long to find her fake listing. The picture of her used was one where, classic to media, she was captured in a mid-pursing of her mouth expression. Her face almost looked green and a sheen of sweat covered her forehead. It was the least flattering picture of her possible. She looked at the background, trying to recall when that photo would have been taken. Then she remembered. It was when she exited the city hall bathroom after eating a bad tray of supposedly fresh sushi. It was before the vote to close down the county to chain stores. “Fucking Jesus wept.” She also remembered Councillor O’Shea had treated her to the meal. “Bastard tried to avoid a vote.”

Lemieux turned her attention back to the computer and read the ad. ‘Do you wish for a low maintenance home? 1 storey? No lawn to mow? I’ll take a deal, any deal, to satisfy my selling hunger. Come on in, try it out. The key is under the second flower pot on the front porch. Call 800-Get-Sold now to book an appointment. Or just show up and test any piece of furniture you want in any way.’

She wondered what she should do? Lemieux stood up and paced back and forth. She realized she needed to find out who made the ad. It was someone local, had to be, for they would have had to be to know where the spare key to her front door was hidden. “But,” she paused. “Who?” Councillor O’Shea? Jamison? Wallis? That angry farmer who’s turkey farm the county shut down last year?

The shut down was called for after a farm visitor was attacked by a mentally deranged turkey and, as a result, started suffering from PTSD. Through investigation by the county sherif it was later discovered that the farmer was breeding a particularly aggressive type of turkey, creating attack turkeys for farm security. They had larger claws and more neck skin than normal turkeys. He called them Velociturkeys.

Lemieux shook her head. “No one in town really knows anything about placing social media ads. We’re a backward little armpit full of mindless bacteria. Just the way I like it.” She snapped her fingers and a devious smile spread across her face. “Hello Willard?” she said into her phone.

“Hey,” Willard said. “You have some time?”

“Yes, but first I need a favour, though,” Lemieux said.

“Is this a Squid Hoe Dough thing?” Willard asked. His breathing getting deeper and heavier.

“You do something for me and I do something for you,” Lemieux said. “I need you to make a phone call for me when you get here.”

“That’s a cinch,” Willard said and hung up before she could finish explaining her need. In no time at all Willard crashed through the front door like some kind of sex starved bull. “I’m here woman.”

“Jesus Christ, Willard,” Lemieux said. “That’s the second door this month.” She felt herself being swept off her feet by Willard’s powerful arms. “You have to call a number for me.”

“Right now?”

“Yes.” She screamed as Willard flung her to the bed. She pointed to the phone number on the screen. “Dial that number.” He did.

“Hello,” Willard said into his cell. He covered his phone and whispered to Lemieux. “Sounds like you. Ah, yes I am interested in the home. When can I visit it?” Willard nodded and then a smile broadened his lips. “Really? With pleasure.”

“Well?” Lemieux asked in an insistent whisper.

Willard covered his phone and whispered back, “You said, well, the woman on the phone said that I should bring my partner here and test out the bed as it would be part of the sale,” Willard said with a lurid look in his eyes.

“Ask her if she’ll be here?”

Willard’s eyes almost popped out of his skull and his mouth dropped. His stunned face stared at Lemieux for a moment. He looked like he’d just received the best news ever. “Ah,” he said into the phone, his voice thick. “Will you be here to show us the… bedroom?” A pause. “Really? You’re that desperate to sell this house.”

“Where is her office?” Lemieux said, pressing her finger into his chest.

“Where’s your office located?” Suddenly, Willard’s whole body deflated and he sat down on the bed. “Ok. Thanks.” He hung up and looked at Lemieux. “She said her office is here. In your home.”

“You know what that means?” Lemieux said.

“That we’re not going to have a threesome tonight,” Willard flopped back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling.

“That someone is very good at covering their tracks,” Lemieux advised.

“Why are you smiling?” Willard asked.

“Because, we just eliminated a suspect. It can’t be Councillor Jamison. He’s too stupid to be able to come up with a plan like this. He’s far more direct, in a blundering, imbecilic way.” She looked at Willard and a seductive smile spread across her face.

One thing Willard was keen about, picking up signals of sex. “Can we play hot-dog man?” He asked. Lemieux nodded. Willard gleefully started to disrobe. “You burning incense?” Willard asked, sniffing the air. Within moments the mood was as dead as the pickled herrings Harry had eaten.

