With our competition over we would like to thank everyone who entered. Originally the idea was to post the top ten stories. Unfortunately due to the lack of interest only eight people entered. Don't worry though as this was a 'just for fun' competition we have decided to post all the stories The top three are in place order.
once again thank you for entering.


The morning sun inched from the sea into a cloudless sky. Boo Waters walked through the
sand with his surfboard tucked under his tan, muscular arm. He had two hours to practice before
the Sandbridge Surf Contest.
Boo trotted into the water, jumped on his board, and paddled toward the orange horizon.
While he power-stroked over the breakers, he spotted a chest-high swell forming outside. In
a smooth move, he straddled the board and swirled his feet clockwise until he faced the shore.
After dropping to his stomach, he shoveled cupped hands into the water and paddled hard until
the wave lifted him. Immediately, he was on his feet and slicing hard to his right. Shooting down
the open-faced wave, Boo noticed a kid on the beach frantically waving his arms and jumping up
and down.
As Boo rode the wave into the shallows, he wondered if there was a problem. The closer he
got, a teenage boy with a huge, white-toothed smile, waved frantically.
“Hey, buddy! Something wrong?” Boo yelled, hopping from his board in knee-deep water.
The grinning boy wobbled toward him on thin, shaky legs, skinny arms flailing. “Wike dat,
mister. Wike see you do dat. It neat.”
Before Boo had a chance to analyze the scene and reply, a loud voice bellowed from the
nearby oceanfront cottage. “Jimmy Lee, git yo butt back here! Told ya not ta git neer dat water!”
Suddenly, a flash of Boo’s past filled his head. He recalled his college years working with
kids in Special Olympics, and realized this young teen suffered from Palsy. Shaking the past
from his head, he smiled and asked, “You like surfin’?”
The wide-eyed boy bounced up and down. “Uh-huh! Look fun.”
The heavy-set woman stumbled down the cottage steps and plowed through the sand,
her head wobbling back and forth as if on a spring. Approaching, she hollered between
gasps, “Leave da man be, Jimmy Lee! He ain’t got time fo’ you.”
Boo placed his board on the beach, noticing the boy’s tears dripping onto dry sand. Offering
his hand for a sandy high-five, he calmly said, “My name’s Boo. You’re Jimmy Lee?”
After a deep sniffle, the teenager kept his head down and nodded, but his big brown eyes
peeked up and made contact with Boo’s. His thin hand slapped Boo’s. “Yo name, Boo? Dat’s
funny. I stay in Atlanta, Georgia.”
The winded woman stomped up and stopped, sucking in big gulps of air. “Mister, don’t pay
my boy no mind. He ain’t right.”
Stings of anger and hurt raced through Boo’s nerves, singeing his heart. Without looking at
the woman, he replied, “Nice to meet you, Jimmy Lee. Yeah, buddy, Boo’s my nickname.”
The woman growled, “Jimmy Lee, tell da man bye. We gotta go.”
As if deaf, Jimmy Lee knelt in the sand and ran his brown trembling fingers over the white
surfboard. His head bobbed up and down as he whispered, “Smooth.”
A smile filled Boo’s face. “Yep, it’s made from foam and fiberglass.”
Jimmy Lee looked up with big brown eyes and nodded. “Can I hold it?”
The woman’s screeching voice sliced into their conversation. “Jimmy Lee! Git yo hands
off’n dat thing. Da man don’t want ya breakin’ his stuff. We can’t ‘ford to pay fer it.”
Boo slowly knelt down beside Jimmy Lee and looked up at the woman. “Ma’am, he can’t
hurt it. I understand what you’re sayin’. I’ve worked with special kids, and –”
She leaned close to her boy and said, “Ya don’t know nuthin’. It’s hard puttin’ up wid him.
Jimmy Lee, come on, we goin’.”
The excited, but dejected young man struggled to his feet, white sand salting his boney
knees. “Mama, all’s I wanna do is lay on it…in da water.”
Before the upset woman spoke, Boo said, “Ma’am, I’ve got another surfboard and a life vest
at my house across the street. I’ll be happy to get ‘em…if you’ll let Jimmy Lee go out and paddle
around with me. He’ll love it. And I’ll watch over him.”
Jimmy Lee jumped up and down, lost his balance, and toppled backward into the
sand. “Lemme, Mama, please,” he said with pleading eyes, lying flat on his back.
The woman looked at her son, paused, and then focused her stare on Boo. “You ain’t gonna
let my boy get hurt, is ya? He’s crippled…he can’t swim.”
Boo walked over to the lady and whispered, “Ma’am, there’s not many things for God’s
special children to do…to be like other kids they see everyday. I believe the ocean lets everyone
become a part of something so much bigger. Ma’am, that’s a good thing. If you’d like to see
your little boy real happy...let him go out and float around. I promise, I’ll be right beside him the
whole time.”
Her hard brown eyes softened and glassed over with tears. “Okay, sir. I’m gonna go gits my
man to come an watch.”
Boo turned, biting his lower lip, and feeling his throat tighten. “That’s fine,” he whispered.
Looking at Jimmy Lee, he said, “I’ll be right back, buddy.”
A broad smile preceded, “Otay, Boo!”
Several minutes later, Boo raced across the warming sand with another board and a bright
orange vest. He smiled upon seeing the lady and a large man standing beside Jimmy Lee, holding
the surfboard.
Boo said, “Here’s your life vest, Jimmy Lee. All first-time surfers wear these.”
“Otay,” replied the grinning young man.
After the vest was on, Boo walked beside Jimmy Lee into the water, helping him onto the
board and showing him how to paddle. They laughed and talked like regular surfers as Jimmy
Lee paddled into the beautiful blue-green ocean. Life was good for both of them.
Boo took notice of how natural Jimmy Lee looked lying on the board, stroking through the
white water. Through a smile, he said, “Okay, dude, sit up and straddle the board. Relax.”
Jimmy smiled. “Dis easier dan walkin’. I like floatin’. Tanks, Boo.”
Boo scanned the ocean and silently prayed for one small wave. “Hey, buddy, wait til you tell
your buddies you surfed.”
Splashing his hands in the cool water, Jimmy Lee mumbled, “Won’t believe me. Da always
pokin’ fun at me. Ain’t gonna tell ‘em.”
Boo blinked his eyes, remembering how cruel kids can be to others. He took a breath of salt
air. “Buddy, none of your friends are doing what you are today. Don’t you ever let their silly
words bother you. You’re now a surfer, dude.”
With a slight nod, Jimmy Lee splashed the water and whispered, “Otay.”
Boo looked up and spotted his answered prayer approaching. “Jimmy Lee, lay on the
board. Get ready to paddle. When I say, ‘stand up’, try to get on your feet. Ride straight in to the
“Otay,” Jimmy Lee replied, looking with excitement-filled eyes into the horizon.
Boo reached over and placed his hands on the back of Jimmy Lee’s board. “When you feel
the wave pushing you, stand up. If you don’t, that’s okay. We’ll keep trying, dude.” Boo timed
the push with the small swelling wave. “Get it, little buddy.”
Jimmy Lee struggled and pushed up from his belly to his knees, wobbled for a few seconds,
and plopped back onto his stomach. It didn’t matter because the boy rode the swell right onto the
beach. His laughter exploded across quiet shoreline. His parents clapped and cheered as their son
hopped from the board and awkwardly stomped toward them.
Boo wiped salty tears from his eyes and shot Jimmy Lee a thumb up. Boo knew he’d
missed the Sandbridge Surf Contest. It doesn’t matter; Jimmy Lee and I win today.

All reviews and comments are appreciated.
Lee Carey

Homeless not Harmless
The darker side of the population, what lurks underneath, always fascinated me. Likely something reptilian, hungry, roils around in all of us. Probing for openings.