The Previous Chapter of Wallis and Willard.

Photo by Aaron Murphy from FreeImages

Short Story: A Meeting of the Minds

My mind has been invaded, was his first thought upon waking up from slumber. His heart pounded and he clutched his chest. “What’s going on?” he said, voice raspy with night phlegm. He coughed and turned to see that Jane still slept. His head throbbed; a deep pounding sensation. Panic set in and he clenched his eyes shut, trying to ignore the words ringing in his head. He rushed to the bathroom and splashed cold water onto his face. Brief flashes of words still came, unbidden, into his brain.

A vision of flowers appeared in his mind and try as he might he couldn’t remove it. Snippets of a voice sounded and his own thoughts turned to diagnosing himself with insanity. With a sudden clarity he realized who’s voice it was that he heard and who’s dreams he felt. He rushed back to the bedroom and found Jane still sleeping. She hadn’t moved. He got close and listened to her breathing.

An evocation of smell and a feeling of distaste filled his mind, but it was not his thought, nor his feeling. No, Jane’s voice said in his mind.

He sat back and listened a few moments to her and wondered what to do. Finally, he reached over and gently pushed on her shoulders. She mumbled something and the voice in his head changed. He pushed her again, a little more forcefully this time. Her voice came back into his head, What the hell does he want? She turned and looked up at him.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. He said nothing and felt her annoyance in his head. Again panic set in and it was difficult to reconcile her impatience and his worry. “Why are you looking at me like that Tom?” While she spoke his mind relaxed. He watched as she frowned and reached for her head. “Are you…” she paused. “Are you afraid?” He nodded. “You’re thinking of your mother?” He nodded. Tears welled at the corners of his eyes. “How do I feel your fear?”

“I don’t know,” Tom said. “You were just dreaming of stinky flowers.”

“Yes,” Jane said and she sat up abruptly.

“I don’t know how,” Tom said again. “But, I can feel your emotions and hear your thoughts.” He looked at her. “I’m scared to… Something weird happened last night, but…”

“You don’t remember,” she said, finishing his statement. She got up out of bed and put on her robe. “What happened to us in the night?”

“I don’t know,” Tom said. He looked at her robe. “Sorry about the stain.”

“That’s ok,” Jane replied looking up from the coffee stain on her robe. Abruptly she folded her arms. “You drank 6 beers last night?” It wasn’t a question. She had heard his thoughts. She thought it was 4 and he shook his head in response. She frowned. “What are you thinking? What girl? At the bar?”

“My mind wanders and I just look,” Tom said quickly, hoping to stall any more thoughts he didn’t want to share with Jane. He looked at his pillow and focused on it.

“Really, you’re thinking of your pillow?” Jane said. He felt her anger deep in his brain, but then it seeped away slowly when she asked, “What the hell happened to us?”

“Do you remember any other of your dreams from last night?” Tom asked quickly.

“Something about a car accident,” Jane replied and instantly knew the dream was familiar to Tom. She thought about the details of her dream and wondered why they were using the taxi. Tom mind nudged her about the beers. “Where is our car?”

“Likely where we parked it,” Tom replied smiling. He brought a picture of it to his mind and nodded to Jane.

“Why does the car look green?” Jane asked, frowning. “It’s red….” Her voice trailed off and she flushed as his thought about colour blindness came to her mind. Sorry.

“It’s ok,” Tom said smiling at her thought-apology. “This is weird.”

“It’s certainly different having your thoughts in my head,” Jane nodded. “You think, but it has a different…”

“Flavour?” He felt her agreement. Tom pulled on some pants and shivered as memories of his mother came into his mind.

“You’re not schizophrenic,” Jane said aloud. She walked over to him and he could feel and see the determination in her movements. She looked into his eyes and thought in clear words, You know whose voice you hear and it’s real. Out loud she continued, “You’re 34. If you have schizophrenia it likely would have developed by now.” She hugged him as his worry continued to throb in her head. “I know there’s still a possibility,” Jane replied. “But, it’s unlikely.”

“What are we going to do?” Tom asked.

Jane nodded as Tom’s thoughts of their new found connection came flooding into her mind. She sighed and looked up at him, he stepped back from her, feeling her dread. “We will either grow stronger together or it will rip us apart and drive us crazy.” She suddenly sighed and felt stupid for her comment.