The layer under the day to day people going to work, “Daywalkers” we called them. Going home. Getting to bed early enough to wake up in time to go to work again.
I started to stop transients in the rail yards that bisected the county. With plenty of no trespass signs, I had probable cause immediately. I would FI, field interview, and check for warrants. If they had none, they went on their way, have a nice day.
If they had warrants I arrested them and booked them into jail. I found an amazing amount of people on the run. It could be some scary shit. Most of them have some serious mental illness. Some are just trying to stay away from society. All of them are armed, and some of them I learned the hard way are truly damn dangerous.
Transients hide troll-like under bridges, and in every other place imaginable. Anywhere there is heat or shelter, or near the free government services. They also camp, and there’s a hierarchy, with those who panhandle outside of liquor stores at the top. Some put together fairly serious shelters, with even the occasional gas generator, corrugated metal sheets they scrounged for roofing. Some even take legit jobs at times.
I developed a series of locations I would hit and check for transients and their camps. They really liked this old abandoned boxcar at the west end of the rail yards. It was parked near one of the free food kitchens and the door opened away from the constant winds.
The railway workers never messed with them, they were too afraid of them. Knowing that the last time they were confronted, the worker got himself stabbed. One day I am looking in on that boxcar and there were several guys in it, six or seven. I checked them all and got to the last guy named Dan Campbell.
He is a big guy, about 6-foot-5, maybe 270 pounds. Of which I am neither, he’s got me by at least 6 inches and 100 pounds.
He is talking shit to me, but he shows me his ID. I run him and he is clean. But I see that he has all these other IDs under different names and dates of birth. I confront him about it, and ask him why he’s got so many, although I know they use them to get food stamps in different states. They like to trade the stamps for cash for booze, getting about 50 cents on the dollar.
Dan says just that, that he goes from state to state and he makes more on food stamps than I make “as Barney Fife here in your shit hole town.”
I said, “Not any more, which one are really you?” He growled, “I am all of them, but I go by Dan Campbell here.”
“Well Dan Campbell here is your ID,” I said. “I am keeping the rest, since they are illegal IDs.”
Pissed off now, he says, “You will give them back or I will kill you right here.”
The fight was on. He came at me and I drew my nightstick and hit him in the chest, driving the point of the stick into him as hard I could. It did not even slow him down.
I took two “home run” swings at his right knee, a knockout blow baton instructors promised would end any attack because the bad guy’s knee would collapse. Dan’s did not.
I threw the nightstick as far as I could so he would not use it against me and started to fight him hand to hand.
The guys he was with were cheering, rooting for him, yelling at him to kill me and talking shit to me about how they were going to take my gun and badge after Dan killed me. I called for backup somehow as we were wrestling. But no one knew how to get to where I was.
Cars are rolling back and forth, lights and sirens going while we battled, both city and county cars, lots of lights and noise, but no brains. No one can seem to find us.
I got one handcuff on his left hand after I pushed him against my car. I kept him against the car kidney punching him trying to get his left arm back behind him.
His supporters ran back to the boxcar as a group when the sirens started getting close. I thought they were getting out of there, afraid to get caught. I was wrong.
They went back to Dan’s pack and got a .22 caliber handgun he had and loaded it. Then looked out.
I was slowly wearing Campbell down. He was getting tired. But, reaching back with his right hand, he grabbed my holstered gun. I tried to break his grip and could not. He had it solid.
Two weeks before, I had purchased a Safariland Level 2 retention holster from one of my few friends at the sheriff’s office. He was a dealer in that kind of equipment and I felt it would be a wise investment with all the interviews I was doing in the rail yards. Turned out to be a really good idea.
Campbell is aware that he had a hold of my gun and that I couldn’t break his grip. He is too strong and too big, my only remaining advantage being endurance.
He pulls hard trying to get my gun out of the holster, lifting me off the ground in the process, both my feet dangling like a little kid.
The holster held. I got a burst of adrenaline, broke free, and started punching his kidneys as fast as I could using both hands, letting Dan’s cuffed hand go. It worked.
He’s hurt now and I pulled him to the ground by the hair and finally cuffed him.
Meanwhile, the group is departing the boxcar with the loaded gun, and coming toward us. I knelt on Dan’s back, drew my gun, and faced his friends as they start out of the boxcar. They stopped.
One said, “Holy shit he got the best of Dan.” I start talking shit back to them, “So which one of you transient fucks was going to take my badge?” They threw something in the boxcar and took off.
I rested up. I was breathing hard, I then radioed the patrol cars, still driving around, lights and sirens going, directing them to the boxcar. I arrested Campbell, recovered his gun, which was what his friends had thrown back into the boxcar, and booked him into jail.
Sometime during this period I started to figure out that it wasn’t “us against them,” as I’d been lead to believe. When you’re in the academy and new on the street you’re taught, either directly or indirectly, that it is us, cops, versus them -- everyone who isn’t a cop.
Campbell was my first experience with that mind set. An hour after I booked his giant ass, I was called to the jail to do a medical transport. Guess who?
Campbell was complaining of chest pain where I drove the stick into his chest and his knee had swollen up huge. He was blind drunk when we went toes and he felt nothing. Now I had to take this bruised shit bag to the hospital to be treated?
I was annoyed, but I had to do it. I was the south car and that was my responsibility. On the way he tried to apologize to me, saying he’d been drinking whiskey all night, and that it made him crazy. He meant no harm. His apology, taking him to the hospital, dealing with the damage I had inflicted during our battle, made him seem human.
Having to see that he was beat to hell, really hurt, and truly sorry, struck me. I never acknowledged that to him (or anyone else). It bothered me that I believed him. Years later I would realize we are all in this together. People make huge mistakes in their lives, they have poor coping skills, act on impulse and later regret what they’ve done. They get waking-up-on-the-lawn drunk and do things they would normally never even consider, their judgment out the window and them along with it.
Given the right set of circumstances, the reality, hard as it was to accept, is that anyone is capable of anything. So this incident with the homicidally drunk, apologetically sober, hulking rail rider changed how I talked to people, how I treated them from that point on.
He was truly sorry. That did not change the fact he wanted me dead and seriously tried to kill me. He was convicted and did a few months in jail, then left. I never saw him again.

Zach Fortier
Author of Curbchek
Available on
Conversation With A Teddy Bear.
My name is David. I am six years old. I like football and support Manchester United. I go to
Highfield Junior School, and there is something in my closet.
It has been there for a week. It sleeps during the day, and turns invisible so nobody can see
it. It also turns invisible when someone turns the lights on, like when I can hear it scratching
around in there and shout for Mum to get rid of it.
‘There’s nothing in there, David,’ she always says, and opens the closet door to show me.
But Whatever-It-Is is fast, and always manages to hide before she can get the door open.
I know it is in there though, because sometimes my things go missing, like when I was
looking for my Action Man when Paul came round to play last Saturday and couldn’t find it,
even though I knew I’d put it in there the day before.
I figure if I keep the closet door closed it can’t get out. I think it’s scared of the light too,
which is why the scratching stops if I turn the bedside lamp on. Mum always switches the
lamp off when she comes in to check on me, but I only pretend to be asleep, and turn it on
again as soon as she closes the bedroom door.
I tried to talk to her about it when it first started. She said I was being silly, that I should stop
being a scaredy-cat, but I’m not. I climbed the old tree in the garden when Paul wouldn’t, and
I didn’t even cry when I cut my knee trying to get down again. I got told off for that.
It was Thursday night. There was a storm outside. I like storms. I like playing the game
where you count the spaces between the lightning flashes. Storms are cool. Mum doesn’t like
them though. She gets frightened of them and unplugs the TV and the phone and anything
that’s electric. She says it’s just in case. She unplugged my lamp when she checked on me
earlier, but I stuck my hand down the back of the bed and plugged it in again, even though I
could hear Whatever-It-Is is waking up in the closet.