“It’s a phrase, I know,” Tom said, her upset feelings washing over him. “Do you remember what the cab driver looked like?”

She thought for a moment bringing up the picture of the back of the driver’s head. Tom followed her thoughts. He added a scarf to the picture and saw Jane nod. He found her memory changed slightly, showing the scarf. How easily memories can change, he thought distractedly. Anger hit.

“Are you saying I remember what I want to remember?” Jane said sternly. She placed her hands on her hips and shifted her weight to one leg. What’s wrong with my eyebrow? She thought, responding to his looking at and thinking about her raised eyebrow.

“Nothing, I just know that’s your visual cue that you’re angry or perturbed at me,” Tom said defensively backing away. “But I was thinking of memory in general, not yours specifically.”

Oh, Jane thought.

Tom continued, “Now that we have our minds linked we may find our visual cues are no longer necessary.”

Jane laughed. Without visual cues people will think we’re robots, she thought. “This will take some time getting used to,” she said. I need a shower, she thought. Tom laughed, nodding emphatically. Shut the fuck up, she thought as she directed a glare at Tom.

“We should see how far we can go apart and still be connected,” Tom said. With that he finished getting dressed and raced down stairs to the kitchen. He breathlessly, waited a moment and then smiled. We don’t have to yell at each other when coffee is ready. He grabbed his coat and pulled on his shoes. The bright morning sun hurt his eyes a little and he felt disoriented.

“What happened? Are you ok?” Jane yelled and raced down the stairs to where Tom was standing.

“The bright sun just made me pause a moment,” Tom said. It’s nothing.

She hugged him again and he winked at her. It was hard not getting caught up in his excitement. She smiled and closed the door and walked back up the stairs. She turned the shower on and disrobed, throwing her housecoat onto the floor. She turned back to the mirror and looked at herself with a critical eye. She touched her hips and twisted back and forth to see both sides. Fat pig.

You are not! Tom thought yelled at her. The forcefulness of his interjection made her jump. I know what you’re doing, Tom continued. You’re looking in the mirror in the bathroom.

Jane smiled and then a sudden feeling of nausea come over her and she rushed to the toilet. But, it was a weird sensation. She felt the nausea in her head, but not her stomach. Are you ok?

I’m the fat pig, Tom replied. I just ran down the street and I feel like throwing up.

Take it easy, she thought. She walked across the room and turned on the shower. She stood there a few moments and touched the water. It was perfect. She got into the shower and let the warm water run down her head. It felt wonderful.

You’re in the shower now, Tom thought. No wonder your showers are so long, you enjoy the feeling of the water.

Is that so wrong? Jane asked. She felt something odd, and frowned. What are you doing? When she felt his thinking of her naked in the shower.

Touch yourself, Tom suggested. She could feel his excitement grow.

I will not, Jane thought. Where are you now?

At the corner of Lewis and Benton and I can feel your arousal. You can’t deny it.

Keep walking pervert, Jane ordered. She could feel his sexual libido increasing and she bit her lip. She was about to touch herself when the connection with Tom ended. The change was abrupt and left a void in her mind. She felt empty and exposed at the same time. It was an odd sensation and she wondered why she felt this way after so short a time connected to Tom’s mind. She finished showering and quickly got dressed. And a terrible thought entered her mind. Is Tom dead? She raced down the stairs and then suddenly she felt his presence in her mind.

I guess 5 or 6 hundred yards is the limit to our connection, Tom thought, felt her worry and thought I’m fine.

Come home. We need to talk, Jane thought. She could feel his exasperation at her words and felt her own frustration rise. Tom’s resignation came through and she turned to stomp away, but then stopped. Where would she go in the house to be away from him?

Good question, Tom thought. I think we’ll need some coffee. What do you want?

The usual, Jane replied. She busied herself by emptying the dishwasher of clean dishes and put them away, trying not to think about anything really. She got lost in the monotony of her chore. Tom came home before she was done and handed her her coffee.

“What do we do now?” Tom asked and he took a sip of coffee.

“Live.” Jane replied. “And understand that there will be things we each think of that were never meant to be voiced.” Like how I hate that blue shirt you always wear.

“I already know you hate that shirt,” Tom smiled. Why do you think I wear it. His smile disappeared and worry caused him to frown.

“I know,” Jane murmured. “We have to be careful about who, if anyone we tell. And how we use it in public.”

“I don’t want people to think I’m crazy,” Tom blurted. “People always looked at me weirdly when they heard my mother was cra…”

“She wasn’t crazy,” Jane interrupted. I will not let you go down that path.

“What the hell happened to us last night?” Tom asked. They felt each other’s fear.

Photo by Oliver Gruener from FreeImages

Wallis and Willard 3: A Town of Intrigue

“You’re creating a monogamy,” Willard yelled at Mayor Lemieux.

“Willard, you charming imbecile,” Christine Lemieux said. “It’s monopoly and no I am not.” She looked at Willard and shook her head. “Your brother is out to get both of us.”

“Us?”

“Come now Willard…”

“I’m not your sexual puppet,” Willard cried. “I can’t do that on command.”

“Wallis wants you bankrupt,” Lemieux said, ignoring Willard’s crude outburst. “And wants me out of the Mayor’s seat.”

“I don’t understand where his stupid idiot hatred comes from. Mother always said he was the calmest angry boy in the world,” Willard said. “I remember in elementary school Wallis, with a straight face, slowly walked over to the biggest kid in the school and punched him square in the throat.”

“Why’d he do that?” Lemieux asked.

“Said he learned it watching a prison movie. No other kid would mess with him after that,” Willard said. “He thinks he’s untouchable.” A crooked smile broke out on his face as if he experienced a nirvana of thought.

“We’re not going to punch your brother in the throat.” Lemieux looked at Willard’s suddenly downcast face. His brow, slightly protruding, reminded her of the Cro-Magnon man display at the museum in the city. She glanced down at his strong, meaty hands and bit her lip. “Listen Willard,” she said, averting her eyes to look outside her office window. “We need to have a game plan here. Pick our position.”

“Reverse cowgirl?” Willard asked with a smile.

“Focus, my dear sexually repressed constituent. How can we defend ourselves from a position of strength?”

“Well,” Willard said as he flexed. “I am stronger than him.”

“This will require cunning,” Lemieux advised.

“Cun…?”

“Thought, Willard, not vagina,” she said quickly.

“Oh, I knew that,” Willard said. He didn’t. He sat down in the chair. “I think we have to do something. Ha!” He snapped his fingers, but then trailed off, staring into the distance.

Lemieux grimaced as Willard’s black overalls shed dark dirt all over her office chair. She knew he was intelligent, just incredibly uneducated. When Willard failed to continue Lemieux shrugged her shoulders. Finally she asked. “Do you have a plan?”

“My brother has always liked playing with fire,” Willard said. “That’s why he opened a crematorium; so he could legally burn people.”

“Wallis is one weird cat. Even so, we’re not going to become arsonists, Willard,” Lemieux said, shaking her head.

“I don’t believe in that evolution garbage,” Willard said.

“That would be a Darwinist. We’re not going to start a fire,” Lemieux explained. “Where do the electrons in your brain go when you think?”

“I don’t know. Haven’t thought about that,” Willard said. “Speaking about electricity… Are we..?” Willard paused and a hungry look entered his eyes.

“Not tonight,” Lemieux said. “I have some work to do. Perhaps tomorrow.”

“I have two burials tomorrow,” Willard explained.

“Good. Then business is still booming,” Lemieux said with a smile.

“Well, they were boomers. But my cemetery can’t always rely on them you know. They’re dying out.” Willard stood up and rounded the desk, planting a kiss on Lemieux’s lips. She felt her back arc. “I’ll see you later.” She watched him lumber out of the office.

Christine Lemieux sat alone in her office for some time thinking about the little town she governed. Parford, population 3,200, had exactly nothing by way of attractions, except for the cemetery and crematorium. It did have a flourishing downtown thanks to the efforts of Lemieux. She managed to get a bylaw passed that forbid any chain stores, chain restaurants, and chain dealerships of any kind from opening within the county. It meant a thriving small business hub.

She knew all it took was a big stack of cash to bribe the two other councillors to change their minds. Which was why she had them constantly followed. She saw two older gentlemen appear in the hall and waved them into her office. They wore simple jeans and long sleeved shirts. One man was black and the other white; both retired carpenters from the local furniture factory. “Welcome gentlemen,” Lemieux said as they stood before her.