The lightning flashed again outside. Then the lamp went out.
I tried to turn it back on but it wouldn’t work. Mum said that sometimes, in a storm, electrical
things stop working.
There was a noise in the closet like something soft falling off one of the shelves. I knew
that if I opened the door I would find that one of my football shirts would be in a heap at the
Then there was a thump. That would be Action Man.
The lights had gone off and It was waking up.
Now I was really scared. I wanted Mum. I tried to call for her, but my voice wouldn’t work. I
grabbed my Emergency Torch from the bedside table, turned it on and hid under the covers. I
hoped there would be enough light from the torch.
‘What’s up, Davey?’
‘Wh-who are you?’ I stuttered.
‘Doh! It’s me, White Ted. Who did you think it was? The Bogeyman, or something?’
White Ted was my favourite bear. I often talked to him, especially since Dad had gone
away. But he had never talked to me before. Not like this.
There was a flash of lightning that lit up the room. I moved the torch. White Ted was lying
next to me under the covers. I looked at him.
‘Did you just say something?’
There was a pause. ‘Yep.’
‘But your lips didn’t move.’
Another pause. ‘Well, they wouldn’t. I don’t have lips, Davey. My mouth is sewn on, and it’s
a bit difficult to move. See?’
White Ted lay there, unmoving. ‘Yeah. I guess so,’ I said. ‘Why haven’t you talked before?’
‘I’ve never had anything to say.’ That made sense.
‘So, what’s up, Davey, my little buddy?’
I wasn’t scared that White Ted was talking to me. He was my friend. I was scared by the
scratching coming from the cupboard at the foot of my bed.
‘There’s a monster in my closet,’ I whispered.
‘Really?’ White Ted whispered back. ‘What kind of monster?’
I thought for a moment. ‘I don’t know. I haven’t seen it.’
White Ted lay still. ‘Then how do you know it’s there?’
I thought for a moment. ‘I know it’s there. I can hear it scratching.’
White Ted was quiet. I started to say something.
‘Shh. I’m listening,’ he said. ‘Nope. Can’t hear anything. You sure it’s in there?’
‘I’m sure.’
‘You sure it’s there, in the closet? You sure it hasn’t … got out?’
I shook my head. ‘I don’t think it can get out if the door is shut.’
‘Well, as long as you’ve shut the door then it won’t get out. Ipso facto. Nothing to worry
I nodded beneath the covers. ‘You did shut the door, didn’t you, Davey?’
I had shut it. I was sure I had. I always made sure. But … what if I hadn’t closed it properly?
What if I’d left it open just a tiny crack? Was that enough for it to get out?
‘You okay, Davey? Just that you’re making a funny noise.’
I was frightened. Very frightened. Plus, I needed the bathroom. ‘I really need a wee,’ I said.
White Ted sighed. ‘When you gotta go, you gotta go. Just don’t do it here. Mum’ll be pissed
off and there’s two of us gotta sleep in this bed!’
That made me laugh.
‘What?’ he said.
‘You said a naughty word!’
‘Oh. Yeah. Well, it’s an emergency situation, so I guess it’s allowed.’
I giggled, but that only made me want to wee more.
‘Tell you what. You go to the bathroom. Sit me on the pillow and I’ll keep a lookout. If
anything happens, I’ll yell so you know not to come back in. That sound okay?’
I thought for a moment. I was busting to go now. ‘Okay,’ I agreed.
‘Good. We’re pals, Davey. We’re in this together. Make it quick, and it’ll be okay. And
‘Make sure the closet door is fully closed on your way back.’
I very carefully pulled the covers down over my eyes. I was sweating. I pointed my torch
around the room. Nothing. The scratching had stopped.
I slowly slid my legs out of the bed until my feet touched the floor. I grabbed White Ted and
threw him onto the pillow as I ran for the bedroom door.
I felt better after using the bathroom, and crept back to my room. I could hear Mum snoring
from her bedroom. It was no use trying to wake her up. She had been taking her medicine
since Dad left, and that always made her sleep heavily.
I shone the torch into the room. First, the bed. White Ted was lying where I had left him.
Then I pointed it at the closet. I had to make sure it was closed.
My mouth was dry and I could feel myself shaking as I walked towards it. I reached out
my hand. One step closer. Two steps. I was nearly touching the closet door. One more step
would do it.
I held the torch in front of me, hoping that there would be enough light to stop Whatever-It-
Is, if it came to that. I pushed hard. There was a click as the door shut properly.
I leapt onto the bed and pulled the covers over my head, terrified. The door had been open!
Just a tiny crack…was that enough?
My heart was racing.
‘Did you see anything, White Ted?’
‘Well, I might have done if you weren’t in such a hurry that you left me face down on the
‘Did you hear anything?’
‘Me? No. All stuffing and fur, Davey. Ears aren’t much use to a stuffed bear. Shouldn’t really
be talking, but that’s another matter. Still, as long as the closet door was closed we’ve got
nothing to worry about, right?’
I didn’t say anything.
‘Davey? It was closed, wasn’t it?’
I couldn’t speak.
It was then that the torch stopped working. I shook it hard and it rattled. I flicked the switch
up and down, but nothing happened.
‘Davey? You okay? Please tell me the door was closed.’
I was shaking now, and felt sick. ‘The torch has stopped. I can’t get it to work!’
‘Davey! Get a grip. Was it closed?’
I took a deep breath.
I thought I heard a scratch from beneath the bed.
‘Now you’re making me scared too, Davey. Can I cuddle up with you? We’ll look after each
‘Sure’, I said. I picked White Ted up and gave him a big hug.
In the dark, I didn’t see him grin.
They found David the following morning.
The cause of death, they said, was inconclusive, but probably suffocation. His funeral took
place on a bright, but cold, Tuesday morning. At the graveside stood his mother, a thin rivulet
of tear turning silver as it caught the sunlight. She clutched a single red rose ready to cast
onto the small coffin.
Beside her, holding her mother’s hand, stood David’s younger sister. Clasped tightly to her
chest was David’s favourite white teddy bear.

John Taylor


“Todd, come here, now! What is that on your hands? Oh my God! Is that blood?” Jeremy
asked his four-year-old son as the child stood before him, in mud up to his chins.
Jeremy Bennington, his wife, Rita, and their son Todd, had decided to celebrate Jeremy’s
thirtieth birthday in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Jeremy had always dreamed of prospecting for
diamonds in the Crater of Diamonds State Park. The only park of its kind, open to the public.
They arrived the day before from St. Louis, Missouri. The next day, Rita, being four
months pregnant, had decided to stay in the hotel room while Todd and Jeremy went to the
park. She had told Jeremy she planned to crochet a baby blanket and relax in the hotel room.
“No, daddy, Todd replied. I’ll show you. It’s a rag doll.” Jeremy followed with a small
shovel in hand. With each step, his heavy leather boots sank into the thick clumps of wet mud.
Jeremy gave the child a gentle shove to the side. “Stay back, Todd.” Jeremy brushed away
some of the mud and stared at the child’s find. He was horrified. It was a women’s head, face
up. Her head and face were covered with blood. Her eyes were open and they were an opaque
blue. Her long blonde hair was matted with mud and drying blood. The remainder of her
body was buried in thick, wet mud aside from one of her knees, protruding from the mud at an
odd angle. Someone had obviously broken her leg.
Todd had lost interest. He filled his small red bucket with mud as Jeremy stood close by
and tried calling 911 on his cell phone. “Great, no signal. Come on, Todd, we have to go to
the Discovery Center.”
In order to get to the Discovery Center as fast as possible, Jeremy carried Todd on his
shoulders. Todd thought this was great fun. He giggled as he held his tiny hands, covered
with dried blood, around Jeremy’s chin.
As soon as they entered the building, Jeremy set Todd down and held one of his
hands. “Call the police, there is a dead woman, buried in the mud!” Jeremy told the man
behind the desk.
The man’s mouth opened, but no words came out. He stood and stared at Jeremy in
“I’m serious! Make the call. I would have, but I can’t get a signal on my cell.”
The man immediately reached for the cordless telephone, sitting atop the desk.
Todd said, looking up at his father, “Can we go back and dig now, daddy?”
“In a minute, Todd.”
Holding the phone a short distance from his ear, the man behind the desk said,
“The sheriff is asking me the identity of the woman found. Do you know the victim?”
Jeremy hesitated a few seconds. “Yes, her name is Salena, Salena Montgomery.”
Five minutes later, the man ended the call and sat the phone back in place.
Todd walked up to the desk and looked up at the man. “I found the rag doll first.”
The man was speechless and stared at Jeremy.
“Hush, Todd,” Jeremy instructed. “Go on over there and look at the pretty rocks in the
display cases.”
Jeremy walked towards the man and asked, “Do you mind if I use your phone to call my
“No, go right ahead.”
Jeremy let the phone in their room ring eight times. “I’ll try her cell phone.” There was no
answer. “Maybe she went to get a soda. I’ll try again in a little while. Come here, Todd, let’s
go back and get our tools.”
“I’m sorry, sir, the sheriff told me you are to stay right here with me until he arrives.”
Todd tugged on his daddy’s shirttail. “Come over here, daddy. I want you to find a rock
for me just like the one over here in this picture.”
Jeremy bent down to see what it was. Out of curiosity, the desk clerk walked over to see
also and said, “Oh, that’s a picture of a fourteen-carat Amarillo Starlight. It was found here in
the park two years ago by a gentleman by the name of Javian Hughes.”
Todd looked up at the man and said, “I don’t like carrots.”
The man had a slight grin on his face as he glanced at Jeremy.
Jeremy asked, “Is it all right if we go to the restroom?”
“I suppose that will be okay. Make sure you come right back.”
Without a reply, Jeremy took Todd by the hand and led him to the front door.
Todd grabbed at the fly of his jeans. “How did you know I have to pee, daddy?”
“Daddies just know these things.”
Just as Todd and Jeremy returned to the Discovery Center, they saw two uniformed
officers enter the building.
As soon as Todd and Jeremy entered, the man behind the desk, said, “Here they are now.”
The sheriff and his deputy walked towards Todd and Jeremy. “Your name sir?”
“My name is Jeremy Bennington. This is my son, Todd.”
“Mr. Blom tells us you know the victim. Would you please tell us her full name and how
you know her?”
Jeremy’s skin grew ashen. Todd ran back to look at the Amarillo Starlight again.
“I won’t lie to you. Won’t do me any good anyway; some quick detective work would
soon reveal the truth.”
The sheriff became impatient. “Just answer the question, Mr. Bennington.”
Before Jeremy answered, he looked to make sure Todd was not within earshot.
“I had an affair with the victim, Salena Montgomery, six months ago while here on
“What kind of business was that, Mr. Bennington?”
“I’m the corporate manager for the Knights Inn hotel chain.”
The sheriff asked, “Did you murder Salena Montgomery?”
“No!” I love her.”
“Do you know if Salena had any enemies?”
“No, she was the sweetest person I have ever met.”
“Do you have a wife, Mr. Bennington?”
“She stayed behind at the hotel, the Knights Inn. She’s four months pregnant and has no
interest in prospecting for diamonds.”
“What did you drive into the park today, Mr. Bennington?”
“That red Mustang convertible, parked right out front.”
The deputy walked towards Jeremy and said, “Please hand me the keys.”
Jeremy handed the deputy the keys to the Mustang and the deputy quickly headed for the
parking lot.
“Please give me the hotel phone number and your room number, Mr. Bennington,” the
sheriff said.
Jeremy did as he was asked and the sheriff opened his cell phone as he walked outside to
make the call.
Todd continued looking through the glass display cases and said, “Daddy, I thought carrots
are orange.”
Jeremy did not replay.
As Jeremy paced, he watched the sheriff through the large picture window.
The sheriff came back into the building. “Your wife checked out of the hotel three hours
ago, Mr. Bennington.”
Before Todd said a word, the deputy walked into the building. He was holding an axe
in his gloved right hand. It had blood on the cutting edge and long strands of blood-soaked
blonde hair. “The trunk of the Mustang was open and I found this inside, Mr. Bennington. Do
you have an explanation?”
“No. That wasn’t there when I got Todd’s bucket and shovel out of it earlier today.”
The sheriff turned to Mr. Blom, “Are there security cameras in the parking lot?”
“No, sorry.”
The sheriff then turned to Jeremy, “I have a deputy at your hotel room now. “ The sheriff’s
cell phone rang and as he walked away, he flipped it open.
When the sheriff returned, he said, “Mr. Bennington, like I said, your wife checked out
of your hotel room hours ago. My deputy went into your room and found a note to you from
your wife.”
Jeremy asked, with hesitation in his voice, “What did the note say?”
The sheriff answered, “She said you didn’t need to kill Selena. The baby she is now
carrying is not yours and she planned to take Todd and leave you anyway.”
Jeremy was stunned. His mouth grew dry and he felt beads of sweat forming on his
“I have more bad news for you, Mr. Bennington,” the sheriff said.
“I’ve just been framed for the murder of my lover by my unfaithful wife, what can be
“My deputy said there has been a Greyhound Bus accident. No survivors. Your wife was
on that bus, headed for Florida.”
Jeremy’s eyes grew large as he stared at the sheriff. He then glanced at Todd and back
at the sheriff. “I don’t know how she found out about Selena and I can’t believe she paid
someone to kill her.”
“My deputy also found a love letter to you from Selena lying on one of the beds in your
hotel room.”
Once the deputy handcuffed Jeremy, Jeremy said, “I never received any love letters from
Salena. You have to believe me when I tell you my wife set me up. I bet if you check our
bank accounts you will see she paid someone to kill Selena and frame me.”
Todd ran towards Jeremy and shouted, “What are you doing to my daddy?”
The sheriff said to his deputy, “Read Mr. Bennington his rights and then call Social
When the sheriff reached down to take Todd’s hand, Todd grabbed the sheriff’s arm and
bit down hard. The sheriff let out a screech.
Jeremy did not attempt to scold the child; he simply stared at the sheriff and hid a grin.

Rebecca S. Scarberry
Facebook (Rebecca S. Scarberry)

Bye Bye Bear

Dustin was eating his supper one night, when he heard Mommy and Daddy talking.
"We should pack up his animals soon," Mommy said.
"We'll start packing after dinner," Daddy replied.
”Down Mommy!" Dustin yelled.
Mommy walked over and pulled out the chair as Dustin hopped off.
Dustin was crying as he ran to his room. He sniffled, saying, "Scoot, Nicky. Where are you going? Why's
Mommy and Daddy packing you up, Curly?" He ran over to Curly, his favorite stuffed bear and hugged
"Don't cry," said Curly. "Goodbye is not forever."
"You mean you're not coming?" Scoot, the bunny cried.
"We don't want to leave you!" cried Tommy the tiger.
"I don't want you to leave either," Dustin said at the thought of losing his friends.
"Oink. We won't go," declared Stinky, Dustin's ratty old pig.
"We'll stay here with you," Nicky the giraffe said.
"Really?" sniffled Dustin.
Dustin's door opened and Mommy walked in with a box.
"Time for bed honey," Mommy said.
"What's in the box Mommy? Dustin asked, sucking on his thumb.
"No!" Dustin heard his friends cry.