“Thank you Ms. Mayor,” said Reggie Black, the white man.

“I’m gettin’ fat,” said Jamie White, the black one. “Marvin is makin’ his burgers better and better.”

“That damn ketchup of his is to die for,” Black said, licking his lips.

“I’m glad you enjoy them. With each report you give me I’ll gladly pay for your meals.” Lemieux leaned back in her chair. “What do you have today?”

“Well, not much I’m afraid,” White said as pulled out a wad of napkins. He sighed and then put on his reading glasses. “Let’s see here.” He licked a finger and flipped through a few sheets. “Here we are.” White read silently, moving his lips. “I’ve been following Councillor O’Shea. He drives a little too fast for my liking, especially around his ex-wife’s house. He peels rubber every time he drives by and honks his horn. He’s been seeing some woman over in Normville. I guess you’d have to see a woman outside the county if you’re as big a jerk as O’Shea.” White and Black laughed heartily at the joke. White resumed reading a bit. “Oh, he almost hit a dog. Can you use that?”

“Not really,” Lemieux said with a smile. She didn’t care at all for the substance of the reports, just that the surveillance was being done.

“Councillor Jamison picks his nose an awful lot. I mean, always,” Black said. “It seems like it’s some kind of sickness he has. A finger is always up there.” Black made a scrunched up face as if he was going to be sick. “And he wipes his snot everywhere. Like he’s some kind of dog markin’ his territory.” The two men laughed. “Snot-dog. Can you use that information?”

“Hell yes,” Lemieux said. “I’ll not be shaking his hand ever again.”

The two retired carpenters continued to take turns advising Lemieux of the most trivial actions of the two councillors. She just sat there, listening. She knew her spies were idiots and bigmouths, flapping at anyone who’d listen. But that suited her just fine. The whole town knew why they were following the councillors. It was the most talked about secret surveillance mission in the county. Even the carpenter’s grandkids spoke about the latest reports during show and tell at school.

Lemieux also knew the two men rarely actually followed their assignments. It had got to the point that people would report the two councillor’s movements to the carpenters and they in turn would just hang out at Marvin’s Diner and Spa, writing it all down on McDonald’s napkins. “Thank you Gentlemen. The CIA missed out on your skillful work.” Lemieux bid the two men good night and they left. Before long, the two councillors in question showed up at her office. They’d been waiting for the spies to leave. She waved them inside.

“Listen Ms. Mayor,” Councillor Patrick O’Shea said as he stormed into the office and sat down in a presumptive manner. His pristine light blue suit looked expensive and he adjusted it to suit his comfort. He pointed out the door, referring to the carpenters. “Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee are a nuisance.”

“Yeah,” Councillor Leslie Jamison said. He paced back and forth behind O’Shea, he wiped his nose repeatedly with the back of his hand. “They’ve been spying on me as I step out of my sauna.” Jamison was particularly fond of his sauna. He purchased it the instant he got his ancestry results. He felt it connected him to his Scandinavian heritage. What he didn’t know, and what no one at the ancestry company bothered to correct for liability reasons, was that his results got mixed up with another man’s. He received a Norwegian man’s results, while Jamison’s pure English past was sent to someone in Norway.

“Were they on your property?” Lemieux asked.

“No.”

“Were you doing anything illicit?” Lemieux asked.

“No, damnit. Just sweating. Is it suddenly illegal to sweat? Huh?” Jamison started pacing again. His face perspired as he worked himself up to a froth. “Can’t a politician sweat in peace, huh? Without being called Nixon, or Tricky Dick, or Sweaty Dick, or Sticky Dick. Huh?”

“You prefer just plain dick?” Lemieux asked, tongue in cheek.

“No!” Jamison yelled. “I just want to be able to walk from my sauna to my house without it being reported to you and every reader of the Parford Press.”

“I get it. You were indisposed,” Lemieux said with a nod.

“No!” Jamison yelled again.

“It is an invasion of our privacy,” O’Shea said, realizing the sleeves of his suit were covered in dirt. “Do you realize there’s dirt on your chair?”

“Ever since you sat in it,” Lemieux replied.

“No, there’s literally dirt.” O’Shea stood up and took off his jacket. The back was covered in dark dirt stains. “You’ll pay for the dry cleaning for this,” O’Shea said as a wagged a menacing finger at Lemieux.