"Mommy, you can't take them away!" Dustin whined.
"Take who away?" asked Daddy, as he walked into the room.
"My friends," whispered Dustin.
"We're not taking anyone away Dustin," said Daddy.
"We're all moving," said Mommy.
"Hurray!" cried the animals.
Dustin went to sleep that night with the thought that him and his friends would be together forever.
JJ Felton
Associated Trellis
Today’s Headlines!
B52 Dragonfly Crashes in NM Desert
Raindrop Floods the South Heal Print
Three Injured in Hive Collapse
Migratory Birds Return – Nesting Prices Soar
Sports – Philly Beetles Grab Coveted Butter-Cup
Cockroach Conspiracy Verdict Announced
From my desk on the trellis, overlooking the hub-bub in the soil and tiny pebbles of the garden
below, I watch the Snails escort the convicted Cockroaches - in braided chains of their own
making - across the wide expanse of the garden. Slowed by the Snails, the Cockroaches lurch
like zombies. They must travel over decorative brick and hot desert slate, through forests of
grass. Their expedition is observed by Millipede urchins and an assortment of Beetles in fine
Queen Anne’s lace petticoats. They are on their way to the compost.
Arachnid runners in hour-glass-stamped tunics jump upon my stem with the latest interviews and
eye-witness reports from the ground. Dragonflies alight on surrounding leaves with their eye-in-
the-sky newsreels.
Below, spectators and hecklers en route hurl discarded coffee grounds and bits of rotted cabbage
leaves. Cockroaches snick-snick along, shackled together like a chain gang. Wild flowers unwrap
their withering petals, slinging dried up pollen upon the procession. Not that it would damage the
Cockroach’s armor plating - it is simply an exhibition of dissent.
I lament the current state of insect affairs. It seems that just weeks ago all was serene here in this
patch of garden; coming out of cocoon or burrow or hive, we all knew our place. We all knew
the responsibilities of our genus, be we Lepidopteron, Arachnid, Coleopteran. Until recently
floral zones were clear - more comprehensible. Ah, the good ole days. How I miss them.
As I lament, Battalions of Dandelions release clusters of fluffy white paratroopers. They float
and are caught upon the breezes. They fan out in military fashion and set up their posts.
I exchange pieces of parchment with several reporter Moths, and dispatch them to the lower
trellis floors. Ancient mimeographs start their incessant clanging; recycled butterfly-wing scales
are loaded into their ink wells.
Through my binoculars, I watch curiously as a conveyance of a crisp upturned shell is pushed
into a copse of mushrooms by two Cockroaches in Ghillie suits. My breath catches. My
phototactic eyes bulge.
Boom! The tiny cart of fertilizer explodes! The shock wave rumbles across a broad expanse,
blowing Moths, Butterflies and other winged creatures thousands of millimeters. The smoke
clears from the blast site and a crater the size of a bird bath emerges. Insurgent Roaches scurry in
clutching spears of dried grasses; they punch through the constraints of their brethren, releasing
The stench of charred wings and scorched appendages floats skyward in a stinky black cloud.
Pulverized Snail shells litter the blast zone; their slime plops upon the earth. Dead leaves are
pounded into mulch. Under my six feet, cracks appear in the trellis. I hear snapping noises. My
workmates and I tremble on a precipitous ledge. Bugs cling to the trellis with all the legs they’ve
got. Cries of terror and pain disrupt the black after-bomb silence. My feathery antennae are
tingly and itchy. I see Emergency Medical Ticks - EMT’s - dispatched and they begin infusing
stored blood into the wounded.
Further out, among the branches of the mighty oak and maple, our avian neighbors sit and
observe, their twittering squelched.
Night Stalker
The night was warm and humid, just as he liked it. A draught blew in
through the open window and a small shiver crept over him, causing him to take
his eye off the prize for a moment, but only a moment.
She was asleep on the bed, her body only partially covered due to the
heat and a thin layer of sweat had formed on her soft skin. He could see her; he
could smell her; he could taste her in the air.
From the window the sound of a siren rose and fell, catching his attention
for the briefest of moments before he dismissed it as irrelevant. His focus was
on her now and he would have her this night.
She stirred in the bed and he stopped in his tracks, but her snoring
resumed moments later and he crept ever closer.
He was by the side of the bed now and he could see her. Her foot
dangled over the edge of the bed as she lay on her side, her snoring now louder
as she reached the deepest cycle of sleep. The smell of her breath drew him
nearer and nearer, closer and closer.
The door opened and a child entered, carrying a dishevelled teddy bear.
He crouched low, sure that he could not be seen. He was on the opposite
side of the bed to the child and her reply: “Go back to bed darling. It’s late.”
“But I’m scared, Mommy. I think I heard something.”
With a sigh she got out of the other side of the bed and he sensed her
leaving the room.
He waited, waited for a sign that she was returning: it took longer than he
would have liked. The bed creaked as she got back in and the snoring resumed
within minutes.
He waited until the only sensation he felt was her: her breathing, her
He wanted her blood.
It had been weeks since his appetite was last sated and here she was,
lying on the bed oblivious to his presence. Tonight he would feed well, until the
next opportunity came along.
He was on her in a flash.
He went for the neck and with a swift sawing motion the blood was
He drank quickly, the warm liquid flowing through him as if for the first
time, fortifying him, satisfying him...
That’s when the darkness came. One moment he was drinking his fill and
the next everything went black. The pressure began in his head and spread
to every part of his body in an instant. He was unable to move, his entire body
engulfed in the paralysis.
This was to be his last taste of blood...
Eyes half closed, she turned on the light in the en suite bathroom, put the
plug in the sink and ran the cold water tap. She held her thumb and forefinger
together under the water for a few moments until she was satisfied that it was
deep enough, then released her grip.
The flea floated to the surface but showed no sign of life...
Alan McDermott

A Friend’s Defeat
Richard Lepinsky announced at the Monday Night Meeting , his hyper-cheerfulness not abating, that Truman had left for medical reasons. He had said his goodbyes the night before to Matt and Rosaline. Two nurses flew in to Rome from Philadelphia to escort him back to the United States.
Matt, Noah, and Rosaline, the survivors as they called themselves, lounged around listlessly in the recreation room. Matt poked around on the piano, sighing heavily every now and then. They were shocked at the news. Noah said aloud: Vanished above the verbal spring insanity, meaningless anyways when we both know, or thought we knew, our way around the hollow center. Selfish is selfish, regardless of how damp the castle or how flooded the moat. Emerging from burly sweaters, it is truly spring now, no more scorched dome illusions, I feel the consistent blue blanket of hope above me. Quiet you, fragile but unfooled, lacking and complete, a faithful squire of silence and a flower in the field of think hopes.
“You look like shit tonight,” Rosaline said.
“See, that’s why you’re so great. You could have gone all night without saying that.”
Rosaline batted her eyes sarcastically. Then she grew serious again. Let’s tell Truman how we feel about him, she said, as if he could hear us. Hi Truman, I can’t talk to you in poetry the way Noah does, but umm…I’m sitting on sex pillows right now, I mean I know someone had sex on this couch, and that makes me wary of where I’m sitting. I don’t know a whole lot about your issues but I do know I was one of the only people you knew here at the Naz but we’ve all done our part to make you feel inadequate by not helping you feel adequate and I feel like I had a larger hand in that than anyone else, but mainly it was an accumulation of feeling out of place. You, I think, and I feel out of place here as well, I mean I didn’t expect to live with thirty sorority girls in a convent either, but I don’t think you were able to articulate it to others or even to yourself, weren’t able to articulate the disappointment, perhaps you didn’t want to admit it to anyone else and it built up until it was overflowing, what else can I say…I wish I had been there in Amsterdam to help, I hope you will be able to recuperate after you get home, I just don’t want you to let it snowball in your psyche and think it’s an event you can’t bounce back from, I wish I’d talked to you more. This is stupid, Rosaline said to Noah, we are acting like he’s dead but he’s not. No, he is, Noah replied. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. Nietzsche, Noah added, as if to make sure Rosaline didn’t think he was taking credit for the words.