“I didn’t offer you a chair. You sat down on your own volition and you can, anytime you choose, fuck off on your own volition, too,” Lemieux said. She looked at O’Shea’s hands; bony with popping veins. They were quite likely the least sexy part of the drab faced councillor’s body. And that was taking into account his face. No matter the colour of clothing he wore, everyone agreed his grey skin clashed.

“I want the spying stopped,” Jamison demanded. Lemieux noted his hands had scratches and scabs. As if he picked fights with barbed wire. She imagined they were covered in snot.

“It’s not spying. It’s observation,” Lemieux corrected, thinking that the most likely thing Johnson would ever amount to is to be described as Patient Zero for some kind of outbreak. A goddam walking contagion. A microbiologists wet dream. A disease would be named after him. Jamison it is, where a person’s nose would swell and leak fluids excessively in a post nasal deluge. Limieux frowned. She had missed something. “I’m sorry what?”

“Huh?” Jamison said impatiently. “It’s harassment,” he repeated.

“It’s a community watch program.”

“That’s not what a community watch program is supposed to do,” O’Shea said, still swatting his jacket in a futile effort to remove dirt. “Gawdamit! This is my favourite suit.” Perspiration gathered on his forehead. “We’re not criminals.”

“I didn’t say you were, but the community is watching. Besides, all you both have to do is sign the papers,” Lemieux said with a sweet smile.

“I am not signing any affidavit stating that I won’t vote for a reversal of your Parford Purity By-law,” O’Shea said. “Sooner or later larger organizations will be needed.

“And you would take a bribe,” Lemieux suggested.

“Gawdamit, that’s slander. Never would I take a bribe. But why would a councillor tie his objectivity up to a power mad bitch like you,” O’Shea retorted.

“Your choice.” Lemieux shrugged. “You should know, you paragons of integrity, that my two carpenters are building quite a report about you both. As long as they are on public property they will watch your every move. And everyone in town, too for that matter.” She almost laughed at the curled snarls on O’Shea and Jamison’s faces. They walked out of her office and she leaned back in her chair. “I have to disinfect my office.”

Lemieux stood up and stretched. She picked up her cell phone and tapped a couple of icons. She put the phone to her ear and waited.

“Hello?” A woman’s voice answered.

“Is this Jasmine Garcia?” Lemieux asked.

“Yes.”

“You might want to stakeout Councillor Leslie Jamison’s home. He has a nasty habit that you might find intriguing,” Lemieux advised.

“Has he been running naked from his sauna again?” Garcia asked with a verbal shrug. “Usually he does that when there’s snow on the ground and he can rut in it like some snow-pig. He claimed it was in his genetics.”

“Ok,” Lemieux replied slowly.

“It’s been a slow week, maybe I can get photos to force him to give me a quote on the record,” Garcia said. Lemieux could hear the hopefulness in her voice.

“Officially, that’s extortion,” Lemieux advised.

“No, it’s just old fashioned, good natured, friendly leverage,” Garcia said. “Good night.” And she hung up the phone. Lemieux thought for a moment and then shook her head. “This town is so screwed.”

The Next Chapter of Wallis and Willard

The Previous Chapter of Wallis and Willard

Photo by paul kempin from FreeImages.

Short Story: The Last Sunday Drive

The stretch of road is not long by any stretch of the imagination. It runs through mostly flat farmlands. Off in the distance minor hills look as if they go on forever. The drive is, at first notice, rather boring. On either side of the road farms and cattle pass by; oblivious to the constant traffic. On the road wild animals pass away by way of tires and fenders and bumpers. Roadkill, of varying age, litters the road almost every inch of the way. Dark blotches, with minor patches of fur, indicate an old kill. What died? At what time was it hit? How long ago? How long until its remains remain no more?

The stretch of highway is quite deadly. The drive then becomes, if not interesting, then at the least not boring. Death, if one has an eye for it, and the heart, draws us toward it, calling and willing us to see it. On the soft shoulder lay freshly killed raccoons. Their black masks turned red. Their paws crushed. They will not become blotches. Tire treads will tread on them no longer. No longer will their remains be pounded into the asphalt and be so preserved. Another dark blotch blurs by and disappears far behind. A ground hog? A dog?