“Why do you always quote all these philosophers from the past?” asked Rosaline.
“Because I can’t quote anyone from the future,” he said.
“He was lost,” said Matt from the piano. He was flipping through the sheet music trying to find a song to fit the mood.
“But how can we ever be lost on such a well-worn path such as life?” Rosaline asked. “Maybe freedom means being lost,” said Noah. The thought had just occurred to him for
the first time as the words left his mouth.
“I don’t know what the fuck you guys are talking about. Truman went crazy. Insane. Bonkers. Mother Nature doesn’t give second chances. So what the fuck are you talking about? What is with all this sentimental fatuity, this inconsequential prattle about freedom and the abyss? Where the fuck is that going to get you?”
Matt was almost shouting. Noah wondered before why Matt seemed indifferent to Truman’s departure but now he considered the possibility that Matt was taking it the hardest, that Matt was perhaps relying on Truman for something and now that something was gone, no longer there to support him. Matt started playing Fur Elise but Rosaline shushed him, reminding him it was after hours and they could get a noise violation. Matt replied that if Boot never got a noise violation for blasting his hip-hop music at night then he shouldn’t get one either. Remember where you are, Rosaline told him.
“I remember Truman would sometimes ask me who I preferred, Carracci or Caravaggio, but I knew he wasn’t talking about the artists,” explained Noah.
Rosaline looked at him. “He was asking which type of painting you preferred. If you preferred Carracci’s use of bright color to the eerie shadows of Caravaggio’s work.”
“Right. It was as if he was asking if I chose the light or the darkness. And I told him Caravaggio.”
“But what does that mean? You’re confusing me,” Rosaline continued. Matt was tinkering on the piano but they told him to be quiet since it was after hours. He ignored them.
“I’m confusing because I’m confused,” Noah said, “Light or dark, light or dark, light or dark. Professor Moretti and I once had a conversation about freedom in our modern age. He described life as a dark maze, a maze we are doomed to complete and so we shouldn’t stress ourselves out about having a light to help us see. The maze is more beautiful in the darkness anyways, he said.”
“So maybe Truman was searching for a light, any light, even though he knew he was of the darkness and the darkness was the true and the real and the beautiful and the best life. But he also knew it was the hardest life and he couldn’t come to terms with his weakness.”
Noah shrugged. “People do it all the time. They put their coins into the vending machine of possibility, secretly hoping the machine won’t work and they’ll get their change back.”
“He couldn’t handle the fire of his own convictions?”
“He played with fire and got frost-bite.”
Matt left the piano and joined them on the couch. “Just listen to me now, both of you, without interrupting. I know you how disdain compromise, but maybe Truman didn’t. Maybe he was better off before he met someone who saw what he saw except in a stronger way. He couldn’t handle it, he couldn’t handle the purity of your razor edged ideas, the infinitesimal room for error.”
“I don’t see it that way,” said Noah, “I don’t see it that way at all. I helped him be stronger and he helped me. You are always talking about being pragmatic. Well, I helped him become a better person, not a better person by my definition, but by his, though incidentally the definitions were the same. What could be more pragmatic than that?”
Matt sighed. “When it comes to purity and compromise, compromise is more practical and utilitarian.”
“No, I don’t accept that. Think about it for a second. You need purity in order for a compromise to exist, since if there weren’t two opposing sides then the concept of compromise couldn’t exist. Yet you don’t need compromise in order to have purity. So purity is more natural, closer to the earth, the essence which envelops and surround us, whatever you may choose to call it.”
Rosaline was playing with her hair, hair that needed washing. “Truman was addicted to late hours, I remember he would always tell me how spring is the most depressing of all the seasons…,” she said, voice trailing off. Noah wished Matt would sit at the piano again but he didn’t.
“You and Truman went together like the violin and the piano…and just as sad,” Matt said to the wall, though Noah assumed he was talking about him. “You were bad for him, and you know it.”
“How can you say that?” Rosaline shrieked, “How can you blame Noah for something like that?”
“Holster your gun and sheathe your sword,” Noah told her but there was an amused or perhaps bemused smile on his face. “Methinks if Matt doesn’t believe in continuation then he hasn’t been paying attention.
“You introduced Truman to the great whore, Noah.”
“The great whore?”
“Hope is a whore because she gives herself to anyone who wants her. Even bad and evil men have hope. Hitler had hope that he could exterminate every Jew on earth. Hope debases itself. She is cheap, not precious.”
A group of giggling girls walked by the room and looked in at the three woebegone faces on the couch. Their giggling stopped, and then picked up again further down the hall.
Matt’s voice dripped with acrimony. “Fuck it. I give up. I’ll just sit there and fiddle like Nero and just watch it all burn. I’m not going to throw water on the fire and neither am I going to risk burning myself by starting it.”
“I think your path will be more dangerous than mine.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are? You’re just a pesky fly on the horse’s ass.”
“So you’d rather be a horse’s ass?”
“It’s all smoke and mirrors, Noah. You’ve been staring at yourself so long that you’re desperate for a real enemy and so you make them up where they don’t exist or you enlarge them to make your struggle more romantic.
“You’re wrong. There aren’t even any mirrors anymore in this age. It’s all smoke and the monsters, I’m afraid, are real.”
Matt got up to leave the room. Don’t be too proud to compete, Noah told him, as Matt closed the door quietly behind him.
“And you Rosaline? Where are you at? Aboard your ship, docked on the shoreline?”
“There is beauty in survival,” she replied, “But I dare not ask more of myself.”
“How’s your…”
“I haven’t finished it yet,” Rosaline interrupted him. “But I’m still reading.”
Not good enough, Noah thought, not in these times.
unknown details
We Know we said that it had to be 1500 words give or take and most of you stuck to to the rule however before the 1500 cap was put into place we had this entry.
Cat was in the garden. She called him Cat because that’s what he was. She didn’t hold with
giving animals people-names. Nannie could hear him squalling at the birds who so deftly
avoided his clawless front paws. Chuckling softly, Nannie tied an apron around her ample waist
and began setting out the ingredients to make a stack cake. She guarded the recipe jealously; it
had been her grandmother’s and not an easy one to replicate. She had kept it only in her memory
until her memory started to go, then she wrote it down and put it in her coffee canister. She
prayed every night she wouldn’t forget where she’d hidden it. She looked around her sunny
yellow kitchen and breathed a prayer of thanks that she could still find it when she needed it.
Her children, scattered out over the state, didn’t like her living alone now, and they strenuously
objected to her cooking; they were afraid she’d forget the stove was on and burn the house down
around her. She got one meal a day from Meals on Wheels, but the rest of the time they wanted
her to eat cereal for breakfast every morning, and a sandwich of some kind each evening for
supper. She was not willing to give up cooking for herself, but she taped up notes all over the
kitchen saying, “Check the stove” to pacify them.
Nannie sighed and began mixing the ingredients for the stack cake. Her son had disconnected
the gas stove, so she wasn’t able to cook with it anymore. He said he was scared she’d turn it on,
forget to light it (it was very old, and she had to light each burner with a match), and die from
gas. Nannie was indignant, but she knew arguing that issue was a battle she could never win, and
she was terrified her children would have her ruled incompetent and send her to an old age home,
so she held her tongue. She wondered how long it would be before they refused to let her cook at
all. For the time being they were willing to let her continue to use the toaster oven. It had a timer,
so even if she burned something, it would eventually shut itself off.
She couldn’t drive; had never learned, and she was at the mercy of her daughter who lived in a
small town just west of her own. She hated having to ask Darcy to drive her to the Piggly Wiggly
every Saturday; Darcy always made her call and ask, saying she didn’t want to waste a trip if
Nannie didn’t really need anything that week. Nannie thought her daughter just enjoyed being in
control of everything. Darcy was the only child who lived close enough to Nannie to help her, so
Nannie didn’t dare antagonize her. Quietly, while the cake was baking, she made her grocery list.
Milk, eggs, Arm & Hammer baking soda, yeast, baking powder, Eagle brand condensed milk,
some ripe bananas, vanilla wafers. For a moment she considered what other items she might
need that she’d forgotten. Finally, she rose and went to the pantry.
Opening the door, she saw rows of gleaming Mason jars filled with the vegetables and fruits she
had canned the summer before. She dusted them regularly and enjoyed some nearly every day.
She was careful not to use them up too quickly because there would be no more. With no stove
to cook on, she could no longer can anything, and the few things she still raised in her small
garden had to be eaten quickly before they rotted on the ground. She’d used to give away cans
of food to her neighbors, but the neighborhood had changed, and she didn’t really know anyone
there any more.
When the timer on the toaster oven went off, Nannie took the cake out and placed it on a rack
to cool. Back to the list: new potatoes, salt substitute (which she thought tasted like tin foil, but
was forced to buy because her children worried about her blood pressure), oleo (she preferred
real butter, but Darcy insisted on the fake kind with less cholesterol and fat), Crisco, and vanilla
pudding. Putting the list down on the table, she went back to the cooling rack, took the cake and
began slicing it crosswise into half-inch layers. Once this was done, she pulled out a jar of apple
butter (one of the few things she could not make for herself), and began layering cake slices with
apple butter between them. When she had all the layers stacked neatly and had spread the final
layer of apple butter on top for garnish, she stepped back to see her handiwork. Beautiful, she
thought, licking a smear of apple butter off her thumb. She got out the waxed paper and wrapped
it carefully around the sides and bottom of the cake. She left the top uncovered for the “frosting”
to get solid.
She didn’t have many visitors, except for the Meals-On-Wheels lady, who had so many
deliveries to make she didn’t have much time to chat. The preacher came by a couple of times
a month to see her; she appreciated that more, because she lived so far out in the county he had
to drive a good while to come. His visits usually only lasted an hour, but he always called to let
her know he was coming, and she always had boiled coffee and cake or muffins for him when he
The preacher was getting on in years now, too, and the congregation had voted to retire him.
They had already brought in a new younger preacher who was getting to know the church and its
members, and they had given the old preacher six months to prepare for his retirement. She was
afraid that after he was gone, she’d really be alone. She didn’t much cotton to the new preacher;
she’d met him once, and he seemed to be in a great hurry. During the one visit he’d made to her,
when he was sitting in her parlor, his movements told her that it was a mere courtesy call, and
that he would much rather be somewhere else.
Her phone rang, but she ignored it. It was one of those cell phones with the great big numbers,
and she still wasn’t too comfortable with a phone that didn’t have a cord. Mostly she figured it
was somebody trying to sell her something or ask her research questions or some other tripe, and
she just didn’t have time for that. She still had to clean up her kitchen and do her Bible reading.
Everything seemed to take her so much longer lately; she tired easily and had to sit down often,
even when she was just standing at the sink washing dishes. Sometimes her heart pained her a
bit, but she didn’t tell the children that. She knew if she did, they’d pack her off to the old age
home right away.
Now she sat down at her kitchen table for a rest, and while she was resting, it occurred to her
that the preacher might have told her he’d visit today. She wasn’t sure she was remembering
that right, and it worried her. But she had the stack cake ready, and she could make some
instant coffee if he came by. She did need to change clothes, though; she had flour and baking
powder all over her apron and some on her housedress. She got up to head toward the bedroom;
suddenly, she felt weak and dizzy and was afraid she might faint. She sat back down abruptly
and was surprised when she broke out in a cold sweat. “Why, the Lord have mercy…..what on
earth is wrong with me?” When the symptoms gradually went away, she relaxed and breathed a
sigh of relief. “Well…” she said out loud. “Whatever it was, it’s gone now.” She rose from the
chair, started toward the door to the hall and her bedroom, but she suddenly found herself short
of breath and so tired….so tired. As she slid down the wall to the floor, she thought she might’ve
gotten up out of the chair too quickly; after all, she wasn’t young anymore. She sat there on the
linoleum for a few minutes; as she waited for the weakness and dizziness to pass, she saw a paw
reach through the kitty door and feel around, flexing nonexistent claws, a head and then a large
ginger-colored body slinked through the opening.
Once all of him was in the house, the cat stood still staring at Nannie sitting on the floor, and
if cats could have an expression, Nannie felt sure his was one of surprise. He eased along the
wall to his food and water dishes, keeping her in sight, but not making direct eye contact. As he
lowered his head to nibble delicately on his dry food, she was sure she was still present in his
peripheral vision. He finished his snack and lapped up a bit of water to cleanse his palate; the
ritual of cleaning his face with licked paws began, and he studiously avoided looking at her, but
she was sure she was keeping an eye on her.
“Oh, Cat, if only you could dial a phone. I think I’m in a mess of trouble here.” Nannie sighed
and eased herself down into a prone position on the floor, pressing her hot face against the cool
linoleum. She knew she was trembling, and she was disgusted at her weakness. “For heaven’s
sake, snap out of it, old woman. The preacher’ll be here in a while, and he’ll see to you.” It
frustrated and frightened her that she wasn’t sure if he was really coming that day or not. She
flattened herself out on her back and folded her arms under her head for a cushion. The shortness
of breath and weakness were just as real, but the dizziness had abated a little. “I’ll just rest here
for a minute, and I’ll be fine. I just overdid, cooking in this hot kitchen.” The kitchen wasn’t
especially hot, and she was shaking with cold, but she refused to pay attention to that.
“Maybe I just need to rest a bit. I did scrub the bathroom this morning.” She looked at the cat
for reassurance, but he had decided that his toilet was finished, and she saw the stub of his tail
exiting through the kitty door. “Yes, that’s it; that is it, isn’t it, Lord?” she asked, looking up
toward the ceiling. She often talked to God out loud; that was one of the nice things about living
alone, not having someone think you’re off your rocker if you think out loud. “I’m not ready to
go yet; I feel like you have more work for me to do here, but if you’re ready for me, just let me
know. The ladies Sunday School class will just have to get along without me.” She chuckled
to herself, knowing that the minute she was gone, her best friend and sometime bitterest rival,
Carol, would jump into the role of teacher that had been Nannie’s at the Church of the Most
High God for thirty-five years. Carol had just been waiting for an opportunity to show Nannie
up. “That’s not a very Christian attitude, old woman,” she scolded herself. “Carol will make
a fine Sunday School teacher. She has that big, booming voice,” she chuckled. “No one’ll fall
asleep in her class, I can tell you.”
The laughter in her voice died away, and she became reflective. She remembered when she’d
moved into this old house – it was 1950, and she had just married her husband. She sighed, “Oh,
Harv was fine, Lord. He was handsome and kind – kinda quiet, but strong, and he loved me
good. Oh, yes, he did.” She remembered with yearning holding him in her arms. “I loved that
old man till the day he passed. He was ever’thing to me. He was a good daddy to our children,
and a man of faith and constancy.” Nannie felt tears trickle down her face and find their way into
her ears. “I’ll be glad to see him if you’re ready for me to, Lord. Let him know I’m coming, will
you? He startles kinda easy,” she laughed. The laughter was choked; she felt a little strangled,
like she’d sipped hot coffee, and it’d gone down the wrong way.