A squishy smack pounds on the windshield sounding another death. This time a locust has met a grizzly end. A splash of bug wash removes all trace. As soon as that’s done three more smacks pepper the windshield; futile to clean again. It’s a losing battle, though a musical one. The light splish of a smaller bug joins the deep splash of a bumblebee. Driving becomes conducting. Slowing the speed changes the pitch and closer to the shoulder increases the intensity.

On the right within a hundred yards of the road a colt lies still on a slight slope. Is it dead? Is it ill or just hot? A bird darts in front of the car and narrowly misses adding bass to the ever-present symphony. In its beak is a worm. Maybe a bug. It’s hard to tell in a fleeting glance what’s end is near.

I see death everywhere.

Splayed guts and intestines gleam bright red in the bright sun. The road glistens. I can almost hear the blood drying, baking on the asphalt. A fox has perished in a gory explosion of flesh. I saw it. The car ahead caused it, ignores it and continues to drive away. I close my eyes and see it still.

A mini van, decorated with insect slime, passes by at a dangerous speed. The potential for an accident greater as it barrels past. I hear their radio. I see their windows are rolled up and judge that their air conditioning is on full blast. A mobile quarantine as those within are inoculated against the death without. They miss the sound of insects and the gore of the open road. Their gaze falls onto the distance, the future, of where they will be rather than the now, of where they are. A human made cocoon. They protect themselves from having to actually see the death around them. Had they looked at me they would have seen it.

I am death. I am its cocoon, for it’s inside me. The cancer tells me so over and over. Yet I am life. The cancer tells me so over and over. Pain is an antagonizing reminder that I am not yet dead. It intensifies with time and tells me that I will not be alive much longer. The mutant genes inside double and redouble their efforts to grow and break free from their prison. Me.

I see signs of death everywhere. I feel the grim reaper as it lurks close, as it hovers and subtly makes me aware of its presence. In my grandmother’s case it was a thinning of the body, loss of hair, weakness of voice, increase of pain. In that order. For me, it may well be different. For me cancer has become The Cancer and through it the spectre of death grows bold in the shadows of my drawn cheeks, in my sunken eyes, and in the crevice of my collapsed nostrils.

The growth; an explosion of life that means death.

As I sit in the car, sweat trickles from my armpits down my sides. My shirt becomes a second skin, one that can be peeled off like a terrible sunburn. The heat is stifling. I need to slow down and rest. Driving taxes me more and more. I pull onto the shoulder and stop the car. The motion of decaying speed sets my head spinning. After a moment I step onto the shoulder. The air is wet, the earth dry. A humid breeze swirls the dust I kick up. The wet air teases the earth by pretending to show a rain that never comes. The cure for the drought so close, but remains unrealized. The grass in the ditch is brown and crispy under foot. Farmers’ corn wilts and in the wind rustles, sounding like paper ripping. Crop failure is imminent. Death of livelihoods is the prognosis.

I think of the air-conditioned passengers in the mini-van sitting untouched by the day’s heat. I find myself hoping they run out of gas or their radiator breaks, forcing them to experience the heat, experience their surroundings. Force them to experience this moment in their lives and understand that once it passes it is gone, dead forever. I know that dream is futile. Much like conquering my cancer.

I walk down the highway. The gravel on the shoulder crunches and shifts under my half weight. A year ago I would have tramped along, sending stones scurrying into the ditch. A year ago, I would have driven with my air conditioning. Those days are dead to me and fading quickly. I stop walking, suddenly out of breath. A few steps become so tiring. When did that happen? I cannot recall. In my desire for air I gasp and heave weakly. My heart races and my mind whirls. A moment, a very long moment, and my body begins to recover, though my mind does not. It races with thoughts of my impending future. I cannot escape it; I am too far-gone to be able to deceive myself anymore. Those days have ceased.

I spot a bundle of white far ahead. My troubles momentarily placed aside, though not forgotten, I shuffle slowly over to white object. A young white cat lies on the gravel. It appears comfortable as if stretched out on a carpet. I nudge it with my boot to make sure it’s dead. Nothing.

I never understood how a corpse could look peaceful, until now. The cat died in the prime of its life. It will never know debilitating pain or wasting away. At any moment I expect it to perk up, tilt its slender head to gaze up at me. It does not move. So recent was its death that no fly marks the white fur. The wind gently tugs at the whiskers and soft underbelly fur. It looks so disgustingly pure. In a rage I kick the cat. It’s body sails limply through the air and lands in the ditch. A small cloud of dust billows out from underneath the dead cat. I watch as the wind whisks the dust away like the fading memory of the event itself.