The phone on the counter began to ring again. She relaxed a little; if her children were calling,
they would know she was in trouble because she hardly ever let her phone ring without
answering it. They would come and check on her. It rang and rang and rang; she had never let
her children install the answering machine they had argued about with her for years. She didn’t
understand how it worked, and she always felt it wasn’t polite to make people talk to a box when
they wanted to talk to you. So the phone rang on.
“Well, for heaven’s sake,” she grunted and tried to get up, but her head was swimmy, and she
just couldn’t do it. She managed to drag herself back to her chair, but the chair was an old cane-
bottomed one she’d had for years, and it was a little wobbly in the joints. “Just like me,” she
laughed, and again, her muscles went weak. She was able to get back against the wall, and she
began to grow calmer, but no less annoyed at the continued ringing of the phone.
Eventually, the ringing stopped, and she thought, ‘It must have been a sales call. No one I know
would let the phone ring that long, even if they thought I was on the commode!’ Then she was
glad she couldn’t get to it; she hated sales calls. Southern courtesy demanded that she listen to
the spiel they delivered and turn it down politely, and that aggravated her. She hated being forced
to speak to people she didn’t know, and she hated even worse not being able to help people. Her
children thought she was ridiculous for listening to the telemarketers, and they encouraged her to
just hang up on them, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. She always thought they might
have children to support, and that the least she could do is listen, even if she couldn’t afford to
buy anything they were selling.
The smell of the stack cake tantalized her, and she thought if she could just get up off the floor,
maybe she’d have just a smidge of it until the preacher came. There was a pressure in her
stomach, and she thought maybe she’d forgotten to eat that day. Since it was a Saturday, the
Meals on Wheels didn’t run, and she usually just made herself some instant oatmeal for lunch.
Frustrated, she really couldn’t remember. “That’s why I feel so puny. I didn’t eat!”
The paw reappeared through the cat door, swatting the rubber piece aside and the long ginger
body followed the paw. This time the cat sniffed at the few pieces of dry cat food in his dish,
ignored the water entirely, and walked calmly over to Nannie, still seated on the floor. He pushed
his head against her hip, insisting on a petting. When she didn’t respond, he looked indignantly
at her and pushed again, this time against her leg, then turned, flipped his tail so she could see his
rosebud, and settled down beside her, purring loudly and grunting with the effort.
Nannie reached down and stroked his bristly fur. He didn’t shed too bad, but every time she
swept the kitchen, it seemed she swept up more ginger-colored fur than anything else. She had
considered trying to use the fur for something; may to make a nest for the hummingbirds that
frequent the feeder she’d hung for them from a nail on the eave of the house. She’d hung it high
enough so the cat couldn’t reach it, and had used fishing line to keep the ants off the sugar-water-
filled bowl.
The phone began to ring again, and Nannie thought she really ought to try to answer it. It was
all the way across the kitchen on the far counter, and she wasn’t sure she could get there. She
didn’t want to crawl there – it would be terrible if the preacher looked in the back door and saw
her dragging her bottom across her kitchen floor – but she was sure she couldn’t get back up
again…at least until she could rest some more. The feeling of fullness in her chest was starting
to subside a little, and she thought maybe she could get into a chair and just scoot it across the
floor. She knew that would damage the linoleum, and Darcy would give her heck about it, but
what was she supposed to do? The phone kept on and on and it was starting to make her head
With great effort, much groaning and puffing, she managed to drag herself up into a kitchen
chair. Resting, she thought if she could get close enough to the counter, she could maybe scoot
the chair close enough to the phone to reach it. She swept some loose grey hairs behind her ears
and tried to rise from the chair, leaning on the sink. Her limbs were weak, but she was able to
rest on her forearms and elbows enough to reach out to the phone. By the time she had mastered
this movement, the cursed thing had stopped ringing. Letting out an aggravated puff of air, she
collapsed back into the chair, leaning forward to cool her hot cheek against the stainless steel of
the sink.
She rested there a good while, thinking about what might happen if she were going to meet the
Lord. She was fairly certain the children would sell her house, probably before the first clump
of dirt had hit the top of her coffin. They had never liked it, said it was too small for visitors –
she always chuckled a bit at that – and that they didn’t understand why, if she liked such a small
space, she didn’t just move into an assisted living apartment like her friend Carol. The truth
was, since her old man had died, Nannie had grown used to being alone, and she liked it. Except
for Darcy’s Saturday obligation and the preacher’s visits, she enjoyed the silence of her own
company. When she needed someone to talk to, she just conversed with the cat. He was a very
good listener.
A dull ache started in Nannie’s jaw and throat and spread down her arm. She began to be afraid.
She knew the symptoms of a heart attack – her own father had died at the table after complaining
of indigestion and gas from the greasy pork chops her momma had fixed him for supper. She
was afraid – oh, not so much of dying, but of laying here till someone bothered to come check
on her. She didn’t want the preacher to be the one to find her. Not in her dusty housedress and
flour-covered apron. “Lord,” she croaked out, “Lord, don’t let me go like this. I ain’t in no shape
to meet you and my old man.” She knew she was right with her Maker; she’d been washed in
the blood of the Lamb most of her life. She just didn’t want to meet him right now. Not with
the kitchen a mess, her clothes a mess, and a stack cake that needed to be covered and put in the
The phone began to ring again, and this time she felt hope with each ring. She struggled to reach
to her left and finally was able to touch, and then move the phone near enough to grasp it in her
one good hand. The other had gone strangely cold. She flipped it open and in a near-whisper
said, “Yep?”
“Momma, how many times have I told you it’s rude to answer the phone like that,” Darcy
grumbled. “What if it was somebody important calling you? They’d think you were some kind of
white trash. Oh, never mind,” she hurried on, “the real reason I called you is ‘cause I can’t carry
you to the Piggly Wiggly today. I’ve got a meeting with my ladies from the Junior League, and I
clean forgot about it. You can wait till tomorrow to go to the store, can’t you?”
Nannie took a breath to speak, but managed only a strangled sound.
“Oh, Momma, for heaven’s sake, it’s only one day,” Darcy groused. “Besides, you know you
hate to go anyhow, and you can’t be out of everything already. I’ll be there tomorrow around
noon, and we can go then. All right?” Without waiting for a response, Darcy pressed on. “Okay,
then, well, I’ll see you tomorrow. I have to go. Bye, momma.” She hung up while Nannie was
still trying to marshall her thoughts into a cry for help.
Nannie dropped the phone and slumped back into the chair. The cat leapt onto the counter and
rubbed his muzzle against Nannie’s hand. She petted him absently. She guessed that it wasn’t in
the Lord’s plan for her to be able to ask Darcy for help. Likely she’d have thought Nannie was
exaggerating anyhow; she paid little attention to her mother’s complaints of ailments. Darcy was
of the opinion that human frailties to be should be dealt with as mind over matter, and she had
very little patience with what she considered her mother’s weaknesses.
“Well, Cat,” Nannie said softly, rubbing his velvety-soft ears, “I guess the time has come. I know
you won’t understand this, but you been pretty good company for me, and I hate to leave you.
You have plenty of food and water, but please don’t mess around my stack cake. I reckon the
mourners will want that.” Once again, she laid her cheek on the cool counter and closed her
eyes. The pain had subsided a little, but the numbness in her hand and the ache in her jaw were
“Miz Miller?” the young, handsomely dressed preacher called through the screen door. “Hello?
Miz Miller? Are you there, ma’am?” He glanced at his watch, only an hour till the UFC title bout
on Channel 76 – his only guilty pleasure – and he was only making this visit because the old
preacher was feeling ill. “Miz Miller?” he called once again, then turned to go. As he stepped
down off the porch, he thought, ‘I’m sure as heck not gonna miss my show to visit with some old
biddy who doesn’t even like me.’ He climbed back into his dark-blue SUV and drove away.
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