The pain in my abdomen intensifies and I double over to keep from screaming out. I regret kicking the cat instantly, though not for its sake. After a moment the pain dulls to a major throb. It has gotten worse in the last few weeks. It will continue to get worse. I do not recall how long I stood, hunched over and in pain. I imagine not long, but like when you’re having fun, time flies when all you concentrate on is pain.

An unaccompanied hearse drives by, startling me from my pain induced haze. Its slow speed and drawn curtains give evidence of a coffin on board. I laugh hysterically as I think of a yellow car sign with one of those suction cups to secure it to the window and it reads, ‘Body on Board.’ Certainly, it’d be a hit with the with the mortician crowd. And paramedics. And coroners. And pathologists. And teenagers who think their parents are boring.

Perhaps for them ‘Stiff on Board’ would be better. Referring to parents’ tendency to be rigid. Or as a sexual reference. Or as a double meaning for those morticians who dabble in necrophilia. I look at the hearse. Has anything been done to that body? Will anything be done to mine when the time comes?

As the hearse dwindles in the distance I wonder who it carries. He or she? How old? How did they die? A collage of death ensues in my mind, featuring many of the horrid ways in which a person might expire. Suffocation. Heart attack. Poisoning. Shot. Stabbed. Decapitation. Evisceration. Cancer.

Cancer; the word starts hard and ends softly. How contrary to reality. It starts softly, then turns bitterly hard.

What a business is cancer. Big business for the companies who ‘fight it.’ Tiring. I sniff the air. I cough. Everything I took for granted has been taken away; like the simple act of easy breathing. I suck in the humid air. The sky taunts the ground by offering only a hint of rain. Pharmaceutical companies treat us cancer victims by offering only a hint of a cure. We are nothing more than wilting corn. A pale, dried up version of our former selves.

I always wondered what I would say to a dying man. Now I am dying. I wonder what I should say to myself. What to say? That’s the ugly question that I now realize plays on everyone’s synapses. I warm up to people and chat about nothing, giving them a false sense of light hearted talk. Then the bombardier of my mind cries ‘Drop it.’ And I do. ‘I’m dying.’

My companion’s facial features turn blank a moment as if they can’t believe what just happened. It destroys the tracks upon which their train of thought had been chugging merrily along. From shock come amazing responses. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Pardon?’ ‘We’re all dying.’ Some people get mad. ‘Why did you tell me that? We were having a perfectly good talk.’ My response is always, ‘Before I killed it?’ Most offer the, now meaningless, condolences and then drift away. Physically and emotionally they distance themselves from me.

It begins with their eyes, which quickly avert away from my face. Then their heads turn followed shortly after by their hips. Off they go, walking away. Another destroyed conversation. My precious time is wasted on them. As the end of my life draws close I no longer play that game. I drop the bomb the instant trivial conversation pops up. Chit-chat is like a weed and I the gardener, for I can’t stand to waste my time. Every conversation is now a weed. Nothing has meaning for me anymore. My cancer killed meaning.

I look around the fields and the skies. My eyes searching for an answer to a question I’ve not allowed myself to ask. My mind has tried, but I shift my attention elsewhere, anywhere. ‘What happens when…?’

There it is, the question that has been dying to be asked. Now suddenly I am afraid. My eyes well up and the fear turns quickly to anger. Now crying. Now yelling. I cough. The cancer politely tells me how far I can let my hysteria go. These increasingly frequent bouts of severe emotion leave me breathless. I hate them; so little time to waste on crying. So little God damn time. I can feel my slack facial skin tighten around my chin as I scowl.

Time. How infinite we believe our time to be. Our days are filled with activity. What we don’t get done today can always be completed tomorrow. In our hearts we are all procrastinators. There’ll always be tomorrow. How minute our time actually is when our end is near. We delude ourselves by thinking that time is money and in the end pay for it. Time is life. I almost agree with the ancient Greeks and their three fates. Nothing can change your time. When it’s up it’s up. The only answer to the fates is to live while you can. Something I discovered too late.

Photo by Jonathan Chasteen from FreeImages